Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Use of parasitic wasps to fight ash borer grows to 24 states

May 25, 2016 by David Pitt

Millions of tiny wasps that are natural parasites for the emerald ash borer have been released into wooded areas in 24 states as the battle against the tree-killing borer is now biological.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has researched and approved for release four species of parasitic wasps that naturally target the larval and egg stages of the ash borer, which has killed an estimated 38 million ash trees in urban and residential areas. The estimated cost of treating, removing, and replacing the lost trees is $25 billion, according to a report written by USDA and U.S. Forest Service entomologists earlier this month.

On average, federal and state resource managers spend more than $29 million per year to manage ash borer populations.

The tiniest of the wasps looks like a pepper flake on a white surface. It lays eggs inside ash borer eggs, preventing them from hatching. Three other wasps, one the size of a gnat, lays eggs inside ash borer larvae halting development into adult beetles.

They were identified in China in 2002 and studied for several years before scientists concluded they could be safety released in the United States to fight the ash borer.

The wasp release program is in 24 of the 26 states where the ash borer has been found, said entomologist Ben Slager, the manager of the laboratory in Brighton, Michigan, producing the wasps run by the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a USDA agency. Plans are to also distribute wasps to Texas and Georgia, the final two states not yet in the program.

"This isn't going to save anybody's tree in their yard or in the city. What we're working to do is to protect the next generation coming up," Slager said Tuesday. "It's really a long-term management strategy."

UN calls for overhaul of national laws to tackle wildlife crime

Countries urged to outlaw possession of wildlife and timber illegally harvested or traded elsewhere

Tuesday 24 May 201613.00 BST
Last modified on Tuesday 24 May 201613.01 BST

Governments around the world need to pass national laws outlawing the possession of wildlife and timber that has been illegally harvested or traded elsewhere, a new report by the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) urges.

At present, unlisted but endangered flora and fauna can be legally sold in other nations, even if it was illicitly taken from the countries of origin, due to a lack of coverage in the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

As the Guardian revealed last year, conservation authorities believe that the survival of many endangered species is being threatened as a result.

The level of concern is such that the UN is now calling for “each country to prohibit, under national law, the possession of wildlife that was illegally harvested in, or illegally traded from, anywhere else in the world.”

“Domestic environmental laws should be expanded to provide protection to wildlife from other parts of the world,” the report adds.

Draft laws could be prepared nationally, regionally or internationally, to give a legal basis for contraband seizures by customs officers, without having to refer to international protected species lists, according to the UN paper.

Theodore Leggett, the study’s author, told the Guardian there was a good chance for the idea gaining traction in the international community.

“There is tremendous international goodwill on this right now. No one is going to stand up and say that wildlife trade should be less regulated,” he said.

The sea monsters are coming to tell us how little we know of nature

Even eco-protesters show by their actions the disconnection between humanity and the rest of the animate world – which just wants us to leave it alone 

Wednesday 18 May 201614.31 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 18 May 201614.33 BST

This spring is proving to be spectacular when it comes to its quota of sea monsters. As if reports of a sea serpent in the Thames and the Loch Ness monster being “found” weren’t enough, reality bites back with some true-life beasts beyond all expectation.

A bizarre beaked whale washes up on an Australian beach like a primeval message from prehistory. A narwhal, complete with spiralling tusk out of some medieval bestiary, turns up in a Dutch estuary. And last Sunday a bowhead whale– an animal that may reach 300 years in age, and which surpasses all description with its huge, arching mouth filled with plates of fibrous baleen four metres long – surfaced off Cornwall, 1,000 miles and an ocean away from its designated domain.

What’s going on? What summons these weird deputations from the deep? They appear to be advance warning of something we already know – acidifying, warming seas, and irrefutable climate change. But they also bear witness to our mythic relationship with nature. Just as the middle ages had their Kraken, and we had the Loch Ness monster last century, so the modern world seems to be supplying new monsters of its own – by virtue of our dysfunctional occupation of this watery planet.

The beaked whales, strange cetaceans defined by teeth that in some species grow over their mouths like a muzzle, are perhaps the last large unknown animals. There are species of beaked whales yet to be seen alive, known only from a handful of carcasses cast upon on remote strands.

Equally, the narwhal is legendary on account of its ivory tusk – in fact, a grossly extended and highly sensitised tooth erupting through its upper lip, and once touted as the true horn of the unicorn. The 16th-century explorer Martin Frobisher gave one to Elizabeth I, so valuable it could have bought her a new castle.

Too much sex causes genitals to change shape, beetle study shows

 May 20, 2016

Sexual conflict between males and females can lead to changes in the shape of their genitals, according to research on burying beetles by scientists at the University of Exeter.

The study, published today in the journal Evolution, provides new evidence that conflict over how often mating takes place can lead to males evolving longer penis-like organs and females larger 'claws' on their genitalia, within ten generations.

Genital shape varies enormously across the animal kingdom compared, for instance, to body shape. One reason for this may be that the shapes of male and female genitalia co-evolve as a result of sexual conflict. Dr Megan Head, one of the authors of the new study said: "It takes two to tango, so when changes in shape in one sex leads to corresponding changes in the other sex this is known as co-evolution."

Sexual conflict over mating occurs because, whilst having lots of sex is usually good for a male—as it increases the number of offspring he is likely to produce—it is not so good for a female because she only needs to mate a few times to fertilise all her eggs. In addition too much sex can be costly for female burying beetles as it reduces their ability to provide parental care.

In order to test whether sexual conflict could lead to co-evolutionary changes in the shape of genitals the researchers artificially selected pairs of burying beetles for either high mating rates or low rates for ten generations. The research found that this artificial selection resulted in changes in the shapes of both male and female genitalia.

It also found that changes in one sex were reflected by changes in the shape of the other sex, showing there was co-evolution. The greatest changes in shape occurred in beetles selected for high mating rates, where sexual conflict was greatest: males evolved to have longer intromittent organs (penis-like structures) and females responded by evolving more pronounced 'claws' on their genitalia.

Snake Rodeo: Not roundup but killing of snakes on lake – via Herp Digest

May 23, 2018, Albany Times Union

(I believe, the reason given for this event is just wrong. (Besides inhumane. Correct me if I am wrong, If I am write, and can supply specific scientific reasons, email  Army Corps of Engineers biologist Steven George ( and if you get the email for Jared Streeter of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Heritage Program send him an email correcting his “scientific” rationale for the event. Thanks.)

Lake Providence. LA. — Participants in the annual East Carroll Snake Rodeo don't round up the snakes on Lake Providence: they go out in boats and shoot them.

Participants on Saturday killed 273 snakes: 84 cottonmouth moccasins and 189 non-venomous reptiles, Army Corps of Engineers biologist Steven George told The News-Star ( The count included 166 diamondback water snakes, 15 broad-banded water snakes and two rat snakes.

Those were just the snakes that could be brought in.

T.J. O'Neal and his two teammates said they shot three snakes, but two of them sank too quickly to retrieve them with a net.

The East Carroll Parish Sheriff's Office sponsors the event, with a goal of keeping down the snake population.

The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Amphibian and Reptile Enthusiasts both work at the event to educate people about the types of snakes living on the lake.

They're not trying to stop the rodeo, said Jared Streeter of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Heritage Program. But, he said, it's important to understand the likely effects.

"If you remove the non-venomous snakes it creates the opportunity for the venomous snakes to move in," Streeter said.

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