New hammerhead shark species discovery in Belize


This video says about itself:

5 February 2017

Scientists have discovered a new population of miniature sharks off the coast of Belize. The bonnethead, a small species of hammerhead shark, can be found in many spots around the Caribbean. However, the new shark is an entirely different species based on large genetic differences between them and other bonnetheads. Bonnethead sharks are commercially fished in the United States, throughout the Caribbean and in South America. The recording of the new shark was reportedly made during a 2016 shark tagging expedition.

From The Reporter in Belize:

New hammerhead shark species found in Belize

Posted by The Reporter newspaper on February 9, 2017 at 10:42 am

By Benjamin Flowers

Shark researchers have discovered a new species of shark in Belize.

Researchers from Florida International University (FIU) were conducting DNA sequencing on bonnet head sharks, a species of hammer head sharks, when they made the discovery.

The bonnet head shark is found in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States; however, the DNA of the species found in Belize did not match that of the bonnet heads found anywhere else. The bonnet heads found in Belize, which have yet to be named, have the same physical appearance as its counterparts within the region, but have large genetic differences.

Evaluating the DNA analysis conducted by Andrew Fields from Stony Brook University, FIU researchers estimated that the bonnet head sharks around the nation stopped interbreeding with those from Mexico, the United States and the Bahamas several million years ago.

Demian Chapman, lead researcher on the team that made the discovery, said that the find raises concerns about the sustainability measures in place to keep the species from extinction. While the bonnet head is ranked at “Least Concern” for extinction risk by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the union made the classification assuming there was a single species of bonnet head.

“Now we have to define the range of each of these species individually and assess them independently against where the potential threats are,” Chapman said.

Chapman who is currently leading a shark survey project called Global Finprint, believes that the discovery could be the door way to finding even more new species of sharks.

Global Finprint is an initiative seeking to determine the cause for the decreasing number of sharks and rays.

New crab species gets Harry Potter name


This video says about itself:

1 February 2017

A new species of crab has been named after two characters from JK Rowling‘s “Harry Potter” stories, according to a new study in “ZooKeys”.

From Science News:

Coral reef crab named after Harry Potter characters

16 years after its discovery, the crustacean is labeled a new species

By Helen Thompson

7:00am, February 13, 2017

Deep beneath coral rubble in reefs off the coast of Guam, there lives a pale, black-eyed crab whose true taxonomic character has long been unknown.

In 2001, amateur researcher Harry Conley discovered the translucent crab burrowing among reef rocks. Eventually, two specimens — each several millimeters long — came to the lab of biologist Peter Ng at the National University of Singapore. Now, Ng and colleague Jose Mendoza have identified the quirky crustacean as a new species and bestowed on it the moniker Harryplax severus, the researchers report January 23 in ZooKeys.

The genus name honors two Harrys: Conley, who died in 2002 and had a reputation for finding otherworldly ocean critters, and Harry Potter, the titular character in J.K. Rowling’s popular books. Mendoza, a Potter fan, suggested the species designation severus — a reference to the books’ notoriously uptight and misjudged Severus Snape, whose true nature remains elusive until the series’ end.

H. severus belongs to a group of crabs first found in shadowy caves on Christmas Island. With small beady eyes, well-developed antennae, washed-out coloration and long legs, the crabs are suited to the dimly lit nooks and crannies of Guam’s rubble beds — a place where Snape, a prickly potions master who worked in a dungeon, might feel right at home.

American songbirds threatened by climate change


This video from the USA says about itself:

7 May 2016

Some rather excellent close up shots of a lesser goldfinch having lunch outside my window.

From Science News:

Desert songbirds increasingly at risk of dehydration

by Susan Milius

5:11pm, February 13, 2017

Desert songbirds, especially the little fit-in-your-hand ones, could soon face widening danger zones for lethal thirst in the southwestern United States, a new study predicts.

Coping with heat waves can demand so much water evaporation to prevent heat stroke — from panting, for instance — that birds can die from dehydration, says Blair Wolf of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Small species like the lesser goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) dehydrate at a proportionately higher rate than larger birds such as towhees. If temperatures rise 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, a lesser goldfinch could face a risk of death within five hours on as many as 120 days a year in the worst hot spots, Blair and colleagues report February 13 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Four other larger bird species studied, including cactus wrens and curve-billed thrashers, probably won’t see as many risky days as the goldfinch, but there’s dangerous thirst ahead for them, too.

Hot spots

For the lesser goldfinch, danger zones in its range — where heat waves could cause lethal dehydration in hours — are expected to grow under a business-as-usual climate change scenario in which local temperatures rise 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Climate change could deliver final blow for world’s threatened species: here.

Animals and love


This video is called Bird Of Paradise Makes An Unforgettable First Impression – Animal Attraction – BBC.

From Science News:

The animal guide to finding love

by Sarah Zielinski

6:00am, February 14, 2017

Are you feeling the pressure of Valentine’s Day and in need of advice on how to find someone special? The animal world has some advice for you.

Make sure you look nice.

There’s no need to go for an entire makeover, but looking your best is usually a good idea when on the search for a partner. Male black-and-white snub-nosed monkeys appear to have taken a lesson from Revlon — they go for the rouge-lipped look during the mating season. Those with bright, red lips tend to be surrounded by females.

This 2016 video from Australia is called Peacock Spider 14 (Maratus fimbriatus).

Learn to dance …

As anyone who has ever watched John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever knows, having the right dance moves can make finding a mate easier. For some animals, it’s essential. That’s true for male peacock spiders, which raise colorful flaps on their behinds and wave them while lifting their third legs in an adorable dance aimed at luring a mate. And if a guy doesn’t have the best moves or try hard enough, females don’t just reject him — they get aggressive.

… and how to flirt.

Even if you’re an expert dancer, you’ll probably need to do at least a little flirting. It may be a bit more subtle than torrent frogs, though, who turn flirting into a big production. A male frog will get a female’s attention by first calling out and puffing up his vocal sacs. Then he’ll shake his hands and feet and wiggle his toes. If he’s successful, the female will let him know with a special call.

Attend a party.

The best place to put all of this on display is, of course, a party! And there are parties everywhere, even at the bottom of the ocean. Scientists exploring a seamount off the Pacific coast of Panama in 2015 found an enormous party of small, red crabs swarming all over each other. Such large aggregations are common among crab species and may be linked to reproduction.

Practice, practice, practice.

Once you’ve landed a partner, you might want to serenade him or her with the perfect love song. But first you’ll need to practice, just like great reed warblers (probably) do. Males spend their entire winter vacation singing the songs they seem to use to woo the ladies come spring. All that singing cuts into time the guys could spend foraging for food or resting, but that practice might pay off because female warblers prefer males that sing more complex tunes.

Keep an eye on the competition.

You may not be the only one interested in your partner, so make like a peacock and check out your competition. Peacocks fan out their feathers to lure the ladies, but females only pay attention to what’s happening at the bottom of the show, studies have revealed. Males do likewise, keeping their gaze tuned to the bottom of the competition’s display.

Bring a gift.

You probably don’t need to worry that your partner will go cannibal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a hint from a species where that does happen. When approaching a female, male nursery spiders are smart to bring a gift of a big dead insect wrapped up in silk. The gift will not only keep the female busy while the male mates with her, but it can also double as a shield if she sees him as a potential meal rather than a mate.

Snowy owls and food


This is a 2016 snowy owl video.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Snowy Owls Aren’t Starving—How Two Canadian Farmers Helped Bust a Birding Myth

Every winter it’s a mystery how many Snowy Owls will come south to thrill bird watchers. But chances are when they do, you may hear someone say these magnificent birds are starving, having fled low food supplies up north. But happily, new research using data collected by two extremely hardy Saskatchewan farmers suggests otherwise. Find out what’s really happening with Snowy Owls.

Computer game on evolution of bird flight


This video from the USA says about itself:

Flap to the Future – American Robin

7 February 2017

HELFUL TIP: I play through the level twice. Skip to 3:02 for former personal best time.

Wowza, wowza! A bird game! Of course I’m going to play it longer than I should.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology sent out an email today about this game, so I tried it out and maybe got somewhat good at the American Robin stage. It’s a super easy stage assuming you have a good path routed and can pull off a few tight maneuvers. Though my time is very beatable, I’ll leave it as is since it seems that my new best times aren’t being posted on the leaderboards for some reason. I could always go back and restart my file to have a new best time posted, but I really don’t want to lose the random generated name I currently have on my account. I’ll just have to deal with my initial 05:30.17 minute clear time on the leaderboards.

EDIT: The leaderboards are now functional beyond the initial completion of a level! However, I accidentally reset my game like an idiot, and as such, Lilac-feathered Friendly Heron will forever be displayed with mediocre completion times.

My current mobile name is now Agile Tourmaline-backed Heron, and my current PC name is Least-bearded Fluffheron.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Video Game Lets You Scamper, Glide, and Flap Through the Evolution of Flight

Skip through time and explore how birds mastered the skies with our new video game. Start as an earthbound dinosaur and then feel the thrill of feathered wings and flapping flight. Then jump ahead 100 million years from now to imagine the future of flight. The game is free, mobile-friendly, and runs in a web browser. There’s no app download necessary—just an interest in dinosaurs, flight, or video games. Visit Bird Academy to play (and—bonus—find out your very own fanciful bird name).

Dinosaur-age reptile live birth discovery


This video says about itself:

9 September 2015

“Tanystropheus” was a 6 metre long reptile that dated from the Middle Triassic period. It is recognizable by its extremely elongated neck, which measured 3 metres long – longer than its body and tail combined. The neck was composed of 12–13 extremely elongate vertebrae. Fossils have been found in Europe, the Middle East and China. Complete skeletons of juvenile individuals are most abundant in the Besano Formation of Italy, dating to 232 million years ago during the middle Triassic period.

“Tribelesodon”, originally considered to be a pterosaur by Francesco Bassani in 1886, is now recognized as a junior synonym to “Tanystropheus“. The best-known species is “Tanystropheus longobardicus“. Other currently recognized species include “T. conspicuus” and “T. meridensis”.

Another junior synonym of “Tanystropheus” is “Procerosaurus”. Two specimens were initially identified as “Procerosaurus”: The first was described as “P. cruralis” by von Huene in 1902. The second was described by Antonin Fritsch in 1878 as a species of “Iguanodon“, and is a highly doubtful dinosaurian-like bit of bone from the Cenomanian of the Czech Republic. He reassigned the species to “Procerosaurus” in 1905 intending to erect it as a new genus, unaware that the genus name was already in use. George Olshevsky in 2000 substituted “Ponerosteus” for this species.

In 2002, fossils of a related genus, “Dinocephalosaurus“, were collected in marine Triassic deposits in southwestern China. This new creature was 2.7 metres long, 1.7 metres of which was its neck and head. The specimen was described in 2004.

From Discover magazine:

Mamma Mia! Fossil Is First Hint Of Live Birth In Ancient Reptile

By Gemma Tarlach | February 14, 2017 10:00 am

Here’s some egg-citing news: for the first time in the fossil record, researchers have discovered a specific type of marine reptile that was carrying an advanced embryo at time of death. Why is that interesting? Because the specimen is an archosauromorph, an early member of the same gang of vertebrates that includes dinosaurs as well as pterosaurs, birds and crocodiles, all of which we thought, based on previous evidence, were exclusively egg-layers. Today that changes.

Some 245 million years ago, Dinocephalosaurus was a marine reptile swimming around what’s now southwest China. Paleontologists have found other examples of this ridiculously long-necked animal, but this one in particular met her maker with a developmentally advanced embryo in her abdominal cavity — providing science with the first example of viviparity in an archosauromorph.

Viva Viviparity!

Aside from being a great weapon to have in your arsenal when playing Scrabble, viviparity just means giving birth to live young rather than oviparity (egg-laying).

Viviparity has evolved a number of times among vertebrates, from lizards to mammals, but has never before been seen in the archosauromorphs, a rather large group of animals that emerged about 260 million years ago and eventually evolved into archosaurs, more famously known as things like dinosaurs and pterosaurs, the great and diverse flying reptiles.

Birds and the various crocodilians (crocodiles, alligators, caimans, etc.) are the only archosaurs still wandering about, and all are oviparous.

Baby On Board…or Breakfast?

I can hear a few of my more cynical readers grumbling over their keyboards “how do we know this is an embryo and not just a cannibalistic snack?” Right back atcha with findings from the paper, which ruled out both cannibalism and superposition (the possibility the two were separate individuals that died at the same time and were fossilized one atop the other).

The case against superposition: The fossilized embryo is completely enclosed by the fossilized adult, which means it must have been inside Mom when she died.

The case against cannibalism is a little more complex, but stay with me. The embryo is oriented with its neck pointing forward. For these marine reptiles, however, prey is typically swallowed and digested head-first, or neck pointing backward. In fact, the researchers did find a partially digested fish in the same mama fossil, in her abdominal cavity (not the Reptowomb location of Junior’s fossil), that had been swallowed and was moving along her digestive system head-first.

Want more evidence? Okay. The embryosaurus was curled in the typical fetal position, there was no evidence of eggshell anywhere around the fossil, and its baby bones were well ossified, which means it was in an advanced developmental stage; egg-laying animals drop baby bombs in significantly earlier stages of development.

Babymaking, Reptile Style

Today’s study, published in Nature Communications, is the earliest evidence we’ve got of the whole babymaking process for archosauromoprhs by about 50 million years. And understanding the reproductive biology of these animals, including dinosaurs, furthers our knowledge of how they lived, and maybe even why they went extinct.

Researchers thought for a long time, given what they were seeing in the fossil record, that dinosaurs, birds and crocodilians laid eggs because there was something in their archosauromorph biology that prohibited live births.

(Fun fact about crocodilians in particular: it’s after the egg is laid, and based on the ambient temperature as it incubates, that the sex of the babycroc is determined. Obviously that’s different than in viviparous Dinocephalosaurus. Since its offspring developed at body temperature, the sex of an individual Dino-c must have been determined genetically as it is for humans and other viviparous sorts.)

Because we now know at least one species of archosauromorph gave birth to live offspring, it suggests the lack of viviparity in later archosaurs was an adaptation to their environment, or provided some advantage not yet identified. Or maybe the fossil of a viviparous archosaur is somewhere out there, just waiting to be found.

See also here.