Wildlife

Penguins Stung to Death

An investigation was launched after 63 African penguins were found dead inside the Boulders African penguin colony in Simonstown, Western Cape in South Africa, on Friday morning. In a statement, the South African National Parks (SANParks) said the penguins were believed to have died suddenly between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Preliminary investigations suggest the penguins were stung to death by a swarm of Cape honey bees. Meanwhile, a dead penguin was found on Fish Hoek beach on Friday, which also had multiple bee stings.

Wildlife

Slaughter of more than 1,400 dolphins in the Faroe Islands

Hunters in the Faroe Islands riding speed boats and jet skis ambushed and slaughtered a super-pod of more than 1,400 white-sided dolphins on Sunday (Sept. 12), leading to outcry from conservationists and even some supporters of the archipelago’s centuries-old tradition of killing the marine animals for food. The dolphins’ bloody, lacerated corpses have been left lined up on the beach following the killings.

The scale of the slaughter drew outrage from conservationists, Faroese natives and pro-hunting parties alike. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society described the killings as a “massacre.”

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Wildlife

Wildfires in Australia caused an explosion of sea life thousands of miles away

Two years ago, in the southern Pacific Ocean, an explosion of algae grew to more than 2,000 miles wide — about the width of Australia.

Giant algal blooms are often tied to land pollution such as runoff from farmland, which is full of nutrients like nitrogen that these plant-like organisms need to thrive. But there were no nearby farms or factories here in the middle of the ocean.

The sprawling bloom was fueled instead by something faraway and unexpected: wildfires thousands of miles to the west. Smoke rising from Australia’s historic 2019 wildfires drifted out to sea and fertilized vast communities of algae. The smoke, which contained the nutrient iron, gave rise to algal blooms that were together larger than Australia. The blooms lasted for about four months.

More research is needed to determine whether the algal blooms are good or bad for the ecosystem.

Wildlife

Glimpse at Tasmanian Tiger

Thylacines, once widespread in Australia, have been extinct for nearly a century, but newly colorized footage provides a glimpse of what they looked like in life.

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Wildlife

Animals are ‘shape-shifting’ as a response to climate change

New review of existing research done by the authors of Trends in Ecology & Evolution, show some animals are adapting to climate change by changing their body size.

Research done on more than 30 animals show that average body size is decreasing while appendages and limbs, such as tails, beaks, and legs are growing for some animals. It’s suggested this is in order to adapt to a warming world caused by climate change. A smaller body size holds onto less heat and therefore keeps the animal cooler. Increased surface area though from a larger appendage now allows for better cooling and easier regulation of body temperature. This means larger appendages would be more advantageous in warmer climates than in cooler ones.

Australian parrots were found to have up to a 10% increase in beak surface area since 1871. Shrews and bats were also found to have an increase in ear, tails, legs and wing size as the climate warmed.

Wildlife

Rodent Takeover

The residents of a gated community in Argentina are struggling to get along with some unruly new neighbours: hundreds of the world’s largest rodents. Local residents have reported that the robust rodents, which can reach over 4 feet (1.2 meters) long and weigh up to 174 pounds (79 kilograms), have been pooping in gardens, destroying flower beds, causing traffic accidents and allegedly biting pet dogs.

Environmentalists say the capybaras are not invading the area but rather taking back their natural home from the multimillion-dollar development, which, in the late 1990s, was built on top of ecologically important wetlands surrounding the banks of the Paraná River, the second-largest river in South America, which was their home.

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Wildlife

Unnatural LED Lights

The switch to more energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in many of the world’s streetlamps has not only disrupted insect behavior, but researchers say it is also leading to a decline in at least some insect populations.

Researchers from the U.K. Center for Ecology & Hydrology say they found 50% fewer moth caterpillars living immediately around the LED lights along rural roads in southern England, compared to their numbers near traditional illumination. The scientists say the trend is alarming since small birds, hedgehogs and predatory insects feed on the caterpillars, while larger birds and bats eat the adult moths.

Wildlife

Blue Whales Return

Blue whales are being spotted again off Spain’s Atlantic coast after a more than a 40-year absence.

The world’s largest mammal was hunted to near extinction, including from whaling ships out of Spain’s Galician ports until the country banned whaling in 1986. The first returning blue whale was spotted in 2017 by Bruno Diaz, head of the Bottle Dolphin Research Institute in Galicia. Another was seen a year later, then they both were joined this summer by yet another. Diaz believes they have returned to the region out of a form of homesickness, or ancestral memory.

Wildlife

Ice Worms on Mt Rainier

The glacial slopes of Mount Rainier in Washington State, USA might seem lifeless at first glance. That is, until the ice worms emerge.

As if on cue, billions of black, threadlike worms wriggle their way to the surface of the snow every summer, when the sun directly strikes the glaciers. And scientists still don’t know why.

If they want the answer to that question or any other related to this mysterious creature, scientists have to act fast. Black ice worms (Mesenchytraeus solifugus) are the only worm species known to science that spend their entire lives in ice. As glaciers in the region shrink due to global warming, these worms risk becoming extinct alongside them.

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Wildlife

Sand Dollar Die-Off

Thousands of sand dollars mysteriously washed ashore in Oregon in a “mass die-off” event. Last week, the circular sea creatures showed up in droves on Seaside Beach in northern Oregon. Sand dollars are species of sea urchins that live on the sandy seafloor, typically close to shore. Beachgoers are likely familiar with the white exoskeleton of the dead sand dollar. But living sand dollars are covered with tiny gray or purple spines that make the animals look fuzzy.

“At this time, we do not know what has caused this. The sand dollars were alive when they washed in during high tides and became stranded, but they “are unable to make it back to the water once the tide recedes,” aquarium representatives said. “This is resulting in them drying up and dying.”

Wildlife

Ancient Coral

Australian scientists have discovered one of the largest and oldest coral colonies in the Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest coral reef system on Earth. The massive coral belongs to the genus Porites and measures 34 feet (10.4 meters) wide and 17.4 feet (5.3 m) tall, making it the widest and sixth-tallest coral in the Great Barrier Reef.

The researchers found that the massive coral has been around for between 421 and 438 years, meaning that it predates the colonization of Australia. The colony has survived centuries of exposure to invasive species, coral bleaching events and low tides, as well as around 80 major cyclones.

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Wildlife

Winged Victims

The pall of smoke from Greece’s catastrophic firestorms is killing migratory storks heading south to Africa.

The country’s animal welfare group Anima says the birds are losing their way, sometimes plunging to their deaths after crashing into power lines and pylons. Many of the iconic birds gather each year just southeast of Athens, where they await favourable wind conditions to cross the Mediterranean.

“We have many storks. It is the first time we have had so many dead storks in Athens,” said Anima President Maria Ganoti. “People in Athens are picking up dead storks from their lawns.”

Wildlife

Bees Decimated in Turkish Wildfires

Turkey’s wildfires have left little behind, turning green forests into ashen, barren hills. The destruction is being intensely felt by Turkey’s beekeepers, who have lost thousands of hives as well as the pine trees and the insects their bees depend on. Twelve days of deadly wildfires have dealt a major blow to Turkey’s honey industry and even its longer term prospects appear bleak.

Tiny Bat Flies 2 000 km

A tiny bat that flew 2,018 kilometers (1,254 miles) from Britain to Russia is being hailed as a mini-Olympian by scientists who hope her flight will teach them more about how climate change is affecting the species.

The Nathusius’ pipistrelle was found in a village in the Pskov region of northwestern Russia, according to the U.K.’s Bat Conservation Trust. The bat, which weighed eight grams (0.28 ounces) and was about the size of a human thumb, had been ringed by a bat recorder near London’s Heathrow Airport in 2016.

Scientists believe the flight is an indication of the effects of climate change on the species, forcing the bats to spend the winter further north.

Unfortunately, the little creature had been attacked by a cat and later died, despite the efforts of Russian conservationists.

Wildlife

One of world’s rarest chameleons, once feared extinct, found in African rainforest

Scientists have found one of the world’s rarest chameleons “clinging to survival” after fearing it had become extinct since its initial discovery in the 1990s because of massive deforestation, a new study finds.

Researchers discovered a population of Chapman’s pygmy chameleons (Rhampholeon chapmanorum) surviving in small patches of rainforest in southern Malawi in southeastern Africa. Chapman’s pygmy chameleons grow to just 2.2 inches (5.5 centimeters) long and walk on the forest floor. They disguise themselves by matching the pattern of dead leaves. They were first discovered in a dwindling rainforest in the Malawi Hills in 1992 and were later released into a separate forest 59 miles (95 kilometers) away near Mikundi, also in Malawi, to increase their chances of survival.

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Wildlife

Light Pollution Disorientates Animals

When dung beetles in South Africa are ready to roll, they pick their path with the help of the Milky Way. But our home Galaxy is becoming harder and harder to spot as light pollution brightens the night sky, The New York Times reports. Researchers tested how dung beetles responded to two types of artificial light: a single bright beacon and the dull glow a nearby city might produce. They found that both kinds disoriented the dung beetles, throwing them off their usual path, the team reports in Current Biology. When exposed to the bright light, the beetles headed toward that, and when exposed to the ambient light, they went in circles. Because many animals seem to navigate using the stars—including birds, seals, and moths—the fading of the night sky could be having similar effects on other species as well, according to the researchers.