Megalodon, glyptodon fossil discovery in Florida, USA


This 14 October 2019m video from the USA says about itself:

Finding a Megalodon Shark Tooth & Glyptodon (Giant Armadillo) Fossils in a Florida River!

The best of both worlds! In this video we got out for some Megalodon shark tooth hunting, but also found some incredibly nice Glyptodon scutes! Glyptodon is a giant armadillo-like animal from the Pleistocene (1.8 million to 10,000 years ago) the size of a Volkswagen Beetle! This was definitely an adventure as the water was very low and we had to drag the canoe all through the swamp.

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Texas pumas saving Florida panthers


This video from the USA says about itself:

Florida Panther Encounter – 7/5/2014

There are only about 160 Florida Panthers in the wild, and we were fortunate to see this young one – on public lands from the front seat of our car. (This is the long, minimally edited version of our adventure.) Please support funding for environmental protection!

From Ohio State University in the USA:

How the Texas puma saved the Florida panther

Uncovering the genetic details of a conservation success story

October 3, 2019

Scientists have pieced together the first complete picture of the Florida panther genome — work that could serve to protect that endangered population and other endangered species going forward.

Florida panthers are the only documented population of pumas (Puma concolor) found east of the Mississippi River.

In the mid-1990s, Florida panthers were facing desperate times. Their small numbers (fewer than 30 in the wild) made inbreeding inevitable and that brought the usual health troubles that emerge when any animals, including humans, mate with partners of a similar genetic background. Heart failure, undescended testicles, pathogenic diseases and parasites were common among the animals. So biologists introduced eight female Texas pumas into South Florida, hoping that genetic variation would help shore up the Florida panthers’ future.

In the new study, researchers used advanced computer techniques to analyze the genomes of Florida panthers, Texas pumas and their offspring to better understand how the mid-1990s introduction program contributed to Florida panthers’ genetic diversity.

Among their findings: Genetic diversity tripled.

“Florida panthers were in trouble because of inbreeding depression. It’s like royalty in human history, where mating with close relatives increases the risk of manifesting harmful DNA mutations and reduces the ability to survive and reproduce,” said lead author Alexander Ochoa, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University.

The study appears online in the journal G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics.

Five of the pumas introduced in the 1990s produced at least 20 offspring. Today, upwards of 230 known individual panthers — many the descendants of this introduction program — roam southern Florida, many in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.

Ochoa and his collaborators examined the DNA of 10 animals — a mixture of Florida panthers and Texas pumas and their immediate offspring. They compared the animals’ genetics, looking for patterns that would tell them what happened during the mixing of the populations.

“This tells us a lot about the genetic underpinnings of this iconic conservation success story. The genetic diversity we found was much greater than some scientists previously thought, and likely contributed to the recovery of Florida panthers after the introduction of the Texas pumas,” Ochoa said.

In the mid-1990s, about 21 percent of Florida panthers had a heart problem called atrial septal defect, and more than 60 percent of the males had undescended testicles, a serious threat to the survival of the population. In recent years, those numbers have dropped to 7 percent and 3 percent respectively.

Ochoa and his colleagues also identified 17 genes that were linked to the refinement of sensory capabilities in pumas, most notably to improved vision. They also found that the number of genes linked to the animals’ sense of smell decreased.

“We believe there’s a tradeoff between the development of genes related to the sense of smell and the development of genes related to vision, because pumas are nocturnal hunters,” Ochoa said.

The researchers hope this work will serve to help conservationists understand how genetic diversity can impact at-risk animal populations, and that the genetic details they discovered could potentially help those working in veterinary and human medicine, he said. For the Florida panther population specifically, the genetic blueprint offered in this research could help in the detection of harmful DNA mutations.

“It’s possible you’d want to intervene in a way to decrease the frequency of these mutations so that there isn’t a resurgence of traits that are harmful to the population,” Ochoa said.

His next study will focus on the specific contributions of the Texas pumas to the Florida panther gene pool, work that should clarify which introduced genes were beneficial and detrimental to the population.

“Introducing Texas pumas made sense as they were geographically the closest living population of pumas and they carried potential for restoring Florida panther genetic variation, but this activity also could have presented some risks due to the mixing of individuals with adaptations to particular environments. We want to better understand what happened to the Florida panthers on a genetic level.”

Other researchers who worked on the study were Melanie Culver of the University of Arizona, Robert Fitak of the University of Central Florida (previously of Ohio State), David Onorato of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Melody Roelke-Parker of Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc. and the Frederick National Laboratory of Cancer Research.

Seagrass, essential for marine life


This December 2016 video says about itself:

They are an ancient species of flowering plants that grow submerged in all of the world’s oceans. Seagrasses link offshore coral reefs with coastal mangrove forests. Today, these “prairies of the sea”, along with mangroves, are on the decline globally. Scientists fear the diminishing vegetation could result in an ecosystem collapse from the bottom of the food chain all the way to the top. Changing Seas joins experts in the field as they work to restore Florida’s important mangroves and seagrasses.

Known as “hotspots of biodiversity”, seagrasses and mangroves attract and support a variety of marine life. However, worldwide damage and removal of these plants continue at a rapid pace. Changing Seas travels along Florida’s coastline to get a better understanding of the significant roles mangroves and seagrasses play within the state. Can biologists prevent a negative ripple-effect throughout the marine food web before it’s too late? How will rising sea levels impact these plants as well at the communities that depend on them?

Learn more at www.changingseas.tv or facebook.com/changingseas.

From the Florida Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Seagrass meadows harbor wildlife for centuries, highlighting need for conservation

October 2, 2019

Summary: Seagrass meadows put down deep roots, persisting in the same spot for hundreds and possibly thousands of years, a new study shows. Researchers used modern and fossil shells from seagrass-dwelling animals to estimate the age of these meadows, showing that, far from being transient patches of underwater weeds, they are remarkably stable over time.

Seagrass meadows put down deep roots, persisting in the same spot for hundreds and possibly thousands of years, a new study shows.

Seagrasses, crucial sources of shelter and food for thousands of species, are threatened globally by coastal development, pollution and climate change. While scientists have documented the health of seagrass meadows over several years or decades, assessing these habitats at the scale of centuries or millennia has been a much greater challenge.

University of Florida researchers used modern and fossil shells from seagrass-dwelling animals to estimate the age of these meadows, showing that, far from being transient patches of underwater weeds, they are remarkably stable over time.

They also found that seagrass meadows were home to a much richer variety of animals than bare sandy seafloor, highlighting the importance of seagrasses as critical long-term reservoirs of biodiversity in coastal ecosystems.

“This is one more reason to advocate for seagrass conservation and preservation,” said the study’s lead author Alexander Challen Hyman, who conducted the research as a master’s student in UF’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. “This study highlights how vital seagrasses are as habitats. Not only are they hotspots of biodiversity, but they’re enduring and stable hotspots over time.”

Seagrass meadows transform their surroundings by slowing wave energy, improving water quality and clarity, storing carbon and stabilizing the seafloor. By tempering outside forces, the meadows attract a variety of fish, birds, marine mammals, invertebrates and algae. In Florida, they provide nursery habitats for an estimated 70% of the fish that Floridians catch and eat and are also the dietary staple of manatees and green sea turtles.

But seagrasses are some of the planet’s most threatened ecosystems. A 2009 study revealed that mapped seagrass meadows have decreased globally by an estimated 29% since records began in 1879, and the rate of loss is accelerating.

To understand how meadows have changed over time, scientists turned to the emerging field of conservation paleobiology, which adds the fossil record to research of modern ecosystems.

“We don’t have a time machine to visit coastal regions of the past and verify that seagrass was there,” said Michal Kowalewski, Thompson Chair of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History and the study’s principal investigator. “But we can use shells as a way of glimpsing how these habitats functioned before the Industrial Revolution and whether they persist over time or pop up and then vanish.”

Ecologists can often assess the health and biodiversity of today’s marine ecosystems simply by studying the local mollusk community — animals such as snails, slugs, oysters and mussels. For paleontologists such as Kowalewski, however, the fossil shells of mollusks can also be a portal deep into an ecosystem’s past.

“Mollusks are abundant, diverse, ecologically important and very well represented in the fossil record,” he said. “They can often be identified to species just from their shells. The dead are powerful storytellers about what previously lived in an ecosystem.”

The team collected and identified more than 50,000 shells from seagrass meadows and open sandy areas in Florida’s Big Bend region on the Gulf Coast, one of the most pristine coastal ecosystems in the U.S. The shells represented both living and dead mollusk communities. Radiocarbon dating showed that 40% of the shells were more than 500 years old, with the oldest shell being nearly 2,000 years old.

By comparing the abundance and type of old shells with living species, the team could get a sense of whether a particular habitat had changed. If the two communities mirrored one another, the modern and ancient habitat likely did as well. But if researchers saw a mismatch, they would know the habitat had shifted over time.

“If you’re in a desert, surrounded by snakes, cacti and coyotes, but you dig down and find whale bones, you would assume there had been a large change in habitat,” said Hyman, now a doctoral student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences. “This works on the same principle.”

The researchers found that living and dead mollusk communities in seagrass meadows matched one another, suggesting that the seagrasses they sampled have grown in the same location for centuries or longer, Kowalewski said.

“The patchwork of open sandy bottoms and seagrass meadows that we see today is not a transient, ever-shifting mosaic,” he said. “Our data suggest that seagrasses are not dramatically shifting around and changing location.”

Mollusk communities were also much more consistent from meadow to meadow compared with communities in open sandy areas, which differed widely according to place and time. Hyman said that while seagrasses provide structural stability, sandy areas are far more vulnerable to storms or unusual shifts in local conditions, making their communities more variable.

“Sand cannot buffer physical extremes the way that seagrasses can,” he said. “The stability of seagrass meadows likely contributes to their biodiversity and productivity.”

The study’s findings have profound conservation and management implications, said Florida’s Chief Science Officer Tom Frazer, who co-authored the paper.

“If we are unable to prevent seagrass loss in a particular area, we may not be able to make up for that loss by trying to establish a new meadow elsewhere,” he said. “This realization only heightens the need for immediate action aimed at improving water quality in estuaries and coastal waters around the state.”

“Meadows have deep historical roots,” Kowalewski added. “If that’s the case, there’s something priceless about the location, not just about the seagrass itself.”

UF’s Charles Jacoby and Jessica Frost also co-authored the study.

Blacktip sharks of Florida, USA


This 22 September 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Jonathan visits shark biologist Dr. Stephen Kajiura at Florida Atlantic University and learns how he studies huge schools of Blacktip sharks that appear in the winter off the coast of Florida. Using airplanes, drones and of course boats, Dr. Kajiura has learned why these sharks come to Florida in huge numbers every year.

Reptiles in Florida after Hurricane Dorian


This 5 September 2019 video from Florida in the USA says about itself:

Check out the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian at Kamp Kenan and discover a couple of surprises as well! Spoiler alert I try to show the blue iguana that ran and we have new wild gator resident in the turtle pond.

Hurricane Dorian racing toward Nova Scotia after lashing Massachusetts: here.

BAHAMAS TOWN FLATTENED BY DORIAN Nearly a week after disaster roared in from the sea, Marsh Harbour on Abaco island felt empty Saturday. A hot wind whistled through stands of decapitated pine trees and homes that collapsed during the most powerful hurricane in the northwestern Bahamas’ recorded history. Elsewhere in the Bahamas, rescuers were still trying to reach some communities isolated by floodwaters and debris after the disaster that killed at least 43 people. [AP]

NOAA WARNED STAFFERS NOT TO CONTRADICT TRUMP A top official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned staffers last week not to contradict Trump’s false claims about Hurricane Dorian’s path, according to The Washington Post. [HuffPost]

NOAA TO INVESTIGATE AGENCY’S SUPPORT OF TRUMP’S FALSE CLAIMS The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s chief scientist will investigate whether the agency’s response to Trump’s misleading tweets about Hurricane Dorian violated NOAA policy. [HuffPost]

Hurricane Dorian: Tens of thousands homeless in the Bahamas as damage assessed on Canadian coast: here.

The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian lends weight to the prediction of climate scientists in the United States and internationally that as global warming continues unabated, hurricanes will increase in severity and intensity: here.

Trump blocks refugees from Bahamas as humanitarian catastrophe unfolds: here.

As the official death count from Hurricane Dorian rose to 50 on Tuesday, local Bahamian press reports are estimating thousands killed from the Category 5 storm over the past week: here.

Saving Florida reptiles from Hurricane Dorian


This 1 September 2019 video from Florida in the USA says about itself:

Prepping All my Reptiles for a MASSIVE Hurricane!

Category 5 not 4 Hurricane Dorian is heading our way and I need to prepare the entire Kamp and all our reptiles for this dangerous storm!

Hurricane Dorian struck the northern Bahamas Sunday with catastrophic force and began to wheel northward, on a trajectory that is expected to carry it along the Atlantic Coast of the United States for hundreds of miles, raking parts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas: here.

London Mayor Mocks Trump For Monitoring Hurricane Dorian ‘Out On The Golf Course’: here.

HURRICANE DORIAN: RELIEF CONTACTS & LINKS FOR ABACO BAHAMAS: here.

American anti-Semite threatens to kill Bernie Sanders


This 27 August 2019 video from the USA about the presidential election is called Bernie Sanders’ Sudden Surge Utterly SHOCKS Pundits on MSNBC.

From Reuters news agency in the USA:

August 23, 2019

A Florida man was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Friday for threatening to behead U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, federal prosecutors said.

The man, 58-year-old Robert Pratersch of Kissimmee, in September 2018 left three voicemail messages at Sanders’ Vermont office where he made anti-Semitic threats and threatened to kill Sanders by beheading him in an “ISIS-style” video.

Pratersch was convicted in April of threatening a federal official and making threats over interstate communications media in April. He could have been sentenced to as much as 15 years in prison.

Somehow, I have a feeling that if Mr Pratersch of Kissimmee would have been black and/or a Muslim, then he might have gotten 15 years imprisonment instead of 15 months, like now.

In Donald Trump’s USA, the government does nor really consider white nationalist terrorism to be terrorism. And as for the homophobia in the death threat tweets by Mr Pratersch of Kissimmee, the Trump administration is hardly blameless itself.

Anti-Semitic graffiti was painted on the exterior walls of a synagogue in Connecticut. The graffiti on the Congregation Adath Israel synagogue building in Newtown was discovered at 7:30 Saturday morning: here.