Ecuadorean mammals on Google Earth

From New Scientist:

Rare animals to feature on Google Earth

* 30 March 2009

FANS of wildlife documentaries could soon catch up with the latest rare animal sightings from their computers.

Cameras equipped with infrared triggers, known as camera traps, are used to identify, count and observe larger mammals in isolated areas. Now researchers from Earthwatch are adding the latest images from their camera traps in Ecuador‘s cloud forests to Google Earth.

They hope to raise awareness of endangered species, encouraging donations and attracting tourists to the region to support conservation efforts. “It’s a form of fishing or hunting that doesn’t kill anything,” says Earthwatch scientist Mika Peck of the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, who is leading the project.

Mammals currently on camera in the cloud forest include the spectacled bear [see also here]- or “Paddington Bear” of South America – puma [see also here] and deer.

The project should also enable researchers to pool sightings and information on animals from different areas, says Peck. “The idea is to expand this into other reserves and eventually inspire the local government to use this to monitor all their forests.” Peck hopes to have the system up and running by July.

Issue 2701 of New Scientist magazine


Australian meat ants eat cane toads

From EurekAlert!:

Aussie meat ants may be invasive cane toad‘s Achilles’ heel

Ecologists in Australia have discovered that cane toads are far more susceptible to being killed and eaten by meat ants than native frogs. Their research – published in the British Ecological Society’s journal Functional Ecology – reveals a chink in the cane toad‘s armour that could help control the spread of this alien invasive species in tropical Australia.

Professor Rick Shine and his colleagues Georgia Ward-Fear, Matt Greenlees and Greg Brown from the University of Sydney’s Team Bufo (from the Latin name for the toxic toad) compared habitat use and activity patterns in meat ants, metamorph cane toads and seven native Australian frog species. They found that, unlike the native frogs, cane toads are poorly equipped to escape the meat ants.

According to Shine: “The spread of cane toads through tropical Australia has created major ecological problems. The ideal way to control toad numbers would be to find a predator that kills and eats toads but leaves native frogs alone. However, bringing in a predator from overseas might have catastrophic consequences, like those that occurred when cane toads themselves were brought in. So we’ve explored an alternative approach – to see if we could use a native predator. Meat ants are abundant around tropical waterbodies, and we often see them eating small toads, so we suspected that there might be some kind of mismatch between the invader and its newly invaded range, for example something about the toads’ behaviour that makes them vulnerable to a predator that poses little danger to native frogs.”

Through a series of laboratory experiments, Team Bufo looked at when the ants, frogs and toads were most active, where they chose to live, and how good the frogs and toads were at escaping attacking meat ants. They found cane toads opt to live in open microhabitats and are active during the day, patterns that match those of meat ants. By contrast, native frogs are nocturnal and are safely ensconced in vegetation or other shelters during the day, when meat ants are on the hunt.

Cane toads are also less well equipped to escape attacking meat ants, Team Bufo found. Using a specially-built runway, they tested the frogs’ and toads’ sprint speed and endurance. They found that compared with the quick and nimble native frogs, cane toads’ hops are shorter and slower due to their shorter shin bones. Native frogs were also more vigilant for meat ants than cane toads, they discovered.

The results are interesting not only because they reveal the cane toad’s Achilles’ heel – a weakness that could be exploited to help control the spread of the toxic toad – but because the same “evolutionary trap” could be used to snare invasive species elsewhere.

“The end result of this mismatch between traits of metamorph cane toads, which evolved in the Americas, and the ecological interaction between metamorph toads and meat ants in tropical Australia, is an ‘evolutionary trap’. That is, characteristics that increased toad survival where they evolved in the Americas are now a disadvantage, because the toads are facing different challenges in Australia – challenges they have not evolved to deal with. Such evolutionary traps should be especially common for invasive species, because so many aspects of their environment differ from those in which the traits of that species evolved,” says Shine.


Georgia Ward-Fear et al (2009). Maladaptive traits in invasive species: in Australia, cane toads are more vulnerable to predatory ants than are native frogs, Functional Ecology, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2009.01556.x, is published online on 31 March 2009.

See also here.

Meat ants devour cane toads: here.

Cane toads approaching the last barriers to Western Australia: here.

Anti NATO actions

From AAPSO (Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization):

Sixty Years of NATO

By the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the socialist camp (the countries of Eastern Europe and the USSR), the Warsaw Pact came to its end. It was the big global alliance which stood in the face of NATO. By the fall of the Warsaw Pact, the pretext provided by NATO members as a justification of its existence and continuation became invalid. The West always alleged that NATO was basically an alliance to protect the capitalist west in the face of the communist east.

However, what happened after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact was contrary to what should have been … a similar dissolution of NATO.

NATO instead started to expand eastward and include within its members Eastern European countries, that were a part of the socialist block, in order to besiege Russia again. It further began to give itself powers to intervene in the south under the pretext of countering terrorism like what occurred in Afghanistan. Hence, the role of NATO has exacerbated instead of having declined, and it has become an imminent danger threatening all the peoples of the world.

It is worth mentioning that NATO costs its members billions of dollars annually. Today while the world is going through a severe financial crisis, the peoples need to save every penny in order to survive and get over the crisis. Therefore, this huge military spending must aggravate the crisis and put shame on the peoples whose governments are members in NATO and their ability to bring about development. NATO is an abortive instrument and a danger that threatens the world with economic destruction and ruin.

NATO has now completed sixty years of crimes against humanity and against peoples. On this occasion, many global anti-war and struggling-for-peace organizations including the World Peace Council (WPC), are preparing for launching an anti-NATO campaign. They have already undertaken many activities in this respect and held three conferences – a European conference in Berlin on 14th – 15th March, an American conference in Buenos Aires on 19th – 20th March and an international conference in Belgrade on 23 – 24 March.

Learning that NATO is due to celebrate its 60th anniversary through a summit which is due to be held in Strasbourg, France and Baden-Baden, Germany on 2nd – 5th April 2009, the mentioned peace organizations have announced that they are going to convene an anti-NATO conference in Strasbourg on 3rd April under the title of “Bombing Yugoslavia as a Precedent of NATO’s Future Crimes”.

The peace forces along with the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organization (AAPSO) will also participate in the anti-NATO massive rally scheduled on 4th April [in Strasbourg].

AAPSO calls for ending the presence of NATO as it lost the justification of its existence. This is in addition to the fact that AAPSO always opposes the military alliances and bases thinking that they represent a threat to the peace and the freedom, independence and sovereignty of peoples.

AAPSO, in addition, announces its strong support for all the world peace forces in that battle which is indeed regarded as a historic and decisive battle in the lives of peoples.

See also here.