Wildlife

Plausible Alibi

A tagged racing pigeon once believed to have flown from a competition in the United States to the Australian city of Melbourne, 8,000 miles away, briefly faced a death sentence as officials deemed it a foreign biohazard.

Since the bird had seemingly bypassed the country’s strict quarantine regulation forbidding the importation of live animals or birds, plans were made to euthanize it. But sharp eyes from racing experts saw that the tag, allegedly from a U.S. bird organization, was not authentic. So “Joe,” named after new U.S. President Joe Biden, was found innocent and will be given the chance to fly freely around the neighborhood where it was first spotted.

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Wildlife

Most Animals Are Decreasing In Size As Result Of Global Warming

Scientists from the University of Granada (UGR) and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile have succeeded in explaining why ectotherms (animals whose body temperature depends mainly on environmental temperature—that is, most animals) are reducing in size as a result of global warming.

heir study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, offers the first plausible physiological explanation for the general reduction in organism size that has been observed, as a consequence of global warming. Rising temperatures lead to metabolic restrictions which restrict growth—in other words, the animals cannot develop to achieve larger sizes. With increasing size, death due to thermal stress occurs at a lower metabolic rate compared to rest at a non-stressful temperature.

Wildlife

Octopuses Adapt to Climate Change

With the impact of climate change increasing by the day, scientists are studying the ways in which human behavior contributes to the damage. A recent study at Walla Walla University, by a collaboration of researchers from Walla Walla University and La Sierra University, examined the effects of acidic water on octopuses, potentially bringing new insight into both how our activities impact the world around us, and the way that world is adapting in response.

The study focused on the metabolic rate of octopuses exposed to water acidified by carbon dioxide, and the changes it made to the animals. CO2 is a key indicator of the growing acidity of our oceans because much of the gas released into the air by humans is dissolving into the seawater.

For instance, studies on cuttlefish show no significant change in their metabolism after exposure to increased OA, while squid subjected to the same conditions showed a reduction in aerobic metabolism, indicating reduced oxygen circulation in the subjects. The results demonstrated a surprising amount of adaptability in the subjects.

Wildlife

Fences hinder migratory wildlife in Western US

Each year, thousands of migratory mule deer and pronghorn antelope journey northwest from their winter homes in the Green River Basin, a grassland valley in western Wyoming, to their summer homes in the mountainous landscape near Grand Teton National Park.

But to reach their destination, these ungulates must successfully navigate the more than 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles) of fencing that crisscrosses the region. That’s enough distance to span nearly twice the length of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Fences don’t always pose an insurmountable barrier to wildlife, and different species find different ways to get around them. Mule deer are willing to jump over fences that are low enough. Pronghorn antelope, however, are reluctant to jump over fences and instead must seek out areas where they can move underneath.

Each year, mule deer encountered fences an average of 119 times, Xu found. Pronghorn antelope encountered fences at more than twice that rate, about 248 times per year. About 40% of these fence encounters resulted in a change in the animals’ behavior.

Wildlife

Domestic Kangaroos

Kangaroos have shown they can use body language to ask humans for help, busting earlier beliefs that only domesticated animals have such an ability.

Alan McElligott and colleagues at the City University of Hong Kong tested 16 roos living in captivity with the same methods used to study horses, dogs and goats. After blocking food from the kangaroos with a transparent box door that made it impossible for the marsupials to get it, they observed the animals’ behavior. The roos almost always turned to a nearby human for help. “They’d look straight up at my face, like a dog or a goat would do, and back at the box, and some even came up and scratched my knee like a dog pawing [for attention],” said McElligott.

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Wildlife

Avian Tragedy

Scientists believe that the untold thousands of migratory birds that fell from the sky dead or dying across parts of the southwestern U.S. in September were probably victims of smoke from the West’s catastrophic firestorms. The songbirds could have either choked in the massive pall of toxic smoke and gas or used up their fat reserves trying to fly around it.

Environment

Bird Blackout

A New Zealand South Island village has switched off all of its streetlights in an attempt to stop young birds from crash-landing on roadways.

Wildlife experts say the Westland petrel fledglings are possibly mistaking the streetlights of Punakaiki for the bioluminescent fish they typically eat. The town hosts about 6,000 breeding pairs of the rare birds each March, which is celebrated with a festival.

But the introduction of blue-white LED lights last year has some local bird watchers believing that it’s confusing the seabirds even more than usual, causing them to crash onto roads and sometimes be struck by cars.

Wildlife

Trump’s Border Wall Affects Wildlife

The accelerated construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall over the past year has disrupted animal movements, caused mountains to be dynamited and toppled century-old saguaro cactus.

“Interconnected landscapes that stretch across two countries are being converted into industrial wastelands,” Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson told The Associated Press.

Field cameras at southeastern Arizona’s San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge have recently captured 90% fewer movements of animals like mountain lions, bobcats and javelinas.

“This wall is the largest impediment to wildlife movement we’ve ever seen in this part of the world,” said Myles Traphagen of the Wildlands Network.

Wildlife

Deadly Skin Disease Affects Dolphins

In collaboration with Australian researchers, The Marine Mammal Center has found that the increasing frequency and severity of storm systems drastically decrease the salinity of coastal waters, causing fatal skin disease in dolphins worldwide.

Scientists at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA — the largest marine mammal hospital in the world — and international colleagues have identified a novel skin disease in dolphins that is linked to climate change. The study is a groundbreaking discovery, as it is the first time since the disease first appeared in 2005 that scientists have been able to link a cause to the condition that affects coastal dolphin communities worldwide. Due to the decreased water salinity brought upon by climate change, the dolphins develop patchy and raised skin lesions across their bodies — sometimes covering upwards of 70 percent of their skin.

 

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Wildlife

Pearl Penguin

The Galapagos National Park reports a white penguin that appears to have a rare genetic condition is living along the northern coast of Isabela Island. Park scientists say the leucism responsible for the white appearance of the Galapagos penguin differs from albinism because the bird has normal eye colour.

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Wildlife

Tigers on the move

The Royal Bengal Tiger has been sighted at an altitude of 3,165 m above sea level for the first time in Nepal, raising concerns about the impact of global warming on wildlife.

Earlier, Bhutan had captured a tiger on camera at an altitude of 4,038 m in 2018, while India’s Arunachal Pradesh recorded a sighting at Dibang Valley at an elevation of 3,630 m.

Sighting of the tiger at such elevations has raised concerns about the impact of global warming as well as possible depletion of habitats of the carnivore, which is enlisted as an endangered species.

Wildlife

Medicinal Sparrows

An international team of researchers says it has found that a species of sparrow intentionally uses medicinal herbs to ensure the health of its offspring. Such behavior was earlier thought to be restricted to only a small number of animals, mainly higher primates.

William Feeney of Australia’s Griffith University says russet sparrows use wormwood leaves to build nests. “The phytochemical compounds within wormwood leaves reduced infestation of the nest parasites, which results in the production of healthier chicks,” said Feeney.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, he and colleagues say that the birds seek out those leaves and adjust how many are in their nests through their sense of smell.

Ray Scanning

Japanese scientists have proposed a novel way to map the ocean’s vast unexplored seabed by equipping stingrays and electric rays with ultrasonic pingers and tiny cameras to collect data. “Electric rays and stingrays are benthic animals, meaning that they spend most of their time swimming around the ocean floor in deep places,” said Yo Tanaka of the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research.

By placing cameras on rays and linking the timing of the recorded video to the timing and locations determined by the pingers, the researchers believe they can create accurate maps of the ocean floor. Tanaka says trial experiments confirm the scheme is practical.

Wildlife

In face of climate change, butterfly populations continue to plummet

Scientists say butterfly populations throughout the western U.S. have been dropping dramatically over the last two decades — a consequence of habitat degradation, pesticide use and intense wildfires linked to climate change.

Early data from the annual Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count, led by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, shows that the monarch population has fallen to another record low — fewer than 10,000 monarchs compared with millions during the 1980s and 300,000 just five years ago.

The butterflies have become so scarce that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now deciding whether to list the monarchs as part of the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Pygmy Possum Discovered on Kangaroo Island After Wildfires.

A tiny pygmy possum has been discovered on Kangaroo Island, despite wildlife experts fearing they had been wiped out during last summer’s bushfires.

The 2019/20 bushfires savaged the South Australian island in January, destroying huge swathes of Flinders National Park.

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Wildlife

Last White Giraffe

The world’s only known white giraffe is now sporting a GPS tracking device so Kenyan park rangers can receive hourly updates of its location to protect it from poachers. The juvenile has a rare genetic condition called leucism, which causes it to lose skin pigmentation.

Since it is believed to be the last of its kind, wildlife officials fear it could be poached like its relatives, a female and her 7-month-old calf with a similar condition.

They were found dead in the same region of eastern Kenya where the white calf currently lives alone. Giraffes are the world’s tallest mammals and are designated a vulnerable species, with an estimated global population of 68,293.

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Wildlife

Blue Whales Return

Critically endangered blue whales, the largest creatures ever known to have existed, are returning to Britain’s sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia.

U.K. scientists say the whales appear to be growing in numbers around the island after being nearly wiped out by whaling 50 years ago. While only a single blue whale was seen there between 1998 and 2018, 58 were spotted in a survey in February of this year.

Another recent study found that humpback whales are also returning to the same waters.