Mozambique reef sharks, new research

This video says about itself:

23 May 2014

In this new Shark Academy, Jonathan Bird explores the Gray Reef Shark, a small feisty shark that is one of the most common in the tropical Pacific. It’s also the species most well known for agonistic displays.

From Wildlife Extra:

New tagging scheme in Mozambique to study endangered grey reef sharks

Grey reef sharks appear to congregate around Vamizi Island to reproduce

Vamizi Island in Mozambique is launching a shark-tagging project to learn more about grey reef sharks.

This endangered species on the IUCN Red List is often seen on Vamizi’s reefs and is an important indicator of the health of the marine ecosystem.

In September 2014, a group of scientists will travel to Vamizi to assist freediving world record holder and IUCN Oceans Ambassador, William Winram, as he dives to fit satellite tags to 10 sharks.

Photographer and film-maker Mattias Klum will capture footage of the event to feature in a film he is producing on the marine eco-system that surrounds Vamizi.

In October, a further 20 sharks will be fitted with acoustic tags by marine scientists. The object of the project is to understand the sharks’ movements and breeding habits, providing invaluable information in the bid to protect them.

The grey reef shark tagging project is one of the first initiatives to be launched under a new partnership between Vamizi and the IUCN.

Large aggregations of up to 30 grey reef sharks have been witnessed between July and November at sites such as the Neptune’s Arm dive site.

All the sharks are mature females, suggesting that these aggregations may have something to do with reproduction.

This Vamizi aggregation is one of the very few known along the East Africa Coast, where shark populations are severely threatened.

By collecting data from tags fitted, the Vamizi-IUCN team will begin gathering the knowledge about their patterns of behaviour, feeding and reproduction that is needed to develop a strategy to protect them.

Known as the Vamizi ‘Big Five’ on the island, the grey reef shark, green turtle, giant grouper, bumphead parrotfish and Napoleon wrasse, all feature on the IUCN’s Red List of endangered species, and take refuge in Vamizi’s waters to feed and reproduce.

From early 2015, the project will be rolled out across several more of the most endangered species, including the populations of marine … hawksbill turtles that are frequent visitors to Vamizi’s reefs.

Four new chameleon species discovered in Mozambique

This video is called BBC World news documentary on the discovery of new species of chameleon on Mount Mabu – northern Mozambique.

From Wildlife Extra:

Four new species of chameleon discovered in Mozambique

Four new species of pygmy chameleon have been discovered in Mozambique’s sky islands. These are isolated mountains found in the north of the country that all feature pockets of rainforest, which have been separated for many thousands of years.

The researchers focused on four mountains and found a different species of chameleon at each; Rhampholeon nebulauctor (Mt Chiperone) , Rhampholeon tilburyi (Mt Namuli), Rhampholeon bruessoworum (Mt Inago) and Rampholeon maspictus (Mt Mabu).

Rhampholeon is a genus of small chameleons, commonly known as pygmy chameleons or African leaf chameleons, found in central East Africa. They are found in forests, woodlands, thickets, and savanna, and most species are restricted to highlands.

Expedition organiser Dr Julian Bayliss, from Fauna & Flora International said: “The biodiversity of the high altitude mountains of northern Mozambique is only starting to be explored and we are finding many new species from most taxonomic groups. This is just the start, and we expect many more new discoveries in the future.”

Protect beautiful Mozambique rainforest

This video says about itself:

Discovering Mount Mabu

3 March 2011

Earth Focus: Scientists discover new species of wildlife in Mt. Mabu, a remote forest region in Mozambique that was, until recently, one of the few unexplored places left on Earth. Correspondent Jeffrey Barbee follows a research team to Mt. Mabu reporting on their new finds and explaining why this lost Eden is important for conservation.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Protect the Mozambique forest found on Google Earth, scientists say

Mount Mabu rainforest teeming with new and unique species including pygmy chameleons and bronze-colour snakes

Josh Davies

Friday 3 January 2014 07.00 GMT

A remote rainforest in Mozambique discovered using Google Earth has so many new and unique species that it should be declared a protected area, scientists say.

Pygmy chameleons, a bronzed bush viper and butterflies with shimmering yellow wings are among the species in the forests covering Mount Mabu in northern Mozambique.

Discovered in 2005 by scientists using satellite images, the forests, previously only known to local villagers, have proven to be a rich ecosystem teeming with new species of mammals, butterflies, reptiles, insects and plants. The mountain forests have been isolated from a much larger forest block for millennia, meaning there has been no migration between this site and the next mountain for tens of thousands of years, allowing unique species to evolve in isolation.

One such species is a golden-eyed bush viper with bronze-edged scales (Atheris mabuensis) which Julian Bayliss, a conservation scientist for Kew Gardens, found by stepping on during a survey. His team is also waiting to describe a further two species of snake. A new species of chameleon (Nadzikambia baylissi) has already been described from the site, and the researchers are also describing another. The size of a human palm, with a warm yellow chest, green eyes and a spiky crest along its back, Rhampholeon sp. are commonly known as pygmy chameleons.

Bayliss’s team has identified 126 different species of birds within the forest block, including seven that are globally threatened, such as the endangered spotted ground thrush (Zoothera guttata). There are an estimated 250 species of butterfly, including five which are awaiting to be described, like Baliochila sp., a vibrant specimen which has shimmering yellow wings dusted with black. New species of bats, shrews, rodents, frogs, fish and plants are also waiting to be described.

“The finding of the new species was really creating an evidence base to justify its protection,” explained Dr Bayliss, “and now we’ve got enough to declare a site of extreme biological importance that needs to be a protected area and needs to be managed for conservation.”

In first step to making the forest an internationally recognised protected area – such as a national park – the team have submitted an application to have its importance officially recognised . This “gazetting” application has been accepted on a provincial and national level, but is currently waiting to be signed by the government.

If the application is successful, then the forest will be protected from logging concessions seeking valuable hardwoods currently threatening the mountain.

“The people who threaten Mabu are already there, and really what we’re trying to do now is a race against time towards its conservation. It’s getting there early enough to get the wheels in motion to make it a protected area before it’s too late,” said Bayliss.

Along the shores of Lake Niassa/Nyassa, Mozambique, the Manda Wilderness Agricultural Project (MWAP) is training community members from 15 villages in biodiversity-friendly agricultural and agroforestry methods, to increase the provision of habitat for endemic species that are crucial to the success and sustainability of ecological agriculture in the region. This is a small grant project supported by CEPF in the Eastern Afromontane hotspot through the Regional Implementation Team (RIT): here.

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New Mozambique snake discovery

Thelotornis usambaricus

From the Mozambique News Agency:

Mozambique: New Venomous Snake Discovered in Cabo Delgado

15 January 2013

Maputo — A researcher at Lurio University, based in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, has discovered a species of highly venomous snake not previously known in the country.

The species is Thelotornis usambaricus, which belongs to a group of snakes commonly known as twig snakes. Previously, this species was only known from Tanzania, but the researcher, Harith Farooq, discovered it when he was undertaking a survey of terrestrial wild life on Vamizi island, in the Quirimbas archipelago, off the coast of Cabo Delgado province.

Farooq caught two of the snakes, which he could not immediately identify.

He sent one of the animals to the Natural History Museum in Zimbabwe to ascertain its taxonomic classification. This work was done by the zoologist Donald G. Broadley, who discovered the species in Tanzania in 2001.

The second of the snakes is now in the reptile collection kept in the branch of Lurio University in the Cabo Delgado provincial capital, Pemba.

Thelotornis Usambaricus is a member of the Thelotornis genus of back-fanged snakes. Its venom is hemotoxic – which means that it destroys red blood cells. This type of venom can disrupt blood clotting, and cause generalized tissue damage.

It is much slower acting than the neurotoxic venom (poison that affects the nervous system) of snakes such as the black mamba. However, no anti-venom has yet been developed for Thelotornis poison, and although bites are rare, fatalities have been recorded in Tanzania.

This snake usually conceals itself in trees, from which it strikes at its favoured prey – lizards, frogs and sometimes birds.

With this discovery, the number of snake species known to exist in Mozambique has risen to 96.

The black mamba has quite a reputation. It is one of the world’s deadliest snakes; it is the fastest land snake in the world; and it is Africa’s biggest poisonous snake. This snake’s potential danger has been the subject of many African myths and it has been blamed for thousands of human deaths: here.

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Whale sharks, new research

This video is called Whale Sharks – Reef Life of the Andaman – Part 3.

From Wildlife Extra:

Whale shark ID identifies world hotspots

Donsol is Philippines Whale shark hotspot, reveals WWF, with at least 377 identified.

September 2012. High-tech satellite tags, waterproof cameras and hefty lungs are the tools of Dave David’s trade. As the head researcher of WWF’s Donsol-based whale shark photo-identification programme, Dave has spent the past six years holding his breath – literally – to swim with the world’s largest fish.

Weigh up to 10 tonnes

Strikingly-spotted whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) can grow longer than a passenger bus and weigh a whopping 10 tonnes. With unblinking golf ball-sized eyes, they wolf down wafting clouds of plankton and the occasional, unlucky small fish. Together with basking and megamouth sharks, they are one of just three planktivorous, or filter-feeding, sharks and have cruised the world’s seas for some 50 million years. Little is known of their habits, with fewer than 350 sightings recorded prior to the 1980s.

Through the support of WWF-Denmark, WWF-Philippines allied with Australia-based ECOCEAN, the Hubbs Sea World Research Institute (HSWRI) and Banco de Oro Unibank (BDO) to catalogue the country’s whale sharks. The partnership provides researchers with both population numbers and migratory data to guide conservation efforts not just for whale sharks – but for all migratory pelagic species.

Whale shark ID

Sporting waterproof digital cameras, trained WWF skin divers snap photos of a spot right above each shark’s pectoral fins, behind its gill slits. The photos are fed into a computer which uses a program to triangulate each shark’s unique spot configuration. Data is then uploaded to the web-based ECOCEAN library.

3822 whale sharks identified worldwide

Unless it is a new individual, the library shows researchers when and where the shark was last encountered. Since 2003, ECOCEAN has catalogued 3822 individual sharks from places as far as Mexico, Mozambique and the Galapagos Islands.

“Photo-identification is a non-invasive approach for identifying sharks,” explains David. “The library uses the whale shark’s distinct patterns, plus information on scars, sex and size to identify individuals.”

Philippines whale sharks

Since WWF-Philippines began implementing the programme in 2007, 458 individual whale sharks have been identified – 377 in Donsol, 54 in Cebu, 14 in Leyte and the rest in Bohol, Palawan, Albay and Batangas.

GPS tags

To complement the photo-identification drive, 29 whale sharks were affixed with detachable GPS satellite tags designed to pop to the surface after several months of data collation. Four sharks were tagged in May 2007, 10 more in May 2009 and 15 in April 2010.

Wide ranging, and deep

The results suggest that most tagged whale sharks keep to 200 kilometres of Donsol. Three however, swam east to the Philippine Sea, with one more swimming as far north as Taiwan. All spent most of their time below 50 metres, rarely rising to the surface to feed.

“The results suggest that whale sharks are highly-mobile, transient foragers which recognize no country or territorial boundary as their own. The distribution of whale sharks and other large filter-feeders also indicate the presence of plankton and the overall health of our oceans,” expounds David.

Whale shark hot spots – Ningaloo Reef, Mexico & Mozambique

For years, Donsol has been identified as a whale shark hotspot, hosting one of the largest aggregations of whale sharks on Earth. Other large aggregations include Ningaloo Reef in Australia with 808, Mexico with 812 and Mozambique with 624. Through continued research, Dave and other WWF volunteers hope to generate an accurate estimate of the country’s migratory and resident whale shark population.

“Long days at sea are worth it, considering the immense scientific, ecological and economic value that whale sharks bring people,” adds David. “Even after years of research, there’s still so much we have to discover – where they feed, mate and give birth. Our work continues, which is just as well because diving with these gentle giants is pure magic.”

After six years of swimming with the world’s largest fish, it seems that each shark encounter still leaves Dave breathless.

Whale sharks regulate their body temperature: here.

Whale sharks, a threatened species that can grow as big as a bus, have become so wildly popular with tourists that scientists, environmentalists and even eco-­tourism operators are calling for new limits on human contact: here.

Shark finning bans catching on! Way to go Vancouver! Here.

Today we moved closer to a complete ban on shark finning in the European Union: here.

Sharks are color blind, new research suggests, with the toothy predators likely forever seeing the world in black and white: here.

New bat species discovery in Africa

Rhinolophus cohenae, credit Paddy Ruback

Those newly discovered bats may help solve the problem of the newly discovered malaria mosquito species … unless some zealot starts spraying DDT or similar poison all over the place, killing the bats, making people sick and making the mosquitoes resistant.

From Wildlife Extra:

4 new bat species recognised in Africa

A new multidisciplinary study on the enigmatic large Horseshoe bat – found widespread throughout South and East Africa – has revealed that instead of just one species as previously believed, the bat is in fact five different species, four of which have just been classified for the first time following their discovery.

September 2012. Latest research has discovered four new species of Horseshoe bat in Africa by piecing together clues such as DNA data and sonar frequency. This innovative approach could be used to tackle mysteries of other ‘cryptic’ species.

It was previously thought that there was only one type of large Horseshoe bat, Hildebrandt’s Horseshoe bat, although a series of discoveries beginning back in 1988 has led researchers to long suspect that the bat was in fact a complex group of different species – known as a ‘cryptic’ species. But hard evidence had eluded scientists for years. Now, modern technology, combined with a multidisciplinary approach, has allowed researchers to solve the riddle of these cryptic species for the first time.

How they separated them

The researchers compared key characteristics of the bats, including sonar calls, skull shape, genitalia and, critically, divergence in DNA sequences to diagnose and classify the four new species. It is believed that this combination of techniques, the consilience of evidence, could be used to unlock other cryptic species in the future – such as certain types of chameleon, frog and shark – suggesting that current predictions of global biodiversity might be too low.

The new species are:

Cohen’s Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus cohenae)
Smithers’ Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus smithersi)
The Mozambican Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus mossambicus)
The Mount Mabu Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus mabuensis).

Researchers discovered correlations between altitude and size in the bats, with gigantism occurring in high habitats and dwarfism at lower altitudes due to variations in climate temperature. To explain the evolution of these differences, they invoked the relationship between skull size and sonar frequency – the larger bats call at lower frequencies.


One of the four new species of bat was discovered by Dr Julian Bayliss from the Conservation Science Group at Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, and has been named after Mount Mabu – the largest rainforest in southern Africa.

The rainforest in northern Mozambique was first brought to the attention of the global scientific community by Bayliss in 2005, who came across it while scanning the digital satellite application Google Earth . A field visit was then organised by Bayliss and Claire Spottiswoode to ground truth the site, in preparation for a RBG Kew Darwin Initiative project to assess the biodiversity of the high altitude mountains in northern Mozambique. Since this discovery, Bayliss has worked extensively at Mount Mabu – home of the new bat species. The rainforest has proved to be a vast treasure trove of previously undiscovered wildlife, and conservationists are fighting to get the land protected.

Bayliss said “We chose this bat’s name to draw attention to the serious threat to the unique biodiversity isolated on the montane forest islands in northern Mozambique, notably Mount Mabu and Mount Inago. None of these landforms lie within formally protected areas, and are all undergoing major habitat degradation and destruction from human activities such as timber harvesting and agricultural practices. The more endemic species we can attribute to the area, the greater the justification to preserve.”

The DNA analysis critical to distinguishing the new species has shown that they are relatively old and evolved in the Pliocene Epoch over the past two to five million years.

Isolated by geographical features

“We suggest that because of climatic extremes and geomorphological changes across eastern Africa, the ancestors of these species were isolated on either mountain tops or along river valleys,” said Dr Woody Cotterill, from Stellenbosch University.

Two of the species have been named in honour of dedicated Southern African conservationists – Ms Lientjie Cohen, a scientist of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency in South Africa, and the late founder of Zimbabwe‘s museums, Dr Reay Smithers, author of Southern Africa’s most comprehensive mammal anthology.

The discoveries were published yesterday in PLoS ONE, with the investigation led by bat experts and evolutionary geneticists from the University of Venda, Stellenbosch University, the University of Swaziland, the University of KwaZulu Natal, and the University of Cambridge.

The University of Cambridge about this: here.

Geoffroy’s bat discovered in UK for first time: here.

To the Bat Cave! Scientists Hope Bunker Can Halt Deadly Fungus: here.