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Author Topic: ANIMAL NEWS FOR DAEMON SOULS AND ALL ANIMAL LOVERS  (Read 1571152 times)
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« Reply #6285 on: Sep 10, 2019, 04:07 AM »

Biologists warn ‘extreme mating’ is killing tiny marsupials en masse: report

on September 10, 2019
By Agence France-Presse

A tiny marsupial found only in northwest Australia mates so intensely that an entire generation of males can die off during a single breeding season, researchers reported on Friday.

Biologists studying kalutas — a mouse-sized marsupial found in the arid Pilbara region — believe they die en masse because of sex-driven immune system collapse.

Female kalutas mate frequently and with different males during each breeding season.

“That means that males also have to mate a lot, and have good quality sperm (and lots of it), to outcompete rival males,” said Genevieve Hayes, who led the University of Western Australia research team.

“This intense investment in reproduction, evidenced by their large testes, appears to be fatal for males.”

Scientists believe it is a rare example of male semelparity — a reproduction strategy characterised by “synchronised death”, often before offspring are born.

“Males were regularly captured in healthy numbers throughout the study, except immediately after the mating seasons, when no males were captured,” Hayes said.

“This, coupled with other research in the field and laboratory, strongly suggests that males die after the mating season.”

The researchers said that despite the kalutas’ “extreme mating behaviour”, the species appears to be doing well.


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« Reply #6286 on: Sep 11, 2019, 03:42 AM »


Shocking news: world's most powerful electric eel found in Amazon

Electrophorus voltai can deliver a jolt of 860 volts, much more than existing record of 650 volts

Agence France-Presse
Wed 11 Sep 2019 02.35 BST

DNA research has revealed two entirely new species of electric eel in the Amazon basin, including one capable of delivering a record-breaking jolt.

The findings are evidence, researchers say, of the incredible diversity in the Amazon rainforest – much of it still unknown to science – and illustrate why it is so important to protect a habitat at risk from deforestation, logging and fires.

“In spite of all human impact on the Amazon rainforest in the last 50 years, we can still discover giant fishes like the two new species of electric eels,” said lead researcher C David de Santana, a zoologist working with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

The research “indicates that an enormous amount of species are waiting to be discovered in the Amazon rainforest, many of which may harbour cures for diseases or inspire technological innovations,” he said.

The electric eel, which is a kind of fish rather than an eel, inspired the design of the first electric battery.

For centuries, it was believed that a single species existed throughout the region known as Greater Amazonia, encompassing parts of countries including Brazil, Suriname and Guyana.

But as part of a project to better understand electric eels and map wildlife in remote parts of South America, de Santana and his team decided to test that theory.

At first glance, they found little visible difference between creatures collected from different parts of the Amazon basin, suggesting the fish were indeed part of a single species.

But further analysis, including of DNA from 107 samples they collected, upended centuries of assumptions and revealed three species: the previously known Electrophorus electricus, along with Electrophorus voltai and Electrophorus varii.

And their research also uncovered another stunning result: E. voltai is capable of delivering a jolt of 860 volts – much more than the 650 volts previously recorded from electric eels – “making it the strongest bioelectricity generator known”.

The findings, published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, theorise that the three species evolved from a shared ancestor millions of years ago.

The researchers found each of the three species had a clearly defined habitat, with E. electricus living in the Guiana Shield region, E. voltai in the Brazilian Shield, a highland further south, and E. varii inhabiting slow-flowing lowland Amazon basin waters.

And they suggest that the particularly strong electric shock that E. voltai can produce could be an adaptation to life in highland waters, where conductivity is reduced.

Electric eels use their shock tactics for a variety of reasons, including hunting prey, self-defence, and navigation. They generate electricity from three specialised electric organs that can emit charges of varying strengths for different purposes.

But the discovery of the new species raises the possibility that different types of eels may have evolved different ways of generating electricity, perhaps better suited to their diverse environments.

“Electric eel physiology inspired the design of Volta’s first electric battery, provided a basis ... for treating neurodegenerative diseases and recently promoted the advance of hydrogel batteries that could be used to power medical implants,” de Santana said.


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« Reply #6287 on: Sep 11, 2019, 03:50 AM »


Largest flying animal in history identified: study

on September 11, 2019
By Agence France-Presse

Scientists on Tuesday unveiled a new species pterosaur, the plane-sized reptiles that lorded over primeval skies above T-rex, Triceratops and other dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous.

With a wingspan of ten metres and weighing 250 kilos, Cryodrakon boreas rivals another pterosaur as the largest flying animal of all time, researchers reported in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

“This is a cool discovery,” said David Hone, lead author of the study and a researcher at Queen Mary University in London.

“It is great that we can identify Cryodrakon as being distinct from Quetzalcoatlus,” the other giant pterosaur for which it was initially mistaken, he said in a statement.

C. boreas was hiding in plain sight.

Its remains were first discovered more than 30 years ago in Alberta, Canada, yet elicited scant excitement because of the misclassification.

But a closer look at the fossil remains of a juvenile and the intact giant neck bone of a full-grown specimen left no doubt that a new species had been discovered.

Like other winged reptiles living at the same time, about 77 million years ago, C. boreas was carnivorous and probably fed on lizards, small mammals and even baby dinosaurs.

Despite a likely capacity to cross large bodies of water, the location of fossil remains and the animal’s features point to an inland habitat, Hone said.

There are more than 100 known species of pterosaurs.

Despite their large size and wide distribution — across North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe — only fragmentary remains have been unearthed, making the new find especially important.


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« Reply #6288 on: Sep 11, 2019, 03:52 AM »

 Wildlife photographer of the year – highly commended images

Guardian
9/11/2019

The Natural History Museum has released a selection of highly commended photographs from a range of categories. The winners will be announced on 15 October and the exhibition opens on 18 October

The exhibition at the Natural History Museum opens on Friday 18 October.

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/wildlife


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« Reply #6289 on: Sep 11, 2019, 03:54 AM »


Ocean buoy reveals birds hanging out in eye of Hurricane Dorian

Mike Wehner
ZME
9/11/2019

Whenever a powerful storm threatens coasts, we often focus on the potential impact on human lives and infrastructure. It can sometimes be easy to forget that hurricanes can severely disrupt the lives of wildlife as well, but some new images from a buoy in Hurricane Dorian’s eye is a great reminder.

The photos, first tweeted out by the National Weather Service in Charleston, South Carolina, show the conditions inside the eye. As you’d expect, there are relatively calm waters, a wall of clouds covering the horizon on all sides and… wait a second, are those birds?

The buoy, which is owned and operated by the National Data Buoy Center, is equipped with multiple cameras that regularly relay images back to its handlers on the mainland. In this case, it clearly shows severals birds doing their best to pretend it’s a day like any other, when in reality they’re riding a tiny slice of clear skies in the middle of a raging storm.

“This is a really interesting image from the Edisto buoy (41004) located ~40 miles SE of Charleston,” the National Weather Service says in its tweet. “The buoy is squarely in the eye of #Dorian and if you look closely at the webcam you can see birds flying around, likely trapped in the eye.”

Venturing into the wall of clouds surrounding them would put the birds in immediate danger, but in the eye, they’re fairly safe. Now that they’re stuck in the eye they’re forced to ride it as far as the storm takes them, lest they get swept away in the hurricane’s high winds.

    This is a really interesting image from the Edisto buoy (41004) located ~40 miles SE of Charleston. The buoy is squarely in the eye of #Dorian and if you look closely at the web cam you can see birds flying around, likely trapped in the eye. https://t.co/Fz3YgmHfjK #scwx pic.twitter.com/Acleo5jFpL

    — NWS Charleston, SC (@NWSCharlestonSC) September 5, 2019

In a more recent batch of images snapped by the buoy, we can see exactly what it is the birds are trying to avoid by riding the eye:


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« Reply #6290 on: Sep 11, 2019, 03:55 AM »


Birdwatch: shore things – getting close to waders on their migration

Dunlins and ringed plovers spend most of their time on mudflats but high tide gives a better view

Stephen Moss
Guardian
11 Sep 2019 21.30 BST

Waders are on the move. September is the peak month to see them as they head south from their northern breeding grounds to winter along the coasts of Europe and Africa.

On my coastal patch, high tide forces them to stop feeding and roost for an hour or so; it also allows me to get close to birds that spend most of their time out on the mudflats.

As the water approaches, they congregate along the sea wall, nervously looking out for danger, which as well as the fishermen and dog walkers also includes me. So I keep my distance, scanning the flock through my telescope. Today, there are mostly dunlins and ringed plovers, with a turnstone and a single knot – the first I have seen here for a while.

Dunlins and ringed plovers both breed in Britain but I suspect these birds have travelled much farther to be here. That’s because they perform “leapfrog migration”, where birds nesting at temperate latitudes stay close to their breeding grounds for the winter, while Scandinavian birds head south, some going all the way to west Africa.

But wherever they have come from, and wherever they are heading, they have allowed me to spend time with them on their journey – for which I am, as ever, grateful.


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« Reply #6291 on: Sep 12, 2019, 03:41 AM »


Defra to review release of game birds after legal threat

Government agrees to examine impact of shooting industry’s release of 50m non-native birds

Patrick Barkham
Guardian
Thu 12 Sep 2019 10.20 BST

The annual release of more than 50 million non-native game birds into the countryside with no environmental assessment is to be reviewed by the government after campaigners announced they were to mount a legal challenge.

Campaigners Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay, of the campaign group Wild Justice, argued that the massive and unregulated increase in the number of pheasants and red-legged partridges put into the British countryside for shooting each year – up from 4 million in the early 1970s – contravenes the EU habitats directive.

Under these laws, the impact of game birds on the biodiversity of protected areas must first be assessed. Pheasants and partridges can prey on native reptiles and amphibians, while recent scientific evidence has shown an association between game birds and higher numbers of foxes and avian predators such as crows, which in turn prey on rare species such as curlew.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed there will be a review of the way game birds are released on or near protected areas such as special areas of conservation in England.

The review will not affect this year’s pheasant and partridge shooting season, which begins on 1 October, but Wild Justice claimed its second successive victory since it was established this year.

In the spring, the group’s challenge to the government’s system of general licences, which permits the shooting of “pest” species such as pigeons, prompted the authorities to hurriedly withdraw the general licence and issue new, more limited permissions to shoot certain species.

“What Defra have done shows that Wild Justice were right,” said Avery, who is also a blogger and researcher. “It’s an admission that Defra have been asleep on the job and numbers of non-native game birds released into the countryside have increased year-on-year, and it takes a bunch of part-time nature conservationists to say you should be looking at this.

“The half-dozen native white-tailed eagles recently released on the Isle of Wight required mountains of paperwork. To throw out a few thousand non-native pheasants requires no paperwork at all. In fact, to throw out 47 million pheasants requires no paperwork at all. You don’t have to be much of an ecologist to think that might be a bit wrong.”

Avery said an essential first step was for the authorities to ensure the shooting industry accurately counted the number of game birds being released, with latest estimates putting the annual release of captive-bred pheasants and red-legged partridges at 57 million. The government must also examine the cumulative effects of these populations on and close to protected areas to reveal how wider biodiversity is affected, he said.

Defra said it “accepted in principle the annual release of non-native game birds, specifically the common pheasant and red-legged partridge, can be considered a ‘plan or project’ requiring appropriate assessment within the meaning of the habitats directive”.

Andrew Gilruth, the director of communications at Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, said: “It is already the case that you can only release game birds, on land listed by the EU, with permission from the government conservation agency Natural England.

“Ground-nesting birds may welcome this challenge because, unlike shooting, no such assessment is made of those walking dogs, running or mountain biking during the breeding season.”


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« Reply #6292 on: Sep 12, 2019, 03:44 AM »


Scientists use IVF procedures to help save near-extinct rhinos

Two embryos have been created in an attempt to rescue northern white rhinos

Ian Sample Science editor
Guardian
12 Sep 2019 19.37 BST

Scientists have successfully created two embryos of the near-extinct northern white rhino in a landmark effort to save the species.

The international team of researchers and conservationists drew on IVF procedures to create the embryos from fresh eggs collected from the two remaining female rhinos and frozen sperm from dead males.

The achievement, announced at a press conference in Italy on Wednesday, paves the way for specialists to transfer the embryos into a surrogate mother – a southern white rhino – in the near future.

“Today we achieved an important milestone on a rocky road which allows us to plan the future steps in the rescue programme of the northern white rhino,” said Thomas Hildebrandt, head of the BioRescue project at Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

The embryos were created at Avantea Laboratories in Cremona, Italy, and will be stored in liquid nitrogen until the team is ready to transfer them to the surrogate mother.

Northern white rhinos have been in decline for decades. By 2018 the population had dwindled to two remaining females, Najin and Fatu at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, who are the last of their kind in the world.

Cesare Galli said his team collected five immature eggs from each female which were airlifted to the Italian laboratory. There, the eggs were incubated to provide three mature eggs for Najin and four for Fatu.

The scientists then used a common IVF procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI, to fertilise the eggs. Fatu’s were injected with thawed out sperm taken from a dead male called Suni, while Najin’s eggs were fertilised with poorer quality sperm collected from a male called Saut. After 10 days of incubation, two of Fatu’s eggs developed into viable embryos, but none of Najin’s made it.

“Five years ago, it seemed like the production of a northern white rhino embryo was an almost unachievable goal, and today we have them,” said Jan Stejskal at Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, where Najin and Fatu were born.

The last of the male northern white rhinos was 45-year-old named Sudan who rose to fame in 2017 when a fundraising effort listed him on the Tinder dating app as “The Most Eligible Bachelor in the World”. He was put down in March last year for health reasons brought on by old age.

The dramatic decline of the northern white rhinos was driven by poaching. Sudan was the last known male to be born in the wild, in the country from which he got his name. The southern white rhino and the black rhino are also targeted by poachers, who kill them for their horns to supply illegal markets in parts of Asia.

About 21,000 southern white rhinos still exist and females will be used as surrogate mothers in the effort to save the northern species. Scientists hope that the first northern white rhino will be born from an IVF embryo in the next two years.

Even if healthy northern white rhino calfs are born from the IVF embryos, conservationists will still face an enormous challenge in the lack of genetic diversity in the population. One way to broaden the animals’ gene pool is to create eggs from rhino skin cells stored around the world, but the technology may not be available for another decade.

“This is a major step forward in our efforts to recover the northern white rhinos,” said Richard Vigne, managing director of Ol Pejeta Conservancy. “We have a very long way to go and we must remember that, for most species facing extinction, the resources that are being dedicated to saving the northern whites simply don’t exist. Global human behaviour still needs to radically change if the lessons of the northern white rhinos are to be learned.”


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« Reply #6293 on: Sep 12, 2019, 03:46 AM »


Europe's marine sanctuaries are no more than 'paper parks'

WWF conservationists say marine wildlife sanctuaries are failing to protect the seas

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels
Guardian
12 Sep 2019 11.37 BST

Europe’s marine wildlife sanctuaries are no more than “paper parks” that are failing to protect the seas, a report from conservationists has said.

European seas, from the North East Atlantic ocean to the Adriatic, are in a “poor condition”, with coastal states failing to meet targets to protect marine wildlife, a report by WWF has concluded.

Under EU law, coastal states are obliged to create marine protected areas to protect specific species or habitats. The report found that only 1.8% of Europe’s seas are covered by marine protected areas, with management plans. “This effectively makes them paper parks,” WWF said in a statement on its report that assessed progress in the EU’s 23 coastal states.

The requirement to create marine protected areas is part of the EU’s efforts to meet international targets to ensure that 10% of the world’s oceans are protected by 2020 – a goal campaigners believe is too weak to ensure thriving seas and oceans in the long-term.

Janica Borg, lead author of the study, said it was impossible for Europe to meet the 2020 target. “Without urgent action to implement effective plans for nature conservation or restoration, with proper restrictions against extractive activities, nearly all EU MPAs will fail to support our ocean’s resilience in the climate emergency” she said.

The study found that 19 of 23 member states were falling behind on developing management plans while 11 had not announced any plan at all.

The patchy effort means that wildlife in the Baltic, North Sea and Mediterranean remains vulnerable to overfishing, bottom trawling, drilling for oil or gas, or noise coming from wind turbines being hammered into the seabed. Scientists revealed last year that destructive fishing is worse in wildlife zones than outside them.

The authors highlighted the problems at Dogger Bank, the large sand bank in the North sea, described as a “cross-border conservation failure” by the UK, Germany and Denmark. Despite a decade of talks on conservation, bottom fishing continues to scar the seabed, while sharks and corals are swept up by industrial trawlers.

“There is no one issue to be singled out,” Borg said. “We have really good nature laws … the problem is implementation. Shortcuts are made, derogations are allowed from some of these laws and that means what was intended to be a good way to protect European nature is falling short.”

The European commission, which is responsible for upholding EU law, has painted a rosier picture of progress towards the 2020 target, reporting that 10.8% of Europe’s seas had been designated as a marine protected areas by the end of 2016. But the WWF report focuses on what is happening at sea, rather than goals.

The commission concedes, however, that most marine protected areas are too small, as more than half of the sites are less than 30km squared. It has urged member states to create larger reserves in deeper waters.

Marine protected areas restrict economic activities, but also contain smaller marine reserves, where all fishing and energy extraction is banned.

WWF argues that short-term economic interests have been prioritised for too long. “Traditionally, marine protection has been seen as a sideline activity,” Borg said. “It is easy at first to put your fisheries in place, to put your shipping in place and only then to start looking at the area we have for conserving nature. But that is actually the wrong way round. Marine protection isn’t a hobby … It is something we do because it is absolutely imperative for having any kind of sustainable economy in the future.”


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« Reply #6294 on: Sep 12, 2019, 03:48 AM »


Honeyland review – beekeeper's life with a sting in the tale

In this terrific documentary shot in North Macedonia, a woman tending wild hives is rattled by her new, disruptive neighbours

Cath Clarke
Guardian
12 Sep 2019 15.00 BST

This astonishing, immersive environmental documentary began life as a nature conservation video about one of Europe’s last wild-beekeepers. The scene is an abandoned village in North Macedonia where Hatidze, a woman in her mid-50s, harvests honey sustainably the traditional way from wild hives. “Half for them, half for me,” she chants, leaving enough for the bees.

Serendipitously for directors Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov (though not for Hatidze), the family from hell moves in next door mid-shoot, and this small-scale film takes on epic proportions, transforming into a parable about exploiting natural resources, or perhaps a microcosm of humans’ suicidal destruction of the environment.

Hatidze first appears on a dangerous cliff edge wearing no protective mask, a cloud of bees swarming as she removes honeycomb from a hive in rocks. She is an incredible woman, a natural optimist living in poverty – she and her frail elderly mother are the last inhabitants of their village, with no electricity or running water. Her life might not be the one she would have chosen, but Hatidze lives it with gusto, licking the plate clean. Animals and small children trust her instinctively.

When an itinerant cow herder pitches up with his wife and seven rowdy children, Hatidze seems glad of the company. She even teaches Hussein beekeeping. Just don’t take too much honey, she cautions. Her warnings go unheeded with terrible consequences. But Hussein isn’t a villain; he’s a man with debts and a family to feed. And what a family – a five-year-old hammering at rusty nails with a chunk of rock, the toddler tottering into frame as a bull rampages through the cow herd.

Honeyland really is a miraculous feat, shot over three years as if by invisible camera – not a single furtive glance is directed towards the film-makers. As for Hatidze, you could watch her for hours. In a heart-tugging scene with one of Hussein’s sons, a favourite of hers, he asks why she didn’t leave the village. “If I had a son like you, it would be different,” she answers. They both look off wistfully, dreaming of another life, a world of harmony.

• Honeyland is released in the UK on 13 September.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yR7TQ7H-D1w


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« Reply #6295 on: Sep 13, 2019, 03:48 AM »


Badger cull in England extended to ‘unimaginable scale’

Ministers approve culling in 11 new areas, with 64,000 animals likely to be killed this autumn

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Guardian
9/13/2019

The controversial badger cull in England has been expanded to an “unimaginable scale”, according to a leading expert who warned the government is paying far too little attention to the transmission of tuberculosis between cattle when they are traded.

Ministers approved culling in 11 new areas on Wednesday, taking the total to 43. Up to 64,000 animals are likely to be killed this autumn, up from a maximum of 42,000 last year.

TB infections in cattle blight farms and cost taxpayers more than £100m a year in compensation payments. But scientists and conservationists oppose the cull, saying there is little evidence it is effective and is being badly run.

The cull started in 2013 in Gloucester and Somerset and takes place in 43 areas, from Cornwall to Cumbria. A proposed cull in Derbyshire, where a badger vaccination programme has been taking place, was not approved.

“Bovine TB remains the greatest animal health threat to the UK,” the farming minister, George Eustice, said. He added that there was no single measure to beat the disease, with tighter cattle movement controls, improved biosecurity on farms and badger vaccination all required.

A large-scale trial of badger culling that ended in 2006 indicated that a minimum of 70% of a badger population must be killed for a cull to be effective. If fewer are culled, disruption of badger social groups can lead to TB being spread more widely.

However, the culls must not kill every badger either, so minimum and maximum numbers are set. This year’s minimum is 37,482 and the maximum is 64,400. Culls now cover 90% of Wiltshire, 84% of Devon, and 83% of Cornwall.

“The culls have expanded to unimaginable scales, covering an area larger than Israel,” said Prof Rosie Woodroffe, an ecologist at the Zoological Society of London, one of the team that conducted the earlier large-scale trial.

“I cannot understand why the government has permitted this massive expansion of badger culling, when it has not yet responded to the Godfray Review it commissioned and received nearly a year ago,” she said.

“The review concluded the government and farming industry were paying far too much attention to badger management, and far too little attention to cattle-to-cattle transmission, which is responsible for the majority of TB incidents in cattle.”

The review also called upon government to properly evaluate badger vaccination as a non-lethal alternative to culling, Woodroffe said. “Ministers regularly call for the conservation of wildlife in other countries, but refuse to invest in helping their own farmers to coexist with wildlife.”

Eustice said the government would fully respond to the review in the near future.

Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, said: “This year will take the number of badgers killed since the cull started to over 130,000, pushing the species to the verge of local extinction in areas of England which it has inhabited since the ice age.

“The public costs of the badger cull are estimated to exceed £60m by the end of 2019, yet the government has provided no evidence to prove this cruel slaughter is having any significant impact on lowering bovine TB.”

Arthur Thomas, the campaigns manager at the animal welfare group IFAW, said: “The expansion to the badger cull is not only a tragedy for British wildlife, but also for our farmers,. The government’s decision flies in the face of scientific evidence.”

Bill Harper, the chair of the National Beef Association’s TB committee, said he believed the decision to turn down the application to cull in Derbyshire was purely political. Prime minister Boris Johnson’s partner, Carrie Symonds, is an opponent of the cull. “It is almost like Boris Johnson is saying, ‘Oh right darling, we will not allow that one’,” Harper told Farmers Weekly.

Prof Ranald Munro was the chair of an independent expert group appointed by the government to assess the first culls, which is now disbanded. He said up to 9,000 badgers are likely to have suffered “immense pain” as a result of the culls.


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« Reply #6296 on: Sep 13, 2019, 03:50 AM »


Giggles and 'joy jumps': rats love games of hide and squeak, scientists find

Rodents enjoyed being found by humans and would hide again to keep the game going

Agence France-Presse
Fri 13 Sep 2019 05.01 BST

The next time you see a rat darting for cover, consider this: it might just want to have a playful game of hide-and-seek.

A group of neuroscientists in Germany spent several weeks hanging out with rodents in a small room filled with boxes, and found the animals were surprisingly adept at the childhood game – even without being given food as a reward.

They recorded joyful leaps and ultrasonic giggles – which previous work has shown to be signs of happiness – when the rats found the humans or were caught by them.

The researchers’ paper was published in the journal Science on Thursday, and offers new insight into play behaviour, an important evolutionary trait among mammals.

“When you work a lot with rats over the years, you see how intelligent these animals are, and how social,” said co-author Konstantin Hartmann from the Humboldt University of Berlin.

Working with adolescent male rats in a room of 30 square metres (320 square feet), a scientist would either find a cardboard box to crouch behind in a hiding role, or give the rat a headstart to find cover while the scientist searched.

Over a period of one to two weeks, the rats were taught that starting the game inside a closed box that was opened remotely meant they were seeking, while starting the game with the box open meant they were hiding.

They quickly developed advanced strategies, including revisiting spots humans had previously hidden when they were seeking, and choosing to take cover in opaque rather than transparent boxes when hiding.

To help train them, the authors rewarded the rats not with food or water, which would invalidate the experiment, but with positive social interaction in the form of physical contact, explained Hartmann.

“They chase our hand, we tickle them from the side, it’s like a back and forth a little bit like how you play with small kittens or puppies,” he said.

The scientists suspect though that the rats were motivated not just by this interaction but that they also liked to play for the sake of play itself.

The animals would let out high-pitched giggles three times above the human audible range and would execute so-called “joy jumps” during the game – both associated with feelings of happiness.

Once they were discovered, the rats often jumped away and “playfully re-hid” at a new location, sometimes repeating the process several times – indicating they wanted to prolong the play session and delay the reward.

Play is an important part of cognitive development for adolescent mammals, and rats make for ideal models to study brain activity in humans because of their evolutionary proximity to humans.


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« Reply #6297 on: Sep 13, 2019, 03:51 AM »


Dolphins in Channel carry 'toxic cocktail' of chemicals

High levels of mercury and banned industrial fluids, found in blubber and skin, can impact reproduction

Associated Press
13 Sep 2019 17.42 BST

Bottlenose dolphins in the Channel have been found to carry a “toxic cocktail” of chemicals in their bodies, some of which have been banned for decades and which may be harming the marine mammals’ health, scientists have said.

Belgian and French scientists said they detected high accumulations of industrial fluids and mercury in the blubber and skin of dolphins in the waters off the north-west coast of France.

Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers said they measured levels of pollutants similar to those found in dolphins in the Mediterranean sea, around Florida’s Everglades, off the coast of the Guianas and in Guanabara Bay, in Brazil.

Many of the chemicals, including so-called PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), have been banned since the 1970s and 1980s but persist in the environment, where they can pass through the food chain. Because the compounds are able to dissolve in oils, they accumulate in fatty tissue. In marine mammals, mothers can pass the chemicals on to their calves during pregnancy and lactation.

“We suspect that elevated concentrations of PCBs can alter the reproduction of marine mammals, leading to a decrease of the number of newborns, affecting the renewal of the population,” said Krishna Das, an associate professor at the University of Liège, in Belgium.

PCBs, which were once popular as lubricants and hydraulic fluids, can disrupt hormone receptors and affect the immune system, said Das, who co-authored the study.

Frank Mattig, an ornithologist at the University of Oldenburg, in Germany, who was not involved in the study, said the findings echo what scientists have discovered in other marine species. Mattig, who studies the impact of PCBs and mercury on sea birds, said top predators such as dolphins and whales were particularly likely to accumulate high levels of toxins.

It’s unclear at what levels the chemicals are harmful, but other studies have shown they pose a health risk in high concentrations, he said. “There’s good reason why they’re banned,” he said.

The researchers called for greater efforts to eliminate the dangerous chemicals, including safe disposal of stocks and equipment, reducing leakage from landfills and limiting the dredging of PCB-laden rivers and estuaries.


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« Reply #6298 on: Sep 13, 2019, 03:56 AM »


This woman took 97 rescue dogs into her Bahamas home to protect them from Hurricane Dorian

By Hannah Natanson
WA Post
9/13/2019

    I don't care about the constant cleaning as long as they are safe inside.
    Posted by Chella Phillips on Sunday, 1 September 2019

As residents across the Bahamas braced for Hurricane Dorian, the strongest storm in the island nation’s history, one woman’s preparations stood out: She opened her home to 97 dogs.

“79 of them are inside my master bedroom,” the woman, Chella Phillips, posted on Facebook on Sunday afternoon. “It has been insane since last night."

Phillips took steps to make the inside of her home more pleasant for the animals, putting on music “in all directions of the house” and blasting air conditioning, she wrote on Facebook. Neighbors and strangers donated dog crates, which were helpful for “the scared ones and the sick ones,” Phillips wrote.

Phillips could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

As the dogs settled into her house, Phillips barricaded the outside, according to her Facebook post. Dorian, a slow-moving Category 5 storm, has killed at least five people in the Bahamas and injured 21, in addition to leveling homes, tearing off roofs, submerging airports and destroying cars.

    97 dogs are inside my house and 79 of them are inside my master bedroom. It has been insane since lastnight, poop and...
    Posted by Chella Phillips on Sunday, 1 September 2019

Phillips runs a refuge for homeless and abandoned dogs, “The Voiceless Dogs of Nassau, Bahamas.” The day she opened her home to the nearly 100 animals also marked the refuge’s fourth anniversary: Voiceless Dogs has helped about 1,000 dogs since its opening, Phillips wrote on Facebook.

Her post about the dogs she rescued before Dorian hit quickly went viral, with more than 67,000 likes and hundreds of comments. In a second post a few hours later, Phillips updated her followers, saying that all of the dogs were making friends.

“Everyone here gets along and welcome the newcomers with tail wags cause they know they are their brothers and sisters in suffering on the streets,” Phillips wrote. “Each of my babies deserve to have loving homes.”

Dorian lingered in the Bahamas for much of the weekend. Phillips told news outlet WFTS on Monday that she lost power and water came into her home at one point, but that all inhabitants — human and canine — were doing okay.

She posted another update to Facebook a few hours later, noting she and her brother had passed “a stressful night” trying to combat serious flooding. All her TVs were “fried” from the lightning, Phillips wrote, which meant “no more cartoons for the sick dogs.”

Her brother slept just an hour, and Phillips went without sleep, she wrote. She stayed awake all night to dry the house and care for the “terrified” animals.

Phillips wrote she is grateful for “the outpouring support and heartfelt prayers from so many people that don’t even know us” in the wake of her viral post. But she wishes she could do more: She’s concerned for all the dogs she couldn’t take into her home.

    We are alright after a stressful night were we fooded bad inside the refuge, not even 3 pumps could contain the rain...
    Posted by Chella Phillips on Monday, 2 September 2019

“I pray for the other islands who have unimaginable damages and I don’t see how any dogs or any living being could have survived outside,” Phillips wrote. “My heart goes out to them."

Phillips’s online fundraiser for her refuge, which she launched in August and was unrelated to Hurricane Dorian, had raised roughly $63,000 as of Tuesday morning, far surpassing her original goal of $20,000.

Meanwhile, Facebook users from across the nation and the globe flocked to Phillips’s posts to offer supportive comments.

“Praying for you and the furballs and the rest of the Bahamas caught in this nightmare,” one woman wrote.

“The world is behind you and your efforts,” wrote another.


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« Reply #6299 on: Sep 14, 2019, 04:58 AM »

Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2019 finalists – in pictures

The photography competition is a global, online and free-to-enter showcase of light-hearted images of the Earth’s most amazing wildlife. It aims to highlight the importance of wildlife conservation, working with its partner the Born Free Foundation

Jim Hedge
Guardian
14 Sep 2019 21.29 BST

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2019/sep/13/comedy-wildlife-photography-awards-2019-finalists-in-pictures


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