Herbicides threaten kangaroos, new research


This 2015 video says about itself:

Tammar Wallabies

A small wallaby native to South Australia and Western Australia. They were staying close to the dense undergrowth. Notice how the ears can move independently. This video was taken in southwest Western Australia.

From the University of Melbourne in Australia:

Herbicide harming marsupial health and development, research finds

Atrazine impacts reproduction in kangaroos and wallabies

August 6, 2020

Summary: Researchers exposed the adult female tammar wallabies to atrazine contaminated water throughout pregnancy, birth and lactation to help establish the extent of harm being caused by the chemical. They then examined the reproductive development of their young by assessing their growth and development to establish that the herbicide is causing major abnormalities in the male reproductive system in many animals.

The health of wallabies and kangaroos is being affected by the herbicide, atrazine, which is used widely in Australia on cereal crops and in forestation to prevent weeds, according to new research.

Atrazine, which has been banned in the European Union since 2003, may be impacting reproduction in marsupials, the University of Melbourne study found, published today in Reproduction, Fertility and Development.

“Exposures to atrazine is causing major abnormalities in the male reproductive system in many animals, triggering male sterility or even male-to-female sex reversal in frogs,” Professor in Genetics Andrew Pask said.

“With the marsupial’s unique mode of reproduction and the young completing their development in the pouch, mothers are unknowingly passing the toxins on in their breast milk, exposing their young to environmental toxins.”

The study is the first time the impacts of pesticides have been investigated in any marsupial and show that they are able to affect reproductive development.

The research found that concentrations of atrazine have been recorded at disturbingly high levels in Victorian rivers and Tasmanian streams immediately after forestry spraying.

Kangaroos and wallabies are at high risk because they eat the sprayed crops and drink from contaminated water resources where chemicals such as atrazine accumulate from runoff.

Atrazine affects a broad range of animals from mammals such as rats to amphibians, reptiles and even fish.

With marsupials already experiencing devastating population declines across Australia, and 21 per cent of native mammals currently threatened with extinction, researchers say the potential impacts of environmental toxins are of major concern.

Researchers exposed the adult female tammar wallabies to atrazine contaminated water throughout pregnancy, birth and lactation to help establish the extent of harm being caused by the chemical.

They then examined the reproductive development of their young by assessing their growth and development.

Lead author on the research and PhD student Laura Cook said it is hoped the study will lead to more stringent guidelines around the use of atrazine in Australia.

“Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as atrazine, have the ability to impact development and increase disease susceptibility,” she said.

“With increased habitat destruction, marsupials are being pushed onto farmland, attracted to the food resources and rare permanent water sources where they may be vulnerable to agricultural contaminants, such as pesticides.”

Mink infected with COVID-19, again


This 17 July 2020 video says about itself:

Over a million minks have been killed in Europe after testing positive for COVID-19. Fur Farms in the Netherlands were the first to detect cases. Now, Denmark and Spain are culling minks. WION’s Executive Editor Palki Sharma Upadhyay tells you more.

Today, Dutch NOS radio reports that, once again, mink at fur businesses have become infected.

These new infections are in North Brabant and Limburg provinces.

Bears in Alaska and British Columbia


This 31 July 2020 video from North America says about itself:

Majestic Bears of Alaska & British Columbia | Free Documentary Nature

Our film journey begins in Alaska’s west. We are hoping to find glacier bears in the glacial regions of the Katmai National Park on the Douglas River. At the end of July, brown bears have now arrived to fish for salmon. In the surrounding forests, grizzlies look for berries and fresh, green twigs.

The Katmai is Alaska’s most volcanic area, and with 15 active volcanoes it is a veritable powder keg, surrounded by glaciers. In the Hook glacier region moose and lynx accompany us. Bald eagles have arrived at the glacial boundary and begin to tear apart their freshly caught prey. At last, we catch sight of a glacier bear. Hungry, he has left the ice region and has been forced down here in search of food, which he satisfies extensively with fresh shoots and berries.

Continuing our film trip, we head for Prince Royal Island in British Columbia. En route, we meet with black bears on their way with their young to fish for salmon. The mother bears have to remain alert to protect their young, as we have spotted some New World porcupines too.

Then, out of the blue, directly in front of us: the Kermode, or spirit bear. He shows no signs of timidity and is only interested in one thing: salmon. Then, a further Kermode appears, enjoying his cranberry dessert, allowing us to approach him, almost too close for comfort. But a black bear arrives on the scene and claims the cranberry bush for itself. After a brief confrontation, the Kermode opts to leave, preferring to focus on salmon fishing. Fascinating footage of this rare species of animal.

Mediterranean sperm whales, new research


This 13 June 2014 video says about itself:

Underwater images of sperm whale bachelor groups in the waters of Ischia.

The sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) is one of the eight species of cetaceans routinely encountered in the Mediterranean Sea; however, information on the social organisation of sperm whales living in the basin remains scarce.

We observed the social behaviour of sperm whales within female units, and groups of males made over a 11-year period in waters around Ischia and Ventotene Islands (Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy), an area characterized by the presence of a submarine canyon system and a coastal Marine Protected Area (‘Regno di Nettuno’ MPA).

From the University of East Anglia in England:

Underwater robots reveal daily habits of endangered whales

July 29, 2020

Not all humans are morning people. Neither, according to a new study, are all sperm whales — at least when it comes to foraging for food.

The research, led by the University of East Anglia (UEA), has revealed the daily habits of the endangered Mediterranean sperm whale. Unmanned underwater gliders equipped with acoustic monitors recorded the sperm whale sounds, or ‘clicks’, over several months and 1000s of kilometres of ocean.

Sperm whales are highly vocal, producing distinct types of clicks for both echolocation and social interaction purposes. The study, published today in the Endangered Species Research, focused on the extremely powerful and highly directional ‘usual clicks’ produced while foraging.

The recordings confirmed the whales’ widespread presence in the north-western Mediterranean Sea and identified a possible hotspot for sperm whale habitat in the Gulf of Lion, where a higher rate of clicks was found. This could indicate a higher number of whales, but could also be for behavioural reasons.

In addition, continuous day and night monitoring during winter months suggests different foraging strategies between different areas. In the Ligurian Sea, mobile and scattered individual whales forage at all times of day. In the Sea of Sardinia usual clicks were also detected at all times of the day.

However, in the Gulf of Lion larger groups target intense oceanographic features in the open ocean, such as fronts and mixing events, with acoustic activity showing a clear 24-hour pattern and decreased foraging effort at dawn. This could suggest they may have modified their usual foraging pattern of eating at any time to adapt to local prey availability. It provides a clue regarding sperm whale diet in this area and may be what makes it attractive to them.

There are fewer than 2500 mature individual Mediterranean sperm whales and threats to them include being caught as bycatch in fishing nets and, as recently the case off the Italian coast, entanglement in illegal fishing gear. Other dangers are ship strike and ingestion of marine debris, to disturbance by human-made noise and whale watching activities.

The study involved researchers from UEA and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), University of Gothenburg and Sorbonne University.

Lead author Pierre Cauchy, a postgraduate researcher at UEA’s Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (COAS) and CEFAS, said their findings would help conservation efforts: “Information on the ecology of the Mediterranean sperm whale subpopulation remains sparse and does not meet the needs of conservation managers and policy makers.

“Increasing observation efforts, particularly in winter months, will help us better understand habitat use, and identify key seasonal habitats to allow appropriate management of shipping and fishing activities.”

He added: “The clear daily pattern identified in our results appear to suggest that the sperm whales are adapting their foraging strategy to local prey behaviour. The findings also indicate a geographical pattern to their daily behaviour in the winter season.”

The whales spend a substantial amount of their time foraging — when in a foraging cycle, they produce usual clicks 60 per cent of the time. As such, they provide a reliable indicator of sperm whale presence and foraging activity, and their specific features allow them to be identified and detected up to a distance of four to 20 km.

The study involved analysing sounds recorded by passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) sensors, previously successfully used for weather observation, on gliders deployed by the team to collect oceanographic data during winter 2012-2013 and June 2014, covering 3200 km.

Prof Karen Heywood, also of COAS, said the study demonstrated the possibilities of using existing glider missions to monitor the Mediterranean sperm whale over the winter months, for which there is a lack of crucial data for conservation.

“Our ability to successfully observe sperm whale distribution in different geographic areas of the north-western Mediterranean Sea, across the slopes and the open ocean, highlighted the complexity of sperm whale behaviour, foraging strategy and habitat use,” she said.

“This study shows that the addition of PAM sensors to existing oceanographic glider missions offers the opportunity for sustained long-term observation, which would significantly improve sperm whale population monitoring and behaviour description, as well as identification of key habitat and potentially harmful interaction with human activities.”

Co-author Dr Denise Risch, a marine mammal ecologist at SAMS, added: “We need to understand the Mediterranean sperm whale population better in order to work towards their conservation by eliminating threats.

“This is also true for other marine mammal species globally, and gliders allow us to go into new areas, which we wouldn’t have any observations from otherwise, and also at times of year when we are not usually monitoring.”

‘Sperm whale presence observed using passive acoustic monitoring from gliders of opportunity’, Pierre Cauchy, Karen J Heywood, Denise Risch, Nathan D Merchant, Bastien Y Queste, Pierre Testor, is published in Endangered Species Research on July 30.

COVID-19 kills US American dog


This 31 March 2020 video is called Coronavirus and pets: COVID-19 affecting cats and dogs in Russia.

By Natasha Daly in National Geographic in the USA, July 29 2020:

Buddy liked dog stuff: running through the sprinklers, going on long car rides, swimming in the lake. He cuddled the Mahoneys—his owners and family—at the end of tough days. He humored them when they dressed him up as a bunny for Halloween. He was a protective big brother to 10-month-old Duke, the family’s other German shepherd. He loved everyone. He lived up to his name.

In mid-April, right before his seventh birthday, Buddy began struggling to breathe.

Six weeks later, he became the first dog in the United States to be confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. On July 11, Buddy died.

27th coronavirus infection of mink at Dutch fur business: here.

Foxes ate Ice Age humans´ leftovers


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Recently, a convergence of views has led to the notion that the study of animal domestication may tell us something not only about our relationship with domesticated species since perhaps at least the Pleistocene, but also about our own evolution as a species in the more distant past. This symposium brings together scientists from a variety of research backgrounds to examine these views and to elucidate further the possible role of domestication in human evolution.

Robert Wayne (UCLA) begins with a discussion about The Transformation of Wolf to Dog: History, Traits, and Genetics, followed by Anna Kukekova (Univ of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) on Fox Domestication and Genetics of Complex Behaviors, and Robert Franciscus (Univ of Iowa) on Craniofacial Feminization in Canine and Human Evolution. Recorded on 10/10/2014.

From PLOS:

Foxes have been eating humans’ leftovers for 42,000 years

Ancient fox diets might be good indicators of human impact on past ecosystems

July 22, 2020

The diets of ancient foxes were influenced by humans, and these small carnivores might be tracers of human activity over time, according to a study published July 22, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Chris Baumann of the University of Tübingen, Germany and colleagues.

Foxes love leftovers. In the wild, foxes regularly feed on scraps left behind by larger predators like bears and wolves, but the closer foxes live to human civilization, the more of their diet is made up of foods that humans leave behind. In this study, Baumann and colleagues hypothesized that if this commensal relationship goes back to ancient times, then foxes might be useful indicators of human impact in the past.

The authors compared ratios of Carbon and Nitrogen isotopes between the remains of various herbivores, large carnivores, and red and Arctic foxes from several archaeological sites in southwest Germany dating to the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. At sites older than 42,000 years, when Neanderthals sparsely occupied the region, fox diets were similar to their local large carnivores. But in the younger sites, as Homo sapiens became common in the area, foxes developed a more unique diet consisting largely of reindeer, which are too big for foxes to hunt but which are known to have been important game for ancient humans of the time.

These results suggest that during the Upper Palaeolithic, these foxes made a shift from feeding on scraps left by local large predators to eating food left behind by humans. This indicates that foxes’ reliance on human food goes back a good 42,000 years. The authors propose that, with further studies investigating this fox-human relationship, ancient fox diets may be useful indicators of human impact on ecosystems over time.

The authors add: “Dietary reconstructions of ice-age foxes have shown that early modern humans had an influence on the local ecosystem as early as 40,000 years ago. The more humans populated a particular region, the more the foxes adapted to them.”

Drill monkeys of African Bioko island


This 17 July 2020 video from Equatorial Guinea says about itself:

Roughly 20 miles off the coast of West Africa, the island of Bioko sits alone in the Atlantic Ocean. This rainforest-dominated terrain is home to one of the rarest primates in the world: the drill.

North Atlantic baleen whales’ changing distribution


This 24 May 2019 video says about itself:

North Atlantic right whales have returned to Canadian waters early this year, and brought with them seven new calves, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

From the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center in the USA:

Baleen whales have changed their distribution in the Western North Atlantic

July 17, 2020

Researchers have been using passive acoustic recordings of whale calls to track their movements. They have found that four of the six baleen whale species found in the western North Atlantic Ocean — humpback, sei, fin and blue whales — have changed their distribution patterns in the past decade. The recordings were made over 10 years by devices moored to the seafloor at nearly 300 locations from the Caribbean Sea to western Greenland.

“All four whale species were present in waters from the southeast U.S. to Greenland, with humpbacks also present in the Caribbean Sea,” said Genevieve Davis, a senior acoustician at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and lead author of the study. “These four species were detected throughout all the regions in the winter, suggesting that baleen whales are widely distributed during these months. Humpback, sei, fin, and blue whales also showed significant changes in where they were detected between the two time periods considered in this study: before and after 2010.”

A large group of federal, state and academic researchers from the United States and Canada conducted the study, published in Global Change Biology. It is the first to show the occurrence of these four species across the western North Atlantic Ocean over long time spans and at a large spatial scale. The study also demonstrates how whale distributions have changed over time, and in particular since 2010.

Data collected from 2004 to 2014 on 281 bottom-mounted passive acoustic recorders totaled 35,033 days of recording. These passive acoustic recorders were deployed between the tiny island of Saba in the Caribbean Sea to the Davis Strait off western Greenland. Recorders were located on the continental shelf or along the shelf edge, with six recording units in off-shelf waters.

All available passive acoustic recordings from more than 100 research projects throughout the western North Atlantic Ocean were combined to create the decade-long dataset. The time series was split between 2004 to 2010 and 2011 to 2014. That split was based on the timing of shifts in climate in the Gulf of Maine and distribution changes by numerous species in the western North Atlantic Ocean.

This is also the same time period used in a similar analysis of North Atlantic right whales that was published in 2017, and used for comparison with this study.

Results show that fin, blue, and sei whales were more frequently detected in the northern latitudes after 2010 but less on the Scotian Shelf area. This matches documented shifts in prey availability in that region.

“The Gulf of Maine, an important feeding ground for many baleen whale species, is warming faster than most places in the world, resulting in changes in distribution not only of marine mammals and fish but also for their prey,” said Davis, who was also the lead author of the 2017 North Atlantic right whale study. “These changes in distribution for five of the six baleen whale species mirrors known shifts in distribution for other species attributed to climate and the impacts of ocean warming.”

Researchers have not yet studied if or how minke whale distribution has shifted. Minkes are the sixth baleen whale species found in the western North Atlantic Ocean.

Researchers caution that while recorders provided widespread coverage, there were gaps. Also, these data can confirm where and when a species is present, but not how many individuals are present. There are differences in vocal behavior, seasonal changes, and vocalizations thought to be made by males only. The data provide a comprehensive overview of the minimum distribution in space and time of each species and add information to the current understanding of these species.

Spending More Time in Northern Latitudes

While humpback whales are found in all regions, researchers were a bit surprised at the length of time they are present in all areas. Fin, blue, and sei whales increased the time that they spent in northern latitudes after 2010, perhaps following prey. All but sei whales had a decreased acoustic presence on the Scotian Shelf after 2010.

Sei whales, one of the least-studied baleen whales, were detected with the other whale species from Florida to eastern Greenland. Sei whales are found year-round in Southern New England and the New York Bight. These are also important regions for other baleen whale species, including North Atlantic right whales that target the same prey as sei whales.

“This study is the first comprehensive analysis of sei whale distribution throughout the western North Atlantic Ocean, including their movements and important habitat,” Davis said. “The southern limit of their range remains unknown, and their migratory movements in the western North Atlantic are still not well understood but we have filled in a number of information gaps.”

Fin whales were detected nearly year-round from Virginia to eastern Greenland. They are commonly found year-round in the Gulf of Maine and in Canadian waters off Nova Scotia. Acoustic records revealed their year-round presence in Massachusetts Bay and the New York Bight. New England waters provide feeding grounds, but mating and calving grounds are unknown. Their distribution year-round suggests that, like other baleen whales, not all fin whales migrate.

Blue Whales Heard Further South Than Expected

Blue whales are seen and heard year-round in and around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where their population is well-studied. Considered a more northern whale, they have occasionally been sighted in the Gulf of Maine. Acoustic detections revealed blue whales are present as far south as North Carolina.

Blue whales tend to use deeper waters, making their seasonal movements difficult to study. Satellite tag studies, however, indicate they move from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to North Carolina, including on and off the continental shelf. They also move into deeper waters around the New England Seamounts — a chain of underwater extinct volcanoes that extends from Georges Bank southeast for about 700 miles. Researchers found the shelf break and canyons to be important habitat areas for blue whales.

“A decade of acoustic observations have shown important changes over the range of baleen whales and identified new habitats that will require further protection from human-induced threats like fixed fishing gear, shipping, and noise pollution,” said Davis.