Sunday 31 December 2017

Are Santa's Reindeer Males?

By Live Science Staff | December 18, 2017 01:06pm ET

Impossible, scientists say.

Here's why: Here on the ground, male reindeer shed their antlers at the end of the mating season in early December, while females sport their thinner antlers throughout the winter. 

Sounds like Rudolph and the gang were all gals. 

"It appears that way," said physiologist Perry Barboza of the Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska at Fairbanks, who studies reindeer and their closest cousins, caribou. Scientists consider reindeer and caribou the same species.

Santa, turns out, did some savvy hiring of his prancing parade. These antlered deer (Rangifer tarandus) are used to the cold. They live in Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia and Russia, where they graze on tundra plants. So, even though pudgy Santa must bundle himself beneath a red-velvet suit, sleigh-pulling reindeer are naturally covered with hollow hairs that trap in air and keep them well-insulated. Plus, their circulatory systems keep the cooler blood in the reindeer's limbs from drawing heat from the warm blood in their core body.

While all reindeer would be equipped for an Arctic journey, though a flightless one, females might have the edge over their male counterparts.

Friday 29 December 2017

Jaguar conservation depends on neighbors' attitudes

A jaguar named Aquiles caught in a camera trap image taken in Cana, Panama. The number one cause of jaguar deaths in Panama is retaliation for livestock predation. Enclosing livestock in corrals during the night can significantly reduce …more

According to a new survey of residents living near two major national parks in Panama, jaguars deserve increased protection. Nature and wildlife are considered national treasures. But because most residents still support road-building in the parks, the survey team—including Ricardo Moreno, a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute research associate—recommends further education to emphasize the connection between healthy ecosystems and jaguar survival.

"Attitudes of stakeholder groups are especially important to consider, as they can significantly affect policy, thus making the foundations of carnivore management as social and political as they are scientific," the study concludes.

Cerro Hoya National Park is an isolated tropical forest remnant (325 square kilometers, 125 square miles) on Panama's Pacific coast, whereas Darién National Park is Panama's most extensive park (5,790 square kilometers, 2235 square miles) in the area between Panama and Colombia, the only gap in the Pan-American highway from Alaska to Chile.

"According to our study, there is more human—jaguar conflict in Darién National Park, probably because communities are near larger tracts of unbroken forest, which is much better jaguar habitat," Moreno said. "Ironically, the respondents' ideas about roads into the parks are likely to increase this conflict and make effective park management significantly more challenging."

Florida Moves to Control Booming Iguana Population - via Herp Digest

Miami,, Fl, December 16, 2017, Voice of America/AP 

With burrowing iguanas showing up in people's toilets and damaging expensive sewer lines, Florida wildlife managers are stepping up efforts to control the state's booming population of the wild, invasive reptiles.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has hired a trapper to try to control the iguana population on public land in the Florida Keys. It is also holding workshops to teach homeowners how to trap and ward off the reptiles, The Miami Herald reports .

A green iguana checks out the flowers on a Bougainvillea plant in Hollywood, Fla. The invasive reptiles eat mostly leaves, flowers and fruit, and they are prolific in South Florida.

While the iguanas have been in Florida since the 1960s, FWC exotic species coordinator Kristin Sommers said there has been a noted increase in "human conflicts.”

Iguanas have been damaging roads and showing up in shopping malls, and they are a common sight on golf courses. 

In the Keys, the animals damage natural areas and consume plants important to dwindling species like butterflies. They also threatened a new billion-dollar sewage line.

Iguanas also can spread salmonella by defecating in people's swimming pools.

Trapper Brian Wood uses a fishing pole with a wire attached to snare an iguana behind a condominium in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., 

Perched in trees and scampering down sidewalks, green iguanas are so common across area suburbs that many see them as reptilian squirrels instead of exotic invaders.

Training people to help catch the pesky lizards is an important part of the state's effort.

"FWC can't go out and remove everybody's iguanas. That's just not possible," Sommers told the newspaper.
The lizard boom has also created a new industry for people who trap them.

Tom Portuallo started such a business in Broward County after seeing a group of iguanas take over a friend's pool.
He now has customers throughout South Florida.

Trapper Brian Wood talks with Janet Sarno, board chairwoman at King’s Point Imperial Condo, in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., about her iguana problem, Sarno hired Wood because the number of iguanas, big adults and bright green babies, hanging around the building’s pool has been growing despite residents’ attempts to chase them away or block their entry.

Wildlife biologist Joe Wasilewski told the newspaper that Florida wants to nip the problem in the bud before it gets out of control as it is on many Caribbean islands.

He said he was hired to deal with an iguana problem at a high-end resort in the Bahamas.

"The numbers just exploded to where you drive a golf cart and there's waves of green iguanas going into the forest," he said. "They're literally a green plague."
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