Friday, 28 February 2014

Smell of forest pine can limit climate change - researchers

By Matt McGrathEnvironment correspondent, BBC News

New research suggests a strong link between the powerful smell of pine trees and climate change.

Scientists say they've found a mechanism by which these scented vapours turn into aerosols above boreal forests.

These particles promote cooling by reflecting sunlight back into space and helping clouds to form.

The research, published in the journal Nature, fills in a major gap in our understanding, researchers say.

One of the biggest holes in scientific knowledge about climate change relates to the scale of the impact of atmospheric aerosols on temperatures.

Perfumed air

These particles form clouds that block sunlight as well as reflecting rays back into space.

Climate change causes high but predictable extinction risks

February 26, 2014

Stony Brook University

Judging the effects of climate change on extinction may be easier than previously thought, according to a new article. Although widely used assessments of threatened species, such as the IUCN Red List, were not developed with the effects of climate change in mind, a study of 36 amphibian and reptile species endemic to the US has concluded that climate change may not be fundamentally different from other extinction threats in terms of identifying species in danger of extinction.

Are horseshoe crabs being bled to death?

Are horseshoe crabs being bled to death?
Blood from horseshoe crabs is an essential part of the biomedical industry. The unique blue blood that comes from the crabs help to ensure that vaccines and medical supplies remain free from bacterial contamination. But a new study raises fears that the method of bleeding wild horseshoe crabs could be affecting the population as numbers fall along parts of the US east coast.

With as much as 30% of blood taken from a crab during the bleeding process and as many as 30% dying during the process researchers from the Plymouth State University (PSU) and the University of New Hampshire (UNH) think that a better way needs to be found to make sure the industry is sustainable.

“The crabs are very heavily bled — about 30 percent or more of their blood is taken, and that’s a fair amount,” says Chris Chabot, professor of neurobiology at PSU and a co-author on the study.

Wild beavers spotted in Devon

European beavers are back in the wild

February 2014: After an absence of more than 200 years a small population of European beavers, Castor fiber, has been seen wild in the English countryside.A family group of three were filmed by Tom Buckley on the River Otter in East Devon. They are believed to be the result of an escape or unsanctioned release.

It is highly significant because it strongly suggests that a small breeding population of beavers now exists outside of captivity. This would be the first time since the 18th century that European beavers had been breeding in the wild in England. 

Beavers were finally hunted to extinction during the 18th century as a result of being highly valued fur, medicinal value and meat, not because they were viewed as a nuisance species. 

“We believe that releases of European beavers should be properly planned. We do not support unlicensed releases of any animals or plants, says Devon wildlife Trust in a statement.

Gamekeepers want tail docking ban overturned for working dogs

A petition calling on the Scottish government to reverse a ban on tail docking for working dogs is due to be submitted at Holyrood later.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said Alex Salmond promised such a move if it could be backed up by evidence.
The group said many dogs suffered agonising tail injuries while working in thick undergrowth.
Animal rights charity OneKind said docking the tails of puppies caused "pain and distress".
The docking of dogs' tails was banned in Scotland in 2007. There is also a ban in England and Wales, but it does not apply to working dogs.
The exemption was included in legislation south of the border because of the risk of injury to dogs while they are retrieving game birds from thick brambles or gorse.

World’s longest oyster found in Denmark is as big as a size 10 shoe – and still growing

… and no, it isn’t going to get eaten any time soon

Monday 24 February 2014

Biologists in Denmark have discovered the world’s largest oyster, measuring in at nearly 14 inches long, and say that the giant mollusc is not done growing yet.

Experts at the Wadden Sea Centre on the country’s southwestern coast said they were taking good care of their new Guinness World Record-holding champion, and that it wouldn’t be ending up on anyone’s plate.

The oyster was found in October, and Klaus Melbye, head of the Wadden centre, was immediately called by his astonished staff.

They first compared the oyster to a European size 44 shoe – around a size nine and a half to 10 in the UK – a standard of measurement which is sadly not accepted by world record officials.

When Guinness did come in December, they measured the oyster at 35.5cm (13.97ins) long – and the record was made official at the start of this year.

Genetic link between feeding behavior and animal dispersal

February 24, 2014

University of Toronto

New research shows that animal dispersal is influenced by a gene associated with feeding and food search behaviors. The study provides one of the first aimed at gaining a functional understanding of how genes can influence dispersal tendencies in nature.

Zoos in Europe ‘kill 5,000 healthy animals a year’

Revelation comes in wake of controversy over healthy giraffe put down in Copenhagen

Thursday 27 February 2014

Up to 5,000 healthy zoo animals – including hundreds of larger ones such as giraffes, lions and bears – are killed by zoos in Europe every year, it is claimed today.

The revelation comes in the wake of the international furore over the killing of Marius, a healthy 18-month-old giraffe, by Copenhagen Zoo. It has since been established that five of the animals have been put down by zoos in Denmark since 2012.

Across Europe, 22 healthy zebras, four hippos and two Arabian Oryx were also put down. The Oryx were killed at Edinburgh and London zoos in 2000 and 2001.

Several German zookeepers were prosecuted in 2010 for killing three tiger cubs at Magdeburg Zoo. However, some zoos, such as Twycross in Warwickshire, have a policy of not putting down healthy animals.

Dr Lesley Dickie, executive director of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (Eaza), told BBC Radio 4’s The Report that between 3,000 and 5,000 healthy animals are put down every year across Europe. “That’s our estimate for all animals management euthanised in the zoo, be it tadpoles up until a giraffe,” she said.

She added that “less than a few hundred” larger animals such as giraffes, zebras, lions and bears were included in the total. She said the true number was not known as studbooks sometimes do not record why an animal is killed. Like Marius, some animals are put down as part of a breeding programme designed to encourage genetic diversity in the captive population.

Fish have feelings too

Our obligation to keep the suffering of laboratory animals to a minimum — both in life and in death — does not apply only to mammals.
25 February 2014

Former US President George W. Bush once cryptically remarked that he was sure that “the human being and fish can coexist peacefully”. Fish might beg to differ. Humans continue to deplete ocean stocks for food and to stalk rivers in the name of sport. And then there are the millions of fish that die in scientific laboratories every year.

Much of the debate about the use of animals in research focuses on what happens while they are alive: the degree of pain and suffering inflicted on them, how this can be kept to a minimum, and the balance between this discomfort and the greater benefit it can and does bring to both people and animals. Less talked about — perhaps fortuitously, given the way emotion can drive such debates — is the fact that most of the animals lose more than their freedom and their comfort. The majority of laboratory animals are killed at the end of the work. Killing animals is an unpleasant thing to have to do, but unfortunately in some areas of science it is unavoidable. So it is important that the regulations scientists follow for animal euthanasia reflect the most humane options available. New research suggests that this might not always be the case for zebrafish.

Leopard Prowls Indian Hospital for 12 Hours

By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer | February 25, 2014 10:03am ET

A leopard terrorized patients at a city hospital in India for 12 hours, wounding a police officer before crashing through a window to escape.

The leopard was first spotted in a timber warehouse on Sunday in Meerut, Utter Pradesh, a city of about 3.5 million people. After being teased by a gathering crowd on Monday, the leopard hopped into the Meerut Cantonment Hospital. Despite the efforts of wildlife officials to tranquilize the cat, it eventually escaped and is still on the loose. Officials declared Monday a school holiday for children as a result.

India has about 8,000 leopards, and as urban sprawl creeps into forested areas, the wild cat has come into increasing conflict with humans, Shekhar Kumar Niraj, who heads the India chapter of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network run by the World Wildlife Fund, told the Wall Street Journal. Last year a leopard killed a 9-year-old boy in the megalopolis of Mumbai.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Seal deaths caused by propellers break environmental law, ministers warned

Wildlife groups write to UK and Scottish parliaments seeking a ban on covered propellers blamed for horrific 'corkscrew' injuries, Wednesday 26 February 2014 07.00 GMT

Ministers are breaking environmental law by failing to prevent harbour seals from being sliced to death by ships' propellers, according to a coalition of 13 wildlife groups.

The groups have written to the UK and Scottish governments demanding immediate area bans on the covered propellers blamed for inflicting horrific "corkscrew" injuries on hundreds of seals and porpoises.

Declining populations of harbour seals on the east coast of Scotland could be wiped out, they warn. This would expose ministers to multimillion pound fines for breaching the European habitats directive, that gives the seals legal protection.

Study of jaw mechanics shows tetrapods still fed underwater

4 hours ago by Marie Daniels
A study of the jaws of one of the earliest known limbed vertebrates shows the species still fed underwater, not on land.
Study of jaw mechanics shows tetrapods still fed underwaterScientists from the University of Lincoln, UK, University of Zurich, Switzerland, University of Cambridge and University of Bristol, developed an innovative new method to infer the feeding mechanism of Acanthostega – one of the earliest and most primitive tetrapods.

Tetrapods - the four-legged limbed vertebrates - evolved from fish and include today's amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

Cane toads demonstrating impressive adaptive abilities in Western Australia

6 hours ago by Bob Yirka

Cane toads demonstrating impressive adaptive abilities in Western Australia
Cane toads have over the past 85 years become a problem in Australia. Originally native to South America, some of the toads were captured and turned loose in the 1930's in Australian sugar cane fields with the hope of helping to reduce cane beetles. Since that time, they have reproduced to the point of becoming a nuisance (and in some cases endangering the survival of other species) and have spread to other parts of the country, most recently, into the west. As the problem has grown, scientists have looked to curb toad populations and in so doing have recently learned of some of the impressive ways the toads have adapted for survival in their adopted homeland.

One study, for example, carried out by researchers from several universities in Australia, has found that the toads have developed a diurnal pattern of rehydration to prevent dehydration during high temperature days. They've published their findings in the journal Biology Letters.

Whales, ships more common through Bering Strait

February 26, 2014

University of Washington

The Arctic is home to a growing number of whales and ships, and to populations of sub-Arctic whales that are expanding their territory into newly ice-free Arctic waters. A three-year survey of whales in the Bering Strait reveals that many species of whales are using the narrow waterway, while shipping and commercial traffic also increase.

Chad burns its ivory

February 2014: Chad marked its commitment to combating elephant poaching by burning its ivory stockpile, which weighed more than a tonne.

The ceremony took place at Goz Djarat , the town at the entrance to Zakouma National Park, the country’s flagship national park and was witnessed by a delegation of Chadian cabinet ministers, the African Parks team that manages Zakouma, representatives from other NGOs and the media.

Rampant elephant poaching has destroyed the region’s once thriving elephant population. Fifty years ago Chad was teeming with 50 000 elephants: today the total population is estimated at 1 500.

The match was lit by The President of the Republic of Chad, His Excellency Idriss Déby Itno who was one of five African Heads of State who pledged support for the Elephant Protection Initiative at the UK Government’s London Summit on the Illegal Wildlife Trade. The initiative comprises a range of measures including a commitment to cease trading in ivory products for a minimum of 10 years.

The ivory burn formed part of Zakouma National Park’s 50th anniversary event that also included the unveiling of a commemorative monument to the 23 guards slain on duty at Zakouma since 1998.

In the last couple of months many countries have destroyed their ivory stockpiles or announced their intention to do so including China, France and Hong Kong, and Prince William has called for the ivory in Buckingham Palace to be destroyed.

What do you think? Should countries destroy their ivory? Does it help in the fight against poaching? Let us know your thoughts...

Chile's stunning fossil whale graveyard explained

By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent, BBC News

It is one of the most astonishing fossil discoveries of recent years - a graveyard of whales found beside the Pan-American Highway in Chile.

And now scientists think they can explain how so many of the animals came to be preserved in one location more than five million years ago.

It was the result of not one but four separate mass strandings, they report in a Royal Society journal.

The evidence strongly suggests the whales all ingested toxic algae.

The dead and dying mammals were then washed into an estuary and on to flat sands where they became buried over time.

It was well known that this area in Chile's Atacama Desert preserved whale fossils.

Their bones could be seen sticking out of rock faces, and the spot acquired the name Cerro Ballena ("whale hill") as a result.

Rare Grevy's zebra born at Chester Zoo

Zebra foal

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An endangered species of zebra is the first of its kind to be born at Chester Zoo in more than 30 years.
The unnamed female Grevy's zebra was born on Saturday to first-time parents Nadine and Mac, the zoo said.
Grevy's is the largest zebra species, found in small and isolated populations in Ethiopia and Northern Kenya.
Curator of mammals, Tim Rowlands, said "she is a lively one" and was born with brown stripes that will eventually turn black.
He said: "The arrival of this foal is not only a really good achievement for us but good news for the species as a whole."
There are thought to be less than 2,500 Grevy's left in the wild.

Animal moms customize milk depending on baby's sex

WASHINGTON (AP) — A special blend of mother's milk just for girls? New research shows animal moms are customizing their milk in surprising ways depending on whether they have a boy or a girl.

The studies raise questions for human babies, too — about how to choose the donor milk that's used for hospitalized preemies, or whether we should explore gender-specific infant formula.

"There's been this myth that mother's milk is pretty standard," said Harvard University evolutionary biologist Katie Hinde, whose research suggests that's far from true — in monkeys and cows, at least.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

First discovery of dinosaur fossils in Malaysia

February 24, 2014


Scientists have found dinosaur fossil teeth in the rural interiors of Pahang -- the first known discovery of dinosaur remains in Malaysia.

A team of palaeontology researchers from the Department of Geology, Faculty of Science, University of Malaya and Japanese universities (Waseda University and Kumamoto University) has found dinosaur fossil teeth in the rural interiors of Pahang -- the first known discovery of dinosaur remains in Malaysia.

"We have started our collaboration and carried out field expeditions to search for potential dinosaur deposits in Malaysia since Sep. 2012. Recently, we have successfully confirmed the presence of dinosaur remains (fossilised teeth) in Pahang," said lead researcher, Dr. Masatoshi Sone.

Almost 200 new species of parasitoid wasps named after local parataxonomists in Costa Rica

February 24, 2014

Pensoft Publishers

An astonishing number of 186 new species of parasitoid wasps attacking caterpillars in the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica, are described through an innovative approach integrating morphological, molecular and biological data, computer-generated descriptions, and high-quality illustrations. Most of the new species are named after local parataxonomists, who in many cases collected the caterpillars from which the new species of wasps emerged.

More Marine Conservation Zones for UK

February 2014: Nearly 40 marine sites are being considered by DEFRA for designation as Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs in 2015.

MCZs are vital to protect and restore the marine environment. They will protect marine wildlife effectively and restore our seas to their full potential following decades of neglect and decline. Protected areas are also needed for mobile species – such as whales, dolphins, basking sharks and seabirds.

This decision to designate a further 37 sites as MCZs builds on the 27 sites announced in November after the four-year process that followed the introduction of the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) to ensure greater protection for our marine wildlife and natural treasures.

Ceausescu's flying bears: Molecular genetics provides evidence for an unusual dispersal mode in European brown bears

February 25, 2014

Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum

Scientists use genetics to confirm the legend of bears flown in for the hunting pleasures of other countries’ rulers. A genetic study of brown bears in Bulgarian mountain regions provided evidence for the existence of individuals of Carpathian origin. How did they get there? Natural dispersal is unlikely. Rather, the bears were brought in by air transport.

Squirrel pox more deadly than previously thought

February 2014: The deadly virus squirrel pox appears to have multiple methods of being transmitted a new study suggests.

Squirrel pox is a potentially fatal disease which affects red squirrel populations in the UK and is thought to be a significant factor in the decline of the red squirrel population. It is a member of the pox virus family and causes scabby lesions on the squirrel's body, including the eyes, ears,and fore and hind paws, and suppresses the immune system.

Jersey site that was last Neanderthal home is studied

An ice age site said to be one of the last known places Neanderthals lived is being studied to assess storm damage.

La Cotte in St Brelade, Jersey, was hit by south-westerly storms including winds of up to 100mph in February.

A British archaeological team commissioned by the Societe Jersiaise will examine the storm damage.

Dr Matt Pope, from the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, said it needed to consider the best solution for long-term preservation.

Jaguar gains new protection in Belize

February 2014: The future of the jaguar in Belize is looking brighter following the signing of a conservation agreement between the Government of Belize, the Environmental Research Institute of the University of Belize and the wild cat conservation organisationPanthera.

The trio agreed to work together to implement science-based conservation initiatives that secure and connect jaguars and their habitats in Belize and beyond, facilitate land development that is both ecologically sustainable and economically profitable, and lesson human-jaguar conflict throughout the country.

The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Its decreasing population is primarily due to deforestation rates, human persecution and human-jaguar conflict, and is considered Near Threatened by the IUCN who now estimates it occupies just 46 per cent of its historic range.

Scientists discover 'jellybean' spider on Darling Downs

The new species of jellybean goblin spider.TWO new species of spider have been discovered on the Darling Downs.

Scientists from the Queensland Museum discovered the jellybean goblin spider at Dalby.

They also discovered the Leichhardt reddish brown swift spider in the Bunya Mountains.
"Working with the Goblins was very exciting because of the extraordinary biodiversity of these tiny spiders," Queensland Museum Terrestrial Environments (Arachnida) Research Fellow Dr Barbara Baehr said.

Queensland Museum Head of Natural Environments Dr John Hooper said Australia was a mega-diverse country with numerous species, many endemic, which means there are many more unique and incredible species to discover.

"A mega-diverse country refers to the 17 countries in the world that have more than 70% of earth's species," Dr Hooper said.

"In terms of endemic plant species, we are the fifth most diverse country in the world and in terms of endemic reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals, we are the most diverse."

Curious father cannot believe what his kind-hearted son does in his spare time

A curious father was left stunned after discovering where his young son was going on his daily walks.

He noticed his son left their house in the rural Philippines every day for two weeks, carrying a backpack, and one day he decided to tag along.

A curious father was left stunned after discovering where his young son was going on his daily walks.

He noticed his son left their house in the rural Philippines every day for two weeks, carrying a backpack, and one day he decided to tag along.

The pair stopped on the side of the road and moments later a group of starving stray dogs came towards them.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Western Australia's shark cull will hit breeding stock of great whites

Listen to the scientific community and look at the evidence from Hawaii to South Africa. Killing sharks doesn't work

Nicholas Ray, Sunday 23 February 2014 22.00 GMT

Nearly a month since the first shark was killed in Western Australia's controversial cull, and with the recent release of attack statistics, the decision still appears to be drastic.

Global opposition from scientists, conservationists and even shark attack victims shows there is little justification for these actions.

The Australian public is up in arms over the way the country is being run and the way their wildlife is being treated, with protests in the cities of Perth, Sydney, Adelaide and the beaches of Victoria and Queensland.

The prime minister, Tony Abbott, and environment minister, Greg Hunt, have come under fire in recent weeks for their apparent lack of concern for the environment and have faced calls for a redress of the shark kill policy.

Extreme weather caused by climate change decides distribution of insects, study shows

February 20, 2014

Aarhus University

Extreme weather caused by climate change in the coming decades is likely to have profound implications for distributions of insects and other invertebrates. This is suggested by a new study of insects in tropical and temperate regions of Australia. "Our predictions are that some species would disappear entirely in the next few decades, even when they have a fairly wide distribution that currently covers hundreds of kilometers”, the researchers conclude.

Animal Propulsion Study Reveals How Jellyfish & Other Species Bend The Rules Of Motion (VIDEO)

by John Bohannon
Posted: 02/23/2014 9:28 am EST Updated: 02/23/2014 9:59 am EST

Nothing we have ever built can ply water as efficiently as the humble jellyfish. This video shows the pressure systems created with each of its thrusts, with vortices of low pressure (blue) rolling from the front of its bell-shaped body that meet up with the bulge of high pressure (red) that forms behind it:

Peru's Manu National Park sets new biodiversity record

February 20, 2014

University of California - Berkeley

When it comes to amphibian and reptile biodiversity, the eastern slopes of the Andes mountains in South America stand out. A new survey of 'herps' in and around Manu National Park in Peru recorded a greater biodiversity -- 287 species, some new to science -- than any other protected area in the world, including the previous leader in Ecuador. Since its creation 41 years ago, Manu National Park has become recognized as globally irreplaceable: it was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Preserve in 1977 and a World Heritage Site in 1987.

Axolotl found in Mexico City lake after scientists feared it only survived in captivity

The amphibian is important in scientific research because of its ability to regenerate severed limbs

Monday 24 February 2014

A rare, salamander-like amphibian has been spotted in its only known natural habitat, after researchers feared the creature had disappeared from the wild.

Mexican biologists have seen, but not caught, two axolotls during a second attempt to find them in the Xochimilco network of lakes and canals of Mexico City.

The researchers took to the muddy waters of lake Xochimilco in small boats last year, and searched for weeks for the amphibian, but to no avail.

But biologist Armando Tovar Garza, of Mexico's National Autonomous University, said that members of the team carrying out the search had seen two axolotls during the first three weeks of a second survey expected to conclude in April.

“We weren't able to capture them...because the behaviour of the axolotl makes them very difficult to capture,” he said.

“But we have had two sightings. That's important, because it tells us we still have a chance.”

The parasite that escaped out of Africa: Tracing origins of malaria parasite

February 21, 2014

Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

An international team has traced the origin of the second-worst malaria parasite of humans to Africa. The closest genetic relatives of human Plasmodium vivax were found only in Asian macaques, leading researchers to believe that P. vivax originated in Asia. This study overturns that, finding that wild-living apes in central Africa are widely infected with parasites that, genetically, are nearly identical to human P. vivax.

Earth's Greatest Extinction Hardly Changed Ocean Ways of Life

By Charles Q. Choi, LiveScience Contributor | February 23, 2014 01:00pm ET

Earth's largest mass extinction had surprisingly little effect on the range of lifestyles seen on the planet's seafloor, despite the loss of more than 90 percent of marine species, researchers find.

Understanding the impacts of this ancient extinction event may shed light on the damage climate change might now inflict on the planet, the scientists say.

The end-Permian mass extinction, which occurred 252 million years ago, was the biggest die-off in the planet's history, and the largest of the five mass extinctions seen in the fossil record. The cataclysm killed as much as 95 percent of all species on Earth.

WildLeaks Website Offers A Safe Place To Report Wildlife Crime

The Huffington Post | by Brianna Elliott
Posted: 02/19/2014 3:56 pm EST Updated: 02/19/2014 3:59 pm EST

Several organizations have converged to combat wildlife and forest crime -- the fourth-largest transnational crime that's worth $17 billion annually -- but they need your help.

WildLeaks, is a place where everyday citizens can report poaching, wildlife trafficking and illegal logging. Citizens can submit photos, video or documents to the highly-secure, not-for-profit website, and are able to maintain their safety by submitting content either confidentially or anonymously using Tor software.

Poison feared as seven Sumatran elephants found dead

Dozens of the critically endangered animals have been killed on Indonesian island in recent years

Seven Sumatran elephants have been found dead in western Indonesia and it is thought they were poisoned, a wildlife official said on Monday.

Dozens of the critically endangered animals have died after being poisoned in recent years on Sumatra as the creatures come into conflict with humans due to the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations that destroy their habitat.

The latest to die were an adult female, five male teenagers, and a male calf believed to be from the same herd, said local wildlife agency spokesman Muhammad Zanir.

The remains were found on 16 February just outside Tesso Nilo national park and it is thought they died five months earlier, he said.

"There is an indication that they were poisoned," he said. "Some people may consider the elephants a threat to their palm oil plantations and poison them."

New online tool tracks tree loss in 'near real time'

forest lossA new global monitoring system has been launched that promises "near real time" information on deforestation around the world.

Global Forest Watch (GFW) is backed by Google and over 40 business and campaigning groups.
It uses information from hundreds of millions of satellite images as well as data from people on the ground.

Businesses have welcomed the new database as it could help them prove that their products are sustainable.

Despite greater awareness around of the world of the impacts of deforestation, the scale of forest loss since 2000 has been significant - Data from Google and the University of Maryland says the world lost 230 million hectares of trees between 2000 and 2012.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Fungi threaten sea turtle nests - via Herp Digest

by Sarah Sielinski, Science News, Magazine of the Society for Science and the Public Wild Things Section, 2/2/14

Before a baby sea turtle makes its way to the ocean, it has to survive the nest. But scientists have discovered that fungi can infect nests and kill up to 90 percent of eggs.

You wouldn’t think that huge reptiles would inspire a lot of love — except for dinosaurs, of course — but there’s something about sea turtles that’s just enchanting. Every one of the world’s seven sea turtle species is in trouble, however, considered endangered or vulnerable to extinction. These animals have declined as their habitat has been destroyed, they’ve been caught up in fishing gear, their nesting areas have been disturbed and raided for their eggs, they’ve ingested plastic pollution and they’ve been hunted by people and predators.

Pathogens are another threat, and now there’s a couple more to worry about, say researchers in a study published January 21 in PLOS ONE.

In recent years there’s been several reports of a fungus, Fusarium solani, that has infected sea turtle eggs. The fungus was blamed for mass mortalities in the nests of loggerhead sea turtles in Cape Verde in the Atlantic Ocean. To determine how widespread that fungus might be, Jullie Sarmiento-Ramírez of Real Jardín Botánico-CSIC in Madrid and colleagues conducted a survey of sea turtle nests in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans from 2005 to 2012. Their survey included all sea turtle species except for the Kemp’s ridley.

Turtle eggs, the researchers found, were never infected if they were sampled directly from the mama turtle. (Note: All sampling was done without killing the embryos inside the eggs.) That suggested that the fungus was coming from the sand. The scientists then started looking more closely at the fungus.

F. solaniis not an individual species but a “species complex” comprised of more than 60 individual fungal species. To figure out which species within that complex are causing problems for the turtle eggs, the researchers had to build a fungal phylogenetic tree based on DNA. With that analysis, they could see that there were only two species — F. falciforme and F. keratoplasticum — that were always found in dead turtle eggs.

Those two fungal species show an important adaptation: The optimal growth temperature for the fungi coincides with the range of temperatures that are suitable for the development of sea turtle embryos, the researchers found. “This property makes optimal conditions for egg incubation to be ideal for pathogen growth and colonization,” they write.

Not all nests are equally at risk of becoming infected, though. Turtle nests located in regions prone to tidal flooding had a mortality rate of 99.7 percent and those inundated with clay and silt had a mortality rate of 89.7 percent. Nests that didn’t experience one of those conditions had a mortality rate of only 29.6 percent.

Here’s what the researchers think is going on in those nests that were inundated with water, clay or silt: The environmental conditions for those eggs are not great, which likely impedes gas exchange through the shells of the eggs, leading to greater embryonic stress and possibly death. Dead eggs are probably more easily colonized by the fungi, and once the fungi get established, they can reproduce like crazy, produce a lot of spores, colonize the live eggs in the nest and start killing those living eggs.

The finding that inundated nests are more vulnerable is worrisome because climate change and continued habitat destruction will make it more likely that sea turtles end up depositing eggs in these less suitable spots. But the finding might also help sea turtle rescue efforts — if programs can identify the locations where the fungal pathogens are likely to become a problem, they can focus their efforts in those spots, remove eggs from those more vulnerable beaches and raise only those eggs into baby turtles.

New York Proposes Recovery Plan for Northern Cricket Frog - via Herp Digest

From Reptile Magazine’s newsletter-2/5/13-article dated January 27, 2014 -The northern cricket frog is a member of the tree frog family but is mostly an aquatic frog that doesn't climb often.
 "The northern cricket frog is a historic resident of New York State and represents an important amphibian component of wetland ecosystems," Commissioner Joe Martens said is a statement released by the DEC. "Conservation of the northern cricket frog and its habitat is important to preserving New York's biodiversity and unique character. The plan aims to improve the frog's geographic diversity and ultimately increase its population."
The plan includes plans to protect and proficiently manage the remaining northern cricket frog populations and habitats, identify areas that are suitable for the frog to live in and colonize these sites, research data gaps in the conservation biology of the frog that will help bolster their recovery, and develop and support partnerships to help with the recovery of the frog.
The draft plan is now open for comment through February 21, 2014. Any interested individuals or parties with questions or comments can send them to  Gregg Kenney, NYSDEC, 21 South Putt Corners Road, New Paltz, NY 12561, phone (845) 256-3098 or emailed to Use "Northern cricket frog" in the subject line.

The northern cricket frog belongs to the tree frog family, yet is an aquatic species and is one of the state's smallest vertebrates. It is not a very good climber.  It is also one of the longest jumpers for its size, capable of jumping five to six feet in a single bound.  They average just an inch in length with the male smaller than the female and come in a variety of colorations, and patterns, including combinations of black, yellow, orange, and red on a green or brown base. It is called a cricket frog because its call, or trill, sounds like a cricket.

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