Beavers washing, video


This video shows two beavers washing their fur.

René Sluimer made the video in the Rhoonse Grienden nature reserve in the Netherlands.

Good Dutch beaver news


This 2011 video says about itself:

The European beaver (Castor fiber) was hunted almost to extinction, both for fur and for castoreum, a secretion of its scent gland believed to have medicinal properties. However, the beaver is now being re-introduced throughout Europe. Several thousand live on the Elbe, the Rhône and in parts of Scandinavia. In northeast Poland there is a thriving community of Castor fiber. They have been reintroduced in Bavaria and The Netherlands and are tending to spread to new locations.

Translated from the Dutch ARK Natuurontwikkeling conservationists, 7 February 2016:

After more than two hundred years of absence about twenty years ago beavers emerged spontaneously in Limburg province. These were some individuals from Germany. Their number was too small, and mutual distance too large to form a viable population within the foreseeable future. Therefore thirty beavers were freed in the region between 2002 and 2004. There was enough habitat by river restoration and nature reserve management in the Meuse Valley. Meanwhile beavers live, with numbers estimated at five hundred animals, in nearly the whole of Limburg. In wet, wooded nature beavers play a key role.

Mice live longer with cell therapy


AGE STAGE By about 2 years old, mice that age normally (back left) are hunchbacked and nearly blind. A treatment that removes decrepit “senescent” cells makes mice the same age (front right) healthier: They look and act younger and live longer. Photo: Mayo Clinic

From Science News:

Removing worn-out cells makes mice live longer and prosper

Antiaging treatment shows promise for lengthening life span

By Tina Hesman Saey

1:00pm, February 3, 2016

Killing worn-out cells helps middle-aged mice live longer, healthier lives, a new study suggests.

Removing those worn-out or “senescent” cells increased the median life span of mice from 24 to 27 percent over that of rodents in which senescent cells built up normally with age, Mayo Clinic researchers report online February 3 in Nature. Clearing senescent cells also improved heart and kidney function, the researchers found.

If the results hold up in people, they could lead to an entirely new way to treat aging, says gerontology and cancer researcher Norman Sharpless at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. Most prospective antiaging treatments would require people to take a drug for decades. Periodically zapping senescent cells might temporarily turn back the clock and improve health for people who are already aging, he says. “If this paper is right, I believe it will be one of the most important aging papers ever,” Sharpless says.

Senescent cells are ones that have ceased to divide and do their usual jobs. Instead, they hunker down and pump out inflammatory chemicals that may damage surrounding tissues and promote further aging. “They’re zombie cells,” says Steven Austad, a biogerontologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. ”They’ve outlived their usefulness. They’re bad.”

Cancer biologist Jan van Deursen of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues devised the strategy for eliminating senescent cells by making the cells commit suicide. A protein called p16 builds up in senescent cells, the researchers had previously discovered. The team hooked up a gene for a protein that causes cells to kill themselves to DNA that helps turn on p16 production, so that whenever p16 was made the suicide protein was also made.

The suicide protein needs a partner chemical to actually kill cells, though. Once mice were a year old — 40 to 60 years old in human terms — the researchers started injecting them with the partner chemical. Mice got injections about every three days for six months. Mice that got the cell-suicide cocktail were compared with genetically engineered mice that were injected with a placebo mix.

Senescent cells were easier to kill in some organs than others, the researchers found. Colon and liver senescent cells weren’t killed, for instance. But age-related declines in the function of organs in which the treatment worked — eyes, fat, heart and kidney —were slowed.

Genetic engineering and regular shots would not be feasible for use in people, but several companies are developing drugs that might clear the zombie cells from humans, Austad says. Some side effects to the treatment in mice also would be important to consider if those drugs are ever used in people. Senescent cells have previously been shown to be needed for wound healing, and mice that got the killing cocktail couldn’t repair wounds as well as those that didn’t get the treatment. Once treatment stopped, the mice were able to heal normally again. That result suggests that people undergoing senescent-cell therapy might need to stop temporarily to heal wounds from surgery or accidents.

Previously, the researchers had killed senescent cells in mice with a mutation that caused them to age prematurely (SN: 12/3/11, p. 11). Removing the worn-out cells helped the prematurely old mice live longer, but other researchers weren’t convinced that the results applied to normal aging. “It’s great when you find something that helps prevent premature aging, but there’s always this nagging doubt,” says Judith Campisi, a researcher at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif. It’s gratifying that the treatment works to extend life and health in normally aging animals, she says.

Campisi also studies the effect of senescent cells on aging, but doesn’t think the cells are entirely to blame for the ills of old age. “We don’t believe senescence is the only thing that drives aging,” she says. “That would be stupid. If this were the magic bullet, Jan’s mice would live forever, but they don’t.”

Red squirrel searches nut, video


This video shows a red squirrel in the garden of the maker of this video, Marike Gerritsen in the Netherlands.

The squirrel is looking for a nut which Ms Gerritsen had hidden in a Chinese lantern lily flower. This plant species, by the way, is originally from South africa, not China.

Pallas’s squirrels in the Netherlands: here.

Can groundhogs predict North American spring?


This video from the USA says about itself:

Groundhog Day

Find out why it’s hard to see groundhogs in February, and how much wood woodchucks chuck.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Can A Groundhog Tell Us If The End Of Winter Is Near?

Posted on Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tuesday is Groundhog Day and groundhogs are receiving A LOT of media attention. And Punxsutawney Phil is preparing to deliver his forecast early that morning.

We’ve received a number of inquiries about this furry, kind-of-cute rodent from readers.

Groundhogs clearly aren’t related to pigs or hogs—so what exactly are they?

The groundhog (also known as a woodchuck or Eastern Marmot) is actually a large, ground-dwelling rodent and is part of family of ground squirrels known as marmots.

Groundhogs are lowland creatures and are common in the northeastern and central United States, found as far north as eastern Alaska and south as the northern half of Alabama.

If you live in the western U.S., particularly in rocky and mountainous areas, you’re probably familiar with the the groundhog’s cousins such as the yellow-bellied and hoary marmots.

Can They Really Chuck Wood?

The name that many use for the animal, “woodchuck”, is derived from the Native American Algonquian tribe’s name for the animal, “wuchak”.

So despite the tounge-twister we’ve all heard (as well as that GEICO ad a year or two back!), it’s name has nothing to do with throwing around pieces of wood, even though it’s a great image….

Digging Life

These busy rodents are great diggers and hikers can often find their dens by looking for disturbed earth. Their short, powerful limbs and curved, thick claws are ideally suited for digging the extensive excavations they are known to create.

Groundhogs have two coats of fur—a dense grey undercoat that is then covered by a longer coat of banded guard hairs, which provide its distinctive “frosted” appearance.

They are good swimmers and excellent tree climbers and can do both while escaping predators. When threatened, groundhogs generally retreat to their burrows but the animal can tenaciously defend itself or its burrow using its two large incisors and front claws. That said, groundhogs are pretty easy prey for predators such as coyotes, foxes, bears and even large raptors. Young groundhogs are also preyed upon by snakes.

What Do Groundhogs Eat?

Groundhogs are mostly herbivorous, consuming wild grasses and other vegetation such as berries and agricultural crops. On occasion, they’ll also eat grubs, insects, snails and similar small animals. Groundhogs don’t need open water to drink and can hydrate themselves by consuming leafy vegetation.

Individuals often “stand alert” in an erect posture on their hind legs when not actively feeding. This is a commonly seen behavior and easily observed.

So How Can They Predict The End Of Winter?

Unlike many rodents, groundhogs are true hibernators and are rarely, if ever, active or seen during the winter. They often build a separate “winter burrow”, which extends below the frost line and stays at a steady temperature year round, allowing the animal to avoid freezing during the winter’s cold months.

It’s this trait of sleeping through the winter that led to the folklore that a groundhog’s behavior can predict when winter will end.

Since a groundhog sleeps through the entire winter, the reasoning is that the winter must be ending if he’s willing to stay out and about once he or she has been awakened on February 2nd.

It’‘s a pretty shaky premise and the poor creature is probably so dazed from being rudely awakened that he has no idea what the temperature is.

How Accurate Are A Groundhog’s Predictions?

Groundhogs are among our longest hibernators, often settling down as early as October and remaining in their burrow until March or April.

So no matter what our furry prognosticators may appear to tell us on Groundhog Day, it’s a pretty safe bet that just want to go back to sleep, regardless of the weather!

Here at eNature’s offices in the mid-Atlantic, we often see groundhogs come spring— along roadsides, in gardens and even in city parks. Have you encountered any?

As always, we enjoy your stories.

Groundhog day, cartoon from the USA

Mating beavers, video


This video shows two mating beavers.

Bert van der Stoep in the Netherlands made this video.

Harvest mouse on reed stem, video


This video shows a harvest mouse on a reed stem in nature reserve De Rietputten near Vlaardingen town in the Netherlands.

Tom Bosman made this video on 18 January 2016.