Save amphibians from wells


This is a video from the Netherlands; about a common frog which had fallen into a well. Often, falling into a well means death for frogs, toads, shrews and other small animals. However, in this well, a ladder enabled the frog to escape.

This video from the USA says about itself:

FrogLog: Animal Escape Ramp for Swimming Pools

This video shows how small frogs and other animals use the FrogLog to escape from swimming pools. The FrogLog provides an escape ramp for lizards, chipmunks, squirrels, mice, birds, bats, ducklings, and other small animals.

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Devonian era animals and plants


This video is called Devonian forest.

From LiveScience:

Devonian Period: Climate, Animals & Plants

By Mary Bagley, Live Science Contributor

February 22, 2014 03:46am ET

The Devonian Period occurred from 416 million to 358 million years ago. It was the fourth period of the Paleozoic Era. It was preceded by the Silurian Period and followed by the Carboniferous Period. It is often known as the “Age of Fishes,” although significant events also happened in the evolution of plants, the first insects and other animals.

Climate and geography

The supercontinent Gondwana occupied most of the Southern Hemisphere, although it began significant northerly drift during the Devonian Period. Eventually, by the later Permian Period, this drift would lead to collision with the equatorial continent known as Euramerica, forming Pangaea.

The mountain building of the Caledonian Orogeny, a collision between Euramerica and the smaller northern continent of Siberia, continued in what would later be Great Britain, the northern Appalachians and the Nordic mountains. Rapid erosion of these mountains contributed large amounts of sediment to lowlands and shallow ocean basins.  Sea levels were high with much of western North America under water. Climate of the continental interior regions was very warm during the Devonian Period and generally quite dry.

Marine life

The Devonian Period was a time of extensive reef building in the shallow water that surrounded each continent and separated Gondwana from Euramerica. Reef ecosystems contained numerous brachiopods, still numerous trilobites, tabulate and horn corals. Placoderms (the armored fishes) underwent wide diversification and became the dominant marine predators. Placoderms had simple jaws but not true teeth.  Instead, their mouths contained bony structures used to crush or shear prey. Some Placoderms were up to 33 feet (10 meters) in length. Cartilaginous fish such as sharks and rays were common by the late Devonian. Devonian strata also contain the first fossil ammonites.

By the mid-Devonian, the fossil record shows evidence that there were two new groups of fish that had true bones, teeth, swim bladders and gills. The Ray-finned fish were the ancestors of most modern fish. Like modern fish, their paired pelvic and pectoral fins were supported by several long thin bones powered by muscles largely within the trunk. The Lobe-finned fish were more common during the Devonian than the Ray fins, but largely died out. (The coelacanth and a few species of lungfish are the only Lobe-finned fishes left today.) Lobe-finned fishes had fleshy pectoral and pelvic fins articulating to the shoulder or pelvis by a single bone (humerus or femur), which was powered by muscles within the fin itself. Some species were capable of breathing air through spiracles in the skull. Lobe-finned fishes are the accepted ancestors of all tetrapods.

Plants

Plants, which had begun colonizing the land during the Silurian Period, continued to make evolutionary progress during the Devonian. Lycophytes, horsetails and ferns grew to large sizes and formed Earth’s first forests.  By the end of the Devonian, progymnosperms such as Archaeopteris were the first successful trees. Archaeopteris could grow up to 98 feet (30 meters) tall with a trunk diameter of more than 3 feet. It had a softwood trunk similar to modern conifers that grew in sequential rings. It did not have true leaves but fern-like structures connected directly to the branches (lacking the stems of true leaves). There is evidence that they were deciduous, as the most common fossils are shed branches. Reproduction was by male and female spores that are accepted as being the precursors to seed-bearing plants. By the end of the Devonian Period, the proliferation of plants increased the oxygen content of the atmosphere considerably, which was important for development of terrestrial animals. At the same time carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, was depleted from earlier levels. This may have contributed to the cooling climate and the extinction event at the end of the Devonian.

Animals

Arthropod fossils are concurrent with the earliest plant fossils of the Silurian. Millipedes, centipedes and arachnids continued to diversify during the Devonian Period. The earliest known insect, Rhyniella praecusor, was a flightless hexapod with antennae and a segmented body. Fossil Rhyniella are between 412 million and 391 million years old.

Early tetrapods probably evolved from lobe-finned fishes able to use their muscular fins to take advantage of the predator-free and food-rich environment of the new wetland ecosystems. The earliest known tetrapod is Tiktaalik rosae. Dated from the mid-Devonian, this fossil creature is considered to be the link between the lobe-finned fishes and early amphibians. Tiktaalik was probably mostly aquatic, “walking” on the bottom of shallow water estuaries. It had a fish-like pelvis, but its hind limbs were larger and stronger than those in front, suggesting it was able to propel itself outside of an aquatic environment.  It had a crocodile-like head, a moveable neck, and nostrils for breathing air.

Mass extinction

The close of the Devonian Period is considered to be the second of the “big five” mass extinction events of Earth’s history. Rather than a single event, it is known to have had at least two prolonged episodes of species depletion and several shorter periods. The Kellwasser Event of the late middle Devonian was largely responsible for the demise of the great coral reefs, the jawless fishes and the trilobites. The Hangeberg Event at the Devonian/Carboniferous Boundary killed the Placoderms and most of the early ammonites. Causes of the extinction are debated but may be related to cooling climate from CO2 depletion caused by the first forests. Although up to 70 percent of invertebrate species died, terrestrial plants and animals were largely unaffected by these extinction events.

Related:

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Valentine’s Day for animals


This video is called Valentine’s Day Animals: Compilation.

From eNature blog in the USA:

Valentine’s Day In The Wild— There’s A Lot Going On Out There!

Posted on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 by eNature

Some folks love it, others dread it. But no matter what your feelings about Valentine’s Day, there’s no avoiding it.

And it’s not just humans— animals in the wild are succumbing to Cupid’s arrows as well.

Take a a walk through your backyard or a backcountry hike and you’ll likely be confronted by a courtship ritual of some sort. For the animals engaged in such displays, though, the whole month of February, not just Valentine’s Day, is meant for romance.

Despite the chill that remains in much of North America, Raccoons, Minks, river otters, Gray and Red Foxes, Coyotes, and skunks all take time off from their mid-winter hunting to prowl for partners. Groundhogs start to look around longingly soon after they emerge from their long winter’s sleep, and many of their rodent kin, from California Kangaroo Rats to Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, also consider February just the right time for rubbing noses.

Birds, too, at least a few of them, hit their romantic stride during the second month of the year. Great Horned Owls start hooting it up in December but mostly wait till now to take care of their romantic business. Male Red-winged Blackbirds return to much of the continent in February and start right in displaying and singing for prospective females, while American Woodcocks stage their delightfully bizarre courtship performances in the February twilight. And in the swamps of southern Florida, ungainly looking Wood Storks make hay in the February sunshine.

Also out under bright sunny southern skies are myriad butterflies looking for love. There are large Pipevine Swallowtails and diminutive Western Pygmy-Blues in Texas, gorgeous Zebra Heliconians and Gulf Fritillaries in Florida, Spring Azures and Long-tailed Skippers in the other Gulf States, and dainty Desert Marbles and Desert Orangetips in the Southwest. Wherever and whenever you see butterflies flying, even in February, you can rest assured that half of them are males on the lookout for lepidopteran love.

As for amphibians, their amorous inspiration comes in the form of a nice February rain. And when the rain falls, the amphibians emerge from their hibernation and march straight to breeding pools. Pond frogs, treefrogs, toads, and salamanders of all kinds take to the mating trail in February in the southern parts of the United States. The male frogs are at their vociferous best in their choruses to attract mates, while male salamanders vie for partners, too, though without the audible fanfare.

Even fish feel frisky these days, especially the Rainbow Trout in the Smokies and the Largemouth Bass in Texas. The same is true for animals in saltier waters: Humpback Whales, Northern Right Whales, Gray Seals, and Northern Elephant Seals have love on their marine-mammal minds, while far to the north in the pitch-black darkness of the Arctic winter Walruses have a gleam in their eyes.

Environmentalists’ Valentines Day Wish: Stop Selling Bee-Harming Plants: here.

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Prehistoric frog’s anti-dinosaur armour?


This video is called The Evolution of Amphibians.

From LiveScience:

Primeval ‘Devil Frog’ May Have Sported Anti-Dinosaur Armor

By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer

January 29, 2014 10:00am ET

An ancient, predatory creature known as the devil frog may have looked even scarier than previously thought.

The monster frog, Beelzebufo ampinga, lived during the Cretaceous Period in what is now Africa, and sported spiky flanges protruding from the back of its skull and platelike armor down its back, almost like a turtle shell.

“We knew it was big; we knew it was almost certainly predatory,” said study co-author Susan Evans, a paleontologist at the University College London. “What the new material has shown us is that it was even more heavily armored than we imagined.”

The massive frog’s spiked body armor may have helped it fend off the dinosaurs and crocodiles that prowled during that time. [See Photos of the Devil Frog and Other Freaky Frogs]

Elusive lineage

The researchers first discovered a few bone fragments from a mystery frog in Madagascar in 1998, but it wasn’t until 2008 that they had enough pieces to identify the species, which they dubbed the devil frog, or Beelzebufo ampinga. The massive frog lived between 70 million and 65 million years ago.

When the team analyzed the frog’s morphology, they found that physically, it fit in with a family of horned frogs called the Ceratophryidae, which are now found only in South America.

But to reach Madagascar from South America, the frogs would have needed to hop along a passageway, possibly through Antarctica, that linked the two landmasses. But that route was submerged underwater by 112 million years ago, Evans said.

That would mean that devil frogs must have diverged from their South American cousins prior to that submergence, pushing back the origin of Ceratophryidae by more than 40 million years, Evans said.

More specimens

Over the course of the next five years, the team found several more bone fragments of Beelzebufo ampinga. In the new study, they combined all of the fragments to do a much more complete reconstruction of the devil frog.

The new analysis confirms the frog’s lineage in the Ceratophryidae family. It also downgrades the amphibian’s size — instead of being the biggest frog that ever lived, it may be closer to the size of an African bullfrog, which grows to about 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) across.

Even so, the analysis reveals that the devil frog was even fiercer-looking than previously thought. Past studies had suggested it had a huge, globular head; sharp teeth; and short back legs, but the spiky flanges and the plates embedded in its skin were a surprising discovery.

The frogs may have hunted like African bullfrogs, hiding before pouncing on a small mammal.

It’s not clear what the frogs used the body armor for, but one possibility is that the sculptured bones may have been an adaptation to a dry environment that allowed the frogs to burrow underground, where they were less likely to bake in the hot sun, Evans said.

But the armor may also have been protection.

“There were an awful lot of things roaming around that would have liked a bite out of a big, juicy frog,” such as dinosaurs, crocodiles and even strange mammals that once lived on the Gondwana supercontinent, Evans told LiveScience.

The findings were published Jan. 28 in the journal PLOS ONE.

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Saving frogs from fungus disease


This video from the California Academy of Sciences in the USA says about itself:

Science Today: Stopping Chytrid, Saving Frogs

15 Jan 2014

Academy researchers are working to stop the spread of the deadly chytrid fungus to save amphibians.

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Good Andean condor news from Ecuador


This video is called Peru-Giant Condors taking off and landing at Colca Canyon.

From Wildlife Extra:

Andean condors protected by land purchase

January 2014: More than 270,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat in Ecuador has been purchased by the Rainforest Trust. The mammoth property acquisition, which includes the 18,714-foot Antisana Volcano, will create a permanent refuge for the largest population of Andean Condor in the Northern Andes.

The final 6,100 acre property, called Hacienda Antisanilla, was acquired today to complete a project by Rainforest Trust with Fundación Jocotoco, the Municipality of Quito, and the Quito Water Authority in a coordinated effort that will both protect endangered species and secure an important source of drinking water for Ecuador’s capital city.

“The purchase of multiple properties around Volcan Antisana represents one of the greatest conservation victories ever in the Andes of South America,” said Dr. Robert Ridgely, President of Rainforest Trust and a driving force behind this conservation success. “The final acquisition of Hacienda Antisanilla caps a decade-long effort by Rainforest Trust and our Ecuadorian partner Fundación Jocotoco to protect this fragile and biodiverse ecosystem. We are grateful to all of the partners, organizations and donors who made this possible, including The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, who provided critical support to acquire the Hacienda Antisanilla property.”

Flag of Ecuador, with condor

“The purchase of Hacienda Antisanilla was critical, as this property held the most important site for roosting and nesting Andean Condors – Ecuador’s National bird and emblazoned on our national flag.” noted Fundación Jocotoco Executive Director Rocio Merino. “So after years of struggling, we were able to purchase and protect the area thanks to the constant support of Rainforest Trust and Quito authorities.”

“The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation supports the important work of conservation to preserve the rich biodiversity of the Northern Andes,” said Susan M. Coliton, vice president of The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “We saw that the Hacienda Antisanilla property was critical to protecting this population of Andean Condors and were encouraged by the effective cooperation between the conversation effort and the local authorities. We are pleased to have been a part of this successful and important initiative.”

Located just 20 miles from Quito, this enormous but undeveloped area first attracted the attention of conservationists in the 1980s. The Ecuadorian government declared it an ecological reserve in 1993, but the area remained in private hands. Much of the land continued to be farmed, and wildlife was increasingly threatened by over-grazing, fires, and poaching.

Home to the largest single population of condors in the Northern Andes, Antisana is also frequented by pumas, spectacled bears, and the endangered woolly tapir. Antisana is of critical global importance for biodiversity and highlighted as an Alliance for Zero Extinction site due to the presence of no less than three species of threatened frogs found nowhere else. Sadly, the black andean toad (Atelopus ignescens), once common in Antisana, has already gone extinct.

All the properties purchased will be improved by the removal of cattle from the fragile native grassland called “Páramo,” while park guards will patrol the area to curtail poaching.

“This enormous land protection project is even more significant as not only does it help to protect the most critical source of water for the ever-expanding city of Quito but it also connects to two adjacent protected areas, Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve and Gran Sumaco National Park,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust, “Combined, these protected areas safeguard 1.8 million acres of biologically diverse Andean and Amazonian ecosystems.”

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Frogs mating, and the bats danger


This video says about itself:

Risky Ripples

23 Jan 2014

When a male túngara frog serenades female frogs from a pond, he creates watery ripples that make him easier to target by rivals and predators such as bats. A túngara frog will stop calling if it sees a bat overhead, but ripples continue moving for several seconds after the call ceases. In the study, published Jan. 23, 2014 in the journal Science, researchers found evidence that bats use echolocation — a natural form of sonar — to detect these ripples and home in on a frog. The discovery sheds light on an ongoing evolutionary arms race between frogs and bats. Video by Wouter Halfwerk.

From The Why Files:

Menacing mating game: Frogs fear bats!

23 January 2014

Like any foolish fellow, the túngara frog lives and loves dangerously. To those in the tropical-bio-biz, it’s old news that this resident of shallow ponds ranging from Venezuela to Central Mexico is prey to frog-eating bats.

That croaking mating call makes a great target for the flying mammals with an appetite for frogs’ legs. But now we hear another reason why life is hard for the feckless frog.

In a study released today, scientists revealed that the croaking frog sends two separate signals to the bats: First, the mating call, which deters competing males while attracting females — and those hungry bats.

But the frogs power their croak by inflating and deflating an enormous air sac, which forms ripples on the pond that survive even after the frog chokes off its croaks after seeing a bat against the night sky

To test the interaction between the bats and frogs, first author Wouter Halfwerk of Leiden University in The Netherlands set up an experiment in Panama, using artificial frogs to simulate the appropriate sound, with or without ripples

Halfwerk and co-author Michael Ryan, professor of zoology at the University of Texas, found that bats would attack in response to the mating call alone, but the attacks increased 36 percent when ripples accompanied the soundtrack.

Frogs croak, and then croak!

This makes life difficult for the frogs, Ryan notes. To reproduce, they must call. “The males can stop calling, but they can’t take these ripples back, so the danger of calling extends for a few seconds. It’s amazing that bats are able to figure this out.”

The tests were held in darkness, so the bats must have been using their sonar — echolocation — to find the pattern of ripples.

The mating call is primarily to attract females, but it also shouts “Keep away!” to other males, and the competition doubled their “I’m here too!” responses when ripples followed the croaks. “If you look when they are calling, the frogs are spaced out,” Ryan says. “If another male is too close, they start to make aggressive calls, and sometimes they fight; I have seen them kill each other.”

Ryan, who first noticed the frog-bat system as a graduate student in the 1980s studying with bat biologist Merlin Tuttle, notes, “We have known for a long time that the bats can find the frogs.” The new study, however, is the first to show how waves created when the frog sounds off affects bats — and other frogs.

Now that they know that competing males are more responsive when ripples are present, the researchers plan to see how females act with and without ripples.

Live to love, but love to live!

If the bats have “cracked the code” of the frogs behavior, turning a mating move into a death dance, that could be shaping frog behavior. “We know frogs prefer calling under cover, compared to out in the open,” says Ryan. Not only do bats have trouble flying to the sheltered frogs, but they may also have difficulty detecting ripples with echolocation in the brush.

We mused: the frogs, like certain guys we could name, allow mating to trump everything, even mortal danger. “Through the entire animal kingdom — there are exceptions — but most of the attributes that make an animal sexy or beautiful can be very costly. Men die before women in part because testosterone has a negative effect on the immune system.”

Every time an animal communicates, it creates a disturbance in the environment, and that’s especially true for the “look-at-me” mating messages. “The question I have,” Ryan adds, “is how many of these incidental things that we animals do become fodder for another animal that is looking to parasitize, to lay eggs” or grab dinner?

Do some showboating, and a biological big brother may be bugging your channel, Ryan says. “Males have to make themselves more conspicuous to females; to call louder, to wear brighter colors, do fancy dances. But all of this also makes them more conspicuous to predators.”

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New toad species discovery in Peru


How the new species Rhinella yunga fits in the toad family tree

From Wildlife Extra:

A new toad species found in Peru

January 2014: A new, poisonous, species of toad, Rhinella yunga, has been discovered hiding in the leafy undergrowth of the Peruvian Yungas, a tropical and subtropical forest in the Yungas of Peru.

Belonging to the toad family Bufonidae it has a typical warty, robust body and a pair of large poison parotoid glands on the back of its head. When the toads are stressed they excrete the poison as a protective mechanism.

The colour of the Rhinella yunga resembles the decaying leaves in the forest, making it perfectly camouflaged on the forest floor. It is distinct from all related species in absence of a tympanic membrane, a round membranous part of hearing organ being normally visible on both sides of a toad’s head.

“It appears that large number of still unnamed cryptic species remains hidden under some nominal species of the Rhinella margaritifera species group,” explains lead author Dr Jiri Moravec, National Museum Prague, Czech Republic.

See also British daily The Guardian on this, here.

The scientific description of this new species is here (the Guardian article link to the description does not work).

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