Friday 29 April 2016

Hunting wolves near Denali, Yellowstone cuts wolf sightings in half

Date: April 28, 2016

Source: University of Washington

Visitors to national parks are half as likely to see wolves in their natural habitat when wolf hunting is permitted just outside park boundaries.

That's the main finding of a paper co-authored by the University of Washington appearing April 28, 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE. Its authors examined wolf harvest and sightings data from two national parks -- Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska and Yellowstone National Park that straddles Wyoming, Montana and Idaho -- and found visitors were twice as likely to see a wolf when hunting wasn't permitted adjacent to the parks.

"This is the first study that demonstrates a potential link between the harvest of wildlife on the borders of a park and the experience that visitors have within the park," said lead author Bridget Borg, a Denali wildlife biologist who completed this research while earning her doctorate from the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The researchers looked at the dynamics between hunting and viewing wolves at these two national parks because they are the only ones where visitors have a good chance of seeing a wolf. Both parks have long-term monitoring programs that have collected years of data on resident wolf populations, including years when wolf harvest was permitted and years when it was prohibited near the borders of both Denali and Yellowstone.

Adjacent to Denali, wolves are primarily trapped during legal harvests, while states adjacent to Yellowstone permit shooting wolves during hunting season. Wolves have always existed in Alaska and are generally regarded as an important part of the state's ecosystem -- by trappers and wildlife enthusiasts alike.

'Sleepless slugs' on rise, say experts

The slug invasion that could devastate your garden

Last year's wet summer, followed by one of the warmest winters on record, has helped to create a generation of sleepless slugs, wildlife experts have warned.

The weather has not been cold enough in recent months to send the creatures into hibernation.

Conservation charity BugLife said Britons could start to a see a slug population "explosion".

This could cause "devastation for our gardens", it warned.

'Devastation for gardens'

Slugs stay active when temperatures remain above 5C (41F).

Because of the warm winter, slugs have not gone into hibernation and have been eating and and breeding through the winter months.

Slug snippets:

There are about 30 species in the UK. Most are vegetarian but a few are carnivorous

Slugs have two retractable pairs of tentacles. The upper pair are for vision and smell

The lower pair are are smaller and are used for feeling and tasting

A slug's two eye-stalks can move independently and can be re-grown if lost

Slug pests cause an estimated £8m of damage to vegetable crops each year

But slugs also eat decaying vegetation and so play an important ecosystem role

The average British garden usually has as many as 20,000 slugs - with the gastropods laying as many as 200 eggs per cubic metre - but Buglife predicted that number could increase over this year by 10%.

It said a decline in populations of many of the slugs' predators, such as amphibians and hedgehogs, was also a factor.

Swaziland unveils plan to legalise rhino horn to pay for anti-poaching efforts

Leaked document shows proceeds from the sale of 330kg stockpile would be used to protect country’s 73 white rhinos from poaching

Thursday 28 April 2016 16.40 BST
Last modified on Thursday 28 April 201620.57 BST

The kingdom of Swaziland has made a surprise proposal to legalise the trade in rhino horn in order to pay for anti-poaching measures.

In a leaked document addressed to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), Swaziland’s anti-poaching body said it wanted to sell the country’s 330kg stockpile of horn collected from naturally deceased animals and confiscated from poachers.

It said the sale to the traditional medicine markets of the far east would generate $9.9m, which would be used to protect the tiny landlocked country’s 73 white rhinos from poaching.

Swaziland proposed to sell a further 20kg each year, raising $600,000, by harvesting horn from living herds. Rhino horns regrow after being cut.

The Cites Management Authority of Swaziland, which made the proposal, said the 39-year-old ban on trading rhino horn had failed. It cited the poaching crisis in neighbouring South Africa, where 1,175 rhinos were killed in 2015.

“At present 100% of the proceeds from the sale of rhino horn are taken by criminals, while rhino custodians pay 100% of the costs of rhino protection and production yet they desperately need funds to cover these costs,” said the authority.

Analysis Can legalised trade save Africa's last rhinos from poaching?

A South African court decision to lift a ban on trading rhino horn has divided conservationists. In the race against poachers a solution must be found quickly – but the wrong decision could be catastrophic

Contacts directly involved in the drafting told the Guardian that they had formally lodged the proposal with Cites. It will now be formally discussed and voted on at the Cites Conference of Parties in Johannesburg in September. The bid is likely to fail, because the majority of parties have little appetite for a legalised trade, preferring to focus on dampening demand in the Asia.

Sea lion found on farm 50 miles inland dies after release into ocean

The 160kg animal swam and waddled its way to the ranch in Washington state but has failed to survive the sea, biologists say

The sea lion at Soggy Bottom Farm near Oakville, Washington on 15 April, about 50 miles from the ocean. The sea lion was released into the sea but has now been found dead. Photograph: Lance Martin/AP

Associated Press

Friday 29 April 2016 01.24 BST
Last modified on Friday 29 April 201601.58 BST

A sea lion that baffled scientists after being found in the driveway of a cattle ranch about 80km (50 miles) from the ocean in Washington state has been found dead two weeks after being released into the sea.

The male California sea lion was released into Puget Sound on 15 April after it apparently swam and waddled its way to the ranch near Oakville, the Tacoma News Tribune reported.

But it has been found dead under a bridge in Olympia and biologists are now investigating the unusual case.

Dyanna Lambourn, a Washington state fish and wildlife biologist, examined the sea lion and found no immediate cause of death. Samples from the necropsy were sent this week to test for possible causes.

The animal’s wayward journey to Soggy Bottom Farm began some time before 15 April.

Ken Shively, a rancher, found the large animal in his driveway and initially thought it was a deer or elk. The sea lion was about 200m from a tributary of the Chehalis river, and roughly 80km of river, creek and drainage ditch travel from Washington’s coast.

He called state wildlife officials. “They didn’t believe us,” Shively told the News Tribune. “They were like, ‘A what? Can you describe that to us?’”

Bob Weaver, a sergeant with the agency’s enforcement division, said it was the most unusual call he had received in years.

More tigers poached in India so far this year than in 2015

Conservationists say census figures are ‘worrying’ and cast doubts on the country’s anti-poaching efforts

Friday 29 April 2016 10.43 BST

More tigers have been killed in India already this year than in the whole of 2015, a census showed Friday, raising doubts about the country’s anti-poaching efforts.

The Wildlife Protection Society of India, a conservation charity, said 28 of the endangered beasts had been poached by 26 April, three more than last year.

Tiger meat and bones are used in traditional Chinese medicine and fetch high prices.

“The stats are worrying indeed,” said Tito Joseph, programme manager at the group.

“Poaching can only be stopped when we have coordinated, intelligence-led enforcement operations, because citizens of many countries are involved in illegal wildlife trade. It’s a transnational organised crime.”

Poachers use guns, poison and even steel traps and electrocution to kill their prey.

India is home to more than half of the world’s tigerpopulation with 2,226 in its reserves according to the last count in 2014.

The report cited improved conservation efforts, although its authors cautioned that the rise could be partly attributed to improved data gathering.

Campaigners urge Elton John to boycott music festival in Portugal

In an open letter, environmentalists say locating Marés Vivas event near a nature reserve threatens nesting birds and wildlife

Elton John is due to play at the Marés Vivas festival alongside British singers James Bay and Tom Odell. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA

Friday 29 April 2016 17.24 BSTLast modified on Friday 29 April 201618.06 BST

Campaigners have sent an open letter to Elton John asking him to boycott a Portuguese music festival due to concerns it will be an environmental disaster to a nearby nature reserve.

Marés Vivas festival, which takes place every July in Gaia, Porto, has been moved for the first time to an area of land just 100m from the nature reserve of the Douro River Estuary.

The 150-acre reserve, which is protected under Portuguese law, is home to more than 220 species of birds, including eagles, kingfishers and cormorants, and is one of Europe’s most popular sites for birdwatching.

Local campaigners have written to John, who will headline Marés Vivas alongside other British singers James Bay and Tom Odell, asking him to take a stand against the “environmental damage”.

”More than your business and your art, please consider the environmental importance of the area. The reserve is very delicate, special and vulnerable... the area is very special to some species of birds for stopover and for nesting,” says the letter, which is signed by figures such as biologist Serafim Riem, Lucília Guedes, vice president of the Fund for the Protection of Wild Animals, and João Branco, director of Portuguese environmental group Quercus.

About 30,000 visitors a day are expected at the music festival, which was moved from its previous site after a dispute with the owners. Campaigners are concerned that crowds, noise and lights so close to the estuary will have a lasting impact on the nesting birds and wildlife.

The letter says “damaging” preparations for the festival had begun, including bulldozing and cutting down trees. It says the site of the show was home to the protected Iberian emerald lizard and that if the festival goes ahead “the whole area, including the nature park, is going to lose its state as a protected area”.

Thursday 28 April 2016

Analysis of dog genome will provide insight into human disease

Date: April 27, 2016
Source: The Genome Analysis Centre

An important model in studying human disease, the non-coding RNA of the canine genome is an essential starting point for evolutionary and biomedical studies, according to a new study led by The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC).

New research published today in PLOS ONE reveals an improved annotation of microRNAs in the dog genome to further understand its biological role. Providing a platform for future studies into biomedicine, evolution and the domestication of important animals including dogs, cows, horses and pigs.

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNA molecules that play a crucial role in regulating gene expression in animals and plants. Using the latest dog genome assembly and small RNA sequences of nine different dog tissues including skin, blood, ovaries and testes, scientists from TGAC have identified 91 novel miRNAs.

This discovery provides a significant opportunity not only to enhance our understanding of how miRNAs regulate a variety of biological processes in an important model species for studying human diseases, but can lead to further, similar research into the role that miRNAs play in animal domestication.

Lead researcher, Dr Luca Penso Dolfin from TGAC's Vertebrate & Health Genomics Group, said: "As miRNAs are so important in orchestrating a variety of cellular processes, the discovery of these 91 novel miRNAs provides a vital starting point to explore their potentially major effects on gene regulation."

Banned pesticides 'not equally harmful' to bees

By Claire Marshall
BBC Environment Correspondent

5 hours ago 

The largest field study so far in to the group of pesticides called "neonicotinoids" has concluded that each acts differently on the brains of the bees.

One of the chemicals widely considered as being the most toxic wasn't shown to affect bees at a level found in the countryside.

However other "neonics" were shown to cause significant harm to bumblebees.

The results of the study are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

This study examined the three types banned by the EU in 2013. It shows that different types affect the brains of bumblebees in distinct ways.

Two (imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) were shown to be highly toxic to bumblebees when they were exposed to levels of the chemicals found in the countryside.

They affected their brains, impairing their memory and ability to forage for pollen. The toxic effects also included altering the make-up of the colony, changing the ratio of males to females and in some cases reducing the number of queens.

The third (clothiandin) - a close chemical relative that has not been tested before is shown not to be harmful to bees in the low doses given during field trials. The number of queens in the colonies actually increased.
'Long-term consequences'

Dr Chris Connolly, from the University of Dundee, said: "There has been growing concern over the risk to bee populations from neonicotinoid insecticides and their long-term consequences to essential ecosystem services and food security."

Mammal-like reptiles lived much longer than previously thought

APRIL 26, 2016

by Chuck Bednar

The last known family of mammal-like reptiles, a group of herbivores called tritylodontids, lived much longer than originally thought and co-existed with early mammals for several million years, according to a new study by researchers from Kyoto University in Japan.

Writing in a recent edition of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Hiroshige Matsuoka and colleagues revealed that they had found dozens of fossilized teeth in the Kuwajima Formation in Japan which they used to identify a never-before-seen new species of tritylodontid.

Their discovery suggests that these mammalian reptiles, which serve as the evolutionary bridge from reptiles to mammals, actually lived alongside mammals for millions of years, which runs contrary to the belief that such creatures were wiped out shortly after mammals emerged.

“Tritylodontids were herbivores with unique sets of teeth which intersect when they bite,” lead author Matsuoka explained Monday in a statement. “They had pretty much the same features as mammals – for instance they were most likely warm-blooded – but taxonomically speaking they were reptiles, because in their jaws they still had a bone that in mammals is used for hearing.”
Species was identified using only fossilized teeth

The researchers were excavating a Cretaceous era geologic layer at the Kuwajima Formation when they discovered more than 250 tritylodontid teeth, the first ever found in that part of the world. The tritylodontids lived primarily during the Jurassic era, and were thought to have died out prior to the start of the Cretaceous, but the newfound fossils suggest otherwise.

While Matsuoka said that the notion that they died out in the late Jurassic “made sense, because otherwise tritylodontids and the herbivorous mammals would have competed for the same niche” the new research suggests that the mammal-like reptiles seemed to have survived more than 30 million years longer than paleontologists had originally believed.

Scientists establish first map of the sea lion brain

Date: April 27, 2016
Source: Vanderbilt University

Summary:Despite considerable evidence for the California sea lion's intelligence, very little is known about how their brain is organized. Now, a team of neuroscientists has taken an important step toward uncovering this mystery by conducting the first comprehensive study of the California sea lion's central nervous system, concentrating on the somatosensory system, which is concerned with conscious perception of touch, pressure, pain, temperature, position and vibration.

Rio is a California sea lion who can solve IQ tests that many people have trouble passing. In fact, she is so smart that scientists at the Long Marine Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz designed a series of tests that prove she is the first animal besides humans that can use basic logic (If A=B and B=C then A=C).

Rio's display of intelligence is less surprising when you consider the fact that she is a member of one of only four groups of animals that have evolved extremely large brains (weighing more than 1.5 pounds). Along with seals and walruses, she is part of a group of fin-footed, semiaquatic marine mammals called pinnipeds. The other large-brained groups are humans, elephants and cetaceans (whales and dolphins).

Newly discovered titanosaur species had super senses

APRIL 27, 2016

by Chuck Bednar

A new species of titanosaurian dinosaur that ranged in weight from the size of a cow to that of a sperm whale has been discovered by researchers working in Argentina, according to a new study published Tuesday in the online edition of the open-access journal PLOS One.

The new species was identified based on a complete skull and partial neck fossil discovered by by Rubén Martínez from the Laboratorio de Paleovertebrados of the Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco (UNPSJB) and his colleagues at a site in central Patagonia.

Identified as Sarmientosaurus musacchioi, the creature was a titanosaurian sauropod that lived during the Upper Cretaceous period, between 100.5 and 66 million years ago, the study authors wrote in their newly-published paper. Like all titanosaurs, it was a plant-eater with a long neck and tail, and its remains were found at the Bajo Barreal Formation in Chubut Province.

Discovery sheds new light on anatomical diversity of sauropods

The fossils were said to be well-preserved and anatomically primitive, and in a statement, the researchers said that they were analyzed using computerized tomography (CT) imaging scans. They discovered that Sarmientosaurus had a tiny brain relative to its rather large body, but also found evidence that it had greater sensory capabilities than most other sauropods.

Based on their CT scans and other analyses, Martínez and his co-authors concluded that this species had large eyeballs and could see quite well, and that the mechanics of its inner ear may have been designed for detecting sounds at lower frequencies than other types of titanosaurs.

Furthermore, the inner ear’s balance organ indicates that the Sarmientosaurus tended to keep its head facing downward, with the snout pointed towards the ground so that it could feed on plants growing close to the surface. The snout, along with the creature’s pneumatized cervical vertebrae and ossified cervical tendon, are rare features in this type of dinosaur and serve to broaden “our understanding of the anatomical diversity of this remarkable sauropod clade,” they wrote.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Role of life's timekeeper -- a novel theory of animal evolution

This novel research disputes modern interpretations of Darwin's theory, though probably remains compatible with Darwin's original hypothesis

Date: April 25, 2016

Source: Bentham Science Publishers


This novel research disputes modern interpretations of Darwin's theory, though probably remains compatible with Darwin's original hypothesis.

A new article presents a new theory of animal (metazoan) evolution, suggesting that it was partly mediated through a biochemical oscillator (cycler), named Life's Timekeeper, present in all animal cells. The cycler controls cell maintenance and repair, thereby determining how long cells survive (longevity). It originated in the single-celled ancestor of all animals, which had very short cell longevity.

Animal evolution progressed by extending cell longevity, and this was mediated by extended cycle time of the oscillator. Multi-celled animals and cell-cell communication systems evolved later. The cycler controls the overall rate of development and aging, these time periods being proportionate to maximum cell longevity. Simple animals have cell rejuvenating abilities hence are potentially long lived, whereas complex animals lost such ability and have limited lifespan determined by the maximum potential longevity of their cells.

The theory suggests a two-tier model of animal evolution and so disputes modern interpretations of Darwin's theory, though probably remains compatible with Darwin's original hypothesis. The primary tier, mediated through extended cycle time, prolongs development, aging and hence lifespan of more advanced animals. Longer development enables more cell divisions during embryo formation, increasing the size of the body and the brain and enhancing behavioural and cognitive abilities. 

Desert dolphins: plan to bring animals to Arizona for show outrages activists

More than 100,000 people signed a petition against a plan for Dolphinaris, which would house dolphins in pools and allow people to swim with and ride them

Oliver Milman 

Monday 25 April 201618.07 BSTLast modified on Monday 25 April 201618.20 BST 

A plan to transport a group of dolphins to the Arizona desert so tourists can pay to frolic with them has come under fire from animal welfare activists who claim the attraction will be harmful to people as well as the dolphins.

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition against a plan for a Dolphinaris to be established on tribal land near Scottsdale, Arizona. The facility would house dolphins in pools and allow people to swim with and ride the marine mammals.

Dolphinaris is already established in five locations in Mexico. Its parent company, Ventura Entertainment, is looking to expand to the US with the Arizona attraction, which will be near OdySea in the Desert – a 35-acre complex featuring sharks, turtles and penguins.

OdySea has denied that it is affiliated with the Dolphinaris project. According toreports in the Mexican media, the $20m Dolphinaris development is set to open in July. A protest against the attraction is planned for 7 May.

Opponents of the Dolphinaris argue the hot, dusty environment is no place for dolphins, which would be expected to swim in small, repetitive circles in an area vastly smaller than their natural marine habitat.

The Humane Society said swimming-with-dolphins attractions are also risky for people. There have been reports of confined dolphins biting people and even incidents that resemble sexual assault.

“These animals are used to an environment where they can roam, swimming hundreds of miles a day in a rich environment,” said Sharon Young, marine issues field coordinator at the Humane Society. “Once you put them in a tank, it’s an impoverished existence. It would be like if someone never let you out of your bedroom. There has been some sexual aggression towards swimmers. It’s not a good environment for anyone.”

Critically endangered and ancient Himalayan wolf needs global conservation attention

Date: April 25, 2016

Source: Pensoft Publishers

Although the Himalayan wolf is visibly distinct from its European cousin, its current distribution has mostly been a matter of assumption, rather than evident truth. The most ancient wolf lineage, known to science, has been listed as Critically Endangered in the National Red List.

Now, an international research team, led by Madhu Chetri, graduate student at the Hedmark University of Applied Sciences, Norway, report the wolf from Nepal's largest protected area, thus confirming its existence in the country. Their findings are published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

When compared to the European wolf, this one stands out with its smaller size, unusually longer muzzle and stumpy legs. Another clearly distinctive feature is the white colouration around the throat, chest, belly and inner part of the limbs. On the other hand, its characteristic woolly body fur has given the subspecies the common name 'woolly wolf'.

However, the distinctiveness of the Himalayan wolf is far more than skin-deep. The authors note that recent studies have already revealed that these wolves have split as a separate branch within the 'tree of life' so long ago that they are divergent from the whole globally distributed wolf-dog clade. Having undergone such an isolated evolution, the Himalayan wolf is considered of particular conservation concern.

Hairy-Legged 'Chewbacca Beetle' Discovered in New Guinea

by Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | April 26, 2016 07:15am ET

The towering and shaggy Wookiee character Chewbacca from the "Star Wars" movies has a new namesake — a tiny weevil recently discovered in New Guinea.

Though the insect is significantly smaller and much less hairy than everyone's favorite "walking carpet," dense scales on the weevil's legs and head reminded the scientists of Chewbacca's fur, prompting their name choice.

Trigonopterus chewbacca is one of four new weevil species identified on the island of New Britain in the Bismarck Archipelago in New Guinea. Discovered alongside it were the somewhat less whimsically named weevils T. obsidianus, T. puncticollis and T. silaliensis.

T. chewbacca is a flightless weevil, a type of beetle typically found in leaf litter in forests. The male's body is black with hair-like structures on its antennae and legs, and measures 0.13 inches (3.34 millimeters) in length.

Scientists spent 10 days combing through leaf litter for the miniscule beetles, eventually collecting 18 specimens that represented the four new species.

Previously, only one known species in the Trigonopterus weevil group had been found in this region, although prior studies described Trigonopterus weevils in New Caledonia, Samoa and Fiji. While T. chewbacca was the first species in this group that was named for a "Star Wars" character, it's not the only one with a celebrity-inspired monikerTrigonopterus attenboroughi — described in a study published in ZooKeys in 2014 — was named for famed British naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

Vietnam investigates mass fish deaths

Authorities are looking into whether pollution is to blame for a spate of mysterious mass fish deaths along the country’s central coast

Agence France-Presse 

Thursday 21 April 201611.16 BST 

Vietnam said on Thursday it was investigating whether pollution is to blame for a spate of mysterious mass fish deaths along the country’s central coast after huge amounts of marine life washed ashore in recent days.

Tonnes of fish, including rare species which live far offshore and in the deep, have been discovered on beaches along the country’s central coastal provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Quang Binh and Hue.

“We have never seen anything like it,” aquaculture official Nhu Van Can told AFP on Thursday.

The strange situation first came to light when farmed fish in the area began dying in great numbers, he said, with locals later discovering huge numbers of dead fish on beaches.

Local fishermen told state-run media that they are burying hundreds of kilograms of fish everyday.

“If you sail just three miles offshore, you can see dead fish all over the ocean floor,” the state-run Tuoi Tre quoted local fishermen as saying.

Signs point to the fish having been poisoned by “unidentified substances,” Tran Dinh Du, deputy director of agriculture in Quang Binh province, said, according to the report.

“We have asked people not to eat the fish and not use the fish as food for their livestock,” Du added.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Thousands of corroboree frog eggs released in fight to save endangered species

Hopes species will recover as eggs bred in captivity at Taronga Zoo in Sydney and Zoos Victoria enter the wild

Scientists say that without a captive breeding program the critically endangered corroboree frog would be two years from extinction. Photograph: John Lane/Zoos Victoria

Tuesday 26 April 201608.17 BST

After 10 years of captive breeding, the critically endangered corroboree frog   might be on its way back from the brink of extinction.

Fewer than 50 mature corroboree frogs live in the wild in alpine New South Wales and scientists have estimated that without a captive breeding program that began 10 years ago they would be a mere two years from extinction. In fact, most of the frogs currently in the wild are the result of previous captive releases.

But, this month, thousands of eggs bred in captivity at Taronga Zoo in Sydney andZoos Victoria are being released into the wild – the largest release to date.

Last week the first batch of about 1,850 was released, with the rest planned for release in coming weeks.

“The eggs we released this month will take six months to metamorphose into frogs and then a further four years for them to mature,” said Taronga native fauna curator Michael McFadden. “It’s hoped that these eggs will contribute to giving this species a chance to recover.”

The team released some of the eggs into raised pools that have been constructed to keep the deadly chytrid fungus out. Others were released into natural pools in areas that are known to have low levels of the fungus and others were released into enclosures.

The fungus causes a disease called chytridiomycosis on the skin that fatally impairs frogs’ ability to maintain electrolyte, water and oxygen levels.

McFadden told Guardian Australia the program appeared to be working, since most of the adult frogs they saw in the wild were in areas where they were previously extinct but have since been reintroduced.

Tracing the ancestry of dung beetles

Date: April 25, 2016
Source: Pensoft Publishers

One of the largest and most important groups of dung beetles in the world evolved from a single common ancestor and relationships among the various lineages are now known, according to new research by an entomologist from Western Kentucky University.

The study by Dr T. Keith Philips, recently published in the open access journal Zookeys, provides important insights into the evolution and diversity of these dung beetles, which make up about half of the world's dung beetle fauna.

The two tribes studied, the onthophagines and oniticellines, evolved from a single common ancestor and are found worldwide, except for Antarctica. These dung beetles make up the vast majority of species and dung beetle biomass in many ecosystems, feeding on mammal dung.

Dung beetles are well known to many people because many species are colorful and active in the daytime. Additionally, many taxa have unusual behaviors, such as making and rolling balls of dung away from a dung pile. Often thought of as nature's garbage collectors, the important ecosystem service offered by dung beetle helps recycle nutrients, reduces parasites, and can even help seeds germinate.

Crocodile victim says he’s ‘a bit sore’ after Northern Territory attack

Camper Peter Rowsell says the crocodile came through a hole in his tent, which was just 15 metres from the water’s edge

Helen Davidson in Darwin

Tuesday 26 April 201604.53 BST

A 19-year-old man says he’s “still a bit sore” after he was attacked by a crocodile while sleeping in a tent in Australia’s Northern Territory on Monday.

Peter Rowsell had been camping with family near a creek in the Daly region, about two hours’ drive from Katherine, on the Anzac Day long weekend.

Roswell told the ABC the crocodile came through a hole in his mosquito shelter tent, which was pitched just 15 metres from the water’s edge.

“It was about 4.30 in the morning and I was sleeping ... and then I woke up and there was something shaking my foot,” he said. “It was about three or four metres long.”

Rowsell said the crocodile was holding on to his leg but didn’t drag him out of the tent. “It was on my foot for like 10 or 15 seconds but it let go after I whacked it once or twice,” he said.

Rowsell’s sister and her partner – who were sleeping in the back of a ute tray – woke to his yells and drove him to hospital. He was kept in overnight and received treatment for non-life threatening puncture wounds to his right leg. He was also put on an antibiotics drip to counter the bacteria in crocodiles’ mouths.

He was doing well and was expected to go home on Tuesday afternoon, Louise Harwood, the director of medical services at Katherine hospital, told media.

Harwood said Rowsell had puncture wounds to both his feet and that his injuries were consistent with his report that a crocodile had attacked him. “It’s not really possible to say from the marks he has the size of the crocodile,” she added.

Researchers one step closer to understanding regeneration in mammals

Date:April 25, 2016
Source:University of Kentucky

A third species of African spiny mouse can completely close four millimeter ear holes and regenerate missing tissue, researchers have found, building upon their 2012 landmark discovery. This new study suggests that genetic factors underlie variation in regenerative ability.

A long-standing question in biology is why humans have poor regenerative ability compared to other vertebrates? While tissue injury normally causes us to produce scar tissue, why can't we regenerate an entire digit or piece of skin? A group of University of Kentucky researchers is one step closer to answering these questions after studying a unique mammal, and its ears.

The team's new findings come on the heels of UK Assistant Professor of Biology Ashley Seifert's landmark discovery in 2012 that two species of African spiny mice found in Kenya could regenerate damaged skin. The group built on this work to show that a third species of spiny mouse, Acomys cahirinus, could completely close four millimeter ear holes and regenerate the missing tissue. Their recent work examined repair of ear holes across a number of different mammals and revealed that regeneration appears to be a unique trait.

While three species of wild African spiny mice and New Zealand white rabbits were capable of regenerating ear tissue, outbred laboratory mice and inbred strains such as the MRL healer mice failed to do so and instead healed the wounds by scarring.

"First we need to understand how mammalian regeneration works in a natural setting, then comes the potential to create therapeutic treatments for humans," said Thomas Gawriluk, postdoctoral scholar and co-lead author of the study.

The beavers are back: animals return to Stockholm after almost a century

City links: An ambitious urban photography project in Toronto, beavers make a comeback in the Swedish capital, and the Parisians who are suing City Hall over dirty streets, all feature in a roundup of this week’s best city stories

Friday 22 April 201613.25 BSTLast modified on Friday 22 April 201613.28 BST

This week’s best city stories takes us from barbershops in Philadelphia where a programme is bridging the gap between black men and the polling booths, to the grimy streets of Paris, where residents are fed up of being treated like the underdogs and are suing the state. Share your thoughts about these city stories – and any others you’ve seen – in the comments below.

As cities expand and encroach on the surrounding countryside, animals are forced to adapt to this rampant urbanisation, while urban dwellers must also learn how to life – and sometimes brush shoulders with their wild neighbours.

After disappearing completely from Stockholm less than a century ago due to hunting, the Eurasian beaver has returned to the city thanks to a repopulation drive that took place in central Sweden in the 1920s. Today, the rodent has finally made its way back to the bustling capital, enamouring local residents with their goofy teeth, while wreaking havoc for park wardens who are concerned that their constant gnawing on urban trees could pose a safety risk in a city with so much green space.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the endangered El Segundo blue butterfly feels right at home next to the roaring jet engines of Boeing-777s at LAX, while up in the Hollywood Hills, mountain lions roam around tourists without being spotted. Read National Geographic’s Wild Cities features this week.

Monday 25 April 2016

Expedition captures animal selfies in Amazon Rainforest

Photo traps reveal animal diversity, cats included

Date: April 22, 2016
Source: Field Museum

Summary:A team of scientists set up camera traps in Peru to record the biodiversity of that area of the Amazon Rainforest.

In the rainforest, you can tell me a herd of white-lipped peccaries (Tayassu pecari) has been nearby recently. Living in groups of multiple hundreds, these animals travel great distances to find fruit and leave a strong odor in their wake. Unfortunately, peccaries are highly prized by hunters and have been hunted to extinction in many areas of the Amazon.

If you've been on the Internet lately, you've probably seen a cat selfie. Now, a Field Museum expedition to the Peruvian Amazon has elevated the animal selfie phenomenon to a whole new level. Earlier this year, a team of 25 scientists trekked to the unexplored reaches of Medio Putumayo-Algodón, Peru and spent 17 days conducting a rapid biological and social inventory of the area. As part of their efforts to document the region's biodiversity, the team set up 14 motion-activated camera traps and used a drone to capture aerial footage of the rainforest. The results are amazing.

The camera traps revealed remarkable biodiversity in the area, showing animals like ocelots, giant armadillos, currassows, giant anteaters, tapirs, peccaries, and pacas up close and personal in their native habitat. Meanwhile, the aerial drone footage helped paint a picture of the overall landscape, sharing a never-before-seen look at the vast forest, which is only accessible by helicopter.

Dinosaur families fled Europe during the Mesozoic period, study shows

APRIL 25, 2016

by Brett Smith

While the news might currently be full of stories about people flocking into Europe, it turns out dinosaurs had a different idea.

According to a new study published in Journal of Biogeography, dinosaur families were streaming out of Europe during the Mesozoic Era, between 250 million and 66 million years ago. The study confirms previous theories that found dinosaurs continued to migrate around the world even after the split of the ancient supercontinent Pangea.

“We presume that temporary land bridges formed due to changes in sea levels, temporarily reconnecting the continents,” study author Alex Dunhill , a paleontologist from the University of Leeds, said in a news release. “Such massive structures – spanning, for example, from Indo-Madagascar to Australia – may be hard to imagine. But over the timescales that we are talking about, which is in the order of tens of millions of years, it is perfectly feasible that plate tectonic activity gave rise to the right conditions for such land bridges to form.”

How did researchers reach this conclusion?

For the study, the scientists used the Paleobiology Database, which holds every recorded dinosaur fossils from around the planet. Fossil data for the same dinosaur families from several continents were then mapped for various periods of time, exposing associations that showed movement patterns.

Unique coral reef system discovered at the mouth of the Amazon

APRIL 23, 2016

by Chuck Bednar

With tales of widespread bleaching and the ill effects of climate change dominating headlines, there’s finally some good news involving coral reefs : researchers have discovered an entirely new, previously undetected reef system at the mouth of the Amazon River.

The unexpected find, which is detailed in the April 22 edition of the journal Science Advances, was rather unexpected because larger rivers that flow into the oceans in areas known as plumes often have gaps in the reef distribution along their tropical shelves, the authors explained.

However, a team of scientists from the University of Georgia and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro found a broad reef ecosystem hidden beneath a plume of river water, which according to Discovery News is what kept it hidden for so long. They discovered the reef through a process known as multibeam acoustic sampling, and collected samples to confirm their find.

“There were some studies back in the 1950s that suggested the presence of reefs,” senior author Fabiano Thompson, an oceanographer and professor of marine biology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told the site, “but none pinpointed the reef bodies, dimensions, locations, and compositions.”

Role of animals in mitigating climate change varies across tropical forests

Date: April 25, 2016
Source: University of Leeds

Large animals play a key role in mitigating climate change in tropical forests across the world by spreading the seeds of large trees that have a high capacity to store carbon, new research co-led by the University of Leeds has said.

The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, sheds important new light on the role seed dispersal by animals plays in mitigating climate change, and how this role can vary in tropical forests across the world.

In tropical forests of the Americas, Africa and South Asia, a large majority of tree species depend on animals for seed dispersal. Tree species with large seeds attain greater adult sizes than those having smaller seeds. Using simulations, the researchers showed that declines of large animals will result in forests having fewer large trees -- and hence carbon losses from these forests over time -- as they play an important role in seed dispersal.

In contrast, a relatively large proportion of large-statured tree species in tropical forests of South East Asia depend on wind and gravity rather than animals for seed dispersal. In these forests, the loss of animal dispersers will not have as pronounced an effect on carbon storage.

Experts from 15 institutions, including the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, together with colleagues from the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India, examined how tree species dispersed by large animals differed from tree species dispersed by smaller animals and by other methods, for example wind and gravity, in their ability to store carbon.

This new moth has an explosive way of fending off bats

Meet a new moth with an extraordinary ability, nicknamed "the spider moth"

By Zoe Gough16 April 2016

Discovering a new species is always exciting, particularly one that uses an explosion of a sticky, wool-like material to defend itself.

This unique way of defeating predators involves the moth producing something resembling spider silk, earning it the affectionate nickname of "the spider moth”.

It is also the first time that this explosive tactic has been documented being used by a moth to escape predatory bats, according to the scientist that discovered it.

The behaviour was filmed by the team behind the BBC / PBS co-production series Life in the Air and can be seen in the clip above.

The new moth was discovered near to Cosanga in Equador in August, 2014.

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