Latest Zoo & Conservation News
Week ending August 13, 2011

Compiled by:
Library Staff
San Diego Zoo Global


Eagle deaths investigated at Los Angeles wind power generation site
August 2, 2011

The deaths of as many as six federally protected golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) at the Pine Tree Wind Project, operated by the LA Department of Water and Power (DWP), is under investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A 2010 report indicated that bird fatalities at Pine Tree that year were higher than those reported by other wind energy facilities.

From the article:

Should the inquiry result in a prosecution, the 120-megawatt facility on 8,000 acres of rugged terrain would be the first wind farm to face charges under the Endangered Species Act, which could cause some rethinking and redesign of this booming alternative energy source.

Wildlife service spokeswoman Lois Grunwald declined to comment on what she called “an ongoing investigation regarding Pine Tree.” But Joe Ramallo, spokesman for the DWP, said, “We are very concerned about golden eagle mortalities that have occurred at Pine Tree. We have been working cooperatively and collaboratively with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game to investigate these incidents."

Mr. Ramello went on to say that the DWP would be working with wildlife agencies "to develop an eagle conservation plan." Conservation organizations are concerned that if wind energy facilities don't sufficiently deal with the problem, they could cause golden eagle populations to plummet in the next 10 years.

Full blog post: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/08/an-investigation-has-been-launched-into-the-deaths-of-migratory-birds-including-several-federally-protected-golden-eagles-at.html

Acoustic sensors record environmental sounds and automatically upload to the internet
August 2, 2011 By Jennifer Foreshew

Using MP3 technology and waterproof containers to capture sounds in the field, a team from Queensland University of Technology "has developed automated acoustic sensors placed in the bush to record environmental sounds, which are then transmitted to an online digital library." This could make monitoring wildlife populations less expensive and more accurate, and allow for longer periods of data collection over larger areas. Bird and animal sounds identified by the software can be posted online for identification.

From the article:

The approach has seen up to three times as many species detected than were found by traditional surveys with people in the field. Mr Wimmer said the "citizen science" approach meant the cost of analysing data could be significantly reduced.

"It is extremely hard to totally automate the analysis of large volumes of data because the environment has all kinds of noise going on -- wind, rain, trucks and cars."

But he said a fully automated approach was still some way off because of regional variation in bird calls.

Due to regional differences in bird calls, full automation is not yet possible. There is the potential to expand the technology to every ecosystem being studied.

Full article: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/australian-it/software-is-a-reality-check-for-wildlife/story-e6frgakx-1226106219575

Yale undergrads discover endophytes that break down plastics
August 2, 2011

Students in Yale's Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory course, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, collected endophytes (tiny organisms, often fungi and bacteria, that live between plant cells) found in rainforest plants to study for medical or social uses. Pria Anand, trying to determine if endophytes might be used in bioremediation, found that a chemical reaction occurred when an endophyte she collected came in contact with plastic. Another student, Jeffrey Huang, analyzed endophytes collected by the class to determine which ones "broke down chemical bonds most efficiently." Joathan Russel identified the enzyme that was most effective in breaking down polyurethane.

From the article:

"This shows amazing things can happen when you let undergraduates be creative," said Kaury Kucera, postdoctoral researcher in the department of molecular biophysics and biochemistry and co-instructor of the course.

Students taking the course search for and collect organisms called endophytes found in rainforest plants and then take them back to New Haven to test them for biological activity.  Students analyze the endophytes that show biological activity to see whether they might have other medical or other social uses.

Polyurethane can be degraded by other agents, but this research is important because the chemical reaction occurs in the absence of oxygen, which is the case in buried trash. Additional research is being conducted at Yale to determine if these newly discovered endophytes can degrade other materials such as polystyrene, the material which makes up styrofoam.

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-08-rainforest-yields-degrade-plastic.html

CITATION: Russell JR, et al. 2011. Biodegradation of polyester polyurethane by endophytic fungi. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. doi:10.1128/AEM.00521-11

Timmy the gorilla dies at 52 in Louisville Zoo
August 2, 2011 By Dan Klepal

Timmy, a 52-year-old lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), was euthanized Tuesday morning due to heart disease, heart arrhyrthmia, and osteoarthritis. Born in Cameroon in west central Africa, Timmy came to the Memphis Zoo in 1960. In 1966 he was transferred to the Cleveland Zoo, going on to the Bronx Zoo in 1991, and finally the Louisville Zoo in 2004. During his lifetime, he sired 13 offspring. Timmy was the oldest male gorilla in captivity.

From the article:

Steve Wing, general curator at the zoo, said Timmy witnessed a transformation in how captive animals were kept and treated during his long life. He was the oldest male western lowland gorilla in North America.

“Society has changed, and zoos changed right along with it,” Wing said. “Gorillas used to be kept in exhibits with concrete. Now we have … exhibits full of mulch for them to live on, natural wood and ropes.

Timmy remained with his long-time companion, Paki, to the end.

Full article: http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20110802/NEWS01/308020078/Timmy-gorilla-dies-52-Louisville-Zoo

African crested rat uses 'poison arrow' toxin to deter predators
August 2, 2011

The African crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) uses plant toxin applied to spongy hair on its flanks as a defense mechanism, according to a study by Jonathan Kingdon and colleagues from the National Museums of Kenya, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and University of Oxford. The toxin comes from the Acokanthera tree (Acokanthera schimperi) and is also used by East African hunters on poison arrows.

From the article:

"The African crested rat is a fascinating example of how a species can evolve a unique set of defenses in response to pressure from predators," said Dr. Tim O'Brien, Senior Scientist of the Wildlife Conservation Society and a co-author on the study. "The animal and its acquired toxicity is unique among placental mammals."

Scientists have long suspected that the African crested rat is poisonous, primarily due to the animal's specialized behavior, such as exposing a black-and-white coloration on its flanks when threatened by predators, and accounts of dogs becoming ill or dying after encounters with rats. The new discovery concerns the nature of the chemical defense. Instead of producing poison itself—as is the case with poisonous mammals such as the duck-billed platypus and solenodon—the African crested rat finds its toxin (called ouabain) in tree bark.

More research is needed to determine how the rat avoids becoming poisoned when it applies the toxin.

Full article: http://www.biologynews.net/archives/2011/08/02/african_rodent_uses_poison_arrow_toxin_to_deter_predators.html

CITATION: Kingdon J, et al. 2011. A poisonous surprise under the coat of the African crested rat. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1169

USFWS says 23 species on Oahu are endangered
August 2, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 148
FWS-R1-ES-2010-0043; MO 92210-0-0009

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to list 23 species on the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We also propose to designate critical habitat for these 23 species, to designate critical habitat for 2 plant species that are already listed as endangered, and revise critical habitat for 99 plant species that are already listed as endangered or threatened. The proposed critical habitat designation totals 43,491 acres (ac) (17,603 hectares (ha)), and includes occupied and unoccupied habitat. Approximately 93 percent of the area being proposed as critical habitat is already designated as critical habitat for the 99 plant species or other species. In this proposed rule we are also proposing a taxonomic revision of the scientific names of nine plant species.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments no later than October 3, 2011, by one of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the box that reads "Enter Keyword or ID,'' enter the docket number for this proposed rule, which is FWS-R1-ES-2010-0043. Check the box that reads "Open for Comments/Submission,'' and click the Search Button. You should then see an icon that reads "Submit a Comment.'' Please ensure that you have found the correct rulemaking before submitting your comment.
U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2010-0043; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042; Arlington, VA 22203.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for public hearings must be made no later than September 16, 2011. Loyal Mehrhoff, Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Box 50088, Honolulu, HI 96850; by telephone at 808-792-9400; or by facsimile at 808-792-9581.

The 23 species include:
Plants
Bidens amplectens, Cyanea calycina, Cyanea lanceolata, Cyanea purpurellifolia, Cyrtandra gracilis, Cyrtandra kaulantha, Cyrtandra sessilis, Cyrtandra waiolani, Doryopteris takeuchii, Korthalsella degeneri, Melicope christophersenii, Melicope hiiakae, Melicope makahae, Platydesma cornuta var. cornuta, Platydesma cornuta var. decurrens, Pleomele forbesii, Psychotria hexandra ssp. oahuensis, Pteralyxia macrocarpa, Tetraplasandra lydgatei, Zanthoxylum oahuense.

Damselflies
Megalagrion leptodemas, Megalagrion nigrohamatum nigrolineatum, and Megalagrion oceanicum.

The Service also plans to designate 43,491 acres as critical habitat for these species.

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-08-02/pdf/2011-17162.pdf

Parasite creating deformed frogs in western US
August 3, 2011 By Christine Dell'Amore

It has been long known that a parasite called Ribeiroia ondatrae causes defects in several species of frogs as their limbs develop, resulting in missing legs or multiple legs in unexpected places. To determine if there had been changes in the population of the parasite in known locations since last studied in 1999, Pieter Johnson and colleagues from the University of Colorado at Boulder collected data on frogs and parasites in 48 wetlands in California, Oregon, Washington and Montana. Their findings revealed that the frogs at these locations were still infected with parasites.

From the article:

"We found that, although the distribution of Ribeiroia across wetlands changed, there was little net effect on overall parasite prevalence, with 31 percent of wetlands gaining the parasite and 27 percent losing the parasite," according to the study.

But "what was most intriguing," Johnson said, "was that the locations of hot spots had changed substantially over the last decade."

For instance, ponds where scientists had found few "grotesque" frogs in 1999 now had 30 percent or more frogs with deformed limbs, he said. Likewise, former hot spots now had fewer of the diseased amphibians, according to their results, which are not yet published in a journal.

This study has implications for scientists' ability to predict future hotspots, as many of the areas are home to threatened or endangered species of amphibians.

Full article: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/08/110802-frogs-deformed-parasites-animals-environment-mutants/

US judge rejects latest salmon recovery plan
August 3, 2011 By Robert F. Service

A plan proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Fisheries Service to make hydroelectric dams safer for endangered salmon and steelhead has been rejected by a federal judge in Portland, Oregon. U.S. District Court Judge James A. Redden wrote in his ruling, "Here, NOAA Fisheries improperly relies on habitat mitigation measures that are neigher reasonably specific nor reasonably certain to occur, and in some cases not even identified."

From the article:

As part of his decision, Redden required dam operators to continue the practice of spilling water through the dams, though not through the power-generating turbines, to help juvenile salmon upriver bypass the dams and make it out to sea. Redden also ordered NOAA fisheries to consider whether "more aggressive action" is necessary, including removing dams, drawing down reservoirs, and maintaining higher water levels in streams. NOAA Fisheries has until 1 January 2014 to submit its revised biological opinion.

Considered a high-stakes test of the Endangered Species Act, the judge's ruling could change how hydropower is managed in the Northwest.

Full article: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/08/us-judge-rejects-latest-salmon.html?ref=hp

Protected areas not enough to save life on Earth
August 3, 2011 By Jeremy Hance

A new study in Marine Ecology Progress Series found that the over 100,000 protected areas currently in place are not sufficient to counter the loss of species globally, a loss compared to mass extinction by some scientistis.

From the article:

"The global network of protected areas is a major achievement, and the pace at which it has been achieved is impressive," says co-author Dr. Peter F. Sale, Assistant Director of the United Nations University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, in a press release. "Protected areas are very useful conservation tools, but unfortunately, the steep continuing rate of biodiversity loss signals the need to reassess our heavy reliance on this strategy."

According to the authors, focusing solely on protected areas for biodiversity preservation has a number of flaws. For one thing, society is still far from the minimum goal of conserving 30 percent of marine and terrestrial habitats in order to conserve global biodiversity. Currently 5.8 percent of land is under strict protection, while just 0.08 percent of the ocean is similarly protected. Not all protected areas are created equal. Many allow a number of destructive, unsustainable activities within their boundaries. In addition, most terrestrial protected areas (60 percent) are simply too small—less than 1 square kilometer—to save big or migrating species. Most protected areas are not well-connected in order to allow movement of animal and plant populations, especially in the face of worsening climate change.

Increasing human population, the need for resources, and underfunding by government agencies further threatens protected habitat. Efforts to increase Earth's biocapacity need to include technology applicatons and a reduction in human population growth and consumption.

Full article: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0803-hance_protected_areas_wildlife.html

CITATION: Mora C, Sale PF. 2011. Ongoing global biodiversity loss and the need to move beyond protected areas: a review of the technical and practical shortcomings of protected areas on land and sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series 434:251-266. doi:10.3354/meps09214

Warmer temperatures to expand California exotic grass populations
August 3, 2011 By Ashlie Rodriguez

Changes in California's climate could result in an increase in the distribution of exotic grasses, according to researchers from U.C. Berkeley. Potential problems include more wildfires, damage to crops from pathogens, allergic reactions in people who eat beef pastured where exotic grasses are found, and competition for often scarce water resources. The study indicates an increase in invasive plants in the future, though the impact is not as yet known. The yearlong study is available online and published in the journal Global Change Biology.

Full blog post: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/08/global-warming-california-grass.html

CITATION: Sandel B, Dangremond EM. 2011. Climate change and the invasion of California by grasses. Global Change Biology. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02480.x

Climate change and health: how vulnerable is your city?
August 3, 2011 By Ashlie Rodriguez

According to climate change impact maps released by the natural Resources Defense Council, average California temperatures "could rise between 4.7 to 10.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century." The result may be an increase in the number of unhealthy days, and more heat and air pollution related problems.

From the article:

The maps forecast the average number of days likely to spread infectious diseases, such as dengue fever, and when people might suffer from extreme heat, unhealthful air pollution, as well as flooding and droughts. Residents may also use the site to find out more about their city’s strategy to prepare for the effects of climate change and tips to mitigate the effects of unhealthy days.

The study will help inform future decisions on health issues and solutions.

The data used in creating the map came from NRDC's 2007 report, "Sneezing and Wheezing: How Global Warming Could Increase Ragweed Allergies, Air Pollution, and Asthma."

Full blog post: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/08/climate-change-warmer-temperatures-air-pollution-national-resources-defence-council.html

Evidence of savanna conditions 6 million years ago
August 3, 2011

Through a new method of using chemical isotopes in ancient soil, geochemist Thurs Cerling of the University of Utah measured prehistoric tree cover. This study, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Leakey Foundation, determined that most of the East African sites where human ancestors and their ape relatives lived during the past 6 million years were shady savanna habitat. Savanna is defined as "a fairly open, grassy environment with a lot of scattered trees – a grassland or wooded grassland."

From the article:

"We've been able to quantify how much shade was available in the geological past," says geochemist Thure Cerling, senior author of a study of the new method.... "And it shows there have been open habitats for all of the last 6 million years in the environments in eastern Africa where some of the most significant early human fossils were found."

"Wherever we find human ancestors, we find evidence for open habitats similar to savannas – much more open and savanna-like than forested," adds Cerling, a University of Utah distinguished professor of geology and geophysics, and biology.

The study sheds new light on the extent of savanna habitat in the area where Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Homo fossils have been found. This contradicts previous thinking that savanna conditions have been present only for the last 2 million years.

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-08-million-years-savanna.html

CITATION: Cerling TE, et al. 2011. Woody cover and hominin environments in the past 6 million years. Nature 476:51-56. doi:10.1038/nature10306

Completed Census of Marine Life calls for protected areas to conserve deep sea environment
August 3, 2011 By Camila Ruz

Eva Ramirez-Llodra of the Institute of Marine Science in Barcelona and a team of scientists reported on the results of the Census of Marine Life (COML) Project, a 10-year study completed in 2010. While litter contues to be a problem, especially plastics, there are additional threats posed by fishing and mining.

From the article:

"There is accumulating evidence that 'mermaids' tears' (5mm in diameter) and microplastics (microscopic sand grain-sized particles of eroded plastic) are becoming more common in the world oceans," says the report. "Little is known however, of the true effect of these particles on the environment and fauna."

The main problems today are fishing and mining. Deep-sea trawling, say the researchers, is particularly damaging because the species caught are "often long lived, with slow growth and delayed maturity making them poorly adapted to sustain heavy fishing pressure."

Climate change will also be a huge factor in the future, as "rising carbon dioxide levels will increase the acidity of the oceans." To protect the deep sea environment, protected areas and management planning will be necessary, along with policy to develop ocean resources while protecting biodiverstiy.

Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2011/aug/03/protected-areas-deep-sea-environment

Nigeria Ogoniland oil clean-up 'could take 30 years'
August 4, 2011

Nigeria, one of the world's major oil producing nations, has experienced 50 years of oil operations and oil spills. A new report from the United Nations says that it could take 30 years for recovery, and "complete restoration could entail the world's 'most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up." Damage included contaminated wells and oil slicks on water from oil spills more than six years prior. Shell Oil Company has accepted responsibility for two oil spills.

From the article:

The report, based on examinations of some 200 locations over 14 months, said Shell had created public health and safety issues by failing to apply its own procedures in the control and maintenance of oilfield infrastructure. But it also said local people were sabotaging pipelines in order to steal oil.

The report says that restoring the region could cost $1bn (£613m) and take 25-30 years to complete. "The environmental restoration of Ogoniland could prove to be the world's most wide-ranging and long term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and important ecosystems such as mangroves are to be brought back to full, productive health," Unep said.

This study improves understanding of a long-ignored pollution issue in the Ogoniland region, focusing world attention on the problem.

Full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14398659

Supervisor Slater-Price channels $100k in grants to arts, community groups
August 4, 2011 By Chris Nichols

More than $100,000 in taxpayer grants from San Diego County's Neighborhood Reinvestment Program was allocated by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to several arts, environmental and community groups this week.

Those grants include:

-- $30,000 to the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority to help pay for three monument entry signs along the Coast to Crest Trail between Volcan Mountain and Del Mar.
-- $20,000 to the Friends of the Powerhouse for construction of a new boardwalk pathway at the Coast Boulevard and 17th Street beach access.
-- $12,500 to the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation to assist with restoration costs for museum aircraft such as the OV-10 "Bronco," the R4Q "Packet," the MiG-15 "Fagot," the A4M "Skyhawk," and FM-2 "Wildcat."
-- $10,000 to the Putnam Foundation to help design and install the George Inness in Italy exhibition on display in fall 2011 at the Timken Museum in Balboa Park.
-- $10,000 to the San Diego Bonsai Club to assist with landscaping costs for the Bonsai Art, Cultural, and Education Pavilion at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
-- $9,790 to San Diego Coastkeeper for a computer and software for event organization, First-Aid kits, T-shirts for volunteer leaders, metal grabbers to pick up trash, and canopy tents for Coastal Cleanup Day on September 17, 2011.
-- $5,000 to the San Diego Ballet to purchase costumes, stage props, and set construction materials for the 2011-12 season and performances at school assemblies.
-- $3,500 to the Mira Mesa Chamber of Commerce to help buy and install 16 light post banners that promote area businesses on Mira Mesa Boulevard.

Due to county budget cuts, the amount each supervisor controls is $1 million annually, reduced from the previous $2 million.

Full article: http://www.nctimes.com/news/local/sdcounty/article_5a64f892-1eb1-570b-b7d5-aab8897e8c2f.html

Kew-featured photographer discusses importance of weather in good plant photographs
August 4, 2011 By Philip Smith

According to Philip Smith, organizer of International Garden Photographer of the Year (IGPOTY), weather is an important factor in garden and plant photography. Environmental conditions affect all outdoor subjects, including plants, gardens, landscapes, and animals. A photographer must be cognizant of weather’s relationship to the natural world to capture it best. The IGPOTY awards category ‘Weather Eye’, the third of its annual ‘4Seasons’ categories, is accepting entries exhibiting the relationship between weather and plants or gardens through August 31, 2011.

Full blog post by Philip Smith: http://www.kew.org/news/kew-blogs/igpoty/eye-for-the-weather.htm

Conservation groups condemn decision to axe BBC Wildlife Fund
August 4, 2011 By Fiona Harvey

BBC has made the decision to eliminate the BBC Wildlife Fund, which has generated more than £3m (approximately 4.84 million USD) since its inception in 2007. Funded by viewer contributions, the money was used to support projects that targeted species facing extinction. The decision was condemned by 45 conservation groups, who published a letter in the Guardian addressed to BBC Chariman Chris Patten.

From the article:

The BBC told the Guardian: "We are proud of our achievements in support of the BBC Wildlife Fund. However, as with the many difficult choices the BBC currently faces, we must focus our charitable efforts in areas where we can have the most impact. We have therefore regrettably concluded that we can no longer support the Wildlife Fund editorially.

"As a result the trustees have decided to wind down the fund but will continue to monitor and evaluate existing grants. We would like to thank them for their tremendous work over the past four years."

The conservation groups contend that BBC is in a position to raise funding for endangered species, while BBC is reportedly wary of supporting ongoing projects while its own funding is being cut.

Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/04/conservation-wildlife

Sexually-receptive female chacma baboons are more likely to get bullied
August 4, 2011 By Tamera Jones

Dr. Elise Huchard from the German Primate Center and Dr. Guy Cowlishaw from the Zoological Society of London have published a study in Behavioral Ecology that indicates that female chacma baboons (Paio ursinus) compete over sex. This refutes the traditional view that only males fight over sex, while females fight over food. Female baboons in heat are more likely to be the victims of aggression than other females, and the female members of the troop are the aggressors.

From the article:

In total, [the researchers] analysed 1027 interactions, which included a range of aggressive behavior between females like threats, displacements and attacks.

They found that pregnant baboons start the most fights, which partly backs up the idea that aggression arises because of competition for food. But they found that these baboons aren't subjected to much bullying at all. And all the other interactions suggest that the animals don't compete just for food: females on heat and mate-guarded baboons are subjected to the most violent behaviour, but don't themselves bully. Suckling mothers were much less likely to be attacked, or to attack.

One explanation could be that females that are ready to mate are particularly vulnerable: stress is likely to delay conception, so these baboons are best off not getting involved in fights if they can help it. Huchard says that females probably fight over both food and mates depending on where they are in their reproductive cycles.

Further research is needed to determine if there is a relationship between baboon aggression and conception.

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-08-baboon-beauties-bullied.html

CITATION: Huchard E, Cowlishaw G. 2011. Female-female aggression around mating: an extra cost of sociality in a multimale primate society. Behavioral Ecology. doi:10.1093/beheco/arr083

Fish nurseries need more than mangroves
August 4, 2011 By Rachel Mundy

In the past, research showed that mangrove swamps in the Caribbean and Mexico are vital as “nurseries” for many tropical fish species. However, a recent study conducted in Honduras by University of Oxford PhD student Jessica Jaxion-Harm suggests that habitat conservation must be more complex, as juvenile fish migrate through connective mangrove swamps, seagrass beds, and coral reefs as they seek food and mature to adulthood. "You cannot separate one ecosystem from another in terms of the function they have in the lifecycle of a species,” explains Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. These findings are significant in the impact they may have on more holistic conservation of the interconnected marine environment. Habitats for tropical fish face significant threats from by tourism developments, urban habitation, and shrimp aquaculture.

Full article: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/fish-nurseries-need-more-than-mangroves-says-study.html

CITATION: Jaxion-Harm JC. 2010. The relationship between coral-reef fish (larvae, juveniles, and adults) and mangroves: a case study in Honduras [Thesis]. St. Catherines College, University of Oxford. 237 p. Retrieved online: http://www.opwall.com/Library/Opwall%20library%20pdfs/PhDs/Jessica%20Jaxion-Harm%27s%20thesis%20-Bodlain%20etc.pdf

Making sperm from stem cells in a dish
August 4, 2011

Researchers at Kyoto University have successfully turned mouse embryonic stem cells into sperm precursors, called primordial germ cells (PGCs). These cells were shown to give rise to healthy sperm. “The researchers say that such in vitro reconstitution of germ cell development represents one of the most fundamental challenges in biology,” and opens up new opportunities for infertility research and treatment. By transplanting these PGCs into sterile mice, sperm was produced and went on to successfully fertilize eggs that grew into fertile adult males and female mice.

From the article:

The same procedure could produce fertile offspring from induced pluripotent stem cells that are often derived from adult skin cells.

Continued investigations aimed at in vitro reconstitution of germ cell development, including the induction of female PGCLCs and their descendants, will be crucial for a more comprehensive understanding of germ cell biology in general, as well as for the advancement of reproductive technology and medicine.

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-08-sperm-stem-cells-dish.html

CITATION: Hayashi K, et al. 2011. Reconstitution of the mouse germ cell specification pathway in culture by pluripotent stem cells. Cell. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2011.06.052

Oregon joins fight against shark fishing
August 4, 2011 By Ashlie Rodriguez

Mirroring legistlation passed in Hawaii and Washington, Oregon will now ban "the sale, trade and possession of shark fins," thanks to legislation signed by Gov. John Kitzhaber. At issue is how the fins are acquired, often cut off a live shark, which is tossed back into the ocean where it is unlikely to survive.

From the article:

“With the global trade in shark fins pushing sharks toward extinction, it will take strong actions such as this to prevent us from making irreversible changes to our ocean ecosystems,” said Whit Sheard, senior advisor for Oceana, a maritime conservation organization. “The bipartisan support for this bill once again demonstrates that support for healthy oceans is a non-partisan issue.”

Although finning is illegal in the United States, shark fins can still be imported from other countries. Shark fins are prized as a delicacy, and as a result of heavy shark "finning" the population of sharks worldwide has been reduced.

Full blog post: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/08/shark-finning-ban-oregon.html

Virus new to Michigan wild was factor in fish kill
August 4, 2011 By Frank Konkel

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that the koi herpesvirus, an internationally reportable disease known to cause large-scale fish deaths in common carp (Cyprinus carpio), goldfish (Carassius auratus auratus), and koi (Cyprinus carpio), was detected in samples analyzed from a June mass fish kill (300-500 common carp) in Kent Lake at Kensingon Metropark. This marks the first reported case of koi herpesvirus in Michigan’s wild samples, thought to be introduced from released or escaped ornamental fish carrying the virus.

Dead carp were removed from the lake as early as possible to minimize additional risks from decomposing fish, yet the lake remained open to boaters. The die-off serves as a reminder to boaters and anglers to take precautions against disease transfer between locations by cleaning boats, disinfecting gear, and not moving life fish.

Full article: http://www.livingstondaily.com/article/20110804/NEWS01/110804002/Virus-new-Michigan-wild-factor-fish-kill?%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%20odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Frontpage

Heat-detecting molecule helps vampire bats to quickly find veins
August 4, 2011

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas in Caracas, Venezuela studied vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) in South America to learn how they can locate a vein in a victim. They learned that a "sensitive, heat-detecting molecule covering nerve endings on their noses called TRPV1" is the secret.

From the article:

Researchers have known for years that pits on vampire bats' noses allow them to detect blood vessels because they radiate heat. But no one knew exactly how this occurred.

[The researchers] sequenced genes from samples of nose tissue from wild vampire bats in Venezuela, determining that TRPV1 is the molecule responsible for their ability to detect heat.

They also determined that it was not just TRPV1 but an evolutionary genetic variation of it that allows vampire bats to detect low temperature heat. Through a mechanism known as "alternative splicing" a special form of the molecule emerged in the noses of the bats, becoming a sensitive detector for finding the hottest spots.

This finding has potential for pain management in humans, since molecules similar to TRPV1 are involved in pain sensation.

Full article: http://www.biologynews.net/archives/2011/08/04/what_steers_vampires_to_blood.html

CITATION: Gracheva EO, et al. 2011. Ganglion-specific splicing of TRPV1 underlies infrared sensation in vampire bats. Nature 476:88-91. doi:10.1038/nature10245

Sexually extravagant male birds age more rapidly
August 4, 2011 By Ben Norman

Male houbara bustards, Chlamydotis undulata, found in Southern Hemisphere deserts, spend half their year in elaborate courtship rituals to attract mates. Previous research determined that the showiest males produce the most viable sperm when mating, but new research has discovered that these males "pass their reproductive prime much sooner than their more subdued rivals and they began to produce 'burnt-out', smaller ejaculates, containing high numbers of dead and abnormal sperm."

From the article:

Dr Preston's team found that despite burning out, showy males continued their energetic sexual displays at near maximum levels.

"Male houbara bustards may help to explain how senescence, or biological aging, has evolved," concluded Preston. "Senescence is the deterioration that occurs with advancing age, yet the reason why an organism should senesce has been an evolutionary puzzle, as natural selection would be expected to 'weed-out' the genes responsible for these age-related declines."

"The bustard shows that an over-abundance of early reproductive effort comes at the cost of physiological declines later in life. This early versus late life trade-off can help explain why senescence occurs, and reveals the potential significance of sexual selection in explaining rates of aging."

Full article: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-08/w-sem080411.php

CITATION: Preston BT, et al. 2011. Sexually extravagant males age more rapidly. Ecology Letters. doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2011.01668.x

Female tungara frogs prefer mates with less elaborate mating calls
August 4, 2011

In a study of túngara frog (Physalaemus pustulosus) females from Latin America, researchers discovered that more elaborate male mating serenades actually discourage potential mates. The males call with a series of "high pitched 'whines' with short 'clucks'" and females preferred mates with 'clucks.' Competition among males frogs for elaborate mating calls produced negative results. There may be implications for study in other species.

Full article: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/08/scienceshot-one-ribbit-too-many.html?ref=hp

CITATION: Akre KL, Farris HE, Lea AM, Page RA, Ryan MJ. 2011. Signal perception in frogs and bats and the evolution of mating signals. Science 333(6043):751-752. doi:10.1126/science.1205623

EPA proposes use of CO2 sequestration technologies
August 5, 2011 By Andy Soos

Consistent with recommendations made by President Obama’s interagency task force on CO2 sequestration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to advance the use of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies. These technologies allow carbon dioxide (CO2) capture at stationary sources (i.e. fossil fuel power plants and large industrial operations) and support long-term underground CO2 storage (geologic sequestration) with respects to the protection of American health and the environment. Long-term CO2 storage remains a relatively new technology, though various forms have been developed, including “gaseous storage in various deep geological formations (including saline formations and exhausted gas fields), liquid storage in the ocean, and solid storage by reaction of CO2 with metal oxides to produce stable carbonates.” The main objectives of this proposal include a nationwide move toward clean energy and reducing fossil fuel emissions which contribute to global warming.

Full article: http://www.enn.com/pollution/article/43039

Threatened listing reinstated for Preble's meadow jumping mouse in Wyoming
August 5, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 151
FWS-R6-ES-2011-0062; 92220-1113-0000

From the annnouncment:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are issuing this final rule to comply with a court order that vacates our most recent rule and reinstates the regulatory protections under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), for the Preble's meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) (Preble's) in Wyoming. The United States District Court for the District of Colorado, by order dated July 7, 2011, vacated and remanded the 2008 Final Rule to Amend the Listing for the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse To Specify Over What Portion of Its Range the Subspecies is Threatened (2008 Amended Listing Decision) and reinstated the 1998 Final Rule Listing the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse as Threatened Throughout Its Range, effective August 6, 2011. This rule reinstates the listing of Preble's in Wyoming. It also reinstates the special rule that exempts activities related to rodent control, ongoing agricultural activities, landscape maintenance, existing uses of water, noxious weed control, and ongoing ditch maintenance activities from the take provisions of the Act throughout the entire range of the Preble's.

DATES: This action is effective August 6, 2011.

ADDRESSES: This final rule and the U.S. District Court decision is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2011-0062.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Linner, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Ecological Services Office, 134 Union Boulevard, Suite 670, Lakewood, CO 80225; telephone: 303-236-4773; facsimile: 303-236-4005.

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-08-05/pdf/2011-19895.pdf

Parasitic sea lampreys fear the smell of death
August 5, 2011

Control of parasitic sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus), one of the most costly and destructive invasive species in the Great Lakes, may take a drastic turn, as new research published by Michigan State University assistant professor Michael Wagner suggests that a repellant scented with dead sea lampreys may act as a movement control mechanism. The smell of dead sea lampreys reportedly serves as an alarm cue inciting dramatic escape efforts, which could be used to steer sea lampreys away from “environmentally sensitive areas and into waterways where pesticides could be used more effectively to eliminate a larger, more concentrated population of sea lampreys." In the past, sea lamprey control has been researched and pursued using pheromones to lure the parasites into traps, however other scents and environmental cues lower the success rate of pheromone lures. Scientists and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission hope the alarm cue scent will lead to more efficient, cost effective control of sea lampreys.

Full article: http://esciencenews.com/articles/2011/08/05/sea.lampreys.fear.smell.death

CITATION: Wagner CM. 2011. A deathly odor suggests a new sustainable tool for controlling a costly invasive species. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 68(7):1157-1160. doi:10.1139/f2011-072

Controversial weed-killer to be pulled from market
August 5, 2011 By Heidi Ledford

As a result of unexpected tree deaths associated with application, the herbicide Imprelis (aminocyclopyrachlor), manufactured by DuPont, is being recalled and discontinued. Imprelis, an herbicide in the new class called pyrimidine carboxylic acids which mimic the plant hormone auxin, is formulated to target broad-leafed plants (i.e. dandelions) and was initially popular in part because of its low toxicity to mammals. Though tested on a number of tree species and granted approval by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), customer complaints about dead trees were widespread soon after the product’s release. The two hardest hit species, Norway spruce (Picea abies) and white pine (Pinus strobes), were not part of Imprelis’ test data. The chemical’s effects are apparently inconsistent, as healthy trees often stand next to poisoned trees of the same species. Because of failure in detecting Imprelis’ selective arboreal toxicity during initial tests, future analysis and tests on pyrimidine carboxylic acids will face added scrutiny. Classified documentation on Imprelis may soon be released to the public by the EPA.

Full blog post: http://blogs.nature.com/news/2011/08/controversial_weedkiller_to_be.html

Tayras exhibit capacity to plan for the future
August 5, 2011 By Helen Fields

A recent study on tayras (Eira barbara), a weasel relative native to Central and South America, suggests that the species may be the first outside of primates and birds observed to exhibit a human-like capacity to plan for the future. The study showed that while many animals eat portions of ripe plantains while they are attached to the plant, only tayras remove the full plantain, including unripe fruit. Researchers studied tayras’ foraging habits, which include stashing unripe fruit in forestry plantation trees to return to in several days when fruit ripens. Because few animals were found to forage in plantation trees, tayras’ tactics of storing plantains there until they’re edible may be a tactical move. Though many animals are known to cache food, storing leftovers to eat later, tayras are unique in their preference to stash unripe fruit which is not yet edible; this habit suggests that the animals have the forethought to plan future subsistence needs around ripening fruit. The topic of animal forethought is controversial among scientists, and more in-depth study of tayra behavior is necessary to analyze their capacity for true planning.

Full article: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/08/do-tayras-plan-for-the-future.html?ref=hp

CITATION: Soley FG, Alvarado-Diaz I. 2011. Prospective thinking in a mustelid? Eira barbara (Carnivora) cache unripe fruits to consume them once ripened. Naturwissenschaften 98(8):693-698. doi:10.1007/s00114-011-0821-0

Wetlands not aided by Mississippi diversions
August 5, 2011 By Amanda Mascarelli

Scientists are analyzing and reconsidering coastal-restoration tactics after three projects in Louisiana’s shrinking wetlands failed to restore marsh over the last two decades. Fresh water diversion, in which water from the Mississippi River was rerouted with the hope that it would bring in sediment to aid marsh plant life, instead made the region more vulnerable to hurricanes; growth of deep-rooted marsh plants that counter erosion was inadequate due in part to an excess of nutrients in agricultural and industrial runoff water.

Soil compaction, geological faulting, and oil and gas drilling are causing ground sinkage while dam and levee construction prevents sediment deposits, all of which make wetland habitat health and restoration increasingly difficult yet important to pursue. Over the next two to three decades, the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act seeks to restore almost 17,000 hectares of marshland at a price of over one billion dollars, with 65% of costs attributed to freshwater-diversion projects. Though some data still exists in support of freshwater-diversion, the process requires sediment to be diverted along with water. Further analysis is required to best understand the science of marsh restoration and diversion tactics for successful implementation.

Full article: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110805/full/news.2011.462.html

CITATIONS:
Kearney M, Riter J, Turner RE. 2011. Freshwater river diversions for marsh restoration in Louisiana: twenty-six years of changing vegetative cover and marsh area. Geophysical Research Letters. doi:10.1029/2011GL047847

Paola C, et al. 2011. Natural processes in delta restoration: application to the Mississippi Delta. Annual Review of Marine Science 3:67-91. doi:10.1146/annurev-marine-120709-142856

American zoos help return condor to South America
August 6, 2011 By Juan Forero

Thanks to successful conservation efforts in American Zoos, the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) is making a comeback from the brink of extinction in the Andes of South America. The decline of the species decades ago was in part a result of “indiscriminate hunting” by farmers afraid the birds targeted live animals and children. Today, the success of the species depends not only on reproduction, but also cooperation among local farmers, shepherds, and army soldiers who monitor and care for the condors. Chicks are currently raised in American zoos, including the San Diego Zoo, and may be released in Colombia after they are approximately a year or year and a half old. Approximately 180 condors, twice as many as ten years ago, are now known to live in Colombia.

Full article: http://www.npr.org/2011/08/06/138952179/american-zoos-help-return-condor-to-south-america

San Diego Zoo Safari Park reopens Petting Kraal
August 7, 2011 By Pam Kragen

The Petting Kraal at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has reopened after a brief closure for renovation last week. “People-friendly” goats (including six Boer goats, nine pygmy goats, and two Nubian goats) replaced several more “aloof” hooved animals (Eld’s deer, Persian gazelle and blackbuck antelope) in the hopes to enhance visitors' interactions with the animals. The animals removed from the Petting Kraal were dispersed to new homes around the park. The reopening of the Kraal is one of several events tied to the park’s “Summer Safari: African Extravaganza,” which runs through August 21 and features extended Safari Park hours until 7pm, hands-on crafts, and live entertainment.

Full article: http://www.nctimes.com/entertainment/attractions/article_5ddd640d-a8db-5c9e-a4e7-b32a71a3c913.html

US officials conducting dead bird study in Gulf
August 7, 2011

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is conducting a new study to determine the number of bird deaths caused by the 2010 Gulf oil spill. Through the “Carcass Drift Study,” funded by BP PLC, researchers will attach numbered orange and white Styrofoam floats to bird carcasses, which will then be dropped into the Gulf and tracked; a phone number is printed on each float in case someone finds it. The study should help to determine the potential paths that carcasses took during the oil spill and determine how many dead birds never made it to shore due to sinking, shark feeding, or other factors. Overall, the study relies on probability to analyze the likelihood that carcasses arrive on shore and are found by surveyors. Combined with several others, the study should help to estimate the total number of birds killed as a result of the Gulf oil spill.

Full article: http://www.wtsp.com/rss/article/204870/261/US-officials-conducting-dead-bird-study-in-Gulf?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wtsp%2Foilspill+%28WTSP.com+10+News+Oil+Spill+News%29

Urban beekeeping: the latest big environmental movement
August 7, 2011 By Alison Benjamin

In cities around the world, urban beekeeping is on the rise, and membership in beekeeping associations from Britain to Australia is similarly growing at a rapid rate. Increasingly, city bans are being overturned to accommodate the interests of urban beekeepers, including the ban lifted in New York City in 2010. Urban beekeeping is popularly pursued by the metropolitan and eco-conscious and is seen as a way for one to make a direct, personal impact on the environment by introducing pollinators to an urban environment otherwise relatively inhospitable to bees. In London, Paris, and Berlin, some of the cities’ most noteworthy landmarks are homes to hives, including Buckingham Palace, Tate Modern, and Fortnum & Mason in London, the Paris Opéra, and the cathedral and planetarium in Berlin.

Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/07/urban-beekeeping

Bats and birds face serious threats from growth of wind energy
August 8, 2011 By Umair Irfan

Wind energy is quickly becoming "one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the world," providing 198 gigawatts of energy worldwide. There are commercial wind power generators in at least 83 countries and, for the first time, developing countries are adding wind power more quickly than in industrialized nations. And while wind has the potential to be a sustainable source of energy, current wind turbines, which can stand "400 feet tall [and] have blades turning at 160 miles per hour," pose a threat to migrating birds and bats. According to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), "upwards of 14 birds per megawatt of wind energy are killed each year, numbering more than 440,000." And while the number of birds killed by cats and by flying into windows is much, much higher (ranging in the hundreds of millions), the number of birds killed by wind turbines will go up with the increasing number of wind energy farms.

Even moreso than birds, bats are threatened by wind turbines. According to Professor John Whitaker Jr., director of the Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation at Indiana State University, "[Bats] are killed in two ways: simply by being hit by the blades and...by pressure changes due to the sweep of the blades without even being hit." While bats are able to use sonar to navigate around the wind turbines to avoid being hit by the blades, "they can't detect the invisible swath of low pressure left behind turning blades," and when they fly into this low pressure system, they die from internal bleeding, a phenomenon known as barotrauma. The threat to bats from wind energy farms, combined with the threat to their population from white nose syndrome, could mean huge die-offs of North American bats in the near future. The FWS is trying to mitigate the threats to bats and birds from wind energy farms by implementing better planning measures, such as placing wind farms away from migration patterns. Additionally, they are studying the use of tools like radar to make the animals avoid the areas.

Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2011/08/08/08climatewire-bats-and-birds-face-serious-threats-from-gro-10511.html

Abused Nazca boobies grow up to abuse other chicks
August 8, 2011 By Matt Walker

Researchers from Wake Forest University have discovered that "juvenile Nazca boobies (Sula granti) that are maltreated by older, non-relatives grow up to become more violent towards other chicks." This study provides the first evidence in wild animals that " 'child abuse' can be socially transmitted down the generations."

From the article:

Nazca boobies are sea-going birds that live in the eastern tropical Pacific, nesting on the Galapagos Islands, and on islands off the coasts of Equador, Peru and Colombia. Both parents tend to raise a single chick each year, feeding mostly on fish and the occasional squid.

The birds nest within dense colonies, and this proximity to each other encourages bouts of violence to break out. While parent birds are away feeding at sea, non-breeding adults seek out unguarded nests and attempt to interact with the chicks within. These can be positive interactions, but frequently they are abusive; the visiting adults try to perform sexual acts on the chicks or act aggressively toward them.

...The scientists found a strong correlation between the frequency that Nazca booby chicks were attacked by non-breeding adults, and the frequency that they themselves attacked chicks when they reached adulthood.

The researchers ruled out genetics as a cause for the increased tendency towards violence, as "the abuse is perpetrated between adult boobies and unrelated victims." David Anderson, one of the study's authors, thinks that abuse victims may experience increased levels of stress hormones, which then affects their inclination towards violence as they grow older. The study will appear in the upcoming issue of The Auk.

Full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/14418174

White-nose syndrome afflicting North American bats caused by a single strain of Geomyces destructans
August 8, 2011 By Chantall Van Raay

A researcher at the Institute for Infectious Disease Research is working with microbiologists nationwide to better understand white-nose syndrome, a fungus first discovered in 2006 and which has killed more than one million bats throughout the northeastern US, Ontario, and Quebec.

From the article:

To understand the fungus, its origin and spread, researchers analyzed the DNA of 16 strains from caves in seven New York counties and one from Vermont. They then compared Geomyces destructans with a closely related species called Geomyces panoma and found that all the Geomyces destructans strains were genetically identical. This led them to believe that white-nose syndrome in northeastern North America is caused by a single strain that has undergone rapid dispersal to cause all of the bat deaths, from New York to Tennessee and from Oklahoma to Quebec.

Dr. Jianping Xu and colleagues have been researching possible treatments for the fungus and have found that it was susceptible to common antifungal drugs that are used to treat "ailments ranging from athlete's foot to life-threatening infections." The researchers are working quickly to come up with a solution to the white-nose syndrome, as at the current rate of infection, hibernating bats in the US could go extinct within 20 years.

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-08-mystery.html

CITATION: Rajkumar SS, et al. 2011. Clonal genotype of Geomyces destructans among bats with White Nose Syndrom, New York, USA. Emerging Infectious Diseases 17(7). doi:10.3201/eid1707.102056

USFWS to hold Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee meeting via teleconference and webcast
August 8, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 152

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), will host a Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee (Committee) meeting via teleconference and webcast. This meeting is open to the public, but registration is required.

DATES:
Meeting: The meeting will take place on August 23, from 1 to 5 p.m. Eastern Time. Pre-meeting Public Registration: If you are a member of the public wishing to participate in the meeting via telephone or webcast, you must register online by August 16, 2011.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rachel London, Division of Habitat and Resource Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, (703) 358-2161.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We will host a Committee meeting via teleconference and webcast on August 23, 2011. This meeting is open to the public. Registration is required.

Agenda
The meeting agenda will include reports to the full Committee from Subcommittees on:

Adaptive Management and Mitigation;
Definition of "significant'';
Phase-In of Guidelines;
Habitat Fragmentation;
Table 1: Tier 4 Monitoring;
Avian and Bat Protection Plans; and
Role of the Service.

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-08-08/pdf/2011-19972.pdf

Efforts to close canal to Great Lakes to prevent spread of invasive fish species
August 8, 2011 By Deborah Braconnier

Biologists are calling for a permanent closure of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which links the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan, in an effort to protect native fish species in the Great Lakes. Asian carp DNA was recently "discovered in Lake Calumet in Illinois despite an electric fence that had been place downriver in an effort to stop them from passing," although wildlife officials were unable to locate any individual fish. According to the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, "Asian carp" refers to "several species of related fish originating from Asia." They have been found "as close as 25 miles from Lake Michigan." Conservationists are also concerned by the increasing numbers of Northern Snakehead (Channa argus), a fish native to China, Korea and Russia.

From the article:

The Northern Snakehead is a fish that is raising far more fear when it comes to the delicate ecosystem in the Great Lakes. This fish is known to be able to survive icy waters, is a ravenous predator, breathes air and is able to survive out of water for days as long as it stays moist.

...It has been discovered in nine states ranging from California to Maryland and they are spreading in the Potomac River and biologists believe they may already be in the Mississippi river as well. Last year, Time magazine named the Snakehead to its top 10 list of invasive species and last month they were listed as one of 10 invasive species that create a high risk of invading the Mississippi River Basin and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-08-efforts-canal-great-lakes.html

Fish seed dispersal a widespread phenomenon
August 8, 2011 By Daniel Cressey

A new review article emphasizes the importance of seed dispersal by fish, a phenomenon called 'ichthyochory'.

From the article:

“[N]ew evidence demonstrates that the consumption of fruits by fishes is not a rare process concerning just a few fish and plant species in a particular area,” write Michael Horn, of California State University, Fullerton, and his colleagues. “Rather, fruit consumption by fishes is a widespread phenomenon that has been documented in all biogeographic regions and involves more than 275 fish and numerous plant species.”

However, threats to fish populations ranging from "[overfishing], damming of rivers, deforestation and logging" can result in "...decreasing fish population sizes, [which produce] smaller fish which swim less far and [hinder] traditional migration routes."

Full blog post: http://blogs.nature.com/news/2011/08/fish_seed_dispersal_research_c_2.html

CITATION: Horn MH, et al. 2011. Seed dispersal by fishes in tropical and temperate fresh waters: the growing evidence. Acta Oecologica. doi:10.1016/j.actao.2011.06.004

Pittsburgh Zoo near completion of African elephant sperm bank
August 8, 2011 By Bill Zlatos

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is near completion of a two-year project to bring genetic material from South Africa so that they "can start the first sperm bank for African elephants in North America." Project Frozen Dumbo is an "international effort to help zoos breed and conserve [African elephants], the largest living land animal." The project is a collaboration between the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, the Pittsburgh Zoo, ZooParc de Beauval in France and South African scientists and rangers.

From the article:

The zoos sent scientists to the Phinda reserve in September 2009 and April 2010. Pittsburgh planned to set up the North American sperm bank and ZooParc de Beauval would set up a European bank, enabling zoos on both continents to breed elephants without the danger of transporting them thousands of miles.

"This is a way to bring in new bloodlines without bringing an elephant in," Baker said. "It's much easier to carry a little vial of semen ... than to bring in a full-grown African elephant."

Zoo officials expect the frozen samples to last for several more years.

For now, 16 liters of semen lie in the National Zoo's BioBank in Pretoria, awaiting export and import permits to reach the United States.

The delay in exporting the genetic material out of South Africa has been caused by quarantine issues and permit requirements, as they vary from country to country and can be difficult to obtain. Once the semen bank is set up at the Pittsburgh Zoo, the zoo will not charge other organizations for the semen to be used in reproduction efforts.

Full article: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_750468.html

San Diego Zoo Safari Park experts help rare white-bellied heron
August 8, 2011

Safari Park Animal Care Manager Don Sterner and Lead Keeper Debbie Marlow recently assisted Bhutan's Royal Society for Protection of Nature with the first hatching and hand-rearing of the critically endangered white-bellied heron (Ardea insignis).

From the article:

"The Bhutanese are very concerned about the status of this bird and they recognize that some type of human intervention will probably be necessary," said Sterner. "Two eggs were pulled out of a nest but only one was viable. We were able to incubate and hand-rear this one chick, which is now more than 80 days old and close to fledging."

The two Safari Park experts undertook this first ever endeavor under difficult field conditions. With an inconsistent power supply for an egg incubator, it required around-the- clock monitoring. The two employees were chosen due to their extensive experience with other endangered bird species, including the California condor. Preparation for the Bhutan program required developing heron incubation and rearing protocols at the Safari Park last year using the great blue heron, a close relative. The white-bellied heron protocols were fine tuned due to the uniqueness of the species.

There are currently thought to be only 26 individuals left in Bhutan, with an estimated world population as low as 50 individuals.

Full article: http://www.aza.org/PressRoom/detail.aspx?id=20421

San Diego Zoo celebrates birthday of its youngest giant panda
August 8, 2011

Yun Zi, the youngest of the San Diego Zoo's three giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), turned two this week. Guests were able to celebrate Yun Zi's birthday with him as he enjoyed his "ice cake," which was made by keepers over a number of weeks. The cake "was decorated with bows made out of bamboo leaves, colored pieces of ice...and topped with a number '2.' The cake design included a bowl in the bottom tier that was filled with the giant panda's favorite fruits and vegetables - yams, carrots and apples - and drizzled with honey." Yun Zi is the fifth giant panda born at the San Diego Zoo. His parents are Gao Gao, a 20-year-old wild-born male panda, and Bai Yun, a 20-year-old female panda who was born at the Wolong giant panda breeding facility in China. The Zoo has set up a wishlist at www.sandiegozoo.org/wishlist for people to purchase gifts for Yun Zi.

Full article: http://www.aza.org/PressRoom/detail.aspx?id=20419

Study shows people most attracted to gardens with highest diversity
August 8, 2011 By Emma Marris

Although people are sometimes concerned that neighbors won't approve if they install an untraditional, native landscape in their yard, research conducted by Dr. Petra Lindemann-Matthies, professor of biology at the University of Education Karlsruhe in Germany, shows that this is not necessarily the case.

From the blog:

Petra Lindemann-Matthies...presented 250 people with photographs of a subset of 36 Swiss gardens, some diverse, some dull and dominated by lawns, and asked them to rate them on their beauty. Her colleague Thomas Marty of the University of Zürich had counted native Swiss species in each garden, giving himself 75 minutes per garden. The least diverse had only 20 species, the most, 105. It turns out that the Swiss public thinks the most diverse gardens are the most beautiful (r = 0.47). So maintaining a perfect lawn to impress the neighbors may be a losing strategy. Far better, this research suggests, to put in a meadow of native grasses and flowers and then just let it go crazy.

Lindemann-Matthies concludes that the idea of the "critical neighbor" may be a "figment of the imagination." For more information on starting your own native plant garden, visit these resources:
-Wild Ones
-National Wildlife Federation program
-Wildlife Trust and Royal Horticultrual Society

Full blog post: http://blogs.nature.com/news/2011/08/lets_go_crazyin_the_garden.html

CITATION: Lindemann-Matthies P, Marty T. 2011. Ecological gardening increases the aesthetic quality of gardens [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 96th ESA Annual Meeting, August 7 - 12, 2011. Austin, Texas: ESA. Retrieved online: http://eco.confex.com/eco/2011/webprogram/Paper29534.html

Captive chimpanzees exhibit generosity
August 8, 2011 By Helen Fields

A new study of captive chimpanzee behavior has confirmed what researchers have long observed in the wild: that chimpanzees have a predisposition to sharing food with other chimpanzees. Previous studies on captive individuals had shown that when given "the opportunity just for themselves or for both themselves and another chimpanzee...the apes were equally likely to choose the selfish and sharing options." However, comparative psychologist Victoria Horner of Emory University thinks that these studies suffered from a design flaw, namely that the apparatuses used were too confusing for the chimpanzees, and the chimpanzees weren't able to "understand how what they did affected their partner."

From the article:

With her colleagues at Emory, including renowned primatologist Frans de Waal, Horner devised a new way to test chimps' generosity. "We did the same basic idea but from a more chimpy perspective," she says. In each experiment, two female chimps that live at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Lawrenceville, Georgia, were put in side-by-side rooms with a mesh-covered opening between them. Both chimps had been trained to "buy" food from the researchers with tokens, colored, 5-centimeter-long pieces of PVC pipe. The team taught one chimp of the pair that a token of one color would get her a piece of banana, whereas the other color would get fruit for her and her partner. Then she was given 30 chances to choose from a bucket containing both kinds of tokens. The researchers tested seven female chimps three times each with different partners. The partner watched the whole time, sometimes fussing when the other chimp didn't reward her.

The results of this study were that the chimps "picked the token that gave them and their partners a piece of banana between 53% and 67% of the time," showing that chimpanzees tend to be "nice" to one another and can show generosity, previously thought to be a uniquely human trait.

Full article: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/08/lab-chimps-extend-a-helping-hand.html?ref=hp

CITATION: Horner V, Carter JD, Suchak M, de Waal FBM. 2011. Spontaneous prosocial choice by chimpanzees. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1111088108

Balancing agriculture and rainforest biodiversity in India's Western Ghats
August 8, 2011 By Jeremy Hance

The Western Ghats in India is "one of the world's great tropical forests and biodiversity hotspots," home to "more than 1,000 vertebrate species and nearly 5,000 angiosperms [flowering plants] including many that are endemic to the region." What makes the area especially important is that it has been a region of agriculture for centuries, with humans existing alongside megafauna and native landscape. According to researchers who have studied the area, "75 percent of the Western Ghats is unprotected and largely used in various ways for agriculture," yet the area retains much of its biodiversity.

From the article:

"Human-modified landscapes in the Western Ghats, although densely populated by people (261 per square kilometer), show two features that are favorable for biodiversity conservation," the authors explain. "First, the human land use is largely restricted to plantation agriculture, horticulture and forestry resulting in high tree cover across the region. Second, and more importantly, patches of forest, riparian vegetation and swamps are still to be found on private lands, community lands and government lands, interspersed with production areas. These features combine to create favorable habitat and dispersal corridors for a number of organisms, ranging from invertebrates to mega-fauna."

However, the landscape of the Western Ghats is facing pressure from "an influx of people, increased consumption, and big development projects." The researchers indicate that to maintain the current balance in the region, conservationists will need to look "towards alternate conservation models that complement the existing network of protected areas," such as "[conserving] the unprotected forests that serve as rest-stops in in human- modified landscapes for the rainforest's many moving parts, and pushing for a return to the long standing tradition of biodiversity-friendly agriculture...."

Interview with the researchers and full article: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0808-hance_ghats_anand.html

CITATION: Pillay R, Johnsingh AJT, Raghunath R, Madhusudan MD. 2011. Patterns of spatiotemporal change in large mammal distribution and abundance in the southern Western Ghats, India. Biological Conservation 144:1567-1576. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.01.026

Epidemic of UK rhino horn thefts linked to one criminal gang
August 8, 2011 By Esther Addley

The most recent of a rash of rhino horn thefts from U.K. museums occurred on July 28 at the Ipswich Museum, where Rosie, a taxidermied black rhinoceros, had been on display since 1907. The thieves also stole the skull of another black rhino which was also on display. The thieves, who have not been caught, are thought to be linked to an Irish crime gang that also deals in drug trafficking, money laundering, and smuggling. This organized crime gang is also thought to be responsible for the theft of 20 rhino horns in the last 6 months across Europe. According to the article, "Scotland Yard and Europol are now advising galleries and collectors to consider locking up their rhino horn collections, keeping them away from public view." The crimes have been fueled by a surge in demand from Asian markets for powdered rhino horn, which is used in traditional medicines. A kilogram of rhino horn can now fetch £60,000 (over 97,000 USD). In addition to the thefts from cultural institutions, poaching of live rhinos is also increasing. According to Lucy Boddam-Whetham, the acting director of Save the Rhino International, "...we are facing the worst rhino-poaching crisis in decades." In the first 6 months of 2011, 200 rhinos were killed in South Africa, up from 125 in the same period in 2010. According to the IUCN, there are approximately 4,800 black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) and approximately 20,000 white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) left in the world.

Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/08/rhino-horn-thefts-chinese-medicine

Mysterious orange goo in Alaskan Arctic identified as tiny eggs
August 8, 2011 By Kim Murphy

International alarm was raised last week when "mysterious orange good...washed ashore at the northern Alaska village of Kivalina," which is located 625 miles northwest of Anchorage. However, the goo was found to be "a large mass of microscopic eggs" and not the result of climate change or a man-made disaster.

From the blog:

"We now think these are some sort of small crustacean egg or embryo, with a lipid oil droplet in the middle causing the orange color," said Jeep Rice, a lead scientist at the lab. "So this is natural. It is not chemical pollution; it is not a man-made substance." Rice said scientists were quickly able to identify a cell structure within the material once they put it under a microscope, meaning they could "identify this as animal."

Further research needs to be done to rule out that the eggs are non-toxic.

Full article: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/08/arctic-orange-goo-kivalina.html

Arctic open for exploitation: Obama administration grants Shell approval to drill
August 8, 2011 By Jeremy Hance

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) has granted preliminary approval to Royal Dutch Shell to begin exploratory drilling north of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the Beaufort Sea. The region is "home to bowhead and beluga whales, seals, walruses, polar bears, and a wide variety of migrating birds." The drilling will be allowed pending the company's "completion of an oil response plan." However, environmentalists and indigenous peoples are opposing the drilling, "arguing that extreme conditions make drilling especially precarious and an oil spill would be near-impossible to clean-up adequately." Shell has countered these arguments by claiming that they have "the best oil-spill response plan anywhere in the world," although this week a "UN report found that the company did not live up to its own, or the Nigerian government's, standards..." when they spilled 11 million gallons of oil in Nigeria in 2008. New areas of the Arctic are becoming available for oil exploration due to melting Artic ice.

Full article: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0808-hance_shell_arctic.html

Franklin Park Zoo announces birth of twin red pandas
August 9, 2011 By Jaime Lutz

The Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, Massachusetts announced the birth of two red pandas (Ailurus fulgens). The male and female cubs were born on July 4 and are the first red pandas born at the zoo. For now, the cubs are staying in a nest box with their mom for their first 90 days and will most likely be on exhibit starting in October. Zoo New England, which manages the Franklin Park Zoo, is a participant in the Red Panda Species Survival Plan.

Full article: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/08/09/red_panda_twins_born_at_franklin_park_zoo/?rss_id=Boston.com+--+Massachusetts+news

Agreements reached between environmental groups and solar energy companies
August 9, 2011

Agreements between the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Biological Diversity with First Solar and SunPower Corp have been reached that would "help protect endangered animals around two of the largest planned solar power plants in the United States." The agreements require the companies to "add 9,000 acres to the 17,000 acres that are currently set to be marked as permanently protected areas around the plants" and to "remove 30 miles of fencing to allow for greater wildlife movement, help eliminate poisons used to control rodents in the area and make significant financial contributions to aquire undeveloped areas for restoration." First Solar will be building the 550-megawatt Topaz solar farm, and SunPower will be building 250-MW California Valley Solar Ranch Plants in the Carrizo Plain in San Luis Obispo, which is a recovery area for the San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macroitis mutica) and the giant kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ingens).

Full article: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/09/us-solar-california-idUSTRE77837B20110809

US launches National Ecological Observatory Network
August 9, 2011 By Jeff Tollefson

A project that has been in development for the last decade is ready to be launched. The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is promising to "help transform a traditionally small-scale, local science into a continental-scale group enterprise."

From the article:

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) will consist of 20 'core' observatories representing distinct eco-regions throughout the United States (see map). These will be bolstered by temporary stations that can be relocated wherever data need to be collected. The sites will house equipment and host visiting researchers, while gathering a range of environmental data over at least three decades.

The result will be a vast database that scientists can mine to tackle broad questions such as how global warming, pollution and land-use change are affecting ecosystems across the country. "NEON is really about trying to understand the biology of the entire continent rather than the biology of a specific place," says David Schimel, the project's chief science officer, based in Boulder, Colorado.

...Once the entire network is up and running, some 15,000 sensors will work in concert with scientists on the ground to supply roughly 500 distinct categories of data ranging from basic weather readings to concentrations of ozone in the air and nitrogen in the soils, leaves and streams. Scientists will collect tens of thousands of samples, including soil, water, plants and small mammals. At the same time, aerial surveys will analyse broader land-use trends as well as details such as leaf chemistry and carbon stocks, and satellite data will expand coverage over the entire continent.

NEON recently received a $434 million grant from the NSF, to be spent over the next 10 years. The money will help to fund their staff of "about 140, including some 60 scientists and engineers," and would help to begin installation of data sensors. Some researchers have raised concerns that the expensive project will be collecting more data than will be useful to scientists.

Full article: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110809/full/476135a.html

Wildlife groups boycott Sri Lankan elephant census
August 9, 2011 By Bharatha Mallawarachi

The Sri Lankan government is set to conduct a comprehensive elephant census, where they will count elephants "as they come to drink from water holes, reservoirs and tanks." Previously, approximately 20 wildlife groups had volunteered their assistance in the census, but they withdrew their support this week "after Wildlife Minister S.M. Chandransena was quoted as saying 300 young elephants will be captured and handed over to Buddhist temples after the census." The wildlife groups are contending that the census is a " 'smoke screen' for capturing and domesticating the animals" and that the captured elephants will most likely go to private residences rather than to temples. The Wildlife Department denies these claims. Elephants are endangered in Sri Lanka, with an estimated population of between 5,000 - 6,000 individuals.

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-08-wildlife-groups-boycott-sri-lankan.html

USFWS to list four foreign parrot species as endangered or threatened under ESA
August 9, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 153
FWS-R9-ES-2010-0099; MO 92210-0-0010 B6

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to list as endangered the Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) and the yellow-crested cockatoo (C. sulphurea), and to list as threatened the white cockatoo (C. alba), under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). We are taking this action in response to a petition to list the following four parrot species: Crimson shining parrot (Prosopeia splendens), Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), white cockatoo (C. alba), and yellow-crested cockatoo (C. sulphurea) as endangered or threatened under the ESA. This document, which also serves as the completion of the status review and as the 12-month finding on the petition, announces our finding that listing is not warranted for the crimson shining parrot. We also propose a special rule for the white cockatoo in conjunction with our proposed listing as threatened for this species. We seek information from the public on the proposed listing, proposed special rule, and status review for these species.

DATES: We will consider comments and information received or postmarked on or before October 11, 2011.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R9- ES-2010-0099.
U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R9-ES-2010-0099, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
We will not accept comments by e-mail or fax.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Janine Van Norman, Chief, Branch of Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA 22203; telephone 703-358-2171.

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-08-09/pdf/2011-19532.pdf

Endangered species permit applications
August 9, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 153
FWS-R9-IA-2011-N159; 96300-1671-0000-P5

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, marine mammals, or both. With some exceptions, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) prohibit activities with listed species unless a Federal permit is issued that allows such activities. Both laws require that we invite public comment before issuing these permits.

DATES: We must receive comments or requests for documents on or before September 8, 2011. We must receive requests for marine mammal permit public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in the ADDRESSES section by September 8, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Brenda Tapia, Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 212, Arlington, VA 22203; fax (703) 358-2280; or e-mail DMAFR@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brenda Tapia, (703) 358-2104 (telephone); (703) 358-2280 (fax); DMAFR@fws.gov (e-mail).

Permit Applications

A. Endangered Species

Applicant: GTWT, LLC. dba Bang 57 Ranch, Okeechobee, FL; PRT-48053A
The applicant requests a permit to authorize interstate and foreign commerce, export, and cull of excess barashingh (Rucervus duvauceli) from the captive herd maintained at their facility for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

Applicant: University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology, Ann Arbor, MI; PRT-46480A
The applicant requests a permit to import biological samples from howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata mexicana, Alouatta pigra, and Alouatta palliata x Alouatta pigra hybrids), collected in the wild in Mexico, for the purpose of scientific research. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

Multiple Applicants
The following applicants each request a permit to import the sport-hunted trophy of one male bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygargus) culled from a captive herd maintained under the management program of the Republic of South Africa, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.
Applicant: Dennis Campbell, Dora, AL; PRT-48113A
Applicant: Harry Sanders, Fairfield, PA; PRT-48527A
Applicant: Stephen Pasquan, Belvedere, CA; PRT-45900A
Applicant: James Kelly, Fort Smith, AR; PRT-47165A

B. Endangered Marine Mammals and Marine Mammals

Applicant: Sea to Shore Alliance, Sarasota, FL; PRT-37808A
The applicant requests a permit to take, import, and export manatee specimens from West Indian manatees (Trichechus anatus) and West African manatees (Trichechus senegalensis) for the purpose of scientific research. Up to 50 T. manatus would be tagged and sampled and up to 2,000 animals would be subjected to harassment each year; samples from up to 50 live T. senegalensis and an unlimited number of samples from dead animals would be imported each year. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

Applicant: Red Rock Films, Chevy Chase, MD; PRT-48293A
The applicant requests a permit to photograph polar bears (Ursus maritimus) on North Slope, Alaska, for commercial and educational purposes. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 1-year period.

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-08-09/pdf/2011-20233.pdf

Congo to 'reforest' with plantations across one million hectares
August 10, 2011 By Jeremy Hance

The Republic of Congo is made up of approximately 65% of forested area, with about 75,000 hectares of this classified as plantations. The government recently announced the national program of afforestation and reforestation with the aims "to create plantations across one million hectares." The plan, which the government is estimating would cost $2.6 billion, is geared to "support various industries, carbon sequestration and to take pressure off native forests." However, conservationists point out that plantations, which would consist of both native and non-native species, "store significantly less carbon and support little biodiversity when compared to natural forest."

Full article: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0810-hance_congo-plantations.html

Koala given radiation treatment to treat excessive drooling
August 10, 2011

Last year, Sprinkles the koala was rescued by the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital after being hit by a car. Since that time, Sprinkles has suffered from severe skin infections and excessive drooling due to enlarged salivary glands. Dr. Rod Straw, the founder of the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre, performed a procedure (free of cost) that involved using radiation to reduce the size of Sprinkles' salivary glands. This procedure had been performed on humans previously, but never before on a koala. Dr. Amber Gillett of the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital said that she had only seen "two other cases of excessive drooling in koalas," both of which had to be euthanised.

Full article: http://www.couriermail.com.au/questnews/north/koala-with-rare-case-of-excessive-drooling-gets-life-saving-radiation-treatment-in-albany-creek/story-fn8m0rl4-1226111903293

Peter Douglas, California Coastal Commission chief, to retire in November
August 10, 2011 By Tony Barboza

Peter Douglas, who has served as the executive director of the California Coastal Commission, will be retiring in November after 26 years of service. He was instrumental in writing the California Coastal Act and has "been the muscle behind the agency in charge of enforcing the nation's strongest coastal protection law." The interim successor for his position will be Senior Deputy Director Charles Lester, although a 12-member panel will have final say over who fills the position. Douglas has been credited with keeping the California coastline largely undeveloped, an accomplishment which made him "a lightning rod for developers and property owners."

Full blog post: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/08/california-coastal-commission-peter-douglas.html

Secret behind extraordinary jumping ability of gibbons
August 10, 2011

In a new study, researchers recorded captive gibbons making "vertical [jumps] of 3.5 metres (11.4 feet)" by accelerating their bodies "nearly 30 kilometres (19 miles) an hour." However, unlike specialized leapers like locusts and fleas, gibbons do not have an anatomy that would seem conducive to being a "super-jumper." Instead, they combine a number of different techniques to achieve their impressive leaps.

From the article:

One is to use its long and heavy arms, which account for 17 percent of body mass compared to 11 percent of humans.

The ape crouches and then swings its hook-handed arms forward during takeoff. This causes its centre of mass to shift forwards at the moment of lift, providing it with a huge onward push.

...Where the gibbon particularly scores, though, is combining the arm swing with a large counter-movement in the trunk and hind limbs before the jump-off, stretching the muscles and tendons so that they give it a spring-like lift.

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-08-bit-gibbon-super-ape.html

CITATION: Channon AJ, Usherwood JR, Crompton RH, Gunther MM, Vereecke EE. 2011. The extraordinary athletic performance of leaping gibbons. Biology Letters. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0574

New York student shows plants will take root on unseeded rooftop colonies
August 10, 2011 By Emma Marris

Jason Aloisio, a graduate student at New York's Fordham University, and his colleagues conducted a study to expose the surprising amount of biodiversity in New York City. Aloisio began his experiment by laying out shallow plots of "commercially available soil mixture designed for green roofs...onto 2-by-4-metre plots on eight roofs across the city."

From the article:

Over the weeks, the plots caught seeds carried by wind and birds. After just a few months, the most successful plots were jammed with plants, with biomass rivalling that of the prairies of the Great Plains. The plants were diverse, too, with 30 species showing up in total, one-third of them native to the area. Roofs contained an average of 12 species each, and 67 of the 85 plots were colonized by at least one species. Deep plots had more biomass than shallow plots.

The biggest surprise, says Aloisio, was that so many of the colonizers were edible.... The most common plant across the plots, Amaranthus blitoides (known as mat amaranth or prostrate pigweed), is an edible plant often dismissed as a weed. Millet (Panicum miliaceum) also showed up, probably from birdseed, as did purslane (Portulaca oleracea), a succulent plant that Aloisio says is high in omega fatty acids and has a "sweet and salty flavour".

However, Charlie Miller, founder of a green roof company in Pennsylvania, points out that if left untended, the biodiversity found in these plots can decrease over time, with 3 or 4 species taking over the entire roof.

Full article: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110810/full/news.2011.471.html

CITATION: Aloisio JM, Matteson KC, Palmer MI, Lewis JD. 2011. Biomass and plant diversity of naturally colonized green roof substrate in New York City [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 96th ESA Annual Meeting, August 7-12, 2011. Austin, Texas: ESA. Retrieved from: http://eco.confex.com/eco/2011/webprogram/Paper29411.html

Howletts Wild Animal Park welcomes baby Gelada baboon
August 11, 2011

Howletts Wild Animal Park in England welcomed the birth of Leena, a male Gelada baboon (Theropithecus gelada). Gelada baboons, which are endemic to the rocky highland areas of Ethiopia, are the last surviving species of the grass-grazing primates of the Theropithecus genus. The IUCN lists Gelada baboons as a species of least concern. Howletts has three other Gelada baboons — Leena's dad Agolo, mother Sereba, and another adult female named Jima. Agolo and Sereba are successfully caring for the newborn.

For photos and full article: http://www.zooborns.com/zooborns/2011/08/bundle-of-good-news-for-last-surviving-species-.html

USFWS lists six foreign birds as endangered throughout their range
August 11, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 155
FWS-R9-ES-2009-0084; MO 92210-1111F114 B6

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, determine endangered status for the following six foreign species found on islands in French Polynesia and in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa: Cantabrian capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus cantabricus); Marquesan imperial pigeon (Ducula galeata); the Eiao Marquesas reed-warbler (Acrocephalus percernis aquilonis), previously referred to as (Acrocephalus mendanae aquilonis); greater adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius); Jerdon's courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus); and slender-billed curlew (Numenius tenuirostris), under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended. This final rule implements the Federal protections provided by the Act for these species.

DATES: This rule becomes effective September 12, 2011.

ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and comments and materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in the preparation of this rule, will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 400, Arlington, VA 22203.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Janine Van Norman, Chief, Branch of Foreign Species, Endangered Species program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA 22203; telephone 703-358-2171; facsimile 703-358-1735.

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-08-11/pdf/2011-19953.pdf

Offshore wind farms are good for wildlife, say researchers
August 11, 2011

A Dutch study sponsored by Nuon and Shell Wind Energy has determined that offshore wind farms have " 'hardly any negative effects' on wildlife, and may even benefit animals living beneath the waves." Professor Han Lindeboom from the Institute for Marien Resources and Ecosystem Studies at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and his colleagues studied the "first large-scale offshore wind farm built off the Dutch North Sea coast."

From the article:

"At most, a few bird species will avoid such a wind farm. It turns out that a wind farm also provides a new natural habitat for organisms living on the sea bed such as mussels, anemones and crabs, thereby contributing to increased biodiversity," [Lindeboom] said. "For fish and marine mammals, it provides an oasis of calm in a relatively busy coastal area."

...The researchers also noted that the turbines help to protect schools of cod, and that porpoises are heard more often inside than outside the wind farm.

Meanwhile, the survey concluded that sea bird species such as gannets tend to avoid the turbines, while seagulls appear unflustered and local cormorant numbers even increase.

However, the study did caution that rotating blades can pose a danger to some bird species and recommended that the turbines be located away from migration patterns.

Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/11/offshore-wind-farms-good-wildlife

CITATION: Lindeboom HJ, et al. 2011. Short-term ecological effects of an offshore wind farm in the Dutch coastal zone; a compilation. Environmental Research Letters 6(3):035101. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/6/3/035101

Endangered species permit applications
August 12, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 156
FWS-R3-ES-2011-N160; 30120-1113-0000-F6

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 (Act) prohibits activities with endangered and threatened species unless a Federal permit allows such activity. The Act requires that we invite public comment before issuing these permits.

DATES: We must receive any written comments on or before September 12, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments by U.S. mail to the Regional Director, Attn: Lisa Mandell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437-1458; or by electronic mail to permitsR3ES@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lisa Mandell, (612) 713-5343.

Permit Applications

Permit Application Number: TE48832A.
Applicant: Kevin J. Roe, Iowa State University, Ames, IA.
The applicant requests a permit to take (capture and release; non-destructive sampling) scaleshell mussel (Leptodea leptodon) and pink mucket (Lampsilis abrupta) in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild through scientific study.

Permit Application Number: TE182436.
Applicant: Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, IL.
The applicant requests an amendment to permit number TE182436 to take (capture and release; capture and kill) Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) throughout the State of Illinois. Proposed activities are to monitor and evaluate the population to enhance the recovery and survival of the species in the wild. Proposed lethal take activities are associated with scientific research of white-nose syndrome in the Indiana bat and its habitats.

Permit Application Number: TE48833A.
Applicant: Dr. Brian Carver, Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville, TN.
The applicant requests a permit to take (capture and release) Indiana bats and gray bats (Myotis grisescens) in the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Proposed activities are aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE38856A.
Applicant: Applicant: Skelly and Loy, Inc., Harrisburg, PA.
The applicant requests a permit amendment to add the gray bat to the list of covered species on their Federal permit. Proposed take (capture and release) may occur throughout the range of the species within Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. The proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE212427.
Applicant: Ecology and Environment, Inc., Lancaster, NY.
The applicant requests a permit amendment to add the Virginia Big-Eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) to the list of species covered under their permit. Proposed activities include surveys, population monitoring, and habitat evaluation for enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE48835A.
Applicant: Applied Science & Technology, Inc., Brighton, MI.
The applicant requests a permit to take (capture and release) Northern riffleshell mussel (Epioblasma torulosa rangiana) within the State of Michigan. Proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE206781.
Applicant: Ecological Specialists, Inc., O'Fallon, MO.
The applicant requests an amendment to permit number TE206781 to add the following mussel species to the permit: Ouachita rock pocketbook (Arkansia wheeleri), Speckled pocketbook (Lampsilis streckeri), Dwarf wedgemussel (Alasmidonta heterodon), rough pigtoe (Pleurobema plenum), and ring pink (Obovaria retusa). Proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE35503A.
Applicants: Department of Natural Resources/Department of Conservation, States of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri,
Ohio and Wisconsin.
In anticipation of the spread of white-nose syndrome and the possible issuance of permits under section 10(a)(1)(A), we announce the intention to issue such permits, including the possible use of lethal taking to address public health concerns and scientific research aimed at recovery of the species. These permits will address take of Indiana bats and gray bats in the Midwest for these purposes.

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-08-12/pdf/2011-20598.pdf

Do golf courses make good bat habitats?
August 12, 2011 By Yasmin Ogale

Although installing golf courses seem to run counter to conservation efforts due to loss of natural habitat, excessive irrigation, and heavy use of pesticides, there may actually be a benefit for bat populations. Wildlife ecologist Kevina Vulinec of Delaware State University performed a study that shows golf courses can "serve as a potential refuge and buffet for the nocturnal bats while providing groundskeepers with a free insect-control service."

From the article:

Vulinec's research was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Wildlife Links Program, which investigates golf's relationship with surrounding wildlife. Although not a golfer herself, Vulinec and her team of graduate students spent 22 nights at five golf courses in the Delaware-Maryland area, deploying mist nets to capture species, as well as ultrasonic acoustic detectors to measure bat activity in each one of five, distinct "microhabitats" on the course.

They found that bats were most likely to visit ponds serving as water hazards on the individual holes as well as the parklike areas bordering the fairways. The mosquito-rich and forest-edged environment is similar to what bats prefer in the wild, Vulinec says. And because local bat populations are threatened by habitat destruction and the fatal pandemic, White-nose syndrome, she says, golf courses could provided an important refuge.

Full article: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/08/do-golf-courses-make-good-bat-ha.html?ref=hp

CITATION: Wallrichs MA, Vulinec K. 2011. Golf courses: an innovative opportunity for bat conservation [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 96th ESA Annual Meeting, August 7-12, 2011. Austin, Texas: ESA. Retrieved online: http://eco.confex.com/eco/2011/webprogram/Paper31147.html

Hidden Baja undersea park is the world's most robust marine reserve
August 12, 2011

Researchers at UCSD's Scripps Institute of Oceanography have led a 10-year analysis of Cabo Pulmo National Park in Baja California. The study reveals "that the total amount of fish in the reserve ecosystem...boomed more than 460 percent from 1999 to 2009." The most important

From the article:

The most striking result of the paper, the authors say, is that fish communities at a depleted site can recover up to a level comparable to remote, pristine sites that have never been fished by humans.

...The paper notes that factors such as the protection of spawning areas for large predators have been key to the reserve's robustness. Most importantly, local enforcement, led by the determined action of a few families, has been a major factor in the park's success. Boat captains, dive masters and other locals work to enforce the park's regulations and share surveillance, fauna protection and ocean cleanliness efforts.

Importantly, the scientists note that ecotourism has increased in the area, which could be used to promote the establishment of future coastal reserves.

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-08-hidden-baja-undersea-world-robust.html

CITATION: Aburto-Oropeza O, et al. 2011. Large recovery of fish biomass in a no-take marine reserve. PLoS ONE. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023601

New discovery positions Smithsonian to bolster genetic diversity among cheetahs
August 12, 2011

Anecdotally, it has been noted by reproductive biologists that older cheetahs have a harder time producing offspring, and a new study shines light onto the causes. Researchers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute "analyzed hormones, eggs and the uteri of 34 cheetahs at eight institutions, and determined that while the hormones and eggs of cheetahs older than 8 years appear normal, the animals' uterine tracks tend to suffer from abnormal cell growth, infections and cysts that prevent pregnancy." Since the eggs in the older cheetahs are normal, this could mean that there is the possibility of transferring viable eggs to younger cheetahs, thereby increasing the viable genetic pool. Increasing the breeding pool in captive North American cheetahs could increase the reproductive rate of the population, as "approximately 80 percent of adult female cheetahs in North American institutions have never reproduced."

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-08-discovery-positions-smithsonian-bolster-genetic.html

CITATION: Crosier AE, et al. 2011. Increasing age influences uterine integrity, but not ovarian function or oocyte quality, in the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). Biology of Reproduction 85(2):243-253. doi:10.1095/biolreprod.110.089417