Monday, 5 December 2016

The coconut crab’s pinch is the strongest in the world


November 29, 2016

by Brett Smith


Despite having been studied for more than 100 years, coconut crabs have largely remained a mystery to biologists.

In a new study, researchers have found the crustaceans have claws capable of exerting 742 pounds of force, despite typically weighing 10 pounds or less. Coconut crabs are the largest hermit crabs on the planet, but unlike most hermit crabs, mature coconut crabs do not scavenge sea shells to protect their vulnerable backside. Instead, they rely on their massive, powerful claws and tough exoskeleton to ward off attacks from would-be predators.

Researchers behind the new study said they found out firsthand just how painful a pinch from those claws could be.

“When I was pinched, I couldn’t do anything until they unfastened their claws,” study author Shin-ichiro Oka, from the Okinawa Churashima Foundation, Japan, said in a news release. “Although it was only a few minutes, it felt like an eternal hell.” 
 

Pre-human ‘Lucy’ spent a lot of time in trees, new study finds


December 1, 2016


by Chuck Bednar


Although she was a biped who regularly walked on the ground, the ancient human predecessor known as Lucy was more muscular than modern people and had strong arm bones that suggest she spent a lot of time climbing trees, a newly-published PLOS One study has found.

Led by Christopher Ruff, a professor of functional anatomy and evolution at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the new study is the first to examine the internal bone structures of “the world’s most famous Australopithecus afarensis,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The analysis of the approximately 3.2 million-year-old specimen revealed that she had hips, legs, and feet that were clearly adapted for bipdealism, but also had extremely strong arm bones which would have allowed her to easily hoist herself up tree branches, the Washington Post added.

Birds and Beyond – Special Protection Areas in the EU (Areas also play a significant role in protecting many threatened species of reptiles, amphibians and mammals.) - via Herp Digest


By Wouter Langhout & Iván Ramirez – BirdLife ECA, Dec 2, 2016

BirdLife’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) have long been recognized as the scientific baseline for identifying nature hotspots worthy of Special Protection Area (SPA) status under the EU’s iconic nature laws – the Birds Directive. New research conducted by a team of international scientists – led by the University of Helsinki and recently published in the journal ‘Biological Conservation’ – shows that while these networks were originally designed to protect birds, they also play a significant role in protecting many threatened species of reptiles, amphibians and mammals.

Protected areas are one of the great pillars of nature conservation. The theory is simple: by protecting land and waterways from the perils of human activity (from urban development to over-exploitation), their natural biodiversity has a chance to thrive. But, in practice, the perennial whys and wherefores of the official identification and designation processes inevitably make it a challenging task for the international governments and institutions involved.
 
For over 30 years, BirdLife has been developing and fine-tuning a set of simple yet robust criteria to scientifically identify Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs). These sites have long received world-wide recognition as areas of international significance for the conservation of threatened and endangered bird species. Indeed, right here in Europe, IBAs are routinely used as the scientific baseline for selecting nature hotpots that merit Special Protection Area (SPA) status under the EU’s most iconic nature laws – the Birds Directive. 

That these areas are scientifically worthy of such singular recognition has once again been confirmed by new research – recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Biological Conservation – by an international team of scientists, led by the University of Helsinki. This research, supported by the science team at BirdLife, investigated the extent to which the habitats of birds, mammals and reptiles are actually covered by the Birds Directive. In doing so, the project studied how closely BirdLife’s IBAs informed the definition of the EU’s SPA network and how the network’s species coverage could be expanded exponentially. And the results are quite interesting indeed. 
 
For one, the researchers found that SPAs cover 66% of the EU’s IBAs, but the degree of overlap varies considerably between Member States. Those who have joined the EU more recently have done a particularly good job – Latvia, for example, has designated almost all of their IBAs as SPAs. Other Member States such as Malta, Belgium and Spain, however still lag behind with their networks.

The study also looked at the coverage of the habitats of mammals, reptiles and amphibians in the SPA network. On average, it covers around 31% of the habitat of threatened reptiles, 25% of the amphibians and 20% of the mammals. This is pretty impressive, especially given that the template for these networks – based on BirdLife’s IBAs – was mainly designed for birds. This shows that BirdLife’s IBA classification, and, in turn, the EU’s Birds Directive does, in fact, do far more than just protect birds – one small step for birds, is a giant leap for animal-kind more-broadly!

Similarly, in terms of how best to expand the existing SPA network, the researchers found that a relatively modest expansion in some key countries (notably, Finland, Greece, and Spain) would mean a very significant increase in the network’s ability to protect an even higher percentage of species across the board.

The full paper can be viewed in full on SciencesDirect.com.
Wouter Langhout is EU Nature Policy Officer at BirdLife ECA

For further details on this paper please contact: Aija Kukkala (lead author) and Iván Ramírez (co-author and Head of Conservation at BirdLife ECA).

Miniature monkeys reunited after Australia zoo theft

November 28, 2016
The marmosets, also known as thumb monkeys, are in demand on the black market as pets
Two men were charged Monday with stealing rare pygmy marmosets from an Australian wildlife park as a baby was reunited with her mum and the hunt continued to find dad.
Three of the monkeys, the world's smallest, were snatched from their enclosure at the Symbio Wildlife Park south of Sydney on Saturday, with police and zookeepers launching a desperate bid to locate the suckling infant.
There were fears it would die if away from its mother for more than 24 hours while keepers also worried its twin would perish because their mother was too stressed to feed.
After a tip-off from the public, two men, aged 23 and 26, were arrested and charged Monday with dealing with the proceeds of crime.
Police found the unnamed four-week-old infant in the men's car and a 10-month-old female, Sophia, at another address. But the father, Gomez, remains missing.
It was not clear why the monkeys, which are native to South America and usually about 20 centimetres (eight inches) tall, were taken, but Symbio park manager Matthew Radnidge said there would have been a financial motivation.


Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-11-miniature-monkeys-reunited-australia-zoo.html#jCp

Miniature monkeys reunited after Australia zoo theft

November 28, 2016
The marmosets, also known as thumb monkeys, are in demand on the black market as pets
Two men were charged Monday with stealing rare pygmy marmosets from an Australian wildlife park as a baby was reunited with her mum and the hunt continued to find dad.
Three of the monkeys, the world's smallest, were snatched from their enclosure at the Symbio Wildlife Park south of Sydney on Saturday, with police and zookeepers launching a desperate bid to locate the suckling infant.
There were fears it would die if away from its mother for more than 24 hours while keepers also worried its twin would perish because their mother was too stressed to feed.
After a tip-off from the public, two men, aged 23 and 26, were arrested and charged Monday with dealing with the proceeds of crime.
Police found the unnamed four-week-old infant in the men's car and a 10-month-old female, Sophia, at another address. But the father, Gomez, remains missing.
It was not clear why the monkeys, which are native to South America and usually about 20 centimetres (eight inches) tall, were taken, but Symbio park manager Matthew Radnidge said there would have been a financial motivation.


Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-11-miniature-monkeys-reunited-australia-zoo.html#jCp

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Mysterious Sex Lives of Hawaii's Endangered Yellow-Faced Bees


In late September 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) added seven of Hawaii's yellow-faced bee species to the Endangered Species List — the first time any bee has been declared endangered. What do we know about their sex lives and could this information be the key to saving these rare bees?

In Hawaii, there are more than 60 species of yellow-faced bee (genus Hylaeus), a solitary type of bee that lives in a wide range of habitats, from coastal areas to high-elevation forests. These bees are the primary pollinators of a common Hawaii shrub called naupaka, which blooms half-flowers and is the focus of a Hawaiian story about star-crossed lovers who are fated to be forever separated.

Though scientists have long been aware of the bees and their importance, "there's virtually nothing known about the mating behaviors of yellow-faced bees," said Sheldon Plentovich, the Pacific Islands Coastal Program Coordinator for USFWS.

Read on

First Antarctic ground beetle discovered

Date: November 28, 2016
Source: Pensoft Publishers

Fossilised forewings from two individuals, discovered on the Beardmore Glacier, revealed the first ground beetle known from the southernmost continent. It is also the second beetle for the Antarctic insect fauna with living descendants. The new species, which for now is also the sole representative of a new genus, is to be commonly known as Ball's Antarctic Tundra Beetle. Scientists Dr Allan Ashworth, North Dakota State University, and Dr Terry Erwin, Smithsonian Institution, published their findings in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The insect fauna in Antarctica is so poor that today it consists of only three species of flightless midges, with one of them having been probably introduced from the subantarctic island of South Georgia. The absence of biodiversity is considered to be a result of lack of moisture, vegetation and low temperatures.

Following their study, the authors conclude that the beetle must have inhabited the sparsely-vegetated sand and gravel banks of a meltwater-fed stream that was once part of an outwash plain at the head of a fjord in the Transantarctic Mountains. Plants associated with the extinct beetle include southern beech, buttercup, moss mats, and cushion plants, all typical for a tundra ecosystem. The species may or may not have been able to fly.

Continued
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