Hadrosaur dinosaur discovery in Alaska

This video from the USA says about itself:

Research Team Discovers ‘Lost World’ of Cold Weather Dinosaurs

22 September 2015

A collaborative team between Florida State University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks has spent the last five years digging in a remote bone-bed of dinosaur remains in the remote Prince Creek Formation in Alaska. FSU Professor Gregory Erickson is excited for the new species of duck-billed dinosaurs uncovered in the dig and believes it opens up a lost province of Arctic adapted dinosaurs. The new dino, Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, is closely related to Edmontosaurus, another duck-billed dinosaur found further south near Alberta, Montana, and South Dakota, but several structural differences in adult skeletons helped Erickson and Pat Druckenmiller of the University of Alaska Fairbanks determine it is in fact a different species.

From the University of Alaska Fairbanks:

22 September 2015

New hadrosaur species discovered on Alaska’s North Slope

Research team finds evidence for ‘lost world’ of cold weather dinosaurs

Researchers working with specimens at the University of Alaska Museum of the North have described a new species of hadrosaur, a type of duck-billed dinosaur that once roamed the North Slope of Alaska in herds, living in darkness for months at a time and probably experiencing snow. Ugrunaaluk (oo-GREW-na-luck) kuukpikensis (KOOK-pik-en-sis) grew up to 30 feet long and was a superb chewer with hundreds of individual teeth well-suited for eating coarse vegetation.

Earth sciences curator Pat Druckenmiller said the majority of the bones used in the study came from the Liscomb Bone Bed, a fossil-rich layer along the Colville River in the Prince Creek Formation, a unit of rock deposited on the Arctic flood plain about 69 million years ago.

“Today we find these animals in polar latitudes,” Druckenmiller said. “Amazingly, they lived even farther north during the Cretaceous Period. These were the northern-most dinosaurs to have lived during the Age of Dinosaurs. They were truly polar.”

The name, which means ancient grazer, was a collaborative effort between scientists and Iñupiaq speakers. Druckenmiller worked with Ronald Brower Sr., an instructor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Native Language Center, to develop a culturally and geographically appropriate name that honors the native Iñupiaq people who live there today.

Druckenmiller; UAF graduate student Hirotsugu Mori, who completed his doctoral work on the species; and Florida State University’s Gregory Erickson, a researcher who specializes in the use of bone and tooth histology to interpret the paleobiology of dinosaurs, published their findings in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, an international quarterly journal that publishes papers from all areas of paleontology.

Druckenmiller and Erickson have previously published documentation suggesting that during this time period, a distinct, polar fauna existed in what is now northern Alaska. At the time, Arctic Alaska was covered in a polar forest because the climate was much warmer. Since it was so far north, the dinosaurs had to contend with months of winter darkness and snow. “The finding of dinosaurs this far north challenges everything we thought about a dinosaur’s physiology,” Erickson said. “It creates this natural question. How did they survive up here?”

The fossil site where the discovery was made is named for geologist Robert Liscomb, who found the first dinosaur bones in Alaska while mapping along the Colville River for Shell Oil Company in 1961. At the time, Liscomb did not recognize that the bones were from a dinosaur.

Since then, museum scientists have excavated and cataloged more than 6,000 bones from the new species, primarily small juveniles estimated to have been about 9 feet long and 3 feet tall at the hips. “It appears that a herd of young animals was killed suddenly, wiping out mostly one similar-aged population to create this deposit,” Druckenmiller said.

Currently, there are three named dinosaurs documented from the North Slope, including two plant eaters and one carnivore. However, most of those species are known from incomplete material. “Ugrunaaluk is far and away the most complete dinosaur yet found in the Arctic or any polar region,” Druckenmiller said. “We have multiple elements of every single bone in the body.”

“So far, all dinosaurs from the Prince Creek Formation that we can identify as species are distinct from those found anywhere else. The recognition of Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis provides further evidence that the dinosaurs living in polar latitudes in what is now Alaska were not the same species found from the same time periods in lower latitudes.”

The scientists completed a detailed study of all the different skull bones of this animal and compared them to close relatives. Some features were shared while others, particularly those in the skull and around the mouth, were seen only in the Alaska material. Mori, who is now a curator for the Saikai City Board of Education in Japan, said, “The new species has a unique combination of characteristics not seen in other dinosaurs. It lacks a pocket on the orbital rim, which Edmontosaurus has.”

Alaskan grizzly bears catching salmon on webcams

This video about Alaska is called The Land of Giant Bears | Full Documentary.

From eNature.com in the USA in July 2015:

Watch Live As Grizzlies Catch Salmon

Salmon are running in Alaska and Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park may be the best place to watch local bears gorge themselves on fresh caught salmon.

Explore.org has a number of webcams on the scene and you can almost always observe a bear or two (or three or four!) in action.

Kittlitz’s murrelets in Alaska, new study

This video says about itself:

Kittlitz’s Murrelet feeding chick

A video of two adult Kittlitz’s Murrelets at their nest site in the mountains near Kachemak Bay, Alaska.

From The Condor quarterly:

Reproductive performance of Kittlitz’s Murrelet in a glaciated landscape, Icy Bay, Alaska, USA


Kittlitz’s Murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris) is a dispersed-nesting seabird endemic to Alaska and eastern Russia that may have experienced considerable population declines in some parts of its range in the past few decades. Poor reproduction has been suggested as the demographic bottleneck, yet there are no direct estimates of reproduction in a glaciated area where this species reaches its highest densities at sea during the breeding season.

The lack of demographic information in glacial habitats has limited our ability to interpret population trends and to clarify whether the presence of glaciers affects reproductive performance. Between 2007 and 2012, we radio-tagged Kittlitz’s Murrelets to measure breeding propensity, nesting success, and fecundity in the heavily glaciated landscape of Icy Bay, Alaska, USA.

Of 156 radio-tagged birds, 20% were breeders, 68% were potential breeders, and 12% were nonbreeders. Radio-tagged males (29%) were more likely to be breeders compared to females (11%). Across all years, we located 34 Kittlitz’s Murrelet nests, 38% of which were successful.

Daily nest survival probability (± SE) was 0.979 ± 0.005, with most nests failing during incubation; if extrapolated to a 55-day period from nest initiation to fledging, the nest survival rate was 0.307 ± 0.083. Low fecundity was due largely to low breeding propensity, not low nesting success.

For context, we also determined the breeding status of 14 radio-tagged Marbled Murrelets (B. marmoratus), most of which were breeders (79%) and successfully fledged young (69%). Our data demonstrated that Kittlitz’s Murrelets were outperformed in all facets of reproduction compared to Marbled Murrelets. Low fecundity estimates for Kittlitz’s Murrelet were consistent with a 10% per annum decline in Icy Bay between 2002 and 2012, suggesting that poor reproductive performance contributed to the local population decline of this species.

Western sandpiper migration, new research

This is a western sandpiper video from Kotzebue, Alaska.

By Sarah Emily Jamieson, Ronald C Ydenberg, and David B Lank in Animal Migration, 2014; Volume 2: 34–43:

Does predation danger on southward migration curtail parental investment by female western sandpipers?

Abstract: Theory predicts that if extending parental care delays migratory departure, and if later migration is more dangerous, then parental care should be curtailed to make an earlier departure. Adult western sandpipers (Calidris mauri) depart Alaska in July, and the presence of peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) along their route rises steeply during the migratory period.

Pacific dunlins (C. alpina pacifica) are ecologically similar, but do not depart Alaska until October, after peregrine passage has peaked. Because peregrine migration begins earlier in years with early snowmelt, we predicted that the curtailment of parental investment by western sandpipers, but not of Pacific dunlins, should be more pronounced in these more dangerous years.

We measured breeding phenology of these species on the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge during three seasons with strongly
differing snowmelt timing. We found that they initiated breeding simultaneously, and that western sandpipers, but not Pacific dunlins, ceased laying increasingly earlier, provided increasingly less parental care and departed increasingly sooner as snowmelt was earlier. Advancing departure date by the overall average of 5.2d relative to dunlin reduces migratory exposure to peregrines by an estimated 18%.

Our results support the hypothesis that natural selection has favored curtailment of parental investment by western sandpipers to advance migratory departure.

Asian songbirds in trouble

This video about Asia says about itself:

In this video you will see a pair of Purple-rumped Sunbirds, Black-headed Golden Oriole, Oriental Magpie, Common Myna, Asian Koel and Brown-headed Barbet.

All these birds I was able to film them while travelling on the road and capturing them from the roadside. Therefore you might also hear the sound of vehicles in the background :) It would have been great if I was able to capture these birds & calls in more quieter surroundings like most of my other nature videos. But I hope that you were still able to enjoy these video with the birds and their calls.

There is another variety of birds which I really like most – The Barbets. There are many species of Barbets but I was never able to get a clear capture of them. They are great fruit lovers and at the end you will see a Brown-headed Barbet. But unfortunately due to some branches of a tree I was not able to film him clearly. He is a very beautiful bird with green colours, thick beak and big yellow eyes. The call is also very unusual. I hope that you will enjoy these birds.

From BirdLife:

Asian songbird migrants in trouble

By Martin Fowlie, Mon, 16/02/2015 – 09:25

Migratory songbirds in East Asia are in trouble, according to new research. The study calls for national action and international cooperation to deal with threats, as well as more monitoring and research to help understand and protect this unique migration system.

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway, running from Siberia and Alaska down to South-East Asia and Australia, supports the greatest diversity of migratory birds on the planet, with 170 long distance migrant songbirds and over 80 short distance migrants. However, it is also one of most poorly studied of the world’s major migration routes. Remarkably little is known about the populations and ecology of many of its songbird migrants, which rely on habitats along the migratory route for their survival.

Lead by scientists from the Australian National University and Sun Yat-sen University and published in BirdLife’s journal Bird Conservation International, ‘Migratory songbirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway: a review from a conservation perspective’ draws together what is known and highlights gaps where more study is urgently required.

Flyway-scale protection

The study reveals many migratory songbirds are declining in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, owing to a range of threats operating across many countries. The paper makes a strong case that both national action and international cooperation are needed for effective conservation.

“The flyways concept can help promote collaborative conservation actions between many countries”, said Becky Rush, BirdLife’s Asia Flyways Policy Officer. “More governments are recognising that conservation in their own territory is not enough and that they need to encourage protection for species throughout their migratory range”.

According to Ding Li Yong, the paper’s lead author, migratory songbirds in Asia have received less attention from conservationists compared to waterbirds even though many songbirds have lost considerable wintering habitat and are in decline. “Ecologically, these songbirds are important because they connect the ecosystems of Asia’s boreal, temperate and tropical biomes”, he said.

Small birds, large threats

Migration is tough enough for birds, and especially for small birds weighing only a few grams and needing to refuel often, so any threats that affect them along their migratory route can add up and take their toll on whole populations. Currently available evidence suggests that habitat loss and hunting are the two most significant threats on the East Asia flyway, while other threats like invasive species, climate change and collision with man-made structures can also have a big impact.

Some species, like the Vulnerable Izu Leaf-warbler Phylloscopus ijimae and Pleske’s Grasshopper-warbler Locustella pleskei are particularly at risk not just because of their small breeding ranges, but that their entire wintering ranges remain unknown to scientists, thus hampering effective conservation. The Endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola used to be abundant, but have drastically declined as large numbers are trapped annually for food in South-East Asia and southern China.’

Dealing with the threats

The study highlights ways in which these declines can be stopped. Conservation of key habitats, better protection of key breeding, migration and wintering sites, and better enforcement of national legislation will all be needed. Additionally, international and national treaties and legislations need to be extended to include migratory songbirds.

One priority identified in the paper is to expand and standardise monitoring and increase research to better understand populations and threats in more detail. This will need to target some of the most poorly known migratory songbirds in Asia, including the Vulnerable Rufous-headed Luscinia ruficeps and Black-throated Blue Robin L. obscura.

“There is a need for more monitoring, and especially more coordinated monitoring, across Asia,” said Rush. “The number of birdwatchers in Asia is increasing rapidly, and in some cases their data are already contributing to our understanding of songbird distribution and status”. One promising development is a new project which BirdLife Asia is helping to develop in China, South Korea and Japan, to promote international cooperation on the monitoring and conservation of migratory landbirds.

While data from citizen science and more formal monitoring schemes will definitely help to improve knowledge, conservation action is needed now to address the immediate threats to migratory songbirds that have already been identified.

Smith’s longspurs, Valentine’s Day birds

This video says about itself:

The Smith’s Longspur Project: 2013 Field Season

5 September 2013

© 2013 Jared Hughey
All Rights Reserved

The Smith’s Longspur (Calcarius pictus), one of the least studied songbirds in North America, breeds on the arctic tundra and has become a species of conservation concern. I spent the summer working as a field technician for Heather Craig, a Master’s student at University of Alaska Fairbanks who is studying the breeding ecology of this polygynandrous species in the foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Record Setting Lovebird! The Smith’s Longspur May Be Nature’s Champion Lover

Posted on Monday, February 09, 2015 by eNature

Are you the type that has an insatiable appetite for lusty affairs?

Do you seek the same qualities in a partner?

Then you’ll probably enjoy the story of the Smith’s Longspur. This bird’s 70’s swinging style is enough to make even Hugh Hefner blush.

Arctic Summers, Midwest Winters

Small like a sparrow, the Smith’s Longspur spends its summers in Alaska and Canada and its winters in the Midwest and the South, often congregating in open fields.

In terms of range, then, it’s a lot like some other species. What sets the Smith’s Longspur apart is its astonishing libido.

An Insatiable Appetite For Love

At the peak of the spring mating season, the typical Smith’s Longspur copulates more than 350 times a week. The females solicit these encounters, and the males cooperate roughly half the time.

Otherwise the creatures are resting and refueling—for their fall migration or just to maintain their busy love lives!

You can always plan eNature’s Mating Game to find what creature you most resemble in love.

As hard as it may be to believe given the cold affecting much of the country, but spring is only a month or so away!

Have you seen any signs of the plants and animals in your neighborhood preparing for warmer times and the new life the spring season brings?

We always enjoy your stories.

John James Audubon named the Smith’s Longspur after his friend Gideon B. Smith.

More about the Smith’s Longspur is here.