Which animals live longest?


This video is called Turtles: Documentary on Turtles, Tortoises, and Terrapins from Around the World.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

What Terrestrial Animal Has The Longest Lifespan?

Posted on Monday, September 29, 2014 by eNature

If you’re a TV watcher, you may have noticed that the long-running TV show Survivor keeps showing up every season.

But there’s a much more interesting version playing out in the wild.

It’s one thing to survive a few weeks on a television show, but it’s quite another to live 180 years and never be voted off the island!

The tale of the ultimate survivor begins in a world of 18th century explorers, kidnappings, and tropical islands, when long-distance travel was by ship and many lands were still uncharted. The secret to this creature’s longevity may be in its philosophy: Slow and steady wins the race.

The Real Survivor

By all accounts the longest-lived creatures on earth are turtles. It may have something to do with the slowed-down lifestyle and perhaps the protective armor. At any rate, tales abound of giant tortoises of the Galapagos, Seychelles, Madagascar, and other islands that lived well over 100 years.

Sailors were said to carve their names and dates into the shells of these behemoths, providing something of a record of their lifespans. But it is quite difficult to track the lifespan of a wild animal, especially when the animal outlives the person keeping track!

What Creature Has Lived Longest?

The longest life of any tortoise of which there is an authenticated record is that of Marion’s Tortoise, a Testudo gigantea. This giant tortoise, along with four of its companions, was taken as an adult from its native island in the Seychelles to Mauritius, where no tortoises occur, by the French explorer Marion de Fresne in 1766. It lived there for 152 years, until it died in 1918. Since it was a full-grown adult at the time of its capture in 1766, its actual age may be estimated at not less than 180 years and perhaps as much as 200 years.

Even the smaller members of the turtle order are known to be long-lived. One Box Turtle, passed down as a family pet, is said to have died at the ripe old age of 123. It was just one year older than the the the person many consider the oldest human on record, a French woman named Jeanne Louise Calment (1875 to 1997).

Winners All Around

Interestingly, turtles aren’t only the longest-lived individuals known, they are the oldest type of living reptiles, vastly more ancient in lineage than the fossil dinosaurs and most of the other extinct forms.

That makes them older than all mammals and birds, as well.

Surely they are doing something right. There may be more to the tale of the tortoise and the hare (lifespan probably up to 8 or 10 years, if lucky!) than race strategy!

Although their numbers are threatened by development, the Eastern Box Turtle is common sight in the woods. Have you encountered any turtles— in your yard or in your travels?

We always enjoy your stories!

Flotsam crabs’ marital fidelity, new study


This video is called Loggerhead Turtle burying eggs and returning to the ocean.

From Oceana.org:

Meet a Tiny Crab Species That’s Not into Long-Term Relationships

Saturday, Sep 27, 2014 by Brianna Elliott

A tiny crab species, commonly known as flotsam crabs, have quite the luxurious lifestyle. They spend most of their lives hitching free rides on loggerhead sea turtles, catching views of the open ocean as they travel safely nestled between their carapaces and tails. Here, they’re offered safety from predators, and typically ride along with a mate to reproduce and have a friend.

Previously assumed to be faithful for life to both their turtle host and mate, a study recently published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology shows that these crabs may not actually be that monogamous. The study found that some male flotsam crabs don’t stick with one crustaceous lover for life, leaving their mate and host when they have the chance.

Scientists are calling this “risky behavior,” since switching hosts leaves these poor swimmers exposed and vulnerable in the ocean. And once they find a new turtle host (the scientists think they may do this when loggerheads converge each year to mate and feed), they’re not even guaranteed asylum: These tiny crabs sometimes have to fight off current male residents to earn the new spot alongside females.

Previous research shows that tiny, monogamous organisms should have similar body sizes to their mates. So, when the study authors found that flotsam crab body size data didn’t match data of a committed lifestyle, they discovered that these crabs may not be so faithful after all. Scientists studied crabs on loggerhead sea turtles in Japan, Mexico, Peru, and Brazil to reach this conclusion, says Smithsonian Science.

While these risk-takers may not engage in the long-term relationships as previously assumed, this behavior clues scientists into the relationship between ecology and mating patterns in crustaceans, says the study.

Paleontology helping to restore Abaco, Bahamas biodiversity?


A new University of Florida study shows scientists are only beginning to understand the roles of native species in prehistoric island ecosystems. Researchers discovered this 3,000-year-old fossil skull of a Cuban Crocodile, Crocodylus rhombifer, in the Bahamas. Credit: Florida Museum of Natural History, by Kristen Grace

From the University of Florida in the USA today:

Answer to restoring lost island biodiversity found in fossils

Many native species have vanished from tropical islands because of human impact, but University of Florida scientists have discovered how fossils can be used to restore lost biodiversity.

The key lies in organic materials found in fossil bones, which contain evidence for how ancient ecosystems functioned, according to a new study available online and in the September issue of the Journal of Herpetology. Pre-human island ecosystems provide vital clues for saving endangered island and re-establishing , said lead author Alex Hastings, who conducted work for the study as graduate student at the Florida Museum of Natural History and UF department of geological sciences.

“Our work is particularly relevant to that are currently living in marginal environments,” said Hastings, currently a postdoctoral researcher at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. “A better understanding of species’ natural roles in ecosystems untouched by people might improve their prospects for survival.”

Thousands of years ago, the largest carnivore and herbivore on the Bahamian island of Abaco disappeared. The study reconstructs the ancient food web of Abaco where these two mega-reptiles, the endangered Cuban Crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) and the now-extinct Albury’s Tortoise (Chelonoidis alburyorum), once flourished. Today, there is no modern terrestrial ecosystem like that of ancient Abaco, with reptiles filling the roles of largest herbivore and carnivore.

In the study, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society, researchers embarked on the difficult task of reconstructing an ecosystem where few of the components still exist. To understand these missing pieces, scientists analyzed the types of carbon and nitrogen in well-preserved from the Cuban Crocodile and Albury’s Tortoise, which was unknown to scientists before its 2004 discovery in the Bahamas. The data reveal the crocodile and tortoise were both terrestrial, showing that reptiles “called the shots” on the island, Hastings said.

The terrestrial nature of these creatures is a great indicator of how biodiversity has changed in the Bahamas and what the ideal circumstances would be for these or similar species to return, said Florida Museum ornithology curator and study co-author David Steadman.

“On islands like Abaco that have always been dominated by reptiles, the flora and fauna are more vulnerable because they have evolved to lead a more laid back, island existence,” Steadman said. “Understanding this is important to designing better approaches to conservation on the island.”

Early paleontological sites in the Bahamas have yielded bones from numerous species of reptiles, birds and mammals that no longer exist on the islands. James Mead, a vertebrate paleontologist with East Tennessee State University, said more research into the evolutionary history of native plants and animals on Abaco is needed as well as conservation programs based on paleontological research that aims to restore these species.

“The Cuban crocodile is living today in small numbers in Cuba, but this new research shows that it is not living to its fullest potential,” Mead said. “The crocodile could live more abundantly in a much wider habitat if we allowed it.”

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.

Amazonian turtles ‘talk’ to their hatchlings, new research


This video about giant South American river turtles from Venezuela is called THE BIGGEST fresh water TURTLE in the world; LA TORTUGA MAS GRANDE DEL MUNDO de agua dulce.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Amazonian turtle mothers heard ‘talking’ to hatchlings to get them into the water

The study constitutes the first known example of parental care among turtles

James Vincent

Monday 18 August 2014

Scientists have observed Giant South American river turtles ‘talking’ to their newly-hatched young, using high-pitched vocalisations that carry better through air and shallow water to guide the nestlings into the water.

The findings, published in a recent edition of the journal Herpetologica, constitutes the first known examples of parental care among turtles – an order of reptiles that have been roaming the Earth for more than 220 million years.

Researchers watched the Amazonian turtles between 2009 and 2011, capturing more than 270 individual sounds during their nesting season using underwater microphones. More than six distinct types of vocalisation were identified, with the scientists speculating that each of these is used to facilitate specific social behaviours.

For example, when the turtles migrated through the river they tended to use low frequency noises that travelled better over long distances, while females about to nest showed the highest diversity of sounds, thought to help the mothers decide on specific nesting sites.

“These distinctive sounds made by turtles give us unique insights into their behaviour, although we don’t know what the sounds mean,” said Dr. Camila Ferrara, Aquatic Turtle Specialist for the WCS Brazil Program, in a press release. “The social behaviours of these reptiles are much more complex than previously thought.”

The Giant South American turtle is the largest member of the side-neck turtle family (so-called because they withdraw their heads sideways into their shell rather than vertically) and grow up to three feet in length. The species is found only in the Amazonian river basin and is currently under threat by humans hunting for meat and eggs.

See also here.

Good green turtle news from Ascension island


This video is called Hawaii Green Sea Turtle Eating.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife reaps huge benefits from Ascension Island’s new conservation legislation

The remote UK overseas territory of Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, has achieved remarkable results in conserving its green turtle populations.

Scientists from the University of Exeter and the Ascension Island Government Conservation Department report that the number of green turtles nesting has increased by more than 500 per cent since records began in the 1970s.

As many as 24,000 nests are now estimated to be laid on the island’s main beaches every year, making it the second largest nesting colony for this species in the Atlantic Ocean, according to a paper in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation.

Lead author Dr Sam Weber said: “The increase has been dramatic. Whereas in the 1970s and 80s you would have been lucky to find 30 turtles on the island’s main nesting beach on any night, in 2013 we had more than 400 females nesting in a single evening.”

The Ascension Island’s government has announced that it is committing a fifth of the territory’s land area to biodiversity conservation.

New legislation enacted by the island’s governor, Mark Capes, has created seven new nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries that include the island’s three main turtle nesting beaches, along with globally important seabird colonies that are home to more than 800,000 nesting seabirds.

The legislation was developed as a result of a two-year project run by the Ascension Island Government and the University of Exeter to develop a national biodiversity action plan for the territory.

Dr Nicola Weber, Ascension Island Government’s Head of Conservation, said: “The decision to give legal protection to our most iconic wildlife sites follows extensive public consultation and has received a high level of support from across of the community.

“It speaks volumes as to how seriously environmental stewardship is currently taken on the Island”.

Dr Annette Broderick, who is leading the project for the University of Exeter and who has been researching sea turtles on Ascension Island for the past 15 years, said: “Green turtles were an important source of food for those on the island and passing ships would take live turtles onboard to ensure fresh meat for their voyage.

“Ships returning to the UK would stock up with turtles for the Lords of the Admiralty, who had a penchant for turtle soup.

“Records show a dramatic decline in the number of turtles harvested each year as fewer and fewer came to nest and since the 1950s no turtles have been harvested.

“We are now seeing the population bounce back, although our models suggest we have not yet reached pre-harvest levels.”

Turtles were legally protected on Ascension Island in 1944 and the population began its slow climb back.

“Because sea turtles take so long to reach breeding age, we are only now beginning to see the results of conservation measures introduced decades ago,” said Dr Weber.

“It just goes to show how populations of large, marine animals can recover from human exploitation if we protect them over long enough periods.”

See also here. And here.

This video is called Conservation on Ascension.

Diver saves sea turtle, video


This video says about itself:

3 July 2014

Divers off the coast of Mexico save a sea turtle that became tangled in rope.

Special thanks to Colin Sutton & Cameron Dietrich who freed the turtle and shared their footage with us.

By Cate Matthews in the USA about this:

Diver Saves Sea Turtle And Receives Adorable Thank You (VIDEO)

07/14/2014 11:59 pm EDT

Not every story about sea life mistakenly caught in a net ends this beautifully, so it’s important to recognize when one does.

According to Dominican Republic social news site Lifestyle Cabarete, dive partners Cameron Dietrich and Colin Sutton were out spearfishing for tuna off the coast of Mexico earlier this year when Dietrich noticed something was not quite right. A sea turtle had been caught in the line.

Dietrich immediately jumped in to save the turtle, working quickly to remove the mess of ropes around its left flipper. Sutton followed close behind, his GoPro camera on and ready to capture the rescue.

The turtle swam away once freed, but then, to the two divers’ surprise, it circled back to Dietrich. For an incredible, breathtaking moment it rested inches above him in the water, close enough for Dietrich to reach out and hold it. It was almost as if the sea turtle was saying thank you.

The World Wildlife Fund names human fishing gear as the single greatest threat to sea turtles worldwide, so the fact that Dietrich and Sutton dived in means something. Most species of sea turtles are endangered, and it’s going to take everyone, from recreational spearfishers to commercial fisheries, to move them back from the red.

And with any luck, that means we’ll get more moments like this.