Dutch policeman kept illegal pets


This video is called Inside Wildlife Crime.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Illegal animals at police officer’s home

Friday Oct 17, 2014, 15:33 (Update: 17-10-14, 15:46)

At the home of a police officer more than sixty animals have been found. They were in unsuitable pens and cages. The man kept at his home in Schimmert in Limburg province inter alia tawny owls, a turtle, otters, exotic squirrels, rabbits and mice.

A veterinarian examined the animals in the house. Then they were seized and brought to shelters.

The police officer has not been arrested. There is however an internal investigation about him. He kept the animals in his own words as a hobby.

BirdLife Partners create a new European Network against Environmental Crimes: here.

Extinct giant kangaroos, new research


This music video is called Saint Saens: Carnival of the Animals~Kangourous (Kangaroos).

From daily The Independent in Britain:

The mystery of the extinct giant kangaroo is solved – it didn’t hop

The giant Sthenurus – dead for 30,000 years – was three times the size of the modern-day kangaroo

Steve Connor, science editor

Wednesday 15 October 2014

It looked like something out of the pages of Alice in Wonderland but this giant, short-faced kangaroo hid another peculiar characteristic down its pouch – it walked rather than hopped on its hind legs.

The extinct marsupial, which was nearly three times bigger than the largest living kangaroos, died out 30,000 years ago, but only now have scientists been able to tie its locomotion down.

With a leap of the imagination, the researchers were able to visualise how the giant Sthenurus kangaroo, which weighed up to 240kg, moved around by putting one foot in front of another rather than hopping on both legs.

Bipedal hopping is a quintessential feature of kangaroo locomotion, but the Sthenurine group of extinct ‘roos was clearly made for walking, according to Christine Janis of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who led the study published in the on-line journal PlosOne.

“When I first saw a mounted skeleton of a Sthenurine I was struck by how different it was in the back end to modern kangaroos, despite the superficial similarity of long hind legs,” Dr Janis said.

“My work emphasises that the large modern kangaroos are highly specialized in their anatomy for hopping in comparison with other large extinct kangaroos,” she said.

“Sthenurines almost certainly did hop, except perhaps for the very largest ones. The issue is that their anatomy is also suggestive of bipedal walking, which is the unexpected issue here,” she added.

Modern kangaroos use hopping to move around at speed but when moving slowly they walk mostly on all fours, using their massive tails as support – so-called “pentapedal” locomotion.

The extinct Sthenurus, however, must have walked on its hind legs because its anatomy does not fit with the notion of hopping or pentapedal locomotion, Dr Janis said. For a start, it had “robust”, heavier bones compared with the more slender anatomy of modern kangaroos, which would have made hopping hazardous.

“If it is not possible in terms of biomechanics to hop at very slow speeds, particularly if you are a big animal, and you cannot easily do pentapedal locomotion, then what do you have left? You’ve got to move somehow,” Dr Janis said.

An analysis of the giant kangaroo’s anatomy suggests it was well suited to bearing the animal’s entire weight on one leg, which is crucial for bipedal walking. Its ankle bone, for instance, had a flange over the back joint to provide extra support – something missing in modern kangaroos.

Sthenurus has proportionately bigger hip and knee joints than today’s kangaroos and the shape of its pelvis – broad and flared – suggested that it had large gluteal muscles in is backside, which would have allowed it to balance on one leg as it moved the other leg forward, Dr Janis said.

“I think that they originally took this up as an alternative slow gait to the way that other kangaroos move slowly on all fours using their tail to propel their hind legs past their front legs [because] hopping is biomechanically impossible at very slow speeds,” Dr Janis said.

“This requires a flexible back and supporting their weight on their hands, whereas sthenurines had a stiff back and specialized hands for feeding. So they had this unique walking gait,” she said.

Sthenurine kangaroos died out around the same time that modern humans arrived in Australia and began to spread across the continent, suggesting that their demise may have had something to do with human hunting.

Walking rather than hopping would have been a slower and less efficient means of moving fast, which may have been one of the reasons by the giant, walking kangaroo went extinct, leaving their hopping cousins to fill the void, Dr Janis explained.

Madagascar reptile and amphibian biodiversity, new study


This video is called THE CHAMELEONS OF MADAGASCAR.

From Wildlife Extra:

No single explanation found for Madagascar’s biodiversity

Just how the tiny African island of Madagascar (a country that makes up less than 0.5 percent of the Earth’s land surface) developed so many unusual species has puzzled scientists for decades.

But now a new study shows that there is no single explanation for biodiversity in Madagascar. Instead it owes its evolution of more than 700 species of reptiles and amphibians to a variety of circumstances and each group responded differently to environmental fluctuations over time.

The results are important because they suggest that climate change and land use in Madagascar will have varying effects on different species, said co-author Jason Brown of the City College of New York.

“It means that there won’t be a uniform decline of species — some species will do better, and others will do worse. What governs the distribution of, say, a particular group of frogs isn’t the same as what governs the distribution of a particular group of snake. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ model doesn’t exist.”

Located 300 miles off the southeast coast of Africa, the island of Madagascar is a treasure trove of unusual animals, about 90 percent of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Cut off from the African and Indian mainland for more than 80 million years, the animals of Madagascar have evolved into a unique menagerie of creatures, including more than 700 species of reptiles and amphibians — snakes, geckos, iguanas, chameleons, skinks, frogs, turtles and tortoises.

“Not surprisingly, we found that different groups of species have diversified for different reasons,” said Duke University biologist and fellow author Anne Yoder, ” “One of the lessons learned is that when trying to assess the impacts of future climate change on species distribution and survival, we have to deal in specifics rather than generalities, since each group of animals experiences its environment in a way that is unique to its life history and other biological characteristics.”

Understanding how species distributions responded to environmental fluctuations in the past may help scientists predict which groups are most vulnerable to global warming and deforestation in the future, or which factors pose the biggest threat.

Madagascar is of course famous for its lemurs, including the Ring-tailed Lemur. Read a field guide to these charismatic individuals with their striking stripy tails here.

World’s oldest art discovered in Indonesia


This video about Sulawesi in Indonesia is called Cave art in the tropics.

From Nature:

World’s oldest art found in Indonesian cave

Analysis of images discovered in 1950s counters Eurocentric view of creativity’s origins.

David Cyranoski

8 October 2014

Artwork in an Indonesian cave has been found to date back at least 40,000 years, making it the oldest sign yet of human creative art — likely pre-dating art from European caves.

The findings, published on 8 October in Nature, undermine a Eurocentric view of the origins of human creativity and could prompt a ‘gold rush’ to find even older art on the route of human migration from Africa to the east.

The analysis hints at “just what a wealth of undiscovered information there is in Asia”, says Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton, UK, who in 2013 identified what had been considered the world’s oldest cave art, in Europe, and had no involvement in the current project. “This paper will likely prompt a hunt.”

The Indonesian images, discovered in a limestone cave on the island of Sulawesi in the 1950s, had previously been thought to date back only 10,000 years. Anything older would, it was assumed, have deteriorated.

Even after a technology that could test that assumption, uranium-thorium dating, became available, no one thought to apply it to the Indonesian cave — until now. Though the paint itself cannot be dated, uranium-thorium dating can estimate the age of the bumpy layers of calcium carbonate (known as ‘cave popcorn’) that formed on the surface of the paintings. As mineral layers are deposited, they draw in uranium. Because uranium decays into thorium at a known rate, the ratio of uranium to thorium isotopes in a sample indicates how old it is.

The researchers dated 12 stencils of human hands and two images of large animals. Because they sampled the top layer of calcium carbonate, the uranium dating technique gave them a minimum age for each sample.

They found that the oldest stencil was at least 39,900 years old — 2,000 years older than the minimum age of the oldest European hand stencil. An image of a babirusa, or ‘pig-deer’, resembling an aubergine with stick-like legs jutting from each end, was estimated to be 35,400 years old — around the same age as the earliest large animal pictures in European caves.

This video from Sulawesi says about itself:

17 December 2013

A Video about the Babirusa in its natural habitat, the Paguyaman Forest. Other animals such as Heck’s macaque, reticulated python, water monitor lizard, oriental whipsnake, Gunther’s keelback and various birds like knobbed hornbill or emerald dove are also shown.

The Nature article continues:

The hand stencils look similar to those found in Europe. But the animal pictures, in addition to reflecting local animals rather than mammoths as in Europe, are stylistically different. The Indonesian images “look ‘line-y’, almost like brush strokes”, says Pike, whereas early European images “look dabbed, almost like finger paint”.

“It allows us to move away from the view that Europe was special,” says Maxime Aubert, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, who led the team. “There was some idea that early Europeans were more aware of themselves and their surroundings. Now we can say that’s not true.”

Researchers posit two theories for the evolution of such artwork — either it arose independently in Indonesia, or early humans leaving Africa already had the capacity to make art, and carried it to multiple areas.

Pike thinks that researchers should seek evidence of art along the southern migration route. “India is the most obvious place to look,” he says. “I expect we’ll start getting a lot more photos [of images covered in calcium carbonate] from along that corridor from people who want to date them. This may move the field along very rapidly.” Southeast Asia will also be raked over, he predicts. There are hundreds more caves in that region of Sulawesi alone, and Aubert has also started looking in Borneo.

The discovery weakens a much-debated theory that Neanderthals, who were present in Europe until around 41,000 years ago, might have been responsible for the cave art there. “There were no Neanderthals in Sulawesi,” says Pike. But the hand stencils and choice of subject are very similar to the Indonesian figures, he adds.

Aubert hopes that the discovery might draw attention to the need to protect the caves, many of which have been damaged by mining and other industrial activity. Many of the paintings are flaking off, he says. He hopes that the site might finally, after years of candidacy, be designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Education, Social and Cultural Organization, which would accelerate conservation efforts.

Which animals live longest?


This video is called Turtles: Documentary on Turtles, Tortoises, and Terrapins from Around the World.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

What Terrestrial Animal Has The Longest Lifespan?

Posted on Monday, September 29, 2014 by eNature

If you’re a TV watcher, you may have noticed that the long-running TV show Survivor keeps showing up every season.

But there’s a much more interesting version playing out in the wild.

It’s one thing to survive a few weeks on a television show, but it’s quite another to live 180 years and never be voted off the island!

The tale of the ultimate survivor begins in a world of 18th century explorers, kidnappings, and tropical islands, when long-distance travel was by ship and many lands were still uncharted. The secret to this creature’s longevity may be in its philosophy: Slow and steady wins the race.

The Real Survivor

By all accounts the longest-lived creatures on earth are turtles. It may have something to do with the slowed-down lifestyle and perhaps the protective armor. At any rate, tales abound of giant tortoises of the Galapagos, Seychelles, Madagascar, and other islands that lived well over 100 years.

Sailors were said to carve their names and dates into the shells of these behemoths, providing something of a record of their lifespans. But it is quite difficult to track the lifespan of a wild animal, especially when the animal outlives the person keeping track!

What Creature Has Lived Longest?

The longest life of any tortoise of which there is an authenticated record is that of Marion’s Tortoise, a Testudo gigantea. This giant tortoise, along with four of its companions, was taken as an adult from its native island in the Seychelles to Mauritius, where no tortoises occur, by the French explorer Marion de Fresne in 1766. It lived there for 152 years, until it died in 1918. Since it was a full-grown adult at the time of its capture in 1766, its actual age may be estimated at not less than 180 years and perhaps as much as 200 years.

Even the smaller members of the turtle order are known to be long-lived. One Box Turtle, passed down as a family pet, is said to have died at the ripe old age of 123. It was just one year older than the the the person many consider the oldest human on record, a French woman named Jeanne Louise Calment (1875 to 1997).

Winners All Around

Interestingly, turtles aren’t only the longest-lived individuals known, they are the oldest type of living reptiles, vastly more ancient in lineage than the fossil dinosaurs and most of the other extinct forms.

That makes them older than all mammals and birds, as well.

Surely they are doing something right. There may be more to the tale of the tortoise and the hare (lifespan probably up to 8 or 10 years, if lucky!) than race strategy!

Although their numbers are threatened by development, the Eastern Box Turtle is common sight in the woods. Have you encountered any turtles— in your yard or in your travels?

We always enjoy your stories!

Flotsam crabs’ marital fidelity, new study


This video is called Loggerhead Turtle burying eggs and returning to the ocean.

From Oceana.org:

Meet a Tiny Crab Species That’s Not into Long-Term Relationships

Saturday, Sep 27, 2014 by Brianna Elliott

A tiny crab species, commonly known as flotsam crabs, have quite the luxurious lifestyle. They spend most of their lives hitching free rides on loggerhead sea turtles, catching views of the open ocean as they travel safely nestled between their carapaces and tails. Here, they’re offered safety from predators, and typically ride along with a mate to reproduce and have a friend.

Previously assumed to be faithful for life to both their turtle host and mate, a study recently published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology shows that these crabs may not actually be that monogamous. The study found that some male flotsam crabs don’t stick with one crustaceous lover for life, leaving their mate and host when they have the chance.

Scientists are calling this “risky behavior,” since switching hosts leaves these poor swimmers exposed and vulnerable in the ocean. And once they find a new turtle host (the scientists think they may do this when loggerheads converge each year to mate and feed), they’re not even guaranteed asylum: These tiny crabs sometimes have to fight off current male residents to earn the new spot alongside females.

Previous research shows that tiny, monogamous organisms should have similar body sizes to their mates. So, when the study authors found that flotsam crab body size data didn’t match data of a committed lifestyle, they discovered that these crabs may not be so faithful after all. Scientists studied crabs on loggerhead sea turtles in Japan, Mexico, Peru, and Brazil to reach this conclusion, says Smithsonian Science.

While these risk-takers may not engage in the long-term relationships as previously assumed, this behavior clues scientists into the relationship between ecology and mating patterns in crustaceans, says the study.