Cephalopods profiting from climate change


This video says about itself:

King of camouflage – Cuttlefish (Documentary)

19 July 2015

Cuttlefish are marine animals of the order Sepiida. They belong to the class Cephalopoda, which also includes squid, octopodes, and nautiluses. Cuttlefish have a unique internal shell, the cuttlebone. Despite their name, cuttlefish are not fish but molluscs.

From Current Biology:

Global proliferation of cephalopods

23 May 2016

Summary

Human activities have substantially changed the world’s oceans in recent decades, altering marine food webs, habitats and biogeochemical processes. Cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish and octopuses) have a unique set of biological traits, including rapid growth, short lifespans and strong life-history plasticity, allowing them to adapt quickly to changing environmental conditions.

There has been growing speculation that cephalopod populations are proliferating in response to a changing environment, a perception fuelled by increasing trends in cephalopod fisheries catch. To investigate long-term trends in cephalopod abundance, we assembled global time-series of cephalopod catch rates (catch per unit of fishing or sampling effort). We show that cephalopod populations have increased over the last six decades, a result that was remarkably consistent across a highly diverse set of cephalopod taxa.

Positive trends were also evident for both fisheries-dependent and fisheries-independent time-series, suggesting that trends are not solely due to factors associated with developing fisheries. Our results suggest that large-scale, directional processes, common to a range of coastal and oceanic environments, are responsible. This study presents the first evidence that cephalopod populations have increased globally, indicating that these ecologically and commercially important invertebrates may have benefited from a changing ocean environment.

New Triassic fossil fish discovery in the Netherlands


Saurichthys fossil from China

Translated from Leidsch Dagblad daily in the Netherlands:

Billfish in Naturalis museum

Leiden – Naturalis has acquired a fossil of a new species which must have lived 200 to 250 million years ago. The billfish-like fish (Saurichthys diannae) was found by amateur paleontologist Herman Winkelhorst in the quarry of Winterswijk.

By Wilfred Simons – 27-5-2016, 17:36 (Update 27-5-2016, 17:36)

At the time, that area was in a coastal zone of the Tethys sea. That these billfish used to live also just offshore in shallow water, is proven by the fact that their eyes pointed upwards.

Winkelhof [sic; Winkelhorst] discovered a “graveyard” of about thirty young fish of the newly discovered species. That indicates that the sea at Winterswijk may have been a breeding ground for young life, like the current Wadden Sea. The amateur paleontologist donated the fossil to Naturalis.

See also here.

New silver boa constrictor species discovery in Bahamas


Chilabothrus argentum, (photo: R. Graham Reynolds / The Reynolds Lab / UNCA)

A video says about itself:

A new species of boa constrictor has been discovered on a remote Caribbean island

27 mei 2016

A new species of boa constrictor with silvery scales has been discovered on a remote island in the Bahamas.

Scientists identified 20 of the three-foot long snakes during two expeditions to the Caribbean islands, the second made in October last year.

One of the creatures made a dramatic appearance by slithering onto the head of the expedition leader as he slept.

The Silver Boa, Chilabothrus argentum, is so-named because of its distinctive silver colour and the fact that the first specimen found was climbing a Silver Palm tree.

The US team led by Dr Graham Reynolds, from Harvard University, confirmed that the snake was a previously unknown species after conducting a genetic analysis of tissue samples.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Scientists discover new species of silver boa constrictor snake in Bahamas – but it’s already ‘critically endangered’

Silver boa described as ‘mild-mannered’, calm and possibly ‘critically endangered’ with fewer than 1,000 thought to exist

Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent

Thursday 26 May 2016

A new species of snake, described as a “calm and mild-mannered” creature, has been discovered in the Bahamas – but it is already feared to be critically endangered.

The silver reptile was found on a silver palm tree on Conception Island, an uninhabited nature reserve, in July last year.

And, after research to confirm it was a separate species, it has been named the silver boa or Chilabothrus argentum, scientists revealed in a paper about the discovery to be published in the journal Breviora.

Professor Graham Reynolds, of University of North Carolina Asheville, was among the first to see the snake.

“It was exciting. As soon as we saw the first one, we knew we’d found something new,” he said.

“It just sat there and looked at us. They are very docile animals, they are very calm, slow-moving, mild-mannered.”

Deciding to conduct a systematic search that night, they then found four others of the same species before deciding to get some sleep on the beach.

“As I was sleeping I woke up to a disturbance and there was something on my face and I realised it was a boa,” Dr Reynolds said.

“It came out of the forest and crawled around on top of me. Maybe I smelled like the other snakes or something. I’ve never heard of that happening [with a boa].

“It was confusing at first but I thought it was incredible. I couldn’t believe it.”

He put the snake in a cloth bag and released it later after taking its measurements, an experience the snake seemed to take in its stride.

The beach encounter was all the more remarkable because the silver boa appears to be highly specialised, living and hunting in the trees.

Because they move so slowly, they catch their food mainly by sneaking up quietly on songbirds while they are resting in the trees at night.

“We’ve watching them stalk and hunt,” Dr Reynolds said. “It grabs its prey and wraps it up. We think they mostly eat birds.”

Their silver skin is unusual — snakes usually have a camouflage pattern – and the reasons behind its evolution are unclear. “The silvery colour is pretty striking. At night it shows up well in a flashlight,” Dr Reynolds said.

They grow to up to a metre long but are slender, weighing as little as 300 grams.

It is believed there are less than 1,000 individuals and that they are under threat from feral cats.

“We found evidence of feral cats on the island and we know these cats eat other boas,” Dr Reynolds said. “The boas really have no defence against cats.”

Robert Henderson, a curator at the Milwaukee Museum of Natural History and one of the world’s experts on boas, said finding a new snake species – and particularly a boa – was a “rare” and “exciting” event.

“Worldwide, new species of frogs and lizards are being discovered and described with some regularity,” he said. “New species of snakes, however, are much rarer.

“The beautiful Bahamian Silver Boa, already possibly critically endangered, reminds us that important discoveries are still waiting to be made, and it provides the people of the Bahamas another reason to be proud of the natural wonders of their island nation.”

Tyrannosaurus rex, by David Attenborough


This video, recorded in the USA, says about itself:

What Was Tyrannosaurus rex Like? – #Attenborough90BBC

25 May 2016

Sir David visits the Museum of Colorado to talk to Robert T. Bakker, who explains some of what he has learnt about the Tyrannosaurus rex.

‘Extinct’ dove rediscovered in Brazil


Blue-eyed ground dove

From BirdLife:

Extremely rare ‘Species X’ rediscovered in Brazil after 75 year disappearance

By Shaun Hurrell, 23 May 2016

The blue eyes of an extremely rare bird hadn’t been seen for nearly a century. In one of the most extraordinary stories in Brazilian conservation, a group of researchers have announced the comeback of the Blue-eyed Ground-dove. Last documented in 1941, it was believed extinct. But now the species has been found at top-secret locations in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. However researchers can only confirm sightings of 12 individuals, so securing its habitat will be the key to conserving this elusive bird.

Imagine the buzz in the crowd last weekend at the Brazilian Birdwatching Festival when ornithologist Rafael Bessa unveiled his rediscovery. The highly-anticipated talk was named ‘Species X’ and for the first time in history, this bird’s song was played to the public. Previously known from a handful of stuffed and ageing museum specimens and some more recent unsubstantiated reports, Bessa brought the Blue-eyed Ground Dove Columbina cyanopis back to life.

“When he played the video there was a commotion in the crowd and non-stop applause,” said Pedro Develey, SAVE Brasil (BirdLife in Brazil). “It was pure emotion.”

For the last few months the group of researchers – supported by SAVE Brasil, Rainforest Trust, and Butantan Bird Observatory – have been working in secret to scientifically report the rediscovery, and to simultaneously develop a conservation plan that secures the Critically Endangered bird’s long-term survival.

Describing the rediscovery, Bessa told Estadão:

“I returned to the place and I could recreate this vocalization with my microphone. I reproduced the sound and the bird landed on a flowering bush, coming towards me. I photographed the animal, and when I looked at the picture carefully, I saw that I had recorded something unusual. My legs started shaking.”

The Blue-eyed Ground-Dove occurs exclusively in Brazil and is threatened by the destruction of the Brazilian Cerrado, a savannah-like habitat. The jubilation of rediscovery quickly turned to sobering thoughts of acting fast to save the 12-or-more birds.

“We are now worried about the conservation of the species”, explained Rafael Bessa. “We are working on several fronts to build this plan. The main action is to ensure that the area where it was found becomes a protected area, which would benefit not only the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove, but many other threatened species occurring there.”

With cobalt-blue eyes and dark blue spots on its wings that standout against its overall reddish-chestnut plumage, it’s hard to believe such an eye-catching bird went unnoticed for so long. But rapid rates of habitat loss in the region mean that many more species could be heading to extinction unseen.

“Increasing the knowledge on Brazilian biodiversity is the first step to ensure its conservation“, said Luciano Lima, Instituto Butantan. “And, by doing so, we contribute to a better quality of life and health for all species, including our own.”

Right after first spotting the bird, in July 2015, the ornithologist Rafael Bessa contacted Lima, from Instituto Butantan. With the support from the Institute and SAVE Brasil, they started studying the species. A research group was formed also including ornithologists Wagner Nogueira, Marco Rego and Glaucia Del Rio, the latter two from Louisiana State University (USA).

The exact location where the species was found, nor the bird’s song, will not be released by the researchers, until they conclude the conservation plan and the proposed measures may be enabled.

Within the conservation plan, the researchers are undertaking studies on the biology of the species, especially on behavior, breeding biology and feeding. They are also venturing to places with geographic and environmental features similar to the site of the original rediscovery, aiming to find additional populations. The search areas are identified through satellite imagery as well as a technique called Ecological Niche Modelling: based on several environmental features of the sites where the species occur, specific software uses mathematical models to predict areas potentially suitable to the species.

“So far we have visited many areas in three states, but the species was located only in two sites close together, both in the state of Minas Gerais, which reinforces the need for urgent action to guarantee its survival”, warned the ornithologist Wagner Nogueira.

The Blue-eyed Ground-dove seems to have a specific habitat that could be as Critically Endangered as the bird itself. Let the orange-red of the birds feathers be a colour warning to potential new infrastructure projects in the region – even a small project could wipe out this entire species.

Now brought to life publically again, only time will tell how SAVE Brasil and the research team can help further the life of this species.

Your chance to save Species X: become a Species Champion for the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove by writing to species.champions@birdlife.org. Find out more about BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme.

New bug species discovered on Texel island


This video shows a Rhopalus subrufus bug.

Today, warden Jitske Esselaar on Texel in the Netherlands reports on research about bugs on the island in 2015.

Four species, new for Texel, were found: Hesperocorixa castanea, an aquatic species discovered in a pond.

Liorhyssus hyalinus is a land species. It had been found earlier on Schiermonnikoog, Terschelling and Vlieland islands.

Compsidolon salicellum was found in a forest; a first for all Wadden Sea islands.

Finding Rhopalus subrufus was also a first for the Wadden islands.

Undersea marine biology lab, video


This video, recorded off Florida in the USA, says about itself:

Aquarius Reef Base (HD) | JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD

20 May 2016

Jonathan visits Aquarius Reef Base–the world’s only undersea lab where scientists live in saturation for days or weeks at a time, studying the ocean. It’s an amazing combination of science fiction and undersea adventure!