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.”

Bahamas luminescent eel discovery


The green eel Kaupichthys hyoproroides that was collected in the Bahamas. Typically, researchers collect dozens if not hundreds of specimens for research, but the scientists on this study decided to collect just two. Credit: Copyright David Gruber, John Sparks and Vincent Pieribone

From Live Science:

Shy Eel Glows Bright Green, Possibly As a ‘Sexy Charm’

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer

November 11, 2015 02:06pm ET

When scuba-diving scientists serendipitously spotted a glowing green eel in January 2011, they had no idea what caused it to light up like a brilliant neon sign.

But now, after hours spent studying the fluorescent proteins of two eels, the researchers have solved the mystery. These proteins, found throughout the eels’ muscle and skin tissues, actually originated in vertebrate brains more than 300 million years ago, a new study finds.

“It started as a brain protein and then became this fluorescent protein in muscle,” said study lead researcher David Gruber, an associate professor of biology at Baruch College in New York City. [See Photos of the Glowing Green Eels]

Once the protein made its switch from a neural to a fluorescent protein, it spread like crazy throughout the eel population. Natural selection favored it so much, it’s likely fluorescence plays a crucial role in the eel world, Gruber said.

For instance, maybe it helps them spawn the next generation, he said. One anecdotal report of such spawning describes a “big, green fluorescent mating event” with a dozens of eels getting it on under a full moon in Indonesia, Gruber said. Typically, these eels are reclusive and shy, spending most of their lives hiding in the holes and crevasses around coral reefs and sea grass beds. But maybe the moonlight stimulates their fluorescent proteins, making them more visible to potential mates, he said.

“We’re hoping to witness one of these spawning events to see what they’re doing,” Gruber told Live Science. Moreover, the fluorescence may also play a role in eel communication, predator avoidance or even prey attraction, like the anglerfish’s glowing ‘fishing rod,’ which lures in fishy meals, according to Gruber.

Eel expedition

After seeing the stunning 2011 photo, the researchers wanted to learn more about the little green eel. They found two eels (Kaupichthys hyoproroides and another species of Kaupichthys) during an expedition in the Bahamas, and brought both back to Gruber’s lab in New York City.

K. hyoproroides is small — no longer than two human fingers — about 9.8 inches (250 millimeters) long, Gruber said. It’s likely that the other eel is a new species in the Kaupichthys genus, he added, but the specimen wasn’t in good enough condition to describe it, he said.

A tissue analysis showed fluorescence throughout the eels’ muscle and skin. But a protein analysis didn’t yield any green fluorescent protein (GFP) — a protein famously identified in a hydrozoan jellyfish in 1962. Nor did it match fluorescent proteins found in other glowing sea creatures, such as some fish and sharks, Gruber said.

Instead, it bore a resemblance to a fluorescent protein found in Anguilla japonica, an eel species used in sushi whose proteins can fluoresce a weak green color when bound to bilirubin. (Bilirubin is a yellow waste product that comes from broken-down red blood cells. People with jaundice have yellowish skin and eyes because of increased levels of bilirubin in their blood.)

The protein from the Kaupichthys eels also needed bilirubin to fluoresce, but a key part of the chemical makeup of this protein was different from the sushi eel’s proteins. “It turns out that every one of these new proteins that has this key little region in it has the ability to glow, and glow very bright,” Gruber said. [Images: Fish Secretly Glow Vibrant Colors]

Intrigued, Gruber and his colleagues teamed up with Rob DeSalle, a curator with the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. DeSalle is an expert in evolutionary biology, and determined that the eels’ fluorescent protein is a newly identified family of fluorescent proteins, Gruber said.

DeSalle also studied the evolutionary history of the Kaupichthys protein. He saw that it was closely related to a fatty acid-binding protein found in the brain of most vertebrates. This protein likely plays a role in fatty-acid uptake, transport and metabolism in the brain, and may help young neurons migrate and establish cortical layers in the brain, DeSalle told Live Science.

However, over time this genetic code for this brain protein underwent three duplication events, meaning there were more copies of the protein available for the organism to play around with, DeSalle said. The duplicated genes for these proteins could then mutate over time, eventually leading to the fluorescent, bilirubin-binding protein that glows bright green in certain eels, the researchers said.

The study researchers didn’t pinpoint when the three duplication events happened, but DeSalle estimated that the first two happened between 450 million and 300 million years ago, in the common ancestor of jawed vertebrates. The third duplication led to the creation of the newly identified fluorescent protein, DeSalle said.

There’s still much to learn about fluorescent proteins, but the discovery of fluorescence in eels and other fish suggests that they played a large role in marine vertebrate evolution, said Matthew Davis, an assistant professor of biology at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, who was not involved in the study.

“The surprising aspect of this study is that the fluorescent fatty acid-binding proteins may have impacted the evolution of this lineage of marine eels, and they also expand the suite of fluorescent probes available for experimental biology in other disciplines,” Davis told Live Science in an email.

The study was published online today (Nov. 11) in the journal PLOS ONE.

Bahamas dolphin brings back drowned cellphone to dancer


This video says about itself:

Flipping Incredible! Moment [common bottlenose] Dolphin Retrieves Mobile Phone – Helpful Dolphin Retrieves Woman’s Phone

28 September 2015

The only thing worse than dropping your phone is dropping your phone into the goddamn ocean, where it’s guaranteed to disappear forever — unless there’s a helpful dolphin around to retrieve it for you.

That’s what happened to Miami Heat cheerleader Teressa Cee when she went swimming with dolphins near Blue Lagoon Island in the Bahamas, and a helpful cetacean named Cacique lent her a flipper.

Cacique is a trained animal cared for by Dolphin Encounters, who was rewarded for his good deed with a selfie with Cee and her fellow dancers.

Cee’s video of the phone rescue has been watched more than 1.5 million times on Facebook.

See also here.

Bahamas get new national park


This video says about itself:

Birding Bahamas: Piping Plovers

11 April 2011

They close beaches for their nests in the US, but in The Bahamas Piping Plovers are just on vacation. Birding guide Ricky Johnson takes us on a search for these teeny-tiny birds. And we’re not the only ones looking for them. The Bahamas National Trust and volunteers from the National Audubon Society were counting them on our beaches this winter to find out how many were here.

The video is brought to you by Abaco Nature Tours

From BirdLife:

Protecting The Bahamas’ Future

By Martin Fowlie, Fri, 04/09/2015 – 16:38

In a remarkable demonstration of commitment to the environment, the Bahama’s Minister of the Environment and Housing, the Hon. Kenred Dorsett, has announced over 7 million acres of new protected marine areas.

“Today is a great day for conservation in The Bahamas”, said Eric Carey, Bahamas National Trust Executive Director. “The Bahamas continues to be a leader in the arena of protected area designation. Protected areas are an important to secure a sustainable future for the Bahamas.”

One of these, the new 113,920-acre Joulter Cays National Park protects a group of uninhabited islands and intertidal sand flats in the Bahamas. The Bahamas National Trust (BNT, BirdLife Partner) and The National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the USA) collaborated on the proposal for the new national park. The area will be protected from unregulated development and destructive practices while ensuring a sustainable local economy.

“This is a great victory for heroic birds that don’t know borders and the people who depend on the shores and waters of the Joulter Cays to make a living,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “By protecting these birds’ winter homes, we create the opportunity for new ecotourism jobs. That reflects the true power of Audubon’s partnerships across the hemisphere and we commend the government of the Bahamas for its leadership in protecting migratory birds.”

The Bahamas is a coral-based archipelago of more than 700 islands and 2,500 cays sprinkled across 100,000 square miles of the Caribbean with over 340 bird species and vital pockets of marine and coastal biodiversity. The Joulter Cays National Park represents 113,920 acres of pristine habitat located approximately two miles north of the main island of Andros. The area showcases an astonishing congregation of birdlife and is a globally recognized hotspot for sports fishing.

“The Bahamas National Trust is extremely pleased that the government of the Bahamas has approved the creation of this new national park, which will provide much needed support to our thriving fly-fishing industry while also protecting the critical wintering habitat of several endangered shorebird species,” says Lawrence Glinton, president of Bahamas National Trust. “The park also has tremendous ecotourism potential and can generate significant revenue from bird based tourism. BNT and Audubon are presently developing a program that will allow local residents to take full advantage of these exciting new opportunities.”

Of the bird species documented in the Bahamas, more than 50% are migrants from the U.S. and Canada. The national park’s isolated sand flats and mangroves provide essential habitat for thousands of shorebirds representing 13 species, including the largest congregation of the endangered Piping Plover outside the U.S. The region is also important for breeding White-crowned Pigeons, wading birds and seabird populations and its mangrove forests support numerous migrating songbirds.

New hummingbird species discovery in the Bahamas


Tail shape played a major role in distinguishing the Inaguan Lyretail (right) as a separate species from the Bahama Woodstar (left). The forked, lyre-shaped tail feathers of the Inaguan Lyretail produce a different sound during male courtship display dives than the fanned tail feathers of the Bahama Woodstar. Photos by Anand Varma.

Tail shape played a major role in the recent distinguishing of the Inaguan Lyretail hummingbird (right), found only in the southern Inaguan islands of the Bahamas, as a separate species from the Bahama Woodstar (left). The forked, lyre-shaped tail feathers of the Inaguan Lyretail produce a different sound during male courtship display dives than the fanned tail feathers of the Bahama Woodstar. Photos by Anand Varma.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA today:

A New Hummingbird Species Revealed

The American Ornithologists’ Union has named a new hummingbird species, the Inaguan Woodstar. A member of the Bee Hummingbird group, it was formerly lumped with the similar-looking Bahama Woodstar. Scientists from Yale, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the University of California, Riverside, found differences in song, behavior, physical measurements, and DNA sequences suggesting that the species have been separated genetically for half a million years. Learn more about these dazzling Caribbean hummingbirds and the backyard clues that led to a new species.

Protecting nature in the Bahamas


This video series is called Birds of The Bahamas.

From BirdLife:

Protection for key nature sites in the Bahamas

By Kirsty MacLeod, Fri, 12/06/2015 – 10:35

Five new National Parks have been established on San Salvador island in the Bahamas as part of an expansion of the Bahamas National Protected Area System – a system that the Bahamas National Trust (BirdLife Partner) manages. The new parks encompass 8,500 ha of pristine land and seascapes, including all or part of the island’s four Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs). Two of the five new parks are recognised as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) due to the occurrence of a threatened endemic iguana species.

San Salvador island, some 400 miles south-east of Miami, is thought to be the location where Columbus first set foot in the New World, 11km wide by 21km long, it has a population of fewer than a thousand people. Despite its isolation, it is a popular destination for scuba-divers who come for the beautiful reefs and exceptional diving conditions. The island supports diverse plant communities, including mangrove swamps and seagrass beds, both important for local wildlife and fisheries.

San Salvador is well-known for its birdlife, and in particular, its abundance and high diversity of seabirds. The island hosts 14 of the 17 seabird species that breed in the Bahamas, the largest diversity of breeding seabirds in this area. It is also home to a number of globally threatened species, including the Endangered San Salvador Rock Iguana, endemic to the island and with fewer than 600 individuals remaining. An endemic (and threatened) race of the West Indian Woodpecker is found only here and on Abaco island.

Due to the island’s small size and isolation, the key habitats of San Salvador are extremely vulnerable to man-made influences. However, large areas of these habitats are now contained by the five new parks. Graham’s Harbour Iguana and Seabird National Park and the Southern Great Lake National Park are internationally recognized as IBAs and KBAs, and between them embrace an extensive mangrove system, important nesting seabird populations and populations of the San Salvador rock iguana, in addition to healthy reef systems and seagrass beds. The three other new parks also protect key habitats, including tidal creeks, and a reef system home to the Critically Endangered hawksbill turtle, and a migratory route for humpback whales. It is hoped that the designation of these five new parks will help to prevent habitat and animal disturbance, and wildlife trafficking of threatened species.

“We are especially pleased with the tremendous amount of expressed and documented community support for these parks,” said Eric Carey, Executive Director of the Bahamas National Trust. “We are thrilled to see the results of all of our joint efforts, including that of other NGOs, come to fruition through this momentous declaration by the government.”

Ancient beaked whale fossil caught by fisherman


This video says about itself:

16 January 2009

In the deep waters of the Bahamas, Wild Chronicles and Crittercam® gain a fleeting glimpse of a rare and most remarkable sea creature, the beaked whale. Incredibly, Crittercam® captures the first video of a birth among these rare whales. What you see will astound you.

Translated from Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands:

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

A nice discovery! A piece of bone that Ecomare received in October turns out to be a piece of skull from a beaked whale. The bone was petrified, and therefore probably from the early Pleistocene, about 2 million years old. Ecomare received the bone from the Vonk family. The crew of their fishing vessel, the TX1, had this year netted it in the North Sea, near the English coast.

Fishing ships with TX are from Texel. Scientists cannot say which beaked whale species exactly this was.