Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Orphaned tree kangaroo raised by surrogate wallaby mother in Adelaide zoo

World-first surrogacy between a wallaby and a kangaroo occurred after the tree kangaroo’s mother was killed by a falling branch

Australian Associated Press

Tuesday 30 June 2015 02.35 BST

An orphaned tree kangaroo has been raised by a surrogate wallaby mother at Adelaide zoo, in what vets say is a world first.

The orphaned tree kangaroo was named
 Makaia and lived with its surrogate
 mother for about three months. 
Photograph: Adelaide Zoo
The cross–species surrogacy between a wallaby and a kangaroo has never been attempted before but was forced on the zoo when the the tree kangaroo’s mother was killed by a falling branch.

“We had no idea if the yellow-footed rock-wallaby would accept the tree kangaroo joey, but if we wanted to save the joey we had to try our luck,” veterinarian David McLelland said.

The tree kangaroo was orphaned in November and was too young to be reared by hand.

The zoo had previously reared wallabies using surrogate mothers from other wallaby species, but had never used the technique to have a wallaby mother raise a joey tree kangaroo.

The cross-foster procedure, to get the tree kangaroo joey to latch on to the new teat, ran smoothly and tiny ripples of movement over the next few days confirmed the joey was alive and thriving.

Monkey bites woman on ear in sneak attack near Pirates of the Caribbean set

Hollywood blockbuster surrounded by further controversy after a makeup artist working on a nearby set attacked

Tuesday 30 June 2015 07.44 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 30 June 201510.09 BST

A monkey thought to be from the Gold Coast set of Pirates of the Caribbean 5 has attacked a makeup artist working on the set of another movie.

The artist, a woman in her 50s, told paramedics she was in the sound stage of the Movie World theme park about midday on Tuesday when the monkey bit her on the ear.

A Queensland ambulance service senior operations supervisor, Stephen Burns, said paramedics believed the attack was unprovoked, leaving a wound that was “fortunately not [serious]”.

“We believe that the monkey had come up behind the patient and then bit her on her right ear,” he said.

“The lady, we believe, was not making any attempt to approach the monkey. She was actually sitting down.”

Paramedics understood the monkey was “part of the Caribbean film set”, said Burns, but the attack took part on the set of an unrelated film.

It is not yet clear if the monkey was one of two capuchin monkeys specially allowed into the country on strict transport conditions to play the role of “Jack the monkey” in the Hollywood blockbuster.

500 million-year-old spiky armored worm discovered

June 29, 2015

Shayne Jacopian for redOrbit.com – @ShayneJacopian

A new species of strange “super-armored,” spike-covered, and kind of scary-sounding worm has been discovered by paleontologists from the University of Cambridge and Yunman University in China.

The worm is named Collinsium ciliosum, or the Hairy Collins’ Monster, after paleontologist Desmond Collins who first discovered a similar fossil in Canada in the ‘80s. It clung to the backs of sponges with its nine pairs of clawed legs and ate by filtering nutrients out of water with its six pairs of feathery front legs, fending off would-be predators with an armored body covered in as many as 72 hard, sharp spikes in varying sizes.

Of course, this weirdo worm was around about half a billion years ago, so you don’t have to worry about stepping on one—the spiny worms lived on the ocean floor, anyway.

According to a release from the University of Cambridge, analysis of the creature’s form and evolutionary relationships shows that the Collins’ Monster is an ancestor of modern velvet worms—squishy creatures resembling legged worms that live in tropical rainforests.

A worm in shining armor
One of the first animals on Earth to develop armor to protect itself from predators—compensation for its slow, sedentary behavior—Collinsium ciliosum lived near present-day China during the Cambrian explosion, a period of rapid evolutionary development during which most major animal groups first began to appear in the fossil record, according to the source.

The 2015 fin whale hunting season begins in Iceland

Up to 154 fin whales could be killed under this year's Icelandic quota

Iceland’s fin whaling season has begun with the first boats leaving harbour overnight to hunt for the world's second largest species of whale.

Iceland’s lone whaling operator, Kristjan Loftsson, usually begins fin whaling on or around Iceland’s National Day of June 17 but this year the departure has been delayed, apparently because of a strike by veterinary inspectors.

The vessel Winter Bay, which is registered in Saint Kitts and Nevis, had also been stuck in Hafnarfjordur harbour in Iceland for several weeks due to serious technical problems. 

The 2015 minke whaling season has already begun but has also faced delays and difficulties because of the veterinary inspectors’ strike.

According to the Minke Whalers’ Association and the Fisheries Directorate websites, 14 minke whales have so far been killed.

Iceland’s own kill quotas allow whalers to harpoon up to 229 minke whales in a season. A quota of 239 was issued for last year but only around 10% of the catch limit, 24 minkes, were killed. 

This year’s catch limit for fin whaling is 154. Last year Iceland’s whalers took 137 fin whales, the meat from which is currently in transit to Japan. 

Lions to be reintroduced to Akagera NP in Rwanda

Seven lions in top breeding condition will be translocated in the next few days from South Africa to Akagera National Park in Rwanda in a ground-breaking conservation initiative.

Lions became extinct in Akagera 15 years ago when the species was poisoned by cattle herders in the years following the 1994 genocide when the park was unmanaged.

The lions destined for Akagera include five females donated by &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, and two males that have been donated by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife from Tembe Elephant Park.

Both are relatively small, confined reserves in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, where good management dictates that it is necessary to remove surplus lions for the future wellbeing of the reserves' prides.

The Rwanda-bound lions have been selected based on future reproductive potential and their ability to contribute to social cohesion. They are sub-adult females and young adult males from different genetic stock.

Florida wildlife officials approve black bear hunting despite strong opposition

Black bears have bounced back in Florida to the extent they now need controlling, say its wildlife officials

Florida wildlife officials have approved a new bear hunting season only a few years after the animals were removed from the state's threatened species list, reports the Miami Herald.

After an impassioned public debate, mostly in opposition to the new hunting regulations, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted 5-1 for a limited black bear hunt to help control the growing population.

Florida outlawed all bear hunting in 1994, but it says a growth in the bear population and an increase in the number of nuisance calls and bears killed by cars were the reasons for allowing a new hunt. A one-week hunting season in the autumn will be allowed in four areas of the state.

Hunters applauded the decision, but critics such as The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) delivered petitions to Governor Rick Scott with the signatures of more than 90,000 people trying to stop the hunt of Florida's largest native land mammal.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Student discovers new species of firefly

June 27, 2015

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

 (Image credit: UCR Today)
While collecting insects in Los Angeles County as part of an entomology class project, a 24-year-old undergraduate student at the University of California-Riverside discovered a never before seen species of firefly.

Joshua Oliva, a native of Guatemala, found the insect while capturing, mounting and identifying 300 insects as part of the class project, according to The Orange County Register. The firefly was recovered from an area of Topanga Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The discovery was later confirmed by Doug Yanega, head of the campus entomology museum, and experts from the University of Florida. “I’ve been told by other people a number of times, ‘Hey, you discovered a new species,’” Yanega told the newspaper. “This was the first time I’ve given the news to someone else who’s discovered one. It was very gratifying.”

“He wasn’t 100 percent certain it was a firefly, and brought it to me for confirmation,” the curator added in a statement. “I know the local fauna well enough that within minutes I was able to tell him he had found something entirely new to science. I don’t think I’ve seen a happier student in my life.”


11:59 am

This will be my second post about New Jersey in the past couple days. Hey New Jersey, you turnin’ into the new Florida?! Anyway, a South NJ resident and his son were fishing in a man-made lake called Swedes Lake in Burlington County and caught a Pacu fish which isn’t indigenous to the area. If you notice, the Pacu fish has human-like teeth.

Now you may have heard about this Pacu fish before which has a hilarious reputation for only attacking men’s balls. The truth is, the rumors about this Pacu fish feasting on male testicles is pretty much more of an urban legend than actual fact. The Pacu “folklore” started in Papua, New Guinea with the nickname for the fish they coined translating as “ball cutters.” Now I’m not saying the Pacu fish has never attacked a dude’s balls before—they’re not known to be the friendliest fish, either—it’s just not as common as most people would have you believe.

The real threat with this fish is that it’s not indigenous to the area and could mess with the whole ecosystem, i.e. spreading disease and spurring fiercer competition for food.

More than anything, the Pacu fish is in need of a good dentist. Lookit that tartar buildup. Daily flossing is a must!

“Handsome” gorilla gains fame in Japan

June 28, 2015

John Hopton for redOrbit.com – @Johnfinitum

A ‘handsome’ gorilla at a zoo in Nagoya, Japan has found fame on Twitter after smoldering photos of him were used in the zoo’s spring advertisements.

Shabani, a 400 pound silverback, has also attracted crowds of local admirers – particularly female ones. According to CNN, swooning fans “constantly” surround his enclosure at Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens, often 100 at a time.

(Credit: Higashiyama Zoo Botanical Garden)
Staff say the gorilla is 18 years old and in the prime of his life, but this silverback also has a Clooney-esque sophistication to add to his physical prowess. He has become famous for flexing his muscles and for his intense, brooding stares when being photographed.

“He often rests his chin on his hands and looks intently at you,” zoo spokesman Takayuki Ishikawa told AFP, quoted by Discovery. “He is more buff than most gorillas. We’ve seen a rise in the number of female visitors — women say he’s very good-looking.”

What women want?

Added to good looks on his long list of attributes is the protectiveness he shows to his family. Shabani has two ‘wives’, Ai and Nene, and two children – Kiyomasi and Annie. Keepers and visitors alike say he appears to be a model father.

“He always protects and looks over his children,” Ishikawa said. “Zoo-goers think his kindness is attractive too.”

In fact, his camera poses can be explained by this protective instinct, rather than any Hollywood ambitions.

“He will look you in the eye and sometimes if you’re taking photos it will look like he’s posing for you like a model,” Ishikawa said, “But he’s the head of a group of five gorillas so it’s likely he’s just watching out for them and keeping an eye on you.”

WWF films tiger being released back to the wild

WWF has filmed an Amur Tiger being released back into the wild after spending time in a wild animal rehabilitation centre in the Russian Far East.

The tiger is a young male called Uporny, who was captured in November 2014 after being identified as a ‘conflict’ tiger.
He had been living in an area where there was a lack of prey and had killed dogs to survive. There were also fears that he could come into conflict with humans in a nearby town. 
After undergoing the necessary health checks in a wild animal rehabilitation centre in the Russian Far East, Uporny was released into a sparsely inhabited mountainous area. 

Uporny’s new home is an area with a good source of prey. It’s also home to a female Amur tiger, which provides hope that Uporny will not only continue to live wild and free, but also breed – contributing to the recovering tiger population in Russia.

The Russian government Forest Department (Ministry of Natural Resource of Khabarovsky Province) organised and implemented the translocation operation with the help of WWF and the Amur Tiger Center. 

Fewer tiger subspecies, better protection?

Date: June 27, 2015

Source: Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB)

Summary: New scientific research could help to protect tigers (Panthera tigris) from extinction. The findings indicate that tigers should be classified as only two subspecies – up to now nine subspecies were previously recognized. This will have a significant impact on species conservation since management efforts and breeding programs can now be organized in a simpler, more flexible and effective way.

150-year-old tortoise dies at San Diego Zoo - via D R Shoop

A rare Galápagos tortoise, known affectionately as 'Speed,' has died at the San Diego Zoo — his home of more than eight decades. He was (approximately) 150.

After suffering for years from arthritis and other problems, which the zoo staff sought "to treat with medication, hydrotherapy, physical therapy, even acupuncture," according to The Los Angeles Times, "a decision was made on Friday to euthanize Speed."

Speed came to the zoo in 1933 from Isabela Island in the Galápagos chain off Ecuador as part of an early effort to preserve the endangered species. The giant tortoises reside only in the Pacific islands that were made famous for helping to inspire Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

According to the LA Times: "For years Speed and other Galápagos tortoises resided at the Children's Zoo, where youngsters were allowed to ride them. (A practice long since abandoned)."

Later, in 2010, along with 13 other Galápagos tortoises, he was moved to a new $1-million habitat near the reptile house at the zoo.

According to the San Diego Zoo's website, males Galápagos tortoises can weigh more than 500 pounds, while females can reach about half that size. They represent a classic example of "island gigantism," a phenomenon that results from isolation. When species colonize islands and enjoy comparatively few, if any predators, they tend to evolve larger bodies.

"There are two types of Galápagos tortoises. The largest, with big, round shells, are called 'domes.' The smaller kinds of tortoises have shells that curl up in front like a saddle and are called 'saddlebacks,'" the zoo says.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Extinction Up Close: A Rare Turtle Under Assault from Poachers (Philippines Palawan Forest Turtles Siebenrockiella leytensis,) - via Herp Digest

By Andrew C. Revkin DOT Earth, Blog, New York Times
June 24, 2015 5:17 pm 

The paper, published last week in Science Advances used a new approach to estimate global extinction rates and supports previous studies finding that Earth is in the midst of a human-driven “mass extinction” spasm on the scale of past mass die-offs triggered by geophysical calamities. (Another important paper last week, assessing evidence for “mass extinction in poorly known taxa” — a euphemism for low-profile organisms, particularly invertebrates — came up with this dark conclusion: “[We] may already have lost 7 percent of the species on Earth and…the biodiversity crisis is real.”)
I’m still doing reporting on aspects of the Science Advances paper, including on the curious omission of invasive species as a core driver of losses in recent decades. Its conclusion that the mass loss of species imperils human civilization is also ripe for analysis. (A firmer conclusion would be that reducing the planet’s species abundance and richness cannot be good for H. sapiens.) With that in mind, please read an invaluable piece by Cara Giaimo in Atlas Obscura focused on concerns of Stuart Pimm, a leading analyst of extinction, that the public is missing equally important recent science revealing ways to stem the tide.
But it’s worth setting aside these broader questions for a moment to look at what human pressures on rare or isolated species look like up close.
Last Thursday, authorities in the Philippine island province of Palawan confiscated a horrifying trove of more than 4,400 freshwater turtles, 3,800 of which were the critically endangered Palawan forest turtle, Siebenrockiella leytensis.
More than 4,400 freshwater turtles, including 3,800 endangered Palawan forest turtles, were confiscating from a poacher in the Philippines last week.Credit Katala Foundation
A 2012 study published by the international conservation union describes, wrenchingly, how the discovery of the significant population of this turtle at the north tip of Palawan island sparked a “collecting frenzy”:
The recent discovery of a natural population of S. leytensis on Palawan has already spurred a collecting frenzy among wildlife trappers and traders to supply domestic and international markets for the illegal wildlife trade. In spite of its official protected status in local and international listings, the illegal trade in S. leytensis is rampant and is perceived currently as the greatest threat to the species. This threat is exacerbated by the continuing destruction of the lowland forests of Palawan, the primary habitat of the species. If the current trend of overexploitation continues, it is certain that several subpopulations of S. leytensis will soon collapse. In the face of these threats, wildlife authorities on Palawan must immediately enforce relevant laws and encourage greater coordination among appropriate government agencies that typically work in isolation.
The latest reports, from a coalition of turtle conservation groups and the Katala Foundation in Palawan, along with the anti-trafficking group Traffic, show how this has been playing out in a mass roundup and trafficking operation, with the turtles secreted by Chinese merchants in shipments of rattan bound for Hong Kong, where the turtles end up sold both as prized pets and a culinary delicacy. The smuggling route had already been noted in 2012.
In a phone interview, Eric Goode, the founder of the Turtle Conservancy, which breeds and releases rare turtles, said the Palawan forest turtle is particularly vulnerable because of its small range but also because the turtles retreat into communal burrows along stream banks during the day, making poachers’ work easy.
“We work Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden in Hong Kong,” Goode told me. “They’ve been noticing large numbers of this turtle in the food market and pet trade.” He said one indication of the expanded poaching was a drop in the price from 2,500 Hong Kong dollars (about $322 U.S.) to 500 dollars (about $64).
The confiscation of the turtles was hailed today by conservation groups, but Goode said there’s a big challenge in returning them to the wild. Some 3,000 have already been released, but with no certainty they will thrive given the specialize habits.
Please read more in “Crisis in the Philippines,” by the turtle coalition.e

DPaW shells out for Sea turtle transmitters - via Herp Digest

by Rourke Walsh- June 1, 2015, The West Australian

Baby flatback turtles carrying tiny satellite transmitters were released into Kimberley waters on Tuesday.

Department of Parks and Wildlife principal scientist Scott Whiting said the transmitters would provide vital information about the "lost years" after flatback hatchlings entered the sea.
"Evidence suggests flatback turtles are unique among marine turtles and do not spend their early years in the open ocean, but remain on the continental shelf during their development," he said.
"This project will help fill in the knowledge gaps about their early movements, important habitats and may provide some insight into why they don't venture into the open ocean.
"We plan to release 35 four-month-old turtles 4km offshore at Eighty Mile Beach Marine Park, so they are not exposed to inshore predators and have the best chance of surviving."
Dr Whiting said it was the first time neonate, or juvenile, flatback turtles had been tracked with satellite technology.
"These hatchlings were collected at Eighty Mile Beach in January and were raised at AQWA until they each weighed 300 grams or more, so they were big enough to hold a small solar-powered satellite transmitter," Dr Whiting said.
"This is the smallest technology currently available, but it is too large to attach to hatchlings straight from the nest." 

Dr Whiting said people could track some of the released turtles at http://www.seaturtle.org/trackinghttp://www.seaturtle.org/tracking.

Invasive mussels: Stowaways on transported boats

Date:  June 25, 2015

Source:  EAWAG: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology

Summary: When recreational boats are transported overland, they are often accompanied by zebra mussels, attached to the hull. This alien species, which first appeared in Switzerland in 1960, can thus invade other natural waters. A new study which identified the main transport routes recommends various preventive measures that could at least slow the spread of invasive species. Meanwhile, quagga mussels have also been detected for the first time in the Rhine at Basel.

More endangered pygmy sloths in Panama than previously estimated

Isolated species provides unique conservation opportunity

Date:June 26, 2015

Source:Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Summary:Pygmy sloths wander inland in addition to inhabiting the mangrove fringes of their island refuge. A researchers now suggests that the population size of the pygmy sloth has been underestimated; a new, higher estimate for the number of sloths on Panama's Escudo de Veraguas Island points to how little is known about the species, and it underscores the need to conserve the sloths' isolated home.

Call for more protection for seagrass meadows

By Helen BriggsBBC Environment correspondent

27 June 2015 

Seagrasses - the underwater plants that act as nursery grounds for young fish - need more protection, say scientists.

Monitoring of seagrass meadows off the North Wales coast found areas damaged by the likes of boat moorings, anchors and vehicles crossing at low tide had reduced value to the ecosystem.

Fewer species of fish were found where seagrass was degraded, according to research published in PeerJ journal.

The seagrass studied was near the village of Porthdinllaen, in Gwynedd.

Researchers at Swansea University studied areas with both high and low cover over a 28-hectare stretch of sea bed.

They also sampled fish living in the underwater meadows of flowering plants.

There was a three-fold reduction in the diversity of fish species and invertebrates, such as prawns, shrimp, juvenile cod and juvenile plaice, in areas of low cover, said lead researcher Dr Richard Unsworth.

Waging war on Australia's nastiest parasite: Scientists map blowfly genome

Date:June 26, 2015

Source:University of Melbourne

Summary:Researchers have decoded the Australian sheep blowfly genome, adding ammunition to the battle against one of the nation's most insidious pests. This blowfly is responsible for about $280 million in losses to Australia's sheep industry each year from flystrike.

All 14,544 genes of the blowfly (Lucilia cuprina) were identified by the international research team, led by the University of Melbourne, in partnership with the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center, and funded by the United States National Human Genome Research Institute and Australian Wool Innovation.

The research, published in Nature Communications, provides insights into the fly's molecular biology, how it interacts with the sheep's biology and, importantly, shows its potential to develop insecticide resistance.

Blowfly maggots live on the skin of sheep and invade open wounds, where they feed on tissue and cause severe skin disease, known as myiasis or flystrike. It is an aggressive and notoriously difficult pest to control.

Friday, 26 June 2015

New method for testosterone determination in spotted hyenas

Date: June 24, 2015

Source: Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB)

Summary: For the first-time, researchers have succeeded in measuring metabolites of testosterone excreted in the feces of spotted hyenas. This innovative non-invasive research method is essential to avoid disturbance of animals.

In male mammals, testosterone plays a key role in both development and reproduction. Thus, measures of changes in testosterone concentration both within an animal's lifespan and across populations provide information essential for an understanding of growth, reproductive strategies and aging. However, hormone research normally requires the taking of blood samples, which in wild animals is difficult, and not always possible, particularly in protected areas where the capture of wild animals is often prohibited. Additionally, capture and blood sampling may cause stress in wild animals, thereby inducing a change in the hormone concentration being measured. In contrast, the non-invasive monitoring of hormones avoids all these problems. Thus, physiological data of free-ranging animals can be collected easily, thereby allowing repeated sampling from the same animal in its natural environment throughout its lifespan.

Details and verification of the efficacy of the first antibody-based enzyme immunoassay to monitor fecal testosterone metabolites in spotted hyenas are published in PLOS ONE. It is now possible to investigate the influence of age, social status and reproductive behavioural strategies on testosterone concentrations in wild spotted hyenas.

More than 14% of England's honeybee colonies died over winter

British Beekeepers Association says level of winter losses is unacceptably high as European Food Safety Authority launches investigation into bee threats
Alison Benjamin

Thursday 25 June 2015 16.33 BSTLast modified on Thursday 25 June 201516.39 BST

More than 14% of England’s honeybee colonies died over the winter, the latest research from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) has found.

The BBKA’s annual survey of beekeepers across England’s found that winter losses were highest in the west country (18%) and lowest in the north of England (11.8).

The average reported losses for 2014/15 of 14.5% were higher than 2013/14 when only 9.6% of colonies perished, but much lower than the winter of 2012/13 when a third of hives died, and below the average losses since the survey began eight years ago of 19.3%.

The BBKA says winter losses remain at an “unacceptably high levels and are still in excess of what might be considered normal losses of 5-10%”. It blames poor and variable weather, bee diseases and parasites such as the varroa mite and starvation.

But Francis Ratnieks, professor of apiculture at Sussex University, describes this year’s losses as very low and easily managed by beekeepers. “Honeybee colonies have the capacity to double in number every summer when they swarm, or the beekeepers splits the colony in two, so 14.5% winter losses are totally sustainable,” he says. “A good summer allowed the bees to forage and go into the winter well fed and strong.”

His own 100-strong apiary lost just two hives. “If you make sure your bees have food, a healthy queen and are treated for the varroa mite, you should be able to get winter losses down to single digits,” Ratnieks insists.

Read on ...

Fading Florida Panthers Need New Paths to Safety

Michael Sainato | June 25, 2015 04:43pm ET

Michael Sainato is a freelancer with credits including the Miami Herald, Huffington Post and The Hill. Follow him on Twitter at @msainat1. Sainato contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

A vanishing and elusive relic of nature, the cougar subspecies known as the Florida panther has been flirting with extinction in a dwindling wilderness for a century. With a habitat degraded to less than five percent of its historical range — veritable isolation in south Florida — wildlife conservationists estimate the panthers currently number between 100 and 200 individuals. With such a small population, experts believe the animal cannot maintain genetic diversity and survive.

For Florida panthers to expand their numbers, they need an expanded range, and as of this May, a corridor of protected lands are now linked, providing that needed space.

Royal Navy bomb explosions caused mass whale deaths, report concludes

Noise from underwater bombs caused 19 pilot whales to beach and die off the coast of Scotland in 2011, say government scientists

Wednesday 24 June 2015 14.09 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 24 June 201514.12 BST

Four large bombs exploded underwater by the Royal Navy were to blame for a mass stranding which killed 19 pilot whales on the north coast of Scotland in 2011, government scientists have concluded.

A long-delayed report released on Wednesday by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs says that the noise from the explosions could have damaged the hearing and navigational abilities of the whales, causing them to beach and die.

On 22 July 2011, 70 long-finned pilot whales swam into the Kyle of Durness, a shallow tidal inlet east of Cape Wrath, Europe’s largest live bombing range. Despite attempts to herd them back out to sea, 39 were left stranded by the tide.

Concerted efforts by expert teams and local people managed to refloat 20, but 19 ended up dead. It was one of the largest mass strandings in recent years, and it prompted a government-funded investigation by 12 scientists from laboratories across the UK.

Blue and fin whale distribution in waters off Southern California

Date: June 25, 2015

Source: University of California - San Diego

Summary: A new study indicates a steady population trend for blue whales and an upward population trend for fin whales in Southern California.

Scripps marine acoustician Ana Širović and her colleagues in the Marine Bioacoustics Lab and Scripps Whale Acoustic Lab intermittently deployed 16 High-frequency Acoustic Recording Packages (HARPs)--devices that sit on the seafloor with a suspended hydrophone (an underwater microphone)--to collect acoustic data on whales off Southern California from 2006-2012.

Blue and fin whales are common inhabitants of the Southern California Bight, the curved region of California coastline with offshore waters extending from San Diego to Point Conception (near Santa Barbara, Calif.), but little is known about their use of the area.

Will Fake Rhino Horns Curb Poaching?

by Tia Ghose, Senior Writer | June 26, 2015 06:11am ET

A new company is engineering a synthetic rhino horn that could be indistinguishable from the natural kind.

The goal is to flood the black market for rhino horn, which is prized in some parts of Asia for its purported medicinal value, according to the company, called Pembient.

By decreasing the amount of money the horn fetches, the company founders hope to reduce the incentive for poachers in Africa to kill rhinos. As part of the process, scientists at the company are also sequencing the genome of the black rhino, which could help conservationists and basic scientists learn more about the imperiled creatures.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Newly discovered glowing corals could have medical uses

June 24, 2015

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

An international team of researchers has discovered a colorful array of glowing corals in deep water reefs located in the Red Sea, and their efforts could make it possible for these pigments to be developed into new imaging tools for use in biomedical applications.

View the video of the rainbow corals here.

Scientists from the University of Southampton in the UK, the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences (IUI) and Tel Aviv University in Israel, and collaborators from other parts of the world studied corals at depths of more than 50 meters. They found that many glow brightly in an array of different fluorescent colors, ranging from green to yellow to red.

The discovery of these colorful corals in such deep water was unexpected; the researchers said in a statement, as coral found in shallow waters in the same reef were just green fluorescent pigments. Their findings have been published online in the journal PLOS One.

First species of yeti crab from hydrothermal vent systems near Antarctica described

Date:June 24, 2015

Source:University of Southampton

Summary:The first species of yeti crab from hydrothermal vent systems of the East Scotia Ridge in the Southern Ocean, Antarctica, has been described. This Yeti Crab is famous for its body, which is densely covered by bristles -- known as setae -- and bacteria, giving it a fur-like appearance.

Porcupines can't jump: Camera traps in the forest canopy reveal dwarf porcupine behavior

Date:June 24, 2015

Source:Pensoft Publishers

Summary:A team of researchers documenting the use of natural canopy bridges over a pipeline clearing with camera traps in Peru found an unexpected animal using some of the bridges. At least 17 dwarf porcupines were photographed. Previously known only as far south as Iquitos in Northern Peru, the discovery was made some 900km away from the closest previous record.

Ancient, Shell-Less Turtle Sported Whiplike Tail

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | June 24, 2015 02:00pm ET

An ancestor of modern-day turtles, a shell-less creature with a long tail once puttered around an ancient lake, likely munching on insects and worms with its peglike teeth, a new study finds.

Researchers found the first fossils of the 240-million-year-old creature in 2006, during an excavation of Vellberg Lake, an ancient lakebed in southeastern Germany, said study researcher Hans Sues, a curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Smithsonian Museum ofNatural History  in Washington, D.C.

"We now have well over a dozen specimens, including partial skeletons but also some isolated parts of skeletons," Sues told Live Science. "But we have a nice spectrum of sizes, so you can sort of see how the animal grows and changes." 

Madagascar's lemurs cling to survival

Science editor

David Shukman goes in search of lemurs in their natural habitat

The famous lemurs of Madagascar face such severe threats to their survival that none of them may be left in the wild within 25 years.

That stark warning comes from one of the world's leading specialists in the iconic animals.

Deforestation and hunting are taking an increasing toll, according to Professor Jonah Ratsimbazafy, director of GERP, a centre for primate research in Madagascar.

"My heart is broken," he told the BBC, "because the situation is getting worse as more forests disappear every year. That means the lemurs are in more and more trouble."

So far 106 species of lemur have been identified and nearly all of them are judged to be at risk of extinction, many of them critically endangered.

The habitats they depend on - mostly a variety of different kinds of forest - only exist in Madagascar.

"Just as fish cannot survive without water, lemurs cannot survive without forest, but less than 10% of the original Madagascar forest is left," said Prof Ratsimbazafy, who is also a co-vice chair of the Madagascar primates section of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The man who keeps finding new species of shark

By Sara Lentati
BBC World Service

24 June 2015 

Most people have heard of great white, hammerhead and tiger sharks but there are many other species - and every year a number of new ones are discovered. One enthusiast has, so far, identified 24 types of shark and related fish that were previously unknown.

Dave Ebert has a favourite market in Taiwan. He's been going there since he was a student 30 years ago.

It's hot, humid and noisy - baskets are filled to the brim with a staggering variety of fish. Beach umbrellas provide some relief from the sun as puddles of water collect on the concrete floor.

"I started seeing a lot of species and I was going, 'What the heck is this?' And in many cases it was a known species but we didn't know it occurred here. Then I realised there were some species we didn't even have names for, they weren't even known about, and here people were catching them and selling them," he says, remembering his first visit.

"I collected so many specimens I filled up my suitcases. I rinsed them in water and preserved them in ethanol and basically just wrapped them up in my clothes to keep them moist and put them in plastic bags so they wouldn't leak."

'Endangered' Cougar Has Likely Been Extinct for 70 Years

by Elizabeth Howell, Live Science Contributor | June 24, 2015 07:50am ET

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is planning to remove the eastern cougar from the endangered species list after determining the subspecies has likely been extinct for 70 years.

The proposal comes after a formal review of the subspecies' status that concluded in 2011. Wildlife officials looked at more than 100 reports (going back to 1900) and found that recent "sightings" of the eastern cougar were actually of Florida panthers, wild western cougars or other cougars that escaped from captivity or were released.

The FWS also looked at available historical and scientific studies, and consulted experts in 21 U.S. states and some eastern Canadian provinces.

No need for sophisticated hunting techniques: Equatorial bats live the easy life

Date:June 23, 2015

Source:University of Southern Denmark

Summary:Most of the world's bats use extremely sophisticated hunting techniques, but not bats around the equator. They use pretty much the same less sophisticated hunting techniques as their ancestors did millions of years ago. They probably do not need more than that, because life at the equator is easy, scientists say.

Survival of the Feces: Why Some Caterpillars Look Like Poop

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | June 24, 2015 07:31am ET

Curling up to look like a pile of poop might not sound appealing, but it's a useful strategy that some species of caterpillars use to hide from hungry birds, a new study finds.

This caterpillar (Macrauzata maxima) is more likely 
to survive if its body is curled to look like a blob
 of bird poop.  Credit: Chisa Ito
The moment the caterpillar uncurls, birds are more likely to realize that it's not a pile of excrement but rather a tasty snack, said study researcher Toshitaka Suzuki, a postdoctoral fellow of evolutionary studies at the Graduate University for Advanced Studies in Kanagawa, Japan.

The bird-poop disguise is a type of camouflage called "masquerade," a defense that helps animals look like inedible objects, such as twigs, stones or bird droppings. Suzuki noticed that certain caterpillars curled up their bodies to masquerade as poop, but it wasn't clear whether this disguise increased their rate of survival, he said.

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