Wednesday 30 September 2015

Fossil pigment reveals color of ancient mammals

SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

by Savanna Walker

Scientists from the University of Bristol and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute have just determined the original color of an extinct mammal, specifically two species of prehistoric bats that lived along a lake in the middle of a tropical forest that once existed in Germany.

By studying microscopic structures in the 49 million year old fossils, the two teams concluded that the ancient bats were a reddish-brown in color. Dr. Jakob Vinther, one of the two main researchers on the team alongside Virginia Tech doctoral student Caitlin Colleary, seems to have anticipated the disappointment that the bats were not electric blue. “It might not be a big surprise, but that’s what these 49-million-year-old bats are. They looked perfectly like normal bats,” he said to The Daily Mail. Bummer.

Could be used to identify other colors
The structures that held the key to this discovery have long been a subject of debate. The scientific community was divided as to whether they were organelles that contained melanin, or simply fossilized bacteria that had eaten away at the animal.

Elephants and crocodiles kill seven people in Malawian national park

Park's new managers, African Parks, say they will fence Liwonde National Park following the deaths of three poachers and four other people through encounters with crocodiles and elephants

By Aislinn Laing, Johannesburg

6:58PM BST 29 Sep 2015

Elephants and crocodiles have killed seven people in the past two months in one Malawian national park, its new managers have revealed as they prepare to fence in the wildlife.

African Parks, a Johannesburg-based wildlife NGO, said three poachers were among those killed in and around Liwonde National Park, one of the country’s most celebrated tourist attractions in its southern section.

One was killed by an elephant and the other two by crocodiles, while another poacher lost his arm to one of the reptiles, it said.

Two other people died after coming into contact with elephants raiding nearby crops, and another two when they encountered crocodiles outside of the park.

Novel tag developed for squid, jellyfish

ITAG links animal behavior, environmental conditions

Date:September 28, 2015

Source:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Invertebrates, such as squid and jellyfish, play a crucial role in the marine food web and are also vital commercial fisheries. Despite their importance, little is known about their natural behaviors or how their environment influences those behaviors or physiology.

In a time of changing ocean chemistry and warming temperatures, understanding the impact that environmental changes may have on these animals is more important than ever.

"Squid and other soft-bodied invertebrates have almost open circulatory systems, so they're closely linked to their physical environment," says Aran Mooney, a biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). "As the ocean environment changes, they probably change a lot in response."

To find out, Mooney and his collaborators at Stanford University, the University of Michigan (UM), and WHOI set out to create a new kind of data-logging tag, called the ITAG, specifically for small and delicate invertebrates. This novel instrument not only quantifies ocean conditions but also measures animals' responses to their physical environments in high resolution.

Guys…researchers have discovered a glow-in-the-dark sea turtle

SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

by Brett Smith

While diving off the Solomon Islands in the Southwest Pacific Ocean, marine biologists discovered the first-ever case of biofluorescence in reptiles.

According to a report from National Geographic, scientists found the endangered hawksbill sea turtle exhibiting red and green biofluorescence – when an organism absorbs light, transforms it and re-emits it as a different color.

The most common biofluorescence colors are red, green, and orange. Biofluorescence is different from bioluminescence, which is when an organism generates its own light. Corals, fish, crustaceans and mantis shrimp have all been found to fluoresce.

"I've been (studying turtles) for a long time and I don't think anyone's ever seen this," Alexander Gaos, a hawksbill conservationist who was not involved in the find, told Nat Geo. "This is really quite amazing."

The team was actually in the Solomon Islands to film biofluorescence in small sharks and coral reefs, when they stumbled upon the glowing endangered turtle. Team member David Gruber, a marine biologist at City University of New York, said the hawksbill turtle looked like a large alien spacecraft, with glowing patches of red and green all over its body.

Gruber was able to capture video of the turtle using just his camera and a blue light, which matched the color of the surrounding ambient light. The turtle’s biofluorescence was also made more visible through the use of a yellow filter on the camera.

How to watch the great migration of animals from Serengeti

Epic journey of nearly 2 million wildebeest, gazelle and zebras to Kenya’s Maasai Mara reserve is being tracked online

Murithi Mutiga in Nairobi

Tuesday 29 September 2015 13.53

Every year a million wildebeest, half a million gazelle and 200,000 zebra make the perilous trek from the Serengeti park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara reserve in Kenya in their search for water and grazing land. It is one of nature’s most spectacular sights – and one that few people are able to see first hand.

But this year the dramatic display is being broadcast live on the web – complete with expert commentary.

Twice daily broadcasts of 10 to 20 minutes will run on Twitter’s Periscope app.

Viewers will need to register on the website of app developers, Herdtracker.

The migration is a remarkable and occasionally gory effort by up to 2 million herbivores to stay alive during a roving round trip that tracks the rains that feed the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Welsh adventurer to traverse Madagascar on foot for lemurs

What do you after completing the world’s first unsupported trek across Mongolia? Well, if you’re Welsh adventurer, Ash Dykes, you walk the length of Madagascar to help publicize the plight of vanishing lemurs. 

Tuesday 29 September 2015 08.48 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 29 September 201508.51 BST

On September 7th, Ash Dykes arrived at Cape Sainte Marie on the southern tip of Madagascar. He gazed over the vast Indian Ocean before turning north along the coast. Over the next five months, 24-year-old Dykes from the village of Old Colwyn in Wales, plans to walk the entire length of Madagascar: trekking 2,900 kilometres of desert, rainforest and mountains in one of the world’s most unusual landscapes.

“Madagascar is rarely talked about. Everyone has heard of it, but it’s not your typical destination,” Dykes said. “This is what attracts me to take on these remote locations.”

But Dykes isn’t tackling Madagascar just for the challenge; he’s also partnering with the Lemur Conservation Network to bring attention to what is arguably the most bizarre and wonderful mix of flora and fauna in the world. Scientists believe that 70-90% of Madagascar’s species – including all those lemurs – are found no-where else on the planet.

Monkeys and humans see optical illusions in similar way

Date:September 28, 2015

Source:Georgia State University

Monkeys perceive visual illusions in the same way great apes and humans see them, according to researchers at Georgia State University.

The findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition in August, indicate humans and monkeys perceive and misperceive the world similarly, which reflects resemblances in these species' perceptual systems and their interpretation of their physical worlds.

In the study, capuchin monkeys and rhesus monkeys saw the Delbouef illusion in a manner similar to human adults. Visual illusions emerge when information is misperceived on the basis of surrounding context or presentation style. The Delboeuf illusion is one type of visual illusion where a dot surrounded by a large ring is typically perceived by humans to be smaller than the same-sized dot surrounded by a small ring. This occurs because the ring creates a specific context in which the dots are perceived.

The Delboeuf illusion has been studied extensively in humans, but previously, only one study has presented this illusion to an animal species.

Tiniest Snail Ever Found Could Fit Through Needle's Eye 10 Times

by Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor | September 28, 2015 02:36pm ET

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Who knows? But 10 Angustopila dominikae snails can fit within the eye of a needle. 

The newly discovered snail species, found in China, may be the world's smallest land snail. The height of its shell is only 0.03 inches (0.86 millimeters), making it a mere crumb of a creature. 

The tiny snails are part of a group called microgastropods, which are snails shorter than 0.2 inches (0.5 mm). This is a large group, according to Barna Páll-Gergely of Shinshu University in Japan and colleagues, who wrote in 2014 in the journal ZooKeys that snails this small account for most of the diversity in tropical land snails. Previous microsnails discovered by the researchers measured just a millimeter or so (0.04 inches) in shell height; they've also discovered a snail less than 0.08 inches (2 mm) in height that lives, as far as anyone knows, only in one cave in South Korea.

King crabs threaten Antarctic ecosystem due to warming ocean

Predators' arrival could radically alter marine life

Date:September 28, 2015

Source:Florida Institute of Technology

King crabs may soon become high-level predators in Antarctic marine ecosystems where they haven't played a role in tens of millions of years, according to a new study led by Florida Institute of Technology.

"No Barrier to Emergence of Bathyal King Crabs on the Antarctic Shelf," published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ties the reappearance of these crabs to global warming.

Lead author Richard Aronson, professor and head of Florida Tech's Department of Biological Sciences, said the rising temperature of the ocean west of the Antarctic Peninsula -- one of the most rapidly warming places on the planet -- should make it possible for king crab populations to move to the shallow continental shelf from their current deep-sea habitat within the next several decades.

Monday 28 September 2015

No fair game: Sweden's multiplying moose pit farmers against powerful hunting lobby

Sweden abounds in moose, cheering the country’s passionate hunters but not its agriculture and forestry sectors which say profits are being munched away

David Crouch in Orust

Monday 28 September 2015 07.15 BST

A mild-mannered monster of the Scandinavian forests is setting Swede against Swede as farmers and hunters bicker over how to coexist with the world’s largest population of moose.

Hunting season will open in the south of Sweden on 12 October, when more than a quarter of a million Swedes will fell about 90,000 moose in a matter of weeks.

But for farmers, whose livelihoods are threatened by moose, this is not enough.

“We need to shoot more moose,” says Bernard Andersson bitterly. For 10 years he has farmed on Orust, an island on Sweden’s picturesque west coast. The moose pillage the fodder he grows for his cattle, trample his crops when they settle down to sleep for the night and break down his fences, allowing his cows to wander.

Farmers complain that as much as half of their crops are eaten or destroyed by the animals, forcing them to buy expensive feedstuffs. Apple trees on the island look like “mutilated bonsai”, they say, thanks to browsing moose.

In the forests, the picture gets worse. It’s not the moss the moose are devouring, but the young pine trees, creating a wasteland of dead and dying saplings. They are literally eating into one of the country’s main exports.

WATCH: California Lake Mysteriously Vanishes Overnight, Killing Thousands of Fish

James Woods | September 25, 2015 

Residents said it drained like a bathtub overnight.

Stories of drought conditions in California have been steadily making their way into the national conversation over the last year, but it’s apparently worse than we thought. 

Walker Lake, near the California/Nevada border, vanished overnight leaving thousands of dead fish, but no water. Residents report people fishing in the lake as recently as last weekend, but the entire lake is now gone. 

Eddie Bauer, a local resident who has lived on Walker Lake his entire life, says that this is the first time he can remember the lake running dry. Pacific Gas & Electric Company owns the rights to the lake, which it uses to create and sell hydroelectric power to neighboring areas. 

PG officials said that they didn’t open the dam or drain the lake, but rather, that the water simply ran out overnight. Paul Moreno, a PG&E spokesperson had this to say: “It’s the situation we worked hard to avoid but the reality is we’re in a very serious drought, there’s also concerns for the fish downstream.” 

On safari in the South Downs: the 'rewilding' of Knepp

A daring experiment to 'rewild’ an estate in Sussex and other vast tracts of Britain is allowing native species to thrive once more, says Julia Llewellyn Smith

By Julia Llewellyn Smith

7:00AM BST 26 Sep 2015

It’s just gone noon at the Knepp estate in West Sussex and from a platform attached to an oak tree, Sir Charles Burrell and I are admiring his 3,500 acres.

Beyond its boundaries are the manicured, sprayed fields of the South Downs, but here we could be in Africa, looking down over endless scrub, criss-crossed with animal tracks.

“In just a couple of weeks it’ll be the deer rut, the craziest time of year at Knepp,” says Burrell happily. “There’ll be red deer stags and fallow bucks charging around the place full of testosterone, clashing antlers and fighting gladiatorial battles. The woods will be ringing with primeval roars, and the air is full of the pungent smell of pheromones. When you’re living in the middle of it you can hardly sleep at night.”

It’s difficult to believe that just 15 years ago, this unfettered scenery was all tidy wheat fields and pasture. In 1987, when Burrell, 53, took over the management of the estate that had been in his family for 200 years, every inch of the land had been ploughed up for intensive farming, with ryegrass growing right up to the front door of his Nash castle.

Wallaby loose in English outback after giving police the hop

Public warned not to approach “strong and powerful” animal last seen heading for woodland
Sunday 27 September 2015 12:48 BST
A picture of the wanted wallaby on the loose in Dursley,
Gloucestershire, released by police PA
A wily wallaby is loose in the English outback after giving police the hop. 

Officers cornered the Australian marsupial after it was spotted in the small town of Dursley, Gloucestershire, on Saturday night.

But the crafty creature – at first mistaken for a kangaroo - somehow evaded capture and bounced off towards woodland around the nearby village of Woodmancote.

Police, who covered the bizarre chase in a series of tongue-in-cheek Facebook postings, have warned the public not to approach the ‘strong and powerful’ animal.

Victoria's Otway koalas: 'If we don’t intervene, they will die a painful death'

Koalas around Cape Otway, south-west of Melbourne, are facing a struggle for survival that will persist unless a long-term solution can be agreed on

Koalas in Cape Otway, Victoria, are captured and tracked (and, controversially, in some cases euthanised) in a bid to control population. Link to video

Monday 28 September 2015 02.23 

If you’re keen on spotting a wild koala, you can improve your chances by gazing at the eucalypts that host the largest of the marsupial species, in the Otways of Victoria.

The koalas around Cape Otway, a good three-hour drive south-west of Melbourne, off the famed Great Ocean Road, can weigh in at 14kg – roughly double the size of koalas found in Queensland.

But something is terribly amiss in this koala population. Many of the animals are starving, prompting the largest intervention yet by the state government, with a fortnight of health checks ending this week.

More controversially, this intervention also involves the sterilisation of all captured female koalas and the euthanisation of those deemed too frail to survive much longer in the wild.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Howler monkeys back in Rio's Tijuca park after 100 years

By Paula Adamo IdoetaBBC Brasil

26 September 2015 

Just after their cage is opened, four hesitant howler monkeys take their first steps inside Tijuca National Park, in the heart of Rio de Janeiro.

Soon they are feeling confident enough to climb trees and eat fruit.

This species had been absent from Tijuca National Park for about 100 years, according to estimates from researchers.

This forest is famous for being the home of Rio's famous Christ the Redeemer statue and also as one of the world's largest urban forests.

However, due to poaching and deforestation, many of the animals from the park have disappeared, making it an "empty forest".

Now scientists want to change that.

"Tijuca is a starting point for techniques in reintroducing fauna to forests," says Fernando Fernandez, a researcher from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), which runs the project with funding from the private foundation Grupo Boticario.

Some of these animals are important for spreading seeds, helping big trees reproduce.

Mishka, 1st Sea Otter with Asthma, Learns to Use an Inhaler

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | September 24, 2015 09:47am ET

The air was hazy from forest fires, and Mishka, a 1-year-old sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium, could barely breathe.

Aquarium staff jumped into action, putting an oxygen mask on the 45-lb. (20 kilograms) sea otter and administering anti-inflammatory medication to help her breathe. After several medical tests, Mishka became the first-known sea otter (Enhydra lutris) to be diagnosed with asthma.

Now, trainers are teaching Mishka how to use an inhaler — one that's not designed for sea otters (after all, Mishka is the first one) but for cats, said Seattle Aquarium staff veterinarian Dr. Lesanna Lahner.

North Sea cod back on the menu, marine body says

25 September 2015 

North Sea cod has been taken off the Marine Conservation Society's (MCS) list of fish to avoid eating.

The UK charity had previously said cod should not be eaten because stocks were only slightly above sustainable levels.

But it says it can now be eaten as an occasional treat following a recovery in numbers and having been removed from its red list of endangered fish.

Samuel Stone, from MCS, said the announcement was a "milestone", but fishing levels still needed to reduce.

The MCS said cod levels may never fully recover to their peak numbers of the 1970s and early 1980s.

There were now nine endangered stocks, which need "some of the attention that North Sea cod has had", it added.

China and US agree on ivory ban in bid to end illegal trade globally

The two largest markets for illegal ivory agree to enact a nearly complete ban on the import and export of ivory to help reduce the loss of elephants to poaching
Fergus Ryan in Beijing

Saturday 26 September 2015 06.44 BSTLast modified on Saturday 26 September 201506.45 BST
While differences on cyber security and talk of sanctions dominated the headlines for Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to the US, the two countries also signed up to a major agreement to end the global trade in ivory.

In a statement released by the White House on Friday, the two countries – which are the largest markets for illegal ivory – said they would enact a nearly complete ban on the import and export of ivory.

The ban would cover “significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies” as well as unspecified “significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.”

China is the biggest market for poached ivory with some estimates putting the US in second place.

Continued ...

Friday 25 September 2015

I've got your back: Fish really do look after their mates

Date:September 25, 2015

Source:ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies

When it comes to helping each other out, it turns out that some fish are better at it than previously thought.

New research from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University has found that pairs of rabbitfishes will cooperate and support each other while feeding.

While such behaviour has been documented for highly social birds and mammals, it has previously been believed to be impossible for fishes.

"We found that rabbitfish pairs coordinate their vigilance activity quite strictly, thereby providing safety for their foraging partner," says Dr Simon Brandl from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

"In other words, one partner stays 'on guard' while the other feeds -- these fishes literally watch each others' back," Dr Brandl says.

"This behaviour is so far unique among fishes and appears to be based on reciprocal cooperation between pair members."

Nectar-Slurping Bat Tongues Move Like Human Bowels

by Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor | September 25, 2015 02:08pm ET

Tongue waggles resembling bowel movements could help some bats drink flower nectar, researchers say.

Many insects rely on flower nectar as their main source of food, and have specialized mouthparts to siphon the sweet liquid. A few vertebrates — including birds such as hummingbirds, and mammals such as the honey possum — also have specialized nectar-feeding mouthparts.

Bats make up the largest group of specialized nectar-feeding mammals. These flying beasts often have tongues that are longer than their bodies. However, while most of these species have hairy tongues, some have nearly hairless tongues covered with grooves that stretch from left to right. Until recently, scientists did not know how these differences influence how the bats slurp up nectar.

To learn more about these bat tongues, scientists used high-speed cameras to watch bats trained to drink nectar from glass tubes containing honey water in the lab. They experimented with Pallas' long-tongued bat (Glossophaga soricina), which has a bristly tongue, and the orange nectar-feeding bat Lonchophylla robusta, which has a grooved tongue.

Flower declines shrink bee tongues

Date:September 24, 2015

Source:American Association for the Advancement of Science

Climate-related changes in flower diversity have resulted in a decrease in the length of alpine bumble bees' tongues, a new study reports, leaving these insects poorly suited to feed from and pollinate the deep flowers they were adapted to previously. The results highlight how certain mutually beneficial ecological partnerships can be lost due to shifts in climate.

Many co-evolved species have precisely matched traits; for example, long-tongued bumble bees are well adapted for obtaining nectar from deep flowers with long corolla tubes. Recent studies suggest long-tongued bumble bees are declining in number. To better understand why, Nicole Miller-Struthman et al. studied several high-altitude sites in Colorado where two species of long-tongued alpine bumble bee live.

EU clamps down on grey squirrels and other invasive wildlife

EU embargo on trade, possession and transport of 37 invasive species filed at the WTO, but conservationists say species omitted for commercial reasons pose a major threat to biodiversity

Arthur Neslen in Brussels

Friday 25 September 2015 14.47 BST Last modified on Friday 25 September 201515.09 BST

Anyone caught exporting or possessing invasive species such as grey squirrels, ruddy ducks and water hyacinth in the EU will soon face heavy fines and confiscations, under a new blacklist filed at the WTO, which the Guardian has seen.

Raccoons, Javan mongooses, and South American coypus are among the 37 types of flora and fauna that will soon face eradication or strict controls in a bid to haltthreats to native wildlife and economic losses, estimated at €12bn (£8.8bn) per year by the EU.

Initially, the new EU regulation will ban a wide range of activities linked with invasive species including trade, transport, possession, breeding and putting on the market.

It also obliges countries including the UK to eradicate invading populations within two months of a new appearance where possible, and to draw up blueprints for containing existing colonies.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Boxing Mantis Shrimp Prefer Flurry of Hits Over Knockout Punches

by Edd Gent, Live Science Contributor | September 23, 2015 10:04am ET

When you're one of nature's greatest pound-for-pound punchers, getting into a dispute over territory or mates can quickly turn ugly.

Mantis shrimp are notorious for their clublike front limbs, which they use to kill prey. These fearsome appendages are capable of the world's fastest limb movement and have even been known to break through aquarium glass with a single strike.

To avoid turning these formidable weapons against their own species, the crustaceans have developed a form of ritualized combat that lets individuals compete without bludgeoning each other to death, a new study suggests.

Mating success for the European mink

Scientists optimize breeding management

Date:September 22, 2015

Source:University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna

The European mink (Mustela lutreola) is one of the most endangered mammals in Europe. The reasons for its decline are the destruction of its habitat in riparian areas, competition with the alien American mink and historically, extensive hunting.

The European mink is often confused with the American mink (Neovison vison, previously Mustela vison), which has successfully established itself in Europe as an escapee from fur farms. The larger and more robust American mink has nearly completely replaced the European mink in its previous range.

Species protection projects all over Europe have so far faced the problem that European minks are difficult to breed in zoos. Captivity appears to have a negative effect on breeding success. But captive-bred individuals are needed in order to release and reintroduce the animal into protective zones. "The more we know about the physiology of European minks, the better we can respond to their needs," says lead author Franz Schwarzenberger from the Institute of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Experimental Endocrinology at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.

Giraffes Caught Humming in the Midnight Hour

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | September 24, 2015 07:13am ET

Dogs bark, sheep bleat and mice squeak, but what sounds do giraffes make?

They hum, but only during the nighttime, a new study finds.

According to audio recordings of giraffes taken at three European zoos, the long-legged animals sometimes produce "a low-frequency vocalization with a rich harmonic structure and of varying duration" at night, the researchers wrote in the study.

Love's labors: Study shows male lizards risk becoming lunch for a bird to attract a mate

Date:September 22, 2015

Source:University of Cambridge

In the animal kingdom, the flashiest males often have more luck attracting a mate. But when your predators hunt by sight, this can pose an interesting problem.

Like many species, lizards use bright colours for sexual signalling to attract females and intimidate rival males. A new study published in Ecology and Evolution by Kate Marshall from the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology and Martin Stevens from the University of Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation has provided evidence that this signalling comes at a cost.

Using models that replicated the colouration of male and female wall lizards found on the Greek islands of Skopelos and Syros, they found that the male lizard models were less well camouflaged against their habitat and more likely to fall prey to bird attacks.

Marshall, lead author of the study, explains: "we wanted to get to the origins of colour evolution; to find out what is causing colour variation between these lizards. We wanted to know whether natural selection favours camouflage, and whether the conflicting need to have bright sexual signals might impair its effectiveness.

Wandering cat missing for two weeks finds his way home on the train - and even got off at the right stop!

Tyrone Marshall / 04:30 Thursday 24 September 2015 

A WANDERING cat who had been missing for two weeks found his way back home on the train – and even managed to get off at the right stop.

Thirteen-year-old Charlie vanished from his home in Accrington a couple of weeks ago and hadn’t been seen since, until he got off a busy commuter train in the town on Monday.

Rail staff believe Charlie, who only moved to Accrington in April, had boarded the train in Colne and spent half an hour on the service, ignoring stops at seven stations before getting off at Accrington.

Owner Kinder Kaur, of Whalley Road, jokingly suggested Charlie might have needed a holiday or some time on his own to deal with a mid-life crisis.

Andy Richards, of rescue centre East Lancashire Cats, was stunned when he got a phone call to tell him a feline had just got off a train at Accrington.

He said: “A friend of mine got off the train and rang me to say she had just seen a cat get off it.

“I couldn’t believe it but I went to have a look and sure enough he was just sat there on the platform.

“The train staff think he got on at Colne because the doors are open for a long time there.

“We took Charlie in and he turned out to be microchipped, which is very rare for a stray cat, and when we checked it suggested he belonged to an address in Warrington, but when I rang the phone number it said it was out of service.

“I then posted a photo on Facebook and amazingly a friend from the centre who re-homed Charlie recognised him and put me in touch with the owner.

“It was an amazing piece of luck to finish an incredible story. It’s bizarre. I’ve never heard of anything like it.

“I just don’t know how he knew to get off at Accrington. They say cats have an amazing homing sense but I’ve never known this before.”

Mrs Kaur said it was not the first time that Charlie had gone missing since they re-homed him more than five months ago.

She said: “He went missing a few weeks before this, but he was in the gardens of the nursing home down the road.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Antarctic seabed life reduces climate change

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015

by Eric Hopton

A huge chunk of planet Earth three million square kilometers across has been acting as a giant carbon sink and helping to counteract climate change, but why didn’t we know about it before now? It’s because the area in question lies deep beneath the Antarctic Ocean.

Scientists working for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have discovered how, as polar ice melts, seabed life is working against climate change, according to a press release.

Less ice means more seabed life
The BAS study used data from more than twenty years of research and found that retreating sea ice over Antarctic waters led to the increased growth of life on the seafloor in some areas.

“It was a surprise that life had been invisibly responding to climate change for more than a decade below one of the most obviously visible impacts of climate change: the ‘blueing’ poles,” said David Barnes of the BAS.

The "blueing" Barnes refers to occurs when sea ice melts, changing the Earth’s surface from reflective white to a much darker blue at the poles. The darker areas absorb more heat and cause even more ice to melt in a dangerous feedback loop.

The impact of climate change is normally a string of bad news stories, like blueing, so this research comes as a welcome surprise.

“We’ve found that a significant area of the planet, more than three million square kilometers, is a considerable carbon sink and, more importantly, a negative feedback on climate change,” said Barnes.

Tiny lung found in ancient ‘living fossil’ fish

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015

by Brett Smith

Known as a “living fossil”, the coelacanth was thought to have been extinct until a fisherman pulled one up from waters off the South African coast in 1938. Ever since its discovery, the tale of the deep-water fish just keeps getting stranger.

In the latest chapter, revealed by a report published by the journal Nature Communications, scientists recently discovered a small obsolete lung in the creature’s abdomen–a feature analogous to our own appendix.

While coelacanths now use gills to pull oxygen from the surrounding water, the study team speculated that the newly-found lung is evidence that the fish once breathed air from above the water’s surface.

Brrr! Duck-Billed Dinosaur Lived Through Alaska's Snowy Winters

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | September 22, 2015 03:10pm ET

Deep in the dark, snowy wilds of Alaska, a herd of young duck-billed dinosaurs rambled across the frozen Earth. But something cut their lives short, and they remained there, crushed, until scientists discovered their remains, 69 million years later.

Exactly how the 30-foot-long (9.1 meters) herbivores managed to survive the cold is unclear. But the finding — almost 10,000 bones of mostly juvenile individuals — has set a new record: No other dinosaur fossils have been found this far north, the researchers said.

"The finding of dinosaurs this far north challenges everything we thought about a dinosaur's physiology," lead researcher Greg Erickson, a professor of paleobiology at Florida State University, said in a statement. "It creates this natural question: How did they survive up here?"

Diggers from down under: Eleven new wasp species discovered in Australia

Date:September 17, 2015

Source:Pensoft Publishers

After being mostly neglected for more than a hundred years, a group of digger wasps from Australia has been given a major overhaul in terms of species descriptions and identification methods. This approach has led to an almost 50% rise in the number of recognized species of these wasps on the continent. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

They call them with names like "Great Golden Digger" or "Great Black Wasp" in the US and there is a good reason behind it. However, some of these digger wasp species do not impress solely with their looks, but also with their wide range of distribution. Members of the wasp genus Sphex can be found in almost every area of the world. Two researchers from the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, Thorleif Dörfel and Dr. Michael Ohl, have now reexamined the species diversity of Sphex in Australia.

More than a century has passed since the last revision of this group in the Down Under. Using pinned, dried individuals from museum collections all over the world, Dörfel and Ohl inspected over 900 specimens and recorded the morphological characters that they deemed most useful for species differentiation.

A very different lifestyle sets apart some species in the genusSphex from the common idea that most people evoke on hearing the term "wasp." Not being eusocial, each female constructs a separate, subterranean nest for their offspring, which is then filled with grasshoppers (or other insects, depending on the wasp species) that have been paralyzed by a sting as a food supply for the larvae. These wasps avoid contact with humans and generally do not show aggressive behavior toward us.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Saving the last groups of wild Sumatran rhinoceros

Enhanced population survey techniques

Date:September 16, 2015

Source:University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Summary:Researchers carried out an island-wide survey of the last wild population of Sumatran rhinoceros, and now recommend that wildlife conservation managers consolidate the small population, provide strong protection for the animals, determine the percent of breeding females remaining and 'recognize the cost of doing nothing.'

Lead author Wulan Pusparini, a UMass Amherst environmental conservation doctoral student who also works for the WCS, says the new study provides vital data to support a final attempt to prevent the Sumatran rhino's extinction. She notes, "Sumatran rhinos can still be saved in the wild, but we must secure these protection zones, which would require significant investments in additional law enforcement personnel."

The study for the first time identifies priority forest protection zones "irreplaceable for saving the critically endangered species," the authors say, and identifies small and scattered populations that should be consolidated if they are to become viable. Details appear in the current issue of PLOS ONE.

A novel way is developed to sniff out how many harvest mice live in the UK

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has awarded an ecological grant towards an innovative project headed by PhD researcher Emily Howard-Williams at Moulton College in Northamptonshire.

Her team will train Tui, a flat-coated retriever, to learn to detect the scent of harvest mice, making tracking their presence in the countryside easier and more efficient.

The harvest mouse (Micromys minutus) is one of the most elusive and smallest of mammals in Great Britain and finding their tell-tale signs can be a difficult and time-consuming exercise even for the experts.

Consequently it has proved frustratingly difficult to determine an accurate picture of their current numbers in the UK, up to now.

Typically found in cereal fields, reed beds and hedgerows, harvest mice are believed to have declined in the past 40 years as a result of changes to farming practices and habitat management.

How a frog's molecules 'leaped,' and 'crawled,' to evolve violet vision

African clawed frog took a strange evolutionary path to switch from ultraviolet to violet vision.

Date:September 21, 2015

Source:Emory Health Sciences

Summary:The African clawed frog's process for adaptive color vision is full of mysterious twists and turns, an evolutionary biologist explains in a new article about the frog's shift from ultraviolet to violet vision.

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