Floria green anoles adapt to invasive species


This video from the USA says about itself:

The largest Green Anole ever!

The Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) is an arboreal lizard found primarily in the southeastern United States and some Caribbean islands. Other common names include the green anole, American anole and red-throated anole. It is also sometimes referred to as the American chameleon due to its ability to change color from several brown hues to bright green. While many kinds of lizards are capable of changing color, anoles are closely related to iguanas and are not true chameleons. The Carolina is a small lizard; male adults are usually 15 cm (5.9 in) long in adulthood, about half of which is its tail, and it can weigh from 3–7 g (0.11–0.25 oz). Exceptionally, these anoles will grow up to 20 cm (7.9 in) in length.

From Breaking News:

A lizard species in Florida has evolved very quickly to deal with invaders

24/10/2014 – 12:16:32

In as little as 15 years, lizards native to Florida – known as Carolina anoles or green anoles – have adapted to deal with the threat of an invading species of lizard, Cuban or brown anoles.

This video is called Egg-laying brown anole (Anolis sagrei), Aruba. This female brown anole was filmed during digging a hole in the sand in which she layed an egg.

After having contact with the invasive species, said to have first gone to America from Cuba in the 1950s, the native lizards starting perching higher up in trees. Over the course of 15 years and 20 generations, their feet evolved to become better at gripping the thinner, smoother branches found higher up.

The change was rapid. After a few months the native lizards started moving higher up the branches and over 15 years, their toe pads had become larger with stickier scales on their feet.

“We did predict that we’d see a change, but the degree and quickness with which they evolved was surprising,” said Yoel Stuart, a post-doctoral researcher in the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin and lead author of the study.

“To put this shift in perspective, if human height were evolving as fast as these lizards’ toes, the height of an average American man would increase from about 5 foot 9 inches today to about 6 foot 4 inches within 20 generations — an increase that would make the average U.S. male the height of an NBA shooting guard,” said Stuart. “Although humans live longer than lizards, this rate of change would still be rapid in evolutionary terms.”

This latest study is one of only a few well-documented examples of what evolutionary biologists call “character displacement,” where similar species competing with each other evolve differences to take advantage of different ecological niches.

A classic example comes from the finches studied by Charles Darwin. Two species of finch in the Galapagos Islands diverged in beak shape as they adapted to different food sources.

The researchers speculate that the competition between brown and green anoles for the same food and space may be driving the adaptations of the green anoles. Stuart also noted that the adults of both species are known to eat the hatchlings of the other species.

“So it may be that if you’re a hatchling, you need to move up into the trees quickly or you’ll get eaten,” said Stuart. “Maybe if you have bigger toe pads, you’ll do that better than if you don’t.”

The research was published in the journal Science.

See also here. And here. And here.

Old books about birds


Pheasants, wood pigeons, wrynecks, 19 October 2014

On 19 October 2014, in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands, there were not only the recent natural history books of the Jan Wolkers Prize nominees, and the old natural history books discussed by nominee Alexander Reeuwijk. There was also this 1904 book about birds. Again, all photos in this blog post are cellphone made.

This bird book, Het Vogeljaar (The Bird Year), is by famous Dutch naturalist Jac. P. Thijsse. In later editions, pictures like this one would be replaced by photos. This picture shows pheasants, wood pigeons and wrynecks.

Wryneck, 19 October 2014

This detail of the picture shows a wryneck.

Colourful birds, 19 October 2014

Second hand bookshop Moby Dick (called after the famous Herman Melville novel) from Noordwijk had brought late nineteenth-early twentieth century books to the museum. Like this one from 1886 by Dutch author A. Nuyens. The picture shows colourful birds: starling, red-backed shrike, golden oriole, Bohemian waxwing, jay, hoopoe and kingfisher.

Snowy owls, 19 October 2014

Next to it, this book, by Irishman Francis Orpen Morris: A History of British Birds. The photo shows a male and a female snowy owl.

Flycatchers and waxwing, 19 October 2014

A book from Germany was present as well. It was Deutsches Vogelbuch für Forst- und Landwirte, Jäger, Naturfreunde und Vogelliebhaber (1907). Kurt Floericke was the author. Albert Kull made the pictures. This page shows various Old World flycatcher species, and a Bohemian waxwing.

Cranes, 19 October 2014

Finally, a picture of cranes. Two demoiselle cranes, and a Siberian crane.

Ancient settlements discovery in Peruvian Andes


Stone tools found at Cuncaicha and Pucuncho sites in Peru. Image credit: Kurt Rademaker et al.

From Sci-News:

Archaeologists Discover Two 12,000-Year-Old High-Altitude Settlements in Peru

Oct 24, 2014

Archaeologists from the United States, Canada, Germany, and Peru, have discovered two ancient settlements in the Pucuncho Basin in the southern Peruvian Andes – named Cuncaicha and Pucuncho – which they say are the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological sites yet identified in the world.

One scientific theory about high altitude colonization suggests that people cannot live in high altitudes until genetic adaptation occurs, like the sort we find in Andean people today.

Andeans have genetically adapted to their high altitude environment.

Key differences in the Andean people include a higher metabolic rate, larger lung capacity and higher hemoglobin concentrations then the average person, all of which allow them to overcome a lack of oxygen.

“Was this adaptation present 12,000 years ago? We don’t know for certain,” said Dr Sonia Zarrillo of the University of Calgary, who is a co-author of the paper published in the journal Science.

The first site Dr Zarrillo and her colleagues discovered, Cuncaicha, is a rock shelter at 4.5 km above sea level, with a stone-tool workshop below it.

According to the archaeologists, it was occupied about 12,400-11,500 years ago.

The second site, Pucuncho, is an ancient workshop where stone tools were made at 4.4 km above sea level. It dates to around 12,800-11,500 years ago.

“We don’t know if people were living there year round, but we strongly suspect they were not just going there to hunt for a few days, then leaving. There were possibly even families living at these sites, because we’ve found evidence of a whole range of activities,” Dr Zarrillo said.

“Climatic conditions in both sites are harsh, with factors including low-oxygen, extreme cold and high levels of solar radiation making life in the region a challenge for any humans.”

She added: “our team hiked up to three or four hours to get to these sites. That was a climb, carrying all of our gear, camp equipment and food. And it freezes every night. Sometimes it snows. These are incredibly hard sites to access.”

Archaeological evidence found at the sites includes signs of habitation such as human skull fragments, animal remains and stone tools.

The Pucuncho site yielded 260 stone tools, such as projectile points, bifaces and unifacial scrapers. The Cuncaicha rock shelter contains a “robust, well-preserved and well-dated occupation sequence.”

“Most of the stone tools at Cuncaicha were made from locally available obsidian, andesite and jasper, and are indicative of hunting and butchering consistent with limited subsistence options on the plateau. In addition to plant remains, bones at the site indicate hunting of vicuña and guanaco camelids and the taruca deer,” the scientists said.

“At Cuncaicha we found remains representing whole animals. The types of stone tools we’ve found are not only hunting tools but also scraping tools used for processing hides to make things like clothing, bags or blankets,” Dr Zarrillo said.

Good brent geese news


This video from Scotland is called Brent Geese – Branta bernicla.

Translated from the Dutch SOVON ornithologists:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Brent geese seem to return with quite a lot of youngsters this fall. This indicates a good breeding season on the tundra of northern Siberia. In wintering areas annually people look how many young geese will come with their parents. The geese benefited from the lemming peak at the Taymir peninsula.

Sample counts by geese counters provisionally provide an image that the brent geese had an excellent breeding success. The counters see youngster rates between 25 and 35 percent: pretty high for the brent goose. For example, there are families with five young ones, so, large families. In October, a lot of brent geese arrive in the coastal areas of Western Europe, such as the Wadden Sea. They come from the tundras of Taymir and elsewhere along the Siberian coast.

Old and new natural history books


Alexander Reeuwijk, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

This photo shows author Alexander Reeuwijk behind a table with old natural history books in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands. Like the other photos of this blog post, this is a cellphone photograph, of 19 October 2014.

On that day, as this blog already noted, Remco Daalder, Amsterdam city ecologist, was awarded the Jan Wolkers Prize. This prize is named after famous Dutch artist and author Jan Wolkers. Natural history was one of his subjects. The Jan Wolkers Prize is for the best natural history book of the year in the Netherlands. Remco Daalder’s book is about swifts.

Remco Daalder’s book had been nominated for the prize shortlist along with four other books. One of them was Alexander Reeuwijk’s book about nineteenth century British naturalist and evolution theorist Alfred Russel Wallace and his travels in Indonesia.

The three other nominations were for Mathijs Deen, for a book on the Wadden Sea region; Bibi Dumon Tak for her children’s book on common animals; and various authors for a book on Planken Wambuis nature reserve.

Back to Alexander Reeuwijk. He presented his ten favourite natural history books from the Naturalis collections. These books were from the sixteenth till the twentieth centuries.

Pierre Belon's book, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The oldest of Alexander’s ten books was from 1553. It was by Pierre Belon from France, about fish. Belon is often seen as the first ichthyologist. In Belon‘s time, fishes were not differentiated from aquatic mammals, aquatic invertebrates, etc. The book discussed over a 100 species for the first time ever.

The copy in Leiden is of De aquatilibus; the Latin translation of the French original.

Pierre Belon's book on sharks, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The book contains many woodcut pictures, including of hammerheads and other sharks.

Alexander Reeuwijk’s next book was from five years later, from 1558. It was by Conrad Gessner from Switzerland.

Lobster, in Gessner's book, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

Gessner’s Historiae animalium was the first attempt to describe all the animals known. Including the lobster pictured here on a woodcut in the book.

Lobster, watercolour, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The original watercolour depiction of the lobster, used for the woodcut, is also present in Naturalis.

Mark Catesby, parrots, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The next book was based on two books, originally in English. Mark Catesby died in 1749. He wrote Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, published 1729-1747. George Edwards wrote A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, published 1743-1764. Catesby’s and Edwards’ books contain many pictures of birds considered as ‘exotic’ by eighteenth century Europeans, like parrots in North America and the Caribbean.

Mark Catesby's and Edwards' Dutch translation, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

Catesby’s and Edwards’ books were translated into Dutch by M. Houttuyn, and published as Verzameling uitlandsche en zeldzaame vogelen in 1772-1781.

Spotted sandpiper, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

This picture in the Dutch translation depicts, below, a spotted sandpiper from the Americas.

Alexander’s fourth book was Nederlandsche Vogelen, about Dutch birds, by Nozeman and Sepp, published in various volumes 1770-1829.

Book number five was Histoire Naturelle des plus Rares Curiosoitez de la Mer des Indes. By Louis Renard, about marine life in Indonesia. The Leiden copy was published in 1782, after the author’s death.

Next, a book about plants in the Netherlands: the Flora Batava. Jan Kops wrote the first volume, published in 1800.

Then, Histoire naturelle générale des pigeons et des gallinacés (1808). Written by Coenraad Temminck; about pigeons. With pictures by Pauline de Courcelles Knip.

Mauritius blue pigeon

One of Ms de Courcelles Knip’s pictures for the book shows a Mauritius blue pigeon; now extinct.

The next book was about kingfishers. It was A monograph of the Alcedinidae: or, family of kingfishers, 1868-1871, by Richard Bowdler Sharpe. John Keulemans made the pictures.

Then, a book from the USA, by Sherman Foote Denton. It was As Nature Shows Them : Moths and Butterflies of the United States, East of the Rocky Mountains; from 1898.

Finally, another book on birds in the Netherlands: Ornithologia Neerlandica, de vogels van Nederland, 1922-1935. Eduard Daniel van Oort wrote it. Marinus Koekkoek painted the pictures.

South African environmentalist wins award


This video is called BirdLife South Africa‘s Important Bird Areas.

From BirdLife:

BirdLife South Africa’s Dr Ross Wanless wins Environmentalist of the Year award

By Martin Fowlie, Fri, 24/10/2014 – 11:15

Dr Ross Wanless, from BirdLife South Africa’s Seabird Conservation Programme and the BirdLife Marine Programme, has been awarded the prestigious SAB Environmentalist of the Year Award.

Dr Wanless has overseen a number of impressive conservation achievements over the past six years at BirdLife South Africa, building on a career of seabird science and conservation work that started in 1997.

The SAB award recognises not just a lot of hard work over many years, but an individual who has been instrumental in delivering significant, lasting conservation outcomes. Very few conservation programmes can actually demonstrate tangible benefits for species they seek to conserve. It is still more exceptional for a programme to bring benefits to a suite of threatened species.

BirdLife South Africa’s extraordinary work through the BirdLife Marine Programme to prevent the extinction of albatrosses and petrels is one such example. Under the leadership of Dr Ross Wanless, the programme has used science, advocacy, persistence and win-win solutions to turn the tide against fisheries impacts on iconic seabirds. Earlier this year his team announced that their efforts in the South African hake trawl fishery had caused a reduction in seabird mortality of up to 90%. Dr Wanless is currently in South Korea, running a workshop with the Korean tuna longline fleet to assist that fleet to adopt best practice measures for avoiding accidental seabird catches.

Dr Wanless has recreated the African Seabird Group and oversaw a successful bid for the group to host the second World Seabird Conference, to be in Cape Town in October next year; he is chair of the local organising committee and sits on the World Seabird Unions’ conference executive committee. He also created and oversees the annual Celebrate Our Seas festival which kicked off in the beginning of October as part of National Marine Week. He maintains strong links to the University of Cape Town, and is currently supervising a Masters and a PhD student.

“It’s a real honour to receive this sort of recognition, but I do need to acknowledge that I have an amazing team at BirdLife South Africa, and this award is theirs as much as mine”, said Dr Wanless.

Find out more about the BirdLife Marine Programme.

Saving hen harriers in Britain


This video from Britain is called Hen Harrier Facing Extinction; BBC Inside Out.

From Wildlife Extra:

RSPB take action to protect Hen Harriers

Hen Harriers continue to be under threat in the UK

In a European Union-supported project, the RSPB are working toward creating a safe and sustainable future for the endangered Hen Harrier in the UK.

The organisation’s five-year programme, named the Hen Harrier Life+ Project, will focus on direct conservation action as well as community engagement and raising awareness among the public about the plight of the bird of prey.

The project will focus on seven sites in northern England, and southern and eastern Scotland that have been designated as Hen Harrier nesting sites under the European Union Birds Directive.

These are areas where the birds frequently come into conflict with humans. In northern England, and in southern, central and eastern Scotland where land is managed for Red Grouse hunting, Hen Harriers are frequently shot in spite of being legally protected.

Their persecution by humans is a long-running story, and in 1900 the birds became extinct on the British mainland. Although they have been making a comeback in the British Isles, their population still has a long road to recovery.

Between 2004 and 2010, the National Hen Harrier Survey recorded an 18 per cent decline in the UK Hen Harrier population. By 2013 the birds had experienced their worst breeding season in England for decades, failing to rear chicks anywhere in the country. But in 2014 things began to look up for the birds in Britain; at the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, 46 young fledged from 12 nests. However the birds fared less well in England where there were four Hen Harrier nests, but due to natural deaths and unexplained disappearances of three birds that were satellite-tagged, only nine of the 16 chicks that fledged are thought to still be alive.

Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project will be working with landowners and the shooting community to raise awareness about the birds in order to ensure their future. It will also link up with and support the work of PAWS Raptor Group ‘Heads Up for Hen Harriers’ project, which includes the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, and conservation and landowning interests.

Blánaid Denman, Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project manager, explains: “The project is not about RSPB fixing things on our own but about bringing together a whole conservation community, from organisations to individuals, working together to secure a future for hen harriers in our uplands.”

As well as working with volunteers and other organisations in order to actively monitor the birds in the wild, the project is also working with gamekeeping students, professional gamekeepers, and landowners.

Defra, the RSPB and other stakeholders are currently working on drafting an emergency recovery plan for Hen Harriers in England. Although the final plan is still to be agreed, the initial draft received widespread support from the shooting community.