‘Extinct’ Mexican kangaroo rat rediscovered

This video says about itself:

20 April 2018

Dipodomys gravipes, commonly known as the San Quintin kangaroo rat, was rediscovered in Baja California, Mexico, by researchers from the San Diego Natural History Museum and the non-profit organization Terra Peninsular A.C. The species is larger than other kangaroo rats in the region, about 13 cm (5 inches) in length with a tufted tail, and considered as Critically Endangered.


Alan Harper, Terra Peninsular
Sula Vanderplank, San Diego Natural History Museum

From San Diego Natural History Museum in the USA:

Museum researchers rediscover animal not seen in 30 years

San Quintin kangaroo rat found in Baja California will be subject of a conservation plan

April 19, 2018

Researchers from the San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) and the non-profit organization Terra Peninsular A.C. have rediscovered the San Quintin kangaroo rat (Dipodomys gravipes) in Baja California; the Museum is partnering with the organization and local authorities on a conservation plan for the species.

The San Quintin kangaroo rat was last seen in 1986, and was listed as endangered by the Mexican government in 1994. It was held as an example of modern extinction due to agricultural conversion. In the past few decades, San Quintin, which lies 118 miles south of Ensenada, has become a major agricultural hub, converting huge areas of native habitat into fields and hot houses for tomatoes and strawberries.

Despite active searches and monitoring over the years, there had been no sign of the animal until this past summer, when Museum Mammalogist Scott Tremor and Research Associate Sula Vanderplank were in the field conducting routine monitoring of small mammal communities. Having read the field notes of the person who had seen it decades ago, they were aware of its former occurrence in the area, but were amazed to find four individuals by using traditional field techniques and live traps.

This animal is about 5 inches in length with a tufted tail. It is an herbivore that lives in arid lowlands and gets its name from its large, powerful hind feet that propel the animal in large bounds (like a kangaroo). It is larger than other kangaroo rats in the region, and is feistier than its relatives.

“Not only is this discovery a perfect example of the importance of good old-fashioned natural history field work, but we have the opportunity to develop a conservation plan based on our findings”, said Tremor. “The ability to take our research and turn it into tangible conservation efforts is thrilling. It is a commitment to preserving the uniqueness of the Baja California Peninsula.”

The discovery will be highlighted in an article by Tremor, Vanderplank, and Dr. Eric Mellink of the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada, Baja California (CICESE) in the scientific journal Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences.

Since the initial discovery, the San Quinton kangaroo rat has been found to also persist inside the Valle Tranquilo Nature Reserve just south of San Quintín, which is owned and managed by the local non-profit organization Terra Peninsular A.C. This reserve is recognized as an area voluntarily destined for conservation by the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) and will protect the future of the species into perpetuity.

The Nat will work with Terra Peninsular and Dr. Exequiel Ezcurra, director of the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS), on a conservation plan for the small mammal communities of the area, with an emphasis on the San Quintin kangaroo rat.

“Terra Peninsular has been monitoring the nature reserves looking for this species. You can’t imagine how happy we are to find out that after all these efforts and with the help of The Nat we can be part of this rediscovery and continue working on its protection”, said Jorge Andrade, adaptive manager coordinator at Terra Peninsular, who has also been involved in the project. “It’s very gratifying for us to think that the San Quintin kangaroo rat persists in the area to some extent, thanks to the efforts of the staff, board members, and associated researchers of our organization.”

This plan, which is made possible with critical support from The JiJi Foundation Fund at the International Community Foundation, will be developed cooperatively with a working group created by Terra Peninsular and composed of local authorities, academic institutions and staff members. It will be written in both English and Spanish, will include restoration strategies, habitat improvements, molecular analysis of population health, land protection strategies and outreach and educational materials, and will identify key concerns for the future of the species.

The Museum’s research department, the Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias, conducts field explorations and engages in collections-based research to document and conserve our region’s natural history and biodiversity. This is the third mammal that was thought to be extinct that museum staff have rediscovered in the Baja California Peninsula in the recent past: others include the high elevation California vole (Microtus californicus huperuthrus) and the round-tail ground squirrel (Xerospermophilus tereticaudus apricus).

“These rediscoveries speak to hope and resilience in a changing world”, said Vanderplank, who is also a science advisor at Terra Peninsular. “We are learning so much about this animal and its ecology, and we’re delighted to know that it is permanently protected in the Valle Tranquilo Nature Reserve.”

New butterfly species discovered in Mexico

After collecting the new species as a 17-year-old in Mexico nearly 60 years ago, Thomas Emmel described the butterfly as 'medium-sized, velvety brown with row of odd-shaped blue ocelli on hind wings, underside very colorful with bands.' Credit: Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace

From the Florida Museum of Natural History in the USA:

New butterfly species discovered nearly 60 years after it was first collected

McGuire Center for Lepidoptera & Biodiversity Founding Director Thomas Emmel netted butterfly in Mexico when he was 17

April 5, 2018

Summary: A butterfly collected by a teenager in Mexico nearly 60 years ago has been described as a new species.

In 1959, a then-teenage lepidopterist Thomas Emmel collected 13 fawn-colored butterflies in the highlands of Mexico.

Nearly 60 years later, those butterflies are finally being recognized as a new species by his colleague Andrew Warren, who named the butterfly Cyllopsis tomemmeli to honor Emmel, now 76 and an internationally recognized Lepidoptera expert at the University of Florida.

It’s a fitting tribute to a dedicated scientist and his lifetime devotion to understanding butterflies and sharing his knowledge and passion with the world.

“He’s the only person who ever collected it, and it was on this remarkable expedition when he was 17 years old”, said Warren, senior collections manager of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at UF.

Warren and a team of colleagues published the species name and description today in Zootaxa.

Back to 1959: Emmel nabbed the specimens on a three-month expedition through southern Mexico and British Honduras, where he accompanied ornithologist L. Irby Davis to record bird songs. Davis had offered him a simple deal: If Emmel would manage the parabolic reflector at dawn and dusk, he could spend the rest of his time collecting butterflies, his primary interest.

By the end of the trip, Emmel had collected several thousand specimens, including the nine male and four female Cyllopsis tomemmeli he netted at the edge of a pine-oak forest in Chiapas, a state on the Mexico-Guatemala border. At the time, he knew only that they were satyrs, describing them in his notebook as “medium-sized, velvety brown with row of odd-shaped blue ocelli on hind wings, underside very colorful with bands.”

The satyrs traveled with Emmel, founding director of the McGuire Center, for decades and through several cross-country moves before finally landing at the center on the UF campus. Grouped with other unsorted Cyllopsis butterflies, they garnered little attention until last fall, when Warren recognized them as an undescribed species.

That’s when serendipity stepped in.

“I pulled out that drawer and immediately thought, ‘That’s new,'” Warren said. “I went upstairs to Tom’s office and said, ‘Hey, what were you doing on March 26, 1959?’ Tom said, ‘Oh, well, it was a beautiful sunny morning. I was in the highlands of Chiapas.'”

A few days later, Emmel was at the Xerox machine, copying the detailed field notes he’d taken on the satyrs in 1959.

Naming the species after Emmel was a natural choice, Warren said.

Although other scientists have scouted the same Mexican highlands, no other Cyllopsis tomemmeli specimens are known besides Emmel’s.

His legacy also includes his mentorship of countless professional and amateur lepidopterists, including Warren, who was a high school butterfly enthusiast when he first met Emmel at a summer butterfly biology workshop.

“He has supported me in my research in various ways ever since,” Warren said. “He’s inspired a lot of people over the years, not just in Lepidoptera but in a lot of fields. He also founded the only institution in the world that’s solely dedicated to butterfly and moth research. That was Tom’s big vision, and he made it happen.”

Cyllopsis tomemmeli rounds out the total known species of Cyllopsis butterflies to 30. Cyllopsis are adept at carving out a home in small pockets of habitat, which could explain why this species has not been rediscovered, Warren said.

The butterfly is about 2 inches wide and dusky brown with jagged red-brown bands on the underside, a characteristic feature of Cyllopsis species. Also notable are two pairs of spots flanked by lines of metallic scales that Warren thinks mimic the eyes and legs of jumping spiders.

Females are slightly paler than males, and male Cyllopsis tomemmeli have furry scales, likely scent distributors, Warren said.

By the time Emmel traveled to Chiapas, he had already been studying and collecting butterflies for nearly a decade. He was 8 years old when his father made butterfly nets for him and his brother John, unsuspectingly launching a lifelong obsession for both.

“He thought we would be interested,” Emmel said. “To his great surprise, and eventually regret, it consumed us as a hobby and finally became a profession for me and a continued avocation for my brother.”

Emmel said Cyllopsis tomemmeli, a new species hiding in plain sight, is an example of the value of museum collections.

“The fact that something can be preserved for future students and professional people to study at a time when new techniques are available to verify the discovery is very important,” he said. “It shows just how long specimens can be preserved, hundreds of years in a museum, and still be invaluable to understanding the changes that have occurred. Climatic change, pesticides, heavy metal pollution in the air — all that is recorded in the wings and bodies of butterflies.”

Study co-authors are Shinichi Nakahara of the Florida Museum and the UF department of entomology and nematology, Jorge Llorente-Bousquets and Armando Luis-Martínez of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Jacqueline Miller of the Florida Museum.

Nakahara is supported by funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Squid graveyard in Gulf of California

This video, from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in the USA, says about itself:

Deep-Sea Discoveries: Squid Graveyard

15 March 2018

On an expedition in the Gulf of California, MBARI researchers discovered a surprising number of deep-sea squid carcasses on the ocean floor. The squid have a fascinating life history, but their story doesn’t end when they die. They become food for hungry scavengers and might change the rhythm of life in the deep sea.

Egg sheets were up to 2.5 m (over 8 feet) long.

The Gulf of California lies between mainland Mexico and Baja. MBARI researchers conducted expeditions there in 2003, 2012 and 2015.

For more information, see here.

Script and narration: Vicky Stein (MBARI Communications Intern)

Video producer: Linda Kuhnz

Music: Amazing Lake

Original journal article: Hoving, H.J.T., Bush, S.L., Haddock, S.H.D., Robison, B.H. (2017). Bathyal feasting: post-spawning squid as a source of carbon for deep-sea benthic communities. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 284: 20172096.

Mexican muralist artist Diego Rivera

This 8 December 2017 video is about Mexican muralist artist Diego Rivera.

See also here.

Mexico creates North America’s largest ocean reserve

This April 2017 video from Mexico is called 4K Underwater Video: Revillagigedo Archipelago (Socorro Islands) Scuba Diving.

From the BBC today:

Mexico creates huge national park to protect marine life

The Mexican government has created a large marine reserve around a group of islands home to hundreds of species including rays, whales and sea turtles.

The Revillagigedo Archipelago is a group of volcanic islands off the country’s south-east coast.

With a protection zone of 57,000 square miles (150,000km), it has become the largest ocean reserve in North America.

The move will mean all fishing activity will be banned, and the area will be patrolled by the navy.

It is hoped the move will help populations hit by commercial fishing operations in the area recover.

The park was designated by a decree signed by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. It will also forbid natural resources being extracted from the land or the building of new hotel infrastructure.

The area, which is about 250 miles (400km) south-east of the country’s Baja California peninsula has been described as the Galapagos of North America, because of its volcanic nature and unique ecology.

Sitting on the convergence of two ocean currents, the islands are a hub for open water and migratory species.

It has hundreds of breeds of ocean wildlife, including humpback whales that use the shallow and coastal areas around the islands for breeding.

Last year the Pacific Ocean site was named as a UNESCO world heritage area.

María José Villanueva, the director of conservation of WWF in Mexico, described the move as an “important precedent” to the rest of the world, according to local media.

It follows a similar move by Chile, which created an even bigger ocean reserve in 2015.