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« Reply #300 on: Apr 08, 2014, 07:07 AM »

Endangered butterfly defies climate change with new diet and habitat

Quino checkerspot, native to Mexico and California, shifts to higher altitude and chooses new species of plant for laying eggs

Patrick Barkham   
The Guardian, Monday 7 April 2014 11.03 BST   
A butterfly species whose population collapsed because of climate change and habitat loss has defied predictions of extinction to rapidly move to cooler climes and change its food plant.

The quino checkerspot (Euphydryas editha quino), found in Mexico and California, has shifted to higher altitudes and surprisingly chosen a completely different species of plant on which to lay its eggs, according to research presented at the Butterfly Conservation's seventh international symposium in Southampton.

Its rapid adaption offers hope that other insects and species may be able to adapt unexpectedly quickly to climate change.

"Every butterfly biologist who knew anything about the quino in the mid-1990s thought it would be extinct by now, including me," said Prof Camille Parmesan of the Marine Sciences Institute at Plymouth University.

The Quino was once abundant in southern California but the expansion of Los Angeles and San Diego saw it reduced to just two small colonies. Other populations in Mexico began declining sharply as global warming made conditions too hot and dry for its caterpillars' food plant, a species of plantain.

Six years ago, Parmesan suggested that the endangered quino could be a prime candidate for "assisted colonisation" – to be moved by humans to cooler, unspoilt habitat north of Los Angeles. Instead, to the amazement of scientists, the butterfly did not need human help and reappeared on higher ground to the east, where its caterpillars are feeding on a flowering plant it has never eaten before.

Several other butterfly species have been changing habitat or diet to cope with a changing climate but the quino checkerspot is the first butterfly known to science to change both so rapidly.

Many environmentalists fear that climate change is happening too quickly for species to adapt but, according to Parmesan, this surprising example shows that some apparently doomed species may be more resilient than we imagine.

However, she warned that this case showed that nature reserves, and linking together unspoilt habitat, was more important than ever to enable species to survive a changing climate. Without undeveloped land to the east of Los Angeles and San Diego, the quino checkerspot would have had nowhere to go and would have become extinct.

"We have to give these species the space to adapt," said Parmesan. "In the early days of climate change people worried that nature reserves would be no longer useful because the species they protected would move out. Now we know that new species move in, and so they are more important than ever."

More than a quarter of Britain's 59 species are moving north, with butterflies such as the comma moving around 10km each year. With climate change, another UK species, the brown argus, has started to feed on wild geranium plants as a caterpillar, enabling it to spread rapidly through the Midlands and into northern England.

But the international symposium also heard strong scientific evidence that climate change will create more losers than winners because unspoilt habitat is so fragmented, preventing many butterflies, moths and other insects from moving to more suitable places. Tom Oliver of the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology told the symposium that scientific modelling predicted a number of UK butterfly extinctions by the middle of this century.

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« Reply #301 on: Apr 11, 2014, 06:24 AM »

Clever chimps use improvised bridge to escape Kansas City Zoo

By Reuters
Friday, April 11, 2014 6:23 EDT   

Seven chimpanzees used an improvised ladder from a tree to scale a wall and briefly escape their enclosure at the Kansas City Zoo on Thursday, a zoo official said.

One of the chimps apparently pulled a log or a branch and leaned it against the wall of the enclosure, giving the primates a leg-up to the top, zoo director Randy Wisthoff said.

The animals did not have any contact with zoo visitors, as they escaped into an area reserved for zookeepers, he added. There are 12 chimps in total at the zoo, which was closed after the incident.

“We had a ringleader,” Wisthoff said. “He got up on the log and got some others to join him.”

Using food to entice them, the zookeepers herded the wayward chimps back into an indoor enclosure. The chimps were on the loose for around an hour.

Wisthoff said zoo staff regularly checks trees in the area of the chimpanzees for fallen limbs but in this case a chimp apparently pulled a log or large limb out of a tree.

“Chimps are so much stronger than humans,” Wisthoff said, adding that they are also very smart.

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« Reply #302 on: Apr 11, 2014, 06:27 AM »

Maine moose population ‘walking dead’ after ticks drain blood due to climate change

By David Edwards
Thursday, April 10, 2014 9:59 EDT

Researchers in New England say that warmer weather caused by climate change has allowed ticks to thrive, and devastated the moose population by literally draining them of blood.

In a segment on PBS Newshour this week, reporter Hari Sreenivasan traveled to New Hampshire and Maine, where teams were tagging moose with radio transmitters to better understand why the animal population was in steep decline.

Film crews were there the day that researches found one dead calf covered in winter ticks.

“Literally, this is the walking dead,” University of New Hampshire wildlife ecology professor Peter Pekins explained. “The animal is totally emaciated. And there is no way it can survive.”

“They are literally being sucked dry of blood. So, they can’t consume protein to replace the blood loss,” Perkins pointed out. “Their only choice is to catabolize their own tissues. And that is going to be their muscles. The hind legs on a moose are some the most powerful legs in North America. And that animal doesn’t have any. And it’s because it has chewed up its own body to survive as long as it can.”

According to scientists, warmer weather has caused an explosion in the tick population.

And the National Wildlife Federation’s Eric Orff expected that the problem would get worse as climate change accelerates.

“In New Hampshire, our winters have warmed some four degrees since 1970,” Orff said. “So, the warming of the winter means less snow, means more ticks, means fewer moose.”

He has asked the outdoor industry to help pressure lawmakers into reducing carbon emissions to combat climate change.

“In my lifetime, as a wildlife biologist, I witnessed the disappearance of winter here in New Hampshire,” Orff observed. “So we really need to curb carbon, get off the carbs world, and we need to put this earth on a diet of carbs, carbon, and bring back winter.”

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« Reply #303 on: Apr 12, 2014, 07:00 AM »

SeaWorld loses appeal against killer-whale occupational safety ruling

• Judges: company exposed trainers to 'recognised hazards'
• Trainer Dawn Brancheau died in 2010 incident

Reuters in Washington, Friday 11 April 2014 17.38 BST   
Killer Whale Kills Trainer At Florida Seaworld Dawn Brancheau at Sea World Florida in 2009. The following year she was killed during a killer whale show at the theme park. Photo: Barry Bland/Barcroft Media

A US appeals court on Friday upheld a federal occupational safety agency's finding against SeaWorld Entertainment Inc, following the workplace death of one of its killer whale trainers.

The ruling by the US court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit could have a major impact on how SeaWorld presents its shows, because it would require increased separation of humans and killer whales.

The three-judge panel, split 2-1, held that SeaWorld had violated its duties as an employer by exposing trainers to "recognized hazards" when working with killer whales.

A spokesman for SeaWorld, which operates 11 parks around the US, had no immediate comment on the ruling.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had fined the company $75,000 after trainer Dawn Brancheau died in February 2010. She drowned after being pulled underwater by Tilikum, a 12,000lb bull orca at the SeaWorld site in Orlando, Florida.

The fine was later reduced to $12,000 but SeaWorld was more concerned by the federal agency's application of federal safety law to an unusual workplace situation.

OSHA had told SeaWorld it could resolve the problem by requiring trainers to be protected by physical barriers or by adopting other abatement measures. The appeals court concluded that OSHA did not overstep its authority in bringing the action against SeaWorld.

"Statements by SeaWorld managers do not indicate that SeaWorld's safety protocols and training made the killer whales safe; rather, they demonstrate SeaWorld's recognition that the killer whales interacting with trainers are dangerous," Judge Judith Rogers wrote on behalf of the court.

She played down SeaWorld's concerns about the impact on its operations, saying that improved safety "does not change the essential nature of the business".

Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion noting that people who work in dangerous fields in the sports and entertainment context are aware of the risks.

OSHA has "departed from tradition and stormed headlong into a new regulatory arena," he said.

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