Snakes, turtles, giraffes, other animals in 2016


This 2016 BBC video is called Giraffe DNA study identifies four distinct species.

From Science News:

Tales of creatures large and small made news this year

Snakes, giraffes, turtles and more were in the headlines in 2016

By Cassie Martin

7:00am, December 22, 2016

Scientists filled in the details of some famous evolutionary tales in 2016 — and discovered a few surprises about creatures large and small.

Venom repertoire

By studying a gene family important for toxin production, researchers found that modern rattlesnakes have pared down their venom arsenal over time (SN: 10/15/16, p. 9). Rattlers now have a smaller repertoire of toxins, perhaps more specialized to their prey.

Stepping forward

Small tweaks to a gene that makes a protein important for skeletal development may have led to the big toe and helped shape the human foot for bipedalism (SN: 2/6/16, p. 15).

Surprise absence

A gut microbe collected from chinchilla droppings appears to have no mitochondria, making it the first known complex life without the supposedly universal organelle (SN: 6/11/16, p. 14).

Turtle power

Studies of prototurtle fossils suggest that, instead of serving as natural armor, turtle shells might have got their start by aiding in burrowing (SN: 8/6/16, p. 15). The idea could help explain how turtle ancestors survived a mass extinction 252 million years ago.

Color change

Scientists pinned down the genetic changes that, in a famous example of natural selection, made peppered moths soot-colored (SN: 6/25/16, p. 6).

Tall beginnings

Giraffes should thank genes that regulate embryonic development for their long necks and strong hearts (SN: 6/11/16, p. 9).

Evolution at speed

A study of Darwin’s finches found that medium ground finches with smaller beaks survived better than big-beaked counterparts during a drought. The advantage was linked to a key gene, offering insight into the birds’ speedy evolution (SN: 5/28/16, p. 7).

Age record

Scientists have crowned a Greenland shark as the vertebrate with the longest known life span. Their analysis suggests the predator lived to an age of 392 years (SN: 9/17/16, p. 13).

Recovered loggerhead turtle back to sea


Loggerhead turtle Trident

From the Brevard Zoo in Florida in the USA on Twitter today:

Trident, a #loggerhead [turtle] who came to us in July, will be released on Wednesday at 4:45 p.m. at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach. See you there!

Sea turtles in Malaysia


This video says about itself:

28 October 2016

In Malaysia there is an island called Sipadan, famous for beautiful reefs, lots of fish and tons of sea turtles. But there is also a cave where sea turtles die. Jonathan and the team visit the cave in this spooky extra!

JONATHAN BIRD‘S BLUE WORLD is an Emmy Award-winning underwater science/adventure program that airs on public television in the United States.

Turtles in Florida, USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

1 December 2016

Florida Cooter (Pseudemys floridana) also called the Florida red-bellied cooter or Florida redbelly turtle is an attractive reptile that doesn’t get too excited about much of anything. It spends a great deal of time sunning on logs in swamps and canals. One of my favorite turtles.

Cape Verde islands bird conservation


This video says about itself:

Biosfera: Protecting the desert islands (Cape Verde: Santa Luzia, Raso, Branco)

16 June 2016

Cape Verde: a volcanic archipelago, a developing nation. 600km off the coast of West Africa.

Santa Luzia, Raso, Branco: one remote desert island and its two rocky islets are a unique remnant piece of Cape Verdean wilderness, now threatened. They must be protected:

– Thousands of nesting endemic seabirds
Raso Lark (facing extinction)
Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Vulnerable)

A passionate and dedicated team is strengthening every day to save these species and restore their remote island homes.

Biosfera, with the support of SPEA (the Portuguese Society for the Protection of Birds; BirdLife Partner), have received conservation grants from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). This video shows the progress they have made for the conservation of the desert islands and in the building up of their organisation. And of course it shows the beautiful wildlife of the islands…

Music:

Cordas do Sol (used with permission):
Rebas (Instrumental)
Lume D’Lenha
Sho Pardal
Manhe Joana

Kevin MacLeod incompetech.com (CC):

Digya
At the Shore

© BirdLife International / CEPF 2016

From BirdLife:

Winning hearts and minds in Cape Verde

By Shaun Hurrell, 19 July 2016

Conservation work in these desert islands delivers heartening, long lasting, results: “Now the fishermen work with us, they help us count the birds instead of killing them. They even adopt turtle nests. It is a big, big change.”

Piercing sun, dry, rocky ground, and a solitary ex-military canvas tent ripped bare by strong Atlantic winds. Off the rocky shore, an osprey is seen diving for a fish. In the shade, dust sprays as sparrows can be seen scuffling for water dripping from the tent’s fresh water barrel tap. This is the scene on arrival on Raso, after six hours of a sea-sickening boat ride. Not the place you’d expect to find the entire population of a Critically Endangered lark, let alone a small passionate team of conservationists there to protect it and other unique endemic species from extinction.

A volcanic archipelago 600km off the coast of West Africa, Cape Verde is a developing nation. Surrounded by sharks and coral reefs, the desert island of Santa Luzia and its two rocky islets Raso and Branco are a unique remnant piece of Cape Verdean wilderness, too remote for permanent inhabitation.

However, thousands of nesting endemic seabirds, such as the Cape Verde Shearwater; the Endangered Giant Wall Gecko, and nesting Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Vulnerable), also make these islands their homes. But it doesn’t mean they are safe from threats.

One of the most threatened birds in the world, the Raso Lark is suffering from climate change effects, whereby hurricanes and drought can wipe out a lot of the minimal grasses on which it feeds. On this 7 km2 islet in 2006, the population dropped to 70 birds. The dedicated conservationists are a local NGO, Biosfera, who is working with the support of SPEA (the Portuguese Society for the Protection of Birds; BirdLife Partner) and volunteers to restore nearby Santa Luzia (which has similar vegetation and is much larger) for a translocation of the Raso Lark to help it bounce back to its original numbers.

Poaching is another threat. Fishermen used to come to these islands to take ‘boatloads’ of Cape Verde Shearwaters and female Loggerhead Turtles that nest on the beaches.

In the past, Tommy Melo Melo, Co-Founder of Biosfera, has camped out on Branco to protect turtles from poachers, and when his food ran out, he risked shark-infested waters to freedive for fish.

“Now the fishermen work with us,” he says. “They help us to count the birds in the nests for example.” They now even adopt turtle nests. “It was a big, big change.”

Tommy has a vision: “A huge marine protected area in Cape Verde that includes the three islands.” To reach this has so far involved years of work: from walking along beaches kilometres every day to guard nesting turtles and relocate their eggs to a hatchery to increase their chances of survival, to building the organisation’s ornithological expertise and capacity to work with government and large international conservation projects.

Thanks to the support of SPEA through grants from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), Biosfera has grown and grown.

“Biosfera is a fantastic organisation,” says Pedro Geraldes, Project Coordinator, SPEA. “They started just as father and son working together to protect these islands.”

“Before we were an NGO in the name. Now we are an NGO properly,” says Tommy.

Now, they aim to work in partnership with the government to manage the marine reserve.

“We are the link between the fishermen and the government,” says Patricia Rendall-Rocha, Coordinator, Biosfera.

Recorded on a field visit by CEPF, this video [top of this blog post] shows the progress Biosfera have made for the conservation of the desert islands and in the building up of their organisation. And of course it shows the island’s beautiful wildlife.

Since the field visit, Biosfera have been awarded a follow-up grant from CEPF to continue building their capacity in financial operations and communications. Now they are conducting further field research and investigating the impact of invasive fire ants which have ended up on Raso Islet, threatening the Raso Lark and other endemic species. Tommy, Patricia and Pedro say the major translocation of the Raso Lark is within their sights.

As part of the support to grantees, the CEPF Regional Implementation Team conduct field visits, like this one to Cape Verde. In this phase of the programme, Project Officers have been on supervision missions to Algeria, Morocco, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Macedonia.

“The CEPF support and the communication with the Regional Implementation Team was really good in terms of dealing with this project’s difficulties,” said Pedro Geraldes, SPEA. “Because it is remote, some plans have to be changed and altered.”