New marsupial species discovery in Brazil


THis video from the USA says about itself:

8 May 2012

My daughter’s grandfather captured this video of a mother [Virginia] opossum transporting 15 baby opossums on her back. Amazing!

From National Geographic:

New Redheaded Opossum Named After Magical Gnome

The rat-size marsupial prowls the tropical rain forests of northern Brazil at night.

By Carrie Arnold

PUBLISHED February 23, 2017

A chance finding at a Brazilian museum has revealed a brand-new species of opossum.

Biologist Silvia Pavan first discovered an unnamed mammal specimen with rich mahogany fur in 2008 at the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi in Belém.

The rat-size marsupial’s reddish head inspired its name: Monodelphis saci.

Brazilian folklore features a gnome called the saci (pronounced sah-SEE), who wears a magical red cap that lets him disappear and reappear at will. (See “Unbelievably Cute Mammal With Teddy Bear Face Rediscovered.”)

Just like the saci, the new species of opossum has a red cap—and had been hiding in plain sight.

“I analyzed the specimen right away when it was brought to the museum, and I noticed it didn’t have a name,” says Pavan, lead author of the new study in the journal American Museum Novitates.

After that, she was able to find other specimens representing the same unnamed species in Brazilian collections.

Playing Possum

Opossums evolved in the South American tropics; several dozen species live in the Americas, but only the Virginia opossum made it as far north as the United States.

All opossum species are nocturnal omnivores, eating a range of fruit, insects, and small mammals—a flexibility that has allowed them to spread far and wide. (Read how opossum blood may help snakebite victims.)

As part of her Ph.D. work at the American Museum of Natural History, Pavan wanted to piece together the opossum family tree. But with so many species sprinkled across so many habitats, Pavan went to museums to supplement her search for opossums in the wild.

After she came across the gnome opossum, her colleagues traveled to the source—Itaituba I National Forest in Pará, Brazil—to see if they could find live animals.

Mysterious Marsupials

Pavan’s colleagues set up a series of humane pitfall traps—basically small buckets that capture opossums as they prowl the tropical rain forest at night.

To her surprise, Pavan discovered several more gnome opossums in her buckets. (Also see “Newly Discovered Carnivore Looks Like Teddy Bear.”)

“They’re not really that rare, but they only appeared in scientific collections relatively recently when people started using the pitfall traps,” she says.

The species doesn’t appear to be threatened with extinction, though more people have been collecting the animal in the wild in the weeks since her discovery was announced, she says.

Guillermo D’Elia, a biologist at the Austral University of Chile in Valdivia, says there are likely more marsupials to be identified.

“I am pretty sure there are several new species of opossum to come in the future,” D’Elia says, “now that researchers are collecting in new areas, rechecking museum specimens, and using DNA.”

Four baby snow leopards in Mongolia


This January 2017 camera trap video shows a snow leopard with four babies in Mongolia. Four young snow leopards is very rare.

Howler monkeys’ eyes, new research


This video is called Howler Monkeys | National Geographic.

From Science News:

Howler monkeys may owe their color vision to leaf hue

Distinguishing red from green makes healthier leaves stand out

By Laurel Hamers

5:59pm, February 21, 2017

BOSTON — A taste for reddish young leaves might have pushed howler monkeys toward full-spectrum color vision. The ability to tell red from green could have helped howlers pick out the more nutritious, younger leaves, researchers reported February 19 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. That’s a skill their insect-eating close relatives probably didn’t need.

Primates show substantial variation in their color vision capabilities, both between and within species, said Amanda Melin, a biological anthropologist at the University of Calgary in Canada. Trichromatic vision (how most humans see) requires three light-sensitive proteins in the eye that can detect different wavelengths of light. Within most monkey species in Central and South America, only some individuals have trichromatic vision. Males have dichromatic vision — they’re red-green colorblind — and only some females can see the whole rainbow. Howlers are an exception — thanks to a duplicated gene on their X chromosomes, trichromatic vision is the norm for both males and females.

Howlers graze on leaves from Ficus trees and other plants when fruit can’t be found. In field observations of mantled howlers (Alouatta palliata) in Costa Rica, the monkeys preferentially munched on the younger, more nutritious leaves, Melin’s team found. The reddish hue of new leaves makes them pop more when seen with trichromatic vision than dichromatic vision, the researchers reported in a paper accepted for publication in Ecology and Evolution. Because young leaves are a fleeting treat and not a constant resource, monkeys able to spot them more quickly could have had a selective advantage.

Similar selection pressures might also help explain why Old World monkeys from Asia and Africa also have consistent trichromatic vision, Melin said. “What we might be seeing is a convergent evolution for animals who fall back on leaves when fruit isn’t around.”

On the other hand, other Central and South American monkeys usually go for insects, instead of leaves, when there’s no fruit. Dichromatic vision might be a better fit for their lifestyle, Melin said. “Color can impede ability to see patterns, borders and textures. Insects hide and camouflage.”

I was privileged to hear and see howler monkeys in Suriname and Costa Rica.

Otters drive away bittern, video


This 16 February 2017 video shows an otter couple swimming through partly frozen water near Kropswolde village in Groningen province in the Netherlands.

They drive away a bittern.

Both bitterns and otters are rare in the Netherlands.

Newborn hare video


This 12 February 2017 video shows a female hare with her newborn leveret in the snow in the Alblasserwaard region in the Netherlands.

Miffy the rabbit artist Dick Bruna, RIP


This video says about itself:

Farmer John • Miffy Classics

17 February 2017

Farmer John is plantings seeds. The hungry birds are eating all his seeds. He is angry and makes a scarecrow to scare them of. After a while the seeds turn into beautiful blue flowers. He also makes a birdhouse. Now he can enjoy his flowers and the birds eating the seeds he gives them.

From the Daily Mirror in Britain:

Dick Bruna dead: Creator of cartoon rabbit Miffy dies in his sleep after selling 80 million books

Bruna began his career as an illustrator of covers for books including Ian Fleming‘s James Bond series and the Inspector Maigret thrillers of Georges Simenon

By Thomas Escrit

14:07, 17 FEB 2017

Dick Bruna, the children’s author and artist who created the cartoon white rabbit Miffy, has died aged 89.

Bruna, who sold more than 80 million Miffy books, died in his sleep last night in his hometown of Utrecht, his publisher said in a statement.

Bruna created the character to entertain his infant son after seeing a rabbit in the dunes while on a seaside holiday.

He went on to relate the giant-eared, orange-pullovered bunny’s adventures in dozens of books sold worldwide.

Born in 1929 into a family of publishers, Bruna began his career as an illustrator of covers for books including Ian Fleming’s James Bond series and the Inspector Maigret thrillers of Georges Simenon.

Miffy, known as Nijntje in Dutch, was his best known creation, enjoying great popularity in Asia and adorning lunchboxes the world over.