I can’t think of a happier note for a Christmas Day post than the re-discovery of not one, but two species of animals once thought extinct.
In Australia, there’s the crest-tailed mulgara, a small carnivorous marsupial long thought extinct. It has recently been re-discovered in Sturt National Park, which is located near the center of Australia. Next year, the park had already been planning on starting to eradicate imported predators like rabbits and cats; this program now benefits from the new discovery’s extra energy jolt.
“You think about moths and you envision a grey, hairy insect that is attracted to light,” said Marta Skowron Volponi, a Ph.D. student at the University of Gdansk, co-founder of the ClearWing Foundation for Biodiversity and lead author of the paper. “But this species is dramatically different—it is beautiful, shiny blue in sunlight and it comes out during the day; and it is a master of disguise, mimicking bees on multiple levels and even hanging out with them.”
Among other things, these amazing re-discoveries show beyond a shadow of a doubt the importance of national parks. How many wonders might there be in these parks, hiding and waiting for the right time to emerge?
It’s a pleasure to report some upbeat news: two species of seahorses have recently been confirmed as making their homes in the Thames in the UK. Starting in 2008, one or two seahorses a year would be found in the Thames, but it was unclear if they were outlier adventurers or signs of a new population. Now, however, the verdict is in: scientists have found six or seven this year, and since seahorses don’t travel very far in a year, it’s clear that they’re part of a resident population. Seahorses are very sensitive to pollution, so the news is also a welcome marker of a cleaner Thames.
Recent research led by Newcastle University and Imperial College London shows that half the world’s forest habitat is now within 500m of a ‘forest edge’ due to the expansion of road networks, logging, agriculture and other human activity. Combining two of my favorite fields of study — spatial analysis and conservation — the researchers looked more deeply at those forest edges and discovered that 85% of species’ abundances are affected, either positively or negatively, by forest edges.
Clearly, I meant to post this yesterday, but All Saints’ Day will do as well. Thanks to Zeb Hallock for letting me post this crazy video! An even bigger thanks to him for helping the stranded starfish get back into the water.
It’s been a really hectic week at work, and so much has happened in the world of animals! I just haven’t had a moment to write about it.
One really interesting study I happened across examines the social lives of cougars — specifically, the fact that they have a social life. Scientists had long thought of cougars as “solitary, robotic killing machines,” only to recently discover that female cougars, at any rate, have quite strong social bonds. They will spend a few days in each others’ company, and will even give each other access to their kill sites, sharing meals.
I had the amazing opportunity to stay at Dulini, a safari camp in South Africa a few years ago, and a video they posted recently reminded me of this study.
In this case, it’s a courting leopard couple sharing a meal — something that is, supposedly, never done.
Video and new technologies may be forcing us to re-evaluate this behavior that non-social cats theoretically never indulge in. Is it possible that many of the large cats enjoy social bonds, and all the independence of cats has largely been a figment of our own imaginations?
Well, this is disturbing. The Guardian reports that over the past 25 years, 75% of all flying insects in German nature reserves have disappeared. While it’s not certain if this finding holds true worldwide, it has caused a number of scientists to reflect, “you know, it’s been a long time since my windshield was covered in bug splatters.”
For a lengthier discussion of the same German study (and, in my opinion, a better graphic on the insect population decrease), you may also be interested in this Science Magazine article. Who knew I would one day be getting all misty-eyed for bug splatter?
I happened to run across the University of Victora’s Ethnographic Mapping Lab today — which is an amazing project — and found an absolutely incredible inventory of indigenous mapping icons. My favorites icons, obviously, are the animals, (I’ve taken a screenshot of some of them): the capybara icon makes me burn with desire to map all of the doing-absolutely-nothing hangouts of my favorite large rodent. And who wouldn’t want to liven up their maps with a few pumas, anteaters, or mustelidae? To all my GIS friends, I urge you: go forth, create, and sloth much more.