Friday 31 July 2015

Research could lead to protective probiotics for frogs

Date: July 30, 2015

Source: American Society for Microbiology

Summary: In research that could lead to protective probiotics to fight the 'chytrid' fungus that has been decimating amphibian populations worldwide, researchers have grown bacterial species from the skin microbiome of four species of amphibians.

'Golden jackals' of East Africa are actually 'golden wolves'

Date: July 30, 2015

Source: Cell Press

Summary: Despite their remarkably similar appearance, the 'golden jackals' of East Africa and Eurasia are actually two entirely different species. The discovery, based on DNA evidence, increases the overall biodiversity of the Canidae -- the group including dogs, wolves, foxes, and jackals -- from 35 living species to 36.

Costa Rica Becomes First Latin American Country to Ban Hunting for Sport

by Lori Zimmer, 06/27/15

Costa Rica just became the first country in Latin America to ban hunting for sport. Costa Rica’s Congress voted unanimously on Monday to approve the ban, which will protect the country’s wildlife – including several species of native big cats. Any hunters caught breaking the new law will face jail time or hefty fines.

Hunters from around the world flock to Costa Rica to hunt the country’s jaguars and pumas for sport – or to capture the cats and sell them on the black market as pets. Illegal hunting tours bring in a pretty penny for tour leaders, and their popularity helped spur the newly announced ban. Parrots are also a target, since they can be captured and smuggled out to be sold as pets around the world.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Britain's biggest barbel fish, the Big Lady, killed by otter

Anglers want to banish otters amid depleting fish stocks after 20lb barbel dragged out of River Ivel in Bedfordshire and has its throat torn out

By Agency

10:44AM BST 30 Jul 2015

Britain's biggest barbel fish has been killed by an otter, sparking renewed calls by the angling community for a clampdown on the aquatic animals that are now thriving in the countryside.

The large freshwater fish, nicknamed the Big Lady and which was hugely popular with anglers, was seen to be dragged out of a river by a marauding otter that then tore its throat out and partially ate it.

The record specimen weighed more than 20lbs and was believed to be the largest living barbel in UK waters. Six more large coarse fish from the same river, the Ivel in Bedfordshire, have also fallen victim to otter predation in the last three months.

Otters are enjoying a comeback after they were re-introduced into British waterways by conservationists in the 1980s after once being on the brink of extinction.

Despite their fluffy appearance and association with Henry Williamson's much-loved children's book, Tarka the Otter, the marine animals are carnivourous and ferocious hunters.

Critics say the conservation scheme was ill-thought out as there is not enough food in our waterways to sustain their booming numbers. As a result, otters - which have no natural predator - are said to have been picking off expensive, cumbersome fish like carp and barbel from fisheries and putting businesses in jeopardy.

Manatees show up in North Carolina again as more 'sea cows' leave Florida

The ‘sea cows’ have also traveled north to Georgia and even Virginia
There have been nine sightings in North Carolina this year

Associated Press in Wilmington, North Carolina

Thursday 30 July 2015 16.38 BST
Last modified on Thursday 30 July 201516.53 BST

Researchers say manatees have again been spotted in the marinas and waters in south-eastern North Carolina – far from their natural Florida habitat.

The StarNews of Wilmington reported that local researchers have found that the manatees have travelled north to Georgia, the Carolinas and even Virginia.

Erin Cummings with the University of North Carolina Wilmington has charted the “sea cows” in North Carolina waters since the 1990s. Cummings says manatees have been reported in North Carolina dating to the 1930s.

Humpback whale recovery in Australia: A cause for celebration

Australian humpback whales be downlisted from threatened species status

Date:July 28, 2015


Summary:Australia has one of the highest rates of animal species that face extinction in the world. However, over the last decade, there have been animals that are rebounding. One example is the conservation success story of the recovery of the humpback whales that breed in Australian waters. A new study reviews data collected in past studies and proposes a revision of the conservation status for humpback whales found in Australian waters.

Single hair shows researchers what a bear has been eating

New technology reveals protein intake, mercury levels

July 28, 2015
Washington State University
Researchers have found they can get a good idea of a grizzly bear's diet over several months by looking at a single hair. The technique, which measures residues of trace metals, can be a major tool in determining if the threatened animals are getting enough of the right foods to eat.
Continued ...

'Extinct' fly found in Devon nature reserve

30 July 2015 

A fly thought to be extinct in the UK has been found in a Devon nature reserve.

The rhaphium pectinatum was last recorded in Britain 147 years ago in 1868 but was rediscovered in Old Sludge Beds on the outskirts of Exeter.

The fly is from the Dolichopidiae family, a group known as long-legged flies, and is usually found in tropical parts of the world.

Devon Fly Group member Rob Wolton said he was surprised by the find.

The last recorded sighting was on 19 July 1868 when the Victorian entomologist George Verrall caught a male and female at Richmond in south-west London.
'Brackish conditions'

Mr Wolton, who is also a member of Dipterists Forum, which specialises in the study of flies, said: "Imagine my surprise when I examined my catch that evening to find it included a fly that was presumed extinct in Britain.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Sir Roger Moore on Cecil the lion: 'Hunting is a coward's pastime'

We should protect the most vulnerable and helpless in society, not destroy them – much less derive pleasure from doing so

By Sir Roger Moore

8:16PM BST 29 Jul 2015

Fact: hunting is a coward's pastime, and no one has demonstrated that more clearly than the American dentist Walter Palmer, who apparently paid over £30,000 to gun down a lion to add his head to a trophy wall. That wall includes the heads of animals he has shot at close range – with the help of paid facilitators, of course, from all over the world – including a leopard, an elk, a buffalo and even a polar bear, who won't have to wait for global warming to be killed off.

What happened bears repeating: the man, aided by several guides, did not stalk a wild beast who was a danger to anyone. The animal was lured out of his safety zone in a park and was blinded by a spotlight. Palmer then fired a high-powered weapon to injure the lion, who, with a steel arrow stuck through him, crept away and suffered for 40 long hours before the "hunter" arrived and the animal was skinned and decapitated.

It has been alleged that the guides also tried to hide the radio collar on Cecil's neck because it contained a tracking device. You'd be forgiven for thinking that behind the dentist's unnaturally white teeth is a person devoid of moral fibre, conscience or decency.

Closing roads to save tigers

Date: July 27, 2015

Source: Wildlife Conservation Society

A logging company, working with local authorities and WCS, has agreed to begin dismantling abandoned logging roads currently being used by poachers to access prime Amur (Siberian) tiger habitat in the Russian Far East.

The agreement was made by the Terney County Forest Service, WCS, and the largest logging company in the region, TerneyLes. The roads will be made impassable through a combination of bridge removals, trenches, and bulldozing bottlenecks such as where a road runs between a river and cliff.

Death of rare Northern White Rhino leaves four alive

29 July 2015 
From the section

The BBC filmed Nabire in 2014 at the Dvur Kralove Zoo

One of the last five Northern White Rhino left in the world has died.

Nabire, a 31-year-old female, died at the Dvur Kralove zoo in the Czech Republic on Monday evening of a ruptured cyst.

Her death leaves just three females and one male alive; one of them at the San Diego Zoo and three at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy reserve in Kenya.

The sub-species has been on the brink of extinction for years because of hunting and habitat loss.

"The pathological cyst inside the body of Nabire was huge. There was no way to treat it," said Jiří Hrubý, a rhino curator at the zoo.

Nabire was born at the Czech Zoo and was one of the last hopes for the animal. She was plagued with reproductive cysts, but conservationists had long hoped to harvest eggs from her healthy left ovary to use for in vitro fertilization (IVF).

One attempt was made to do this while Nabire was still alive. After her death the ovary was removed and taken to a specialised lab in Italy.

If it is possible at all, any IVF attempt will now almost certainly require the implantation of a Northern White Rhino embryo in the closely related Southern White Rhino, which are more numerous.

'Leaders and lifters' help ants move massive meals

By Jonathan Webb
Science reporter, BBC News

29 July 2015 
From the section Science & Environment

Scientists in Israel have discovered how ants co-operate to move big chunks of food back to their nests.

A large team of ants does the heavy lifting but they lack direction, while a small number of "scouts" intervene and steer for short periods.

They appear to have a mathematically perfect balance between individuality and conformism, the researchers said.

The discovery was made by analysing videos of ants carrying oversized food items, including Cheerios.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study used a very common species known as the longhorn crazy ant.

The only communication in the system is the forces that they feel through the objectDr Ofer Feinerman, Weizmann Institute of Science

The species' name refers to the way the little creatures dash about, frequently changing direction with apparently aimless abandon.

But the new findings suggest that the level of aimlessness in these ants' behaviour is in fact very finely tuned.
Pushy scouts

"The group is tuned to be maximally sensitive to the leader ants," said the paper's senior author Dr Ofer Feinerman, a physicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.

Hiding in plain sight: New insect species discovered in South East Queensland, Australia

July 27, 2015
University of Queensland
A previously unknown species of insect living has been discovered living within reach of Australian suburbia. A researcher investigated the insect responsible for bush coconuts in South East Queensland, stating that until recently there were only two known species of the insect Cystococcus that lived inside these galls.
Continued ...

Tuesday 28 July 2015

African wildcat caught on camera riding on the back of rhino in rare footage

The 'world-first' video was captured by animal conservationists

Tuesday 28 July 2015

A genet cat has been filmed riding the back of a rhino on a nature reserve in South Africa.

The genet, a cat-like animal with a long tail and spotted coat, was seen sitting on top of buffalo and rhinos in photographs last year but the act has now been caught on video for the first time.

In the surprising footage, the cat sits on the rhino's back and swats at creatures as they fly past.

The conservationists called the footage a discovery of a new and rare "mammal symbiotic relationship" and have speculated that the cat may have been using the larger animals as a vantage point for hunting its prey.

India conducts first official survey of Ganges dolphins

Conservation programme aims to protect the endangered species and restore biodiversity of the polluted river, reports The Straits Times

Nirmala Ganapathy for The Straits Times, part of the Climate Publishers Network

Tuesday 28 July 2015 11.22 BST

The conservation of dolphins in India’s holiest, but most polluted waterway, is under the spotlight as the country conducts its first official count of the freshwater species.

An estimated 450 volunteers, government experts and conservationists will take part in the exercise, which spans the states of Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, in November and December.

“This is the first time a unified survey will be done for an aquatic animal. It has been done for elephants and tigers but this is more complicated,” Dr Sandeep Behera, consultant at the government’s National Mission for Clean Ganga, told The Sunday Times. “We are doing the survey in winter, when water levels drop and we can capture numbers in small isolated pockets and get a good idea of the population.”

The government also hopes to gauge the health of the river in the process. “This time we have taken aquatic biodiversity as an indicator of how pollution is affecting the Ganges,” said Dr Behera.

What's Causing Florida's Leprosy Cases?

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | July 27, 2015 04:27pm ET

Leprosy is often thought to be an ancient disease, but leprosy-causing bacteria continue to infect people in the southern United States, including in Florida, where nine people have been diagnosed with the disease so far this year.

What's to blame? It could be the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) that roams wild across much of the Southeast, experts say.

"Keep your distance from armadillos," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, who wasn't involved in the Florida cases. "Don't play with them, don't eat them and don't keep them as pets."

Unique opportunity to celebrate International Bat Night

On Friday 28 August, to mark International Bat Night, The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) is offering wildlife enthusiasts, their families and friends the opportunity to stay overnight in a 13th century church inhabited by a colony of Natterer’s bats.

Guests are invited to sleep in the aisle of the church and sample “champing” (church camping) whilst learning more about the mysterious creatures overhead from bat experts on site.

The event will take place at The Church of St John the Baptist in Parson’s Drove, Cambridgeshire, a stunning Grade II* church which has been in The CCT’s care since 1974 and which is a long-time favourite of both bats and architecture enthusiasts.

An expert bat-handler will lead the evening with a presentation about the fascinating animals and everyone will have a chance to try out the bat detectors.

After sunset, the bats will appear from under the church roof and guests can help The CCT count them as they emerge for their night's feeding. 

Scientists study predator-prey behavior between sharks, turtles

Study is one of first to investigate the 'landscape of fear' model on highly migratory ocean species

Date:July 27, 2015

Source:University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

Summary:A new collaborative study examined predator-prey interactions between tiger sharks and sea turtles off the Northwestern Atlantic Ocean. The research team used long-term satellite tagging data from large tiger sharks and adult female loggerhead sea turtles, common prey of tiger sharks, to examine their movement patterns and evaluate if turtles modify their behaviors to reduce their chances of a shark attack when turtle and shark home ranges overlapped.

Monday 27 July 2015

Only 100 tigers left in Bangladesh's famed Sundarbans forest

The population in the mangrove forest is far less than believed, officials say, after a census uses cameras hidden in trees to record numbers

Agence France-Presse

Monday 27 July 2015 07.30 BSTLast modified on Monday 27 July 201510.59 BST

Only around 100 tigers remain in Bangladesh’s famed Sundarbans forest, far fewer of the endangered animals than previously thought, according to a census.

Some 440 tigers were recorded during the previous census in 2004 in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and one of the last remaining habitats for the big cats.

But experts said better methodology was the reason for the huge drop in the numbers, saying hidden cameras used this time around, rather than pugmarks, gave a much more accurate figure.

Tapan Kumar Dey, the government’s wildlife conservator, said analysis of camera footage from the year-long survey that ended in April found numbers ranged between 83 and 130, giving an average of 106.

“So plus or minus we have around 106 tigers in our parts of the Sundarbans. It’s a more accurate figure,” Dey told Agence France-Presse about the survey, which has not yet been publicly released.

Thirteen new spider species discovered in Australia's north

A team of scientists, teachers and Indigenous rangers find new arachnids during survey of the Cape York peninsula in Queensland’s far north

Australian Associated Press

Monday 27 July 2015 08.35 BST

Thirteen new species of spider have been discovered on Queensland’s Cape York peninsula – adding to the thousands of known species that give Australian wildlife its fearsome reputation.

The new species were found by scientists, teachers and Indigenous rangers during a 10-day journey to the largely unsurveyed area.

The survey is called the Bush Blitz and is a combined project of the Australian government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia.

Maribyrnong primary school teacher Leslie Carr says she signed up to search the Olkola people’s traditional lands so she could relay her adventures to her students.

“It was a lot of digging, I was amazed,” Carr told reporters.

“I thought I’d get up there and they’d be crawling around. But they go down 20 to 30cm.”

Trophies back on board as South African Airways reverses its ban

Three months after announcing a ban on the transportation of certain hunting trophies (rhino, elephant, tiger and lion), South African Airways are once again allowing hunting trophies on their planes. 

“In April conservationists and animal lovers around the world were applauding SAA for a principled decision to combat illegal trafficking of wildlife by putting an embargo on transporting certain hunting trophies, said Jason Bell, Director of International fund for animal Welfare Southern Africa. 

“An embargo removed any “grey area” between illegal and legal trophies. It quite simply ended trophies of rhino, elephant, lions and tiger from being transported by SAA at all. Illegal trafficking of wildlife is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion annually. It ranks among damaging and dangerous global crimes such as trafficking in drugs, people oil and counterfeiting.” 

New documentary lays bare South Africa’s brutal canned hunting industry

A powerful new documentary Blood Lions exposes the horrific truth about the predator breeding and canned hunting industries in South Africa. The doccumentary follows Ian Michler, a South African conservationist, and Rick Swazey, an American hunter, on their journey to the heart of those multi-million dollar industries.

Last year alone, over 800 captive lions were shot in South Africa. According to the film makers, Blood Lions “shows in intimate detail how lucrative it is to breed lions, and how the authorities and professional hunting and tourism bodies have become complicit in allowing the industries to flourish”. 

Will Travers OBE, President of the Born Free Foundation, who features in the documentary and official trailer, said: “South Africa’s failure to address the canned hunting industry has emboldened those who make a living out of the death of lions bred, raised and slaughtered on a ‘no kill, no fee’ basis. The canned hunting industry is unnatural, unethical and unacceptable. It delivers compromised animal welfare and zero education. It undermines conservation and creates a moral vacuum now inhabited by the greed and grotesque self-importance of those who derive pleasure in the taking of life.

Sunday 26 July 2015

Maine fisherman catches rare bright orange lobster

Second extraordinary haul for Bill Coppersmith who caught an albino lobster in 1997

Bill Coppersmith holds a normal looking lobster next to a bright orange lobster that he caught while fishing in deepwater canyons in the Gulf of Maine Photo: Portland Press Herald/Getty

6:28AM BST 24 Jul 2015

A lobsterman has caught a rare bright orange lobster, the second time he's pulled an odd-colored crustacean from state waters.

Bill Coppersmith, of Maine, tells the Portland Press Herald( ) he was out on the Gulf of Maine on Wednesday when he caught the orange lobster.

Robert Bayer, executive director of The Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, says the odds of catching an orange lobster are one in several million.

Anne DiMonti, a marine biologist and Director of the Audubon Environmental Education Centre, estimates the cnances of finding an orange lobster is one n 30 million.

Coppersmith caught a white lobster in 1997; a one-in-100 million catch.

Stray alligator found wandering the streets of New York City has died

Police found the 3ft-long alligator in the Inwood neighborhood of upper Manhattan on Thursday and took it to an animal care center, where it later died

The NYPD’s 34th Precinct tweeted this photo of the alligator on Thursday: ‘So this alligator was crossing 9th Ave in, really. At 205 Str. Cops took him to Animal Control.’ Photograph: 34th Precinct

Mahita Gajanan in New York

Friday 24 July 2015 20.52 BSTLast modified on Friday 24 July 201521.18 BST

A stray alligator found wandering Manhattan streets has died, according to a statement from animal control officials of New York City.

The New York Police Department’s 34th precinct found the 3ft-long alligator in the Inwood neighborhood of upper Manhattan on Thursday and took it to the animal care center. On Twitter, police posted a photo of the alligator, saying, “So this alligator was crossing 9th Ave in, really.”

The alligator, which staff at Animal Care and Control had named CockadoodleQ, died this morning.

“We have no knowledge of the conditions of CockadoodleQ had lived in prior to his arrival that contributed to his death. Exotic animals such as alligators are illegal to have as pets in New York City,” Alexandra Silver, a spokesperson for Animal Care and Control, said in an email.

Zimbabwean authorities hunt Spaniard accused of killing Cecil the lion

European allegedly paid €50,000 for chance to kill tourist attraction, who was found headless after being shot with a bow and arrow and tracked for 40 hours

Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

Sunday 26 July 2015 12.01 BSTLast modified on Monday 27 July 201500.30 BST

Authorities in Zimbabwe are trying track down a Spaniard who allegedly paid park guides €50,000 (£35,000) for the chance to kill Cecil, one of Africa’s most famous lions, who was the star attraction at the Hwange national park. The creature was found skinned and headless on the outskirts of the park.

The 13-year-old lion was wearing a GPS collar as part of a research project that Oxford University has been running since 1999, making it possible to trace its last movements when it was tricked into leaving the park and shot with a bow and arrow. The hunters then tracked the dying animal for 40 hours before they killed it with a rifle.

Bait, in the form of a freshly killed animal, was used to tempt Cecil out of the park, a technique commonly used so that hunters can “legally” kill protected lions.

“Cecil’s death is a tragedy, not only because he was a symbol of Zimbabwe but because now we have to give up for dead his six cubs, as a new male won’t allow them to live so as to encourage Cecil’s three females to mate,” said Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. “The two people who accompanied the hunter have been arrested but we haven’t yet tracked down the hunter, who is Spanish.”

Friday 24 July 2015

Purple Emperor: The butterfly that feeds on rotting flesh

By Emma AilesBBC News

23 July 2015 

Apatura iris.jpegFor a few weeks in July, groups of people can be found wandering English woods carrying strange produce - including rotting fish, Stinking Bishop cheese and dirty nappies. They're out to bait the Purple Emperor, one of Britain's most elusive butterflies, whose beauty disguises some filthy feeding habits.

You never forget your first time, says butterfly enthusiast Neil Hulme.

"My dad and I were walking through the woods, and we came across a woman in her 30s wearing stars-and-stripes trousers, bent over. Some men in tweed with cameras and long lenses were photographing her from behind."

He moved closer and realised they were taking pictures of a Purple Emperor butterfly that had landed on her bottom.

Hulme was transfixed by the creature - especially when it fluttered up and landed on his collar.

Iberian lynx returns to Spain from verge of extinction

An intense conservation campaign has brought the Iberian lynx back to the south of Spain from the verge of extinction barely 10 years ago, Guy Hedgecoe reports from Spain.

At the La Olivilla lynx breeding centre in Santa Elena, in southern Spain, a group of conservationists are in an office, gathered around a TV monitor.

On it they watch an Iberian lynx cub learn to hunt by playing with a domestic rabbit in one of the centre's compounds. The lynx, the size of a small cat, is only a few weeks old but already has the sharply pointed ears and mottled fur that make the species so recognisable.

It swipes playfully at the rabbit with its paws, but still has a long way to go before it graduates to killing its own prey.

When it does, it will probably be released into the wild, following in the tracks of many other animals born in captivity here.

Just over a decade ago, the Iberian lynx, also known as Lynx pardinus, was on the verge of extinction, with only 90 animals registered, in the Andujar and Donana areas of southern Spain.

Four-legged snake ancestor 'dug burrows'

By Jonathan Webb
Science reporter, BBC News

24 July 2015 

A 113-million-year-old fossil from Brazil is the first four-legged snake that scientists have ever seen.

Several other fossil snakes have been found with hind limbs, but the new find is estimated to be a direct ancestor of modern snakes.

Its delicate arms and legs were not used for walking, but probably helped the creature to grab its prey.

The fossil shows adaptations for burrowing, not swimming, strengthening the idea that snakes evolved on land.

That debate is a long-running one among palaeontologists, and researchers say wiggle room is running out for the idea that snakes developed from marine reptiles.

"This is the most primitive fossil snake known, and it's pretty clearly not aquatic," said Dr Nick Longrich from the University of Bath, one of the authors of the new studypublished in Science magazine.

Speaking to Science in Action on the BBC World Service, Dr Longrich explained that the creature's tail wasn't paddle-shaped for swimming and it had no sign of fins; meanwhile its long trunk and short snout were typical of a burrower.

Diversity of European butterflies could be seriously underestimated, DNA suggests

Date: July 24, 2015

Source: Institute of Evolutionary Biology

Summary: The DNA sequences of the 228 known butterfly species in the Iberian peninsula have been obtained by researchers who compared it to available data for Europe. Their study compiles 3500 genetic sequences of all the species, with their geographical distribution, and will be useful for the conservation of butterfly biodiversity. The DNA sequences obtained suggest that up to 28% of species could be totally new to science.

Thursday 23 July 2015

The unexpected one: A new pale nectar-feeding bat species found in Brazil

Date: July 22, 2015

Source: Pensoft Publishers

Summary: Having been long-mistaken for one of its relatives, a new bat species, L. inexpectata, has been now discovered. With their unusually pale fur, peculiar skull shape and tooth morphology, the specimens had spent long years in some of the most reputed nature museums behind the wrong sign, expert say.

A new species of nectar-feeding bat from Brazil was discovered unexpectedly amid a research into the whole genus ofLonchophylla. The study is available in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

During their study Drs. Ricardo Moratelli and Daniela Dias found that some of the specimens had their ventral (abdominal) fur considerably paler and some of their measurements were inconsistent with those of the type material of L. mordax, which species they had previously been confused with. To their surprise, a closer look revealed that this was indeed a completely different species, previously unknown to science.

New evidence of cultural diversification between neighboring chimpanzee communities

Date: July 22, 2015

Source: University of Cambridge

Summary: Newly discovered tool-length 'subcultures' in our closest living relatives provide striking parallel with cultural differences observed between adjacent groups in human societies.

For centuries it has been thought that culture is what distinguishes humans from other animals, but over the past decade this idea has been repeatedly called into question. Cultural variation has been identified in a growing number of species in recent years, ranging from primates to cetaceans. Chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, show the most diverse cultures aside from humans, most notably, in their use of a wide variety of tools.

Scientists: we are 'condemning' forest elephants by ignoring evidence

As the ivory trade threatens to obliterate forest elephants, conservationists and governments fail to recognise them as a distinct species despite rising genetic and physical evidence 

Thursday 23 July 2015 09.11 BSTLast modified on Thursday 23 July 201513.37 BST

How do you tell two species apart? Let’s say you’re investigating a bird with two populations. One lives in the savanna, the other in the forest. The savanna population eats grasshoppers, but the one in the forest eats beetles. The savanna bird is big-bodied with a curvy beak; the forest bird is smaller with a straighter beak. Is this enough to determine you’re dealing with not one, but two species? Probably. But how about you look at the genetics? Lo and behold, the animals’ DNA shows that the birds have been separated by 6 million years – easily making it two species.

Now, let’s say we’re not talking about birds here, but elephants. African elephants. Suddenly, things get messy. Really messy. And political. And heated.

“To my knowledge, all the evidence, now a very large amount, supports two [African elephant] species, and no evidence supports one,” said Nick Georgiadis, a research scientist with the Puget Sound Institute and a co-author of a recent paper that argues for two species published in the Annual Review of Animal Biosciences. “There never was any objective evidence supporting one species, just a few subjective preferences that became dogma.”

Myth Debunked: Boa Constrictors Don't Suffocate Prey to Death

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | July 22, 2015 06:16pm ET

Boa constrictors are notorious for their deadly grip, squeezing their next meal until it expires. But scientists have long wondered whether this fatal hug kills prey by suffocation or by obstructing blood flow in the snake's victims.

Now, a new study finds that rats attacked by boas don't die from a lack of air. Instead, the boa's tight coils block the rat's blood flow, leading to circulatory arrest. That deadly grip helps to more quickly subdue rats and other prey that might be clawing back, allowing the snake to quickly end the struggle and preserve its energy, the researchers said.

"This is such an efficient behavior, and it allows us to realize that this behavior was really important in snake evolution," said lead researcher Scott Boback, an associate professor of biology at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. "[Constriction] is extremely efficient at killing their prey and allowing them to be successful." 

UK suspends ban on pesticides linked to serious harm in bees

Farmers allowed to use two neonicotinoid pesticides on their crop for 120 days despite concerns over serious risk to bees and other pollinators 

Thursday 23 July 2015 11.36 BSTLast modified on Thursday 23 July 201513.03 BST

Farmers will be able to use blacklisted pesticides linked to serious harm in bees after the UK government temporarily lifted an EU ban.

Opponents called the decision “scandalous” and criticised the government’s secrecy, which The Guardian revealed has included gagging its own expert advisers.

Bees and other pollinators are essential for many crops but are in decline due to pesticides, loss of habitat and disease. Over 500,000 people signed a petition opposing the suspension of the ban.

Two neonicotinoid pesticides can now be used for 120 days on about 5% of England’s oil seed rape crop. Products from chemical giants Bayer and Syngenta will be deployed to ward off the cabbage stem flea beetle.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Rising seas could drown turtle eggs, according to new research

July 22, 2015 by James Whitmore, The Conversation

Immersion in seawater kills sea turtle eggs, suggesting that sea turtles are increasingly at risk from rising seas, according to research published today in Royal Society Open Science.

In a laboratory experiment, researchers immersed green turtle eggs in seawater for varying lengths of time. The researchers tested eggs of various ages, and then counted the number of eggs that hatched. They found that immersion for six hours reduced survival by a third.

The study partly explains reduced numbers turtle of hatchlings recorded at Raine Island, home to the largest population of green sea turtles in the world.

David Pike, lecturer in tropical biology at James Cook University and lead author of the study, said turtle nests low down on beaches could be underwater for six hours during abnormally high "king" tides or storm surges.

Changing environment caused some isolated kangaroos to evolve separately

July 22, 2015 by Bob Yirka report

A team of researchers with the University of Queensland in Australia has found that a group of kangaroos living along the Sunshine Coast in that country have some distinct genetic variations—they are not a separate species from the other kangaroos (they are still close enough that they can interbreed when given the chance) but instead have genes that show they evolved separately from others in other parts of the country. In their paper published in PLOS ONE, the team describes the genetic studies they undertook and their hopes that additional study of the unique kangaroos will offer some insights into how such animals adapted to a changing environment.

Twisted wasps: Two new unique parasitoid wasp species sting the heart of Europe

July 22, 2015

Much to his own surprise, Hannes Baur from the Natural History Museum Bern not only reports on whole two new parasitoid wasps at the heart of Europe, the Swiss Alps and Swiss Central Plateau. While the common discovery usually involves cryptic, or "camouflaging" within their groups species, his stand out. Baur's work is published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

Related Posts with Thumbnails