Wildlife

Arabian Sea Humpback Whales Isolated for 70,000 Years
December 3, 2014 04:34 PM - Wildlife Conservation Society

Scientists from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), the Environment Society of Oman, and other organizations have made a fascinating discovery in the northern Indian Ocean: humpback whales inhabiting the Arabian Sea are the most genetically distinct humpback whales in the world and may be the most isolated whale population on earth. The results suggest they have remained separate from other humpback whale populations for perhaps 70,000 years, extremely unusual in a species famed for long distance migrations.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
December 3, 2014 10:18 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or The People’s Tree, began in 1964 when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack (D-MA) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. This tree lived three years before succumbing to wind and root damage. In 1970, the Capitol Architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree. Since then, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide The People’s Tree. This national forest also works with state forests to provide companion trees that are smaller Christmas trees for offices in Washington, D.C. 

 

This year, the 88-foot-tall white spruce tree was harvested from the Chippewa National Forest in northeastern Minnesota by Jim Scheff who won the Logger of the Year award from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI). 

 

That begs the question how can a logger win an award from a sustainability group? 

Do City Birds Outlive Country Birds?
December 1, 2014 08:45 AM - Smithsonian Science

Researchers at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center have found four bird species living in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region that survive longer than those living in rural settings. The study was led by the Migratory Bird Center using the Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch program in which citizen scientists and researchers visit participating residences and parks to collect information about local bird populations. From 2000 to 2012, Neighborhood Nestwatch participants captured, tagged and released more than 7,000 birds from about 280 sites within the urban forest of Rock Creek Park, suburban Maryland backyards and the National Mall.

Manatees need some love too!
November 29, 2014 07:55 AM - Mindy Townsend, Care2

Manatees can be divided up into three distinct species that roughly correlate to where they live. The West Indian manatee lives in the Caribbean and is divided into two subspecies: the Florida manatee and the Antillean or Caribbean manatee. Manatees also live in the Amazon and off the West African coast, called the Amazonian manatee and West African manatee, respectively. (A possible new species of dwarf manatee has been seen in freshwater habitats in the Amazon, but the veracity of that claim in in question.)

According to the IUCN, all three extant species of manatee are considered vulnerable, which means that they are at a heightened risk of extinction. The manatee’s Pacific cousin, the dugong, is also vulnerable. Hopefully, we’ll be able to learn a lesson from our experiences with another manatee relative, the Steller’s sea cow, which humans hunted to extinction less than 30 years after its discovery.

Establishing marine protected areas to fight illegal fishing
November 25, 2014 09:10 AM - Kerry Klein, MONGABAY.COM

Do you know how that tuna sashimi got to your dinner plate? Probably not—and chances are, the restaurant that served it to you doesn’t know, either. A new policy paper argues that illicit fishing practices are flying under the radar all around the world, and global society must combat them in order to keep seafood on the menu. According to the paper, published in Science, fishing practices that are illegal, unreported and unregulated (collectively referred to as IUU) are ubiquitous. They range from bottom trawlers scouring the seafloor—sometimes catching more illegal species than legal ones—to small boats simply not reporting their catch. 

Climate change, species extinctions and tipping points
November 25, 2014 07:35 AM - North Carolina State University via EurekAlert.

Researchers from North Carolina State University have created a model that mimics how differently adapted populations may respond to rapid climate change. Their findings demonstrate that depending on a population's adaptive strategy, even tiny changes in climate variability can create a "tipping point" that sends the population into extinction.

Carlos Botero, postdoctoral fellow with the Initiative on Biological Complexity and the Southeast Climate Science Center at NC State and assistant professor of biology at Washington State University, wanted to find out how diverse populations of organisms might cope with quickly changing, less predictable climate variations. 

Hope for the Monarch Butterfly
November 24, 2014 03:59 PM - Imogen Mathers, SciDevNet

When millions of monarch butterflies take to the sky and fly thousands of kilometres from the United States and southern Canada to Mexico, the view is breathtaking. But over the last few decades, their numbers have plummeted, and last year hit an all-time low. Illegal logging in Mexican forests, where the monarchs hibernate during winter, has traditionally been to blame. But large-scale logging by companies appears to have been halted. And now small-scale logging by local people for firewood and timber — a “growing concern in 2013” — has also stopped, according to a study published last month (27 October) in Biological Conservation.

World Bank warns effects of warming climate now unavoidable
November 24, 2014 11:29 AM - , ClickGreen

As the planet continues to warm, heat-waves and other extreme weather events that today occur once in hundreds of years, if ever, will become the “new climate normal,” creating a world of increased risks and instability, a new World Bank study warns. 

The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources shift, sea-levels rise, and the livelihoods of millions of people are put at risk, according to a new scientific report released today by the World Bank Group.

Good News for the Black-Footed Ferret
November 24, 2014 11:21 AM - Tex Dworkin, Care2

When you hear about an animal becoming extinct, most assume that the species is gone for good, never to be seen again. That’s not the case for North America’s rarest mammal, the black-footed ferret. 35 years after being declared extinct, the adorable critter is re-emerging in the western U.S. and Canadian prairie land.

If ladybugs move into your house this fall, make them welcome
November 21, 2014 09:49 AM - Rob Forman, Rutgers University

During the warm months of the year, ladybugs are like adorable, bright-colored lapel pins. They land on us, accessorize our clothing in brilliant red or orange with stylish black spots, and are delightful to have around. Several cultures even think of ladybugs as good luck charms for anything from marriage to childbirth to the weather to a good harvest. Then fall arrives and the ladybugs need to find warmth, which is most available inside people’s homes – where they often descend in large numbers. Suddenly they’re not as cute to many people as they seemed outdoors. But Jessica Ware, an insect expert and assistant professor of biology at Rutgers University-Newark, says having ladybugs indoors serves a very useful purpose, and humans should welcome their temporary houseguests. 

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