Beached narwhal investigated in Belgium


This 2012 video says about itself:

A narwhal‘s tusk makes it weird among whales. It’s actually a tooth that can reach 10 feet in length, and scientists have numerous theories about its powers and purpose.

From the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences:

Narwhal in the River Scheldt Probably Died of Starvation

03/05/2016

by Sigrid Maebe

On 27 April 2016, a dead narwhal was found in the river Scheldt, near the sluice of Wintam (Bornem). The autopsy revealed that the animal probably died of starvation. The narwhal is an arctic species that has never before been observed in Belgium.

An autopsy was carried out on the stranded narwhal in a joint effort by scientists of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS), the University of Ghent and the University of Liège.

The advanced state of decomposition makes establishing a cause of death difficult. However, no traces of a ship collision were present. The emaciated condition and the out of range position (more than 100 km away from the sea, and many thousands of km from its home range), indicates a natural process of starvation. Narwhal normally eat fish, crustaceans and cephalopods.

No food remains were found in its stomach or intestine, but, in the stomach, a number of small plastic items and small pieces of eroded driftwood were found. These items are very common in the river Scheldt and are concentrated in certain areas. Their presence in the stomach of the narwhal would indicate that the dying animal had swallowed them in the river and not at sea. We speculate therefore that it had swum up the river, and had died there shortly afterwards. The autopsy also revealed a heart condition and possibly also a thyroid problem. Several examinations and tests have started, including genetic and parasite analyses.

The stranded narwhal was a juvenile male with a (body) length 3,04 m long and a girth of 1,81 m. The tusk protruded 0,7 m out of its body (it can be 3 m long in adult males). The narwhal weighed 290 kg which is more than 150 kg too light for an animal of this length.

This is the first record of a narwhal in Belgium. Only a handful of observations and strandings are known in Europe, including an animal that was killed in the (former) Zuiderzee (The Netherlands) in 1912. Narwhals usually stay north of the 70° North latitude, and their home range includes arctic waters of Russia, Greenland and Canada. This is probably the most southerly record from Europe.

The skeleton of the narwhal will be prepared, and will be taken up in the collection of RBINS. RBINS would like to thank all persons involved in the discovery, securing, transportation and study of this exceptional animal that was discovered in a very unusual location.

Mammoth fur, excrement in Dutch museum


This is a 29 April 2016 video from Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands. It shows pieces of woolly mammoth fur and excrement arriving in the collection, all the way from the permafrost in Siberia.

Rare fly discovered on Ameland island


Delia quadripila, photo Joke van Erkelens

Translated from the Leeuwarder Courant in the Netherlands:

25 April 2016

On the salt marsh on the east side of Ameland an insect has been found that had not previously been found in the Netherlands. It’s Delia quadripila, a fly from the Anthomyiidea family which had not yet been identified in the Benelux countries before. The larvae feed on the chlorophyll of sea sandwort, a rare marsh plant. The specimen was found by Theo Kiewiet on March 13 as a pupa and then hatched in Meppel by amateur entomologist Joke van Erkelens. At the Vennootkwelder salt marsh sandwiched between the Oerd and Kooikersduinen areas approximately 120 insect species have been observed.

Dung beetles and dung, new research


This video says about itself:

African Dung Beetle

15 October 2007

Sacred to ancient Egyptians, these beetles recycle – of all things – dung.

From Ecological Entomology:

Herbivore dung as food for dung beetles: elementary coprology for entomologists

PETER HOLTER

Article first published online: 22 APRIL 2016

1. How do dung beetles and their larvae manage to subsist on herbivore dung consisting of plant remains that are at least partly indigestible, mixed with various metabolic waste products? To clarify what is known and not known about this basic aspect of dung beetle biology, the present review summarises information on dung composition and discusses the feeding of beetles (food: fresh dung) and larvae (food: older dung) in relation to this information.

2. There is 70–85% water in typical fresh dung, and undigested lignocellulose or ‘fibre’ constitutes about 70% of the organic matter which also contains 1.5–3% N. About 75% of this is ‘metabolic faecal nitrogen’, mostly associated with dead and alive microbial biomass. As all essential amino acids and cholesterol are probably present, additional synthesis by microbial symbionts may not be needed by the beetles.

3. Beetles minimise the intake of lignocellulose by filtering fibre particles out of their food which is probably microbial biomass/debris with much smaller particle size. Excess fluid may be squeezed out of this material by the mandibles before ingestion.

4. All larvae are bulk feeders and unable to filtrate, but little is known about the composition of their food, i.e. older dung in pats or underground brood masses. Larvae in dung pats may depend on easily digestible dung components, probably microbial biomass, whereas the nutritional ecology of larvae in brood masses is still not understood. Unravelling the composition of their food might answer some of the so far unanswered questions.

Lions’ same-sex sexuality, video


This video from the USA says about itself:

Lions Don’t Care If You Approve Of Their Bromance

21 April 2016

Belgian photographer Nicole Cambré recently released several photos that appear to show that lion sexuality, like almost all animals, is highly fluid. National Geographic tried to debunk the photos, claiming that some female lions have manes that make them appear male, which can be true. Cambré then debunked their debunk by posting a video of the supposedly female lion mounting another lion. Cenk Uygur and Hannah Cranston (ThinkTank), hosts of The Young Turks, break it down. Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

“Nicole Cambré, a lawyer and photographer from Belgium, recently took some photos in Botswana that shot like a comet across social media over the weekend. They showed two lions, both with lush manes, cuddling at sunset in the tall grass and mounting each other…

Interpreting homosexual behavior in animals, which has been observed in upwards of 450 species but is far from common, remains tricky territory for researchers. And proclaiming it as a reflection of human sexuality is something most anthropomorphism-allergic scientists are loathe to do.

“It’s a bromance, not ‘Brokeback Mountain,’” Craig Packer, a University of Minnesota professor who is one of the world’s top experts on African lions, said of the behavior in the photos. But, he added, “I don’t think you have to look at animals to justify what humans do. Our biology is far more complicated.””

Read more here.

Genetic diversity, evolutionary history and implications for conservation of the lion (Panthera leo) in West and Central Africa: here.

Marine animals helping each other, video


This video says about itself:

Jonathan Bird’s Blue World: Cleaning Stations (HD)

22 April 2016

Jonathan explores cleaning stations on the reef, where animals get cleaned of parasites and infection by other animals. Some examples shown are anemones and anemonefish (clownfish), wrasses, shrimp, manta rays, moray eels, Goliath groupers, sea turtles and barracuda. This episode was filmed in many locations such as Malaysia, the Philippines, Yap, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Caribbean.

Extinct whale’s tooth discovery on Australian beach


This video says about itself:

19 January 2015

In this short animation, produced for primary school children by Green.TV, supported by the Wellcome Trust, we look at the remarkable evolution of the whale from a land-based dog-like animal to the marine mammal that became the world’s largest ever creature.

From the Times of India:

Extinct whale’s 1 foot long tooth found on Australian beach

Subodh Varma | TNN | Apr 22, 2016, 04.21 PM IST

NEW DELHI: An Australian fossil enthusiast discovered a giant tooth of an ancient sperm whale that used to roam the seas five million years ago, munching up fish and even other whales. Murray Orr discovered the tooth at a beach at Beaumaris Bay near Melbourne, known for its vast trove of fossils. Orr immediately donated the fossil to Museum Victoria for further study.

The fossilised tooth is 30 centimetres (one foot) long and weighs three kilograms. This makes it larger than that of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

“After I found the tooth I just sat down and stared at it in disbelief,” Murray Orr said after the find was announced on Thursday by Museum Victoria, reports AFP.

“I knew this was an important find that needed to be shared with everyone.”

After studying the giant tooth, Museum Victoria said that it came from an extinct species of “killer sperm whale” which would have measured up to 18 metres (60 feet) in length and weighed some 40,000 kilograms.

“Until this find at Beaumaris all fossils of giant killer sperm whales were found on the west coast of South and North America,” Erich Fitzgerald, a paleontologist at the museum, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The museum said the tooth dates from the Pliocene epoch of some five million years ago and it was larger than those of sperm whales living today.

It is thought that these extict killer sperm whales deployed their massive teeth to munch on large animals, including fellow whales, unlike today’s sperm whales that eat a diet of squid and fish.

“If we only had today’s deep-diving, squid-sucking sperm whales to go on, we could not predict that just five million years ago there were giant predatory sperm whales with immense teeth that hunted other whales,” Fitzgerald said in a statement, AFP reported.

“Most sperm whales for the past 20 million years have been of the whale-killing kind. So, the fossil record reveals the living species to in fact be the exception to the rule, the oddball of the sperm whale family.”