This 29 June 2015 video from Australia says about itself:
Read more here.
From Deakin University in Australia:
July 2, 2015
Humans once hunted them, but may now hold key to fur seal survival
Oil rigs and artificial reefs are often given a bad rap for their environmental impact but they may be playing a vital role in feeding one of Australia’s largest sea creatures, still recovering from centuries of hunting by humans, new research led by Deakin scientists has found.
Researchers from Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences teamed up with National Geographic, the University of Tasmania and University of California Santa Cruz to investigate the feeding behaviour of the Australian fur seals in Bass Strait.
Associate Professor John Arnould said some seals carrying the National Geographic “crittercams” revealed they and other individuals congregated around human-made structures which act as artificial reefs attracting fish.
“These findings mean that man-made structures such as pipelines, cable routes, wells and shipwrecks could play a vital role in helping to improve the recovery rates of our fur seals,” he said.
“The Australian fur seal population is increasing at just two per cent a year and still sit at population levels below 60 per cent of what it was before the commercial sealing era in the 18th and 19th centuries.”
The researchers tracked the foraging patterns of 36 Australian fur seals from Kanowna Island in Bass Strait, using GPS loggers and dive recorders.
The research is published today in the latest edition of science journal PLOS One.
“While we know fish congregate around these structures, scientists don’t know a lot about their use by marine mammals and we were surprised at first to find the Australian fur seals were going to these area[s],” Associate Professor Arnould said.
“We found that 72% of the 36 seals we tracked spent time around the man-made structures, with pipelines and cable routes being the most frequented. More than a third of animals foraged near more than one type of structure.”
Associate Professor Arnould said man-made changes to natural habitats could often have negative effects on animals which lived in the regions surrounding them, including a reduction in foraging habitat, breeding sites and refuge from predators.
“Some species, however, can adapt to, and even benefit from, changes to their habitats,” he said.
“Indeed, man-made structures can provide a range of benefits for some species, from predator avoidance, thermoregulation, and breeding sites, to acting as important foraging areas.”
Associate Professor Arnould said seals and sea lions around the world had experienced variable rates of population recovery since the end of the sealing era.
“We have seen species that feed close to the surface have experienced rapid growth in numbers, populations of species that feed on the ocean floor, such as the Australian fur seal, have increased very slowly, are stable or in decline,” he said.
“It has been suggested that the low population recovery rates of these species could be due to them hunting in environments which for decades have been the focus of commercial fisheries using bottom trawlers that disrupt the habitat and remove the larger size-classes of species that the seals depend on for food.
Associate Professor Arnould said all but one of the Australian fur seal’s breeding colonies occurred on islands within Bass Strait, between the Australian mainland and Tasmania, which has an average depth of 60 metres and is considered to be a region of low food availability for marine predators.
“Therefore, structures like oil and gas rigs and pipelines that occur on the relatively featureless sea floor could provide a valuable prey habitat and promote foraging success for the species,” he said.
Explore further: Fur seal population bounces back while sea lions struggle
This video is called Australasian Bittern.
From Birdline Victoria in Australia:
Tuesday 30 June
Thanks to Paul Newman who spotted the bird, the bird spent most of the time in the drain on the left hand side as you enter Western Lagoons via Gate 2. It did, however, move around the centre ponds as well. Time was about 4pm.
This video says about itself:
20 June 2015
Sugar Glider Practices Flying in Front of Fan
From daily The Guardian in Britain today:
The sugar glider, Petaurus breviceps, is a small forest-dwelling marsupial native to the northern and eastern parts of Australia. They also occur in forests throughout New Guinea and on a number of nearby islands and island archipelagoes.
They superficially resemble a squirrel, although they are smaller and much, much cuter: they have extremely soft, dense grey fur with a charcoal grey stripe along their spine, creamy white fur on their underparts, large black eyes adapted for night vision, a pink nose and toes, and small rotatable ears. They are sexually dimorphic, with females being smaller than the males, and lacking the scent gland on the forehead. Females give birth to one or two babies (“joeys”) which then reside in her marsupium (pouch) located on her belly, for several months. Male sugar gliders are unusual because they are one of the few mammal species that provide parental care. This video gives you an idea of their physical size:
The physical character that gives sugar gliders their name is the fur-covered flap of skin along their sides — this skin flap is easily visible in the previous video.
When sugar gliders extend their legs, this flap of skin stretches out, allowing them to glide through the air from tree to tree, sometimes for long distances when it’s breezy. Here’s another video that provides low-motion footage of gliding sugar gliders (ignore the cheesy music):
Sugar gliders are arboreal possums, and possess a long, furred and weakly prehensile tail that acts as a climbing aid as they move throughout the trees, seeking out insects, nectar, tree sap, and fruits to dine upon. Sugar gliders are highly active and are nocturnal and live in colonies consisting of several adults and their young of the year. Although they can “bark”, they are generally silent, and communicate primarily by using odours and behavioural signals. And cuteness.
This video is called National Geographic Super Spider – Fascinating Spider Documentary.
From daily The Independent in Britain:
Discovery of 25,000 diving tarantulas could prove lucrative for tiny Australian community
The huge cluster of newly-discovered spiders could prove attractive to scientific researchers from across the world
Thursday 25 June 2015
A tiny settlement in the sparsely-populated Northern Territory of Australia has been the subject of scientific attention, after it was discovered that a nearby flood plain is home to an infestation of 25,000 tarantulas from a newly-discovered species.
However, rather than this unsettling news making sure that no-one will ever visit the town again, a leading Australian arachnologist believes that this could be good news for the remote community of Maningrada, which is over 300 miles from Darwin, the nearest city.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, he said that “pharmaceutical applications could apply across a broad spectrum.”
The spider, which is commonly called the diving tarantula due to its worrying ability to survive underwater by creating air bubbles, was only discovered in 2006, and the full potential of it as a medical resource has not yet been realised.
The uniquely high concentration of spiders in Maningrada means that it would make the business of finding the spiders and extracting their venom much easier.
Dr Raven said that the normal colony size is only around two or three hundred spiders – around 100 times smaller than the size of the newly-discovered cluster.
The sheer size of the Maningrada group could be very attractive to biologists and medical researchers trying to find out more about the under-researched creatures.
Read more: Giant tarantula discovered in Sri Lanka
Dr Raven hopes that the attractiveness of the region to researchers could work in favour of the small community, which is mostly made up of Aboriginal people.
He told ABC News that the intellectual property surrounding the spider belongs to the community.
He said: “This is a resource for the community in a number of ways… and this could flow back into the community eventually to help them manage the parks better.”
He added that he hopes young and strong scientists, capable of handling the harsh conditions, isolation and difficult spiders found in Maningrada, will take up the challenge of finding out more about the mysterious diving tarantula.
This video is called Humpback Whales – BBC documentary excerpt.
From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
Humpback whale numbers increasing as conservation practices take effect; tourism benefiting
By Bridget Brennan
22 June 2015
If you have ever wanted to watch the migration of humpback whales along Australia’s east coast, now is a great time to do it.
Whale watchers and marine officers say humpback numbers are up by between 8 and 10 per cent in 2015, sending thousands of additional humpback whales along the New South Wales coast.
From May to August, the humpbacks relocate from cold Antarctic waters to the warmer Queensland climate, where pregnant females will give birth.
Wildlife officer Geoff Ross, from New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, said better conservation practices have helped the humpback population bounce back in recent years.
“They’re definitely recovering, the science tells us that humpback whales are recovering by (an increase of) around 8 to 14 per cent per year.”
Mr Ross said that was “an amazing recovery for any population recovering from overharvesting”.
“This is the strength of your wildlife … whales were protected in 1967 so it’s taken that long for them to get over the precipice of extinction,” he said.
With an increase in humpback numbers, there were also more challenges for wildlife officers who work to keep the whales safe, Mr Ross said.
“We’re seeing increases in entanglement, we’re seeing increases in vessel strikes,” Mr Ross said.
Citizen scientists helping track whale numbers
Wayne Reynolds spends most of his winters rugged up in freezing conditions, waiting for humpbacks at a lookout at Cape Solander near Botany Bay in Sydney.
Winter is an exciting time for the volunteers, who spend months counting the humpbacks on their annual northern migration.
Since 1997, Mr Reynolds has been part of a team of volunteers at Cape Solander who count the whales, from dawn to dusk.
“Apart from dodging rain and attempting to find whales in the mist, we’re basically watching for the humpbacks that are migrating up,” he said.
“We’re looking for white caps, we’re looking for blows — which is the vapour exhaling from their lungs — and also we’re looking for any behaviours like breaching or tail slaps.
“We mark out how many whales we’ve seen, what distance they’re at, what time they’re passing our check point and any other behaviours as well.”
The volunteer whale census at Cape Solander is one of the only consistent humpback counts in Australia, and the information recorded will go to the International Whaling Commission.
Mr Reynolds estimated he had seen about 9,000 humpback whales over 18 years, and said he was a dedicated volunteer.
“I just like whales, [they’re] just a very big animal,” he said.
“You’ve got one of the largest animals making one of the longest migrations, just something different. They’re special.”
Tourism benefiting from the whale boom
Further north of Sydney, tourism operators had also seen humpback numbers increase, as well as more tourists eager to see the migration of humpbacks.
Matt Johnston captains boats for Moonshadow Cruises at Nelson Bay, about three hours north of Sydney.
He said South Koreans were especially keen to see humpback whales in the wild.
“When I first started 18 years ago, we had basically three months of whale watching — two months in winter, one month in summer — and we had probably about a 60 per cent success rate.”
“Now we start May and we end in late October, we do miss every now and then, but last year I had 100 per cent success rate.”
He said increased humpback breeding is linked to better conservation measures.
“It’s really good news, because it proves that since we stopped whaling and we started being a little bit more conscious of the environment, the numbers of the whales have increased,” he said.
On average, humpback whales migrate around 5,000 kilometres, one of the longest migratory journeys of any mammal on the planet
Males and females make the journey north from the Antarctic, some heavily pregnant females give birth along the way
Humpback whales go north along Australia’s west coast, others choose to go east towards Queensland
Humpback whales will feed on krill in colder waters at the Antarctic
Adult humpbacks weigh up to 50 tonnes, measuring between 14-18 metres long
This 2014 video is called True Facts About Marsupials.
From Current Biology:
Parallel Emergence of True Handedness in the Evolution of Marsupials and Placentals
Andrey Giljov, Karina Karenina, Janeane Ingram, Yegor Malashichev
•Bipedal macropod marsupials display population-level left-forelimb preference
•Lateralization in bipedal marsupials is consistent across multiple behaviors
•Bipedal marsupials show stronger manual lateralization than quadrupeds
•Species differences in lateralization are not explained by phylogenetic relations
Recent studies have demonstrated a close resemblance between some handedness patterns in great apes and humans [ 1–3 ]. Despite this, comparative systematic investigations of manual lateralization in non-primate mammals are very limited [ 4, 5 ]. Among mammals, robust population-level handedness is still considered to be a distinctive human trait [ 6, 7 ].
Nevertheless, the comprehensive understanding of handedness evolution in mammals cannot be achieved without considering the other large mammalian lineage, marsupials. This study was designed to investigate manual lateralization in non-primate mammals using the methodological approach applied in primate studies. Here we show that bipedal macropod marsupials display left-forelimb preference at the population level in a variety of behaviors in the wild. In eastern gray and red kangaroos, we found consistent manual lateralization across multiple behaviors. This result challenges the notion that in mammals the emergence of strong “true” handedness is a unique feature of primate evolution.
The robust lateralization in bipedal marsupials stands in contrast to the relatively weak forelimb preferences in marsupial quadrupeds, emphasizing the role of postural characteristics in the evolution of manual lateralization as previously suggested for primates [ 8–10 ]. Comparison of forelimb preferences in seven marsupial species leads to the conclusion that the interspecies differences in manual lateralization cannot be explained by phylogenetic relations, but rather are shaped by ecological adaptations. Species’ postural characteristics, especially bipedality, are argued to be instrumental in the origin of handedness in mammals.
Published Online: June 18, 2015