North American mastodons and mammoths, new study

This video from the USA is about mastodons and mammoths.

From LiveScience:

Mammoths and Mastodons of the Ohio Valley Were Homebodies

By Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | July 28, 2014 01:55pm ET

People may imagine mammoths and mastodons as enormous beasts that roamed the vast North American continent more than 10,000 years ago. But the mammoths and mastodons of present-day southwestern Ohio and northwestern Kentucky were homebodies that tended to stay in one area, a new study finds.

The enamel on the animals’ molars gave researchers clues as to where the mammoths and mastodons lived throughout their lives and what they ate. They discovered that mammoths ate grasses and sedges, whereas mastodons preferred leaves from trees or shrubs. Mammoths favored areas near retreating ice sheets, where grasses were plentiful, and mastodons fed near forested spaces, the researchers said.

“I suspect that this was a pretty nice place to live, relatively speaking,” lead researcher Brooke Crowley, an assistant professor of geology and anthropology at the University of Cincinnati, said in a statement. “Our data suggest that animals probably had what they needed to survive here year-round.” [Image Gallery: Stunning Mammoth Unearthed]

Both animals, now extinct, likely came to North America across the Bering Strait land bridge that connected Alaska to Russia when sea levels were lower than they are today, Crowley told Live Science in an email.

Mammoths — which had teeth ideal for grinding grasses, as well as curved tusks and humped heads — are more closely related to elephants than mastodons are, Crowley said. Mammoths came to North America during the mid-Pleistocene Epoch, about 1 million years ago, she added.

Mastodons arrived much earlier. They had spread across America by the Pliocene Epoch, around 5 million years ago. Their molars were shaped to crush plants, such as leaves and woody stems, and they had long, straight tusks that could grow up to 16 feet (4.9 meters) long, Crowley said.

In the study, the researchers looked at the remnants of carbon, oxygen and strontium, a naturally occurring metal, in the enamel of molars from eight mammoths and four mastodons that lived in Ohio and Kentucky about 20,000 years ago.

The carbon analysis helped researchers learn about the animals’ diet, whereas the traces of oxygen told them about the general climate at the time. Strontium provides insights into how much the animal traveled as their molars developed. Researchers can look at the type of strontium within the enamel and determine where it came from by comparing it to local samples of strontium in the environment.

“Strontium reflects the bedrock geology of a location,” Crowley said. This means that if a local animal has traces of strontium in its tooth, researchers can deduce where that type of strontium came from in the area. “If an animal grows its tooth in one place and then moves elsewhere, the strontium in its tooth is going to reflect where it came from, not where it died,” she said.

Surprisingly, the researchers said, the strontium in the mammoth and mastodon teeth matched local water samples in 11 of the 12 mammals. Only one mastodon appeared to have traveled from another area before settling in the Ohio Valley.

The findings, however, only apply to the animals that lived in that region. “A mammoth in Florida did not behave the same as one in New York, Wyoming, California, Mexico or Ohio,” Crowley said.

The study was published July 16 in the journal Boreas.

Save Sumatran elephants

This video is called Sumatran Elephant Emergency Appeal.

It says about itself:

26 June 2014

An emergency appeal has been launched by the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) for local conservation group HAkA, in response to a significant increase in poaching of Sumatran elephants in Aceh, Indonesia.

The appeal will allow the HAkA teams (made up of local community members and trained conservation professionals) to carry out essential patrols in the Leuser ecosystem throughout July, to remove snares from this key Sumatran elephant corridor during the most intense hunting period.

Visit here to donate.

Wildlife Extra adds:

There are just 500 Sumatran elephants, which are the smallest of the Asian elephants, left and they live in fragmented habitats, as almost 70 per cent of elephant-suitable habitat has been destroyed in the last 25 years.

As a result of this their home, the tropical forests of the Leuser Ecosystem, is part of a designated World Heritage Site in Danger.

And conservationists fear that an increase in poaching could drive this number down even further.

In the first five months of this year, local conservation group HAkA has found and destroyed 139 snares – already more than in the whole of 2013.

Limited forest cover also means that elephants can easily be trapped in small areas, making them easier targets for poachers.

Elephants and beetles in South Africa

This video from South Africa is called Addo Elephant National Park – The Experience.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The beetles that saved the world

Friday 30th May 2014

PETER FROST unravels the ecological travails of the elephants’ symbiotic companions in Addo National Park

Let you introduce you to my young friend William, he might only be 10 but he has a smart head on his shoulders.

When I taught a lesson for his class at the village school on our local 1923 Braunston canal boat strike William came out tops with his knowledge of both the strike and the labour movement in general.

Our last conversation, however, was about Darwinism, evolution and related themes. William was puzzled. He learnt most about the subject not at school but from TV programmes but he didn’t fully grasp the complicated idea of natural selection.

Although the science intrigued him, he got really interested when I mentioned elephant poo and the curious, very threatened species that lives in and on it.

I told William that few years ago I was invited to South Africa to help the new ANC Ministry of Tourism attract visitors to that beautiful country.

Among the places I visited was Addo Elephant Park in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Addo is the third-largest national park in South Africa with spectacular wildlife including 600 wild elephants that have very small or even no tusks.

Over the years this made them less attractive to poachers who tended to hunt down the bigger tuskers. The result was that small tusked animals become dominant.

This isn’t natural selection but selection by illegal slaughter. Today poaching is much better controlled and elephant numbers in Addo are growing nicely.

Creationists will tell you that God designed all the creatures just 6,000 years ago and I suppose if you stretch your credibility you can just about imagine the old bearded geezer dreaming up the magnificent African elephant.

What I find much more difficult is imagining her or him designing the Addo flightless dung beetle, Circellium bacchus. This fist-sized beetle is found in Addo and a very few other locations.

This video is called Circellium bacchus, Flightless Dung Beetle.

These dung beetles have adapted to feed on the droppings of very large animals, mostly elephants.

They eat fresh dung where it drops or roll it into a ball and bury it for later. Up to 16,000 beetles will be recycling a single steaming dung pile.

From the dung the female builds a brood ball several times larger than herself. She rolls it away using her powerful hind legs. Beetles are the world’s strongest insects. Size for size our female can pull equivalent of six double decker buses. She navigates using sun, moon and even the Milky Way.

As she rolls her precious dung ball away the male follows dutifully behind. At a suitable spot, she buries both the ball and him. They mate underground and she lays a single egg inside the ball.

She will stay with it until the egg hatches. The larva feeds on the dung from inside, spending three months as a pupa before it emerges as an immature adult.

These huge and heavy Addo flightless dung beetles have only vestigial wings and have lost the ability to fly. They walk from one poo pile to the next feeding and collecting the dung they need for the brood balls.

Like all other dung beetles, and there are over 1,600 species worldwide, they evolved to match the lifestyle of a particular species and their dung. Without these beetles the earth would be knee deep in the sweet and sticky dung — these beetles are therefore ecologically essential.

In Addo today beetles face a new threat — from car drivers.

Strangely there is something really tempting about driving over or through a two foot high, still steaming pile of pachyderm poo. Worse, Addo elephants, it seems, favour roads as the number one place for “number twos.”

Some really insensitive drivers have even been aiming for the hard working female as she pushes her sizeable brood ball across the highway.

Now the park rangers have signs and fines to protect the beetles from mindless drivers and gradually these amazing creatures are being brought back from the brink.

William tells me he is glad about that. Smart lad that William.

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