Noddy tern’s Galapagos symbiosis with brown pelican


Brown noddy tern and brown pelican, photo SOLENT NEWS

From the Daily Express in Britain:

A cheeky bird that booked a free ride and meal on pelican

THIS naughty seabird perches on the head of a pelican… just waiting for the chance to claim any fish dropped by its feathered rival.

By: John Ingham

Tue, August 19, 2014

And the smaller brown noddy bird clearly comes out on top.

“The noddy takes advantage of the pelican’s fishing style to cash in on a free meal,” said wildlife photographer Tui De Roy, who snapped the uninvited guest in action off the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific.

“Neither the noddy nor the pelican fear each other. Both are well accustomed to the relationship, even if it is one-sided.”

The large-billed pelican feasts on small fish, with the noddy grabbing a quick snack if it sees the chance.

Tui, 60, who grew up on the islands, added: “Several pelicans were working the shallows, diving every few minutes. Each was followed by several noddies that settled on their heads, snatching fish trying escape.

“I suspect the pelican doesn’t really appreciate the hitchhiker, but it is used to it and there’s nothing it can do to shake it off while its beak is still full of water.”

Perhaps the pelican should just send it the bill…

Charles Darwin’s complete Galapagos library posted online


This video says about itself:

11 November 2011

A classic example of evolution on Daphne Major Island in the Galapagos. Natural selection works on beak size variation of Darwin’s Finches.

From ars technica:

Darwin’s complete Galapagos library posted online

404 volumes kept on board the Beagle join the giant Darwin Online repository.

by Sam Machkovech – July 16 2014, 10:40pm +0200

Charles Darwin‘s massive ship library, including astounding drawings of species from far-off lands, meant he rarely had to come above-board while sailing on the Beagle in the 1830s.

Charles Darwin’s five-year journey to and from the Galapagos Islands ended in 1836. While that was over two decades before the publication of On the Origin of Species, he credited his time on board the Beagle as a formative experience for his theory of evolution. That extended trip wasn’t only spent studying local wildlife, especially during lengthy voyages at sea to and from home—Darwin also devoured a library of more than 400 volumes of text.

While many of those books were referenced in his later research, they were not preserved as a collection once the Beagle returned to England, leaving a gap in our understanding about the books and studies that kept Darwin’s mind occupied during such an historic era. Now, thanks to the painstaking efforts of a two-year Beagle project funded by the government of Singapore, that complete on-ship library has been transcribed and posted at Darwin Online, the world’s largest repository of Darwin-related texts and writings.

The library, which was stored in the same cabin as Darwin’s bed and desk during his journey, totaled out at 195,000 pages by the time researchers at the National University of Singapore assembled the full collection (and these weren’t exactly picture books, with only 5,000 corresponding illustrations). The complete list is quite astounding, made up of atlases, history books, geology studies, and even a giant supply of literature. Darwin also enjoyed a few books in French, Spanish, and German, along with a book in Latin about species and a Greek edition of the New Testament.

Historians and fans can read and perform text searches of the fully transcribed library. But if you’re pressed for time, we strongly encourage you to at least skim through the collection of gorgeous illustrations.

Explorer Thor Heyerdahl born 100 years ago


This video from Oslo in Norway is called The Kon-Tiki Museum.

From the Norway Post:

Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo celebrates the 100th anniversary of Thor Heyerdahl’s birth

Amazing new exhibition and activities in Norway and abroad as the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo celebrates the 100th anniversary of Thor Heyerdahl’s birth

When the famous Norwegian adventurer, scientist and communicator Thor Heyerdahl died on 18 April 2002 it made headlines around the world. No Norwegian celebrity’s death has received as much coverage before or since. He had become world famous 55 years earlier thanks to his legendary Kon-Tiki expedition and photos of Thor Heyerdahl and his crew together with the USA’s President Truman outside the White House.

The photos and the story of the Kon-Tiki expedition were everywhere. Naturally, interest did not decline when the film about the expedition won the Oscar for best documentary and the book sold by the millions. It has since been translated into 72 languages. During these years, Thor Heyerdahl retained his world celebrity thanks to new expeditions that were loved by the entire world, but also strongly criticised by academia.

He followed up the Kon-Tiki expedition with other spectacular expeditions on the reed boats Ra and Tigris. His recreations of prehistoric voyages showed that early man had mastered sailing before the saddle and wheel were invented. His reputation as a scientist was consolidated through his archaeological excavations on the fabled, mysterious Easter Island. Curiosity was Thor Heyerdahl’s driving force. Thor Heyerdahl’s archives at the Kon-Tiki Museum have now been included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. Much of this archive is now on display in the Kon-Tiki Museum’s new library exhibition, which opened in April this year.

The Kon-Tiki Museum is celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth with a new, upgraded exhibition. There will also be a touring exhibition, accompanied by lectures and films, which will travel around Norway and abroad: Russia, the UK, Italy, the US, Canada, Spain, Armenia, Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania and Estonia. The ‘Thor Heyerdahl 1914 – 2014′ exhibition portrays Thor Heyerdahl’s life and best known expeditions on large posters through text and photos. At the Kon-Tiki Museum the Kon-Tiki raft has been fitted out as it was on its voyage across the Pacific Ocean in 1947.

Upgraded Kon-Tiki exhibition – Kon-Tiki sails again

The exhibition is our most comprehensive yet and has a special section for children. A new exhibition, ‘The Tiki Effect’, tells the story of how the names Kon-Tiki and Aku Aku (Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition to Easter Island in the 1950s) became buzzwords from the 1950s to the 1970s, with bars, restaurants, music and fashion named after Kon-Tiki and Aku Aku. Even Walt Disney adopted the idea in Disneyland and the well-known pop group The Shadows had a hit with a song called Kon-Tiki.

This music video is called The Stranger ~ Kon Tiki – The Shadows.

The Galapagos expedition – new exhibition

Thor Heyerdahl believed that South American Indians could have sailed from Peru and Ecuador to the Polynesian islands. He proved this was feasible with the Kon-Tiki expedition.

“Why did no Indians visit the Galapagos Islands?” asked his opponents, who claimed that there were no clear signs that South American Indians had visited the Galapagos Islands. Thor Heyerdahl took this as a direct challenge. He quickly organised a small expedition with three archaeologists. Within two months, after digging in five locations on Floreana, Santa Cruz and Santiago, the three men had collected more than 1,988 pieces of pottery, one pottery flute, four pieces of flint, one piece of obsidian, and two other artefacts that proved the islands had been visited in both historic and prehistoric times.

Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition to the Galapagos Islands now has its own exhibition at the museum where kids can also learn how an archaeologist works.

Cave stone sculptures from Easter Island

When Thor Heyerdahl was on Easter Island in 1955-1956 he learned that there were old family caves that were passed down through the generations. Thor Heyerdahl became the first outsider, from a country far away over the sea, who was allowed to see a family cave on Easter Island. The sculptures he found here depicted a wide variety of subjects, from people and mammals to birds, fish, insects and molluscs. There were skulls carved in stone, animals with human heads, faces with beards, a hook-beaked birdman and models of reed boats. Thor Heyerdahl was given some of the cave stones by the local population and he bought others.

Since then, the 900 cave stone sculptures have been stored at the Kon-Tiki Museum, inaccessible to the general public until this summer in 2014. Some of them are old, while others were probably made while Thor Heyerdahl was on Easter Island in 1955-1956.

More exhibitions about Thor Heyerdahl the scientist, environmentalist, adventurer and artist will open in the autumn of 2014. There will also be a new exhibition about the fantastic voyages across the Atlantic Ocean on Ra and RA II, both named after the Egyptian sun god.

Bloodthirsty finches on the Galapagos islands


This video say about itself:

In the Galápagos, when there’s no food to be found, the sharp-beaked ground finch adapts with a bloodthirsty appetite. Their target: nearby seabirds called boobies.

From Wired.com:

Absurd Creature of the Week: The Tiny Blood-Slurping Bird That Terrorizes the Galapagos

By Matt Simon

07.04.14

The Galapagos Islands are as beautiful as they are unforgiving. Patrick Watkins could have told you as much when his captain rudely marooned him there in 1805 for acting like an ass. According to legend, mostly coming from Watkins himself, he managed to scrape by alone on the island, trading vegetables with passing ships for grog. He’d then tie on a good drunk, and the crews that intermittently landed would find him sunburned and ragged and raving, a menace no captain in his right mind would volunteer to rescue.

Watkins, though, wasn’t the only terror on the Galapagos. You see, Wolf Island, an often brutally dry rock in the archipelago, is ruled by vampires—hordes and hordes of tiny vampires. These are the so-called vampire finches, enterprising critters in a brutal environment that have figured out how to nip at the tail feathers of other birds until they draw blood, somehow without their victim putting up much of a fight. Even though they don’t sparkle or battle werewolves or whatever, they’re marvels among the many marvels that are the famed Darwin’s finches.

Ken Petren, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Cincinnati, landed on Wolf Island in April to study these remarkable vampires, actually a subspecies of the sharp-beaked ground finch, and didn’t even lose his mind and eventually throw his colleagues overboard. “I could say that I was pretty skeptical of the whole vampire finch thing, having heard about it and realizing that there’s not a ton of data on it, mostly just some observations,” he said.

But what he found was far more macabre than the typical recorded accounts of vampire finches pestering the living daylights out of adult boobies. “On this island they really seem to be purposefully going up to a booby chick in the nest,” Petren said, “and they peck at the base of their tail where they have oil glands, and they make it bleed and they drink the blood.”

Even more menacing, they have a habit of gathering in mobs for such endeavors, watching each other intently to learn how to be unimaginably annoying for the rest of their lives. And although Petren saw them swarming dead chicks, he hesitates to conclude that the finches were responsible for the deaths. Life in this hot, dry environment is tough, so mortality rates for seabirds are quite high as it is, and he has no direct observations of finches actively hunting the babies.

Turtle, shark migration from Costa Rica to Ecuador


This is called Sea Turtle Migration Video.

From Wildlife Extra:

First evidence of an important marine migration corridor between Costa Rica and Ecuador

Sanjay, a 53k (117lb) male endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizii), recently made history when he completed a 14-day migration from the Cocos Island Marine National Park in Costa Rica to the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador.

Sanjay is the first turtle to directly link these two protected marine areas, proving the connectivity of the Eastern Tropical Pacific, as well as highlighting the importance of protecting migration routes.

“It’s truly remarkable,” said Alex Hearn, conservation science director for the Turtle Island Restoration Network, based in California.

“Sanjay knew where he was headed, and made a beeline from one marine protected area to the next.

“These protected areas of ocean are hot spots for endangered green sea turtles, but we also need to think about their migratory corridors between protected areas.”

Sanjay was one of three green sea turtles tagged at Cocos Island in June during a joint 10-day research expedition by the Turtle Island Restoration Network and Programa Testauracion de Tiburones y Tortugas Marinas (PRETOMA) of Costa Rica.

Since 2009, the two organisations have tagged over 100 turtles and several species of sharks in a programme to understand how endangered turtles and sharks use the Cocos Island and Galapagos National Parks marine protected areas, and to see if their is biological connectivity between those new sanctuaries.

Sanjay is the first turtle to have been documented moving between these two marine protected areas and joins several hammerhead sharks, a silky shark and a Galapagos shark that have spent time at both of these reserves.

“Finally seeing a turtle move from Cocos Island directly to Galapagos is absolutely amazing,” said Maike Heidemeyer from PRETOMA. “Especially because preliminary genetic research results suggest that there is a connection between the green turtles at Cocos Island and the Galapagos.”

Green sea turtles, like Sanjay, play an important role in the Eastern Tropical Pacific ecosystem, but little is known about the geographic distribution of juveniles and males, despite the fact that nesting sites for female turtles have been identified in the Galapagos, mainland Mexico and Revillagigedo Islands, as well in the Northern Pacific of Costa Rica.

At Cocos Island, two different populations of turtles occur: the black-to gray coloured Eastern Pacific green turtles (also known as “black turtles”) and Western Pacific populations. Both populations are considered by some to be subspecies, but there is no official taxonomic division.

“These species are protected while they are in the reserves, but as soon as they swim beyond the no-fishing zone, they are being hammered by industrial fishing vessels that set millions of hooks in the region,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island, biologist and co-primary investigator of the Cocos research programme.

“Our goal is to collect the necessary scientific data to understand the migratory routes and advocate for ‘swimways’ to protect these endangered species throughout their migration.”

“The route that Sanjay followed is riddled with longline fishing gear,” said Randall Arauz of PRETOMA.

“Several international initiatives exist to improve marine conservation in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, and its time for these initiatives to translate into direct actions that ultimately protect these turtles from unsustainable fishing practices.”

Satellite, acoustic and genetic information is currently being analysed and will be officially published later in the year.

Sea turtle Sanjay is on the move again, the latest ping suggests that he is headed to green sea turtle nesting grounds at Isabela Island.

Sanjay’s migration track can be seen on this map.

Researchers have tracked a green turtle migrating nearly 4000 kilometers from its home. That’s a record breaker for the species, but it’s bad news for some marine protected areas (MPAs). Such zones are off-limits to fishing, yet they may not be keeping these turtles—and other highly migratory animals—safe, according to a new study: here.

Shark finning in Costa Rica decimates world’s sharks. Read more here.

Save Galapagos mangrove finches


This video is called Galapagos Mangrove Finches Nest.

By Christina Simmons, of the Charles Darwin Foundation:

First release of critically endangered mangrove finches into Galapagos forest

June 2, 2014

Biologists from the Charles Darwin Foundation, Galapagos National Park Directorate, and San Diego Zoo Global are celebrating the release of 15 mangrove finches into the mangrove forest habitat on the island of Isabela, Galapagos, Ecuador. This is the first time these critically endangered birds have been captive reared and released into the wild. The release of these birds is part of a new initiative designed to increase the wild population of the species.

“The mangrove finch is the most threatened bird species in the Galápagos, with an estimated population of only 80 birds,” said Francesca Cunninghame, lead scientist for the Charles Darwin Foundation. “This first season of the program has been a great success and we have increased mangrove finch fledging success by over 200%.”

In February, mangrove finch eggs and newly hatched chicks were collected from wild nests at Playa Tortuga Negra. The eggs and chicks were transferred to the Charles Darwin Research Station, Santa Cruz, for artificial incubation and hand-rearing. During March, the fledglings were transported back to Playa Tortuga Negra, where they were placed in pre-release aviaries to allow them to adapt to their natural environment. After four to six weeks in the aviaries, the first group of seven birds was released on April 20. This was followed by subsequent releases until all 15 of the chicks raised in captivity were freely exploring their wild habitat. “Until now, mangrove finch nestlings had a very high rate of mortality due to an introduced parasitic fly, Philornis downsi,” said Richard Switzer, associate director for San Diego Zoo Global. “By headstarting’ the youngsters through captive propagation, we have been able to protect this year’s hatchlings and improve the species’ chances for conservation.”

Going from captivity to the forest represented a big transition for the young finches. Time spent in the pre-release aviaries, monitored by conservationists, gave the young birds an opportunity to adapt to life in the wild. During this transition the mangrove finches were given a captive diet and also encouraged to search for naturally occurring food among the dead logs, leaf litter, tree branches, native fruits and black mangrove seeds in the aviaries.

“We are very encouraged by what we were able to accomplish with the mangrove finch this year and are hopeful that the hand-rearing program can help the species survive until the Philornis can be controlled,” said Beau Parks, a senior keeper on the San Diego Zoo team. “As zoo biologists, it is rewarding to see finches, which we had collected as eggs and then hand-reared, returning back to their forest habitat to boost the wild population.”

Before releasing the finches, tiny transmitters weighing 0.3 grams were attached to each bird, allowing the field team to monitor the bird’s survival and dispersal for up to 22 days. During this time, fledglings were observed foraging, interacting with their wild counterparts and dispersing over neighboring lava fields. Additionally, the aviaries remained open for several weeks after release and the team maintained a continuous presence observing birds that returned for supplementary food. As the birds became more independent, the frequency of their visits decreased.

“In order to reach our objectives the Environmental Authority always needs the collaboration of strategic allies who provide us with technical and scientific assistance,” said Arturo Izurieta, Director of the Galapagos National Park Directorate.

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Saving Darwin’s finches on the Galapagos


This video from the USA says about itself:

Help Protect Darwin’s Finches!

From the Northlands News Center in the USA:

Duluth native’s idea could help save Darwin’s Finches

May 26, 2014

Updated May 27, 2014 at 7:05 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) – A famous group of bird species has a Duluth native to thank for helping save it from a grim fate.

Darwin’s Finches, studied by famed researcher Charles Darwin, are a group of several bird species on the Galapagos Islands.

The birds had been dying from a parasite laid in their nests by flies. It was known that a mild insecticide could kill the parasites, but it was hard for researchers to get to the nests and apply the insecticide without disturbing them.

Then, Duluth native and University of Utah researcher, Sarah Knutie, had an idea.

“Female Darwin’s Finches were coming to my laundry line and grabbing frayed fibers off of the laundry line,” said Knutie, who had been studying the finches in the Galapagos as part of her dissertation, “[I thought] I wonder if I could spray cotton balls with this mild insecticide, present the cotton balls to the finches and allow them to take the cotton back to their nests and essentially kill the parasites themselves.”

Her idea worked. The researchers found that the insecticide-treated cotton lowered the number of parasites in the Finches’ nests.

While Knutie says this is a short–term solution, it is progress in what biologists say could become a very serious problem.

“Very unique organisms live there [the Galapagos Islands] that aren’t found any place else on earth,” said University of Minnesota Duluth biology professor, Dr. Timothy Craig, “It would be a real loss in a lot of ways if we lose one of those species.”

Knutie is nearing the end of her PhD work at the University of Utah and has a job at the University of South Florida as a post–doctoral researcher.

She hopes to one day be a professor.

Jennifer Austin

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