Madagascar lemurs, new research


This 16 October 2014 German video is about the recent research about white-footed sportive lemurs.

From Wildlife Extra:

Lemurs get messages when they go to the toilet

Public toilets are often a place humans use to communicate thoughts to others, and it is a habit not just restricted to humans, new research has discovered.

Scientists from the German Primate Center (DPZ) have found that White-footed sportive lemurs in southern Madagascar also use communal toilets as places to air their thoughts, only instead of writing on the walls, they use scent-marks on latrine trees to communicate with each other and warn intruders that that there is a male that will defend his partner.

This is an important method of communicating for them because although White-footed Sportive Lemurs are nocturnal tree-dwellers that live together in families consisting of parents and their offspring, the individuals do not interact much.

But what they have in common are latrines that are located in the core of their territory, which the whole family uses, and so it is a very useful place to leave messages for each other and keep in contact.

“Scent marks transmit a variety of information such as sexual and individual identity and may function to signal an individual’s presence and identity to others,” says Iris Dröscher, from the German Primate Center. “Latrines therefore serve as information exchange centres of individual-specific information.”

Read a field guide to the Ring-tailed lLemurs of Madagascar HERE.

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.

Sydney spiders bigger than Australian outback spiders


This video from the USA says about itself:

6 June 2011

Get a behind-the-scenes look at this history and creation of this dazzling textile—the only one of its kind in the world—made from the strands of silk from over one million of Madagascar’s golden orb spiders. On view at the Art Institute of Chicago through October 2011.

From Wired magazine:

Cities Are Making Spiders Grow Bigger and Multiply Faster

By Nick Stockton

08.20.14, 2:00 pm

Something about city life appears to be causing spiders to grow larger than their rural counterparts. And if that’s not enough to give you nightmares, these bigger urban spiders are also multiplying faster.

A new study published today in PLOS One shows that golden orb weaver spiders living near heavily urbanized areas in Sydney, Australia tend to be bigger, better fed, and have more babies than those living in places less touched by human hands.

The study’s authors collected 222 of the creatures from parks and bushland throughout Sydney, and correlated their sizes to features of the built and natural landscape. …

To measure urbanization, the authors looked primarily at ground cover throughout the city, at several scales, where they collected each spider: Are surfaces mostly paved? Is there a lack of natural vegetation? Lawns as opposed to leaf litter?

“The landscape characteristics most associated with larger size of spiders were hard surfaces (concrete, roads etc) and lack of vegetation,” said Elizabeth Lowe, a Ph.D student studying arachnids at the University of Sydney.

Humped golden orb weavers are a common arachnid along Australia’s east coast. They get their name from their large, bulging thorax, and the gold silk they use to spin their spherical webs. They typically spend their lives in one place, constantly fixing the same web (which can be a meter in diameter). Each web is dominated by a single female, though 4 or 5 much smaller males usually hang around the edges of the web, waiting for an opportunity to mate (only occasionally does the female eat them afterwards).

Paved surfaces and lack of vegetation mean cities are typically warmer than the surrounding countryside. Orb weavers are adapted to warm weather, and tend to grow bigger in hotter temperatures. The correlation between size and urban-ness manifested at every scale. Citywide, larger spiders were found closer to the central business district. And, their immediate surroundings were more likely to be heavily paved and less shady.

More food also leads to bigger spiders, and the scientists believe that human activity attracts a smorgasbord of orb weavers’ favorite prey. Although the study wasn’t designed to determine exactly how the spiders were getting bigger, the researchers speculate that things like street lights, garbage, and fragmented clumps of plant life might attract insects. They also believe that the heat island effect might let urban spiders mate earlier in the year, and might even give them time to hatch multiple broods.

The orb weavers could also be keeping more of what they catch. Because they are such prolific hunters, orb weavers’ webs are usually home to several other species of spiders that steal food. The researchers found that these little kleptos were less common in webs surrounded by pavement and little vegetation.

Lowe says quite a few species of spider are successful in urban areas, and she wouldn’t be surprised if some of these other species were also getting bigger. Despite how terrifying this sounds, she assures me that this is actually a good thing. “They control fly and pest species populations and are food for birds,” she said.

Save amphibians, worldwide alliance


This video says about itself:

Together We Can Save Amphibians

28 November 2013

The Amphibian Survival Alliance is the world’s largest partnership for the protection of amphibians. Our approach is effective and efficient — by creating new reserves in priority sites worldwide we are able to save entire species with modest and targeted investment. Over the next six months we will triple every dollar donated through WorthWild, with a goal of securing 100,000 football fields-worth of amphibian habitat in the Philippines, Madagascar, Ecuador and beyond. Learn more here. Help Spread The Word. Share This Initiative!

From Wildlife Extra:

World’s largest partnership for amphibian conservation formed

Amphibian conservation is proving to be one of the most important conservation challenges of this century, with alarming implications for the health of ecosystems globally.

Which is why Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has joined the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) in agreeing to support conservation actions and research to address the global amphibian extinction crisis.

Together they make the world’s largest partnership for amphibian conservation.

Amphibians are key indicators of environmental change and biological health. Their permeable skin absorbs toxic chemicals, which makes them more susceptible to environmental disturbances on land and in water.

Breathing through their skin means they are more directly affected by chemical changes present in our polluted world – so the health of amphibians such as frogs is thought to be indicative of the health of the biosphere as a whole.

Frogs have survived in more or less their current form for 250 million years – surviving asteroid crashes, ice ages and other environmental disasters and disturbances.

They have a natural extinction rate of about one species every 500 years, but shockingly, since 1980 up to 200 species have completely disappeared.

Using a priority-actions framework provided by the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, this new partnership will facilitate the implementation of conservation initiatives at all scales, from local to global.

“We are delighted to have Fauna & Flora International join the ASA,” said Don Church, Executive Director of the Amphibian Survival Alliance.

“FFI’s long tradition of achieving conservation impact in the field is exactly what amphibians need now.”

Aldrin Mallari, FFI’s Philippines Country Director, added, “We are very happy to have found allies in ASA, to jointly address the issues of such excellent ambassador species for fragile ecosystems.”

Hop on to Amphibian Survival Alliance to find learn more about how organisations like FFI and others around the world are working together within the ASA for amphibians, the environment and people.