Saturday, 28 February 2015

Baby Woolly Rhino Discovered In Siberia Is The First Ever Found

The Huffington Post | By Jacqueline Howard

Posted: 02/25/2015 1:09 pm EST Updated: 02/27/2015 9:59 am EST

Scientists are going gaga over the recent discovery of a baby woolly rhino.

rhino sasha
(Academy of Sciences Republic of Sakha/Siberian Times)
The pristine specimen of the tiny extinct rhino--the only one of its type ever found--was discovered in permafrost along the bank of a stream in Siberia's Sakha Republic, The Siberian Times reported.

"At first we thought it was a reindeer's carcass, but after it thawed and fell down we saw a horn on its upper jaw and realized it must be a rhino," Alexander 'Sasha' Banderov, the hunter who made the discovery, told the Times. "The part of the carcass that stuck out of the ice was eaten by wild animals, but the rest of it was inside the permafrost and preserved well."

Beach Microbes Starving Baby Sea Turtles of Oxygen

This article was originally published on The Conversation. The publication contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

On a small stretch of beach at Ostional in Costa Rica, hundreds of thousands of sea turtles nest simultaneously in events known as arribadas. Because there are so many eggs in the sand, nesting females frequently dig up previously laid nests, leaving the beach littered with broken eggs. But these endangered sea turtles are facing a new threat: sand microbes encouraged by the decomposing eggs.

Results from a new study we’ve published in PLOS ONE show how these sand microbes cause low levels of oxygen in the nests that interfere with the embryonic development of the sea turtles.

Bumblebees make false memories, too

February 26, 2015

Cell Press

It's well known that our human memory can fail us. People can be forgetful, and they can sometimes also 'remember' things incorrectly, with devastating consequences in the classroom, courtroom, and other areas of life. Now, researchers show for the first time that bumblebees can be unreliable witnesses too.

Rats Blamed For Bubonic Plague, But Gerbils May Be The Real Villains

Rats have a bad rap. They have for centuries. Ever since the middle of the 14th century when the Black Plague descended over Europe.

Rats took the rap for spreading the bubonic plague, which killed millions of people over the next 400 years. It has long been believed that swarms of rats spread the disease when fleas flew from their feverish, infected, furry little bodies and bit into thin-skinned humans.

Rat has been an epithet ever since. Snitches, squealers, back-stabbers, and double-crossers are called rats. Think of Jimmy Cagney sneering, "You dirty rat!" (Though — to spare a lot of emails — what he actually said onscreen was, "You dirty yellow-bellied rat.")

Quokka deaths on Rottnest Island spark police investigation

Five quokkas that were found stuffed head-first into tree protectors and another lying nearby had ‘clearly been killed’, say authorities

Wednesday 25 February 2015 04.57 GMTLast modified on Wednesday 25 February 

Rottnest Quokka 2004 SeanMcClean.jpgAuthorities in Western Australia are investigating the deaths of five quokkas that were found stuffed head-first into tree protectors on Rottnest Island on Monday.

The animals were found by Peter Basford, who told Seven News in Perth that he was visiting the island and found the animals near the camping ground.

“I saw a couple of them with their heads sticking out the bottom, the heads facing up … I can’t think of anything more gruesome,” he said.

Basford, who was described as a regular visitor to Rottnest, said the island was “supposed to be a paradise”.

A spokeswoman from the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife told Guardian Australia that six quokkas had been found dead – five stuffed into tree protectors and another one lying nearby. They are believed to have been there for up to a week.

She said the animals had “clearly been killed” but it would be inappropriate to speculate on how they were killed until the investigation was completed. The department has conducted autopsies and Rottnest Island police tweeted a plea for information about the incident on Wednesday.

Friday, 27 February 2015

David Attenborough calls on Chinese president to end ivory trade

Broadcaster joins a host of celebrities, MPs and conservationists who have signed an open letter to China’s president Xi Jinping urging him to act now to save African elephants from extinction, ahead of Prince Willam’s visit next month

Friday 20 February 2015 06.00 GMTLast modified on Friday 20 February 201510.56 GMT

Sir David Attenborough and a group of broadcasters, conservationists and MPs have called on the Chinese president to end his country’s ivory trade and save African elephants from extinction.

In an open letter to Xi Jinping, comedian Ricky Gervais, actor Joanna Lumley Labour MP Tessa Jowell, former environment minister Richard Benyon and Kenyan politician and conservationist Richard Leakey ask China’s leader to outlaw the buying and selling of ivory and educate Chinese citizens on the problem.

The intervention is intended to put pressure on China, the world’s biggest market for ivory, despite a global ban in 1989, ahead of a visit by Prince William to the country next month.

The prince is due to make a statement on conservation on 4 March in Yunnan province, and will visit a sanctuary for Asian elephants. Conservationists expect him to talk about the wildlife trade, including ivory. In a speech last December he noted the street price of ivory in China had increased from $5 (£3.20) to $2,1000 per kg in 25 years and was being reflected in increases in poaching.

Tracking Wyoming’s big game herds

Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online

Wyoming is known as a home for big game animals like elk, moose, and bighorn sheep, and a conservation group in the state is using modern technology to track the migratory patterns of these herd animals that often have to cross highways or navigate rural communities.

Researchers with the Wyoming Migration Initiative (WMI) are utilizing both motion-activated digital camera traps and a GPS system to track big game herds, and hopefully inform policymakers on how to conserve the herd paths while making land use decisions.

Online video of the program from CNN shows how the herd animals travel in groups and often follow the same trails.

“What it allows us to do is not only determine how many animals are using those crossing structures, but what type of animals, and what direction they’re moving,” Hall Sawyer, a research biologist with the WMI, told the cable news network.

The Wyoming researchers added that future land use decisions should aim to maintain these migratory routes, allowing the animals to move as they have for generations.

Evolution 'favours bigger sea creatures'

20 February 2015 Last updated at 00:02

By Jonathan WebbScience reporter, BBC News

Whales and other modern sea animals tend to be much larger than Cambrian sea creatures

The animals in the ocean have been getting bigger, on average, since the Cambrian period - and not by chance.

That is the finding of a huge new survey of marine life past and present, published in the journal Science.

It describes a pattern of increasing body size that cannot be explained by random "drift", but suggests bigger animals generally fare better at sea.

In the past 542 million years, the average size of a marine animal has gone up by a factor of 150.

It appears that the explosion of different life forms near the start of that time window eventually skewed decisively towards bulkier animals.

Measured by volume, today's tiniest sea critter is less than 10 times smaller than its Cambrian counterpart; both are minuscule, sub-millimetre crustaceans. But at the other end of the scale, the mighty blue whale is more than 100,000 times the size of the largest animal the Cambrian could offer: a trilobite less than half a metre long.

'Five-legged sheep' Quinto gives birth to twins in Morpeth

20 February 2015 Last updated at 13:50

A sheep born with five legs has "defied the odds" by giving birth to two healthy lambs, a Northumberland farm has said.

Quinto made news around the world after being born with an additional front limb at Whitehouse Farm Centre, in Morpeth, in 2013.

She has given birth to Susie and Sofie, neither of whom have any extra limbs.

Karen Lovatt, general manager, said the farm was "delighted" with the new arrivals.

Ms Lovatt said Quinto's fifth leg was initially viewed with scepticism, with some people saying it was an April Fool's joke.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Leatherback Turtles Among Treasure Trove Of Fossils Unearthed At O.C. Construction Site - Via Herp Digest

February 13, 2015 6:02 PM
TUSTIN ( — California leatherback turtles are among a treasure trove of fossils unearthed at an Orange County construction site.
Experts say the turtles are the most exciting and significant fossils uncovered over the past several weeks.
The construction site being excavated was once 3,000 feet underneath the sea. It includes the roadway that is being extended at La Pata Avenue between San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente.
“There’s areas that have never been touched before. We hired a paleontological firm to help us monitor that area [and] to make sure that we protect those resources,” said Nardy Kahn, an Orange County Public Works manager.
Other ancient finds include a walrus fossil dating back as far as 7 million years along with hundreds of other fossils.
That fossil and others are being meticulous uncovered and preserved inside a Tustin laboratory.
“Every time you take an animal out of a rock, it’s the first time a person’s ever touched it because it’s been locked in rock since 3 to 7 million years ago,” said Lloyd Sample, a paleontologist.
After the pieces are dug out of the rocks, those rocks are being sifted through a machine, which has uncovered more fossil fragments and even a shark’s tooth.
These fossils and those of whales, seals, dolphins and fish will be on display for the public in two years.

Gator blood contains natural germ fighters - via Herp Digest

Posted By Science Codex February 12, 2015 

Sophisticated germ fighters found in alligator blood may help future soldiers in the field fend off infection, according to new research by George Mason University.
The study, published Feb. 11 in the scientific journal PLOS One, is the result of a fundamental research project supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to find bacterial infection-defeating compounds in the blood of the crocodilian family of reptiles, which includes American alligators.
The project is about to start its fourth year and has received $6 million in funding to date from DTRA. If fully funded over five years, the project will be worth $7.57 million.
Alligators live in bacteria-filled environments and dine on carrion. Yet this ancient reptile rarely falls ill.
"If you look at nature, sometimes we can find pre-selected molecules to study," says study co-author Monique van Hoek. "I was surprised to find peptides that were as effective as they are in fighting bacteria. I was really impressed."
Discoveries made by George Mason's 17-member, multidisciplinary research team could eventually find their way to the battlefield to protect warfighters from wound infections and potential exposure to biothreat agents. Researchers believe this work could benefit civilians too.
"We hope that these could be the basis to develop new treatments," says van Hoek, a professor in the School of Systems Biology and the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at Mason.
Exploiting innate immunity
Van Hoek and lead co-authors Barney Bishop and Joel Schnur from the College of Science suspected the germ-fighting ability could be in the form of antimicrobial peptides. These very small proteins are part of the innate immunity of alligators and even humans; all higher organisms make antimicrobial peptides.
"It's that part of your immune system that keeps you alive in the two or three weeks before you can make antibodies to a bacterial infection," van Hoek says. "It's part of your generalized immune response to the world."
Peptides are more general in their activity than antibodies, which are made to fight infections by specific bacteria or viruses.
"Innate immunity may work less well than antibodies, but it works well enough," van Hoek adds. "The reason why we're so interested in them: they are part of nature's way of dealing with the onslaught of bacteria and viruses that we face every day. Every breath that you take, every thing that you eat, you're constantly exposed to bacteria and your body needs to fend them off in some way."
Alligator blood samples were provided by Kent Vliet of the University of Florida and the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine, Fla., which has a wide variety of reptiles, including all 23 species of crocodilians.
Bishop says he was surprised at the sophistication and diversity of the alligator's germ-fighting peptides. These reptiles have evolved with a formidable defense against bacterial infections.
The Mason team took an innovative approach in its study of the alligator blood samples. Bishop developed custom-made nanoparticles to preferentially capture the peptides out of the very complex mixture of proteins and peptides in alligator plasma.
This process revealed an unexpected result--the identified potent germ-fighting peptides were only fragments of larger "parent" proteins, says Bishop, who's also a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
The custom-made particles used in this project significantly shortened the number of steps required to capture and identify peptides that were present in alligator blood plasma.
The Mason team has other reptiles to tackle. As part of the DTRA grant called "Translational Peptide for Personal Protection," Mason researchers also will study Siamese crocodiles, Nile crocodiles and gharials.
And they've learned a thing or two along the way about these ancient reptiles.
"You stay away from the business end," Bishop jokes.
Citation: Bishop BM, Juba ML, Devine MC, Barksdale SM, Rodriguez CA, et al. (2015) Bioprospecting the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) Host Defense Peptidome. _______________________________________

New Residents: Dolphins Swam into Mediterranean 18,000 Years Ago

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | February 19, 2015 03:35pm ET

Bottlenose dolphins moved into the Mediterranean, once too salty to harbor much marine life, at the end of the last ice age about 18,000 years ago, a new study finds.

"It is quite likely that the bottlenose dolphin hasn't actually been in the Mediterranean for long, in terms of the evolutionary time frame," said Andre Moura, one of the study's researchers and a lecturer of life science at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom.

During the last ice age, the Mediterranean was saltier and shallower than it is today, making it a difficult place for marine creatures to live, the researchers said. Even if bottlenose dolphins living in the Atlantic Ocean had ventured into the Mediterranean during that time, they would have been hard-pressed to find food that could survive in such a salty environment. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Where ants go when nature calls: Ants use corners of their nest as 'toilets'

February 18, 2015


Ants may use the corners of their nest as 'toilets,' according to a new study. Little research has been done on ant sanitary behavior, so the authors of this study conducted an experiment to determine whether distinct brown patches they observed forming in ants' nests were feces. They fed ants, living in white plaster nests, food dyed with either red or blue food coloring and observed the nests for the colorful feces.

This Rare Philippine Turtle Is Being Driven to Extinction by Pet Owners - via Herp Digest

By John R. Platt | February 3, 2015

When most people want a pet, they get a cat or a dog. Other people steal endangered species from the wild.
That’s the sad situation confronting the Palawan forest turtle, a critically endangered species that lives on just a single island in the Philippines. Only about 3,000 of these rare turtles are believed to remain in the wild, a number that is shrinking rapidly. Over the past two months at least 186 forest turtles—more than 6 percent of the entire known population—have been rescued from five groups of poachers who intended to sell them on the illegal international pet trade, according to a report this week from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
The forest turtles’ very rarity makes them even more desired, as collectors will pay large amounts of money on the black market for endangered turtles and tortoises. The rarer they are, the higher the price they fetch.
The turtles were most likely headed to Europe or North America, said Chris Shepherd, TRAFFIC’s Southeast Asia regional director.
“Southeast Asia is also seeing a booming increase in the exotic pet trade,” he said, “so it is not inconceivable that they were headed somewhere a little closer to home.” He said that no arrests have been made yet, although investigations are ongoing.
The Palawan forest turtle was once believed to be extinct. Unseen since 1920, the species was rediscovered in 2001. A scientific paper detailing that find was published in 2004. A booming illegal trade in the animals began soon after.
“The trade of the Palawan forest turtle is rampant, and most past conservation work has failed,” said Pierre Fidenci, president of Endangered Species International, which has been active for several years in trying to protect the turtles.
He said the poaching has become so bad that some of the sites that once held the turtles could now be depleted.
“If trade continues at that level, this species could be gone within its major habitat sites in a decade or so,” Fidenci said.
Protecting the turtles won’t be expensive, but it will require effort. “To succeed in saving the Palawan forest turtle, we must create core habitat protection zones where active patrols are conducted using local communities,” he said. “Further inspections at ports, exchange transits, and other locations are necessary as well.”
Fidenci also called for increased efforts to educate local people and authorities about the existing laws that already—in theory if not in execution—protect the turtles.
As for the 186 turtles rescued over the past two months, Shepherd reported that they are in quarantine to make sure they have not contracted any diseases from their captors.
“If they are found healthy, they will be returned to the wild,” he said.
Hopefully, this time they’ll be there to stay.
Original article from TakePart

Amphibian din has residents hopping mad - via Herp Digest

Kelly Bell, February 7, 2015, 9:18 am
West Australian Regional

The Pilbara's frogs have been driving some residents to distraction.

The croaks of the Pilbara's frogs have created a stir on social media, yet again.
Residents in both Hedland and Newman took to community Facebook pages last week to find the best solution to quieten the noisy amphibians.
Following last week's storms, which resulted in plenty of rainfall in Newman, Anthony Ackland was surprised by the sudden appearance of frogs around his house.
"Okay, so this is supposed to be the desert right? Where did all the frogs come from?" he posted on one community page.
"Found some swimming in my pool, only little but man they can make a noise."
Fellow resident Michelle Missler said she had found hundreds of tadpoles when cleaning her horses' water trough.
In Hedland, one resident had spent three nights sleeping on the couch with her child because the little critters "just don't shut up".
She was sure the noise was "getting worse and worse".
Meanwhile, Steph Ould was hoping more frogs made their way to her property.
"The frogs are so nice though ... you'll never find them in order to relocate them, maybe (try) earplugs?" she commented.
"I wish there were more at my house, we only have one little fella here."
Mick Greenhalgh suggested people should be pleased by the "free alarm system", because when "they stop croaking, you know (someone) is in your yard".
One of the cheekier solutions for those being kept awake by the frogs' noise was to "try 40ml of tequila, a bit of salt and some lemon wedges, repeat this until the noise stops ... or fill your yard with olive pythons".
Department of Parks and Wildlife conservation officer for the Pilbara Alicia Whittington said although the usually dry environment of Newman and Hedland could appear unsuitable, a number of Australian frog species were skilled drought-dodgers and were well adapted to the region's semi-arid climate.
"Many of these species have amazing lifecycles, which includes burrowing into the soil to avoid heat and staying buried for months and sometimes even years, only emerging after a significant rainfall event," she said.
"With the recent rains, many are taking full advantage of the wet conditions."
Ms Whittington said residents would have heard a "cacophony of males calling" as the frogs rushed to find a mate and lay eggs while the wet remain
She said because of irregular rainfall events, species such as the desert spadefoot toad can complete tadpole development in about 30 days.

Great White Sharks Are Late Bloomers

by Tia Ghose, Staff Writer | February 19, 2015 10:23am ET

If you thought humans were late bloomers, consider the great white shark.

Male great white sharks take 26 years to reach sexual maturity, and females take a whopping 33 years to be ready to have baby sharks, according to a new study. That's decades longer than previous estimates, which suggested that females reach maturity somewhere between 7 and 13 years of age and that males can start reproducing when they're between 4 and 10 years old.

The findings suggest that the populations of these apex predators may grow even more slowly than scientists had previously thought, thus making them even more vulnerable to threats, the researchers said. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Moths shed light on how to fool enemy sonar

February 18, 2015

University of Florida

It's hard to hide from a bat: The camouflage and mimicry techniques that animals use to avoid becoming a meal aren't much use against a predator using echolocation. But a new study shows that moths can outsmart sonar with a flick of their long tails.

Notorious Nepalese rhino poacher caught after two years on the run

A notorious Nepalese poacher, Rajkumar Praja, who is alleged to have been implicated in the deaths of 19 rhinos over a six-year period, has been tracked down and caught, reports WWF.

Two years ago Praja fled from Nepal as the police closed in on the criminal gang of which he was the ringleader.

At that time, the Nepal Police, with the support of the Nepalese Army and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, arrested more than a dozen members of his criminal gang operating in the world famous Chitwan National Park, but Praja eluded capture.

He became the subject of an INTERPOL Red Notice – or international arrest warrant – and was finally found in Malaysia in January and extradited to Nepal this week.

He now faces a lengthy jail sentence of 15 years, handed down in absentia, for rhino poaching and trafficking in rhino horns.

Praja’s arrest is another cause for celebration in a country that is leading the way in the fight against wildlife crime.

Snakes may have first appeared 167m years ago - via Herp Digest

By ANI | ANI – Wed 28 Jan, 2015

Washington, Jan 28(ANI): Newly discovered snake fossils have recently revealed that snakes may have first appeared 167 million years ago, which pushes back its origins by nearly 70 million years.
Fossilized remains of four ancient snakes have been dated between 140 and 167 million years old, nearly 70 million years older than the previous record of ancient snake fossils.
The oldest known snake, from Southern England, near Kirtlington, Eophis underwoodi, is known only from very fragmentary remains and was a small individual, though it is hard to say how old it was at the time it died.
The largest snake, Portugalophis lignites, from coal deposits in Portugal, near Guimarota, was a much bigger individual at nearly a meter or more in length.
Several of these ancient snakes (Eophis, Portugalophis and Parviraptor) were living in swampy coastal areas on large island chains in western parts of ancient Europe, while the North American species, Diablophis gilmorei, was found in river deposits from some distance inland in Western Colorado.
This new study makes it clear that the sudden appearance of snakes, some 100 million years ago, reflects a gap in the fossil record, not an explosive radiation of early snakes.
From 167 to 100 million years ago, some 70 million years, snakes were radiating and evolving towards the elongate, limb-reduced body plan characterizing the now well known, 100-90 million year old, marine snakes from the West Bank, Lebanon, and Argentina, that still possess small but well developed rear limbs.
As was always the case, the distribution of these newer oldest snakes, and the anatomy of the skull and skeletal elements, makes it clear that even older snake fossils are waiting to be found.
The study is published in the journal Nature Communications. (ANI)

Dolphins set up home in the Mediterranean after the last Ice Age

February 18, 2015

University of Lincoln

The bottlenose dolphin colonized the Mediterranean only after the last Ice Age - about 18,000 years ago – according to new research.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Deep in the Siberian taiga, on the trail of Russia's elusive tigers

More than 2,000 people are combing Russia’s far east for signs of the elusive wild cats to find out whether efforts to reverse their decline have been a success

Shaun Walker near Vladivostok

Wednesday 18 February 2015 15.36 GMTLast modified on Wednesday 18 February 201518.52 GMT

With a yelp of excitement, Pavel Fomenko slammed on the brakes and jumped out of his four-wheel drive. To most eyes, little would appear extraordinary about the vista ahead – just another stretch of bumpy, snow-covered track deep inside the endless Siberian taiga.

Fomenko, however, had spotted exactly what he was looking for from the corner of his eye. He lay flat on the ground to get a close-up look at the faint imprint in the snow.

“A cub, about two years old, judging from the paw size. It was here yesterday,” he said, whipping out a metal ruler to log the exact size of the print.

Insect and mammal ovulation more alike than not?

February 19, 2015

University of Connecticut

The average American woman lives more than 80 years and ovulates for 35 of them, producing an egg approximately once a month. The typical fruit fly lives about 4 weeks as an adult and ovulates every 30 minutes. Despite the vast differences, researchers have found that during a key process in ovulation, the same gene may govern both. The results could bring insight to cancer metastasis, human fertility and ovarian disease.

Thai authorities rescue 150 Pangolins destined for traditional medicine

The Thai Army, the Black Rangers, has rescued 150 Pangolins being smuggled from Myanmar to China, via Thailand.

This is the biggest yet seizure of live Pangolins in the city of Chiang Mai, with an estimated value of 3m Thai Baht.

The Pangolin is primarily illegally traded for its scales, which are believed to have strong medical benefits in Traditional Chinese Medicine, although the young are made into soup.

However, no medical evidence exists supporting these beliefs although tens of thousands of Pangolins are cruelly poached in the wild and traded illegally.

World Animal Protection works with the Thai government to improve welfare conditions for wild animals seized in the crackdown against the illegal wildlife trade. 

Am Last, Thailand’s World Animal Protection Country Director, says: “Pangolins belong in the wild, not in medicine. The trade in these amazing animals is a serious threat to their survival.

New technology counts migrating whales by seeing the warmth of their breath

The Grey Whale migration down the west coast of America from the summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to the wintering grounds off Baja California, Mexico, is being charted in even greater detail thanks to new technology employed by scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just south of Monterey Bay.

Counts used to be done just by NOAA personnel using binoculars but now they are employing three thermal imaging cameras linked to a computer that is capable of analysing the images and distinguishing the whales from the heat put out by their blow as they surface to breathe.

“A whale is this great big motor that takes in a breath of air and holds it inside for a long time,” says Wayne Perryman, a NOAA Fisheries scientist who helped develop the new system. “When it exhales, the air is much warmer than the background, and we can detect that difference very easily, both day and night.”

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Secret of extinct British marine reptile uncovered

The fossil had been in the collections of Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery for more than 30 years until Dean Lomax (25) palaeontologist and Honorary Scientist at The University of Manchester, uncovered its hidden secrets.

Dean first examined the fossil in 2008 when he noticed several abnormalities in the bone structure which made him think he had something previously unidentified. Working with Professor Judy Massare of Brockport College, New York, he spent over five years travelling the world to check his findings and a paper explaining the discovery is published today in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Dean said: "After examining the specimen extensively, both Professor Massare and I identified several unusual features of the limb bones (humerus and femur) that were completely different to any other ichthyosaur known. That became very exciting. After examining perhaps over a thousand specimens we found four others with the same features as the Doncaster fossil."

Read more at: 

Homes wanted for turtles dumped in a Shropshire field (U.K.) Found In A Box With “Ninja Turtles” Written on It. - Herp Digest

Shropshire Star 2/16/15 (Seems to be a red-eared slider and and a Pap turtle)
They may not be very cuddly, but these two turtles are after a loving home after being dumped in a Shropshire field.
The turtles were discovered by a dog walker, sitting in a box in long grass.
Now the pair, who have been nicknamed Starsky and Hutch, are being cared for by a veterinary surgery.
The turtles were discovered by Leanne Turvey-Smith, 30, as she walked her dogs close to her home on Horsehay Common in Telford.
They had been placed inside a see-through box with holes in the top with the words 'ninja turtles' written on it.
"When I opened the box and looked inside, after my daughter pointed it out, I instantly thought they should be in some kind of water and I just took them home straight away," said Miss Turvey-Smith.
"There was no place we could have kept them safe really so I decided to report it to the RSPCA who directed me to a veterinary centre that deal with exotic animals.
Practice manager Julieann Berry with the two turtles found abandoned in a box at Horsehay
"I really hope both the little turtles are getting on okay and being treated well."
The turtles are now in the care of the staff at Taylor and Marshall Veterinary Surgeons on High Street in Shifnal, who specialise in the care of snakes, lizards and other exotic animals.
Julieann Berry, practice manager nurse, said: "They have been deprived of food and water which they desperately need so we have made sure they are now in the correct environment.
"At the moment we are quite concerned that they may have an infection due to a pink tinge at the bottom of their shells. They are clearly quite weak and we're hoping they respond well to the home we have put them in.
"We are hoping that someone will be able to re-home these little guys although at the moment it is proving quite difficult to find a new owner."
"Exotic animals are becoming more popular to have as pets. It is important people know that they are taking on a commitment and that they need caring for."
Taylor and Marshall Veterinary Surgeons can be reached on 01952 460781.

Critical green turtle habitats identified in Mediterranean - Herp Digest

Date: February 12, 2015-Source: University of Exeter
A new study led by the University of Exeter has identified two major foraging grounds of the Mediterranean green turtle and recommends the creation of a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) to preserve the vulnerable species.
The researchers tracked green turtles from breeding grounds in Cyprus, Turkey, Israel and Syria to provide the most comprehensive set of distribution data ever assembled for the species in the Mediterranean.
The study, published today in the journal Diversity and Distributions, identifies ten foraging grounds, with two major hotspots in Libya accounting for more than half of the turtles which were tracked to conclusive endpoints.
Professor Brendan Godley of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation in Biosciences at the University of Exeter, the paper's senior author, said: "We know where the major nesting grounds are but a robust understanding of where marine turtles go during migration and foraging phases is crucial to the development of effective conservation strategies. Of the two key habitats identified in this study -- the Gulf of Bomba and the Gulf of Sirte -- only the former is currently recognised as a biodiversity hotspot. The protection of both would benefit a high proportion of the adult green turtle population in the Mediterranean."
The species has suffered extreme declines in the past due to heavy overharvesting under British administration during the 20th century for meat and turtle soup. Additionally, within the region, the magnitude of marine turtle bycatch -- the unwanted fish and marine creatures trapped by commercial fishing -- is considered unsustainable by many conservationists who call for urgent action.
In this latest study, 34 female green turtles were satellite tracked from breeding grounds for a total of 8,521 tracking days between 1998 and 2010.
Dr Kim Stokes, lead author, added: "Although this study has led to a quantum leap in our knowledge of the species in the Mediterranean, there is clearly an urgent need to extend the tracking to some of the other major nesting beaches in Eastern Turkey and Cyprus to ensure we fully map the major migratory corridors and foraging grounds."
Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Journal Reference:
  1. K. L. Stokes, A. C. Broderick, A. F. Canbolat, O. Candan, W. J. Fuller, F. Glen, Y. Levy, A. F. Rees, G. Rilov, R. T. Snape, I. Stott, D. Tchernov, B. J. Godley. Migratory corridors and foraging hotspots: critical habitats identified for Mediterranean green turtles. Diversity and Distributions, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12317

Cite This Page:
University of Exeter. "Critical green turtle habitats identified in Mediterranean." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 February 2015. <>.

U.S. Forest Service balances prescribed burns with protecting endangered Dusky Gopher frog - via Herp Digest

Jan 30, 2015 6:54 AM EST, By Danielle Thomas

Firefighters are trying to prevent catastrophic wildfires without causing harm to a frog now on the brink of extinction. The U.S. Forest Service conducted a prescribed burn in Harrison County off of East Wortham Road, which is the habitat of the last few remaining Dusky Gopher Frogs in the world.
Tadpoles are kept in tanks until they are mature enough to be released to live in a nearby pond. Researchers said they're fighting to keep the last of the Dusty Gopher Frogs from becoming extinct.
"The Dusky Gopher, there is only 100 to 200 left in the world. This pond right here is the last productive population left, and mostly they've become endangered because of destruction of their habitat," said John Tupy, a researcher for West Carolina University.
U.S. Forest Service officials said they do prescribed burns each year to help protect natural habitats. However, when burning in this 450 acre area, the firefighters avoided the areas immediately adjacent to the pond as an extra precaution.
"We want to make sure when we burn we're not doing any damage to the frog," said Ben Battle, Desoto District Ranger. "Obviously, we want to make sure that we're doing the best job for the habitat and for the frog. We try to make sure that we don't get too close, because we don't want to do anything that is going to set the population back. So, we're talking with wildlife biologist to make sure that we're burning under the best conditions."
The rangers also avoided getting their heavy equipment too close to the pond where the Dusky Gopher Frogs breed. Researchers said since only 10 percent of the frogs live long enough to reach an age where they start to reproduce, protecting the pond and not hurting their chances of survival is vital.
"Well, it's extremely important," said Tupy. "It's the last productive population, so if we want to do any type of conservation or expansion with the population, it all comes from here. The health of this pond and the uplands around it are vital for keeping the species alive."
Firefighters said the burn of 450 acres is smaller than many prescribed burns. Since the area borders Highway 49 on one side and Highway 67 on the other, they didn't want heavy smoke to create dangerous conditions for drivers.
"The ideal situation is we want to get the smoke up and out, so we want to make sure that we're looking at the wind heights. The lifting heights of the smoke," said Battle.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Authorities work to free humpback whale tangled near Hawaii

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — Poor weather and dangerous seas have hampered authorities in their efforts to free a humpback whale tangled in a strong synthetic line.

The 45-foot, 45-ton whale was first noticed approximately 45 miles northwest of Hilo late Friday afternoon, too late to assess it situation and reach it. There were no reports of the whale being seen on Saturday, which West Hawaii Today reported ( was likely due to stormy conditions.

Cheap solar cells made from shrimp shells

The materials chitin and chitosan found in the shells are abundant and significantly cheaper to produce than the expensive metals such as ruthenium, which is similar to platinum, that are currently used in making nanostructured solar-cells.

Currently the efficiency of solar cells made with these biomass-derived materials is low but if it can be improved they could be placed in everything from wearable chargers for tablets, phones and smartwatches, to semi-transparent films over window.

Researchers, from QMUL's School of Engineering and Materials Science, used a process known as hydrothermal carbonization to create the carbon quantum dots (CQDs) from the widely and cheaply available chemicals found in crustacean shells. They then coat standard zinc oxide nanorods with the CQDs to make the solar cells.

Dr Joe Briscoe, one of the researchers on the project, said: "This could be a great new way to make these versatile, quick and easy to produce solar cells from readily available, sustainable materials. Once we've improved their efficiency they could be used anywhere that solar cells are used now, particularly to charge the kinds of devices people carry with them every day.

'Rewilding' dingoes could help reverse decline of Australia's native wildlife

Scientists say altering dingo-proof fencing to allow the predators into a NSW national park to prey upon pests could help restore balance to the ecosystem

Tuesday 17 February 2015 03.02 GMTLast modified on Tuesday 17 February 201503.14 GMT

Australia’s lengthy “dingo fence” should be altered to allow dingoes into a national park to test whether they can help reverse the precipitous decline of native wildlife, a group of conservation experts has recommended.

The bold experiment would involve remodelling the dingo-proof fence that stretches from eastern Queensland to the South Australian coastline. At more than 5,500km long, the barrier, originally constructed in the 1880s to keep out rabbits, is the longest fence in the world.

Altering the fence’s boundary would enable dingoes to enter the Sturt national park in New South Wales, allowing scientists to assess whether dingoes, long reviled by many people as dangerous to livestock and even humans, could in fact act as saviours for threatened native animals.

Dingoes are known to prey upon kangaroos, emus and feral goats and it’s thought they also deter foxes and feral cats – the two introduced predators blamed for causing massive declines in animals such as bilbies, bandicoots and bettongs across Australia.

Stamford's (Conneticut )SoundWaters Rescues 22 Baby Turtles Bound For Soup Pots - via Herp Digest

Where there is a video of Leigh Shemitz, president of the SoundWaters environmental education center in Stamford, explains how the facility helped to rescue 22 baby diamondback terrapin turtles that were confiscated from international smugglers in Alaska.

By David Moran, Hartford Courant

SoundWaters, the Stamford-based environmental education center, received some unexpected guests in December just before the holidays. Twenty-two of them to be exact.
But staff at one of the leading environmental education organizations on Long Island Sound weren't about to complain.
SoundWaters' guests -- 22 baby diamondback terrapin turtles – had been seized from international smugglers in Alaska by officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service. The environmental group's brood were part of 211 baby turtles that were found stuffed into boots at the Anchorage airport in December of 2014.
The turtles were likely bound for China, where turtle soup is considered a delicacy and the market for turtles is lucrative, according to SoundWaters President Leigh Shemitz.
When Shemitz said SoundWaters learned that officials were looking for foster homes for the turtles, she said the facility "jumped at the opportunity."
"The call went out to people who are involved in turtle research and education to find home for these turtles," Shemitz said. "We're part of a nationwide group, they reached out, and we said we'll take as many as you need."
Shemitz said the turtles, which are about 4 to 6 months old and 1 to 2 inches in size, are "now thriving" at SoundWaters and plans are in place to introduce the turtles to the public in the spring. In the meantime, many of the turtles got to take their first plunge into deep water on Wednesday.
"Today's the first time they actually got into our terrapin exhibit and went from maybe a two-foot long small tank to actually being in a large tank where they can dive and climb and they really seem to like it," she said.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Rare Asian black spotted turtles seized in Bengal - via Herp Digest

By Indo Asian News Service | IANS – Fri, Jan 30, 2015

Kolkata, Jan 30 IANS) Border Security Force (BSF) personnel have seized 185 rare Asian black spotted turtles, worth Rs.1.11 crore in the international market, in Kalanchi in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district while they were being smuggled to Bangladesh.
Following a specific intelligence input, BSF personnel from Kalanchi border outpost laid an ambush Thursday and challenged two persons moving suspiciously towards Bangladesh with two big cloth bags.
The duo dropped the bags and fled towards Bangladesh taking advantage of the fog and the dark, a BSF release said.
The BSF personnel searched the area and found the turtles inside the bags. This is the largest seizure of rare Asian black spotted turtles in recent times.
"The BSF authorities immediately informed forest department officials as well as Bangaon customs office. The seized turtles have been handed over to the forest department through the customs office at Bangaon", the release said.
The Indian black spotted turtle is a medium-sized freshwater turtle from South Asia. Despite its common name, the colour of this attractive turtle varies hugely with the rigid upper shell, or 'carapace', ranging from reddish to dark brown or black, often with three yellowish ridges running along its length.
These turtles are also known as Bengal black turtle, black pond turtle, Burmese black turtle, Cochin black turtle, Parker's black turtle, Sri Lanka black turtle.
The species is threatened as its meat is considered a delicacy in many areas, while it is also kept as a pet.
The species is highly endangered in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
It fetches more than USD 2,000 each in South-East Asian markets.
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