Thursday 30 July 2020

[Herpetology • 2020] Tropidophis steinleini • A New Species of Tropidophis (Squamata: Tropidophiidae) and Molecular Phylogeny of the Cuban Radiation of the Genus

Cuba has the highest diversity of snakes in the genus Tropidophis, representing 53 % of all the known species. Tropidophis steinleini sp. nov. is described from the eastern region of Cuba, raising the number of species to 17 in this archipelago. The new species is most closely related to T. wrighti, T. spiritus and T. morenoi. We discuss the phylogenetic relationships of this new species and other species of the genus in Cuba, based on molecular data, and classified them within three species groups according to the obtained tree topology.

Keywords: Caribbean Islands, snakes, dwarf boas, DNA, classification, species groups

[Crustacea • 2020] Renocila bijui • A New Species of Renocila Miers, 1880 (Isopoda: Cymothoidae), A Fish Parasitic Isopod from Andaman Island, India

Renocila bijui sp. nov., parasitizing the coral reef fish Acanthurus triostegus (Linnaeus, 1758) from Andaman Island, India is described and illustrated. Renocila bijui sp. nov., the first definitive record of the genus from India, is characterized by: rectangular body; truncate frons without a ventral posteriorly directed rostrum; antenna longer and narrower than antennula; pereonite 7 posterolateral angle acute, pleon is 0.8 width of pereon; pleotelson broadly truncate, with prominent median longitudinal carina; pereopods 1–3 each with produced process on the posterodistal angle of basis, gradually increasing the length from 1–3; and pereopods 1–3 inferior margins of articles all without a process or lobe, though ischium carinate. A key to the 17 world species of Renocila is provided. Renocila limbata (Schioedte & Meinert, 1884) and R. periophthalma Stebbing, 1900 are not included since both species lack the description for the adult female.

Habitat of newly described frog in Sumatra threatened by oil palms, roads

BOGOR, Indonesia — Scientists from Indonesia and Japan have recently described a new frog species that is endemic to the island of Sumatra. The identification of this rare amphibian has…

Sumatran rhino planned for capture is another female, Indonesian officials say

Sumatran rhino planned for capture is another female, Indonesian officials say

SAMARINDA, Indonesia — A wild Sumatran rhino that conservation officials in Indonesia plan to catch next year for a captive-breeding program in Borneo has been identified as a female. The…

What makes a Sumatran tiger different? Candid Animal Cam heads to southeast Asia

What makes a Sumatran tiger different? Candid Animal Cam heads to southeast Asia

Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This week we’re meeting the smallest tiger subspecies on Earth: the…

Sri Lanka’s hourglass frog is only an hourglass frog 77% of the time

Sri Lanka’s hourglass frog is only an hourglass frog 77% of the time

HORTON PLAINS, Sri Lanka — Is an hourglass frog still an hourglass frog if it doesn’t have the distinctive marking on its back that gives it its name? That’s one…

Podcast: Hellbenders, super-spreaders, and other salamanders face uncertain futures

Podcast: Hellbenders, super-spreaders, and other salamanders face uncertain futures

Hellbenders are North America’s largest salamanders, living in rivers and growing to an incredible length of over two feet. Eastern newts are tiny and terrestrial, but both are susceptible to…

WILD JUSTICE NEWSLETTER: White tailed eagle killed

This is the body of a young White-tailed Eagle found in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland.  It was poisoned. 
The dead bird was found because it was satellite-tagged and the scientists following its behaviour knew that somethng was amiss and discovered the body. How many more White-tailed Eagles, Golden Eagles, Red Kites, Buzzards etc die in a similar manner but their bodies aren't found?

Government rejects calls to make 'spiralling' pet theft a crime


Calls to make pet theft a specific criminal offence have been rejected by ministers, who say it is covered by existing laws.

Campaigners argue stiffer penalties are needed to deter thieves.

And a petition urging government to act has gathered more than 250,000 names.

Filey Bay stranded basking shark put down

Filey Bay stranded basking shark put down - BBC News

A shark which had got stranded in shallow waters on the Yorkshire coast has been put down, according to a marine charity.

The basking shark was spotted in the water trying to beach itself at Filey in North Yorkshire, on Thursday.

The beach was closed while a lifeboat crew tried to prevent it from beaching and to get it back out to sea.

Marine charity Sea Watch said it was believed the creature was ill and the decision was made to euthanise it.

Extinction: Quarter of UK mammals 'under threat'

Red squirrel

Image captionThe red squirrel is listed as Endangered

A quarter of native mammals now at risk of extinction in the UK.

This is according to the first Red List of UK mammals - a comprehensive review of the status of species, including wildcats, red squirrels and hedgehogs.

The report's authors are calling for urgent action to prevent their loss.

Prof Fiona Mathews from the Mammal Society told BBC News: "What this...

Wednesday 29 July 2020

NOVATAXA: Eight new Chinese cave crickets

Tachycines (Gymnaetaparadoxus 
Zhu, Chen & Shi, 2020

Read on...

NOVATAXA: Systematic Reappraisal of the Anti-equatorial Fish Genus Microcanthus

Microcanthus joyceae Whitley, 1931

in Tea & Gill, 2020

Read on...

HMMMM: Woman films 'Yoda' or strange 'gargoyle creature' stalking a group of deer

This creepy creature – which believers say might be a “cryptid” or even "Yoda" – was caught on video by a woman in her back garden in Minnesota. She was left in disbelief

People can't decide if this creature is Yoda or a gargoyle or a cat...

Web results

Wednesday 8 July 2020

To protect threatened beetle, entomologists hope new colony takes hold

JULY 7, 2020

by Rodger Gwiazdowski, University of Massachusetts Amherst

As thousands of hopeful coronavirus shut-ins look forward to heading to Atlantic beaches for the July 4 holiday, University of Massachusetts Amherst entomologist Rodger Gwiazdowski and colleagues are also heading to the beach—but they'll visit the last quiet natural one protected by the National Park Service at Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

There, Gwiazdowski and a team of biologists will visit part of the Gateway National Recreation Area to survey the beach above the tide line for what they hope is the beginning of a new population of the federally threatened Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle. In early May they had released almost 200 grub-like larvae at Sandy Hook, which is about 15 miles south of Staten Island with a clear view of Coney Island. On their early July re-visit, the researchers hope to find the larvae emerged as adult beetles.

In collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies, Gwiazdowski and colleagues including Joe Elkinton at UMass Amherst plan three years of relocating larvae that are in the last growth stage before they pupate into adults. "We'll do two pre-surveys in early July," Gwiazdowski says. "If we find some, we'll go back later to see if we can determine a peak number."

He points out, "These insects used to be found on seaward beaches all up and down the East coast but their numbers crashed after 1945. In the 1990s, some were left on Martha's Vineyard and, a few of those were moved to nearby Monomoy Island off Cape Cod. "Now, the Monomoy population has exploded and we're seeing what a pre-discovery population looked like before Henry Hudson and other Europeans arrived."

Making a list of all creatures, great and small

JULY 7, 2020

A paper published July 7, 2020 in the open access journal PLOS Biology outlines a roadmap for creating, for the first time, an agreed list of all the world's species, from mammals and birds to plants, fungi and microbes.

"Listing all species may sound routine, but is a difficult and complex task," says Prof. Stephen Garnett of Charles Darwin University, the paper's lead author. "Currently no single, agreed list of species is available." Instead, some iconic groups of organisms such as mammals and birds have several competing lists, while other less well-known groups have none.

This causes problems for organizations and governments that need reliable, agreed, scientifically defensible and accurate lists for the purposes of conservation, international treaties, biosecurity, and regulation of trade in endangered species. The lack of an agreed list of all species also hampers researchers studying Earth's biodiversity.

The new paper outlines a potential solution—a set of ten principles for creating and governing lists of the world's species, and a proposed governance mechanism for ensuring that the lists are well-managed and broadly acceptable.

"Importantly, it clearly defines the roles of taxonomists—the scientists who discover, name and classify species—and stakeholders such as conservationists and government and international agencies," says Dr. Kevin Thiele, Director of Taxonomy Australia and a co-author on the paper. "While taxonomists would have the final say on how to recognize and name species, the process ensures that stakeholders' needs are considered when deciding between differing taxonomic opinions."

Animals who try to sound 'bigger' are good at learning sounds

JULY 7, 2020

Some animals fake their body size by sounding bigger than they actually are. Maxime Garcia from the University of Zurich and Andrea Ravignani from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics studied 164 different mammals and found that animals that lower their voices to sound bigger are often skilled vocalists. Both strategies—sounding bigger and learning sounds—are likely driven by sexual selection, and may play a role in explaining the origins of human speech evolution.

"If you saw a chihuahua barking as deep as a rottweiler, you would definitely be surprised," says Andrea Ravignani, a researcher at the MPI and the Dutch Sealcentre Pieterburen. Body size influences the frequency of the sounds animals produce, but many animals found ways to sound smaller or bigger than expected.

"Nature is full of animals like squeaky rottweilers and tenor chihuahuas," explains Ravignani. Some animals fake their size by developing larger vocal organs that lower their sound, which makes them sound larger than you would expect. Other animals are good at controlling the sounds they produce. Such strategies (called dishonest signalling by biologists) could be driven by sexual selection, as males with larger body size or superior singing skills (hitting very high or low notes) attract more females (or vice versa).

Garcia and Ravignani wondered whether some animals may have learned to make new sounds as a strategy to attract mates. Few animal species are capable of vocal learning, among them, mammals such as seals, dolphins, bats and elephants. For instance, seals can imitate sounds, and some seals copy call types of successfully breeding individuals. Would animals who often 'fake' their body size also be the ones capable of learning new sounds?

Monday 6 July 2020

Crunch, crunch: Africa's locust outbreak is far from over

JULY 5, 2020

by Khaled Kazziha and Cara Anna

Locusts swarm on a tree south of Lodwar town in Turkana county, northern Kenya Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The worst outbreak of the voracious insects in Kenya in 70 years is far from over, and their newest generation is now finding its wings for proper flight. (AP Photo/Boris Polo)

The crunch of young locusts comes with nearly every step. The worst outbreak of the voracious insects in Kenya in 70 years is far from over, and their newest generation is now finding its wings for proper flight.

The livelihoods of millions of already vulnerable people in East Africa are at stake, and people like Boris Polo are working to limit the damage. The logistician with a helicopter firm is on contract with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, helping to find and mark locust swarms for the targeted pesticide spraying that has been called the only effective control.

"It sounds grim because there's no way you're gonna kill all of them because the areas are so vast," he told The Associated Press from the field in northwestern Kenya on Thursday. "But the key of the project is to minimize" the damage, and the work is definitely having an effect, he said.

For months, a large part of East Africa has been caught in a cycle with no end in sight as millions of locusts became billions, nibbling away the leaves of both crops and the brush that sustains the livestock so important to many families.

"The risk of significant impact to both crops and rangelands is very high," the regional IGAD Climate Prediction & Applications Center said Wednesday in a statement.

DNA helps conservation of elusive tequila bat

JULY 6, 2020

Scientists studying the near-threatened tequila bat, best known for its vital role in pollinating the Blue Agave plant from which the drink of the same name is made from, have analyzed its DNA to help inform conservationists on managing their populations. The findings are published in Global Ecology and Conservation.
Native to the Americas, the tequila bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) lives in caves in some of the hottest desert areas in Mexico. Given that bats are highly mobile, and that migratory species tend to mix constantly with other bat populations, it is hard for conservationists to know whether they are protecting the best sites for the tequila bats to roost.

While known that some tequila bat populations migrate in Mexico's spring months to the Sonoran Desert to give birth to their pups and pollinate a variety of plants iconic to the region, including the economically important Blue Agave plant. Other tequila bat populations inhabit Southern Mexico year-round, forming large breeding colonies in the winter months.

This study aimed to help better inform conservationists of the species' breeding and migratory patterns by determining whether the bats inhabiting Southern Mexico year-round have a similar ancestral origin to those that migrate to the Sonoran Desert.

Read on

Sunday 5 July 2020

Good night? Satellite data uncovers dolphins on the move at nighttime

Date: June 2, 2020
Source: Florida Atlantic University
More than 1,000 bottlenose dolphins live in the Indian River Lagoon year-round. This estuarine system along the southeast coast of Florida is a narrow and convoluted ecosystem with interconnected bodies of water, a handful of ocean inlets, and numerous small rivers, creeks and canals that release freshwater into the lagoon. While this population of dolphins in the lagoon has been studied extensively, what they do at nighttime is still a mystery.
Researchers from Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in collaboration with Seven Degrees of Mapping LLC, and Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, are the first to use satellite telemetry on this dolphin population, providing unique insights into their behavioral ecology during the overnight hours. Detailed information about their nocturnal movements and habitat use will give scientists a more complete ecological understanding of this population. These dolphins face many direct and indirect threats including boat strikes, entanglements, and environmental contamination.
Results of the study, published in the journal Animal Biotelemetry, provide the first documentation of Indian River Lagoon dolphins regularly leaving the brackish waters of the estuarine system and, not only traveling into the ocean, but swimming substantial distances -- up to 20 kilometers -- up freshwater rivers, creeks, and canals. These journeys do not appear to be extended stays in freshwater, which can be detrimental to dolphin health, but instead involve many brief trips upriver. Findings reveal that they have a larger range that encompasses more habitats than previously thought.


Alien frog invasion wreaks havoc on natural habitat

Date: June 4, 2020
Source: University of South Australia
Indiscriminate feeding by an alien population of the carnivorous spotted-thighed frog -- could severely affect the native biodiversity of southern Australia according to a new study by the University of South Australia.
The invasive amphibian -- Litoria cyclorhyncha -- which has hitchhiked across the Nullarbor from Western Australia -- has now established a community of 1000-plus in Streaky Bay, South Australia, with sightings also confirmed on the Eyre Peninsula and at the Adelaide airport.
This is the first study of the spotted-thighed frog's diet in its invaded range with the findings providing important biological information about the impact of the alien species on natural ecosystems.
Ecology experts, UniSA's Associate Professor Gunnar Keppel and Christine Taylor, say the potential of the spotted-thighed frog spreading to other parts of Australia is very concerning given its destructive eating patterns.
"This frog is an indiscriminate eating machine that will devour just about anything it can fit into its mouth," Taylor says.
"We're talking about a relatively large, predatory tree frog that, as a species is alien to South Australia, and it could have devastating impact on invaded habitats.
"As it eats away at local species, it's impacting the natural ecosystem, which can displace or destroy local food webs, outcompete native birds, reptiles and mammals for resources, and potentially change natural biodiversity."
Biodiversity is the theme of this year's United Nations World Environment Day.

Read on

Catastrophic disease events in marine mammals mostly caused by viruses

Date: June 18, 2020
Source: Virginia Tech
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, people are beginning to understand, at a very personal level, the ways in which infectious diseases can devastate life. But disease outbreaks are not confined to just humans or to life on land.
"We are perhaps more alert than ever to the catastrophic impacts of infectious disease in both humans and animals. Our task now is to begin to understand what drives these events, particularly in species like marine mammals, where our knowledge is even more limited," said Claire Sanderson, a research associate in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation within the College of Natural Resources and Environment and the research coordinator of the Center for African Resources: Animals, Communities, and Land Use (CARACAL).
In 2000, over 10,000 endangered Caspian seals died in less than a four-month span. Researchers later discovered that the culprit behind this devastating mass mortality event was canine distemper virus.
Infectious disease-induced mass mortality events are known to afflict a variety of species, including invertebrates, birds, fish, and both land and aquatic mammals. However, these events in aquatic mammals are understudied compared to their land-dwelling counterparts.

Friday 3 July 2020

Shhhh, the whales are resting

Date: June 16, 2020
Source: Aarhus University
We need new guidelines to shield whales from human-made noise to ensure them some peace and quiet. It is no good keeping whale-watching boats out of whales' sight if the noise from the boats' engines disturb the whales most. And whales can hear the boats' engines from far away, according to a Danish-Australian research team.
Whale-watching has become a multi-billion-dollar business, and companies want to give passengers the best possible experience by positioning their boats close to the whales.
Public authorities around the globe have set restrictions on whale-watching boats in order to protect whales. For example, some countries require boats to keep a distance of at least 100 metres from the whales, or require them to stay behind or next to the whales at slow speed. However, scientific studies have shown that even when boats keep to these restrictions, the whales are still disturbed and change behaviour:
They dive, change course, swim faster, breathe more often, disperse and may make different sounds compared to usual.
Now, a team of researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark believe they have found an explanation: The engines in some of the boats are too loud. And authorities can now place noise emission standards on this noise.

First egg from Antarctica is big and might belong to an extinct sea lizard

Date: June 17, 2020
Source: University of Texas at Austin
In 2011, Chilean scientists discovered a mysterious fossil in Antarctica that looked like a deflated football. For nearly a decade, the specimen sat unlabeled and unstudied in the collections of Chile's National Museum of Natural History, with scientists identifying it only by its sci-fi movie-inspired nickname -- "The Thing."
An analysis led by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin has found that the fossil is a giant, soft-shell egg from about 66 million years ago. Measuring in at more than 11 by 7 inches, the egg is the largest soft-shell egg ever discovered and the second-largest egg of any known animal.
The specimen is the first fossil egg found in Antarctica and pushes the limits of how big scientists thought soft-shell eggs could grow. Aside from its astounding size, the fossil is significant because scientists think it was laid by an extinct, giant marine reptile, such as a mosasaur -- a discovery that challenges the prevailing thought that such creatures did not lay eggs.
"It is from an animal the size of a large dinosaur, but it is completely unlike a dinosaur egg," said lead author Lucas Legendre, a postdoctoral researcher at UT Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences. "It is most similar to the eggs of lizards and snakes, but it is from a truly giant relative of these animals."
A study describing the fossil egg was published in Nature on June 17.
Co-author David Rubilar-Rogers of Chile's National Museum of Natural History was one of the scientists who discovered the fossil in 2011. He showed it to every geologist who came to the museum, hoping somebody had an idea, but he didn't find anyone until Julia Clarke, a professor in the Jackson School's Department of Geological Sciences, visited in 2018.
"I showed it to her and, after a few minutes, Julia told me it could be a deflated egg!" Rubilar-Rogers said.
Using a suite of microscopes to study samples, Legendre found several layers of membrane that confirmed that the fossil was indeed an egg. The structure is very similar to transparent, quick-hatching eggs laid by some snakes and lizards today, he said. However, because the fossil egg is hatched and contains no skeleton, Legendre had to use other means to zero in on the type of reptile that laid it.

Chemistry behind bombardier beetle's extraordinary firepower

Date: June 16, 2020
Source: Stevens Institute of Technology
If you want to see one of the wonders of the natural world, just startle a bombardier beetle. But be careful: when the beetles are scared, they flood an internal chamber with a complex cocktail of aromatic chemicals, triggering a cascade of chemical reactions that detonates the fluid and sends it shooting out of the insect's spray nozzle in a machine-gun-like pulse of toxic, scalding-hot vapor. The explosive, high-pressure burst of noxious chemicals doesn't harm the beetle, but it stains and irritates human skin -- and can kill smaller enemies outright.
The beetle's extraordinary arsenal has been held up by some as a proof of God's existence: how on earth, creationists argue, could such a complex, multistep defense mechanism evolve by chance? Now researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. show how the bombardier beetle concocts its deadly explosives and in the process, learn how evolution gave rise to the beetle's remarkable firepower.
"We explain for the first time how these incredible beetles biosynthesize chemicals to create fuel for their explosions," said Athula Attygalle, a research professor of chemistry and lead author of the work, which appears today in the July 2020 issue of the Science of Nature. "It's a fascinating story that nobody has been able to tell before."
To trace the workings of the beetle's internal chemistry set, Attygalle and colleagues at University of California, Berkeley used deuterium, a rare hydrogen isotope, to tag specially synthesized chemical blends. The team led by Kipling Will then either injected the deuterium-labeled chemicals into the beetles' internal fluids, or mixed them with dog food and fed them to the beetles over a period of several days.
Attygalle's team sedated the bugs by popping them in the freezer, then gently tugged at their legs, annoying the sleepy insects until they launched their defensive sprays onto carefully placed filter papers. The team also dissected some beetles, using human hairs to tie closed the tiny ducts linking their chemical reservoirs and reaction chambers, and sampling the raw chemicals used to generate explosions.

Related Posts with Thumbnails