Young sugar glider practices flying, video


This video says about itself:

20 June 2015

Sugar Glider Practices Flying in Front of Fan

From daily The Guardian in Britain today:

I couldn’t resist sharing this video with you: today’s “Caturday” video features an adorable young sugar glider (known as a “joey”) practicing her gliding skills in front of a fan.

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.

Kangaroos are left-handed, new study


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

Highlights

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

Summary

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

Australian quokkas and plants, new study


This video from Australia is called Quokka with baby.

By Shannon Verhagen in Australia:

April 9, 2015

Mapping the future of Rottnest‘s furry friends

We all know Rottnest Island‘s iconic quokkas (Setonix brachyurus) love eating treats from tourists and poking around inside public buildings but local researchers have identified plant species on the island that the quokkas need for food and shelter.

The Murdoch University study identified eight plant species used for food and four used for shelter by the quokkas and mapped their extent and distribution using hyperspectral remote sensing data.

They collected fresh faecal samples from 210 quadrats across the islands’ twelve native vegetation types over a two week period in 2011 to conduct dietary analysis.

The study found a clear preference for Guichenotia ledifolia, a non-significant food source for Rottnest Island quokkas 50 years ago, which suggests compositional changes in island vegetation over time may have caused this species to be more dominant in the landscape.

Researcher Patricia Fleming says a history of grazing, fire and land clearing has altered Rottnest’s vegetation structure and composition and therefore the quokkas’ vegetation use.

“The diet of these animals is likely to have changed over the last 50 years and probably has shifted from that of over 200 years ago,” Ms Fleming says.

“The vegetation on the island has changed markedly over that time, largely due to anthropogenic influences.”

Quokkas were found to have a clear preference for Melaleuca lanceolata and Acacia rostellifera for shelter, highlighting the importance of dense, protective vegetation.

They used remotely sensed, hyperspectral airborne imagery to map the principal food and shelter species in order to determine the locations where the preferred species are evident and where the principal species overlap.

Ms Fleming says managing these key habitat locations is essential as the Rottnest Island population suffers severe seasonal crashes due to a lack of permanent water bodies and intense browsing pressure from other quokkas.

“There are definitely times of the year for example, at the end of summer when the first cold nights hit those that are in worst condition, that animals are likely to be physiologically stressed,” Ms Fleming says.

“The forest [on the mainland] has more resources and the animals can probably access a much greater area to obtain their requirements.”

“The Rottnest Island population is resource limited.”

“It is likely that loss of a key plant species will alter the carrying capacity of the island,” she says.

More information: “Spatial analysis of limiting resources on an island: diet and shelter use reveal sites of conservation importance for the Rottnest Island quokka.” Wildlife Research, 41(6), 510.

Snakebite antivenom discovery in American opossums


This video from the USA says about itself:

Virginia Opossum Family

12 July 2012

A short video clip of a Virginia Opossum family in wildlife rehabilitation at Evelyn’s Wildlife Refuge, Virginia Beach, VA. The mother Opossum came into care with an eye injury and front feet injuries.

From the East County Magazine in the USA:

SNAKEBITE ANTIVENOM SOURCE FOUND IN OPOSSUMS

By Miriam Raftery

April 5, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – Opossums aren’t typically thought of as a powerhouse in the animal kingdom. The term “playing possum” after all refers to one way opossums react to predators –by playing dead. But it turns out that opossums have a peptide that gives them a natural immunity to snakebites and other toxins – and now scientists are working to harness it to create anti-venoms.

Scientists have isolated the peptide, and in lab tests with mice exposed to venom, those opossum peptides proved effective against Western diamondback rattlers and Russell’s vipers from Pakistan. The results offer hope that a universal antivenom could be developed to counter the poisonous effects of snakebites from multiple species, National Geographic reports.

That’s big news, since worldwide, about 421,000 poisonous snake bites occur each year, and 20,000 deaths result, according to International Society on Toxicology. Human testing is next on the horizon.

Moreover, Newswise reporters, scientists found they could reproduce the peptide from E-coli bacteria, meaning it can be replicated cheaply and easily—no opossums need to be harmed in the process. Unlike standard snakebite anti-venoms, this one has thus far produced no serious side effects such as wheezing, rash or rapid heartbeat.

The anti-venom may even prove effective against other forms of toxins, since opossums also have a natural resistance to poisonous scorpions and some forms of toxic plants as well.

The results were presented in late March at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Denver.

The opossum, which resembles a large rat, is a marsupial tracing its origins back 65 million years, around the time dinosaurs went extinct. But only now have we learned a key secret to its survival against threats that kill many other animals.

So the next time you see a lowly opossum hanging by its tail from a fence or waddling across a road, remember – this ancient animal just may hold the key to saving your life if you’re ever bitten by a snake.

DNA extracted from 40,000 year old giant kangaroos


This video is called When did Marsupial and Placental Mammals split?

From Wildlife Extra:

Scientists extract DNA from 40,000 year old giant kangaroos

The study of DNA reveals that the red kangaroo was a close relative of the extinct giant wallaby

A team of scientists led by Dr Bastien Llamas and Professor Alan Cooper from the University of Adelaide‘s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) have succeeded in extracting DNA sequences from two extinct Australian species: a giant short-faced kangaroo (Simosthenurus occidentalis) and a giant wallaby (Protemnodon anak).

These specimens died around 45,000 years ago and their remains were discovered in a cold and dry cave in Tasmania.

Relatively good preservation conditions in the cave allowed enough short pieces of DNA to survive so researchers could reconstruct partial “mitochondrial genomes” ─ genetic material transmitted from mother to offspring and widely used to infer evolutionary relationships.

“The ancient DNA reveals that extinct giant wallabies are very close relatives of large living kangaroos, such as the red and western grey kangaroos,” says lead author Dr Bastien Llamas, ACAD senior research associate.

“Their skeletons had suggested they were quite primitive macropods, a group that includes kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons and quokkas, but now we can place giant wallaby much higher up the kangaroo family tree.”

The research has also confirmed that short-faced kangaroos are a highly distinct lineage of macropods, which had been predicted on their unusual anatomy.

Although the ancient DNA confirms that the short-faced kangaroos left no descendants, it also shows their closest living cousin could be the banded hare-wallaby (Lagostrophus fasciatus), which is now restricted to small isolated islands off the coast of Western Australia.

“Our results suggest the banded hare-wallaby is the last living representative of a previously diverse lineage of kangaroos,” says co-author Professor Mike Lee of the South Australian Museum and the University’s School of Biological Sciences.

“It will hopefully further encourage and justify conservation efforts for this endangered species.”

Rare spectacled hare-wallaby seen in Western Australia


This video from Australia is about the rufous hare-wallaby. They are relatives of the recenttly rediscovered spectacled hare-wallaby.

From Wildlife Extra:

Rare Spectacled Hare-wallaby sighted in Western Australia

The threatened Spectacled Hare-wallaby has been sighted near Broome in Australia after nearly a decade without any recorded sightings in Kimberley region.

Although the species is widespread throughout other parts of northern Australia, the wallaby, which gets its name from its distinctive orange fur that surrounds each eye, is considered very rare in the Kimberley region and numbers here are declining.

“We need to keep a close eye on the threats to this rare and fascinating animal so we get the right information to help it survive into the future,” said Dr Alexander Watson of WWF-Australia.

“Their shelter and feeding requirements make them highly sensitive to habitat changes, so assessing their numbers is a good indicator of overall health of the local environment.”

The Spectacled hare-wallaby uses large grass tussocks for shelter from predators and the extremely hot daytime temperatures. Inappropriate fire regimes and trampling by larger animals can put the wallaby at risk of exposure.

The Spectacled hare-wallaby is well suited for life in extreme arid conditions, having adapted to extract and retain water from their food. However, their population is still at risk from modern threats such as introduced predators, grazing, frequent fires and extreme weather events like droughts.

Koalas told apart by their noses


This video from Asustralia says about itself:

A heart breaking story – In the eucalypt forests of east coast Australia lives one the world’s most loved animals, the koala. Join Jenny Brockie as she observes a year in the life of Arnie (King Koala) and his group of females and offspring. Arnie, Lulu and Marie must fight off threats from rival males, goannas, snakes and feral dogs in order to maintain the group and Arnie’s ascendancy.

From Wildlife Extra:

Individual Koalas can be told apart by their noses

Individual Koala Bears can be identified by their nose says new research, as each Koala has a unique ‘noseprint’, just like a human fingerprint.

Janine Duffy from the wildlife tour operator Echidna Walkabout, which carried out the research, said: “A few years ago I was looking up at one Koala thinking, ‘Gee, I wish I could tell you guys apart’ and I just looked at the nose through my binoculars and I thought ‘Oh my God! They’re all different.’ I knew this could be important because I’d found a way of learning about Koalas without having to touch them.

“Up until then, Koalas could only be monitored by catching them and releasing them with a GPS collar. They are animals that get stressed easily, and wild ones like to keep their distance from humans. Catching and dragging them out of a tree to do research can be very harsh.”

After the initial discovery, Janine and her team have recorded the nose patterns of 108 wild koalas over 16 years, and identified that not one has changed substantially in that time.

Their research has led to important discoveries about Koala behaviour, and Janine believes it could play a major step in helping the species survive.

“I’d love to see a national online koala database, with tourists and locals contributing photographs to help identify Koalas and track their movements and behaviour,” she said. “It’s part of my grand dream that every Koala in Australia would be known.”