Friday 31 May 2013

Your daily dose of nightmare fuel: squiggly ant-parasites from hell

From entomologist, blogger and insect photographer Alex Wild comes this remarkable image of a trapjaw ant, torn asunder to reveal the wriggling, 8-inch parasitic worm living inside. (The ant, by comparison, measures about half an inch long.)

In the jungles of Belize last January, [Wild] noticed something odd about the trap-jaw ants passing through his outdoor insect photography class: They all had shrunken heads and swollen abdomens. A day after making the observation, Wild and his students came upon an ant with a worm bursting out of its side. Parasites were at work. Nematode worms enter the ants as larvae and grow inside the ants’ body cavity, siphoning off nutrients and distorting their hosts’ natural anatomy. When the eight-inch-long nematodes are ready to mate a few weeks later, they push their way out of their half-inch-long hosts, killing them.

Whale of a sight in Boston Harbor

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A juvenile humpback whale was spotted in Boston Harbor early yesterday before making an exit to open water in the afternoon, a rare sighting so close to shore.

The whale was spotted swimming by Spectacle and Deer islands by the captain aboard an 8 a.m. Boston Harbor Cruises boat, said Laura Howes, director of marine education and conservation at Boston Harbor Cruises.

The whale spotted in the harbor, she said, looked to be about 20 to 30 feet in length.

By 10 a.m. yesterday, Howes said, a buffer zone had been set up by the Coast Guard and Environmental Police.

“Any whale this close to land is pretty unusual,” Howes said. “The middle of an urban harbor is not a great place for any large whale to be.”

Humpback whales are common in Cape Cod Bay this time of the year, Howes said, but usually much farther off shore. Seeing a whale this close “was a nice treat,” Howes said. The last time a whale was spotted this close to the shore was in April 2005, when a juvenile humpback whale spent three days roaming in the harbor.

The harbor, however, is an inconvenient place for any whale to be on Memorial Day. An influx of recreational boats feeding through the area posed a threat. At 11 a.m. yesterday, Howes and her colleagues went further off shore to look for other whales. When they returned at 1 p.m., the whale had swum off.

“We hope it got off shore and that we won’t see it again,” Howes said.

Fipronil named as fourth insecticide to pose risk to honeybees

·, Tuesday 28 May 2013 12.27 BST 

European Food Safety Authority says insecticide poses 'high acute risk' when used as a seed treatment for maize

A widely used insect nerve agent has been labelled a "high acute risk" to honeybees by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). A similar assessment by the EFSA on three other insecticides preceded thesuspension of their use in the European Union.

"The insecticide fipronil poses a high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize," the EFSA said in a statement. "EFSA was asked to perform a risk assessment of fipronil [by the European commission], paying particular regard to the acute and chronic effects on colony survival and development and the effects of sub-lethal doses on bee mortality and behaviour."

Fipronil, manufactured by the German chemical company BASF, is used in more than 70 countries and on more than 100 different crops, as well as for cockroach and termite control. The EFSA report found the risk to honeybees from drifting pesticide dust was high when fipronil was used as a seed treatment for maize, but did not have the data to assess the risk from its use on sunflowers, or the risk via pollen and nectar, or the risk to other bees and pollinators.

Scientific evidence that common pesticides are harming bees has risen in the last year and, along with huge public protests, culminated in the European commission (EC) imposing the ban on three neonicotinoids. Bees and other insects pollinate three-quarters of the world's food crops but have suffered steep declines due to habitat loss, disease and pesticide use.

Decoding the Genome of the Camel

May 28, 2013 — By sequencing the genome of a Bactrian camel, researchers at the Vetmeduni Vienna have made a significant contribution to population genetic research on camels. The study has laid the foundation for future scientific work on these enigmatic desert animals. A blood sample from a single Bactrian camel with the evocative name of "Mozart" provided the genetic raw material for the work, which was undertaken by Pamela Burger at the Institute of Population Genetics.

Camels are divided into two species, the one-humped dromedary and the two-humped Bactrian camel. Whether equipped with one or two humps, camels are precious in desert regions throughout the world. Their ability to carry heavy loads over long distances makes them ideally suited for transportation. In addition, camels are able to survive for weeks in hostile environments without food and water. Despite the extremely arid conditions, camels still provide enough milk for human consumption and also have an important role as a source of meat. Camels are specialists when it comes to adapting to the environment and have been characterized as sustainable food producers.

New Serengeti Road proposal to go ahead?

Northern route Serengeti road divides biologists - Courtesy of The Norwegian University of Science and Technology(NTNU)
May 2013. Recent reports suggest that the Tanzanian Government has decided to build a road on the northern route across Tanzania's Serengeti National Park. Tanzania has a difficult decision to make, as the north west corner of Tanzania is a very poor region, with an average income per head of just $100, and is crying out for some form of economic boost. The Tanzanian Government will build a road, and it seems that this route is now the chosen one, though the money for the building of the road is not yet in place.

Serengeti National Park in Tanzania may be the most iconic national park in the world, where, lions, leopards, elephants, hippos and giraffes wander free. Rivers of wildebeests, zebra and Thompson's gazelles - more than 2 million all told - cross the landscape in one of the largest animal migrations on the planet.
Map courtesy of African Wildlife Foundation

While the park is ideally located for wandering wildebeests, its location is less than ideal for the region's residents. They see the undeveloped park as a formidable barrier to trade and travel. To address this, the Tanzania government now plans to build a gravel road across 50 km of the northern part of the park to link the country's coast to Lake Victoria and countries to the west, including Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

International outcry
Plans for the road have raised an international outcry. The fear is that the road, which bisects the wildebeest migration route near the Kenyan border, will bring an end to the annual migrations and irreversibly change the park. In September 2010, a coalition of 27 scientists published their objections in an opinion piece in Nature magazine. "The proposed road could lead to the collapse of the largest remaining migratory system on Earth," the scientists wrote, led by Andrew Dobson from Princeton University.

Dolphin-Assisted Birth: Nice, or Nuts?

Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor
Date: 28 May 2013 Time: 11:15 AM ET

From water birth to hypnosis, the natural-childbirth movement has tried a variety of innovative methods to accommodate women who are uninterested in a medically assisted birth procedure.

But critics are now saying the natural-childbirth movement has completely jumped the shark — or, in this case, the dolphin.

Dolphin-assisted childbirth is an option that some expectant parents are embracing, claiming it is a more natural, relaxing way to deliver a baby.

Adam and Heather Barrington, a North Carolina couple expecting their baby to be delivered in July, have traveled to Hawaii to plan a dolphin-assisted birth at the Sirius Institute, the Charlotte Observer reports.

"It is about reconnecting as humans with the dolphins so we can coexist in this world together and learn from one another," Heather Barringtontold the Observer.

According to the group's website, the Sirius Institute is a new-age center with two primary goals: the establishment of human outposts in space through interplanetary travel, and the "dolphinization" of Earth through contact with the marine mammals.

Shepherd ‘kills brown bear with his bare hands after squeezing its throat’

A shepherd allegedly killed a brown bear with his bare hands when it charged him as he tended his flock.

Blazo Grkovic gave the beast a ‘bear hug’ and strangled it as it swiped him with its paws and tried to bite him.

‘I grabbed it round the throat and squeezed and squeezed until it collapsed,’ the Bosnian said.

The 48-year-old, from a mountain region near Foča, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, went on to describe how he fought close up with the animal.

He admitted it was a tough battle and he was lucky to get out alive.

‘It bit me, and I hit it until it died. I have injuries everywhere, especially in my left arm where he bit me twice or three times,’ Mr Grkovic said from his hospital bed.

After dispatching the bear, the shepherd managed to call his brother, who turned up with an ambulance.

The brave farmer was treated in hospital for cuts.

Zambian truck driver bites and stabs giant python

A Zambian truck driver was forced to kick, bite and stab his way from the clutches of a giant python.

Kelvin Katoka, 25, unknowingly ran into the giant snake, while driving his excavator in the bush at a copper mine in north western Zambia.

"Within no time, the python was all over my body and it then threw me on the ground," he said from his hospital bed, where he has been recovering for nearly a month.

Rock pythons are Africa's largest snake and can grow up to 23 feet long. They have been known to kill and swallow whole antelope, wildebeest and even crocodiles.

Attacks on humans are rare.

Mr Katoka managed to bite the python as it coiled around him and held on in a "long struggle".

Thursday 30 May 2013

Rhinos sell for £17500 each at South Africa game auction – Prices down 50%

Rhinos prices crash due to poaching epidemic
May 2013. At the annual game auction in South Africa run by Ezemvelo Wildlife, the wildlife and conservation body of KwaZulu-Natal, 40 white rhinos were sold for about 10 million rand (£700,000), or an average of about 250,000 Rand (£17500). In 2008 a single adult white rhino bull was sold for 640,000 Rand.

Price crash due to poaching
The price of rhinos at auction has plummeted over recent years as rhino poaching has reached record levels and farmers have tried to offload their rhino stock. 313 rhinos had been killed by 16th May this year, compared with 668 across South Africa in the whole of 2012. 

Around 1500 animals of many different species were sold for a total of 13.6 million rand; The animals included black wildebeest, blue wildebeest, giraffe, hyrax, red hartebeest, impala, kudu, nyala, warthog, zebra, blesbuck, springbuck and 4 hippos (Hippos sold for £2400 each).

Smart Spiders Learn Best Way to Snag Prey

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 28 May 2013 Time: 07:02 PM ET

A spider sitting in its web waiting for a fly to buzz by may seem passive, but new research reveals these arachnids can spend time in their webs strategizing about how best to detect ensnared prey.
The orb-web spider Cyclosa octotuberculata
perches in the "debris decor" of its web.
Debris décor is made of the husks of prey
 and the spider's own shed exoskeleton. 

CREDIT: OpenCagedistributed by Wikimedia
under a Creative Commons license. 

Orb-web spiders learn to take the pulse of lines on their webs that are more likely to trap insects, the new study finds. When a bug gets snarled in a spiderweb, its struggles to free itself cause vibrations, which travel to the center of the web where the spider perches. The vibrations alert the spider to its prey.

Scientists knew that at least one type of web-weaving spider, Cyclosa octotuberculata, pulls on the radial, spokelike threads of its web as it sits and waits in order to increase the tension, all the better for vibrations to travel. What's more, the spiders apply more tension to vertical sections of the web than horizontal sections, said Kensuke Nakata, a researcher at Kyoto Women's University in Japan, who conducted the new study.

Bees Tell Birds to Buzz Off: How Bumblebees Steal Birds' Nests

May 28, 2013 — A new study highlights the 'parasitism by theft' of bumblebees that invade birds' nests and claim them as their own. Their warning buzz helps bumblebees to "scare" the bird away from the nest. The work by Piotr Jablonski and colleagues, from the Laboratory of Behavioral Ecology and Evolution at Seoul National University in South Korea, is published online in Springer's journal, Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology.

Conspicuous warning signals -- visual, auditory or mixed -- help prey to deter predators by signaling the presence of defenses (chemical, mechanical, etc). These warning signals help the predator to remember how to recognize the distasteful or poisonous prey that should be avoided.

Birds are predators of bumblebees. In temperate forests, birds and bees use tree cavities for their nesting activities. Because bumblebees prefer cavities filled with plant materials for insulation, they may benefit from stealing freshly built nests from the birds.

Jablonski and team studied the interactions between bumblebees and cavity-nesting Oriental and Varied tits in nestboxes. They were particularly interested in whether bumblebees attempted to settle in those boxes to which the birds brought fresh nest materials, and whether their warning signals provided an advantage in taking over the nests from birds.

Striking Green-Eyed Butterfly Discovered in the United States

May 28, 2013 — A new butterfly species from Texas, given the common name Vicroy's Ministreak, was discovered because of its striking olive green eye color, and was given a formal scientific name (Ministrymon janevicroy). This beautiful new butterfly may be the last truly distinctive butterfly species to be discovered in the United States.

Although individuals of Vicroy's Ministreak were deposited in the Smithsonian entomology collections a century ago, this species was unrecognized because it was confused with the common, similar-looking Gray Ministreak. Interestingly what distinguishes the two species is the distinctive olive-green eyes of the new species in contrast to the dark brown/black eyes of the Gray Ministreak.

As their common names suggest both species are diminutive, about the size of a thumbnail, and may occur at the same time and place. Besides eye color, each has different wing patterns and different internal structures. They have different, but overlapping, geographic distributions and habitat requirements.

Chad president gives backing to Oryx reintroduction

Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) launch project to return oryx to Chad
May 2013. As SCF's logo, the scimitar horned oryx represents the threats that face desert wildlife but also the hope that one day this magnificent animal will once again roam free on African soil. Once abundant on the vast, dry, sub-Saharan grasslands, the oryx fell prey to a lethal combination of overhunting, drought and habitat loss. 

Survived in captivity
Thankfully, significant numbers of oryx exist in collections across the world and efforts to restore the species to the wild are underway in several countries. Up until the late 1970s, the oryx prospered in Chad's Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve, one of the world's largest protected areas. 

Regrettably, the oryx became extinct during the 1980s largely as a result of civil war in that country. Recent surveys, however, carried out by SCF and Chad's National Parks and Wildlife Service have underlined the reserve's enormous potential to host a successful oryx reintroduction project. There is abundant habitat and space to cater for the oryx's needs and initial contacts with the local authorities and the reserve's inhabitants have been very encouraging.

In May this year, SCF organized a major stakeholder workshop in the Chadian capital of N'Djaména. Facilitated by IUCN's Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, the workshop and fieldtrip that preceded it brought together around 50 people from diverse interest groups, including local politicians and representatives from the reserve's herders associations. The results were extremely positive, paving the way for detailed project development to take place.

Fin whales being turned into dog treats

Iceland is killing endangered Fin whales for Japanese pet treats
May 2013. Although the use of Japanese-caught whale and dolphin meat in pet food in Japan has been well documented, the discovery that Japanese pet food company Michinoku Farms is now producing dog snacks using meat from endangered North Atlantic Fin whales, killed by the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf, is alarming. 

Icelandic Fin whale has been sold in Japan for human consumption since 2008, but its use in pet food suggests that new markets are being explored. As Iceland prepares to hunt more than 180 Fin whales in 2013 for this export market, NGOs question the environmental and economic logic of using meat from an endangered species for the manufacture of dog treats.

Susan Millward, executive director of the US-based Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), said: "Turning an endangered whale species into pet snacks is deplorable and seems to be nothing more than a desperate attempt to keep a cruel and unnecessary industry alive at any cost."

Beaver kills man in Belarus

A beaver has attacked a 60-year-old fisherman in Belarus, slicing an artery and causing him to bleed to death.

It was the latest in a series of beaver attacks on humans in the country, as the rodents, who have razor-sharp teeth, have turned increasingly aggressive after wandering near homes, shops and schools.

"The character of the wound was totally shocking," said the village doctor Leonty Sulim. "We had never run into anything like this before."

Once hunted nearly to extinction in Europe, beavers have made a comeback as hunting has been banned or restricted and new populations were introduced.

In Belarus, a former Soviet republic between Russia and Poland, the beaver population has tripled in the past decade to an estimated 80,000, according to wildlife experts. That has caused beavers increasingly to encroach on populated areas.

The Belarusian emergency services said they have received a rash of reports of aggression by beavers, which can weigh up to 30kg (65lbs) and stand about a metre (3ft) high. Officials have responded to some calls by sending out crews to drive away the animals, often by spraying them with water from a fire hose.


A lake with hundreds of ancient skeletons surrounding it. The surprise is what killed them…

In 1942 a British forest guard in Roopkund, India made an alarming discovery. Some 16,000 feet above sea level, at the bottom of a small valley, was a frozen lake absolutely full of skeletons. That summer, the ice melting revealed even more skeletal remains, floating in the water and lying haphazardly around the lake's edges. Something horrible had happened here.

The immediate assumption (it being war time) was that these were the remains of Japanese soldiers who had died of exposure while sneaking through India. The British government, terrified of a Japanese land invasion, sent a team of investigators to determine if this was true. However upon examination they realized these bones were not from Japanese soldiers—they weren't fresh enough.

It was evident that the bones were quite old indeed. Flesh, hair, and the bones themselves had been preserved by the dry, cold air, but no one could properly determine exactly when they were from. More than that, they had no idea what had killed over 200 people in this small valley. Many theories were put forth including an epidemic, landslide, and ritual suicide. For decades, no one was able to shed light on the mystery of Skeleton Lake.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Identification needed - It this a Chinese frog?

Can you identify this foam?

May 2013. Paul Antoine Mayer recently took these images of what appears to be frogspawn foam near Shanghai in China. I know little about the tree frogs of eastern China, and I am hoping that one of our readers might be able to provide an identification of this foam. 

The common tree frog, (Polypedates leucomystax) is found in China and it does make foam nests, but, as far as I can tell, its nests don't look like this at all. 


Rats Have a Double View of the World

May 27, 2013 — Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, using miniaturised high-speed cameras and high-speed behavioural tracking, discovered that rats move their eyes in opposite directions in both the horizontal and the vertical plane when running around. Each eye moves in a different direction, depending on the change in the animal's head position. An analysis of both eyes' field of view found that the eye movements exclude the possibility that rats fuse the visual information into a single image like humans do. Instead, the eyes move in such a way that enables the space above them to be permanently in view -- presumably an adaptation to help them deal with the major threat from predatory birds that rodents face in their natural environment.

Like many mammals, rats have their eyes on the sides of their heads. This gives them a very wide visual field, useful for detection of predators. However, three-dimensional vision requires overlap of the visual fields of the two eyes. Thus, the visual system of these animals needs to meet two conflicting demands at the same time; on the one hand maximum surveillance and on the other hand detailed binocular vision.

The research team from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics have now, for the first time, observed and characterised the eye movements of freely moving rats. They fitted minuscule cameras weighing only about one gram to the animals' heads, which could record the lightning-fast eye movements with great precision. The scientists also used another new method to measure the position and direction of the head, enabling them to reconstruct the rats' exact line of view at any given time.

Goat Snarls Traffic On New Jersey’s Pulaski Skyway

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – A renegade goat and an auto accident snarled traffic on the Pulaski Skyway in northern New Jersey during the morning rush Tuesday.
The small, chocolate brown female with curved horns eluded five Jersey City police officers for more than 90 minutes by jumping back and forth over a central divider along the Pulaski Skyway, alternately disrupting traffic along both east and west-bound lanes, according to city spokesman Stan Eason.
“The goat kept jumping over the divider and on top of cars,” Jersey City Police Capt. Edgar Martinez told 1010 WINS. “It was cornered and captured with a rope and we were able to walk it to the vehicle where it was taken out of the Skyway.”
Traffic was snarled from 7:10 a.m. until almost 9 a.m. along the elevated roadway, which traverses the Passaic and Hackensack Rivers between Newark and Jersey City and carries thousands of vehicles daily to the Holland Tunnel and into New York.
Four vehicles, whose drivers were attempting to avoid the zigzagging goat, were involved in a minor accident, police said. There were no injuries.
Officials are still trying to determine where the goat came from. One of the goat’s ears is tagged with a U.S. Department of Agriculture tag, indicating the animal likely escaped a truck headed to a slaughterhouse, Eason said. If no company claims the animal, it will be moved to a rural animal welfare facility that can accommodate livestock.
“If it can survive running around the Pulaski Skyway for two hours, and then winds up in a slaughterhouse, it’s kind of sad,” Eason said. “But if someone claims her, she is private property, so there’s not much we can do.”

Bechstein's Bat Is More Mediterranean Than Originally Thought

May 27, 2013 — Although the Bechstein's bat is regarded as a Euro-Siberian species, a study by researchers in the UPV/EHU's Department of Zoology and Animal Cell Biology has revealed that the historical transformation of part of its original habitat rather than bioclimatic reasons could be responsible for this distribution. This research has been published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management.
(Credit: Image courtesy of Basque Research)

The Bechstein's Bat (Myotis bechsteinii) has a broad distribution: from the Iberian Peninsula to the Caucasus, in the East, and as far as southern Scandinavia, in the north. Yet it is regarded as a rare species throughout its distribution area. "This scarcity contrasts with its abundance in the fossil record of the late Pleistocene and Holocene," says Dr María Napal, leading author of the paper published in Forest Ecology and Management. The fossil record shows that the start and consolidation of its decline coincided with the deforestation caused by the intensification of agriculture, and are also linked to colder temperatures and greater humidity.

This has been cited on very few occasions in the Mediterranean area, but recent studies show that it could be locally abundant in certain localities.However, in the north of the Peninsula, where the climate and vegetation are more similar to those of Central Europe, their centre of distribution, it is much more difficult to find them. "That led us to revisit the traditional dogma that the M. bechsteinii is a Euro-Siberian species, restricted to the temperate forests of Central and Western Europe, and to ask whether its current distribution could respond more to the history of deciduous forestloss in part of its original range," explains Napal. "In fact,during the Holocene the vegetation evolved differently in the Mediterranean compared with the rest of Europe.In the Mediterranean, the intensity of human activity, linked to great aridity, led to the substitution of the deciduous vegetation by the typical xerophytic vegetation."

Wayward croc divides outback town

A crocodile spotted far from its usual habitat is the talk of an outback Queensland town, but not everyone is happy.

The freshwater crocodile made headlines around the country on Thursday when it was spotted at a popular fishing and swimming spot in the Diamantina River near Birdsville, up to 1000km from its usual range.

But while the crocodile - dubbed ‘‘Kyle’’ after Kylie, the eagle-eyed Birdsville resident who spotted it - has become a talking point, not everyone is happy about its presence.

Birdsville Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Don Rowlands says some think Kyle is a danger to children and dogs, while others believe it’s eating all the fish.

‘‘We don’t know how long it’s been here, but in the last couple of years we’ve noticed it’s been hard to catch a feed of fish and we’ve all wondered why,’’ he said.

‘‘Maybe this is the cause, because that’s all this creature eats - fish.’’

Mr Rowlands believes a fisher in north Queensland probably caught the croc as a baby and placed it in the river downstream some time ago ‘‘for a lark’’.

Lily Cole to reveal the ugly truth behind luxury beauty: Model exposes cosmetics industry's cruel use of SHARK liver

Squalene oil is extracted from shark liver for face and skin creams
Substance made by sharks in their livers to help control buoyancy in water
Premium substance from gulper sharks can fetch £18,000 a ton
Extracted by 'livering': Liver is removed and carcass thrown overboard
Selfridges to join Cole at event and announce ban on squalene in store 

PUBLISHED: 12:04, 27 May 2013 | UPDATED: 14:30, 27 May 2013

Sharks are already in demand for their fins and now it has been revealed that their livers are being used to make luxury face cream.

gulper shark

Model and animal rights campaigner Lily Cole is to speak out against the use of squalene, an oil extracted from the livers of endangered sharks, at the Hay Festival on Thursday.

As one of Britain's most successful models Cole has caliber when it comes to the world of fashion and beauty. She is known for using her fame to promote environmental causes and this latest appeal hits close to home.

She will expose one of the beauty trade's murkier secrets - its reliance on killing sharks to obtain a key cosmetics ingredient.

Cole will be joined on stage by Alannah Weston, creative director of Selfridges, the department store, who will announce it is clearing its shelves of all products containing squalene derived from sharks.

Almost all beauty products use a loophole in European labelling regulations to avoid revealing the origin of the substance, reported the Sunday Times.

'Sharks are now among the most vulnerable species in the ocean,' said Weston. 'The unrestricted killing of sharks is just another example of human destruction of the ocean and its creatures.'

The substance is made by sharks in their livers to help control their buoyancy in water.

Australian fisherman spends night with crocodile below bunk

An Australian fisherman was so enraged with finding yet another crocodile on the end of his fishing line that he took the animal home and spent the night with it sleeping below his bunk bed.

Ashley Sala spent his birthday fishing at Ninds Creek, in the river mouth at Innisfail, 55 miles south of Cairns, when he thought he'd caught a fish.

"I threw my line out to catch a barra for my birthday and I ended up catching a croc," Mr Sala said.

"I thought I'd caught my one-metre barra. I was so happy, I was yahooing and carrying on.

"Twenty minutes later after fighting it I brought it to the surface and when the moon came out from behind the clouds I realised it was a croc tangled up in my fishing line."

Mr Sala realised the crocodile – which he was "starting to feel sorry for" – would almost certainly drown if the line wasn't untangled. And so, maddened at the frequency with which the crocodiles were stealing his bait, he picked up the reptile, taped its jaws together, and drove it to the house of his local councillor to complain about the crocodile population.

Illinois illegally seizes Bees Resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup; Kills remaining Queens

The Illinois Ag Dept. illegally seized privately owned bees from renowned naturalist, Terrence Ingram, without providing him with a search warrant and before the court hearing on the matter, reports Prairie Advocate News.

Behind the obvious violations of his Constitutional rights is Monsanto. Ingram was researching Roundup’s effects on bees, which he’s raised for 58 years. “They ruined 15 years of my research,” he told Prairie Advocate, by stealing most of his stock.

A certified letter from the Ag Dept.’s Apiary Inspection Supervisor, Steven D. Chard, stated:

“During a routine inspection of your honeybee colonies by … Inspectors Susan Kivikko and Eleanor Balson on October 23, 2011, the bacterial disease ‘American Foulbrood’ was detected in a number of colonies located behind your house…. Presence of the disease in some of your colonies was confirmed via test results from the USDA Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland that analyzed samples collected from your apiary….”


Tuesday 28 May 2013

U.S. to protect endangered loggerhead sea turtle habitat - via Herp Digest

Los Angles Times, By Julie Cart, May 3, 2013, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has two months to identify suitable in-water nesting and migratory habitat for endangered loggerhead sea turtles, according to a legal settlement filed this week.

The agreement — between the wildlife service and the groups Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Oceana — gives the government until July 1 to propose feeding, breeding and migratory habitat in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The final critical habitat protections must be in place by July 1, 2014, according to the settlement filed Thursday in U.S. district court.

The Fish and Wildlife Service in March proposed protecting more than 739 miles of critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles on their nesting beaches from North Carolina to Mississippi, about 84% of the turtle’s known nesting areas.

Fishery Rule Could Benefit Sea Turtles - via Herp Digest

By Cameron Jaggard, Pew Charitable Trust, 5/7/13

Weighing up to 2,000 pounds, the leatherback is the largest sea turtle on Earth. Their wide ranging migratory patterns overlap with those of other severely depleted ocean wildlife, including western Atlantic bluefin tuna. Unfortunately, surface longlines fishing for yellowfin tuna and swordfish also catch and kill these and more than 80 other species accidentally, including sharks, marine mammals, blue marlin, and sailfish. More than half of the catch is thrown back and the vast majority of that discarded catch is dead. 

In an effort to protect bluefin spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists are now working with commercial fishermen to determine if two highly selective fishing methods can provide a viable alternative to surface longlines. Research conducted to date indicates that 87 to 91 percent of the catch on these alternative gears is comprised of target catch of yellowfin tuna and swordfish. Furthermore, neither gear has yet interacted with any bluefin tuna or sea turtles in the Gulf. Oil spill restoration monies made available by BP could help pay to transition Gulf surface longline fishermen to these more selective gears and smaller, more economical, and efficient fishing vessels. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) also has a rare and important opportunity to help. The agency is developing a new bluefin rule that could ensure the long-term success of this gear transition program, help end the waste of bluefin and other species in the Gulf and Atlantic incidentally caught on surface longlines, and support increased fishing opportunities for selective bluefin fishermen. A prohibition on surface longlining in the Gulf and a strict annual limit on bluefin mortality in the Atlantic surface longline fishery could do just that. 

Sea turtles stand to benefit greatly, if these measures are implemented. This rule would eliminate an estimated 169 harmful interactions with endangered leatherback and threatened loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf annually. A hard limit on bluefin mortality in the Atlantic surface longline fishery will also encourage more selective fishing practices that could further reduce the fishing gear's impact on protected marine life and encourage the rebuilding of sea turtles species that the U.S. has listed on the Endangered Species Act for more than three decades. 

NOAA Fisheries plans to release the bluefin proposed rule for public comment this summer. This comment period will provide the best opportunity for conservationists, fishermen, and other stakeholders to encourage NOAA Fisheries to issue a strong bluefin rule. or contact to learn how you can submit a comment.

Vancouver Aquarium creates backup population of endangered frogs

VANCOUVER -- Scientists at the Vancouver Aquarium have sprung into action, as part of an effort to prevent an endangered frog population from becoming extinct in eastern British Columbia.

The Rocky Mountain population of northern leopard frogs plummeted by the millions in the 1970s, and only two populations are now known to exist near Creston, in B.C.'s West Kootenay region.

The aquarium announced Thursday its scientists have, for the first time in Canada, bred the species in an aquarium setting and created an assurance -- or backup -- population.

Dennis Thoney, the aquarium's director of animal operations, said officials plan to release about 2,000 tadpoles Monday in the Columbia Marshes near the east Kootenay city of Cranbrook, while maintaining a population at the aquarium.

He said the frogs are expected to become the third Rocky Mountain population of northern leopard frogs in the province.

"Frogs, in general, are facing probably the largest extinction since the dinosaurs right now," said Thoney. "Of the 6,000 species, a third to more are threatened or endangered now."

Known by the scientific name Lithobates pipiens, the species is medium sized, green-brown in colour and possesses distinctive dark spots encircled by paler rings that resemble halos.

The frogs possess large hind legs with dark bars and are known for their pale under parts.
(Vancouver Aquarium photo)

From nose to rump, the frogs measure between 5.5 and 10 centimetres, and have a distinctive call described as a "chuckling" or "gabbling" or even as a hand rubbing against a wet balloon.

Scientists don't know why the population plummeted.

Suspected causes for the decline include habitat destruction, water-quality changes, the introduction of new species like the bull frog, and the spread of a fungus carried by the African clawed frog, which at one time was injected with urine from human females as part of pregnancy testing, said Thoney.

DNR Updates Endangered Species List, Downgrades Blanding's Turtle

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) board has approved changes to Wisconsin's endangered species list.

The approved list includes a controversial change to the status of the Blanding's Turtle. 

Eight animals have been added to the list of endangered and threatened species, including birds like the Kirtland's Warbler and Upland Sandpiper. But another 15 animals or plants have been taken off the list. The DNR says most of the recent public comments on the plan came from those opposing delisting the Blanding's Turtle. DNR land administrator Kurt Thiede says the turtle is better off than previously thought. 

“When we took a look at occurrences of [turtle] population across the state, we found they're much more common. In regards to protections, we do have other protections in place regarding wetland regulations and the habitats where these species occur.” 

Thiede says the review of the endangered species list started in 2009, though the Wisconsin Builders Association has been keeping the pressure on delisting the Blanding's Turtle. The DNR is talking about a lesser protection for the turtle, and may have a formal plan later this year.

FWC rescues endangered leatherback sea turtle in Naples, Fla.

A boater located about three miles west of Caxambas Pass on Marco Island, called the FWC to report the turtle entangled in a crab trap line.

Once the crew reached the location where the turtle was stranded, officials were able to cut the trap line and the sea turtle was able to swim free.

The leatherback is the largest sea turtle in the world, measuring as much as 6.5 feet in length and weighing as much as 1190 pounds. They dive deeper than any other species of sea turtle, the deepest recorded dive being ¾ of a mile.

All seven species of sea turtles are either threatened or endangered. Destruction of their reef habitats, development, poaching of their eggs, and temperature change continue to cause accelerated decline of sea turtle populations worldwide. At sea, turtles risk being caught in the nets of commercial fishing boats and increased incidence of diseases in the wild.

Many members of the Rookery Bay staff are trained participants of the Marine Mammal Stranding network Southeast region who provides assistance to the FWC and the Florida Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI).

In response to a call for help, FWC calls staff from Rookery Bay to verify the location and nature of the injury. The staff often stays with the animal until help arrives and provides transportation to a rehabilitation center.

Climate change will affect the most common species drastically

Climate change will cause widespread global-scale loss of common plants and animals

May 2013. New research has found that more than half of common plants and one third of the animals could see a dramatic decline this century due to climate change - according to the University of East Anglia.

Research looked at 50,000 globally widespread and common species and found that more than one half of the plants and one third of the animals will lose more than half of their climatic range by 2080 if nothing is done to reduce the amount of global warming and slow it down. This means that geographic ranges of common plants and animals will shrink globally and biodiversity will decline almost everywhere.

Amphibians at highest risk
Plants, reptiles and particularly amphibians are expected to be at highest risk. Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Amazonia and Australia would lose the most species of plants and animals. And a major loss of plant species is projected for North Africa, Central Asia and South-eastern Europe.

Mitigation could help 60%
But acting quickly to mitigate climate change could reduce losses by 60 per cent and buy an additional 40 years for species to adapt. This is because this mitigation would slow and then stop global temperatures from rising by more than two degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial times (1765). Without this mitigation, global temperatures could rise by 4 degrees Celsius by 2100.

The study was led by Dr Rachel Warren from UEA's school of Environmental Sciences and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Collaborators include Dr.Jeremy VanDerWal at James Cook University in Australia and Dr Jeff Price, also at UEA's school of Environmental Sciences and the Tyndall Centre. The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Eyes On the Prey: Researchers Analyse the Hunting Behaviour of Fish Larvae in Virtual Reality

May 22, 2013 — Moving objects attract greater attention -- a fact exploited by video screens in public spaces and animated advertising banners on the Internet. For most animal species, moving objects also play a major role in the processing of sensory impressions in the brain, as they often signal the presence of a welcome prey or an imminent threat. This is also true of the zebrafish larva, which has to react to the movements of its prey. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg have investigated how the brain uses the information from the visual system for the execution of quicker movements. The animals' visual system records the movements of the prey so that the brain can redirect the animals' movements through targeted swim bouts in a matter of milliseconds. Two hitherto unknown types of neurons in the mid-brain are involved in the processing of movement stimuli.

In principle, the visual system of zebrafish larvae resembles that of other vertebrates. Moreover, its genome has been decoded, it is a small organism, and it has transparent skin, which is easily penetrated by light in the fluorescent microscope. Therefore, these animals are very suitable for studying visual motion perception. They also display very clear prey capture behaviour. With the help of their finely-tuned visual system, they pursue and catch small ciliates. To do this, they execute a series of swimming manoeuvres in a matter of one or two seconds, during which they repeatedly verify the direction and distance of the prey so that they can adapt their subsequent movement steps. The larva's brain must, therefore, filter and evaluate visual information extremely rapidly so that it can select appropriate motor patterns.

Monday 27 May 2013

Over 80% of Dogs Suffer from Hypothermia After Surgery With Anesthetic

May 21, 2013 — The research team from the Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera directed by Professor José Ignacio Redondo published in Veterinary Record the first global study that clinically documents the prevalence of hypothermia in dogs after surgery and after diagnostic tests that require anaesthetic. The 83.6% of the 1,525 dogs studied presented this complication, whereas in humans this percentage is between 30 and 60% of cases. 

Research showed that hypothermia is a frequent complication of anaesthesia in the case of dogs. To reduce its prevalence, the researchers note that it is necessary to prevent heat loss in these animals before starting these veterinary interventions. Such prevention is particularly important in the case of dogs showing higher percentages of hypothermia, according to the study: smaller dogs and those undergoing thoracic surgery or diagnostic procedures requiring prolonged anaesthetic. 

The researchers analysed over 1,500 cases of anesthetized animals in the University Clinical Hospitals of the CEU Cardenal Herrera and Cordoba. The variables directly related to hypothermia in dogs registered at the end of an operation include the duration of the pre-anaesthesia and anaesthesia, the physical condition of the animal and, also, their posture during surgery (sternal and dorsal recumbencies showed lower temperatures than lateral recumbency). 

In a previous study, the same research team determined that this prevalence rate is even higher in the case of cats: 96.7 percent of cats suffer from hypothermia in procedures requiring anaesthetic. In this case, the study showed that abdominal and orthopaedic interventions generate a greater decrease in cat's body temperature. 

These two studies show that hypothermia is the most common anaesthetic complication in dogs and cats, even more than in human anaesthesiology. Therefore, the valencian researchers believe that temperature should be continuously monitored and vets should take preventive measures to avoid heat loss during procedures.

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