Saturday, 30 April 2011
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News
An experiment in a US lake suggests that ecosystem collapses could be predicted, given the right monitoring.
Researchers changed the structure of the food web in Peter Lake, in Wisconsin, by adding predatory fish.
Within three years, the fish had taken over, producing a decline in tiny water plants and an explosion in water fleas.
Writing in the journal Science, the researchers say the change was preceded by signals that could be used to predict similar collapses elsewhere.
In particular, rapid swings in the density of plants and fleas indicated the food web was unstable and about to change.
The idea that such early warning signals ought to exist is not new - but the researchers say this is the first time it has been demonstrated experimentally.
"For a long time, ecologists thought these changes couldn't be predicted," said research leader Stephen Carpenter from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, US.
"But we've now shown that they can be foreseen. The early warning is clear; it is a strong signal."
Peter and Paul
The Peter Lake food web contained four key components. Insects such as fleas ate tiny water-borne plants, small fish such as golden shiners ate the fleas, and much bigger largemouth bass ate the little fish.
Beginning in 2008, the researchers began to add more bass, and more than a thousand hatched the following year.
Sensing the threat from these predators, the golden shiners began to spend more time in the shallows or sheltering under floating logs.
Larger fleas moved in, eating the floating plants (phytoplankton).
But the changes were anything but smooth, with wildly varying numbers of fleas and phytoplankton seen at different times.
Eventually, by late 2010, the ecosystem appeared to have finalised its transition from one stable state to another.
This second state, dominated by fleas and largemouth bass, is similar to the situation that had existed for years in neighbouring Lake Paul.
This lake showed no major changes during the three years, indicating that the changes seen in Peter really were caused by the addition of bass.
Many natural systems appear capable of existing in more than one stable state.
Until 20 years ago, the Grand Banks off Canada's east coast were dominated by cod - so many as to prevent the growth of other species.
Overfishing caused the cod population to collapse.
Other species have since taken their prime position, some of which predate on juvenile cod - perhaps meaning that the prized fish will never return to their former dominance.
The new research suggests it might be possible to detect signals of such a coming crash before it happened.
"Early warning signs help you prepare for, and hopefully prevent, the worst case scenario," said Jonathan Cole from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies near New York, another of the scientists involved.
"We are surrounded by problems caused by ecological regime shifts - water supply shortages, fishery declines, unproductive rangeland - and our study shows that there is promise in identifying these changes before they reach their tipping point."
The principle may have been proved, but the application would still appear to be some way away.
Monitoring any ecosystem with the intensity used at Peter Lake will be expensive, although the ever growing fleet of Earth observation satellites could help in some cases.
Even more problematic is knowing which early warning signs apply in which ecosystem.
April 22, 2011 Biology & Nature by Jean-Pierre Saint-Jeannet, University of Pennsylvania
During embryonic development, cells migrate to their eventual location in the adult body plan and begin to differentiate into specific cell types. Thanks to new research at the University of Pennsylvania, there is new insight into how these processes regulate tissues formation in the heart. A developmental biologist at Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine, Jean-Pierre Saint-Jeannet, along with a colleague, Young-Hoon Lee of South Korea's Chonbuk National University, has mapped the embryonic region that becomes the part of the heart that separates the outgoing blood in Xenopus, a genus of frog.
Xenopus is a commonly used model organism for developmental studies, and is a particularly interesting for this kind of research because amphibians have a single ventricle and the outflow tract septum is incomplete.
In higher vertebrates, chickens and mice, the cardiac neural crest provides the needed separation for both circulations at the level of the outflow tract, remodeling one vessel into two. In fish, where there is no separation at all between the two circulations, the cardiac neural crest contributes to all regions of the heart.
"In the frog, we were expecting to find something that was in between fish and higher vertebrates, but that's not the case at all," said Saint-Jeannet. "It turns out that cardiac neural crest cells do not contribute to the outflow tract septum, they stop their migration before entering the outflow tract. The blood separation comes from an entirely different part of the embryo, known as the 'second heart field.'"
"As compared to other models the migration of the cardiac neural crest in amphibians has been dramatically changed through evolution," he said.
Saint-Jeannet's research will be published in the May 15 edition of the journal Development.
To determine where the neural crest cells migrated during development, the researchers labeled the embryonic cells with a fluorescent dye, then followed the path those marked cells took under a microscope. "We label the cardiac neural crest cells in one embryo and then graft them onto an embryo that is unlabeled. We let the embryo develop normally and look where those cells end up in the developing heart," said Saint-Jeannet.
Knowing these paths, and the biological signals that govern them, could have implications for human health.
"There are a number of pathologies in humans that have been associated with abnormal deployment of the cardiac neural crest, such as DiGeorge Syndrome," said Saint-Jeannet. "Among other developmental problems, these patients have an incomplete blood separation at the level of the outflow tract, because the cardiac neural crest does not migrate and differentiate at the proper location."
DiGeorge syndrome is present in about 1 in 4,000 live births, and often requires cardiac surgery to correct.
"Xenopus could be a great model to study the signals that cause those cells to migrate into the outflow tract of the heart,' said Saint-Jeannet. "If you can understand the signals that prevent or promote the colonization of this tissue, you can understand the pathology of something like DiGeorge syndrome and perhaps figure out what kind of molecule we can introduce there to force those cells to migrate further down."
Traffic -Bangkok, Thailand, 20th April 2011-A van packed to the brim with 173 live pangolins and 130 kilogrammes of dried snake skins was confiscated by Thai Customs officers in the wee hours of this morning in Prachuap Khiri Khan. Officers stopped the white truck and its driver at 3 a.m in the town of Pranburi.
The Thai national who was arrested is believed to have transported the cargo from the Southern Thai town of Had Yai to Songkla and was headed to Bangkok. Prachuap Khiri Khan, where the items were seized, is a bottleneck for transportation and an ideal location for authorities to focus their enforcement attention.
It is a transit point through which all traffic from Indonesia and Malaysia must pass to access central and northern Thailand, as well as the rest of Indochina. Thai Press reports say the truck driver was held for violations under Thailand's Customs regulations and for flouting laws that govern international trade in wildlife under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.
The endangered Pangolin commonly turns up in seizures around the region and is trafficked in large volumes for the illegal meat and medicine markets. The suspect and the wildlife seized have been handed over to the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department for further investigation and action. This recent seizure follows close on the heels of the Customs Department's recent find of 1,800 monitor lizards which smugglers were attempting to traffic across the border from Malaysia in several pickup trucks. "Thailand's Customs authorities should be congratulated for catching this shipment," said TRAFFIC Regional Director Dr. William Schaedla. "Pangolin trafficking up the Malay Peninsula and along this roadway are regular tragic occurrences.
TRAFFIC is hopeful that interdictions like this will become a deterrent that breaks the trade chain that is robbing Southeast Asia of its wildlife," he said. In early April, a team of Malaysian wildlife officers in the northern state of Kelantan seized 40 pangolins, weighing a total of 200 kilograms, from a car believed to be heading for China via Thailand.
Springer Select - New York / Heidelberg, 4/18/11
Our susceptibility to oral infection has some parallels to those of ancient reptiles that evolved to eat a diet incorporating plants in addition to meat. That's according to Robert Reisz from the University of Toronto and his colleagues who found evidence of bone damage due to oral infec-tion in Paleozoic reptiles as they adapted to living on land. Their findings, published online in Springer's journal Naturwissenschaften - The Science of Nature, predate the previous record for oral and dental disease in a terrestrial vertebrate by nearly 200 million years.
The researchers investigated the jaws of several well-preserved specimens of Labidosaurus hama-tus, a 275-million-year-old terrestrial reptile from North America. One specimen stood out because of missing teeth and associated erosion of the jaw bone. With the aid of CT-scanning, Reisz and colleagues found evidence of a massive infection. This resulted in the loss of several teeth, as well as bone destruction in the jaw in the form of an abscess and internal loss of bone tissue.
As the ancestors of advanced reptiles diversified to life on land, many evolved dental and cranial specializations to feed more efficiently on other animals and to incorporate high-fiber plant leaves and stems into their diet. The primitive dental pattern in which teeth were loosely attached to the jaws and continuously replaced, changed in some lineages to be strongly attached to the jaw, with little or no tooth replacement. This was clearly advantageous to some early reptiles, allowing them to chew their food and thus improve nutrient absorption. The abundance and global distribution of Labidosauris and its kin attest to the evolutionary success of this strategy.
However, Reisz and his colleagues suggest that as this reptile lost the ability to replace teeth, the likelihood of infections of the jaw, resulting from damage to the teeth, increased substantially. This is because prolonged exposure of the dental pulp cavity of heavily worn or damaged teeth to oral bacteria was much greater than in other animals that quickly replaced their teeth.
The authors conclude: "Our findings allow us to speculate that our own human system of having just two sets of teeth, baby and permanent, although of obvious advantage because of its ability to chew and process many different foodstuffs, is more susceptible to infection than that of our distant ancestors that had a continuous cycle of tooth replacement."
Reisz R R et al (2011). Osteomyelitis in a Paleozoic reptile: ancient evidence for bacterial infection and its evolutionary significance. Naturwissenschaften - The Nature of Science. DOI 10.1007/s00114-011-0792-1
A new leap-Lankan scientists introduce Taruga, a new endemic genus of foam-nesting tree frogs. (Via Herp Digest)
The Sunday Times, 4/17/11-Malaka Rodrigo reports
Boosting Sri Lanka's image as an amphibian hotspot, a group of Sri Lankan scientists have introduced a new genus of frogs that is endemic to the island. The new group is named Taruga meaning 'tree climber' in ancient Sinhala and Sanskrit.
This name is appropriate as the adults of these are tree-inhabiting frogs, rarely come to the ground, even laying their eggs on trees on overhanging foam nests.
Taruga is currently the only genus of endemic frogs among the tree-frogs (Rhacophoridae). Definition of a new genus is a rare occurrence, and for a vertebrate group, even rarer. The task of separating these species into a new genus is indeed complex and demanding.
The researchers have to analyse molecular DNA and morphological data such as the outward appearance as well as the form and structure of the internal parts like bones and organs of both adult frogs as well as tadpoles to distinguish this ancestry unique to Sri Lanka.
Dr.Madhava Meegaskumbura, the principal scientist behind this task, said, the research outcome published recently has been already updated in reputed amphibian journals further strengthening Sri Lanka as one of the world's most important amphibian hotspots.
In science, a Genus is a classification used to group one or more species that has common characteristics which is the taxonomic rank just above that of the species name. For example, the four big cats - lion, tiger, jaguar and leopard are classified under the genus Panthera because of the common characteristics they share. Three of the endemic tree frogs that were previously called Polypedates (Whipping tree frogs) were re-classified under this new genus and have been given new scientific names -- Taruga eques, Taruga fastigo and Taruga longinasus.
The first part of a scientific name represents the genus, whereas the second part denotes the individual species name. However, a set of cone-like projections around the vent, a curved fold above the ear and a more pointed snout helped scientists to pull out three frogs to new genus Taruga. During a certain tadpole stage, the vent of Polypedates forms a tube between the left leg and tail, and in Taruga, there is only an opening between the leg and tail.
There are also several more features of the mouth cavity, such as the number of projections on the tongue and shape of the tongue that distinguishes Taruga from Polypedates.
These frogs also show some interesting characteristics with all frogs in this new genus building foam nests. The female is much larger than the male and carries him during amplexus. The female first selects a site usually a branch that hangs over water to make a bubble nest. Fluids secreted from the egg-carrying channel (termed the oviduct) are beaten up into a foamy mass by the female using her hind limbs.
The size of a foam nests can range from a ping-pong ball in some species, to a cricket ball in others. The eggs are laid within this foamy mass and the males fertilize the eggs. First the male and then the female leaves the nest, without providing any parental care to the nest. After several days, the eggs hatch and the tadpoles slip into the water from the overhanging foam nest to start their new life in the water.
Dr.Meegaskumbura said the tadpoles falling into the water at an advanced stage ensure a higher survivability from aquatic threats than if the eggs were laid in the water. The juvenile frogs that emerge from the water return to an arboreal life on the trees.
Rohan Pethiyagoda, another an expert taxonomist who is also involved in this research paper commented that the genus Taruga joins Nannophrys, Adenomus and Lankanectes as the fourth genus of frogs endemic to Sri Lanka.
These three species also show restricted distribution, where Taruga eques can be found 1000m above sea level (asl) in the central hills and the Knuckles range. Taruga longinasus: can be found below 600m in the wet-zone lowlands of Sri Lanka while Taruga fastigo is present only at 900m asl in the Rakwana mountains, recording the most restricted range.
Dr.Meegaskumbura acknowledges his graduate student, Gayan Bowatte who contributed to this work and other researchers who assisted them. He also acknowledges the support extended by the Department of Wildlife Conservation and Forest Department of Sri Lanka to carryout this work.
Amphibians the highest threatened
Around the world many species and populations are declining, but amphibians are the worst affected group among the vertebrates. Amphibians are sensitive to changes in the environment, so a small variation can be deadly for the frogs living in an affected area.
To add to the problem, many amphibians such as frogs of the genus Taruga are only found in restricted ranges; one species can only be found in a single forest patch, making them vulnerable to localized threats. Sri Lanka currently records 111 amphibians with 92 of them being endemic to Sri Lanka but the IUCN (World Conservation Union) has categorized 11 species of Sri Lankan amphibians as critically endangered and a further 36 as endangered. Some of these species are on the brink of extinction and require urgent conservation attention, or they could disappear even without our knowing about them. Sri Lanka has already lost 21 amphibians, in other words they have been categorized as being extinct. Deforestation, isolation of forests into smaller patches (fragmentation), disease, pollution, and climate change are triggering the extinction of amphibians.
"We have now realized that legal protection alone is insufficient to secure the future of these species. They need active conservation intervention, such as captive breeding and improved habitat security, in addition to regular monitoring of the existing populations so that any decline could be detected and addressed," points out environmentalist Rohan Pethiyagoda, who discovered many frogs as part of his research few years ago.
Mr. Pethiyagoda added that at present, the only species on which the government spent money on conservation were elephants.
Yet, hundreds of Sri Lanka's endemic species and whole genera are threatened with extinction. If only a fraction of the funds spent on managing elephants were diverted to the conservation also of other threatened species, the outcome for the country's biodiversity would be much better," he said.
To make matters worse many of the protected areas in Sri Lanka are in the dry zone, whereas 80% of endemic fauna are found in wet zone rainforests, hill country cloud forests and related habitats. Many of the threatened amphibians are in the wet zone and mountain areas where the habitats are shrinking faster than in the lowland dry zone (please see map). There are some critically endangered frogs currently surviving in a few areas outside protected areas, so a disturbance of these habitats would be deadly for these tiny amphibians.
Apr. 23, 2011, news-press.com
Written by KEVIN LOLLAR "Alligator creepin' 'round the corner of my cabin door;
"He's comin' 'round to bother me some more."
- The Grateful Dead
It's that time of year again, the height of the dry season and alligator breeding season, when the state's favorite reptiles are on the move looking for water and that special scaly someone.
But that doesn't mean alligators will be comin' 'round to bother you some more.
"Right now, you might see them out and about more, moving from one water body to another," said Jeremy Conrad, a biologist at the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel. "In mating season, they're a little more active, but that doesn't increase their aggressive nature at all. They are not going to chase you."
And that, of course, doesn't mean alligators are not potentially dangerous animals.
Since 1948, 333 unprovoked alligator attacks and 22 fatalities have been recorded in Florida.
For years, the prevailing wisdom was all alligators fear humans, that alligators become dangerous only when people feed them and fed alligators are more likely to attack people.
This much is true: When an alligator is fed, it becomes habituat ed to people - loses its fear of humans - so it will be more likely to approach people for a handout
Recent research, however, shows few of the unprovoked attacks on humans were by alligators that had been habituated through feeding.
On the other hand, a large alligator, even one that hasn't been fed, might see a human as a prey item.
During mating season, alligator behavior doesn't change much, said Mike Knight, a resource manager at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, home of thousands of alligators.
"Most of the time, they're doing the same old thing," he said. "They're lying around, basking in the sun to warm up, swimming around looking for stuff to eat."
Still, alligators exhibit some changes in behavior when they go into mating mode.
"A month ago, we started seeing more confrontations between alligators," Knight said. "They're charging up as far as their hormones go, gearing up for breeding season, establishing territories. Between now and July, they'll be bellowing more."
An integral part of the courtship ritual, bellowing is an unmistakable sound, though other wildlife sounds are often mistaken for alligator bellowing.
"A lot people come out and hear a pig frog, which is a loud, short grunt, and think it's an alligator bellow - it's not," Knight said. "An alligator bellow is like something out of the movie 'Jurassic Park.' It's a long, drawn-out roar. It will vibrate the boardwalk.
"The neat thing about the bellow: The alligator arches its back, lifts its head and tail, makes the bellow and settles back. Then a subsonic sound causes water to dance off its back. It's an awesome sight to see."
For people going into gator country - virtually any freshwater habitat in Florida - Knight suggested a healthy dose of common sense.
"Be mindful that you're on the alligator's home turf," he said. "Don't do stuff that would put you in danger of an alligator attack. Don't go swimming in the early morning or late evening. Don't have pets out there around alligators. Don't feed them. Stay away from them. Don't go poking them with a stick."
Apr 24, 2011
Malayan Insider, Bogoto, Columbia, April 24 - Green iguana, slider turtles and the world's largest rodent, capybara: it's not a trip to the zoo.
It's what's for traditional Easter dinner in Colombia.
"This is the season we have them all coming in," said nutritionist Carolina Rangel, at a centre for confiscated animals in the Colombian capital. She showed AFP about 30 confiscated "outlawed" slider turtles, common here and in Venezuela, as well as a rogue green iguana officials picked up on a bus. Sometimes problems crop up when the animals escape from their "caretakers" especially in the busy Easter season; many Colombians travel for hours on intercity buses to spend the holiday with family and prepare special meals.
"People bring them in (from far-flung provinces) secretly, even stashed in suitcases so they can eat them with relatives, or sell them at open-air markets," said local environmental official Andres Alvarez, a veterinarian.
Colombia has wildly varied geography, with tropical Pacific and Caribbean coasts; cooler Andean mountain climes and a huge range of plant and animal life that thrive, sometimes in relative isolation.
These recipes based on local animals - instead of imported ones - have close ties to the northern and northwestern parts of the country.
They are often served up in the age-old recipes of indigenous peoples descended from migrants who came from eastern Asia into North and South America thousands of years ago.
Among the mouthwatering seasonal treats: turtles' eggs omelettes; iguana soup; cayman or turtle stew, which is served up with coconut rice, fried yuca, all washed down with cold beer.
"Colombia's gastronomic wealth is a reflection of the country's biodiversity," the world's second greatest after Brazil, said anthropolgist Julian Estrada.
How the custom evolved of eating these meals at this time - the Christian celebration of Easter - is not so clear. But people who lived along local rivers in what is modern-day Colombia ate all of these animals before the Spanish colonial era started in the 15th century, anthropologists say.
"For our indigenous people, the sleeper turtle and iguana are historically symbolic, mystical animals and part of age-old customs. Ultimately, what happened was that the (Roman) Catholic calendar's tradition ended up melding with the fact that those animals are plentiful" during the spring Easter period, said anthropologist Ramiro Delgado.
So while many Colombians are eagerly awaiting the arrival of an exotic little something on their Easter table, hundreds of others are trying to make sure that passengers on intercity buses are people and not animals.
Rodolfo Mendoza, the chief of the environmental police in Barrancabermeja, northwest of the capital, said that his department on April 13 intercepted someone with what amounted to a mini-herd of eight capybara. They are the world's biggest rodent and occasionally can top 100kg.
Though not endangered, they are not supposed to be hunted at this time of the year so as not to interfere with their reproductive season.
Authorities have to balance trying to protect the species while respecting indigenous Colombian traditions, they say.
That is why the hunting and sale of slider turtles, iguana, and small crocodiles is illegal; but at the same time, they may be consumed by people who eat them to survive in communities where food sources are limited.
The Environment Ministry says that in just four years, more than 100,000 live river turtles have been confiscated.
"Our real problem is just trying to manage the use of these animals, not turning consumption into some big crime," said government biodiversity expert Claudia Rodriguez. "Above all because in some poor rural areas, they are the only food people have." - afprelaxnews.com
Wen-San Huanga,b, Harry W. Greeneb, Tien-Jye Changc, and Richard Shined,1
aDepartment of Zoology, National Museum of Natural Science, Taichung 404, Taiwan; bDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-2701; cDepartment of Veterinary Medicine, National Chung Hsing University, Taichung 402, Taiwan; and dBiological Sciences A08, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Edited by David B. Wake, University of California, Berkeley, CA, and approved March 22, 2011 (received for review January 31, 2011)
Proceedings of the Nationla Academy of Society of the United States (PNAS), April 19, 2011, 108 (16)
The independent evolutionary origin of a complex trait, within a lineage otherwise lacking it, provides a powerful opportunity to test hypotheses on selective forces. Territorial defense of an area containing resources (such as food or shelter) is widespread in lizards but not snakes. Our studies on an insular population of Taiwanese kukrisnakes (Oligodon formosanus) show that females of this species actively defend sea turtle nests by repelling con- specifics for long periods (weeks) until the turtle eggs hatch or are consumed. A clutch of turtle eggs comprises a large, long-lasting food resource, unlike the prey types exploited by other types of snakes. Snakes of this species have formidable weaponry (mas- sively enlarged teeth that are used for slitting eggshells), and when threatened, these snakes wave their tails toward the ag- gressor (an apparent case of head-tail mimicry). Bites to the tail during intraspecific combat bouts thus can have high fitness costs for males !
(because the hemipenes are housed in the tail).
In combination, unusual features of the species (ability to inflict severe damage to male conspecifics) and the local environment (a persis- tent prey resource, large relative to the snakes consuming it) ren- der resource defense both feasible and advantageous for female kukrisnakes. The (apparently unique) evolution of territorial be- havior in this snake species thus provides strong support for the hypothesis that resource defensibility is critical to the evolution of territoriality.
PDF of full paper
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. AP 4/23/11 -- A coalition of environmental groups has notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that it intends to sue the agency, claiming it failed to act on a petition asking that more than 400 species in Southeastern streams and rivers be listed as threatened or endangered species.The groups, which include the Alabama Rivers Alliance and the Center for Biological Diversity, petitioned the department a year ago. They cited the declining numbers of animals such as the Florida sandhill crane, hellbender and Black Warrior waterdog salamanders, Alabama map turtle and burrowing bog crayfish.Atlanta-based U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Office spokesman Jeff Fleming says the agency has been strained by diminished budgets and the Gulf oil spill, but still processes petitions for species protection.
Information from: The Birmingham News, http://www.al.com/birminghamnews
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/04/23/2182298/groups-plan-to-sue-for-species.html#ixzz1KT1ToiMP
Friday, 29 April 2011
Science and nature reporter, BBC News
It is a true picture of contentment, and now a scientist is suggesting that a pig's love of mud is more than just a way to keep cool.
A researcher in the Netherlands has looked at wallowing behaviour in pigs' wild relatives to find out more about what motivates the animals to luxuriate in sludge.
His conclusions suggest that wallowing is vital for the animals' well-being.
The study is published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
It is already well accepted that pigs use wallows to keep cool. The animals do not have normal sweat glands, so they are unable, otherwise, to regulate their body temperature.
The scientist who carried out the study, Marc Bracke from Wageningen University and Research Centre, trawled the scientific literature for evidence of what motivates other animals to carry out similar behaviours.
He examined closely related "wallowers", including hippos, which spend their time in water to keep cool.
Dr Bracke also looked at other hoofed animals, such as deer. Although these animals do not wallow, they roll on the ground in order to "scent mark", which has an important role in attracting a mate.
That analysis has led Dr Bracke to propose that mud wallowing, like rolling, could play a role in reproduction in pigs.
But more fundamentally, Dr Bracke suggests the behaviour could have evolved in pigs' most ancient relatives.
"We all evolved from fish, so it could be that this motivation to be in water could be something that was preserved in animals that are able to do so."
For many animals, this would be too dangerous, because watering holes are ideal places for predators to ambush their prey.
"But pigs, like many carnivores, are relatively large animals with enlarged canine teeth, so they would be better able to fend off an attack."
So rather than pigs needing to cool down in mud because they do not have [functional] sweat glands, Dr Bracke thinks that they "did not evolve functional sweat glands like other ungulates because they liked wallowing so much".
"Pigs are genetically related to particularly water-loving animals such as hippos and whales," Dr Bracke said.
He explained: "It seems to me that this preference to be in shallow water could have been a turning point in the evolution of whales from land-dwelling mammals."
He concludes that the desire to wallow is probably hardwired and rewarding in itself.
"If so, wallowing could be an important element of a good life in pigs," said Dr Bracke.
Published: 2011/04/29 11:57:05 GMT
5:47 p.m. CDT, April 26, 2011
POCASSET, Okla. -- Some Oklahomans are on the hunt for what they are calling a black panther or mountain lion that has been spotted near several homes.
The creature has been reportedly seen near Pocasset in rural Grady County.
"It was about half grown, had a tail about 4 feet long and it was solid black," witness Russell Dahl said.
It has become quite the talk of the town after a few recent run-ins with people, including Dahl's neighbor who had an encounter while on an evening jog.
"It liked to scare her to death," he said.
The animal is said to have been roaming the area for decades.
Dahl said he questioned the creature's existence when his son described his sighting, but he quickly became a believer.
"I said, 'You saw a coyote.' Well, the next day I saw it and it wasn't no coyote," he said.
Officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Wildlife say they've had a definite increase in the number of calls they've gotten from people who say they've seen big cats after a mountain lion was captured in Tulsa over the weekend.
"Sometimes I think they might be seeing a bobcat, maybe even coyotes, once in a while dogs," Game Warden Ron Comer said. "You can't always believe what your eyes are telling you."
The latest sightings in this rural little town haven't only given the locals a bit of a scare, but some say the cats have gone after their cattle and pets.
Whatever it is, experts say it could be one of a number of different animals.
"I never try to tell anybody that they didn't see what they thought they saw, but the melanistic gene does not exist in the mountain lion or the pumas or panthers or whatever you want to call the north American big cat," Comer said.
The melanistic gene increases an animals dark pigmentation, turning the animal black.
Within the past few years, new laws have allowed people to kill mountain lions or big cats if they feel threatened.
However, now there is no open season to hunt the animals and it is illegal to do so.
As for the cat caught in Tulsa, wildlife officials believe it was a caged pet that somehow escaped from someone who was not licensed to have it.
Thursday, 28 April 2011
Chile: “Luminous Beings” Startle Researcher
By Claudia Pizarro M.
Alberto Urquiza has spent 13 years researching and working in the field of anomalous phenomena and UFOs. He has been a panelist on a variety of television shows, such as “Mucho Gusto” on Canal MEGA and he is working on a new season of Alfredo Lamadrid’ s“Cada Dia Mejor”
And that’s not all. He was also an advisor to the Chilean Air Force regarding the presence of anomalous phenomena and UFOs in the skies. Therefore, he isn’t a person to be easily shocked by any strange event, as he has devoted his life to anomalies and extraterrestrials.
This does not diminish the experiences that has experienced in person. In statements made to La Estrella, one of the most recent ones was truly surprising. He found himself face to face with what he termed as “two luminous beings”. This experience, in his opinion, was a blessing and a very significant chapter in his life. His wife and his assistant were witnesses to hitherto unpublished and unique encounter.
An Alien Experience
“I was heading toward Mirasol Square in Algarrobo, where the cultural center and a restaurant can be found. I going was with my wife and assistant to perform “quantum healing”. These are holistic therapies that integrate reiki and hypnosis, among other disciplines, to find the source of disease. We on our way to the place where our patient had agreed to meet us. Upon arriving we found two people. They were fair, with light colored eyes, tall and clad in nearly phosphorescent clothing. It wasn’t the kind of clothing that made you inconspicuous – quite the contrary. These were outfits to stand out it,” said the expert.
He explained that he approached them, thinking these were the patients. He greeted them and they did so in kind. To his surprise, one of them asked him what was his line of work. Urquiza immediately understood that these were not his patients. He explained that he worked in the field of quantum healing. “When I told him what I did, one of them – the speaker – smiled a smile as broad as his eyes. In seconds, [his eyes] began to light up impressively. As his face lit up, he placed his hands on my shoulders, on my head, and a tremendously powerful agency began to emerge. It only took seconds, but was very intense,” he explained, adding: “when he pulled away his hands, he fixed his gaze on me and said: “Welcome to the community.”
So what was going through Alberto Urquiza’s head in those brief, intense seconds, you may wonder? He replies: “Nothing. I was blank, in a sort of trance, but super aware of it all.”
After speaking those words, the expert reacts and turned to look at his wife and assistant, standing only meters away. In that moment, the two people had disappeared as though by magic.
The expert indicates that there was no time for the beings to run and hide. “They simply disappeared. My assistant was unable to take photos.”
The strangest thing that Urquiza recalls is being unable to discuss the subject with his wife and assistant until the next day at noon. “It was very strange. I was unable to mention a single thing, as though it was erased from my mind until the next day at noon, when I was able to speak to my wife. She was standing only meters away from where I was and also saw the same intense light.”
(Translation (c) 2011, S. Corrales, IHU. Special thanks to Liliana Núñez Orellana)
Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2011
"My goal is not to convince, my goal is to open minds,"said Jeff Meldrum, professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University. Meldrum has been researching the specimen of Sasquatch for more than 15 years and has received national attention for his work, both positive and negative.
His research examines various evidences which suggest that the mythical creature Sasquatch may in fact be real. In particular, he hypothesizes there may be not only one creature living today, but as many as 500-750 of the Sasquatch species.
"People have been so conditioned that this isn't possible that when they finally see it, it upsets their whole equilibrium," he said.
Meldrum said many people, both inside and outside of academia, don't believe that Sasquatch could be real.
"Some of the naysayers adapt that position because such a creature, such a species could not exist under our noses and not have been discovered," he said.
Others, he said, don't accept the possibility out of stubbornness.
"There's a certain chic to being critical these days," he said, "and skepticism is worn as a bright red arm band by some individuals."
Dr. Robert Schmidt, USU professor of wildlife policy and human dimensions in the College of Natural Resources, invited Meldrum to come and speak.
"I met Dr. Meldrum a number of years ago and it was just interesting about how he, as a person with a credentials in science, how he uses that process to look at Sasquatch, which is a very different way than the other Sasquatch fans," he said. "He has this logical process by which he sorta says ‘I can include this information.'"
Ryan Carlisle, an international studies major who attended the lecture, said the presentation didn't affect his belief in Sasquatch.
"It's a possibility," he said. "I didn't totally discount it. It could be."
Halley Kartchner, a graduate student in human dimensions of ecosystems science and management who considers herself an amateur Bigfoot enthusiast said, "I thought it was really refreshing take on the legend of Sasquatch. My other exposure to it has been kinda crazy people I guess."
She said that while she's not completely convinced that Sasquatch is real, Meldrum's lecture made her more inclined to believe he could be.
"It was really good to hear someone with a Ph.D and all this background knowledge giving his take on it," she said.
Sara Preece, a graduate in marine biology from BYU, said, "I had never seen evidence presented the way he had. I feel like he presented it very factually, very evidence-based. He wasn't trying to change anyone's mind or convince anybody, he was just presenting objective evidence for people."
She said she doesn't necessarily believe or disbelieve that Sasquatch is real because belief connotes a religious type of conviction, but said Meldrum's presentation did make her think that Sasquatch could be real.
Meldrum said he himself is not positive that Sasquatch is real, but that the evidence compels him to continue researching.
Published: April 27, 2011
Armadillos have never been among the cuddly creatures routinely included in petting zoos, but on Wednesday federal researchers offered a compelling reason to avoid contact with the armored animals altogether: They are a source of leprosy infections in humans.
Using genetic sequencing machines, researchers were able to confirm that about a third of the leprosy cases that arise each year in the United States almost certainly result from contact with infected armadillos. The cases are concentrated in Louisiana and Texas, where some people hunt, skin and eat armadillos.
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is an ancient scourge that has largely disappeared, but each year about 150 to 250 people in the United States and 250,000 in the world contract the illness. As long as the disease is identified relatively quickly, treatment with antibiotics — a one- to two-year regimen with three different drugs — offers an effective cure. But every year dozens of people in the United States do not recognize their skin lesions for what they are early enough and suffer lifelong nerve damage as a result.
Part of the problem is that doctors sometimes fail to consider leprosy in patients who have not traveled to parts of the world where the disease is endemic, like India, Brazil, Africa, the Philippines and other islands in the Western Pacific. Two-thirds of leprosy patients in the United States are people who have either lived or worked in such places before coming down with the illness.
But in a given year, about 50 to 80 people who have symptoms consistent with leprosy tell their doctors that they have not traveled to such areas or had any contact with someone with a leprosy infection. And in these patients, doctors may mistakenly dismiss consideration of a leprosy infection.
“These patients have always been a puzzle,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Now researchers are hoping that their study leads doctors to ask one more question of patients who have skin lesions that are numb in the center: Any armadillos in your life?
Leprosy now joins a host of other infectious diseases — including flu, H.I.V./AIDS and SARS — that are known to have jumped from animals to humans. Flu is thought to have first crossed to humans from migratory waterfowl several hundred years ago. H.I.V./AIDS first crossed from a chimpanzee about 90 years ago.
Dr. Fauci said that about 70 percent of new emerging infectious diseases were known to have animal origins.
But one of the interesting aspects of leprosy is that transmission seems to have gone in both directions.
Leprosy was not present in the New World before Christopher Columbus, and armadillos are indigenous only to the New World.
“So armadillos had to have acquired it from humans sometime in the last 400 to 500 years,” said Dr. Richard W. Truman, a researcher at the National Hansen’s Disease Program in Baton Rouge, La., and an author of the armadillo study, which was published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Some studies have shown that as many as 20 percent of armadillos in some areas are infected with leprosy.
Armadillos now range from Colorado to North Carolina and have a similar habitat to opossums. Few armadillos live long enough in the wild to be seriously affected by the infection, Dr. Truman said, but those in laboratories suffer many of the same problems as humans and eventually die of liver and kidney failure.
The microbe that causes leprosy, Mycobacterium leprae, is a fragile one. It does not grow in laboratory petri dishes, and survives only a week or two in moist soil. Indeed, the only animals in which it is known to flourish are humans and armadillos, and researchers have long used armadillos to grow the disease, although its presence in armadillos predates such research. Because of this, researchers have speculated that some share of human leprosy cases reported in the United States and other parts of the Americas resulted from contact with armadillos, but there has not been definitive proof until this study.
The fragility of the leprosy bacterium suggests that infections result from something more than casual contact with an armadillo, Dr. Truman said.
“The important thing is that people should be discouraged from consuming armadillo flesh or handling it,” Dr. Truman said.
Wednesday, 27 April 2011
|"Lucky" the lamb was taken to Totnes on|
board the train
A steam train crew in Devon has had to make an emergency stop to avoid hitting a sick lamb on the track.
The animal was spotted lying between the rails by the driver and fireman on board the South Devon Railway locomotive on Sunday.
The tourist train was travelling from Buckfastleigh to Totnes when it was brought to a "rapid halt".
The lamb, who has been named "Lucky", was rescued and is currently being cared for at Totnes Rare Breeds Farm.
Dick Wood, general manager of the South Devon Railway Trust, was on the train at the time of the incident.
He said: "The crew spotted the animal near Woodville by the River Dart and brought the 11.40 train from Buckfastleigh to a rapid halt.
"I looked out to see the crew climb down from their engine and gently lift the tired and dishevelled looking animal up on to the footplate where it was looked after until arriving at Totnes a few minutes later."
Mr Wood said it was believed the lamb had escaped from a neighbouring field and got lost on the railway after becoming separated from its mother.
Last year 112,000 passengers travelled on the South Devon Railway, the highest number of people in the organisation's 19-year history.
(Via Dawn Holloway)
Like many biologists, the German biologist Oliver Zompro spends thousands of hours looking at specimens of dead animals. He found his first new species when he was twenty. By the age of thirty he had named dozens of wild new forms. While other people around him did crossword puzzles and drank lattes, he explored the world, one animal at a time.
Then, one day, things changed. He was looking through specimens when he found something more interesting than anything he had ever seen before. It was a fossil that looked like a cross between two different kinds of animals. It had the wrong mix of parts. It was--he would come to convince himself--a single individual of an entirely new order of beasts.
An order is one of the big categories of life, a big branch on evolution's tree. Animal species are named every day, but finding another new order would be equivalent to discovering bats having not previously known they existed. Bats constitute their own order, as do primates, beetles, flies and rodents.
It is easy to imagine that we have found all of them, living and dead. Yet the grass had parted for Zompro and revealed his treasure. He was not the first person to see it, but he was the first to recognize its significance and, he hoped, to give it a name.
But before Zompro went public with his find, he craved more specimens. He had found one specimen that other scientists had overlooked. It was at least theoretically possible that he might find others. And so he began to search, with zeal. First, he visited the Natural History Museum in London. It is filled with dead animals and so a good place to begin.
In the British Museum he found many false leads. Then, remarkably, he found some real ones. There, in the collection, was a male very similar to the one he had found in his native Germany, but with one key difference. The label attached to it indicated that it had been collected in Tanzania in 1955, alive. This new life form might still be around, a living fossil!
Zompro had struck gold. Amazingly, with a little more digging, he then did it again. He found another specimen in the Museum fur Naturkunde, Humboldt University in Berlin, this one a female from a 1909 collection in Namibia.
Zompro thought he had stumbled upon an entire evolutionary line that had survived the dinosaurs, survived the evolution of mammals and now just maybe had survived several hundred thousand years of human troublemaking.
Quickly, Zompro, his advisor and other colleagues wrote a paper on the new find in which they named the new order "Mantophasmatodea." Later the group would be given the common name, "heel walkers," which makes one think of other beasts of lore--yetis, sasquatch, and the like. Each of the individuals Zompro had discovered was named as a separate species. History would soon decide if the group was distinct enough to constitute its own order. In the meantime, Zompro and colleagues needed more specimens; they wanted to find these animals alive.
Zompro and colleagues decided go to Africa to look for more. Before they did, they needed to know where to look. Africa is big. This animal was, relatively speaking, small. The choice of sites was key, but little information existed on which to base the decision.
One of the specimens Zompro had found was from a relatively easy to reach site in Tanzania, but there was also a specimen from a far more isolated region of Namibia. In fact, the most recent specimens that turned up, one from 1991 and another from 2001, both came from the same place in Namibia, the Brandberg Massif. To the Massif they would go. In such faraway places, they imagined, living fossils like the one for which they were looking might survive.
Read full story: http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=man-discovers-new-life-form-at-sout-2011-04-26
An unlikely water-dweller has been making waves in a County Clare town.
A wayward otter turned on its would-be rescuers in Tulla on Monday as it was found wandering up the town's main street.
Farmer Joe Burke and shop owner Mike Hogan first noticed the animal as it passed by on the footpath outside Mr Hogan's window.
Concerned for its safety, they decided to come to its aid. However, the otter clearly had other ideas.
As a large crowd gathered, the otter became "very aggressive" and started trying to bite people.
Mr Burke was rewarded for his efforts with a nasty cut.
Eventually, the two men managed to corner the ungrateful creature in a courtyard. They planned to wait for professionals to come and take it to safety.
However, as Mr Burke explained: "He then put his head into a Tayto bag. It was wrapped tightly around his head.
"He couldn't see where he was going, he was bumping into walls and everything."
Fearing for the otter's life, Mr Burke decided to take on the rescue himself.
He took a thick bag used for holding animal feed, and after a minor struggle, managed to capture the animal.
The two men loaded their charge into the back of Mr Burke's jeep, and made their way to a local lake with the intention of releasing the otter back into its natural habitat.
But again the otter was refusing to go quietly.
"He chewed his way out of the bag," said Mr Hogan. "The back window was missing on the jeep so he jumped out when we stopped."
The resourceful animal then made a dash for freedom half a mile back towards Tulla, before Mr Burke was able to catch it under a traffic cone.
The men slid a piece of plywood under the cone and carried it back to the lake, where they let the otter back into the water.
However, again the drama continued. The animal was so exhausted from its efforts that it began to sink.
"We pulled him towards the reeds and sort of propped him up," said Mr Hogan.
"After 10 or 15 minutes he got his breath back again and swam off."
A dramatic day indeed. The residents of Tulla may never see an otter one like it.
Tuesday, 26 April 2011
Biodiversity and Conseration, Vol 20, Issue 5
Javier Nori, Mauricio S. Akmentins, Romina Ghirardi, Nicolás Frutos and Gerardo C. Leynaud
The American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) has been introduced throughout the world over the past two centuries. This taxa is a potentially devastating invader because of its large size, prolific reproductive output, and broad ecological niche. Consequently, the extent of this ongoing biological invasion is an increasing conservation concern. In Argentina, several introduced populations have been reported. In most cases, these introductions have been intentional or incidental releases from breeding facilities, yet the consequences and effective controls for captive-breeding programs have not been assessed by government environmental agencies. Further studies are needed regarding the trophic ecology, reproductive biology, ecological niche, and chytrid fungus infection prevalence to predict the ultimate impacts of this species on native ecosystems. The aim of this work is to report a new alien population of L. catesbeianus at La Candelaria, Salta province, Argentina. This!
record represents the first population of American bullfrogs detected in northwestern Argentina.
Mauricio S. Akmentins(345)
Gerardo C. Leynaud(1)
Laboratorio de Herpetología y Animales Venenosos, Centro de Zoología Aplicada, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Rondeau 798, 5000 Cordoba, Argentina
Museo Patagónico de Ciencias Naturales, Av. Roca 1250, General Roca, Río Negro 8332, Argentina
CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Centro de Investigaciones Básicas y Aplicadas (CIBA), Universidad Nacional de Jujuy, Gorriti 237, 4600 S. S. Jujuy, Argentina
Instituto de Bio y Geociencias del NOA (IBIGEO), Universidad Nacional de Salta, Mendoza 2, 4400 Salta, Argentina
Instituto Nacional de Limnología (CONICET_UNL), Ciudad Universitaria, Paraje El Pozo, 3000 Santa Fe, Argentina
Instituto de Altos Estudios Espaciales Mario Gulich, Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE), Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (UNC), Ruta C45 km 8, Falda de Cañete, 5187 Cordoba, Argentina
Nicky Phillips Science,The AGe.com, 4/20/11
AT LAST, the secret hideaway of cane toads has been found.
In the largest investigation of its kind, scientists and council workers used radio tracking devices to uncover Sydney's first known breeding site for the pests: a pond in an industrial park in the Sutherland Shire.
And after tracking and capturing about 500 toads, scientists believe they have stopped the pests taking a foot-hold in the city.
The mayor of Sutherland, Phil Blight, said the occasional ''hitch-hiking'' cane toad had been found in the Taren Point industrial area over several years.
''But last year our pest control officer found increasing numbers and we suspected there was breeding occurring,'' he said.
The council asked people to report any sightings, organised volunteer toad musters and trained a young labrador to sniff out the pests.
Then researchers from the University of Sydney were brought in to attach radio tracking devices to the backs of several cane toads - and within a few days, the toads' lair had been found.
So far the onslaught seems to be working, Cr Blight said, adding this year the numbers appeared to be declining considerably.
A cane toad researcher from the University of Sydney, Rick Shine, said the program was a terrific example of a co-ordinated attack on a potentially serious problem.
By Sally Block, ABC News, Apr 20, 2011
A state of origin match is being played out in Sydney's drains, but unlike the real thing it is the Queenslanders being massacred.
It has been discovered that a colony of cane toads who hitched a ride from the sunshine state are being eaten by the local rodents.
Cane toads were discovered some time ago in an industrial area of Taren Point, in Sydney's south.
Since then the local council, State Government and scientists have been working to eradicate them.
University of Sydney biologist Rick Shine, a passionate toad buster, says toads have been fitted with radio transmitters to monitor their behaviour.
Professor Shine says one of the "entertaining" things to emerge from the monitoring is how rats are munching away on the toads and living to tell the tale.
"The toads quite frequently use drains as cover and the drains contain rats, which we don't normally think of as our best friends," Professor Shine said.
"But rats evolved in the northern hemisphere, in the same place that toads did, and they're capable of dealing with the toad's poison.
"So one of our telemetered toads got massacred and eaten by a rat.
"Unlike a native predator, which a toad would be a fatal meal for, for a rat a toad's just a pretty nice breakfast.
"So we may have some of the old invaders helping get rid of some of the new invaders.
Professor Shine says they have also discovered a Sydney breeding ground for the pests, a pond of tadpoles.
He says it is the "Achilles heel" of the breeding cycle.
"It's a big step in controlling the breeding of the toad as one female can produce as many as 30,000 eggs," Professor Shine.
The tadpoles are euthanised.
He says there are hundreds of the toads in the Shire and hundreds more arrive every year by hopping on trucks carrying things like building materials and mulch from Queensland.
Professor Shine says because the toads are such effective stowaways they will keep on coming.
A toad was found in Launceston in Tasmania's north last week after apparently hitching a ride in a container at Christmas time.
There are several records of toad sightings in other areas in Sydney, but Taren Point seems to be their favourite home.
BigPond News, April 20, 2011 -Austrian Wildlife authoritiesare hopping mad that efforts to save the local frog population are being hampered by Italian poachers.
Officials in southern Austrian province Carinthia say poachers are collecting frogs from the roadside buckets they have been guided into to save them from busy highways, and are then smuggling them home to Italian dinner tables.
Frogs' legs are a delicacy in some parts of Italy and officials have told Austrian state television that the victims tend to be those with the meatiest thighs.
Frogs attempting to cross some Austrian highways are channelled by a series of fences into roadside buckets. Once a day, volunteers collect the buckets and carry the amphibians to the other side of the road and set them free.
But 'the Italians strike before the frog pickers come', says Carinthian environmental official Bernhard Gutleb.
The delicacy can be costly. Officials warn that those caught with their hand in the bucket face fines up to 3600 euros ($A4889).
Nearly one third of the world's 6485 frog species are on the brink of extinction, according to Save The Frogs - a nonprofit organisation dedicated to amphibian conservation.
Traffic, Ryan Walker, By RFI 4/16/11
Conservationists say a 'Tortoise Mafia' is driving Madagascar's tortoises to extinction. Armed gangs of up to 100 have been sweeping the countryside for their slow-moving prey. They say insatiable appetites at home for the meat and as pets in booming Asian markets are leaving species such as the Radiated Tortoise close to extinction.
Formerly protected under a cultural taboo among local tribes in southwest Madagascar, tortoise meat used to be served up only on special occasions. Conservation groups now say immigration and poor harvests have led to massive and unsustainable consumption.
They claim the streets are littered with the remnants of hundreds of pieces of tortoise shells as some communities eat the meat as a part of their daily diet.
Ryan Walker, biologist at Nautilus Ecology, says the large and slow-moving Radiated Tortoise is literally defenseless against a poaching 'mafia', as are the communities that try to respect the or tortoise.
Traffic, an organization that monitors trade in endangered wildlife, recently reported that the stunningly beautiful Radiated Tortoise is the most common tortoise in Asia's illegal pet-markets.
Smugglers are known to pack up to 400 tortoises the size of grapefruits into suitcases to fly from Madagascar to Bangkok in Thailand.
Satellite tracking of sea turtles reveals potential threat posed by manmade chemicals (Via HerpDigest)
Phys.org.com , April 20, 2011
The first research to actively analyze adult male sea turtles (Caretta caretta) using satellite tracking to link geography with pollutants has revealed the potential risks posed to this threatened species by manmade chemicals. The research, published today in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, examines the different levels of chemicals in the blood of both migratory and residential turtles.
"The risks posed by persistent organic pollutants (POPs) remain largely a mystery for threatened loggerhead sea turtles," said lead author Jared Ragland from the College of Charleston, South Carolina. "A clear understanding of these risks is critical for wildlife managers trying to maintain both the health of reproductively active individuals and a sustainable population overall."
Twenty-nine turtles were captured near Port Canaveral, Florida and fitted with satellite transmitters as part of a National Marine Fisheries Service-funded project. Blood was analyzed for traces of organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and toxaphenes, chemicals documented to have carcinogenic and neurodevelopmental effects.
Of the 29 turtles tracked, 19 were analyzed for POPs for which they were separated into two groups and tracked for 60 days. Ten transient turtles travelled north along the U.S. Atlantic coast, eventually arriving in shelf water between New Jersey and South Carolina, while nine turtles remained resident at Cape Canaveral.
The tracking data revealed significantly different movement patterns between transient and resident adult males. Individuals migrating north after breeding season were found to have elevated blood plasma concentrations of POPs, putting them at higher risk to toxic effects compared to the turtles that remained in Florida.
The findings support the idea that foraging location can influence exposure to, and patterns of, POPs in highly mobile species such as sea turtles. Migrating turtles face cumulative poisoning as contaminants infiltrate the food chain through prey species, such as crabs.
"Our research is the first to examine POPs in the rarely studied adult male sea turtle and to couple contaminant measurements with satellite tracking," concluded Ragland. "Although the turtle has been listed as threatened for more than 30 years, it is only now that we can begin to examine the effects of manmade chemicals on these animals in the wild."
Press Trust of India,
Kendrapara (Orissa), Apr 20 (PTI) Millions of rare baby Olive Ridley turtles have begun emerging from the egg-shells along the one kilometre long tranquil Gahirmatha beach off the sea in Orissa. Since Monday evening, the baby turtles have begun emerging out of eggshells marking the culmination of the annual rendezvous of these marine species, wildlife officials said today.
Newborn hatchlings have begun emerging from their nests at the nesting grounds at south eastern Nasi islands of Gahirmatha marine sanctuary. "Adverse weather condition prevented forest personnel from witnessing the matchless natural phenomenon. The area is now inaccessible because of rough sea and tide-infested rivulet.
However, the forest patrol squad is stationed at the desolate beach to ensure the safe seaward voyage of turtle hatchlings," said Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) Forest Division.
By ANI ANI - Tue, Apr 19, 2011 4:00 PM IST
Melbourne, April 19 (ANI): A new research has suggested that fight or flee Snakes on a small Taiwanese island would rather abandon a food source than risk losing their twin penis.
In their study of the kukrisnake (Oligodon formosanus), the team of Australian and Taiwanese researchers claimed to have documented for the first time a case of snakes being territorial.
They observed that male snakes usually found the nests first; but then females would arrive and turf them out. However, if a second female arrived, after an initial combat they would often share the resource.
Why they behave like this comes down to a combination of dentition (they aren't called the 'kukri' snake for nothing), aggressive-defensive behaviour and the male's sex organs.
"The kukrisnakes, with these very large blade like teeth, make a huge slashing wound. It's a really nasty bite," the ABC Science quoted co-author of the study, Rick Shine of University of Sydney, as saying.
"[They] also have a defence display where they lift the back part of their body and they wave their tail around," added Shine.
Shine said this behaviour is quite common in snakes and is designed to confuse birds or other predatory animals.
"The male [kukrisankes] actually take it further and evert their hemipenis (twin penis) and wave them around," he said.
"This is a bad idea if there's an aggressive snake with very large teeth, that's going to slash away at the first thing you poke towards her. A good bite in that part of their anatomy, and their evolutionary fitness has probably come to an end," he added.
So when confronted, the male snakes abandon the eggs rather than risk cutting short their reproductivity.
"This is a spectacular example of how little we know about the private lives of animals and the way evolutionary processes can throw up exceptions to almost any rule that we come up with," said Shine.
The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)
'Rewilding with taxon substitutes', the intentional introduction of exotic species to fulfil key functions in ecosystems following the loss of recently extinct species, is highly controversial, partly due to a lack of rigorous scientific studies.
In a paper published today in Current Biology, Christine Griffiths of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences and colleagues present the first empirical evidence that rewilding can work.
Exotic giant Aldabra tortoises, Aldabrachelys gigantea, were introduced to Ile aux Aigrettes, a 25-hectare island off Mauritius, in 2000 to disperse the slow-growing ebony Diospyros egrettarum (Ebenaceae), which once covered the island, but today is critically endangered following intensive logging for firewood that lasted until the early 1980s.
To highlight the extent to which the ebony forest had been decimated, the researchers surveyed and mapped all ebony trees in an island-wide survey in 2007 and located a total of 3,518 adult trees. However, large tracts of the island remained denuded of ebony, particularly in the northern and eastern coastal areas nearest to the mainland where logging was most intense.
There had been no regeneration in these areas even though logging ceased thirty years ago because, with the extinction of the island's native giant tortoises, there were no large fruit-eating animals left to disperse the seeds of these critically-endangered trees.
The introduced Aldabra tortoises not only ingested the large fruits and dispersed large numbers of ebony seeds, but the process of passing through a tortoise's gut also improved seed germination, leading to the widespread, successful establishment of new ebony seedlings in the heavily logged parts of the island.
Christine Griffiths said: "Our results demonstrate that the introduction of these effective seed dispersers is aiding the recovery of this critically endangered tree whose seeds were previously seed-dispersal limited. Reversible rewilding experiments such as ours are necessary to investigate whether extinct interactions can be restored."
Professor Stephen Harris, co-author of the study, said: "Ecological restoration projects generally involve the plant community, as more often the animal components are extinct. There is, however, increasing evidence that restoration ecologists should be most concerned with the decline of species interactions, rather than species extinctions per se. Species interactions structure ecological communities, and provide essential ecosystem processes and functions such as pollination, seed dispersal and browsing, that are necessary for the self-regulation and persistence of a community."
Contact: Hannah Johnson
University of Bristol
"A vast treasury of wildlife images has been steadily accumulating over the past century, yet no one has known its full extent - or indeed its gaps - and no one has had a comprehensive way of gaining access to it. ARKive will put that right, and it will be an invaluable tool for all concerned with the well-being of the natural world."
Sir David Attenborough
Promoting the Conservation of the World's Threatened Species, Through the Power of Wildlife Imagery
With species extinction now occurring at a faster rate than at any time in Earth's history, effective awareness raising and education programmes are ever more vital. Powerful wildlife imagery is an emotive and effective means of building environmental awareness and engagement, and quick and easy access to this imagery is essential in the digital mass communications society we live in today.
However, until now, this valuable imagery has been scattered throughout the world, in a wide variety of private, commercial and specialist collections, with no centralised collection, restricted public access, limited educational use, and no co-ordinated strategy for its long term preservation.
ARKive is now putting that right, gathering together the very best films and photographs of the world's species into one centralised digital library, to create a unique audio-visual record of life on Earth, prioritising those species at most risk of extinction. Preserved and maintained for future generations, ARKive is making this key resource accessible to all, from scientists and conservationists to the general public and school children, via its award-winning website - www.arkive.org
The ARKive project has unique access to the very best of the world's wildlife films and photographs, with more than 3,500 of the world's leading filmmakers and photographers actively contributing to the project, and giving ARKive unprecedented access to their materials. Contributors include the most famous names in natural history broadcasting, commercial film and picture agencies, leading academic institutions and international conservation organisations, as well as myriad individual filmmakers, photographers, scientists and conservationists.
Please see the Media donors section for more information.
ARKive also has the backing of the world's leading conservation organisations, including BirdLife International, Conservation International, IUCN, UNEP-WCMC, and WWF, as well as leading academic and research institutions, such as the Natural History Museum, London; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and the Smithsonian Institution. ARKive's web-based materials reciprocally link with and highlight the work of these organisations and others, helping promote their activities to ARKive's wide civil-society user base.
ARKive is also pleased to be working with Google to produce ARKive featured layers on Google Earth, and is a member of the Institutional Council of the Encyclopedia of Life, and a key content provider.
Goals and objectives
ARKive has achieved significant success since its launch in 2003, with numerous awards and accolades, fantastic visitor rates from all round the world and an impressive line-up of international partners and strategic alliances. ARKive's priority is now the completion of audio-visual profiles for the c. 17,000 species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
ARKive is a Wildscreen initiative: a not-for-profit charity organisation, with a long standing reputation for being at the heart of the international wildlife media industry. Wildscreen's mission is to promote the public understanding and appreciation of the world's biodiversity and the need for its conservation, through the power of wildlife imagery.
The ARKive project is also supported by Wildscreen USA, Inc., a non-profit organisation based in Washington, DC.
Please see the Wildscreen section for more information.
"ARKive is a noble project - one of the most valuable in all biology and conservation practice."
Professor E. O. Wilson
Mitigating Amphibian Disease: Strategies to maintain wild populations and control chytridiomycosis (Via HerpDigest)
7th Space Interactive, 2/14/11
Rescuing amphibian diversity is an achievable conservation challenge. Disease mitigation is one essential component of population management.
Here we assess existing disease mitigation strategies, some in early experimental stages, which focus on the globally emerging chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. We discuss the precedent for each strategy in systems ranging from agriculture to human medicine, and the outlook for each strategy in terms of research needs and long-term potential.
Results: We find that the effects of exposure to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis occur on a spectrum from transient commensal to lethal pathogen.
Management priorities are divided between (1) halting pathogen spread and developing survival assurance colonies, and (2) prophylactic or remedial disease treatment. Epidemiological models of chytridiomycosis suggest that mitigation strategies can control disease without eliminating the pathogen.
Ecological ethics guide wildlife disease research, but several ethical questions remain for managing disease in the field.
Conclusions: Because sustainable conservation of amphibians in nature is dependent on long-term population persistence and co-evolution with potentially lethal pathogens, we suggest that disease mitigation not focus exclusively on the elimination or containment of the pathogen, or on the captive breeding of amphibian hosts. Rather, successful disease mitigation must be context specific with epidemiologically informed strategies to manage already infected populations by decreasing pathogenicity and host susceptibility.
We propose population level treatments based on three steps: first, identify mechanisms of disease suppression; second, parameterize epizootiological models of disease and population dynamics for testing under semi-natural conditions; and third, begin a process of adaptive management in field trials with natural populations.
Author: Douglas WoodhamsJaime BoschCheryl BriggsScott CashinsLeyla DavisAntje LauerErin MuthsRobert PuschendorfBenedikt SchmidtBrandon SheaforJamie Voyles
Credits/Source: Frontiers in Zoology 2011, 8:8
If I asked you where the picture above was probably taken, I don't think your first answer would be Manhattan.
But that's exactly where I found this fine-looking red-backed salamander: In a brushy, overgrown part of a park in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City.
This is the second time I've gone salamander-hunting in this spot. Here's how you do it: You get off the subway and walk a few blocks, along streets where merengue music is blaring from the storefronts, past the sidewalk food vendors and the cellphone stores and a group handing out flyers for a candidate in the upcoming Dominican presidential election.
Then, just a few minutes later, you are flushing robins from the forest floor as you clamber up a steep hill. Step off the path. Start turning over logs. You'll find salamanders under every other one (be careful, they are fragile creatures).
I think this is a banded snail. Anyone out there know for sure?Photo: Sarah GoodyearOn this particular day, we also found some strange golden ants; what I think is a banded snail (any snail experts out there?); and, along the more traveled parts of the trail, way too much broken glass.
The red-backed salamander is what is known as a lungless salamander, which means just what it says. It breathes through its skin. So it is particularly sensitive to water contamination. This is an animal that must have moist, clean leaf litter and earth to survive. The abundant water seeping through the granite outcroppings of Upper Manhattan makes this place a perfect habitat.
People tend to get excited about seeing big wild animals in the city. Red-tailed hawks, raccoons, coyotes, wild turkeys -- they get all the press. It's understandable. It's hard to imagine giving a name to a salamander.
To me, though, it is the salamanders that amaze. Just a couple of inches long, so slight and slim that they can disappear into the leaves with a flash, these tiny amphibians are living their lives without any reference to humanity, smack in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world.
They are like a secret the park keeps for us, a memory of another time in the life of this island. It is a time we think of as being gone forever. The salamander is proof that it is not.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Press Release - TRAFFIC in CITES, Herpetological
A crucial meeting that could decide the future of Asia's traded snake species takes place this week in Guangzhou, China. Some 60 experts representing close to 20 governments and international and national organizations are meeting to consider conservation priorities and management and enforcement needs related to the trade of snakes. They will focus on the markets and commercial trade in snakes originating in East, South, and South-east Asia. Asian snakes are consumed locally and in neighbouring countries for food, traditional medicines and for their skins. They are also sold as pets and found in expensive luxury leather goods and accessories in the boutiques of Europe and North America.
Their skins are often processed in various countries of re-export along the way. According to a wildlife trade policy review conducted in Viet Nam, the income from snake breeding is three to five times higher than the income generated by vegetable and crop cultivation, and dozens of times higher than the income from pig and cattle breeding. TRAFFIC has previously raised concern over the international exports of Oriental Rat Snakes Ptyas mucosus from Indonesia, after investigations revealed large numbers were harvested and traded outside of existing government regulations.
TRAFFIC found government-set quotas were being widely-flouted, leading to over-harvesting and illegal trade; and with no marking of skins taking place, it was impossible to track them through the trade chain to point of export. "TRAFFIC welcomes the current spotlight on the international trade in Asian snakes, which is placing many species on the conservation danger list," said Dr William Schaedla, Director of TRAFFIC South-east Asia.
Of the 3,315 snake species globally recognized, one third occur in Asia, many of them endemic to particular countries: Indonesia has 128 endemic snake species, India 112, China 54, Papua New Guinea 42, Sri Lanka 41, and the Philippines 32. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) regulates international trade in 130 snake species, 45 of them found in range States in the Asian countries attending the workshop. John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES, stated: "the global trade in snakes is an industry of considerable socio-economic importance for rural populations in several Asian countries.
Article originally appeared on TRAFFIC (http://www.traffic.org)
ScienceDaily (Apr. 12, 2011) -
One year after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion on the Gulf Coast, new research from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire shows that despite the roughly equivalent economic compensation, Louisiana and Florida residents differ in perceptions about the current and long-term effects of the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history.
"Louisiana residents were more likely than Floridians to say their family suffered major economic setbacks because of the spill, to expect compensation by BP, and plan to leave the region as a result of the spill. Louisianans also were more likely to think their state and local governments were doing an excellent job responding to the spill and to trust newspapers as a source of information regarding the spill," said Jessica Ulrich, a doctoral student in sociology at UNH and research assistant at the Carsey Institute.
The research is part of the Carsey Institute's Community and Environment in Rural America (CERA) initiative. Since 2007, Carsey Institute researchers have conducted nearly 19,000 telephone surveys with randomly selected adult Americans (age 18 and above) from 12 diverse rural locations.
Carsey researchers surveyed 2,023 residents of the Gulf Coast following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in April 2010. During the late summer, while oil was still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, researchers conducted telephone interviews with 1,017 residents of Louisiana's Plaquemines and Terrebonne parishes and 1,006 residents of Florida's Bay, Gulf, and Franklin counties.
Respondents were asked how they perceived the oil spill to be affecting their families, communities, and the environment, their levels of trust in sources of information about the spill, and whether they perceived institutional responses to the spill as effective.
The key findings show:
Nearly one-half of all Gulf Coast residents (48 percent) perceived damage to the environment and wildlife as the most serious result of the oil spill.
Perceptions regarding the impact of the spill reflect the economic differences in the two states --
Floridians are most concerned about effects on tourism and Louisianans on the fishing and oil industries.
The majority of Gulf Coast residents thought that the economy, fishing industry, beaches, and wildlife would recover within a few years after the spill.
Gulf Coast residents had little faith in BP to rectify the situation after the oil spill. Fifty-nine percent did not trust the information BP provided about the spill, and 69 percent thought BP was doing a poor or fair job responding effectively to the spill.
Although more than one-half of the respondents from both states experienced either major or minor economic effects from the Gulf oil spill, only 16 percent of Floridians and 18 percent of Louisianans have been compensated or expect that BP will compensate them for the losses.
Louisianans were more than twice as likely as Floridians to think that their state and local governments were doing an excellent job responding to the spill. Approximately three-fourths (77 percent) of Gulf Coast residents thought that the federal government was doing a poor or fair job responding.
Nine out of 10 Gulf Coast residents plan to remain in the region despite the economic and environmental impacts of the spill. Those planning to move because of the spill are more likely to be Louisianans than Floridians.
"CERA surveys, such as the one conducted in the Gulf in the wake of the BP spill, can gather important subjective information about perceptions of changes occurring in rural America. The findings can be utilized by local leaders, policy makers, and disaster response teams to help foster healthy and sustainable communities that can rebound from -- and perhaps prevent -- even large-scale disasters like the BP oil spill," Ulrich said.
ScienceDaily (Apr. 13, 2011) - Frog and toad skins already are renowned as cornucopias of hundreds of germ-fighting substances. Now a new report in ACS's Journal of Proteome Research reveals that the toad brains also may contain an abundance of antibacterial and antiviral substances that could inspire a new generation of medicines.
Ren Lai and colleagues point out that scientists know little about the germ-fighting proteins in amphibian brains, despite many studies showing that amphibians synthesize and secrete a remarkably diverse array of antimicrobial substances in their skin. So they decided to begin filling that knowledge gap by analyzing brains from the Giant Fire-Bellied Toad and the Small-webbed Bell Toad.
They discovered 79 different antimicrobial peptides, the components of proteins, including 59 that were totally new to science. The diversity of the peptides "is, to our knowledge, the most extreme yet described for any animal brains," they noted. Some of the peptides showed strong antimicrobial activity, crippling or killing strains of staph bacteria, E. coli, and the fungus that causes yeast infections in humans. These promising findings suggest that the toad brains might be a valuable source for developing new antibacterial and antiviral drugs.
The researchers acknowledge funding from the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation and the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Rui Liu, Huan Liu, Yufang Ma, Jing Wu, Hailong Yang, Huahu Ye, Ren Lai. There are Abundant Antimicrobial Peptides in Brains of Two Kinds ofBombinaToads. Journal of Proteome Research, 2011; 10 (4): 1806 DOI: 10.1021/pr101285n
A Swei, RS Ostfeld, RS Lane, and CJ Briggs
Proc R Soc B, February 16, 2011; .
Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, , 3060 Valley Life Sciences Building, Berkeley, CA 94720-3140, USA.
The distribution of vector meals in the host community is an important element of understanding and predicting vector-borne disease risk. Lizards (such as the western fence lizard; Sceloporus occidentalis) play a unique role in Lyme disease ecology in the far-western United States. Lizards rather than mammals serve as the blood meal hosts for a large fraction of larval and nymphal western black-legged ticks (Ixodes pacificus-the vector for Lyme disease in that region) but are not competent reservoirs for the pathogen, Borrelia burgdorferi. Prior studies have suggested that the net effect of lizards is to reduce risk of human exposure to Lyme disease, a hypothesis that we tested experimentally. Following experimental removal of lizards, we documented incomplete host switching by larval ticks (5.19%) from lizards to other hosts. Larval tick burdens increased on woodrats, a competent reservoir, but not on deer mice, a less competent pathogen reservoir. However, most larvae fail!
ed to find an alternate host. This resulted in significantly lower densities of nymphal ticks the following year. Unexpectedly, the removal of reservoir-incompetent lizards did not cause an increase in nymphal tick infection prevalence. The net result of lizard removal was a decrease in the density of infected nymphal ticks, and therefore a decreased risk to humans of Lyme disease. Our results indicate that an incompetent reservoir for a pathogen may, in fact, increase disease risk through the maintenance of higher vector density and therefore, higher density of infected vectors.