New Asian turtle species discovered, endangered

This 2014 video says about itself:

Chinese soft-shell turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis) hatching

Several juveniles of the Chinese soft-shell turtle hatching at the same time.

From ScienceDaily:

Newly discovered turtle species is facing extinction

February 13, 2019

Summary: A new species in the family of Softshell Turtles is described from Northern Vietnam and China by a Hungarian-Vietnamese-German team of researchers. The newly discovered reptile has a distinctly blotched shell and is so critically endangered that it is close to extinction.

For decades, it has been assumed that the Chinese Softshell Turtles from East Asia all belonged to one and the same species, Pelodiscus sinensis. Widely distributed all the way from the Russian Far East through the Korean Peninsula to China and Vietnam, the species was said to vary substantially in terms of its looks across localities. However, around the turn of the century, following a series of taxonomic debates, scientists revalidated or discovered a total of three species distinct from the ‘original’.

Recently, a Hungarian-Vietnamese-German team of researchers described a fifth species in the genus. Their discovery is published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

The new species, which differs both genetically and morphologically from the other four, has well-pronounced dark blotches on the underside of its shell. The markings are also the reason why these turtles are going by the scientific name Pelodiscus variegatus, where “variegatus” translates to “spotted” in Latin.

“This morphological feature, among others, led to the discovery that these animals belong to a hitherto undescribed species,” explains Professor Dr. Uwe Fritz of the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden.

Unfortunately, the identification of multiple species within what used to be a single one has its potentially ill-fated consequences. While the Chinese Softshell Turtle was once considered widespread and not threatened, each newly discovered species “reduces” the individual population numbers.

“When we look at each species, the distribution range as well as the number of individuals is much smaller than when all were combined. Until now, the newly described Spotted Softshell Turtle was considered part of the Lesser Chinese Softshell Turtle Pelodiscus parviformis, which was discovered by Chinese researchers in 1997. Pelodiscus parviformis was already considered critically endangered. Now that its southern representatives have been assigned to a different species, the Spotted Softshell Turtle, the overall population size of each species is even smaller,” explains Balázs Farkas, the study’s Hungarian lead author.

Because of its restricted range and the levels of exploitation it is subjected to, the conservation status of the new species is proposed to be Critically Endangered, according to the criteria of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


Triassic turtle had bone cancer

This July 2015 video says about itself:

Resembling a broad-bodied, short-snouted lizard, Pappochelys appears to be an ancestor of modern turles.

By Aimee Cunningham, 6:00am, February 11, 2019:

A rare, ancient case of bone cancer has been found in a turtle ancestor

A 240-million-year-old fossil is the oldest known example of this disease in amniotes

A 240-million-year-old case of bone cancer has turned up in a fossil of an extinct ancestor of turtles. Dating to the Triassic Period, the fossil is the oldest known example of this cancer in an amniote, a group that includes mammals, birds and reptiles, researchers report online February 7 in JAMA Oncology.

The fossilized left femur from the shell-less stem-turtle Pappochelys rosinae was recovered in southwestern Germany in 2013. A growth on the leg bone prompted a team of paleontologists and physicians to analyze the fossil with a micro CT scan, an imaging technique that provides a detailed, three-dimensional view inside an object.

“When we saw that this was not a break or an infection, we started looking at other growth-causing diseases,” says Yara Haridy, a paleontologist at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. The verdict? Periosteal osteosarcoma, a malignant bone tumor. “It looks almost exactly like human periosteal osteosarcoma,” Haridy says.

“It is almost obvious that ancient animals would have cancer, but it is so very rare that we find evidence of it,” she says. The discovery of this tumor from the Triassic offers evidence that cancer is “a vulnerability to mutation deeply rooted in our DNA.”

Cancer genes in mucosal melanoma, a rare and poorly understood subtype of melanoma, have been compared in humans, dogs and horses for the first time. Researchers sequenced the genomes of the same cancer across different species to pinpoint key cancer genes. The results give insights into how cancer evolves across the tree of life and could guide the development of new therapies: here.

10-year-old girl fights against global warming politicians

This 25 January 2019 Dutch regional TV video is about 10-year-old girl Lilly Platt demonstrating against pro-global warming politicians at the town hall of Zeist in Utrecht province in the Netherlands.

Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant, 28 January 2019, by Margriet Oostveen:

Little Lilly Platt (10) is the most stubborn climate truant in the Netherlands so far and she is against the label ‘truancy’. Truancy is what ‘you do for fun and for yourself’, and demonstrating for the climate is a serious matter. ‘Sérious business’, says Lilly, in very British English. She has a British mother, Eleanor, and a Dutch father, Jaap.

Lilly is on strike. And when I pick her up at Huis ter Heide at eight o’clock in the morning, where she tells her arguments for half an hour, her hands fluttering with excitement, then it’s already the twentieth Friday morning in a row when she skips school to go in front of the town hall in Zeist standing with her protest sign (‘There is no Planet B’).

This every time from nine to ten o’clock. Eleanor always comes along, with a pillow against the cold, a blanket over Lilly’s legs and when the striking is over, she brings Lilly … to her primary school in Bilthoven.

The education inspector has already called, to inquire why the school did not report Lilly’s persistent absence. But at the Keenschool, with extra attention for ‘original children’, the director calls Lilly’s strike ‘very good’ for her development. …

This tweet with video is about the 24 January 2019 pro-climate students’ strike in Brussels, Belgium.

Compared to their tens of thousands of climate-minded peers in Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and Belgium, Dutch pupils have remained remarkably tame up to now.

“Because of that word “truancy “, says Lilly. “They may think that it is not allowed. But it is allowed.”

“Article 9”, her mother says.

“Article 9 of the Constitution,” says Lilly. The right to assembly and demonstration. “If your parents give permission, then it can be done.”

Lilly saw the Swedish high school student Greta Thunberg demonstrate every Friday during school time since summer, as the first demonstrator at the parliament building in Stockholm. Fifteen-year-old Greta Thunberg did an angry speech at the Katowice climate summit.

This 13 December 2018 video is called You Are Stealing Our Future: Greta Thunberg, 15, Condemns the World’s Inaction on Climate Change.

Because she is the last generation that can turn the tide, she says. Like Greta, Lilly demands that everyone should honour the Paris climate agreement to reduce CO2 emissions. In addition, now that she is active, Lilly wants all animals to be able to live ‘in peace’, ‘especially pug dogs’.

This video says about itself:

Lilly met her friends of Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao at Playa Piskado in November 2017 and had an adventure along the way. Getting a trophy and witnessing the rescue of sea turtles that had swallowed fishing lines.

The Volkskrant article continues:

Lilly and Greta met in The Hague, they talked about the climate and about influencers with nice hair. Now they send each other text messages.

Lilly has been active for longer than Greta. It started with her British grandfather Jim Platt, who is a geologist and after soil research all over the world he ended up in Voorschoten. Jim told Lilly during walks how the discarded plastic they saw lying about would end up in the ocean. Lilly started to pick up plastic waste

This 2017 Dutch language video is about Lilly collecting plastic waste.

This January 2019 Dutch language video is also about Lilly collecting plastic waste.

This 2017 English language video is also about Lilly fighting against plastic waste.

This January 2018 English language video with French subtitles is also about Lilly fighting against plastic waste.

and took pictures of the harvest, neatly arranged and posted by her mother on her Facebook account ‘Lilly’s Plastic Pickup‘.

She spent two years doing this when the media discovered her in 2017. That attention led to a series of honorary titles and invitations. Youth Ambassador of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Ambassador of World Cleanup Day. A speech at a conference about plastic-free water in Norway. Lilly was invited by the famous biologist and chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall to meet in London

and she speaks at the Dutch climate march on January 10 [no; March 10 in Amsterdam], in February at a maritime conference in Glasgow, and in June she is invited to a meeting for ‘ocean heroes’ in Canada.

And for nineteen Fridays in a row she therefore demonstrated, mostly on her own, at the town hall of Zeist. The day after the massive student strike in Brussels, students from The Hague also announced a Dutch strike, 7 February on the Malieveld [in the Hague]. This twentieth Friday there are also cameras ready for Lilly and mayor Koos Janssen of Zeist is already waiting for her. He did this more often. The mayor of the CDA party finds Lilly’s action ‘wonderful, she is the teacher here’ and wants to underline again that demonstrating for the climate is ‘a right’. Also for children during school hours.

The ‘Christian Democrat’ CDA is a rather right-wing party, part of the four party right-wing Dutch government coalition. The CDA and the VVD are the most right-wing of these four parties, including in obstructing pro-climate policies. Will Mayor Janssen resign from his party as it is too right-wing, like this VVD mayor and this VVD mayor already did?

10-year-old pro-climate activist Lilly Platt with the local mayor, photo Volkskrant/Margriet Oostveen

Two friendly twenty-somethings came specially from Alkmaar, with cardboard signs saying ‘Support Lilly’. …

They came especially by train and bus. Utrecht regional TV reports that a boy came that way all the way from Limburg province to demonstrate as well.

And everyone, though it is cold, is in an excellent mood. Later we might say: it seemed to be tame and insignificant, but here it started when we did not do anything ourselves.

USA: MIDWEST HIT BY POLAR BLAST Extremely cold, record-breaking temperatures are settling across parts of the Midwest, with forecasters describing the subzero weather on the way as potentially life-threatening. [AP]

SCIENTISTS: GET USED TO IT Scientists say to get used to the extreme temperatures, and blame the dreaded vortex on a sudden blast of warm air in the Arctic. President Donald Trump used the freezing weather to once again dismiss climate change as a myth, calling for “Global Warming” to “come back fast.” [AP]

Green turtles in the Cayman Islands

This 2017 video says about itself:

Green Turtle‘s Battle For Survival | Planet Earth | BBC Earth

From the moment they are born, these plucky Green Turtles from the Ascension Islands will face a huge battle to survive. Those that do survive, like their mothers did before them, will return to exactly same beach where they hatched.

From the University of Barcelona in Spain:

Green turtle: The success of the reintroduction program in Cayman Islands

At the limits of survival due human overexploitation

January 18, 2019

The reintroduction program for the green turtle in the Cayman Islands is crucial in order to recover this species, which are threatened by the effects of human overexploitation, according to a study published in the journal Molecular Ecology and led by the experts Marta Pascual and Carlos Carreras, from the Evolutionary Genetics laboratory of the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona.

The new study, with its first author being Anna Barbanti (UB-IRBio), represents the first genetic study of the reintroduction project of this endangered species, and the wild population of green turtles in the Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory.

According to the conclusions, the current wild population of green turtle in the Cayman Islands has been recovered as a result of the reintroduction process; it presents a high genetic diversity and shows no difficulties regarding breeding. However, the authors of the study recommend conducting a genetic monitoring of the species in this Atlantic Ocean region since it shows a differential genetic heritage compared to other populations of the Caribbean. Other participants in this study were Clara Martín and Víctor Ordóñez (UB-IRBio), and other experts from the University of Exeter, the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF) and the Department of Environment of the Cayman Islands Government (United Kingdom).

At the limits of survival due human overexploitation

The green turtle (Chelonia mydas) is a migratory species globally distributed in tropical and subtropical latitudes -nesting beaches in the Mediterranean basin- which has been quite exploited by human activity. This species is the biggest one within the family of Cheloniidae -adults can weigh over 200 kg- and one of the species of marine turtles with a more natal phylopatric behaviour (it comes back to their birth place to lay its eggs). Factors such as marine pollution, loss of natural habitat, fishing pressure and bycatches endanger the survival of these turtles, classified as an endangered species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

During the eighties, overexploitation of the green turtle in the Cayman Islands caused the disappearance of nesting populations. To recover this endangered population, a program of reintroduction of the species was launched, with individuals of the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF). Forty years later, data show that the nesting population of the Cayman Islands has been restored but researchers did not know if this was the result of the reintroduction process or the natural recovery of the population for the improvement of threatening factors.

In the new study, experts analyse several genetic markers to see the degree of parentage of the natural population of the green turtle in the Cayman Islands with the breeding individuals in the farm, and therefore evaluate the effect of the reintroduction process on wild population.

“In wildlife, genetic diversity is a key factor that eases the adaptation of populations in the natural environment and their tolerance to environmental changes. In this context, it is crucial to conduct a genetic monitoring of the reintroduction processes to evaluate their success and the potential consequences for the target species of the reintroduction,” says Carlos Carreras, member of the Department of Genetics, Microbiology and Statistics of the UB and IRBio. “A threatened population -he continues- reduces their survival options due excessive inbreeding but a poorly planned reintroduction can have negative consequences because of the mix of genetically different beings, since they could create hybrids that are not feasible to the environmental conditions of the population.”

The population of the wild green turtle has a tight genetic relationship with the ones in CTF, the new study reveals. According to Marta Pascal, member of the mentioned Department and IRBio, “90 % of the wild individuals were related to the captive stock. This means the reintroduction process was very important in the recovery of threatened populations.”

The reintroduction process started in the farm with individuals of distant populations, and this explains why the genetic diversity of first generation turtles is higher than their parents’. This genetic diversity of the initial population has been changing as a consequence of the captivity process -as expected- but also because of the effects of the CTF population management. For instance, they use beings from the same cohort as reproductive adults to replace the losses hurricane Michelle caused in 2001, a strategy that has increased the degree of parentage among reproductive individuals in the farm. Therefore, scientific studies like the one in Molecular Ecology, are essential tools to take the right decisions in the management of threatened species.

Lights and shades in the reintroduction of endangered species

Current labelling studies show that there is a population between one hundred and one hundred and fifty reproductive female adults in the Cayman Islands. In this situation of biodiversity protection, the reintroduction programs for endangered species can become an effective tool of preservation but can also be inefficient, and can even have negative consequences for the threatened populations and natural ecosystems. “Therefore, it is essential to design these programs of reintroduction of threatened species with scientific rigor and to conduct a long term scientific monitoring to assess its success and the potential consequences for the species,” warn the experts.

The genetic studies carried out by the Evolutionary Genetics team of the UB and IRBio are part of the first scientific initiative to assess the global impact of the reintroduction of the species Chelonia mydas in the Cayman Islands from different sides: social and economic, commercial, and even gastronomic. This research study has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER), as well as the Darwin project, with the support of Bosch i Gimpera Foundation (FBG) of the UB and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (United Kingdom).

Endangered Species Act helps animals recover

This 2017 video is called ★❤★ GIANT SEA TURTLES • CORAL REEF FISH • 12 HOURS.

From PLOS:

Marine mammals and sea turtles recovering after Endangered Species Act protection

January 16, 2019

More than three-quarters of marine mammal and sea turtle populations have significantly increased after listing of the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to a study published January 16 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Abel Valdivia of the Center for Biological Diversity in California, and colleagues. The findings suggest that conservation measures such as tailored species management and fishery regulations, in addition to other national and international measures, appear to have been largely successful in promoting species recovery, leading to the delisting of some species and to increases in most populations.

The ESA is a powerful environmental law protecting imperiled plants and animals, and a growing number of marine species have been protected under this law as extinction risk in the oceans has increased. Yet analyses of recovery trends for marine mammals and sea turtles after listing are lacking. To address this gap in knowledge, Valdivia and colleagues gathered the best available annual abundance estimates for populations of all 62 marine mammal species and sea turtle species listed under the ESA. The researchers analyzed population trends, the magnitude of population change, and recovery status for 23 representative populations of 14 marine mammal species and eight representative populations of five sea turtle species.

The findings revealed that 18 (or 78%) of marine mammal populations and six (or 75%) of sea turtle populations significantly increased after ESA listing. On the other hand, two (or 9%) of marine mammal populations, but no sea turtle populations, declined after ESA protection. Meanwhile, three (or 13%) of marine mammal populations and two (or 25%) of sea turtle populations showed non-significant changes. Overall, the 24 populations that increased in abundance were from species listed for 20 years or more (e.g., large whales, manatees, and sea turtles). According to the authors, the results underscore the capacity of marine mammals and sea turtles to recover from substantial population declines when conservation actions are implemented in a timely and effective manner.

Many sea turtles at Costa Rican beach

This 25 November 2018 video says about itself:

A Mass Synchronized Nesting Event | Jaguar Beach Battle

The arribada finally begins on the Nancite Beach of Costa Rica, a mass synchronized nesting event for three days where tens of thousands of female Olive Ridley sea turtles return to the beach they were born to lay their own eggs.