Australian birds news update


This is a Beautiful Firetail video from Tasmania in Australia.

From Birdline Victoria in Australia:

Thursday 8 January 2015

Fork-tailed Swift, White-throated Needletail, Latham’s Snipe, Eastern Bristlebird

Cape Howe Wilderness Area.

Mixed flock of over 100 forks and needles over Howe Flat around midday in hot and humid conditions, ratio of around 70:30 in favour of needletails. (200+ WTNT & 30 FTS seen later over Mallacoota before cool change) Single Latham’s Snipe flushed near start of boardwalk at Howe Flat (track still flooded), and 3 Eastern Brist[l]ebird heard but not seen; contact calls and intermittent song only. No sign of White-cheeked H[oney]E[ater] from November. On Lakeview Track near Barracoota Tk a pair of Beautiful Firetail was nest building, and lots of Little & Musk Lorikeet were present in flowering bloodwoods.

Save Tasmania’s rainforests


This video says about itself:

Tasmanian Eucalypt Forest Giants

21 Sep 2011

Paradise at the End of the World – This is an extract, featuring Pepper Bush Adventures’ Craig Williams, from a DVD produced showcasing some of Tasmania’s premier features. Craig takes the film crew in to Tasmania’s north east forests visiting the “White Knights”, the tallest white gum trees in the world at Evercreech Forest Reserve as well as visiting the virgin oldgrowth forest at Tombstone Creek Forest Reserve to view the mountain ash eucalypts, the world’s tallest flowering tree species.

From Rainforest Portal:

Action Alert: Old-Growth Forests in Tasmania‘s World Heritage Area Again Threatened

Only a year ago together Ecological Internet and you participated in successful protests to end industrial clearcut logging in 170,000 hectares of Tasmania, Australia’s old-growth temperate rainforests; as vital intact ecosystems including Butlers Gorge; and the Florentine, Weld and Styx valleys, were added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Now Australia’s ecologically challenged federal government – led by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who famously stated “climate change is crap” – is reneging on these commitments, in an unprecedented move pushing to remove 74,000 hectares from World Heritage Area protection. We need your help to once again call on the Australian government to honor their international obligations and protect Tasmania’s World Heritage old-growth temperate rainforests from industrial destruction. Tasmanian, Australian, and global ecosystem sustainability depend upon doing so.

By Forests.org, a project of Ecological Internet – February 8, 2014

You can send a message here.

Tasmania has prehistoric roots in North America, scientists show. Minerals in Tasmanian rock formations matching those found in North America’s west suggest ancient connection: here.

Northern and southern light videos


This is a northern light video from the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

This video, Comet and the Northern Lights, is from Tromsø in Norway.

This video is from Oregon in the USA.

This video is from Michigan in the USA.

This video is called Aurora Australis TimelapseTasmania, Australia – May Day 2013.

This video is from Alberta in Canada.

This video says about itself:

12 Nov 2013

Flying on a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to New York when the aurora forecast was high, I balanced my camera on a rucksack and left it snapping away out the window … what an amazing spectacle was to be seen! You can see some of the still pictures that formed this time-lapse here.

Saving Tasmanian devils


This video from Australia is called Tasmanian Devil.

From Wildlife Extra:

Hope for threatened Tasmanian devils with scientific breakthrough

Research paves way for the development of a vaccine for the contagious cancer which is driving Tasmanian devils to the brink of extinction.

March 2013. New research paves the way for the development of a vaccine for the Tasmanian devil, currently on the brink of extinction because of a contagious cancer.

100% mortality

It has been less than two decades since scientists discovered the contagious cancer devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) which causes 100 per cent mortality in the endangered marsupials. The facial cancer, which spreads when the devils bite each other’s faces during fighting, kills its victims in a matter of months. As it has already wiped out the majority of the population with sightings of devils reduced by 85 per cent, scientists are desperate to find out more about the mysterious cancer which somehow manages to evade the devils’ immune system.

Complex problem

Until now, scientists have believed that the tumours were able to avoid detection by the immune system because the Tasmanian devils have very little genetic diversity (preventing the immune system from recognising the tumour as foreign). However, a University of Cambridge led collaboration with the Universities of Tasmania, Sydney and South Denmark has discovered that the explanation is more complex.

On the surface of nearly every mammalian cell are major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. These molecules enable the immune system to determine if a cell is friend or foe, triggering an immune response if the cell is foreign and a potential threat. The new research, published in the journal PNAS, reveals that DFTD cancer cells lack these critical molecules, thereby avoiding detection by the devils’ immune system.

Professor Jim Kaufman, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Pathology, said: “Once it was found that the cancer was escaping from the devils’ immune system, scientists needed to figure out how.”

Cure?

The researchers found that the DFTD cells have lost the expression of MHC molecules, but that the genes that code for these molecules are still intact. This means that these genes could potentially be turned back on. Indeed, the scientists showed that by introducing signalling molecules such as interferon-gamma, a protein which triggers the immune response, the DFTD cells can be forced to express MHC molecules.

Dr Hannah Siddle, lead author of the paper from the University of Cambridge, said: “Developing a vaccine based on our research could tip the balance in the favour of the devil and give them a fighting chance.”

“However, we still face some hurdles. The tumour is evolving over time and any vaccine programme would have to take this into consideration. Also, because of the difficulties of vaccinating a wild population, it may be more efficient to use a vaccine in the context of returning captive devils to the wild.”

Contagious cancer

Although the only other contagious cancer has been found in dogs (canine transmissible venereal cancer), the rapid development of DFTD highlights how quickly they can emerge.

Professor Kaufman added: “Our study has implications beyond the Tasmanian devil. Sooner or later a human strain of contagious cancer will develop, and this work gives us insight into how these diseases emerge and evolve.”

The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Information courtesy of Cambridge University.