Friday, 29 September 2017

Emerging disease further jeopardizes North American frogs

Date:  September 19, 2017
Source:  US Geological Survey

A deadly amphibian disease called severe Perkinsea infections, or SPI, is the cause of many large-scale frog die-offs in the United States, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Frogs and salamanders are currently among the most threatened groups of animals on the planet. The two most common frog diseases, chytridiomycosis and ranavirus infection , are linked to frog population declines worldwide. The new study suggests that that SPI is the third most common infectious disease of frogs.

Scientists with the USGS studied 247 frog die-offs in 43 states from 1999 through 2015. The researchers found that SPI caused 21 of the mass mortalities in 10 states spanning from Alaska to Florida, all involving tadpoles. Up to 95 percent of the tadpole populations died during the SPI mortality events.

New York State DEC Eliminating Commercial Harvest of Diamondback Terrapin-Closing Hunting Season Aids Conservation of Diamondback Terrapin Turtle Species – via Herp Digest

Press Release NYSDEC-9/19/21
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that the agency is adopting regulations to eliminate commercial harvest of diamondback terrapins and add the species to the list of native turtles with no open season. 
The closure on harvest will go into effect beginning May 1, 2018.
“Diamondback terrapins depend upon a steady diet of mollusks and crustaceans, making them an excellent indicator for the health of New York’s estuarine habitats,” Commissioner Seggos said. “If diamondback terrapins are doing well in a bay, you know you have a healthy population of blue mussels, clams, and blue crabs, too. Closing the hunting season is an important step in the conservation of diamondback terrapin populations in New York.” 
Diamondback terrapins are a turtle species that live in brackish waters associated with the lower Hudson River, Long Island Sound, Peconic Bay, and the coastal embayments along the south shore of Long Island. The diamondback terrapin was identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the 2015 New York State Wildlife Action Plan due to documented threats from habitat loss, nest predation, and incidental capture. The turtles are sometimes accidentally trapped in crab pots and other commercial fishing gear. 
Populations of diamondback terrapins plummeted in the early 20th Century due to unregulated harvest for turtle soup. After a rebound throughout most of the last century, new declines in diamondback terrapin populations along the Atlantic Coast led to the closure of commercial harvest in all states in the terrapin’s range with the exception of New York. 
The current action closes commercial harvest of terrapins throughout their range. In addition to closing New York’s open season, the diamondback terrapin has been added to the list of native turtles to protect all life stages of the species from being collected from the wild. DEC will continue to evaluate and pursue additional actions to improve the status of the diamondback terrapin populations in New York.
The final diamondback terrapin season will close April 30, 2018, with licenses expiring May 4, 2018. 
Information on the life history of the diamondback terrapin may be found by visiting
The Regulatory Impact Statement for the revision to the regulation may be viewed at and the Notice of Adoption for the revised regulation can be viewed in the New York State Register (

Bite force research reveals dinosaur-eating frog

September 20, 2017 by Robyn Mills
Scientists say that a large, now extinct, frog called Beelzebufo that lived about 68 million years ago in Madagascar would have been capable of eating small dinosaurs.
The conclusion comes from a study of the bite force of South American horned frogs from the living genus Ceratophrys, known as Pacman frogs for their characteristic round shape and large mouth, similar to the video game character Pac-Man. Due to their attractive body colouring, voracious appetite, and comically huge heads, horned frogs are very popular in the international pet trade.
Published today in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, the scientists from University of Adelaide, California State Polytechnic University – Pomona, University of California – Riverside and UCL, University College London found that living large South American horned frogs have similar bite forces to those of mammalian predators.
"Unlike the vast majority of frogs which have weak jaws and typically consume small prey, horned frogs ambush animals as large as themselves – including other frogs, snakes, and rodents. And their powerful jaws play a critical role in grabbing and subduing the prey," says Dr Marc Jones, researcher at the University of Adelaide's School of Biological Sciences and honorary researcher at the South Australian Museum.

Protected waters foster resurgence of West Coast rockfish

September 20, 2017
West Coast rockfish species in deep collapse only 20 years ago have multiplied rapidly in large marine protected areas off Southern California, likely seeding surrounding waters with enough offspring to offer promise of renewed fishing, a new study has found.
The research published in Royal Society Open Science shows that protecting important ocean habitat promotes the long-term recovery of rockfish such as cowcod and bocaccio that have long been a staple of West Coast fishermen. Favorable ocean conditions also played a role, according to the study by scientists from NOAA Fisheries' Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC), University of San Diego, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
"The larvae of several species of rockfish that were once heavily fished increased in number within protected areas over the past decade," said Andrew Thompson, a research scientist at the SWFSC in La Jolla, Calif., and lead author on the study. "The larvae have the potential to drift outside the protected region. That's good for fisheries because it can build populations beyond the protected waters too."

Wolves understand cause and effect better than dogs

Date:  September 15, 2017
Source:  University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna
A rattle will only make noise if you shake it. Animals like the wolf also understand such connections and are better at this than their domesticated descendants. Researchers say that wolves have a better causal understanding than dogs and that they follow human-given communicative cues equally well. The study provides insight that the process of domestication can also affect an animal's causal understanding.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Five mythical animals that turned out to be real

13 September 2017

Sometimes the tales travellers tell of strange creatures they have seen in a remote part of the world are true
By Michael Marshall
Biologists in Taiwan are discussing whether or not to re-introduce the Formosan clouded leopard, a creature so mysterious that some have claimed it may never have existed.
It’s not an entirely unusual state of affairs. Explorers have claimed to have seen bizarre animals over the centuries, only to be exposed as hoaxers. But not always. Sometimes the most outlandish creatures turn out to be extremely real.
It is perhaps no surprise that the platypus was once thought to be a hoax. It looks a bit like a mole but has a duck’s bill. Not only did this strange-looking mix of mammal and bird not fit with what was then known of biology, it was also immediately obvious how the hoax might have been achieved, with little more than scissors, thread and a sewing needle.
The platypus was scientifically described for the first time in 1799 by the British naturalist George Shaw, based on a skin sent by John Hunter, then the governor of Australia. Shaw admitted to being suspicious: “it naturally excites the idea of some deceptive preparation by artificial means,” he wrote.

These frogs might change color to avoid confusion during – via Herp Digest

 Yellow means go (away)
By Ellen Airhart 9/20/17 Popular Science
Some male frogs change color for mating season.
Grant Webster
Some frog species have a special strategy for breeding. They gather in a huge group of hundreds or even thousands of frogs. In the pandemonium, the ribbeting rabble can have difficulty distinguishing between males, females, and tennis balls.
A lot of the frogs that have sex en masse also turn yellow during the mating season. Rayna Bell, a research zoologist at the Smithsonian Institute, teamed up with Australian researchers to see if these traits actually tend to come in pairs—and if so, which behavior came first.
The sexy frog pile reproduction strategy presents interesting challenges for the animals involved. Bell compares the slimy jumble to a dark nightclub—no one can see what’s going on. “It gets a little chaotic,” says Bell. Could color changes be meant to help males stand out in the writhing crowd?
In 2012, Bell started researching how the genetics of African reed frogs varied across different areas. She wasn't studying why some species of this frog have males and females that are different colors, but people kept asking her about this sex difference during her research presentations. Then a group of scientists in Australia contacted her to tell her they were interested in pursuing that very inquiry. Thus began a virtual collaboration. “I hope to meet them in person someday,” says Bell.
The research team did not go out into the wild to find colorful frogs for this study. They couldn’t rely on natural history collections, either, since preservatives cause amphibians to turn a universal grayish color. Instead, they drew upon previous observations, hit up the library and gathered old field notes. “We have articles going back hundreds of years that you can’t find on the internet,” says Bell. “The study extended beyond any of our individual expertise.”
The literature investigation revealed that frogs known to temporarily change color during mating season are likely to also join in the crowded bacchanals. The team further supported this connection with a frog ancestry test. They dove through genetic history to discover what evolved first, the group mating strategy or the color change. In most species, the breeding method preceded the temporary hue adjustment. So it seems likely that the color changes evolved to make this method of breeding more successful. In this situation, the males probably aren’t trying to attract females with flashy tones as much as warn other males of their sex, to keep everyone from wasting a precious chance to spread their genes. Of course, this explanation is still in the “probable hypothesis” category, since scientists don’t actually know how this amphibian's vision system works. “We have way more questions than answers at this point,” says Bell. “We don’t know if they can even see these differences.”
Frogs can’t change color within a few seconds like chameleons do. Their little bodies fill with hormones that spread out or cluster the pigments in their skin. For changes that last more than a few months, they may even make additional pigments. Scientists don’t know exactly why frogs turn yellow, but it might be the easiest transition for the frog skin to make or the best signaling color for other frogs, or both.
Even if yellow skin is more of a deterrent for other males than an aphrodisiac for females, these croaking casanovas have other methods to indicate they’re ready to get it on. “The natural variation of frog breeding seen in nature is bizarre,” says Adam Leache, a biologist at the University of Washington. Research has traditionally focused on frog calls—even an amateur herpetologist can identify the pebbles-knocking-together sound of the cricket frog. Frogs that live in noisier areas, such as near a waterfall, sometimes wave or lift up one of their back legs. This wealth of interesting mating rituals have left researchers with a lot to study. “I think that’s fascinating for us to have a better understand of how color works,” says Bell. “It’s showing us that frogs probably have more complicated communication channels.”
Bell says she next hopes to look into the frog visual system, so she can make sure these amphibians can see one another’s sexy yellow hue. “Compared to other types of vertebrates, we don’t know that much about what frogs can see,” she says. Since they live in both water and land over the course of their lifetime, frogs might even give us clues about how our own vision developed. “I think it’s inspiring to think about how nature has evolved all these crazy strategies,” says Bell.

Researchers discover new cattle disease and prevent it from spreading

Date:  September 21, 2017
Source:  University of Copenhagen The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Following genetic studies of deformed calves, research is able to uncover a previously unknown disease found among Holstein cattle. The breeding bull from which the mutation and thus the deformation originate has now been put down to prevent the disease from spreading further.

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Two Buddhists fined £15,000 for releasing crustaceans into sea

Saturday 23 September 2017 11.31 BST Last modified on Monday 25 September 2017 09.54 BST

Two Buddhists who released £5,000 worth of crustaceans into the Channel as part of a religious ceremony have been fined almost £15,000 for causing “untold damage” to the environment.

Zhixiong Li and Ni Li helped throw live crabs and lobsters into the sea off Brighton as part of a “life release” ceremony in 2015, a court has heard.

The pair were part of a group of almost 1,000 people celebrating the visit of the Taiwanese Buddhist master Hai Tao.

Their ritual was performed in the belief that returning animals to the wild is good karma. But because the crustaceans were not native species, they threatened other marine life and government agencies had to spend thousands of pounds in an attempt to recapture the shellfish, offering fishermen a bounty to reel them in.

In the first case of its kind, Zhixiong Li, 30, an estate agent, and Ni Li, 33, a City banker, both from London, admitted wildlife offences and were fined.

Both defendants pleaded guilty to releasing non-native species into the wild at Brighton magistrates’ court this week.

Joseph Miller, prosecuting for the Marine Management Organisation, said the case first came to light after a Brighton fisherman captured some of the foreign shellfish in June 2015.
CCTV footage from Brighton marina showed the group of Buddhists chartering three boats, having also bought more than £2,500 worth of native crabs and lobsters from Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales at Shoreham harbour.

Heat-loving Australian ants believe in diversity, hint 74 species new to science

Date:  September 21, 2017
Source:  Pensoft Publishers

A genus of Australian ants, many of whose members prefer to forage in blistering temperatures of up to 50°C (122°F), is revised to include 74 new species. The ants include seed-eaters, ant and termite raiders, 'honeypot ants' that store nectar and honeydew, and numerous others whose biology is not yet understood. Some are bizarre: one species has eyes like inverted ice-cream cones.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

New hermit crab uses live coral as its home

Crab substitutes for marine worm in symbiotic partnership with walking coral

Date:  September 21, 2017
Source:  PLOS

A new hermit crab species can live in a walking coral's cavity in a reciprocal relationship, replacing the usual marine worm partner, according to a study published September 20, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Momoko Igawa and Makoto Kato from Kyoto University, Japan.

These Species Have Hung On for Millions of Years. Will the Trump Administration Push Them to Extinction?

The president’s terrible policies could leave an indelible mark on the country’s biological heritage.

September 21, 2017 Jason Bittel 

Pronghorn of the American West have been springing across this continent—at up to 60 miles per hour—for approximately 17 million years. Though sometimes called antelopes, these fleet-footed mammals are actually one of the few remaining species of giraffids, which also include Africa’s giraffes and okapis. The distinction led paleontology writer Brian Switek to call pronghorn “charismatic, strange beasts that have a touch of the prehistoric about them.”

But now, a reality TV host–turned–president may push these ancient ungulates over the edge of extinction. They’re not alone. Look across the country and you’ll find many species that quietly plodded along for many millennia before hitting a roadblock with the human race. Though the blame for these animals’ becoming endangered doesn’t lay squarely at President Trump’s feet, each time his administration hamstrings an agency or champions industry over ecology, these species inch a little closer to oblivion.    
Sonoran Pronghorn

Let’s start with those pronghorn, which have been around since before North and South America were connected—before human beings even existed. Once champions at survival, they even outlasted North America’s super-speedy, cheetahlike predator, the one scientists believe pushed pronghorn into evolving to become so freaky fast.


North Atlantic right whales decline confirmed: 458 remaining

Study confirms need for urgent action

Date:  September 19, 2017
Source:  NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Marine biologists have developed a new model to improve estimates of abundance and population trends of endangered North Atlantic right whales, which have declined in numbers and productivity in recent years. Between 1990 and 2010 abundance increased to 482 animals, but since 2010 the numbers have declined to 458 in 2015, with 14 known deaths this year.

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Foster tadpoles trigger parental instinct in poison frogs – via Herp Digest

 September 20, 2017, Phys. org
 Poison frogs, especially male poison frogs, are very caring parents. After the tadpoles hatch, the males piggyback their offspring to distant pools spread around the rainforest where they can feed and develop. In a recent study, a team of researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna, the University of Vienna and Harvard University show that this parental behaviour can be triggered experimentally. When unrelated tadpoles are placed on the backs of adult frogs, male – and even female – "foster parents" make their way to pools in the forest in the same way as if they had picked up the tadpoles themselves. The experiment showed for the first time that an external stimulus can trigger complex behaviours such as parental care in amphibians. The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Parental care is widespread in the animal kingdom. Poison frogs are also known to be dedicated parents. They pick up their tadpoles after they hatch and piggyback them to distant pools spread around the forest. Until now, the processes that trigger parental care have been mostly studied in birds and mammals. But the exact stimulus that triggers frogs to carry their offspring to the pools remains unstudied.
Researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna, the University of Vienna and Harvard University have now investigated whether adult frogs will only transport tadpoles if they pick up a clutch themselves or if this behaviour could be triggered experimentally. The team of researchers placed unrelated tadpoles on the backs of different frogs. The study showed that the amphibians are exemplary foster parents and that even females, which under natural conditions only rarely perform the role of "transporter", assumed their parental duties just like males when tadpoles were placed on their backs.
After the foster tadpoles were placed on the backs of male and female frogs, the adults were fitted with miniature transponders for tracking. "We wanted to know if foster tadpoles were also transported to the pools. The results show that the tadpoles do not have to be picked up, but that contact with the backs of the adult frogs was enough to trigger the transport," explains Andrius Pašukonis of the University of Vienna, who led the study together with Kristina Beck and Eva Ringler.
"We observed that all tested frogs, both males and females, transported the experimentally placed tadpoles to pools," says Eva Ringler of the Vetmeduni Vienna's Messerli Research Institute. Their behaviour was the same as if they had decided to pick up and transport the tadpoles themselves. This shows that the parental care instinct in these frogs can be triggered by placing tadpoles on the backs of the adult animals whether they are related or not. However, the experiment could not yet clearly identify the mechanism that triggers this instinctive behaviour.
"We suspect that tactile stimuli, certain touching or movement patterns by the tadpoles, play a role. These findings are interesting, as they show how one stimulus can trigger such complex behaviour. The adult poison frogs don't just march off; the touching also stimulates memories of distant pool locations in the forest," says Pašukonis.
Also interesting was that the female frogs voluntarily carried the foster tadpoles to the pools. "In this species, females naturally transport tadpoles only in rare cases," explains Ringler. The instinctively triggered behaviour therefore does not appear to be sex-specific. Among both males and females, the physical presence to the tadpoles placed on their backs was sufficient to make the frogs transport the tadpoles to the pools and so to ensure the survival of unrelated young. The study was the first to show in the wild and among amphibians that such complex behaviour can be triggered by one external stimulus.
More information: Andrius Pašukonis et al. Induced parental care in a poison frog: a tadpole cross-fostering experiment, The Journal of Experimental Biology (2017). DOI: 10.1242/jeb.165126

'Vegetarian' Dinos Made Exception for Shellfish, Poop Study Shows

By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | September 21, 2017 09:26am ET

Certain giant, herbivorous dinosaurs didn't eat just plants — they also chowed down on rotten logs harboring shellfish, a new study finds.

Researchers made this startling dietary discovery after examining 10 different specimens of fossilized dinosaur dung, known as coprolites, from the Kaiparowits Formation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.

"If we had found just one coprolite with crustacean pieces in it, that would have been interesting," said study lead researcher Karen Chin, an associate professor and a curator of paleontology at the University of Colorado Boulder. "But the fact that we found coprolites that spread out over at least 20 kilometers [12 miles] at different stratigraphic levels — that really strengthens our evidence for this being a behavior that these dinosaurs engaged in."

Monday, 25 September 2017

Light at the end of the tunnel: Restored forest now shelters dozens of endangered species

Date:  September 14, 2017
Source:  Pensoft Publishers
A twenty-year effort to protect and manage tiny remnants of a dilapidated forest in Benin, along with its agricultural and fallow vegetation surroundings, resulted in 14 ha of rich secondary forest, which corresponds to the size of nearly 20 sacred groves. This sanctuary now protects the critically endangered red-bellied monkey together with 52 endangered plant species.

Wolves and bears to be slaughtered in Romania once again

14 September 2017

By Andy Coghlan
The hunting of bears and wolves is back on the agenda in Romania, less than a year after the government banned trophy hunting. Conservation groups have condemned the U-turn and are calling on the government to rescind the decision.
The move was announced on 5 September by Romania’s environment minister Graţiela Gavrilescu. It will allow up to 140 bears and 97 wolves to be killed “under supervision” by the end of 2017, if they’re deemed to be “nuisance animals” that threaten livestock on farms or frighten people by encroaching into inhabited areas.
But the conservation groups fear that the quotas will be used as an excuse to allow trophy hunting to resume. The government banned that in October 2016.
“It’s unclear if hunters will be allowed to keep the bodies, or sell body parts,” says Masha Kalinina of Humane Society International (HSI). She says the government has caved in to pressure from hunters, farmers and communities that feel threatened.

Christmas Island’s only echolocating bat has gone extinct

14 September 2017

By Chelsea Whyte
The Christmas Island pipistrelle, a bat species found only on an Australian island, has been declared extinct. The final nail in the coffin was hammered in as part of the latest update to the Red List of Threatened Species, which is maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“It’s very difficult to decide when a species definitely has gone extinct,” says Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN’s Red List unit.
But the last Christmas Island pipistrelle was seen in 2009. “It’s not a cryptic species, it’s got a distinctive call,” says Hilton-Taylor. “We probably could have declared it extinct earlier, but we’ve been waiting for surveys.”
The Thongaree’s disc-nosed bat, a newly-discovered species that lives in a small region of Thailand, entered the list as critically endangered – just one step from going extinct. “If we’d known about it earlier, it would have moved through the categories. That’s just what happened unseen until now,” says Hilton-Taylor.
The new list isn’t all bad news for bats. The Rodrigues flying fox moves from critically endangered to endangered. Hilton-Taylor says that’s due to coordinated actions by the government and local organisations, including legal protection and habitat restoration.

There are hardly any old fish left in the ocean – and that’s bad

15 September 2017
By Michael Tennesen
There are not just fewer fish in the sea: there are disproportionately fewer old fish. A study of fisheries in the seas around the US and Europe has found that their populations of ageing fish have been reduced by an average of 72 per cent.
The researchers looked at 63 fisheries, which had records spanning 24-140 years. To determine the age of fish, they used several techniques including examining otoliths: “stones” in the fish’s ears that grow annual rings rather like a tree.
“The new statistics revealed that the reduction of older fish populations had actually increased by 180 per cent,” says lead author Lewis Barnett of the University of Washington in Seattle.

Campers in Israel warned after series of wolf attacks

Ten incidents involving wolf bites have been reported over summer in Judean desert
Peter Beaumontin Jerusalem
Wednesday 20 September 2017 12.29 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 20 September 2017 15.08 BST
Israeli authorities are warning families with young children to take extra care after a series of wolf attacks on campers in the Judean desert.
Ten incidents involving wolf bites were reported over the summer around the historic site of Masada and the popular spring at Ein Gedi. A number of the incidents involved young children, leading to fears that an Arabian wolf or wolves may be exhibiting predatory behaviour.
The incidents at campsites and attractions began in May, when a wolf entered the tent of a family holidaying near Masada. It later returned to bite one of the family’s young children a few steps from her tent.
The attacks continued over the summer with the two most recent incidents occurring last weekend, when three children were bitten in two separate attacks near Ein Gedi.
Local rangers have been accused of not doing enough to find and trap the animal, or animals, involved – a charge denied by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Shilhav Ben-David, whose daughter was bitten in the first reported incident, said the wolf had entered the family’s tent before being chased off, only to return and attack her child a few hours later. She told Haaretz she only became aware the wolf had returned when she saw it on top of her child.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Secrets of butterfly wing patterns revealed by gene hacking

 18 September 2017
By New Scientist staff and Press Association
Butterfly wings have been given make-overs by scientists who tweaked a “painting gene” to change their patterns and colours.
The research has major implications for understanding how the so-called “rules of life” – genetics and evolution – shape biodiversity.
The team used the powerful new gene-editing technique CRISPR/Cas9 to study the role of the WntA gene in creating one of nature’s greatest artworks, the butterfly wing.
By removing the gene from seven butterfly species, they were able to radically alter the insect’s appearance. Wing patterns and colours changed in ways that were unexpected.
The research showed how WntA acted as a master gene responsible for the trademark look of different butterflies.
Architectural genes
Lead scientist Arnaud Martin, from George Washington University in the US, said: “We know why butterflies have beautiful coloured patterns. It’s usually for sexual selection, for finding a mate, or it’s some kind of adaptation to protect themselves from predators.
“What is more mysterious is how do they do it. How do you make stripes and dots, how do you make complexity, how do you fine-tune a given feature during long evolutionary time scales?
“CRISPR allowed us to not only describe that this gene has evolved multiple roles within a single species, it also enabled a massive comparison between species and showed that pattern evolution has consisted of variations on a common theme.”
More than 20,000 distinct species of butterflies live in the world today.

Scientists show molecular basis for ants acting as 'bodyguards' for plants

Date: September 18, 2017
Source: University of Toronto
Though you might not think of ants as formidable bodyguards, some do an impressive job protecting plants from enemies. Examing the relationship between the Amazon rainforest plant Cordia nodosa in Peru and the ant species Allomerus octoarticulatus, scientists found the degree to which the ants express two genes significantly impacts the amount of protection they provide to their hosts.

South Africa's long-legged bees adapted to pollinate snapdragon flowers

An extraordinary case of adaptation by a pollinator
Date:  September 13, 2017
Source:  Stellenbosch University
New research shows that, in an extraordinary case of adaptation, the disproportionately long front legs of South Africa's oil-collecting Rediviva bee species have evolved in response to the equally long oil-producing spurs of snapdragons.

Welfare of zoo animals set to improve

Date:  September 18, 2017
Source:  University of Surrey
The wellbeing of zoological animals is set to improve following the successful trial of a new welfare assessment grid, a new study in the journal Veterinary Record reports.
Researchers from Marwell Zoo, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Surrey, trialled a series of monitoring strategies on primates and birds to help zookeepers ensure the health and safety of animals in their care. The introduction of the practice over a period of 13 weeks at two zoological collections in the South of England, clearly demonstrated the level of physical and psychological wellbeing of the animals, and the effect of certain interventions.

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Half of Canada's monitored wildlife is in decline, major study finds

New report paints a bleak picture for wildlife in a country that is home to a quarter of the Earth’s wetlands, 8,500 rivers and more than 2m lakes
 Ashifa Kassam in Toronto

Friday 15 September 2017 11.00 BSTLast modified on Friday 15 September 2017 15.01 BST
A new analysis looking at the long-term trends of more than 900 species of wildlife in Canada has found that half of them have seen their populations decline, including several species already listed as threatened or endangered.
The Living Planet Report Canada, released on Thursday by World Wildlife Fund Canada, paints a bleak picture for wildlife in a country that is home to a quarter of the earth’s wetlands, 8,500 rivers and more than 2m freshwater lakes.
During the past four decades, human activity – whether industrial development, farming, forestry or the expansion of urban areas – as well as climate change, pollution and overfishing have helped shrink the populations of 451 species, representing half of the 903 monitored species in the country.
“I think for many Canadians, it’s somewhat of a surprise,” said James Snider of WWF Canada and the lead author of the report. “Canada is this vast nation with huge wilderness areas, at times we assume that wildlife here is doing OK.”
The list of species in decline ranges from the woodland caribou, who grace the country’s 25¢ coin but have seen their habitat shrink from logging, mining and gas development, to the several species of whalethat live off Canada’s three coasts.

Friday, 22 September 2017

The plan to reintroduce a big cat that might never have existed

13 September 2017
Ideas are afoot to return the clouded leopard to Taiwan, where it was declared extinct in 2013. Yet some say the big cat never lived there
By Sean Mowbray
“THIS is another animal from the distant wilds of the interior, whose skins the savages bring to the borders to barter with the Chinese.” With these words, published in 1862, Robert Swinhoe introduced the Formosan clouded leopard to the Western world. Europe’s consular representative to Taiwan, he had seen only a few flattened skins on the island, but this was enough for him to distinguish it as a species new to science. Unlike its relatives elsewhere in Asia, wrote Swinhoe, the Formosan clouded leopard had a short tail.
It was declared extinct in 2013, but this is no ordinary story about a large cat being wiped off the planet. There’s a catch. Plans are afoot to bring the svelte feline’s closest relative back to Taiwan – despite lingering questions over whether the clouded leopard ever existed at all.

CSIRO breeds spotted handfish to save species from extinction

Fish, which is endemic to Tasmania, was the first Australian marine animal to be listed as critically endangered

Monday 18 September 2017 03.19 BSTLast modified on Monday 18 September 2017 03.21 BST
Scientists have begun a captive breeding program for the spotted handfish, 11 years after it became the first Australian marine animal to be listed as critically endangered.
Endemic to Tasmania, the spotted handfish or Brachionichthys hirsutus looks like a tadpole in the late stages of development, with a fin atop its head to lure unsuspecting prey and the sour expression of a British bulldog.
Its hand-like front fins are used to walk along the sandy bed of the lower reaches of the River Derwent, hunting for small shrimp, waylaid fish larvae and other food that drifts to the bottom.
As the name suggests it is covered in elegant spots.
The CSIRO has been conducting an annual survey of handfish numbers for two years and this month collected its first specimens – an adult male named Harley, an adult female named Rose and an as yet unnamed juvenile – to begin a captive breeding program.
Harley and Rose hit it off immediately, beginning and consummating a courtship almost immediately.

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