Giant sloth fossil discovery in Belize


This 2009 video on North America in the Pleistocene is called Short-faced bear vs ground sloth.

From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the USA:

Ancient extinct sloth tooth in Belize tells story of creature’s last year

February 27, 2019

Summary: Some 27,000 years ago in central Belize, a giant sloth was thirsty. It eventually found water in a deep sinkhole, but it was the creature’s last drink. A new analysis of its tooth offers insight into the landscape it inhabited and what it ate its last year of life.

Some 27,000 years ago in central Belize, a giant sloth was thirsty. The region was arid, not like today’s steamy jungle. The Last Glacial Maximum had locked up much of Earth’s moisture in polar ice caps and glaciers. Water tables in the area were low.

The sloth, a beast that stood up to 4 meters tall, eventually found water — in a deep sinkhole with steep walls down to the water. That is where it took its final drink. In 2014, divers found some of the sloth‘s remains — parts of a tooth, humerus and femur — while searching for ancient Maya artifacts in the pool, in Cara Blanca, Belize.

Though partially fossilized, the tooth still held enough unaltered tissue for stable carbon and oxygen isotope analysis, which provided clues to what the sloth ate in the last year of its life. This, in turn, revealed much about the local climate and environment of the region at the time. The findings, reported in the journal Science Advances, will aid the study of similar fossils in the future, the researchers said.

“We began our study with the hopes of gaining a better understanding of the landscape within which large mammals went extinct and humans emerged in central Belize,” said University of Illinois graduate student Jean T. Larmon, who led the research with U. of I. anthropology professors Lisa Lucero and Stanley Ambrose. “In the process, we discovered which part of the tooth had best maintained its integrity for analysis. And we refined methods for studying similar specimens in the future.”

The new findings “add to the evidence that many factors, in addition to a changing climate, contributed to the extinction of megafauna in the Americas,” said Lucero, who studies the ancient Maya of central Belize. “One of those potential factors is the arrival of humans on the scene 12,000 to 13,000 years ago.”

The teeth of giant sloths like the one found in Belize, Eremotherium laurillardi, differ from those of other large mammals, like mammoths, that went extinct between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago, Larmon said.

“Giant sloth teeth have no enamel, the hard, outer layer of human and some animal teeth that can be analyzed to learn about their diet,” she said.

Other factors have limited scientists’ ability to study the teeth of ancient sloths. Most are fossilized, with minerals replacing much or all of the original tissue and bone.

By using cathodoluminescence microscopy, a technique that causes minerals to glow and can detect the extent of mineralization in fossils, the researchers discovered that one type of tooth tissue, the dense orthodentin, was largely intact.

Larmon drilled 20 samples of orthodentin for isotopic analysis along the 10-centimeter-long tooth fragment, spanning more than a year of tooth growth.

“This allowed us to trace monthly and seasonal changes in the sloth’s diet and climate for the first time, and also to select the best part of the tooth for reliable radiocarbon dating,” Ambrose said.

The isotopic analysis revealed that the giant sloth lived through a long dry season, which lasted about seven months, sandwiched between two short rainy seasons. The analysis also revealed that the creature lived in a savanna, rather than a forest, and consumed a variety of plants that differed between wet and dry seasons.

“We were able to see that this huge, social creature was able to adapt rather readily to the dry climate, shifting its subsistence to relying upon what was more available or palatable,” Larmon said.

“This supports the idea that the sloths had a diverse diet,” Lucero said. “That helps explain why they were so widespread and why they lasted so long. It’s likely because they were highly adaptable.”

The National Science Foundation and the University of Illinois supported this research.

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Good Belize coral reef news


This 2008 video about Belize is called Second largest Barrier Reef on Earth– Wild Caribbean – BBC Nature.

BELIZE-IMO: A United Nations agency revealed that the barrier reef around Belize — home to some 1,400 species — is no longer in danger. [HuffPost]

See also here.

Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine life, feed hundreds of millions of people and contribute vastly to the global economy. But they are dying in mass bleaching events, as climate change warms our oceans and breaks down vital relationships between corals and energy-providing algae. A new commentary, published in Nature’s Communications Biology, provides hope that a shift in research focus towards coral immunity will support reef conservation and restoration efforts: here.

The health of coral reefs can be impacted as much by the diversity of fish that graze on them as by the amount of fish that do so, according to a new study by scientists at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. In the Science Advances paper, the researchers untangle and unveil the powerful effects that biodiversity has on Caribbean coral reefs: here.

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.

A coastal zone management plan designed to safeguard Belize’s natural assets has produced a win-win opportunity for people and the environment, providing a valuable framework for other coastal nations around the world where overfishing, development, and habitat degradation are increasingly serious problems: here.

Coral reefs and climate change


This video says about itself:

Coral Reefs and Climate Change

22 June 2015

Join the Smithsonian Marine Station for a live webcast on Monday, June 22 from 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EST! We will be chatting with Smithsonian scientists working at our Carrie Bow Cay Field Station in Belize about working on this remote island and the future of coral reefs in the face of a changing climate. Submit your questions directly via through the Google+ platform or via Twitter using the hashtag #coralchat

New Zealand scientists voice concern over gagging on climate change. WELLINGTON, June 22 (Xinhua) — New Zealand scientists said Monday that government funding policies have effectively prevented them from making any serious input into the government’s climate change stance: here.

Marine scientists investigate the relationship between bumphead parrotfish and their coral reef habitat on a molecular level: here.

Good jaguar news from Belize


This video is called THE JAGUAR: YEAR OF THE CAT – Animals/Wildlife/Nature (documentary).

From Wildlife Extra:

Jaguar gains new protection in Belize

February 2014: The future of the jaguar in Belize is looking brighter following the signing of a conservation agreement between the Government of Belize, the Environmental Research Institute of the University of Belize and the wild cat conservation organisation Panthera.

The trio agreed to work together to implement science-based conservation initiatives that secure and connect jaguars and their habitats in Belize and beyond, facilitate land development that is both ecologically sustainable and economically profitable, and lesson human-jaguar conflict throughout the country.

The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Its decreasing population is primarily due to deforestation rates, human persecution and human-jaguar conflict, and [it] is considered Near Threatened by the IUCN who now estimates it occupies just 46 per cent of its historic range.

Situated on the southern tip of Mexico and eastern border of Guatemala, Belize serves as an integral link connecting jaguars within these countries and all jaguar populations south of Belize.

Panthera CEO and jaguar scientist, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, explained, “The signing of this historic agreement epitomizes conservation action & partnerships coming full circle.. This MOU now represents Panthera’s sixth jaguar conservation agreement with a Latin American government, and our team will continue to work, country by country, to build partnerships with all nations home to the jaguar, connecting and protecting the entire 18 nation mosaic that is the jaguar’s range.”

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