Plant, snake discoveries in Romania


This video is called Eryx jaculus – snake.

From BirdLife:

Autumn of discoveries: SOR welcomes new findings in the Romanian flora and fauna

By Alessia Calderalo, Mon, 20/10/2014 – 11:34

For the Romanian Ornithological Society (SOR, BirdLife Partner) the autumn of 2014 will be remembered as one of the most rewarding periods since the society began its work in conservation. Two important discoveries have been made in the area of Romanian flora and fauna; our colleagues in SOR are proud to share them with the BirdLife Partnership.

The first good news came in early May, when biologist Matis Attila was mapping habitats in the Dumbrăveni Forest Natural Reserve, a Natura 2000 site. While working, he discovered a plant that had never been seen in Romania before- the Hairy Broomrape Orobanche pubescens. However, it was not until September that he was able to confirm his identification. This plant normally lives in the Mediterranean Basin, in countries such as Greece and even Bulgaria, but not in Romania. “It is not an invasive species because it was not brought artificially into our ecosystem. Maybe the plant has been here before and nobody noticed, since the members of the Orobanchaceae family are hard to determine”, said Matis. Hairy Broomrape is a parasite that takes its water and minerals from the roots of a host plant. From now on, anyone who is interested in seeing the Orobanche pubescens will have be able to do so at the Alexandru Borza Botanical Garden in Cluj-Napoca, where it will be growing with the other 650,000 plants of their collection.

The second, very exciting moment came with the discovery of several specimens of Javelin sand boa Eryx jaculus, a non-poisonous, non-aggressive snake that had not been seen alive in Romania since 1937. The anonymous person who made the finding reported it via a Facebook message to Vlad Cioflec, herpetologist and SOR member, noting the discovery of one specimen of this small snake. Vlad set up a team with Corina, his wife and fellow herpetologist together with wildlife photographer, Doru Panaitescu. The trio promptly went to the site, where they discovered other individuals: a female and six youngsters that were photographed, filmed and returned to their burrows. In 1986 and again in 2011, individual snakes were found dead in Romania, but no Javelin sand boa had been found alive in the country since before World War II. The fact that not only one but seven individuals have been found this time gives the experts reason to think that a viable population is possible in Romania.

This video is about the recent discovery of Javelin sand boas in Romania.

Both discoveries have raised the hopes of biologists at SOR, whose work is dedicated to ensuring that Romanian ecosystems expand in variety and richness. If you wish to know more about these findings, please contact Ovidiu Bufnila, Communications Officer at SOR.

Cory’s shearwaters’ honeymoon on the Internet


This is a Cory’s shearwater video.

From BirdLife:

Watch the honeymoon of Cory’s Shearwaters from The Azores as it happens

By Alessia Calderalo, Mon, 20/10/2014 – 14:49

All of us have at some time wondered how a baby feels to be slowly discovering the world. But do we ever wonder how it is for animals? Do we ever ask ourselves how little chicks find the courage to fly away from their nests? Thanks to the project Lua de mel no Corvo (Honeymoon in Corvo) by BirdLife Portuguese Partner Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA), we now have the chance to find out!

A key element of the project is an online live video accessible to anyone, showing the progress of Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea breeding pairs in the Azorean island of Corvo, from nest construction to raising the chicks. The Azores archipelago has the world’s largest breeding population of Cory’s Shearwater and this initiative aims to raise awareness of the responsibility of The Azores for the conservation of this emblematic bird.

It was a world first in 2011 when we had the chance to accompany a couple of Cory’s Shearwater as they honeymooned and raised their chick. Sadly, on that occasion, the chick was eaten by a domestic cat. The progress of this first pair was followed by more than 27,000 people in 70 different countries, a record that we hope to break this year as we follow a new couple and their chick, hatched in July.

Since the launch of this second edition, the project website has already received over 12,000 visits by people eager to follow the first flapping of the couple’s chick. During the first days of its life, the chick was guarded by its parents, but later the pair only visited it regularly to feed it. Soon, the chick will leave the nest for its first migration to the Brazilian and South African coasts, where it will spend the winter, only returning in six or seven years for its first breeding season.

Lua de mel no Corvo is only one element in a range of projects undertaken since 2009 by SPEA, the Regional Secretariat for the Sea, the Natural Park of Corvo Island and the Agricultural Service of Flores and Corvo Island, within the programme LIFE+ Safe Islands for Seabirds, with the aim of protecting seabirds in The Azores. Safe Islands for Seabirds was considered to be one of the best of Life+ projects by the European Commission in 2013. Activities include preventing predation by cats and rats, restoring coastal habitats and raising awareness of seabirds and the threats they face.

“We know that eggs and chicks predation, mainly by cats, occurs with a high frequency, since the new hatched chick is left alone most of the time while its parents are foraging for food in the ocean. At this moment, a domestic cat sterilization program is taking place to prevent the increase of wild populations”, said Tânia Pipa, SPEA’s Project Assistant responsible for the actions in Corvo.

The project Lua de mel no Corvo is supported by Portugal Telecom, the City Council of Corvo and the Azorean Government.
Don’t miss this unique opportunity to witness first hand this beautiful natural phenomenon!

For more information, please contact: Joaquim Teodósio, SPEA Azores Coordinator, or Tânia Pipa, Post-Project LIFE Safe Island for Seabirds Assistant.

Young Cape Verde sea turtles, new study


This video from Florida in the USA is called Loggerhead Turtle burying eggs and returning to the ocean.

From Phys.org:

Sea turtles’ first days of life: Scientists follow hatchlings from Cape Verde with tiny acoustic transmitters

Oct 23, 2014

With new nano-sized acoustic transmitters, scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, the Turtle Foundation and Queen Mary University of London followed the pathways of loggerhead turtle hatchlings. According to the study, which was primarily funded by the Kiel Cluster of Excellence ‘The Future Ocean,’ local oceanic conditions are believed to drive the evolution of some unique swimming behaviors. The results are published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) from Cape Verde start their life with a swimming sprint and a ride on favourable ocean currents. In this way, they escape quickly from predator-rich coastal areas and make their way to the safer open ocean where they spend several years feeding and growing. In this study, tiny acoustic transmitters provided direct insight into these pathways for the first time. “Thanks to the new technology we can start to fill in key information gaps about the so-called ‘lost years’ Dr. Rebecca Scott states. Funded by the Kiel Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean”, the marine biologist coordinated a joint study of GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, the Turtle Foundation and the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the Queen Mary University of London.

“Scientists call this early life phase the ‘lost years’, because they were not able to follow new-born sea turtle hatchlings very far. Hatchlings essentially disappear into the sea until many years later when the lucky survivors return to where they born to breed”, Dr. Scott says. But with new techniques like nano-tags and ocean models we are able to see where the tiny young animals go. This is important because the dispersal experiences of hatchlings drive the development of their behaviours into adulthood. The more we understand about the biological and physical determinants of their dispersal and swimming behaviours, the easier we can protect this endangered species.”

In cooperation with the Turtle Foundation at Boa Vista, Cape Verde, the scientists collected hatchlings from two beaches in the northwest and southern tip of the island. Acoustic transmitters with a five millimetres wide and twelve millimetres long streamlined shape that weigh 0,4 grams in water were glued onto the shell of eleven hatchlings. The turtles were then followed at sea using a boat and acoustic receiver for up to eight hours and 15 kilometres. In addition, the swimming behaviour of 16 hatchlings were monitored in “hatchling swimming pools” for several days using data loggers made by engineers at GEOMAR. The turtles swam continuously during their first 24 hours after hatching and then switched to a pattern of activity at daytime and inactivity at night.

Due to the close proximity of offshore currents in this region, it seems the Cape Verdean hatchlings can sleep more at night than hatchlings from other places. For example in America, different research groups have shown that they would have swim a lot more to reach offshore currents”, Dr. Scott explains. “Deep oceanic water and favourable currents, which then determined the travel directions and speeds of our Cape Verdean turtles are situated very near to their nests. Therefore, it is very beneficial for turtles if local oceanic conditions drive the evolution of swimming behaviours that are unique to different nesting locations to ensure their best survival outcomes. It seems that turtles are born with these unique locally adapted behaviours.”

Finally, because larger animals kept swimming for a longer time than smaller individuals, a larger body size is thought to be a good sign of fitness. “But there is some evidence emerging that higher nest temperatures may reduce the size of hatchlings. Therefore, it might be possible that global warming decreases the fitness of the sea turtles by threatening them in more subtle ways than just obvious dangers like the loss of nesting beaches”, Dr. Scott assumes.

New worm species discovery in the Netherlands


Cirriformia tentaculata in New Zealand

Translated from the Dutch marine biologists of Stichting ANEMOON:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A new marine worm species, new for the Netherlands, has recently been discovered. Recreational divers found Cirriformia tentaculata in the central Oosterschelde estuary, and published their findings in ‘Het Zeepaardje’, the bimonthly magazine of the Strandwerkgemeenschap. It is not known whether the species has only just appeared on the Dutch coast, or that it had already been present for a long time but had never been discovered before because of its unobtrusive way of life.

Much sea life is hardly visible to the eyes of sport divers. At least 300 species of worms are known from our coastal waters. Many species live hidden in the sand and mud bottoms.

So, probably many worm species in the Netherlands have not been discovered yet.

Whooping cranes news from the USA


This video from the USA is called Flight to Survive: Saving Whooping Cranes.

From The Badger and the Whooping Crane blog in Wisconsin, USA:

October 25, 2014 by wisreader

Migration Update & Good News about Single Dad Whooping Crane & Chick

The news thus far this whooping crane migration season, has been decidedly mixed, with an early start in some instances, slow progress in others, and what has seemed like no progress at all for the young whooping crane chicks that follow the ultralights. After such a hopeful start to the ultralight migration two weeks ago, the weather in Wisconsin has kept the ultralight airplanes, the seven young whooping cranes that follow them, and their ultralight pilot-guides and ground crews on the ground day after day in Marquette County. Those of us who live in Wisconsin are well aware how little we’ve seen of the sun since September began! It’s no surprise here that this has translated into a long string of “no fly” days. But bad weather can’t last forever – that’s the silver lining for the ultralight chicks.

And in other migration news, the official beginning of migration for the rest of the Eastern Migratory Population (the EMP) was announced at the International Crane Foundation’s Facebook page on Thursday. ICF’s Eva Szyszkoski had tracked seven of Wisconsin’s cranes to Greene County, Indiana.

Embedded in Eva’s report was the exceptionally good news that the EMP’s one surviving wild chick, and the chick’s male parent were among those cranes. There’s been little news about this special pair of cranes – the single surviving wild chick of 2014 (#w3-14) and her father (#12-02) – since late August when the sad news about the disappearance (and presumed death) or the mother crane, #19-04, was announced. (The Badger & the Whooping Crane offered some history of the crane family in the post, “A Single Parent Whooping Crane.”)

In its September Update the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership noted that on September 8, crane w3-14 had been captured for banding (and released). Now comes this new sighting of the crane chick and the father on migration, and it’s a real cause for celebration.

Florida 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.

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.