Sunday, 24 June 2012

Wildlife stuff from the week 18-24/6/12

'Species Extinction: A Global Amphibian Epidemic'
All around the world, amphibian species are disappearing. In some cases, for obvious reasons - logging and fungal disease - but in many, we simply do not know.

Congratulations to all the environmentalists who've worked to save the Kakapo! Of course, the work is never really over...
'N. Zealand's 'night parrot' brought back from the brink'
"In the early days of the conservation effort, rangers even wore an outlandish rubber helmet dotted with dimples in an unsuccessful attempt to collect kakapo sperm when males tried to mate with their heads.
British actor Stephen Fry witnessed the kakapo's amorous antics first hand while filming his programme "Last Chance to See" in 2009, when a kakapo named Sirocco took a shine to zoologist Mark Carwardine and began vigorously coupling with his scalp."

[video] 'Melting sea ice threatens emperor penguins, study finds'
Emperor penguins occupy a peculiar environmental/evolutionary niche - they're small enough to gather enough food to maintain themselves, but big enough that the thermodynamics of their surface area to body ratio means they can survive the Antarctic winters (they are the largest of all penguin species, and the only one to stay in the Antarctic over the winter)
if a lack of food ensues, due to less ice cover for plankton to grow under, then their thermodynamic niche will be threatened, and their survival along with it.
This populo-dynamical research has shown that there is a 1-in-2 chance of their population being just a tenth of what it is now, at the end of this century.

'Noisy environments make young songbirds shuffle their tunes'
The ambient noise that a young songbird hears, determines the songs they'll sing throughout their adult life.
When played other birds' songs, they picked them up a lot better when unmarred by noise.
The noise applied a selection pressure to the songs, favouring those that could be more easily heard over the noise.
Other research has shown that birds adapt their songs to high ambient volume levels, by simply singing louder, causing exhaustion:
[video] Here's an example of a bird that learns a wide repertoire of songs - the lyre bird. It can do impressions of just about anything!
[video] Plus, for your added annoyance, 30 seconds of the Roller Canary:
Oh, by the way... now i've mentioned lyrebirds, an analysis of their impressions shows that they really are like human impressionists - instead of recreating their source precisely, which would be far too difficult, they pick out the most notable characteristics, and abbreviate them into a caricature of the source.
[video] Jon Culshaw, demonstrating some of his impressions, in an interview with Richard Bacon

'Increase in Lyme disease mirrors drop in red fox numbers: study'
It seems foxes in the US used to keep the vectors for lyme-disease-carrying ticks (mice and voles and such) down.
As coyotes have displaced the foxes, lyme disease in deer has increased, despite a steady deer population.

Civil war is endangering Myanmar's already-endangered tigers... well, that and the purely-superstitious demand for their bodies as 'medicine'
"Conservationists say the valley has the potential to hold several hundred tigers, but rebuilding the population requires tackling illegal hunting of both the animals -- whose body parts are prized for Chinese medicines -- and their prey."

A smidgen of good news for Sumatran conservationists though - a baby sumatran rhino has been born. They'll need a few more of those to restore the population though...

'Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Protective pappa'

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