Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The Solar Eclipse Had a Spooky Effect on Nature


By Tia Ghose, Senior Writer | August 22, 2017 06:20pm ET

From flowers spontaneously shutting their petals to hundreds of thousands of salmon washing ashore, the eclipse yesterday (Aug. 21) had a downright spooky impact on nature, according scientists observing the effects.

Several experimental projects were aimed at recording the responses of animals to the eclipse, including the iNaturalist app, which encouraged people to record observations during and after totality, said Rebecca Johnson, citizen science research director at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Johnson, along with colleagues, helped spearhead the effort to gather these observations and sift through them, once the sun had returned.

It turned out that the solar eclipse didn't just make humans go crazy and indulge in odd behavior; it also had a wide range of effects on animals and plants throughout the natural world. From spooked horses to hungry fish, here are some of the most interesting impacts of the eclipse on nature. 


Are Octopuses Smart?


By Sarah B. Puschmann, Staff Writer | August 18, 2017 11:44am ET

In 2014, one of Roy Caldwell's octopuses went missing.

Caldwell, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, had kept the reef octopuses (Abdopus aculeatus) he and his team collected on Lizard Island in Australia in separate, sealed tanks. Puzzled, he peered into the female octopus's tank and found spermatophores, the capsules that contain octopus sperm, floating in the water. He looked closer and found the male there, too, buried in the gravel.

The only way the male octopus could have made it into the female's tank, Caldwell said, is for the male to have wriggled through the pipe that fed water into both octopuses' tanks, an act some might deem proof of a calculated nighttime tryst.  



A potential breeding site of a Miocene era baleen whale


Researcher identifies evidence of a calf whale from the Miocene of Hiroshima, Japan suggesting the earliest known site for baleen whale breeding in the northern hemisphere

Date: August 22, 2017
Source: PeerJ

Summary:
Baleen whales are amongst the largest animals to have ever lived and yet very little is known about their breeding habits. One researcher's second look at previously found baleen whale fossils from Japan provides new evidence of a now long-gone breeding ground of the extinct baleen whale Parietobalaena yamaokai dating back over 15 million years.


New flying squirrel species discovered along North America's Pacific coast


Date:  August 21, 2017
Source:  Humboldt State University

Summary:
Scientists always assumed it was a northern flying squirrel gliding through the canopies of Pacific coastal forests. But now a recent in-depth investigation of the animal's DNA is proving otherwise. The furry critter is actually a distinct species, which has been named Humboldt's flying squirrel, and a new study describes how scientists are up-ending flying squirrel taxonomy.


Climate change means reproduction changes of Sea Turtles in Puerto Vallarta – via Herp Digest


August 21, 2017, Puerto Vallarta News, Mexico

Between June and November, tortoise females reach the beaches of western Mexico to lay their eggs in the warm sand and ensure their reproduction.

About 45 days later, hundreds of youngsters leave their nest to return to the sea, a cycle that specialists consider “normal” in the spawning season.


However, this cycle is increasingly changing, says Vicente Peña, operational manager of the Tortuguera Network, a civil organization that brings together a dozen camps dedicated to the protection of that animal along the banks of Jalisco and Nayarit.


Camp biologists and volunteers have had to extend spawning season activities one or two months longer than usual, as turtles come to the beaches late, guided by an unusual warmth of seawater even in winter.


“Both the sea water and the sand are having a higher temperature that allows this reptile, the sea turtle, to hatch during the winter, something that was not before,” explains Peña during a nighttime egg collection in Puerto Vallarta.


“There is no doubt” that climate change impacts the spawning cycle. “In 20 years, camps have been closed on December 1, now we are working until the last days of January and having pups in March, it is something we do not need to debate, it is a fact”, Emphasizes Peña.


The nest of sand that the female forms to deposit between 100 and 150 eggs requires an average temperature of 29.9 degrees Celsius so that the young can form and survive, says Carlos Flores, one of the biologists who collaborates in two of the camps.


The heat around the nest also affects sex. If higher than average, a larger proportion of females will be born, if smaller, there will be more male offspring.
He says that in recent years the beaches of this region have registered temperatures of between 36 and 38 degrees, and even up to 40. This means that in a few years the species will have difficulty reproducing if there is insufficient protection.


Increasing heat generates a bias in the species, because “the turtles that usually nest in the summer will disappear and will survive those that nest in the fall and winter” when the thermometer does not rise so drastically, adds Peña.


Specialists have adopted natural shading techniques with palm or shade mesh to prevent the intense heat from the sand from damaging the nests they rescue.


Each night during the spawning season biologists and volunteers from the 12 camps in the region conduct rounds to “accompany” the turtles that come to the beach to lay their eggs.


Through their instinct, females choose the safest and most suitable place. With their fins they create a nest where they deposit the eggs. The process takes about 30 or 40 minutes until the turtle covers the gap and ensures that there is no trace that attracts birds and other predators. Then they return to the sea, guided by the light of the moon.


The camp managers collect the eggs and move them to a shady pen and the ideal space conditions for incubation, explains Elizabeth Coronado, a biologist in charge of the nursery in one of the hotels in the port.


Last year in this camp of only 690 meters they rescued 890 nests, which means almost 65,000 turtles released. In others such as Mayto, in the south of Jalisco, up to 2,000 nests have been protected.


Some hotels offer their guests the possibility to help in the camp or the release of the young when they hatch.
“They get involved,” so people go “with an idea of what environmental awareness is,” Coronado says.



For organizations, protecting female turtles and their nests is “very important,” because they have an instinct that helps them identify where they were born, which they will invariably return to adulthood to reproduce.
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