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Author Topic: ANIMAL NEWS FOR DAEMON SOULS AND ALL ANIMAL LOVERS  (Read 415988 times)
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« Reply #4365 on: Jan 08, 2018, 05:17 AM »

Sweet as honey: the African killer bees providing a living in Liberia

A corps of master beekeepers is leading a drive to produce honey for the growing domestic market, offering subsistence farmers a new livelihood

Lorraine Mallinder
Guardian
1/8/2018

Liberian beekeeper Cecil Wilson is holding up a honeycomb, crawling with hundreds of so-called killer bees. They are the most aggressive in Africa, but the honey is good, he says, as they start swarming around him.

African bees – or Apis mellifera scutellata, to be precise – are not to be messed with. Not for nothing did they feature in 1978 disaster horror flick The Swarm. But for an increasing number of Liberians, still struggling to get by in a shattered postwar economy, they are providing a much-needed livelihood.

One of the poorest countries in the world, Liberia is ranked 177 out of 188 countries on the UN’s human development index. Beekeeping mainly attracts subsistence farmers who are keen to boost their income, while raising crop yields through increased pollination. But since it doesn’t require much land, the activity is accessible to all.

Today, there are 1,352 trained beekeepers in the country. A decade ago, when honey hunting – the ancient practice of raiding honey from wild bees, often killing colonies in the process – was the norm, there were only 50 and supermarket shelves were filled with imported honey. There is now a growing domestic market for locally produced honey.

The trend was kickstarted by Kent Bubbs and Landis Wyatt. Bees were the last thing on the Canadian couple’s minds when they first arrived in Liberia in 2007 to build schools. “The schools were lovely, but there was such a strong charity feel to it all,” says Wyatt. “Giving people the ability to make money, that felt much more empowering. The big question came: ‘What are people asking for?’” says Bubbs. “And it was jobs.”

Bubbs had no experience of keeping bees, but had picked up a few books on the subject back in Canada. “I thought, ‘That seems neat. Let’s beekeep!’” He and Wyatt started contacting beekeepers around the world, and the idea of founding a programme that would accompany students from their first day of training all the way to the marketplace was born.

The programme is run by Universal Outreach, a Vancouver-based NGO established by Bubbs’s father. It comprises an intensive eight-day course, followed by up to two years of monthly mentoring extended to trainees across the country. Over the past six years, beekeepers from Canada, Nigeria, the UK and the US have offered their expertise, creating a corps of master beekeepers in Liberia.

At a time when bee populations are threatened and honey production is declining in the west, Liberia offers optimum conditions for learning the craft. Single crop farming, a cause of stress and poor nutrition for bee colonies, is rare. And neonicotinoid insecticides, thought to affect the memory and cognitive ability of bees, according to findings by researchers at the University of Stirling, are practically unheard of.

The beekeeping process is as nature intended, says Bubbs. “It’s about letting the strong survive, allowing bees to be bees.”

But the initiative would be nothing without a market, which is where Wilson comes in. Having trained as a beekeeper with Universal Outreach, he now co-owns and runs Liberia Pure Honey, a social enterprise that guarantees purchases at fair trade prices and packages the product for supermarket shelves. Over the past four years, it has grown to become the biggest brand of honey in the country, with profits reinvested into infrastructure and training.

Wilson, who remembers feeling petrified during his first days of training, now seems perfectly at ease amid the swarm. He set up this particular apiary – located near the town of Kakata, in Liberia’s Margibi County – on his father’s land, for use as a training and research centre.

The bees here are descended from a group of colonies that were exterminated by their owner after they invaded a nearby village, sending the residents fleeing in terror. Wilson had removed some bees before the incident in an attempt to reduce the aggression. They were uncontrollable, he says, and everyone had given up on them. The apiary is run by Wilson’s friend, Ethel Thompson. He proposed beekeeping to her a few years ago, while she was still grappling with wartime trauma, having witnessed the shooting of her parents by rebel forces during the war, which spanned 1989 to 2003.

At that time, Thompson was earning a pittance selling fritters on the streets of Kakata. She knew nothing about bees and the idea of going anywhere near a hive terrified her. But she decided to go for it. Three years on, she is earning enough to raise her three children. Not only that, she is about to start training beekeepers herself.

“Beekeeping benefited me a lot because it made me do something for myself,” she says. “I’m not afraid of them any more.”


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« Reply #4366 on: Jan 08, 2018, 05:21 AM »

Stress Hormones Soar in Whales Trapped by Fishing Lines

By KAREN WEINTRAUB \
NY Times
1/8/2017

In one more sign that North Atlantic right whales are struggling, a new study finds sky-high levels of stress in animals that have been caught in fishing nets.

Researchers determined the stress hormone levels of more than 100 North Atlantic right whales over a 15-year period by examining their feces. Sometimes guided by sniffing dogs, researchers followed the animals, collecting waste samples that they then analyzed in their lab at the New England Aquarium.

Results from the feces of 113 seemingly healthy whales helped establish a baseline of stress hormone levels, which had never before been known for the species. “We have a good idea of what normal is now,” said Rosalind Rolland, who developed the research technique and is the lead author of the study published in the journal Endangered Species Research.

She then compared these baselines to hormone levels in the feces of six whales that had become entangled in fishing lines, and one that had been stranded for several days, finding that those animals were off-the-charts anxious.

One whale, a young female named Bayla, showed stress levels eight times higher after she was found entangled in synthetic fishing ropes in January 2011. Several biologists trained in disentanglement couldn’t get all the gear off her, so they sedated the emaciated animal and gave her antibiotics. Two weeks later, an aerial survey team found her corpse floating at sea, possibly after being attacked by sharks, which typically leave healthy animals alone. A necropsy conducted a few days later found rope embedded in the back of Bayla’s throat, that possibly prevented her from eating.

“This highlights the extreme physical suffering these animals are going through when they’re entangled in fishing lines,” said Dr. Rolland, a senior scientist in the Ocean Health and Marine Stress Lab at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium.

Because hormone levels take several hours to rise after a stressful event, Dr. Rolland said that tests on five animals that died quickly when hit by ships showed stress levels similar to those in healthy animals.

This has been a disastrous year for the North Atlantic right whale, whose population now hovers below 450. Sixteen or 17 animals have died since the beginning of the summer and only five have been born, according to Charles “Stormy” Mayo, director of the Right Whale Ecology Program at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass., who was not involved in the new study.

“It used to be if we heard about one or two whales dying in a year, it was an appalling tragedy,” Dr. Mayo said.

Although once considered a species conservation success story, the population of North Atlantic right whales has been falling since about 2010, he said. “The arrow at the end of the curve is pointing at zero.”

Although the reasons for the deaths are varied, and some remain mysterious, it seems like the animals are exploring new areas in search of food, putting them in direct conflict with ships and heavy fishing lines, Dr. Rolland said.

The Gulf of Maine, which has long been central to their habitat, is one of the fastest-warming bodies of water on earth, she said.

North Atlantic right whales, which can weigh as much as the space shuttle, exclusively eat nearly microscopic creatures called zooplankton. About 80 percent of the animals carry scars from past entanglements or ship strikes.

These “urban whales” are also stressed by noise from shipping and other sources, Dr. Rolland said.

Analyzing hormones in feces — in addition to newer efforts to study the vapor exhaled from the animals’ blowholes — provides scientists an objective way to test what is stressing the whales and whether efforts to improve their habitats are working.

“If you can get a measure from the animal itself, it’s far better than us trying to interpret an animal’s behavior,” she said.

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« Reply #4367 on: Jan 08, 2018, 05:24 AM »

Tiger Species Thought Extinct Is Possibly Spotted in Indonesia

By JON EMONT
NY Times
1/8/2018

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Park rangers in Indonesia may have spotted an animal thought to live only in folklore and history books: a Javan tiger, declared extinct more than 40 years ago.

Rangers at Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java last month photographed a big cat unlike any previously seen in the preserve. The pictures, released this week, set off a flurry of speculation that one of Indonesia’s legendary species was still alive, and offered a rare bit of positive environmental news to a country in which natural places are being destroyed at an alarming rate.

“This used to be Javan tiger habitat,” Mamat Rahmat, the head of conservation at the park, told the local news media. “We hope that they’re still there.”

The photograph, which circulated across social media, prompted the World Wildlife Fund to support an expedition in search of the supposed tiger.

Despite the rangers’ excitement, some conservationists were skeptical that the cat really was a Javan tiger. “When the video is frozen the effect is that it looks like a tiger,” said Wulan Pusparini, a tiger expert at the Wildlife Conservation Society, who viewed video footage of the animal. However, when the animal was seen moving, she said, it more closely resembled a leopard. Javan leopards are an endangered species, and are rarely seen.

Java is roughly the size of Pennsylvania, but with more than 140 million people it is the most heavily populated island in the world. It was once home to thousands of endemic species, but hunting and development have led to a mass extinction.

Only a few national parks in West Java contain what is left of the island’s large fauna, which include just 60 rhinos and a small population of leopards. Of the three subspecies of Indonesian tigers, two — the Bali tiger and the Javan tiger — have been declared extinct. The Sumatran tiger still exists on Sumatra, but it is considered critically endangered, the result of hunting and rapid deforestation.

“Javan tigers have been extinct for three generations,” Ms. Wulan said. She said she wished the Indonesian public would get as excited about saving endangered animals as they have been this week about the potential for discovering an extinct species.

“That’s the Javan leopard,” she said of the mysterious cat. “That’s the last large carnivore on Java. You would hope people would get excited about it.”

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« Reply #4368 on: Jan 08, 2018, 05:31 AM »

Lost species of bee-mimicking moth rediscovered after 130 years

The rare oriental blue clearwing, that disguises itself as a bee, was spotted in the Malaysian rainforest
Heterosphecia tawonoides puddling on a dry leaf washed out by the river

Patrick Barkham
Guardian
1/8/2018

A moth that disguises itself as a bee and was previously only identified by a single damaged specimen collected in 1887 has been rediscovered in the Malaysian rainforest by a lepidopterist from Poland.

The oriental blue clearwing (Heterosphecia tawonoides) was seen “mud-puddling” – collecting salts and minerals from damp areas with its tongue-like proboscis – on the banks of a river in Malaysia’s lowland rainforest, one of the most wildlife-rich – and threatened – regions on Earth.

Four individuals of the rare moth, which shines strikingly blue in sunshine, were collected for genetic analysis and examination of their genitalia, which confirmed that the specimens belonged to this “lost species”.

The 1887 specimen was collected in Indonesia but Marta Skowron Volponi of the University of Gdańsk rediscovered the species when she saw a flash of brilliant blue on the banks of unpolluted rivers flowing through lowland rainforest on the Peninsula Malaysia.

On three field trips in 2013, 2016 and 2017, Skowron Volponi and her co-author and husband, filmmaker Paolo Volponi, observed and filmed just 12 individuals, suggesting the elusive moth is extremely rare.

In a paper for Tropical Conservation Science, Skowron Volponi described how the oriental blue clearwing was the only moth or butterfly seen mud-puddling among the bees it mimicked.

The oriental blue clearwing finds security in being a generalised mimic of a number of bee species, with its strikingly shiny blue colours similar to many species of bee found in Malaysia. The moth was seen picking up salts at the same puddle as a bee species which also has blue light-reflecting bands on its abdomen.

While the moth moved from puddle to puddle with groups of bees, other butterflies kept their distance from the bees.

The moth also landed on a person’s skin, and settled on a patch of sand smelling of rotten fish, suggesting it was searching not only for salt but also for proteins – a habit more usually associated with butterfly species.

The rare moth was found in a national park but was also seen in unprotected parts of the rainforest, which is highly endangered by development.

Malaysia has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world – 14.4% between 2000 and 2012, during which its palm oil plantations doubled in size.

“These highly vulnerable ecosystems are vanishing rapidly,” warned Skowron Volponi in the paper. “Given the current rate of habitat loss and species extinction, it is of crucial importance to study and catalogue both species new to science and those that have been discovered many years ago and not seen since that time.”

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« Reply #4369 on: Jan 08, 2018, 05:35 AM »

First polar bear cub born in the UK for 25 years at Scottish park

Staff at Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland confirm the birth to mother Victoria but say the first three months of life for the new-born cub are perilous

Patrick Barkham
Guardian
1/8/2018

The first polar bear cub to be born in Britain for 25 years is being cared for in a private den by its mother, Victoria, at the Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland.

Staff at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) park confirmed the birth after hearing distinct high-pitched sounds from Victoria’s maternity unit, which remains closed to visitors to ensure privacy.

The news of the birth comes 24 hours after a polar bear cub at a Berlin zoo died aged 26 days, and the RZSS admitted that the first three months would be perilous for the newborn polar bear.

Una Richardson, the park’s head keeper responsible for carnivores, said: “While we are absolutely thrilled, we are not celebrating prematurely as polar bear cubs have a high mortality rate in the first weeks of life due to their undeveloped immune system and the mother’s exaggerated need for privacy, with any disturbance risking the cub being killed or abandoned.”

New-born polar bear cubs are blind and weigh little more than a guinea pig. They only open their eyes when they are a month old and are entirely dependent on their mother, feeding on fat-rich milk to grow quickly, weighing about 10-12kg by the time they leave their den.

The cub may yet turn out to be twins because Victoria dislodged a video camera in the den and so keepers are relying on external audio equipment to detect signs of life.

The cub’s first cries were heard on 18 December but the park does not expect it to leave the den and appear in public until late February or March, depending on the caution of its mother.

The keepers are taking a radically “hands-off” approach to minimise disturbance for mother and cub, only visiting the enclosure to check the water outside the den is not frozen. Mimicking conditions in the wild, the keepers fed Victoria so she increased her weight from 290kg to in excess of 470kgs in the autumn before stopping her food in late October. In the wild, polar bears can live off their fat reserves for six months and Victoria will next be offered food – in the form of several carrots – at the end of this month.

If it survives, the cub is likely to trigger a visitor boom for the Highland Wildlife Park. When London Zoo unveiled its first captive-born polar bear cub in 1949, visitor numbers increased from 1.1 million to more than three million the following year.

Knut, the orphaned polar bear cub rescued from his mother by keepers at Berlin Zoo, became a global sensation in 2007, generating between €5m and €10m from visitors and merchandise. But Knut was said to have become addicted to having an audience, had to be separated from his keeper and died prematurely, aged four, of a rare autoimmune disorder known as anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

Douglas Richardson, head of living collections at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park said the park would be very wary of intervening in any way if Victoria was struggling to rear her cub.

“We would certainly prefer not to hand-rear because they are so bright that we can end up with a cub that’s not the most balanced individual and thinks it’s a little furry human as opposed to a polar bear,” he said.

Richardson said he was confident there would be no repeat of “Knut mania” with thousands of visitors in potentially stressful close proximity to the young cub when it emerges in the spring.

“The enclosure that the female and cub have access to is by anyone’s standards enormous. The public are only at one end of it. Even if the viewing area was jam-packed with visitors the bears have a huge amount of space where they can step back from visitors.”

Of the criticism that it is cruel to keep such a large and intelligent animal in captivity, Douglas Richardson said: “The way polar bears were kept in the 1980s was not appropriate – we were dealing with big, intelligent animals in barren, hard environments. We’ve changed it dramatically.” The animals have grassy, tundra-like conditions rather than the concrete pens of old.

Douglas Richardson added: “There’s a lengthening list of species where we are thankful we had a robust captive population so we’re able to augment a fragile wild population. I’m not saying that genetically augmenting the polar bear wild population will be an easy or even possible option but if we don’t have a robust captive population we will not have that option.”

The Born Free Foundation said that British zoos should not be breeding polar bears but only providing sanctuary for captive bears rescued from cruel conditions in zoos overseas. According to the charity, captive polar bears display very high levels of abnormal behaviour and infant mortality.

Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation said: “This isn’t going to make an iota of difference for the 24,000 polar bears in the wild. The more time and effort we spend on this, the less time and effort we spend on putting these things right by doing something about climate change.

“There’s something really quite sad that we are using words like ‘living collections’. Are we a magpie species that collects exotic wildlife from four corners of the planet and puts it on postage stamp-sized pieces of land and goes and looks at it? It’s not the 21st century I want to be part of.”

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« Reply #4370 on: Jan 09, 2018, 05:20 AM »

In Africa, Geneticists Are Hunting Poachers

By GINA KOLATA
JAN. 9, 2018   
NY Times

South African authorities long had eyes on Rogers Mukwena. They knew the former schoolteacher was wanted in Zimbabwe for poaching rhinoceroses and selling their horns, which can command hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He’d jumped bail and fled to northern Pretoria, but it was vexingly difficult to catch and prosecute him — until a scientist helped make the case against him with rhino DNA.

His subsequent conviction resulted from a new tactic in wildlife preservation: The genetic fingerprinting methods that have been so successful in the criminal justice system are now being used to solve poaching crimes.

First, researchers in South Africa had to build a large database of genetic samples drawn from African rhinoceroses. The DNA would be used to match a carcass to a particular horn discovered on a suspected poacher or trafficker, or to rhinoceros blood on his clothes, knives or axes.

To make that possible, Dr. Cindy Harper, a veterinarian at the University of Pretoria, and her colleagues collected DNA from every rhinoceros they could find — more than 20,000 so far. They have taught park rangers how to retrieve blood, tissue or hair samples from every rhinoceros that is killed, dehorned or moved.

The rangers have learned forensic crime-scene principles and the importance of the so-called chain of custody to ensure that the samples are not corrupted. Dr. Harper’s lab performs the analysis and stores DNA fingerprints.

The scientists’ database, which they call Rhodis, is modeled after Codis, the F.B.I. system used to link the DNA of suspects to evidence at a crime scene.

The approach is promising, said Crawford Allan, senior director of Traffic, which monitors illegal wildlife trade at the World Wildlife Fund.

A poaching scene is a crime scene, he said: “If you want to get through detection and investigation and prosecution, treat it as a crime scene and use forensics.”

Poaching has escalated exponentially in the past decade, he noted. More than 7,000 rhinos have been killed in the past ten years. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 20,00 to 30,000 African elephants are killed each year for their tusks.

Their tusks and horns are trafficked through experienced criminal networks. “You really need sophisticated tools to help solve these crimes,” Mr. Allan said.

The rhino project provides “a ‘cold hit’ database,” said Stephen J. O’Brien, referring to the identification of a perpetrator by DNA when there are no other apparent clues.

Dr. O’Brien, an expert on DNA fingerprinting and chief scientific officer of the Theodosius Dobzhansky Center for Genome Bioinformatics at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, is co-author of a new paper, published on Monday in Current Biology, describing the anti-poaching effort.

A similar attempt to use DNA to convict poachers is led by Sam Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington. His group’s focus is African elephants.

Over a period of 15 years, he and his colleagues have collected and analyzed DNA from dung to create a map of the ranges of various elephant groups based on their genetic differences. It helps show where ivory seized from poachers originated.

The project has not linked specific carcasses to specific tusks recovered from traffickers. But the analysis has provided valuable clues about the regions in which poachers are operating.

“To our surprise, the ivory was consistently coming from two areas,” Dr. Wasser said. Tusks from savanna elephants were initially coming from southeastern Tanzania and northern Mozambique, the data showed, but the illegal trade then shifted northward to southern Kenya.

Tusks from forest elephants originated in a small triangular area in northeast Gabon, northwest Republic of the Congo, and southeastern Cameroon.
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“Instead of focusing everywhere, if we really want the big criminals we should focus on those two spots,” Dr. Wasser said.

The sale of ivory and rhino horns is hugely lucrative. Rhino horns may bring $60,000 or more per kilogram. A horn generally weighs a few kilograms, but a few have been as heavy as 10 kilograms, or about 22 pounds.

“Pound for pound, a rhino horn is worth more than heroin or gold or platinum,” Mr. Allan said. And prosecutions are so rare that the risks for the traffickers are “very low.”

The poacher sells horns to a trafficker, who disguises them and ships them to destination countries, mainly Vietnam and China. Some horns are carved into jewelry while still in South Africa, which can make it extremely difficult to trace them.

Most horns are ground and used as medicine in Asia, believed to cure cancer, impotence — or, Mr. Allan said, “you name it.” More recently, people in Asia have begun wearing beads or bangles made from rhino horns thought to have curative powers and to be status symbols. Some horns are made into ceremonial cups.

Elephant tusks currently sell for $1,000 a kilogram, Dr. Wasser said. Unlike rhino horns, which are shipped in relatively small volumes, traffickers typically collect and ship at least half a ton of ivory, or 500 kilograms, in a container.

Some seizures have uncovered as much as seven tons of ivory in a single shipment, Dr. Wasser said. Ivory is primarily bought by collectors or as an investment.

Dr. Wasser’s primary target is traffickers, not poachers. Even when poachers are caught and convicted, he said, “there are 10 more waiting in line to replace them.”

But traffickers form the basis of the business that makes poaching profitable. “The analogy is, are you after a serial killer or a one-time murderer?” he asked.

To catch a serial killer, Dr. Wasser added, authorities require “intelligence-based forensics to prevent future crimes.”

Dr. Harper also hopes to disrupt the criminal networks shipping contraband — in this case, rhino horns — to destination countries. So far, the rhino database has been used to convict hunters and traffickers in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Swaziland.

But the group has not disrupted the criminal conglomerates at the top of the chain, she said.

The rhinoceros project began in 2010, when poaching was skyrocketing. Thirteen were poached in South Africa in 2007; more than 1,000 are now killed each year.

In 120 criminal cases completed or still pending, Rhodis has linked DNA on horns, equipment or clothing to particular carcasses, Dr. Harper said. But it can take years for a case to move through the courts and end in a conviction.

The first successful such conviction involved a Vietnamese smuggler who was caught with seven horns at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg in 2010. Two were matched to carcasses, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

But the case involving Mr. Mukwena was one of the first to involve a well-known smuggler. He was arrested on Jan. 16, 2012, after a police officer spotted him walking across a field carrying a black bag.

When the officer confronted him, Mr. Mukwena dropped the bag and ran. It contained three rhinoceros horns, two from a cow and one from her calf.

Apprehended, Mr. Mukwena admitted to killing the cow but said an accomplice had killed the calf because it was bothering him.


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« Reply #4371 on: Jan 09, 2018, 05:23 AM »

States Confront the Spread of a Deadly Disease in Deer

By JIM ROBBINS
JAN. 9, 2018
NY Times

JOLIET, Mont. — As darkness closed in, one hunter after another stopped at this newly opened game check station, deer carcasses loaded in the beds of their pickups.

They had been given licenses for a special hunt, and others would follow. Jessica Goosmann, a wildlife technician with Montana’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department, stepped outside to greet them, reaching for the neck of each freshly killed deer to cut an incision and remove a lymph node for testing.

On the edge of this south-central Montana village, where deer hunting is a way of life, the game check station has become the front line of the state’s efforts to stop the spread of a deadly infection known as chronic wasting disease.

It has ravaged deer herds throughout the United States and Canada and forced the killing of thousands of infected animals in 24 states and three Canadian provinces. It has also been found in Norway and South Korea. With the disease widespread in Wyoming, the Dakotas and the province of Alberta, Montana officials had been bracing for its emergence.

So in November, when biologists discovered it in six deer in this part of Montana and in another near the Canadian border, officials began setting up special hunts and stations for testing.

“It wasn’t a surprise that we found it,” said John Vore, game management bureau chief for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “It was a disappointment, but not a surprise.”

On Friday, the department announced that two more deer from this region, taken early in the special hunt, tested positive for the disease. Other test results are pending.

Chronic wasting disease is a contagious neurological disease that infects elk, deer, moose and caribou, and reduces their brains to a spongy consistency. Animals become emaciated, behave strangely and eventually die. It’s not known to be transferred to humans. Neither is it known to be spread from wild to domestic animals. There is no treatment, although a vaccine has been successful in tests in wild deer.

It is among a class of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, or TSE. Most experts believe the infectious agent is something called a prion, a misfolded cellular protein found in the nervous system and lymph tissue. The disease was first noted in captive deer in Colorado in the 1960s. The most closely related animal disease is scrapie in sheep.

“It’s a very unusual disease,” said Matthew Dunfee, an expert at the Wildlife Management Institute in Fort Collins, Co. and project director for the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance. “Some experts say it’s a disease from outer space.”

The emergence of chronic wasting disease here is a blow to Montana, which prides itself on world-class deer and elk hunting and where many people hunt both animals for subsistence. It has renewed a dispute over how Wyoming manages its elk, and sparked fears that the epidemic could grow much worse, even spreading into the vast wildlife herds of Yellowstone National Park, with which the states share a border.

Montana will have to begin decades of surveillance in hopes of keeping the disease from spreading. Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, and Representative Ron Kind, Democrat of Wisconsin, have both introduced legislation to provide funding for states hit by the disease.

If the disease prevalence is higher than 5 percent of the deer population, the state will step up its efforts to find and remove infected deer. “That could be increasing the harvest of bucks because bucks are two to three times more likely to be infected and to spread the infection,” Mr. Vore said. “If there are hot spots within the broader area with high prevalence, we can go in and address deer density in those hot spots. If we have large aggregations of deer in an alfalfa field, for example, we want to address that.”

If it’s under 5 percent, officials will continue to monitor hunters the way they are now and not do more aggressive culling.

Hunters here are concerned, but waiting to see what happens. “Between deer and elk, all I eat is wild game,” said Brodie McDonald, an electrician in Laurel, Mont., who brought his white tail buck in the back of a truck here to be tested. “If it comes back positive I won’t eat it, but if it’s negative I will,” he said. “It worries me that it might become more widespread and you have to get every deer you shoot tested.”
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The lymph nodes taken from the check station are tested at a lab in Fort Collins, Colo. Ms. Goosmann said hunters are notified if positive tests are confirmed, and should throw out the meat.

And those who hunt in areas where the disease is known to occur should bone out their meat and not consume the brain, spine or lymph nodes, experts said.

Though chronic wasting disease has not been detected in the vast herds of elk, or in deer and moose in Yellowstone, officials are worried it will find its way into the park and diminish the size of the herds.

Wyoming has had infected deer and elk since 1985, the disease now present in 21 of 23 counties. Experts say mule deer can decline by up to 20 percent a year and localized extinction of some herds is possible.

Mr. Vore said Montana will move aggressively to eradicate the disease by culling deer. “In some states it has decreased animal populations by 40 percent,” he said. “We want elk and deer to be around for our kids and grandkids for everybody to enjoy 20 and 30 years from now.”

New York is the only state that has apparently been able to eliminate the disease through the culling of infected populations when first detected. Many states without the disease ban hunters from bringing in parts of the carcasses of deer they have killed in states with existing infections.

Wyoming has become a center of concern for many biologists, who warn that the way that it manages its elk herds could exacerbate the spread of the disease should the infections turn up in feeding grounds.

There are 22 state elk feed grounds and one federal feed ground, the National Elk Refuge, next to Jackson, Wyo., that feed elk in the winter to keep them from eating hay on ranches. The feeding concentrates the elk by the hundreds and thousands, a recipe for magnifying the incidence of disease, and spreading it, biologists say. The prions are believed passed through waste and saliva.

In a letter to Keith Culver, president of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, Dan Vermillion, chairman of Montana’s Fish & Wildlife Commission, requested an end to the controversial practice. If not “we will all be culpable in leaving a greatly devalued landscape to future generations,” he wrote. “As your neighbor, we ask you to begin the process of closing these feed grounds.”

Mr. Culver said the state had no plans to close the grounds. “We continue to look at ways to improve management of feed grounds,” he said, noting that the disease has never been found in them and even if it were, it might not exacerbate the infection rates. “Elk are a herd animal and tend to congregate anyway.”


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« Reply #4372 on: Jan 09, 2018, 05:26 AM »

The Invisible Underwater Messaging System in Blue Crab Urine

By JOANNA KLEIN
JAN. 9, 2018
NY Times   

In estuaries off the coast of Georgia, the water is so murky that if you were to dive in, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. There, blue crabs feast on mud crabs, oysters, fish and more.

You may eagerly approach these hand-sized arthropods when they’re cracked into pieces and doused in butter. But in muddy water, tiny mud crabs, no bigger than the tip of your thumb, steer clear of the hungry blue crab predators. In this crab-eat-crab world, they can’t see their enemies coming — but they can smell them.

Chemicals in blue crab urine are scented death messages to mud crabs. The language is different, but the warning is clear: Hide, or be eaten.

“Blue crabs probably don’t want to send out the message, but they can’t help it. We all have to pee,” said Julia Kubanek, a marine chemical ecologist at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Of more than 600 chemicals that make up blue crab urine, only two signal danger for mud crabs, Dr. Kubanek and her colleagues found in a study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These chemicals, produced when blue crabs break down dinner, tell the mud crab what was served. They’re especially powerful if the last meal was mud crab.   

“They smell death around them, and if that death is of their own type, they want out of there,” said Dr. Kubanek.

This invisible, underwater messaging system has far-reaching signals. Just a single blue crab eating one mud crab and then urinating in an estuary can change the interactions up and down the food chain in that marine ecosystem. What researchers find about chemical cues or pollutants may help conservationists better manage crab and oyster fisheries in the future.

Researchers had already identified the smell-pee-go-hide warning system in these crabs. When scientists extracted urine from blue crabs and injected it into a tank of mud crabs, it was clear that something about it induced fear in mud crabs. But what?

Dr. Kubanek and her colleagues fed blue crabs different diets that would break down into urine samples, each with their own threat level and a distinct chemical profile.
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To get a sense of a sample’s threat power, the researchers hid shrimp in a tank of mud crabs and measured which urine samples prompted the mud crabs to eat less and hide more.

The researchers looked for chemical features that varied in the samples that induced the biggest fear responses.

This relatively new technique for comparing chemical profiles, called metabolomics, revealed two important chemical signals: trigonelline and homarine. These molecules are common products of animal metabolism and are also found in some plants. Trigonelline in coffee beans contributes to their aroma when roasted. It’s not clear if humans can actually smell the substance by itself. But mud crabs do — it’s just not clear how.

They’re kind of “walking noses,” as Marc Weissburg, a biologist at Georgia Tech and co-author on the paper puts it. Mud crabs likely detect the chemicals with sensory organs on antennas, mouthparts or legs.

“The ecological communities of places like a Georgia estuary or an oyster reef are critically structured by predator-prey interactions, and it turns out those predator-prey interactions are very much affected by chemical cues,” said Dr. Kubanek. “I think it’s pretty cool that the chemistry of pee matters.”

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« Reply #4373 on: Jan 09, 2018, 05:34 AM »

Mountain Goats on Your Trail? They Like You, and Your Urine

By STEPH YIN
NY Times
1/9/2018   

A few years ago, employees at Glacier National Park in Montana noticed that mountain goats were hanging out — even sleeping — far away from cliffs, and spending much of their time near humans. Researchers who investigated this atypical behavior determined that where there were people, there were fewer predators. Also where there were people, there was pee.

Combined, these phenomena afford mountain goats two prized essentials: safety and salt. “You can’t beat that. It’s like vacation for goats,” said Wesley Sarmento, who led the study, published in the journal Biological Conservation last month, as a master’s student at the University of Montana.

The study is part of a growing effort to understand how national parks, though often thought of as pristine havens, can affect local ecology and wildlife, sometimes in harmful ways.

First, a bit about mountain goats: They have many foes, but gravity is not one of them. Snowy-colored and sure-footed, they can scale nearly vertical rock faces, jump 12 feet in one leap and chill out at precipitous elevations of up to 13,000 feet year-round. Their skills help them evade less acrobatic predators, like bears, wolves and cougars.

Mountain goats also love salt. They are known to travel more than 15 miles to lick natural salt deposits, which provide essential nutrients. But human urine is packed with minerals from our salty diets, and mountain goats will forgo those journeys if there is a lot of urine around. As a result, many a hiker has strayed off-trail to tinkle and found mountain goats lurking, eager to lick a rock or eat a plant drenched in fresh, life-sustaining urine.

Over three years, Mr. Sarmento and his thesis adviser, Joel Berger, a scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and a professor at Colorado State University, closely observed mountain goats near and away from tourist-heavy areas in Glacier National Park, noting where the goats got their minerals and how cautiously they behaved. One of these sites, Logan Pass, receives about 3,500 visitors a day. At peak hours on a popular hiking trail there, a goat might encounter 400 people an hour.

To test how mountain goats reacted to predators, Mr. Sarmento dressed up as a bear and presented himself to goats at both tourist and backcountry sites, noting their responses (yes, this is a credible technique used in ecology research). He also took advantage of a nearby wildfire that led the park to close Logan Pass for a week in 2015, to see what goats did when there were no tourists.

The scientists determined that while predators and pee both were at play, predators seemed to be driving goats’ behavior. Mountain goats that stuck around humans were generally not as vigilant as their backcountry counterparts. When presented with the bear mimic, backcountry goats fled, on average, 600 feet farther than those near people.

Glacier National Park’s eponymous ice formations lost more than a third of their area between 1966 and 2015. See how every glacier in the park has retreated over 50 years.

During the wildfire closing, goats that usually hung around Logan Pass returned to the cliffs. There was still plenty of urine around — goats can lick the same patch for up to 10 days — but the researchers’ predator cameras picked up more bears at Logan Pass that week than they had over two years, suggesting the promise of salt was not worth the risk. Once people returned, the goats did too.

The researchers also noted that goats habituated to people stopped their annual migration to a natural mineral lick. “If mother goats aren’t passing that behavior onto their young, they might lose a migration that has accrued for thousands of years,” said Mr. Sarmento, who now works for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

There may also be more instances of aggression if mountain goats get more comfortable around people, Mr. Sarmento added, noting that a mountain goat killed a hiker at Olympic National Park in Washington State in 2010.

Studies like this show how national parks must grapple with the conflicting mandates of preserving nature and providing recreation for visitors, said Laura Prugh, an assistant professor of wildlife at the University of Washington who was not involved in the study.

One thing visitors can do is minimize their interactions with wildlife in these spaces, she said. “It might make for nice photographs,” she said, “but it can really be detrimental in the long term.”


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« Reply #4374 on: Jan 09, 2018, 05:37 AM »

Protected Wolves in Alaska Face Peril From Beyond Their Preserve

JOANNA KLEIN
NY Times
1/9/2018

Within the 2.5 million acres of the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve in central Alaska, wolves and other majestic animals are protected. But animals like wolves do not respect lines drawn on a map. And a recent study suggests that efforts to limit populations of these predators outside those borders is having negative effects on wolves living within the preserve.

The study, published in June in Wildlife Monographs, suggests that when the Alaskan authorities were limiting wolf populations outside the Yukon-Charley preserve, survival rates of wolves within the preserve were lower than usual. The findings highlight the notion that managing wildlife within human-imposed boundaries requires communication and cooperation with the authorities beyond a preserve’s boundaries, and could have implications for wildlife management programs elsewhere.

Since the 1990s, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has spent millions of dollars, first sterilizing wolves, then shifting to shooting and killing hundreds of the animals from helicopters (independently, it announced the planned suspension of the program next year). The wolves were targeted as part of an intensive predator management program in the Upper Yukon-Tanana region aimed to increase the population of the Fortymile caribou herd in lands surrounding the preserve. Once estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands, the caribou herd fell to just 6,000 in the 1970s and now generally peaks at about 50,000 to 60,000. And evidence has built up suggesting that these efforts may be ineffective at increasing caribou in this area.

After 22 years monitoring wolves in the preserve using radio collars, the researchers, led by John Burch, a wildlife biologist for the National Park Service, were not surprised to find that wolf survival rates decreased during lethal management outside the preserve in the Upper Yukon-Tanana Predation Control Area. “Every single wolf pack went outside the bounds of the preserve,” Dr. Burch said. The state never shot wolves inside it, but many wolves that left the boundaries of Yukon-Charley were shot and killed.

What was surprising, however, was the intricate story that unfolded of how the wolves responded to control efforts. Surviving wolves inside the preserve tended to have more pups — but not enough to immediately offset those killed during predator control efforts.

“Even though they were adding more members to the pack, they were losing more than that, so in the average year, they ended up behind,” said Josh Schmidt, a biostatistician who led the population analysis. “They were not self-sustaining and were dependent on dispersing individuals coming in from other areas from outside of the area most likely.”

The targeted caribou herd, which was already increasing before these efforts began, has now reached more than 50,000 and is showing signs of nutritional stress, according to a study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management in January. It suggests that food availability, rather than wolf predation, could be limiting the size of the caribou population.

Predator management, particularly of wolves in Alaska, has a long, contentious history. For thousands of years, many Alaskans living in remote areas have relied on hunting and trapping caribou for sustenance, and state laws require the maintenance of this food source, whether through improving habitat or killing predators. These laws can come into conflict with the conservation mandate of the National Park Service, a federal agency. Polarized emotions around wolves further complicate things.

“Some people just hate wolves,” said Kyle Joly, the lead wildlife biologist at Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, pointing to hunters who see them as competition for caribou. “Other people on the other side think wolves are things that can do no harm. They’re just angelic.”

To Dr. Joly, neither view is particularly accurate.

“They’re just another wild animal trying to make a living, and they do it by killing ungulates and other things,” he said.

Darren Bruning, an Alaska Fish and Game official involved in management of the Fortymile caribou herd, is familiar with these conflicting views and hopes for improved cooperation with the federal authorities responsible for Yukon-Charley in the future.

“Ultimately all the public, and people with numerous and diverse values for wolves, will benefit from increased knowledge that we can gain from learning about wolves in the Yukon-Charley Rivers area,” he said.


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« Reply #4375 on: Jan 10, 2018, 05:43 AM »


Hundreds of Flying Foxes 'Boil' in Extreme Australia Heat

Ecowatch
1/10/2018

The catastrophic heat wave in Australia led to the death of hundreds of flying foxes in the Sydney suburb of Campbelltown on Sunday.

Temperatures hit 117.14 degrees Fahrenheit in the Sydney metropolitan area that day—its hottest temperature in nearly 80 years.

“So many little lives lost due to the extreme heat and not enough canopy cover to shade them or keep them cool," the Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown campaign posted on Facebook. “As the dead bodies were recovered and placed in a pile for a head count the numbers had reached 200 not including the many hundreds that were still left in trees being unreachable, sadly a few adults were also included in the body count."

Local rescuers and carers tried to save as many as the bats possible by rehydrating them and taking them to places to cool down, the Guardian reported.

"There were tears shed and hearts sunken," the Facebook post continued, "it's [devastating] when a colony like our local one goes down like this due to heat, this colony needs more canopy cover and shaded areas to help with our ever rising hot summers because this episode will surely not be the last."

About 204 dead bats, mostly juvenile, were collected that day, Campbelltown colony manager Kate Ryan told local media. However, the final death toll "could run to thousands," WIRES Wildlife Rescue group said.

Ryan said the bats “basically boil" in the extreme heat.

“It affects their brain—their brain just fries and they become incoherent," she said. “It would be like standing in the middle of a sandpit with no shade."

She added that because of climate change, there was not much that could be done to prevent a similar incident from occurring again.

Scientists have declared 2017 as one of the hottest years in modern history. EcoWatch reported earlier this week that the triple-digit heat wave in several parts of Australia has also prompted warnings of dangerous bushfire and has literally melted part of a busy highway.

This is far from the first time these animals have succumbed to scorching heat. In Feb. 2017, more than 700 flying foxes died during a 116.6-degree heat wave in the New South Wales Hunter region town of Singleton.

A 2008 study identified temperature extremes as major threats to Australian flying foxes, especially after a January 2002 event in New South Wales, with temperatures exceeding 106 degrees Fahrenheit, that killed more than 3,500 individuals in nine mixed-species colonies.


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« Reply #4376 on: Jan 10, 2018, 05:46 AM »


Great Barrier Reef: 99% of These Sea Turtles Are Turning Female

Ecowatch
1/10/2018

A new study reveals increasing temperatures are turning green turtle populations almost completely female in the northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR).

The Current Biology paper says the northern GBR population of more than 200,000 nesting females—one of the largest in the world—could eventually crash without more males. Increasing temperatures in Queensland's north, linked to climate change, are being blamed because the incubation temperature of eggs determines the sex of turtles with a warmer nest resulting in more females.

There are two genetically distinct populations of green turtles on the reef. One population breeds at the southern end and the other nests in the far north, mostly at Raine Island and Moulter Cay. Scientists caught green turtles at the Howick Group of islands where both populations forage. Using a combination of endocrinology and genetic tests, researchers identified the turtles' sex and nesting origin.

Of green turtles from warmer northern nesting beaches, 99.1 percent of juveniles, 99.8 percent of subadults and 86.8 percent of adults were female. Turtles from the cooler southern GBR nesting beaches showed a more moderate female sex bias (65 to 69 percent female).

Lead author Dr. Michael Jensen, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said northern GBR green turtle rookeries have been producing primarily females for more than two decades resulting in "extreme female bias."

"This research is so important because it provides a new understanding of what these populations are dealing with," said Dr. Jensen.

"Knowing what the sex ratios in the adult breeding population are today and what they might look like five, 10 and 20 years from now when these young turtles grow up and become adults is going to be incredibly valuable."

The scientific research was facilitated through the Great Barrier Reef Rivers to Reef to Turtles project, which WWF-Australia leads, with WWF's Marine Species Project Manager Christine Hof also being a scientific researcher in the study. WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O'Gorman said Australians, and many people around the world, would be concerned at yet another climate change impact on the nation's most popular icon.

"First back-to-back mass coral bleaching and now we find that virtually no male northern green turtles are being born," said Mr. O'Gorman.

"These impacts show that the Great Barrier Reef really is at the frontline of climate change. Australia must adopt ambitious climate change targets that will save the reef and its unique creatures. Finding that there are next to no males among young northern green turtles should ring alarm bells, but all is not lost for this important population. Scientists and wildlife managers now know what they are facing and can come up with practical ways to help the turtles. One possibility is shade cloth erected over key nesting beaches, like at Raine Island, to lower nest temperatures to produce more males."


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« Reply #4377 on: Jan 10, 2018, 05:49 AM »

A Gene Mystery: How Are Rats With No Y Chromosome Born Male?

By STEPH YIN
NY Times
1/10/2018

In most mammals, us included, biological sex is determined by a lottery between two letters: X and Y, the sex chromosomes. Inherit one X each from mom and dad, and develop ovaries, a womb and a vagina. Inherit an X from mom and a Y from dad, and develop testes and a penis.

But there are rare, mysterious exceptions. A small number of rodents have no Y chromosomes, yet are born as either females or males, not hermaphrodites. Now, scientists may be one step closer to figuring out how sex determination works in one of these rodents.

In a study published in Science Advances on Friday, Japanese scientists suggested that cells of the endangered Amami spiny rat, from Japan, are sexually flexible and capable of adapting to either ovaries or testes. When the researchers injected stem cells derived from a female rat into male embryos of laboratory mice, the cells developed into and survived as sperm precursors in adult males. The result was surprising since scientists have never been able to generate mature sperm from female stem cells, largely because sperm production normally requires the Y chromosome.

Found only in the subtropical forests of an island in Japan called Amami Oshima, Amami spiny rats are threatened by habitat destruction, competition with black rats not native to the island and predation by mongooses and feral cats and dogs. Their range has been reduced to less than 300 square miles, an area smaller than New York City.

Both female and male Amami spiny rats have only one X chromosome, an arrangement only known to occur in a handful of rodents among mammals. Arata Honda, associate professor at the University of Miyazaki and the lead author of the paper, said in an email that he was partly motivated to study Amami spiny rats in the hope that learning about them might reduce their risk of extinction.

No one knows how or why, but at some point the rats lost their Y chromosome and, along with it, an important gene called SRY that’s considered the “master switch” of male anatomical development in most mammals.

It’s possible that a new gene that wasn’t linked to the Y chromosome took over the role of SRY in these rats, said Monika Ward, a professor and expert on the Y chromosome at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu who was not involved in this study. In addition, research has shown that other genes involved in male sexual differentiation were not lost, but rather transferred from the Y chromosome to other parts of the rat’s genome, including to the X chromosome.

Because the rats are endangered, scientists cannot directly do experiments on them. To get around this, Dr. Honda and his colleagues converted skin cells from the tail tip of a female Amami spiny rat into special stem cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (also called iPS cells), which can multiply indefinitely and become any other cell type in the body. The scientists injected the stem cells into mice embryos and transplanted the embryos into female mice, which birthed 13 so-called chimeras.

After the chimeras reached adulthood, the researchers located the spiny rat iPS cells within their bodies. They were surprised to find some iPS cells appeared in the ovary as immature egg cells, and others in the testis as immature sperm cells.

This study shows that the spiny rat’s sex cells have “astounding” fluidity, said Diana Laird, an associate professor in reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study. The cells were able to sense whether they were in an ovary or testis, and “not only hear but obey the signals” coming from that foreign environment, she added.

Dr. Ward emphasized that these results are not universal — if you were to take iPS cells from a normal female mouse and put them in a male embryo, the few cells that became sperm precursors would die very quickly. The female stem cells in this study were able to approach mature sperm development because of the Amami spiny rat’s unique biology, she said.

The study is also significant because the researchers managed to create chimeras from an endangered species, said Marisa Korody, a postdoctoral associate at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research who researches how iPS cells might be used to protect endangered animals.

“One of the lofty goals we have for using stem cells,” she said, is “to differentiate them into egg and sperm and hopefully create embryos that can be transplanted into a surrogate.”

But there are limits to the findings because the researchers have not yet shown that the spiny rat’s stem cells can fully develop into mature eggs and sperm. “That’s the million dollar question,” Dr. Laird said.


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« Reply #4378 on: Jan 10, 2018, 05:52 AM »

Emperor Penguins: Good Dads, but Less Dedicated Than You May Have Thought

By DOUGLAS QUENQUA
JAN. 10, 2018
NY Times

When it comes to heroic dads, it’s hard to outdo the emperor penguin. But a newly released study suggests the reality may fall short of the legend.

Male emperor penguins are famous for going without food for up to 115 days while they mate and then shelter a solitary egg from the brutal winter winds. Dramatic footage of the semiannual ritual, which begins with a 100-kilometer Antarctic trek to an inland breeding ground, helped make 2005’s “March of the Penguins” one of the highest grossing documentaries of all time.

But researchers who visited a different colony say they witnessed the animals taking breaks from their breeding duties to go fishing in the winter darkness, challenging the popular notion that they are nature’s most dedicated dads.

The behavior was witnessed at Antarctica’s Cape Washington in late May 1998 — after breeding season had begun and the sun had permanently set for the winter — by a team led by Gerald L. Kooyman, a marine biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCLA, San Diego.

Dr. Kooyman and his fellow researchers were surprised to see about 30 penguins swim past their ship as they arrived. They later found fresh tracks marking the ground between the breeding area and the water, suggesting the animals had been taking frequent dips. By the end of their visit to the cape, they had witnessed more than 100 emperor penguins either swimming or returning from the sea.   

Before they left, the researchers tagged four birds with satellite tags and “water switches” that allowed them to track how far the animals traveled and how often they entered the sea. The data confirmed that the penguins continued to take moonlight swims throughout the breeding season. The researchers believe the males ceased their hunting activity once the females laid their eggs.

The findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, suggest that previous research on emperor penguins was focused on too small a population to be taken as representative for the entire species, Dr. Kooyman said.

“Almost all the studies about winter breeding have been conducted from the research station Dumont D’Urville, which is about 100 meters away from a colony,” he said. That colony, which was prominently featured in “March of the Penguins,” is also 100 kilometers from the ice edge, making it impossible for penguins that breed there to take breaks for fishing.

The colony that Dr. Kooyman observed was farther south than Dumont D’Urville, and was located only about 10 kilometers from the ice edge. Thus the authors suggest that the length of a fast depends largely on the breeding colony’s proximity to water. The male emperor penguins in Cape Washington probably fast for about 65 days, they estimated.

Additionally, the discovery that penguins — who are believed to be visual hunters — can successfully hunt in the dark may be good news for a species that is contending with loss of habitat because of a warming planet. Researchers have expressed concern that the loss of stable ice in Antarctica could make it difficult for the animal to perform their breeding ritual.

“If there’s global warming, the bird has the resilience to go south, where they will continue to have stable sea ice for breeding that they would not have in the northern colonies,” said Dr. Kooyman.

Four virtual-reality films take you on, above and below the Antarctic ice.

As for why the researchers waited 20 years to publish their findings, Dr. Kooyman said he had hoped to return to Cape Washington to conduct a more detailed study.

“I think that emphasizes the difficulty of observing what we did,” he said. “But after 20 years I said, ‘Well, I think it’s time to write something about it.’”

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« Reply #4379 on: Jan 10, 2018, 05:57 AM »

Whale protects snorkeler from tiger shark attack

International Business Times
10 Jan 2018 at 06:42 ET     

A Maine woman claimed in a viral video that a 50,000-pound humpback whale protected her from a shark attack while she was snorkeling near the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. The video, which was published Monday on YouTube, shows the moment the whale pushed the snorkeler through the water as a large tiger shark was seen lurking close.

Whale biologist Nan Hauser, 63, a Brunswick native, spoke to the Daily Mirror when she said that this was the first such evidence of whales’ protective nature. She said that the whale moved to keep her from a nearby shark, by nudging her with its head, tucking her under its giant pectoral fin and even lifting her out of the water at one point.

The incident took place in October 2017 but the video was circulated widely on social media on Monday.

“I’ve spent 28 years underwater with whales, and have never had a whale so tactile and so insistent on putting me on his head, or belly, or back, or, most of all, trying to tuck me under his huge pectoral fin,” Hauser told the Mirror. “I never took my eyes off him which is why I didn’t see the shark right away.



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