Wildlife

Center for Biological Diversity launches new Environmental Health Program
February 21, 2015 07:47 AM - Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity this week launched its new Environmental Health program, greatly expanding its capacity to protect wildlife, people and the environment from pesticides, rodenticides, lead, mining, industrial pollution, and air and water pollution.

“The future of people is deeply intertwined with the fate of all the other species that evolved beside us,” said Lori Ann Burd, the program’s director. “This new program will work to protect biodiversity and human health from toxic substances while promoting a deep understanding of the connection between the health of people and imperiled species.”

Biodiversity may reduce threat of disease
February 20, 2015 08:45 AM - Victor Montoro, MONGABAY.COM

Biodiversity level changes can have consequences for species and habitats around the world. A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, reaffirms previous findings that higher diversity in ecological communities may lead to reduced disease threat. The study concludes that higher amphibian diversity in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest is linked to a lower infection rate of a fungus that is devastating amphibian populations around the world. 

Giant African land snails invading Cuba
February 20, 2015 07:44 AM - s.e. smith, Care2

Kennedy couldn’t manage it in 1961, but someone else has. According to the BBC, Giant African Land Snails have been spotted on Cuban soil, which is bad news for native molluscs in the island nation as well as numerous plants. As if that weren’t bad enough, they also pose a health risk to people. This is one invasion Cubans definitely want to stop in its tracks, and for once the CIA has absolutely nothing to do with it.

These snails have a number of characteristics that make them a formidable problem in regions where they’ve been introduced, which includes parts of Asia, Central America, and the US. For starters, they’re big. Really big. Giant African Snails typically grow up to eight inches long, and they’ve been known to get even bigger. They lay hundreds of eggs every month, with a very high hatch rate, ensuring that once a few snails make land, they can quickly spread across a region and they’re extremely difficult to stop — in part because applying molluscicide would kill other species. Also introducing predators is also problematic because all of the snail’s natural predators would be more likely to pick on smaller, vulnerable native species.

Feds Propose Protection of Calving, Foraging Areas of Last 450 Right Whales on East Coast
February 18, 2015 07:55 AM - Center for Biological Diversity

In response to the efforts of conservation and wildlife protection groups, the National Marine Fisheries Service today proposed to protect 39,655 square miles as critical habitat for North Atlantic right whales. Only about 450 of the critically endangered whales exist today, and without additional protections the species faces a serious risk of extinction.

Climate change may affect tick life cycles, Lyme disease
February 17, 2015 01:51 PM - Oregon State University

A new study suggests that changing climate patterns may be altering the life cycles of blacklegged ticks in the northeastern United States, which could increase transmission among animals – and ultimately humans – of certain pathogens, including the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Other colder regions of the country that have sufficient populations of blacklegged ticks – particularly Wisconsin and Minnesota – may also experience a higher risk of Lyme disease. However, the changing life cycles of the ticks may result in a less-likely probability of transmitting a more deadly pathogen that results in Powassan encephalitis, the researchers say.

Beavers provide insight on how to improve our enamel
February 13, 2015 09:50 AM - Northwestern University

Beavers don’t brush their teeth, and they don’t drink fluoridated water, but a new Northwestern University study reports beavers do have protection against tooth decay built into the chemical structure of their teeth: iron. This pigmented enamel, the researchers found, is both harder and more resistant to acid than regular enamel, including that treated with fluoride. This discovery is among others that could lead to a better understanding of human tooth decay, earlier detection of the disease and improving on current fluoride treatments.

'Stressed' young bees could be to blame for colony collapse
February 10, 2015 08:11 AM - Queen Mary University of London

Researchers have tracked the activity of bees forced to begin foraging earlier in their lives due to stress on their colonies and found that they collect less pollen and die earlier, accelerating the decline and collapse of their hives. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a major threat to bee colonies around the world and affects their ability to perform vital human food crop pollination. It has been a cause of urgent concern for scientists and farmers around the world for at least a decade but a specific cause for the phenomenon has yet to be conclusively identified.

Giant clam has giant impact
February 9, 2015 09:05 AM - Jose Hong, MONGABAY.COM

The world’s biggest bivalves are the aptly named giant clams. Inhabiting the warm waters of the Indo-Pacific, the largest of these species, the eponymous giant clam (Tridacna squamosal), can reach up to 1.2 meters (4 feet) in length and wiegh over 230 kilograms (500 pounds). Historically known as the killer clam for its supposed ability to trap careless divers, these harmless and colorful bivalves are favorite animals for divers and snorkelers to spot, but they may also be big players in the ecosystem. 

Termite mounds could help prevent spread of deserts
February 5, 2015 04:23 PM - National Science Foundation

Termites might not top the list of humanity's favorite insects, but new research suggests that their large dirt mounds are crucial to stopping deserts from spreading into semi-arid ecosystems. The results indicate that termite mounds could make these areas more resilient to climate change. The findings could also inspire a change in how scientists determine the possible effects of climate change on ecosystems.

Pigeons are smarter than you think!
February 4, 2015 06:09 PM - UNIVERSITY OF IOWA via EurekAlert

The more scientists study pigeons, the more they learn how their brains--no bigger than the tip of an index finger--operate in ways not so different from our own.

In a new study from the University of Iowa, researchers found that pigeons can categorize and name both natural and manmade objects--and not just a few objects. These birds categorized 128 photographs into 16 categories, and they did so simultaneously.

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