Latest Zoo & Conservation News
Week ending July 16, 2011

Compiled by:
Talitha Matlin
San Diego Zoo Global
Associate Director - Library Services


Male black widow spiders sniff out cannibal females
July 6, 2011 By Victoria Gill

A new study published in Animal Behaviour has shown that male black widow spiders (Latrodectus hesperus) are able to pick up "chemical cues" from webs to avoid hungry females, who are more likely to cannibalise the males after mating.

From the article:

James Chadwick Johnson from Arizona State University, US, who led the study, hand-fed female black widow spiders to make sure he had a well-fed group of females for the experiment....The team gave these females one cricket per week....The other group of females in the test were starved for several weeks. This did not endanger their lives, but they were "visibly smaller". In the test, the researchers placed male spiders onto the different females' webs to see how they would react. To make sure the males were only taking cues from the female spiders' silk, they also put males onto a small bundle of clean silk - with no debris from consumed prey - taken from the webs of both well-fed and hungry females.

Researchers found that the males were able to tell the difference between the webs of well-fed and hungry females by picking up scents through their feet. When they were on the web of a well-fed female, "they carried out their typical courtship dance much more actively."

Full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/14044032

CITATION: Chadwick Johnson J, Trubl P, Blackmore V, Miles L. 2011. Male black widows court well-fed females more than starved females: silken cues indicate sexual cannibalism risk. Animal Bheaviour. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.05.018

Controversy over potential benefit/harm of invasive species
July 6, 2011 By Michael Price

In a response to Mark Davis' argument in Nature last month "that experts and laypeople are committing a naturalistic fallacy when it comes to favoring native species over nonnative or invasive species," a group of 141 scientists have signed a petition that opposes the piece.

From the article:

Daniel Simberloff, an ecologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, writes today on behalf of the signatories that Davis and his colleagues were attacking strawmen in their letter. "[M]ost conservation biologists and ecologists do not oppose non-native species per se -- only those targeted by the Convention on Biological Diversity as threatening 'ecosystems, habitats or species,'" he wrote. "There is no campaign against all [nonnative] introductions."

He and other ecologists agree with Davis that there are sometimes apparent benefits to introducing nonnative species to an area, but point out that it is impossible to know what sort of impact invasives will have on an environment in the long term.

Full article: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/07/are-nonnative-species-victims-of.html?ref=hp

CITATIONS:
Davis M, et al. 2011. Don't judge species on their origins. Nature 474:153-154. doi:10.1038/474153a

Simberloff D. 2011. Non-natives: 141 scientists object. Nature 475:36. doi:10.1038/475036a

Full list of signatories: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v475/n7354/extref/475036a-s1.pdf

Ranchers using herbicides to deforest the Amazon
July 6, 2011

IBAMA, Brazil's enviornmental law enforcement agency, has reported that 180 hectares (450 acres) of Amazonian rainforest were defoliated using a mix of herbicides similar to Agent Orange.

From the article:

The affected area, which is south of the city of Canutama and near the Mapinguari Jacareúba / Katawixi indigenous reservation in Rondônia, was first detected by Brazil's deforestation monitoring system. A subsequent helicopter overflight last month by IBAMA revealed thousands of trees largely stripped of their vegetation. Authorities later found nearly four tons of chemicals...along trans-Amazon highway 174. The herbicides would have been enough to defoliate roughly 3,000 ha (7,500 acres) of forest, which would then be cleared for cattle ranching or agriculture.

IBAMA says use of chemical defoliants is a relatively new phenomenon in the region, but represents a troubling development, according to Cicero Furtado, coordinator of the investigation...."If used improperly, [the chemicals] can cause serious damage to the environment such as pollution of groundwater, loss of biological diversity in soil, killing animals and insects, among others," added a statement from IBAMA.

Authorities say they will investigate the crime, is punishable by fines ranging from 500,000-2 million reals ($320,000-1.3 million).

Full article: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0706-agent_orange_amazon.html

GigaScience provides first citable data
July 6, 2011

Excerpt from the article:

GigaScience, an innovative new journal and integrated database to be launched by BioMed Central in November 2011, has released their first datasets to be given a Digital Object Identifier (DOI). This enables a long-needed way to properly recognize the data producers who have provided an untold number of essential resources to the entire research community. This not only promotes very rapid data release, but also provides easy access, reuse, tracking, and most importantly permanency for such datasets. The journal is being launched by a collaboration between BGI, the world's largest genomics institute, and open access publisher BioMed Central, a leader in scientific data sharing and open data.

The datasets, created by BGI and its collaborators in Germany and in the Genome10K project, include the sequence and assembly data from the recent deadly outbreak strain E. coli O104, and 7 large vertebrates, including the giant panda, which is in great danger of extinction; the chinese rhesus and crab-eating cynomolous macaques, which are commonly used biomedical animal models; the polar bear and the emperor and adelie penguins, which live in extremely hostile environments; and the domestic pigeon, which has unusually accurate navigation abilities. The datasets have been assigned Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to enable other scientists to cite the datasets, in the same manner as scientific papers.

The data available through GigaScience will be made available "prior to the publication of their association scientific journal articles" and will be freely available for readers and reproducible for researchers.

Full article: http://www.biologynews.net/archives/2011/07/06/from_deadly_e_coli_to_endangered_polar_bears_gigascience_provides_first_citable_data.html

More than half of tuna species at risk of extinction
July 7, 2011

The latest assessment from IUCN show "that three species [of tuna] are threatened with global extinction, while two more will be under threat without action to help them." Conservationists are calling "for urgent action to tackle over-fishing," although this will be a difficult task to undertake because of the high commercial value of some of the fish.

From the article:

IUCN experts warned that all three bluefin tuna species – southern, Atlantic and Pacific – were susceptible to collapse because of pressure from fishing for the high-value fish. Southern bluefin tuna are already critically endangered, the highest category of risk, and Atlantic bluefin are endangered, the assessment for the IUCN red list of threatened species found. Bigeye tuna are vulnerable to extinction, while yellowfin and albacore tuna are close to being under threat, or will be threatened with extinction if conservation measures are not put in place to turn their fortunes around.

Last year, an attempt to list bluefin tuna as endangered under CITES was defeated by a large majority of countries.

Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jul/07/tuna-species-risk-extinction

'Beehive fences' keep African elephants out
July 7, 2011 By Virginia Morrell

From the article:

African elephants are afraid of bees (they even have an alarm call for them), and scientists are now using that fear to help protect the crops of Kenyan farmers. In previous studies, a team of researchers showed that the behemoths rapidly leave areas where they hear the sound of buzzing bees. Now these same scientists have designed and tested a fence that incorporates beehives spaced 10 meters apart. The team installed 1700 meters of the fences along the boundaries of 17 farms in Northern Kenya that are often raided by wild elephants; another 1700 meters of the same farms were protected only by thorn tree fences. After two years, the beehive fences easily won the contest: only one bull elephant broke through this fence, while 31 elephants managed to crash the thorn fence, the scientists report in the current issue of The African Journal of Ecology. Beehive fences can thus be used to help limit the number of human-elephant conflicts, a growing problem as the human population in Africa increases, and farmers and elephants compete for land and water resources, the researchers say.

Source: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/07/scienceshot-beehive-fences-keep.html?ref=hp

CITATION: King LE, Douglas-Hamilton I, Vollrath F. 2011. Beehive fences as effective deterrents for crop-raiding elephants: field trials in northern Kenya. African Journal of Ecology. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2028.2011.01275.x

Yellowstone River spill not good for wildlife, but could be worse
July 7, 2011 BY Sara Reardon

Excerpt from the article:

The good news about the oil pipe that ruptured outside Laurel, Montana, last Friday and spilled up to 42,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River is that the river is moving, preventing the oil from building up on larger animals like it did in the Gulf Coast spill. The bad news is that it's moving far too fast, spreading the oil as much as 240 miles downstream and splashing it onto shores.

Above average snowmelt has raised river levels tremendously and caused extensive flooding in the area for weeks. The prevailing theory, denied by ExxonMobil officials, is that the raging water itself broke a poorly-buried pipe by throwing debris. Either way, the high waters have significantly hampered cleanup efforts and it's tough to know, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) officials say, how widely ecosystems will be affected.

Scientists are most concerned about the spill's negative impact on birds, as the oil can build up in their feathers and they can "pass it on to their eggs."

Full article: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/07/yellowstone-river-spill-not-good.html

"Winter in July" at Phoenix Zoo
July 8, 2011 By Connie Cone Sexton

The Phoenix Zoo is hosting "Winter in July" on July 16th, where guests will be able to play in the snow. According to the article, guests can:

- Throw snowballs at spinning and twirling targets;
- Cool off at the "Leapin' Lagoon" and "Yakulla Caverns" water-play areas;
- Watch some of your favorite animals beat the heat with lots of snow and ice treats;
- Enjoy dancing, games and prizes.

The event is free for members and included with entrance to the Zoo. Guests are encouraged to bring their own coolers and food to the event. Additionally, guests may bring their own bicycles to ride around the park.

A recent study commissioned by AZA has found that the Phoenix Zoo contributes $64 million in economic activity to Arizona, employing 316 people and generating $23.6 million in salaries and wages.

Full article: http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/2011/07/07/20110707phoenix-zoo-cool-place-visit-help-state-economy.html

New U.S. program funds research collaborations in developing world
July 8, 2011 By Natalie Villacorta

PEER (Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research) is a new joint grants initiative between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). PEER aims to improve "the scientific infrastructure of developing nations." For example, one of the first grants gave $30,000 to the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh that will "establish a seismology and geology center that will archive, proces, and analyze seismic data" to be used in an NSF-funded project at Columbia University. Since January, $150,000 has been awarded "to scientists in Bangladesh, Tanzania, Mali, Kenya, and Burkina Faso who are working with NSF grantees on topics such as climate change, seismology, biodiversity, and hydrology."

From the article:

PEER is part of a larger effort by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah to use science and technology to help address pressing needs in the developing world. "We can define development as lack of access to the basic scientific and technical advances that so many of us take for granted," he said. Shah cited oral rehydration therapy as a simple scientific invention that has saved tens of millions of lives.

So far, USAID has pledged to spend $7 million over 5 years, an amount it calculates will leverage up to $100 million invested by NSF. Any scientists in developing countries who are collaborating with NSF-funded researchers on challenges related to renewable energy, food security, climate change, and disaster mitigation may submit a proposal, and the National Academies' National Research Council will manage the peer review process.

Full article: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/07/new-us-program-funds-research-co.html?ref=hp

Photo of blackspot tuskfish first of wild fish using tools
July 8, 2011 By Rebecca Kessler

A diver has captured what many believe to be the first photos of a fish in the wild using a tool. Scott Gardener was able to take photos of a blackspot tuskfish (Choerodon schoenleinii) "holding a clam in its mouth and whacking it against a rock" until the shell cracked and the fish ate the bivalve inside. Although tool use has been documented in a number of different species, it is not widely documented in fish.

From the article:

Archerfish target jets of water at terrestrial prey, but whether this constitutes tool use has been contentious. There have also been a handful of reports of fish cracking open hard-shelled prey, such as bivalves and sea urchins, by banging them on rocks or coral, but there's no photo or video evidence to back it up, according to Culum Brown, a behavioral ecologist at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and a co-author of the present paper, to be published in a forthcoming issue of Coral Reefs.

The tuskfish caught on camera was clearly quite skilled at its task, "landing absolutely pinpoint blows" with the shell, Brown says. A scattering of crushed shells around its anvil rock suggests that Gardner didn't just stumble upon the fish during its original eureka moment. In fact, numerous such shell middens are visible around the reef. Blackspot tuskfish, members of the wrasse family, are popular food fish, so it's surprising that its shell-smashing behavior has remained unknown, Brown says. "My feeling is that when we go out and really look for it, it'll turn out to be common."

Some scientists point out that in this instance the fish is using a "proto-tool", since it is using a stable object (the rock) to break open the shell, rather than controlling an object to smash against the shell.

Photos of the tuskfish: http://www.springerlink.com/content/h1463564t1t2t00m/

Full article: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/07/diver-snaps-first-photo-of-fish-.html?ref=hp

CITATION: Jones AM, Brown C, Gardner S. 2011. Tool use in the tuskfish Choerodon schoenleinii? Coral Reefs. doi:10.1007/s00338-011-0790-y

Cell lines lost in flood at Copenhagen Biobank
July 8, 2011 By Gretchen Vogel

Last week there were heavy rains in Copenhagen, Denmark, resulting in the flooding of the Danish Cancer Society's Biobank. Hundreds of cell lines have been destroyed, although employees at the Biobank were able to "salvage more than 1 million tissue samples," some of which were invovled in a 20-year study.

From the article:

The cell lines are unlikely to survive the thaw, but the tissue samples are less delicate, Olsen says. "It doesn't matter that they were warmed up for a few hours, as long as you freeze them down again," he says. Some of the lost cell lines were shared with other laboratories and can be retrieved, but Olsen estimates that many dozens have been lost permanently. He says the cleanup and full damage assessment will take months.

Full article: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/07/cell-lines-lost-in-flood-at-copenhagen.html?ref=hp

Mesker Park Zoo throws hippo 60th birthday party
July 8, 2011 By Samm Quinn

Indiana's Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden celebrated Family Fun Day on July 8, part of which included a birthday party for Donna, a Nile hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) who is turning 60 years old. Donna is regarded to be the oldest Nile hippo in captivity, and her sister Julie who lives at the Memphis Zoo is the second oldest at 50 years old. Some of the events include a singalong for Donna in the afternoon, cake for zoo visitors attending the party, and a fruit popsicle for Donna's birthday treat. Zoo staff believe Donna has had such a long life because she has an "easygoing attitude," with keepers saying, "She lets us do what needs to be done to help her."

Full article: http://www.courierpress.com/news/2011/jul/08/no-headline---ev_hippobirthday/

South Sudan home of second-largest land migration
July 10, 2011 By Jeremy Hance

Excerpt from the article:

At midnight local time on Friday, South Sudan became the world's newest nation. As celebrations continue in the new capital of Juba and congratulations come from every corner of the globe, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is urging the newborn nation to protect its ecosystems and rich wildlife in order to build a sustainable and forward-looking economy. Home to the world's second largest land migration, South Sudan boasts an abundance of African megafauna that is becoming increasingly rare throughout much of the continent.

... Every year 1.3 million antelope, including white-eared kob, tiang antelope, Mongalla gazelle, and reedbuck, migrate across savanna and wetlands in South Sudan. The migration was only discovered in 2007 after decades of civil war had kept scientists out. But as spectacular as it is, the migration isn't the South Sudan's only wildlife wonder. Researchers were surprised to see that much of the wildlife survived the region's political turmoil, including buffalo, giraffe, lion, bongo, chimpanzee, and some 8,000 elephants.

Conservationists are hoping that the South Sudanese government will work to protect its ecosystem in order to develop an ecotourism industry. The majority of its revenue currently comes from oil.

Full article: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0710-hance_southsudan.html

Paignton Zoo wins top national horticulture award
July 11, 2011 By Philip Knowling

The Paignton Zoo in the UK has won the Norah Stucken Award for their "innovative high density vertical crop-growing system" called VertiCrop.

Kevin Frediani, the zoo's curator of plants and gardens says in the article:

“VertiCrop is designed to grow crops where they are needed – in towns and cities. It uses automatic irrigation and hydroponic technology, meaning it grows plants without soil, so it doesn’t need good agricultural land which can be used to grow staple crops instead. Growing crops vertically also reduces the area of land needed and by growing food near to where it is consumed there are no food miles attached."

VertiCrop grows 11,000 plants in 100 sqare meters (approx. 1,076 sq ft).

Full article: http://www.zandavisitor.com/newsarticle-5295-Paignton_Zoo_Wins_a_Top_National_Horticulture_Award

Climate change to push over 10 percent of the world's species to extinction by 2100
July 11, 2011 By Jeremy Hance

Excerpt from the article:

Scientists have predicted for decades that climate change could have a grave impact on life on Earth, which is already facing numerous threats from habitat loss, over-exploitation, pollution, invasive species, and other impacts. However, empirical proof of extinctions--and even endangerment--due to climate change have been difficult to come by. A new study in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science has found that by the time today's infants are 90 years old (i.e. the year 2100) climate change could have pushed over 11 percent of the world's species to extinction.

...Scouring recent studies, Ilya Maclean and Robert Wilson with the Center for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter, found widespread evidence of over a hundred ways in which climate change is already impacting species, including rising temperatures, changes in rainfall, and decreased sea ice. They also noted a number of predicted, but not yet observed, ways in which scientists expect climate change to impact species.

"The responses included documented changes to extinction risk, population size, and geographic range size for 305 taxa from all major groups of organisms, covering a high proportion of the global terrestrial and marine surface," the scientists write, adding that vertebrate species appear more threatened by climate change than plants and invertebrates.

Continue reading: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0711-hance_climate_extinction.html

CITATION: Maclean IMD, Wilson RJ. 2011. Recent ecological responses to climate change support predictions of high extinction risk. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1017352108

Tiny snails survive digestion by birds
July 11, 2011 By Ella Davies

A new study has determined that Tornatellides boeningi, a tiny land snail measuring just 2.5 mm, can survive intact after being eaten by birds. Larger snails, however, were much less likely to survive after being eaten. On the Japanese island of Hahjima, Japanese white-eyes (Zosterops japonicus) "feast" on the snails. By feeding the snails to the white-eyes in a controlled study, scientists from Tohoku University found that 15% of the snails survived. While it is well known that birds help with seed dispersal, this study shows that birds may also be an important factor in spreading snail populations.

Full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/14048754

Fire destroys San Diego Zoo giftshop
July 11, 2011

Early on Monday morning, a fire destroyed a gift shop near the panda exhibit at the San Diego Zoo. No animals or people were hurt, although the damage to the building and the contents "are considered a total loss at $700,000." San Diego Fire-Rescue Department are stating that the cause was arson, although it is still under investigation. The Zoo was able to open as scheduled that same day.

Full article: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/07/fire-that-destroyed-gift-store-at-san-diego-zoo-was-arson.html

Rhino horn 'kingpin' arrested in South Africa
July 11, 2011

South African police have arrested Chumlong Lemtongthai, a Thai man who is believed to be a " 'leading figure' in international poaching. Officials allege that Lemtongthai "obtained trophy hunting permits and used them to organise illegal poaching expeditions - he would then buy back the horns from the hunters for an average of 65,000 rand ($9,700; £6,034) per kilogram and export them." The last few years have seen a spike in the number of rhino poachings, with more than 300 rhinos killed in South Africa in 2010.

Full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14114327

Endangered Species Permits
July 12, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 133
FWS-R4-ES-2011-N129; 40120-1112-0000-F5

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invite the public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species. With some exceptions, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) prohibits activities with listed species unless a Federal permit is issued that allows such activities. The ESA requires that we invite public comment before issuing these permits.

DATES: We must receive written data or comments on the applications at the address given below, by August 11, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Documents and other information submitted with the applications are available for review, subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act, by any party who submits a written request for a copy of such documents to the following office within 30 days of the date of publication of this notice: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30345 (Attn: Cameron Shaw, Permit Coordinator).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cameron Shaw, telephone 904/731-3191; facsimile 904/731-3045.

Permit Applications:

Applicant: William Holimon, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Little Rock, Arkansas, TE-142294.
The applicant requests renewal of authorization for trapping, banding, translocating, and installing artificial nesting cavities for red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) in Arkansas.

Applicant: Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Social Circle, Georgia, TE-36886A.
Applicant requests renewal of authorization to take (capture and release) Indiana bats (Myotis sodalist) and gray bats (Myotis grisescens) for the purpose of conducting presence/absence surveys, population monitoring, and ecological studies. This work will be conducted throughout Georgia.

Applicant: CCR Environmental Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, TE-59008.
Applicant requests amendment of permit to add the following species for the purpose of conducting presence/absence surveys in the States of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Louisiana: Armored snail (Pyrgulopsis pachyta), speckled pocketbook (Lampsilis streckeri), and Rabbitsfoot (Quadrula cylindrical cylindrical).

Applicant: Avian Research and Conservation Institute, Gainesville, Florida, TE-38642A.
Applicant requests authorization to take snail kites (Rostrhamus sociabilis) for the purpose of attaching scientific devices to conduct research. This activity will be conducted in Polk, Osceola, Glades, Okeechobee, Martin, Palm Beach, Hendry, Broward, Collier, Monroe and Dade Counties, Florida.

Applicant: University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, TE-38522A.
Applicant requests authorization to take Indiana bats and gray bats for the purpose of conducting research on these species within Barren, Edmonson and Hart Counties, Kentucky.

Applicant: Christopher Hintz, PhD., Savannah State University, Savannah, Georgia, TE-40005A.
Applicant requests authorization to take by the use of ground penetrating radar, nests of loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) for the purpose of studying nesting success. This work will be conducted throughout the Atlantic coastline of Georgia.

Applicant: Dr. David Nelson, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama, TE-40523A.
Applicant requests authorization to take (trap, take tissue samples) the Alabama red-bellied turtle (Pseudemys labamensis). This study will be conducted in the Blakeley River drainage in Alabama.

Applicant: Dr. Thomas Risch, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro Arkansas, TE-75913.
Applicant requests renewal of authorization to take (capture and release) Indiana bats, Ozark big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens), and gray bats for the purpose of conducting presence/absence surveys, population monitoring, and ecological studies. This work will be conducted throughout Arkansas.

Applicant: Stuart McGregor, Geologic Survey of Alabama, Tuscaloosa Alabama, TE-41252A.
Applicant requests authorization to conduct presence/absence surveys throughout Alabama for 39 listed mussel species.

Applicant: Eglin Air Force Base, Niceville Florida, TE-42183A.
The applicant requests authorization for trapping, banding, translocating and installing artificial nesting cavities for red- cockaded woodpeckers on Eglin Air Force Base, Niceville Florida.

Applicant: David Saugey, Jessieville, Arkansas, TE-43704A.
Applicant requests authorization for non-lethal take of Indiana bats, gray bats, Virginia big-eared bats (Corynorihinus townsendii virginianus) and Ozark big-eared bats for the purpose of conducting presence/absence surveys and collecting scientific data on roost sites. This work will be conducted throughout the range of these species.

Applicant: Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Cupey, Puerto Rico, TE-125521.
Applicant requests a permit amendment to house Puerto Rican parrots (Amazona vittata) at the Puerto Rico Zoo in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-07-12/html/2011-17422.htm

Half male, half female butterfly hatches at London's Natural History Museum
July 12, 2011 By Ian Sample

A great mormon butterfly (Papilio memnon) hatched last month at the London Natural History Museum that was half male and half female. The gynandromorph butterfly (gynandromorph insects have both male and female cells) exhibits a "striking difference between its wing colorings and other features."

From the article:

The insect, which has a 10cm wingspan, is almost black on its male side, but the female side is much paler, with clearly visible flecks of blue, red and tortoiseshell. A closer inspection revealed the insect to have one antenna longer than the other, a single male clasp on its abdomen, and male and female reproductive organs that had fused down the middle.

The butterfly is infertile, but is expected to live a normal butterfly lifespan of about 1 month. According to the article, approximately 1 in 10,000 butterflies is a gynandromorph.

Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/jul/12/half-male-half-female-butterfly

Aphids survive being eaten by falling off plants
July 12, 2011

Researchers from the University of Haifa in Israel have discovered that aphids (Uroleucon sonchi L.) are able to escape being eaten by herbivores by falling off of plants.

From the article:

As soon as aphids feeding on a plant sense the heat and humidity in a mammal's breath, they drop to safety before they are inadvertently ingested together with the plant the animal is feeding on....Many insects seek food and shelter on plants that may in turn be eaten by mammalian herbivores, who also accidentally ingest the resident insects. Gish and colleagues examined how the aphid Uroleucon sonchi L. deals with the danger of incidental predation by mammalian herbivores - in this case a goat. They were also interested in how the aphids' escape behavior might be affected by environmental conditions.

The scientists discovered that 76% of the aphids in a colony survived being eaten by a goat by dropping off of the plant, with the same results when a scientist breathed on the aphids, mimicking the heat and humidity of an herbivore's breath.

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-07-freefall-aphids-survival-strategy.html

CITATION: Gish M, et al. 2011. Avoiding incidental predation by mammalian herbivores: accurate detection and efficient response in aphids. Naturwissenschaften - The Science of Nature. doi:10.1007/s00114-011-0819-7

Border fences pose threats to wildlife on US-Mexico border
July 12, 2011

A new study published by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin shows that "current and proposed border fences pose significant threats to wildlife populations, with those animals living in border regions along the Texas Gulf and California coasts showing some of the greatest vulnerability." The risks to species living along the border include habitat fragmentation, human population growth along the border, and increased vulnerability to natural disasters such as hurricanes and fires because of their limited mobility. Inbreeding depression is also a concern.

From the article:

"The U.S.-Mexico border spans regions of extraordinary biological diversity as well as intense human impacts," says Keitt. "Loss of biological diversity can have negative impacts on the ecosystem services that are the basis of our life-support system."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is waived from environmental regulations when building security infrastructure. There are about 750 miles of border fences and human migration barriers along the border.

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-07-border-pose-threats-wildlife-us-mexico.html

CITATION: Lasky K, Jetz W, Keitt TH. 2011. Conservation biogeography of the US-Mexico border: a transcontinental risk assessment of barriers to animal dispersal. Diversity and Distributions 17(4):673-687. doi:10.1111/j.1472-4642.2011.00765.x

San Diego Zoo polar bears play in 18 tons of snow
July 13, 2011

From the article:

Eighteen tons of snow was brought into the Polar Bear Plunge exhibit Wednesday morning. Just as they would in the wild, the bears are digging and playing in it, much to the delight of zoogoers. "To see them out there having so much fun, it's just great. I don't know how else to explain it, you just have to watch it and everybody here is smiling ear to ear, just like our bears are," senior polar bear keeper Joanne Simerson said. Zookeepers say they want people to have a good time, but they also want to stress the message that we need to help change the environment to preserve the arctic ice that polar bears live on.

Full story and video of the bears enjoying the snow: http://www.cbs8.com/story/15078638/zoo-polar-bears-enjoy-summer-snow-day

Large electric vehicle-charging infrastructure to come to San Diego
July 14, 2011 By Katie Gatto

Excerpt from the article:

ECOtality Inc., a company that works on clean electric transportation and storage technologies, has announced the formation of a partnership with car2go, a car sharing service that is a subsidiary of Daimler North America Corporation. The two companies will be developing a system that will provide a large-scale electric vehicle-charging infrastructure that will be designed to support the first 100-percent electric car-sharing program in North America.

The program, which is being put into place in the San Diego metropolitan area, will consist of a fleet of about 300 smart fortwo electric drive vehicles, making it the largest single fleet of electric vehicles in the United States to date. There are expected to be roughly 1000 charging stations deployed in the metro area as part of the project.

Continue reading: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-07-ecotality-car2go-team-infrastructure-san.html

Loss of large predators disrupting multiple plant, animal, and human ecosystems
July 14, 2011

A new report in Science emphasizes the huge impact that large, apex predators (such as wolves, lions, sharks and sea otters) have on their environment. The authors are saying that the human-caused decline of these species is severely disrupting their local ecosystems, affecting "everything from habitat loss to pollution, carbon sequestration, wildfire, climate, invasive species and spread of diesase [and] is also a driving force in the sixth mass extinction in Earth history...."

Examples cited in the study [excerpt from the article]:

The researchers hope that their study will bring focus to an issue they feel has been too often overlooked.

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-07-loss-large-predators-disrupting-multiple.html

CITATION: Estes JA, et al. 2011. Trophic downgrading of planet earth. Science. doi:10.1126/science.1205106