Wildlife

Where do rubber trees get their rubber?
June 24, 2016 03:33 PM - RIKEN via EurekAlert!

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) in Japan along with collaborators at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) have succeeded in decoding the genome sequence for Hevea brasiliensis, the natural rubber tree native to Brazil. Published in Scientific Reports, the study reports a draft genome sequence that covers more than 93% of expressed genes, and pinpoints regions specific to the biosynthesis of rubber.

Natural rubber flows in latex ducts and protects plants from insects when the plant becomes injured. For humans, it is an important resource for many industrial applications because it has several useful properties that have not been reproducible in synthetic petroleum-based rubber. While some strains of rubber tree yield higher amounts of rubber than others, the reasons for this are still unknown. The team led by Minami Matsui at the RIKEN CSRS and Alexander Chong at USM set out to sequence and analyze the H. brasiliensis genome. Explains first author Nyok Sean Lau, "genomic information can reveal which genes contribute to the rubber tree's capacity to produce high amounts of latex. This in turn will help us develop rubber trees with higher yields."

Threats to habitat connectivity as sea waters inundate coastal areas
June 21, 2016 07:05 AM - Jim Melvin, Clemson University

By the year 2100, sea levels might rise as much as 2.5 meters above their current levels, which would seriously threaten coastal cities and other low-lying areas. In turn, this would force animals to migrate farther inland in search of higher ground. But accelerated urbanization, such as the rapidly expanding Piedmont area that stretches from Atlanta to eastern North Carolina, could cut off their escape routes and create climate-induced extinctions.

First Mammal Goes Extinct From Manmade Climate Change
June 17, 2016 07:23 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

We’ve reached a sad milestone: Climate change has claimed its first mammal species. Scientists have been warning us that a large percentage of species will face extinction thanks to manmade global warming, and the future is unfortunately here.

According to The Guardian, climate change’s first mammal victim was an adorable rodent known as the Bramble Cay melomys. Sometimes called a mosaic-tailed rat, the melomys was named after Bramble Cay, an Australian island close to Papua New Guinea, that was the only known home for the species.

A Plan to Mute Ocean Noise for Marine Life
June 15, 2016 06:37 AM - Laura Goldman, Care2

Imagine trying to relax in your home while being bombarded with the explosive sounds of shotgun blasts as well as freight trains rumbling by. For many whales, dolphins and other marine life that depend on their hearing to survive, there is no way to escape the loud, human-made noises in their ocean home. The main culprits are vessels like cargo ships, along with sonar guns used by the U.S. Navy and air guns used in seismic oil and gas exploration. Their blasts are so loud that they are known to change the behavior of blue whales. But now, in what Michael Jasny, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Marine Mammal Protection Project, Land & Wildlife Program, referred to as “a sea change in the way we manage ocean noise off our shores,” NOAA has announced it plans to take action to reduce the noise in entire marine ecosystems.

CDC publishes new map showing US locations of potential Zika-carrying mosquitoes
June 14, 2016 07:10 AM - Michaeleen Doucleff, NPR

A few months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a startling map that showed the parts of the U.S. that could harbor mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika. The map made it look like a vast swath of the country was at risk for Zika, including New England and the Upper Midwest. Well, not quite. On Thursday, CDC scientists published another mosquito map for the U.S. And it paints a very different picture.

Antarctic lakes are a repository for ancient soot
June 13, 2016 04:08 PM - National Science Foundation via ScienceDaily

Remote lakes in a perpetually ice-free area of Antarctica show not only the chemical signature of ancient wildfires, but also some much more recent evidence of fossil-fuel combustion, according to National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Environmental crimes increasing according to the UN
June 13, 2016 06:44 AM - Lizabeth Paulat, Care2

A new report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Interpol has highlighted the sophistication and growth of environmental crimes across the world. These crimes range from the illegal trade of wildlife, illegal mining, illegal forestry and fishing. And despite our growing global attention towards conservation, these crimes have jumped 26 percent in the past two years alone. 

The report highlights the criminal fluidity of these trades. They say that transnational crime rings are no longer focusing on just one flow of illicit trade; rather, “criminals coordinate, evade or even shift their focus from drugs, human trafficking, counterfeit products and arms to any new opportunity – hazardous waste and chemicals, forest products, pangolins, giant clams, minerals and illegally extracted gold.”

According to the UNEP, the reasons behind this rise is linked to both increasing demand, primarily in Asia, as well as poverty in the regions where the smuggling of these goods take place. Local wildlife authorities across Africa, which often scrape by on a minimal budget, must constantly adapt to new methods and new extremes employed by poachers.

Fish use tools!
June 11, 2016 07:04 AM - s.e. smith, Care2

Fish: charming, but not terribly bright, right? That’s been the party line for years, but it turns out that it’s not quite accurate.

Some fish actually use tools, and as researcher Culum Brown points out, the lack of studies on fish populations means that we don’t actually know the extent this skill. Opening our eyes a little might reveal some fascinating new information about creatures we’ve traditionally identified as sitting at the lowest rung of animal life — even some vegetarians don’t see a conflict with including fish in their diets!

The first documented instance of tool use by a fish occurred in 2011, when a diver noticed a blackspot tuskfish doing something odd as he drifted along the Great Barrier Reef. When the diver investigated, he found that the fish was using a rock to crack open clam shells in order to access the meat inside. It showed a degree of resourcefulness that researchers hadn’t expected to see in fish — and it wasn’t the only intelligent tuskfish behavior.

 

Thousands Ask Feds to Protect West Coast's Beloved Orcas Before It's Too Late
June 10, 2016 03:36 PM - Alicia Graef, Care2

Thousands of people spoke out this week to ask for more protection for a highly endangered and beloved population of orcas, otherwise known as the Southern Resident killer whales who live in the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks to whale watching tours, and organizations like the Orca Network and Center for Whale Research, which keeps an official census of their population, we have had the opportunity to glimpse into their daily lives. We’ve been able to celebrate births, mourn deaths and root for the elders among them, like Granny, who has been around long enough to see how drastically our actions have changed their home and families.

Thousands Ask Feds to Protect West Coast's Beloved Orcas Before It's Too Late
June 10, 2016 03:36 PM - Alicia Graef, Care2

Thousands of people spoke out this week to ask for more protection for a highly endangered and beloved population of orcas, otherwise known as the Southern Resident killer whales who live in the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks to whale watching tours, and organizations like the Orca Network and Center for Whale Research, which keeps an official census of their population, we have had the opportunity to glimpse into their daily lives. We’ve been able to celebrate births, mourn deaths and root for the elders among them, like Granny, who has been around long enough to see how drastically our actions have changed their home and families.

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