Leach’s storm-petrel migration tracked using geolocators


This video is called Klykstjärtad stormsvala Leach’s Storm petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa).

From the Journal of Field ornithology:

Migratory movements and wintering areas of Leach’s Storm-Petrels tracked using geolocators

Volume 85, Issue 3, pages 321–328, September 2014

ABSTRACT

Accumulating evidence suggests that Atlantic populations of Leach’s Storm-Petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) are experiencing significant declines. To better understand possible causes of these declines, we used geolocators to document movements of these small (∼50-g) pelagic seabirds during migration and the non-breeding period. During 2012 and 2013, movement tracks were obtained from two birds that traveled in a clock-wise direction from two breeding colonies in eastern Canada (Bon Portage Island, Nova Scotia, and Gull Island, Newfoundland) to winter in tropical waters.

The bird from Bon Portage Island started its migration towards Cape Verde in October, arrived at its wintering area off the coast of eastern Brazil in January, and started migration back to Nova Scotia in April. The bird from Gull Island staged off Newfoundland in November and then again off Cape Verde in January before its geolocator stopped working. Movements of Leach’s Storm-Petrels in our study and those of several other procellariiforms during the non-breeding period are likely facilitated by the prevailing easterly trade winds and the Antilles and Gulf Stream currents. Although staging and wintering areas used by Leach’s Storm-Petrels in our study were characterized by low productivity, the West Africa and northeastern Brazilian waters are actively used by fisheries and discards can attract Leach’s Storm-Petrels.

Our results provide an initial step towards understanding movements of Leach’s Storm-Petrels during the non-breeding period, but further tracking is required to confirm generality of their migratory routes, staging areas, and wintering ranges.

‘Butterfly-headed’ pterosaurs discovery in Brazil


A new species of flying reptile from the Cretaceous Era, Caiuajara dobruskiii, has been unearthed in southern Brazil. The creature, described in a 2014 PLOS ONE paper, sported a bony crest on its head. Credit: Maurilio Oliveira/Museu Nacional-UFRJ

From Live Science:

Flock of Ancient ‘Butterfly-Headed’ Flying Reptiles Discovered

By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer

August 13, 2014 02:00pm ET

An ancient flying reptile with a bizarre, butterflylike head has been unearthed in Brazil.

The newfound reptile species, Caiuajara dobruskii, lived about 80 million years ago in an ancient desert oasis. The beast sported a strange bony crest on its head that looked like the wings of a butterfly, and had the wingspan needed to take flight at a very young age.

Hundreds of fossils from the reptile were unearthed in a single bone bed, providing the strongest evidence yet that the flying reptiles were social animals, said study co-author Alexander Kellner, a paleontologist at the Museu Nacional/Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. [See Images of the Bizarre 'Butterfly Head' Reptile]

Rare find

Though pterosaur fossils have been unearthed in northern Brazil, no one knew of pterosaurs fossils in the southern part of the country. In the 1970s, a farmer named Dobruski and his son discovered a massive Cretaceous Period bone bed in Cruzeiro do Oeste in southern Brazil, a region not known for any fossils, Kellner said. The find was forgotten for decades, and then rediscovered just two years ago. The team dubbed the reptile Caiuajara dobruskii, after the geologic formation, called the Caiuá Group, where it was found, as well as the farmer who discovered the species, Kellner said.

C. dobruskii belonged to a group of winged reptiles known as pterosaurs, which are more commonly known as pterodactyls.

Hundreds of bone fragments from the species were crammed in an area of just 215 square feet (20 square meters). At least 47 individuals — and possibly hundreds more — were buried at the site. All but a few were juveniles, though the researchers found everything from youngsters with wingspans of just 2.1 feet (0.65 m) long to adults with wingspans reaching 7.71 feet (2.35 m). The fossils weren’t crushed, so the 3D structure of the animals was preserved, the authors wrote in a research article published today (Aug. 13) in the journal PLOS ONE.

The ancient reptiles’ bony crests changed in size and orientation as the pterosaurs grew.

Because the adult skeletal size (other than the head) wasn’t much different from the juveniles’, the researchers hypothesized that C. dobruskii was fairly precocious and could fly at a young age, Kellner said.

Water congregation

Based on the sediments in which the bones were found, the area was once a vast desert with a central oasis nestled between the sand dunes, the authors wrote in the paper.

Ancient C. dobruskii colonies may have lived around the lake for long periods of time and died during periods of drought or during storms. As the creatures died, the occasional desert storm would wash their remains into the lake, where the watery burial preserved them indefinitely, the researchers said. Another possibility is that the pterosaurs stopped at this spot during ancient migrations, though the authors suspect that is less likely.

The bone bed, with its hundreds of individuals in well-dated geological layers, is some of the strongest evidence yet that the fruit-eating animals were social, Kellner said.

“This was a flock of pterosaurs,” Kellner told Live Science.

This finding, in turn, strengthens evidence that other pterosaur species may have been social as well, the authors wrote in the paper.

Brazilian endangered parakeet new discovery


This video from Brazil, in Portuguese with English subtitles, is called Grey breasted parakeet Conservation Project – AQUASIS.

From BirdLife:

New population of Critically Endangered Parakeet Found in north-east Brazil

By Martin Fowlie, Tue, 12/08/2014 – 09:29

A team of young conservationists in Ceará state, north-east Brazil, has discovered a small population of five Grey-breasted Parakeet Pyrrhura griseipectus. Less than 200 of these parakeets are known to survive in the wild – all in Ceará state. These rare birds are listed as Critically Endangered by BirdLife on the IUCN Red List and face immediate threats such as trafficking for the pet trade and habitat destruction. The newly discovered birds represent the third remnant population of 15 populations which were previously known to exist – the other two existing in Serra do Baturité and Quixadá.

The team, employed by Brazilian NGO Aquasis, was granted a Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) Future Conservationist Awardin 2012. CLP funding allowed the team to conduct several research expeditions with the aim of finding new populations and improving knowledge about the parakeet’s range.

“Last year, as part of our CLP-funded project we found clues suggesting the presence of this species in an isolated mountain, and it was only in March that we were able to confirm and document the finding”, said Fabio Nunes, project leader. “This discovery could be a new hope to add to the existing conservation efforts led by Aquasis and its partners.

Usually, the Grey-breasted Parakeet lives in tropical forests, nesting inside tree hollows. Yet on this occasion, the five individuals were found in a nest located in a small cavity on top of a rocky mountain, above dry vegetation known locally as Caatinga.

The discovery of new populations is excellent news, but the Grey-breasted Parakeet faces an uphill struggle. Having been left in isolation for so long, the genetic make-up of the new  population may be different enough to suggest that uniting populations may be problematic and risky.

The team is now writing a scientific paper to emphasise the importance of this discovery for the survival of the Grey-breasted Parakeet. Future conservation efforts will focus on environmental education, and direct species and habitat conservation activities led by Aquasis and supported by CLP, BirdLife International and other donors.

Aquasis are also the BirdLife Species Guardian for Araripe Manakin and have been supported by Species Champion Sir David Attenborough through the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

The Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) is a partnership between BirdLife InternationalFauna & Flora InternationalConservation International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and BP

All is well, until the last word of this press release: BP. BP, the oil corporation notorious for killing birds and other wildlife by its pollution, uses this laudable program for greenwashing.

New Brazilian frog discovery, name honours escaped slaves


This video is the film Quilombo, on the history of slavery in Brazil, and slaves’ resistance to it.

From Wildlife Extra:

New species of frog named after slaves

A tiny new species of narrow-mouthed frog from the Microhylidae family has been discovered in the Atlantic Forest of the Espírito Santo State, southeastern Brazil.

Measuring just 14mm, the new species has been name[d] Chiasmocleis quilombola after the quilombos communities typical of the Espírito Santo State in Brazil, where the frogs were collected.

Quilombola communities are descended from slaves who dared to escape during colonial Portuguese rule in Brazil between 1530 and 1815 and find a refuge in the depths of the Atlantic Forest.

Even today in the north of Espírito Santo State quilombola communities still remain and maintain alive their traditions, such as quilombola food and craftwork.

Chiasmocleis quilombola occupy coastal areas north of Espírito Santo State, a region that is under strong human pressure, therefore the species may face imminent threat of habitat loss.

The discovery was made by scientists from two US universities, the University of Richmond in Virginia and The George Washington University in Washington DC.

See also here.

The scientific description of the new species is here.

Giant armadillo, new research


This video is called Mammals of the World: Giant Armadillo.

From Mongabay.com:

On babies and motherhood: how giant armadillos are surprising scientists (photos)

Jeremy Hance

Uncovering the reproductive mysteries of the little-known giant armadillo.

Arguably the most important moment in any animal’s life— whether it be a whale, a human, or a mosquito— is the act of giving birth, of bringing a new member of the species into the world. It’s no wonder that biologists treat reproduction— from conception to birth to child-rearing— as vital not only for understanding an animal’s natural history, but also its conservation. While some species have had their reproduction studied ad nauseum (think pandas) we still know very little about how most species reproduce, including some large, charismatic mammals. Until ten years ago scientist’s knowledge of the reproductive habits of the giant armadillo— the world’s biggest— were basically regulated to speculation. But a long-term research project in the Brazilian Pantanal is changing that: last year researchers announced the first ever photos of a baby giant armadillo and have since recorded a second birth from another female.

The giant armadillo is the only member of the genus Priodontes and the largest member of the Xenarthra order (including anteaters and sloths) which goes back at least 65 million years. Despite its hefty bulk— weighing in at 50 kilograms (110 pounds)— the giant armadillo is notoriously difficult to observe. Its rarity, nocturnal habits, and burrowing lifestyle mean people who live in the area are often wholly ignorant they share the wilderness with these great, shelled beasts.

“After working in the field for eight years I still had never seen a giant armadillo,” said Arnaud Desbiez, the head of the Giant Armadillo Project in an interview with mongabay.com. “Then one day my wife returned from an expedition in the field having seen one in her study area. I could not believe it! A few months later the owner of the ranch found a fresh carcass recently killed by a puma. I decided I wanted to try to learn more about this elusive species.”

Desbiez, a French native who has lived in the Pantanal for 14 years, started the Giant Armadillo Project in 2010. Since then his dedicated team have employed camera traps and radio tracking to unlock the hidden lives of giant armadillos.

What they found was amazing: for one thing giant armadillos are far more maternal than expected. Scientists had thought that giant armadillo babies only spent six weeks with their mother, but the project’s research discovered that in fact juveniles spend at least ten times that amount learning from their mother.

“We have not been able to determine exactly when it becomes fully independent. Although it starts exploring and foraging on its own after six months, it continues sharing a burrow with or near its mother for several more months,” explained Desbiez, who is also the Regional Coordinator for Latin America for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).

The project has also discovered that gestation lasts five months instead of four and that giant armadillos give birth to only one young at a time, instead of usually two as long believed. This information has huge impacts on the conservation of the massive, relict species.

“Each birth requires an incredibly high investment from the mother and we suspect they have a young only once every two years. Population growth rates are therefore very low. This explains why the population density of giant armadillos is so low, and why this species can so easily go locally extinct,” Desbiez said, who added that the project is now trying to determine how many young a female giant armadillo could have in a lifetime.

The giant armadillo is currently categorized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and is imperiled by habitat loss and hunting.

“It feels like we have barely scratched the surface and we still have many more questions than answers,” noted Desbiez. “The question that intrigues me most is we still do not understand how these solitary creatures meet and interact. They have huge home ranges and overlap seems minimal. We believe communication is olfactory through scents left in the burrows and sand mounds.”

Desbiez said giant armadillos are not alone in the fact that researchers know very little about its most basic behaviors.

“The truth is only a few species have been the focus of long term studies and many endangered and even iconic species lack real studies,” he said. “The giant armadillo is only one among many species in South America about which we knew very little. I would blame this on an overall lack of funding for species research and conservation. There are so many species that need urgent attention and too few people able to dedicate their lives to them due to the scarcity of funds.”

Desbiez has received the bulk of his funding from zoological institutions, including the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which runs two zoos.

Soon, app for recognizing wild birds’ songs?


This video is called Some Brazilian birds and sounds.

From Queen Mary University in London, England:

Birdsongs automatically decoded by computer scientists

Scientists from Queen Mary University of London have found a successful way of identifying bird sounds from large audio collections, which could be useful for expert and amateur bird-watchers alike.

Thursday 17 July 2014

 

The analysis used recordings of individual birds and of dawn choruses to identify characteristics of bird sounds. It took advantage of large datasets of sound recordings provided by the British Library Sound Archive, and online sources such as the Dutch archive called Xeno Canto.

Publishing in the journal PeerJ, the authors describe an approach that combines feature-learning – an automatic analysis technique – and a classification algorithm, to create a system that can distinguish between which birds are present in a large dataset.

“Automatic classification of bird sounds is useful when trying to understand how many and what type of birds you might have in one location,” commented lead author Dr Dan Stowell from QMUL’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science and Centre for Digital Music.

Dr Stowell was recently awarded a prestigious five-year fellowship from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop computerised processes to detect multiple bird sounds in large sets of audio recordings.

Birdsong has a lot in common with human language, even though it evolved separately. For example, many songbirds go through similar stages of vocal learning as we do, as they grow up, which makes them interesting to study. From them we can understand more about how human language evolved and social organisation in animal groups,” said Dr Stowell.

He added: “The attraction of fully automatic analysis is that we can create a really large evidence base to address these big questions.”

The classification system created by the authors performed well in a public contest using a set of thousands of recordings with over 500 bird species from Brazil. The system was regarded as the best-performing audio only classifier, and placed second overall out of entries from 10 research groups in the competition.

The researchers hope to drill down into more detail for their next project.

Dr Stowell says: “I’m working on techniques that can transcribe all the bird sounds in an audio scene: not just who is talking, but when, in response to whom, and what relationships are reflected in the sound, for example who is dominating the conversation.”

Want to know more? Read the paper.

Brazil to football World Cup quarter finals, congratulations!


This video is called Brazil Wildlife National Geographic Episode 1.

The Brazilian football team has proceeded to the quarter finals of the World Cup, as they were better at taking penalty kicks than Chile, after one goal each in regular playing time. Congratulations, with this video about Brazilian wildlife.

Brazil loses 7-1 against Germany: here.