Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Young Seals Keep Getting Eels Stuck Up Their Noses, and Nobody Knows Why

This phenomenon, eels getting stuck in seals’ noses, is rare. But weirdly, the incidence has been increasing in the past couple of years.

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Wildlife

Biggest coral reseeding project launches on Great Barrier Reef

Scientists have launched the largest-ever attempt to regenerate coral on the endangered Great Barrier Reef by harvesting millions of the creatures’ eggs and sperm during their annual spawning.

The researchers said Wednesday they plan to grow coral larvae from the harvested eggs and return these to areas of the reef which have been badly damaged by climate-related coral bleaching.

“Our team will be restoring hundreds of square meters with the goal of getting to square kilometres in the future, a scale not attempted previously,” the researchers said.

The “Larval Restoration Project” launch was timed to coincide with the annual coral spawn on the reef, which began earlier this week and will last only about 48 to 72 hours.

“Our approach to reef restoration aims to buy time for coral populations to survive and evolve until emissions are capped and our climate stabilises.”

The scientists hope that coral which have survived bleaching have a greater tolerance to rising temperatures so that a breeding population produced from this year’s spawn will grow into coral better able to survive future bleaching events.

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Wildlife

145 whales die on remote New Zealand beach

Up to 145 pilot whales have died in a mass stranding on a remote part of a small New Zealand island, authorities said on Monday. The stranding was discovered by a hiker late Saturday on Stewart Island, 30 kilometres (19 miles) off the southern coast of the South Island.

Half of the whales were already dead and due to the condition of the remaining whales and the remote, difficult to access location, the decision was made to euthanise the remainder.

“Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low,” said Ren Leppens, the Department of Conservation’s operations manager on Stewart Island. “The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales’ deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanise.

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Wildlife

Altered Evolution

Humankind is wielding so much influence on the natural world that we are reshaping the evolution of many species.

Researcher Sarah Otto from the University of British Columbia wrote in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B that the altered evolution includes some fish growing mouths that are smaller and harder to hook by fishermen, and swallows developing smaller, more maneuverable wings to help them navigate through buildings and traffic.

“Human impacts on the world are not just local,” she said. “They are changing the course of evolutionary history for all species on the planet, and that’s a remarkable concept to ponder.” She says some mammals are becoming nocturnal to avoid conflict with humans.

Wildlife

Pollution!

A dead sperm whale had more than 100 plastic cups, plastic bags, flip flops and other pieces of plastic in its stomach when it was found rotting on a beach in Indonesia.

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Wildlife

As Arctic ship traffic increases, narwhals and other unique animals are at risk

More than a century ago, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first European to navigate the entire Northwest Passage. Due to the short Arctic summer, it took Amundsen’s 70-foot wooden sailing ship three years to make the journey, wintering in protected harbors.

Fast-forward to summer 2016, when a cruise ship carrying more than 1,000 passengers negotiated the Northwest Passage in 32 days. The summer “open-water” period in the Arctic has now increased by more than two months in some regions. Summer sea ice cover has shrunk by over 30 percent since satellites started regular monitoring in 1979.

Arctic seas are home to a specialized group of marine mammals found nowhere else on Earth, including beluga and bowhead whales, narwhals, walruses, ringed and bearded seals and polar bears. These species are critical members of Arctic marine ecosystems, and provide traditional resources to Indigenous communities across the Arctic.

According to ecologists, all of these animals are susceptible to sea ice loss. Research at lower latitudes has also shown that marine mammals can be affected by noise from vessels because of their reliance on sound, as well as by ship strikes. These findings raise concerns about increasing vessel traffic in the Arctic.

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Wildlife

Profound Effects of Pesticides on Bees

Whether it’s foraging for food, caring for the young, using their bodies to generate heat or to fan the nest, or building and repairing nests, a bee colony does just about everything as a single unit.

While recent studies have suggested exposure to pesticides could have impacts on foraging behavior, a new study, led by James Crall, has shown that those effects may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The new study that shows exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides — the most commonly-used class of pesticides in agriculture — has profound effects on a host of social behaviors.

Using an innovative robotic platform to observe bees’ behavior, the study authors showed that, following exposure to the pesticide, bees spent less time nursing larvae and were less social that other bees. Additional tests showed that exposure impaired bees ability to warm the nest, and to build insulating wax caps around the colony. The study is described in a November 9 paper in Science.

Wildlife

Lions Suspected In Drowning Of 400 Buffaloes In Botswana

More than 400 buffaloes believed to have been chased by lions drowned in a river in northern Botswana this week. The mass drowning occurred in Chobe River near the border with Namibia.

Early investigations by authorities in both countries “suggest that an exceptionally large buffalo herd was grazing in Namibia when they stampeded into the Chobe River,” Botswana’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism said in a statement late Wednesday. “Initial indications are that they were being chased by a pride of lions,” the ministry said. “It is estimated that more than 400 animals drowned due to the massive movement of buffalo trampling, and falling from steep river banks.”

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Wildlife

Maritime Noise Pollution

Underwater noise created by shipping and recreational boats is making it more difficult for dolphins to talk to each other, according to a new study.

University of Maryland researchers say the complex whistle calls used by the marine mammals are becoming simplified to make sure they can be understood through the din of maritime traffic.

“It’s kind of like trying to answer a question in a noisy bar and after repeated attempts to be heard, you just give the shortest answer possible,” said marine biologist Helen Bailey. She and colleagues made the discovery by analyzing recordings from microphones on the bottom of the Atlantic.

An earlier Japanese study found that humpback whales stop singing or reduce their songs when near loud noise from passing ships.

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Mass Extinction

Earth’s wild animal population has plunged 60 percent since 1970, and the rate of extinction is now 100 to 1,000 times higher due to pressure from human activities, a new report warns.

The World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) latest Living Planet Index says the global biodiversity needs “life support,” and called on heads of state to step up and fight for the planet.

The group says tackling climate change by advancing renewable energy and boosting environmentally friendly food production would begin taking the pressure off the world’s wildlife.

Wildlife

‘Unprecedented’ Number of Dead Whales Have Washed Up in Scotland and Ireland

A total of 80 deep-water whales have been found dead on the Atlantic coasts of Scotland and Ireland since early August — more than 10 times the usual number over that time in previous years.

Marine mammal scientists say the presence of the washed-up whales suggests an “unusual mortality event,” or UME, that could have killed up to 1,000 Cuvier’sbeaked whales in the North Atlantic Ocean in recent months.

The cause of the whale deaths is unknown, but scientists fear they may be the result of warships using active sonar to hunt for enemy submarines, or naval anti-submarine exercises.

Around 26 of the carcasses were Cuvier’s beaked whales, a species that lives mainly in the deep ocean, while the rest were either Sowerby’s beaked or northern bottlenose whales.

Typically, just two or three dead beaked whales would wash up on the Irish coast each year.

A similar increase in beaked-whale deaths has been reported along the west coast of Scotland.

The sharp increase in the evidence of whale deaths washing up on the coast implied that a much greater number of whales may have been killed in the open ocean.

Scientific research has shown that Cuvier’s beaked whales are sensitive to the very loud sounds caused by anti-submarine sonar, which is used by warships hunting for enemy submarines and during naval anti-submarine exercises.

Scientists suspect the loud sonar sounds cause intense pain to beaked whales diving at extreme depths, so that they surface too quickly and die from decompression sickness.

Nature – Images

Interesting Images

Tiny Baby Octopus Riding Ocean Trash

A baby octopus the size of a pea was hitchhiking on a piece of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean when Hawaiian researchers spotted it and scooped up the small cephalopod.

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Wildlife

Two rhinos die in Chad after being relocated from SA

Two of six critically endangered black rhinos have died of unknown causes five months after being flown from South Africa to Chad in a pioneering project to re-introduce the animals, officials said Sunday.

Rhinos in Chad were wiped out by poaching nearly 50 years ago, and the six rhinos were intended to establish a new population in the country after intensive anti-poaching measures were put in place to protect them.

The rhinos in Chad had been roaming free in Zakouma National Park since late August after a gradual acclimatisation process that saw them first released into small enclosures.

The carcasses of the cow and bull were discovered on October 15. It is uncertain whether they were poached. The surviving four rhinos are being closely monitored, the statement said.

Wildlife

Disease Outbreak Threatening California Sea Lions

A major outbreak of a deadly disease has sickened more than 200 seas lions along the Northern California coast, the Marine Mammal Center announced Tuesday.

Officials at the center said it was the second largest outbreak of leptospirosis in California sea lions in its recorded history. This year, 220 sea lions at the Marin Headlands-based center have tested positive for the bacterial infection, which affects their kidneys.

Though sea lions diagnosed with leptospirosis are treated with antibiotics and other supportive care, roughly two-thirds of the animals with the infection do not survive.

Other animal species, including humans and dogs, can become infected with the bacteria through contact with contaminated urine, water and soil.

Wildlife

Global insect populations declining at alarming rate

An article in PNAS (National Academy of Sciences) has highlighted research from around the world that has found that insect populations are declining significantly.

A number of studies indicate that tropical arthropods should be particularly vulnerable to climate warming. If these predictions are realized, climate warming may have a more profound impact on the functioning and diversity of tropical forests than currently anticipated. Although arthropods comprise over two-thirds of terrestrial species, information on their abundance and extinction rates in tropical habitats is severely limited. Here we analyze data on arthropod and insectivore abundances taken between 1976 and 2012 at two midelevation habitats in Puerto Rico’s Luquillo rainforest. During this time, mean maximum temperatures have risen by 2.0 °C. Using the same study area and methods employed by Lister in the 1970s, we discovered that the dry weight biomass of arthropods captured in sweep samples had declined 4 to 8 times, and 30 to 60 times in sticky traps. Analysis of long-term data on canopy arthropods and walking sticks taken as part of the Luquillo Long-Term Ecological Research program revealed sustained declines in abundance over two decades, as well as negative regressions of abundance on mean maximum temperatures. We also document parallel decreases in Luquillo’s insectivorous lizards, frogs, and birds. While El Niño/Southern Oscillation influences the abundance of forest arthropods, climate warming is the major driver of reductions in arthropod abundance, indirectly precipitating a bottom-up trophic cascade and consequent collapse of the forest food web.

Research from 2014 estimated that in the last 35 years, populations of insects such as beetles and bees have decreased by 45%, and that the number of insects in Europe is in rapid decline. In a separate study published in 2017, flying insect numbers in German nature reserves were found to have decreased by 76% over 27 years.

Wildlife

Monarch Gains

The Mexican forest reserve where millions of monarch butterflies spend the winter saw deforestation drop by 57 percent this year compared to 2017, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported.

“The forest’s degradation has dropped due to a decrease in large-scale illegal logging operations, the end of the damages caused by the 2016 storms and the absence of weather events,” said Jorge Rickards, head of WWF Mexico.

But small-scale illegal logging in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve saw a slight rise, with about 3.5 acres of forest lost.