Sunday, 29 July 2012

Wildlife stuff from the week 23-29/7/12

'Gorillas filmed performing amazing feat of intellectual ability'
"Researchers working in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda have filmed gorillas dismantling snares set by poachers to catch smaller game."
"To dismantle a snare, the gorillas pull the bent branch back, breaking it and releasing the tension in the rope. In the film, the two young gorillas get right to work indicating they’d done it before, and the researchers report that once finished the duo moved to another snare and disabled it as well. The researchers also note that the snare destroying episode came shortly after the death of an infant gorilla that had become trapped in a snare; in trying to escape it had broken its shoulder which led to gangrene setting in."

Spotty zebras? Never!
Oh, yes...

(the page is in Dutch)

'Gorilla accidentally hangs himself at Prague zoo'
They're so like us -- gorillas, too, have catastrophic cock-ups -- poor little mite.

'Lobsters: Available in a rainbow of colors'

Are colourful lobsters becoming more common? I thought there were always these varieties??
The increased perception of variety can be achieved by distributing pictures of known varieties further, and by simply catching more lobsters, increasing the chances of seeing a new variety:
- pictures are easier to share, thanks to the 'www'
- lobster hauls have increased fourfold over the last two decades

'Indonesian zoo moves orangutan to stop her smoking'

"The 15-year-old Tori has been smoking for a decade. She mimics humans by holding cigarettes casually between her fingers while visitors watch and photograph her puffing away and flicking ashes on the ground."

'Emerging whale shark 'crisis' in China'
Not just in China, though -- whale sharks migrate across thousands of miles, so fishing of China's shores are depriving people around the world of sightings.

The nautilus has survived plural extinction events, but might not survive the threat posed to them by human beings...

"The dinosaur-killing mass extinction 65 million years ago was bad luck for the ammonoids but not the plainer, more humble nautilus, said Peter Ward, a professor of biology, earth and space sciences at the University of Washington. The difference was that ammonoids reproduced by making huge numbers of larvae that floated with the plankton near the water's surface, while the nautilus lays a few large eggs several hundred feet beneath the surface. The deep waters were like a bomb shelter, said Ward, where generations of nautilus could live and reproduce in an environment that was relatively unaffected by the mass extinction. As cold-blooded creatures, they don't need much food and can slow their metabolism down to a crawl in tough times. "They slept through the mass extinction, like nautilus van Winkle," he said."
"Ward sees signs that the mass extinction 65 million years ago left them some room to evolve. Some started to become more complex in their shell designs, filling the niche vacated by their extinct cousins the ammonoids. DNA testing has shown that they've branched into a number of different species as populations spread out and separated."
"In recent years, the last members of the ancient nautiloid family have acquired a new, formidable enemy - fishermen. People don't want the chipped, damaged shells that wash up on beaches, said Ward. There's more money to be made from the unblemished specimens obtained by killing the animals. About half a million nautilus shells have been imported into the United States, where they're sold in gift stores... In the Philippines, a rumor is fueling even more killing, Ward said. People are claiming that the nautilus makes pearls - even selling fake "nautilus pearls" made from polished pieces of snail shells... They suffer the same problem seen in some long-lived, slow-reproducing fish: People spare the young and catch the bigger adults, which is exactly the opposite of what they should do."

'Oil spill was final straw contributing to dolphin deaths'
In the couple of months this blog has been running, there have been a few mass-deaths that have warranted investigation, this one being an example.
It turns out the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico harmed them, and damaged their food sources, resulting in compromised body condition and depressed immune response.
The large quantities of cold snowmelt runoff that fed into the Gulf through Mobile Bay pushed them 'over the brink'.

[video] If you're a fly, there can be more hazards to sex than STDs and emotional exposure -- the sounds that flies make with their wings, while copulating, are picked up by bats, and favoured during hunting.
For the bats, copulating flies present a double-sized meal, but clearly the flies survive often enough for sexual selection not to matter too much!
"Apart from decreased attention, a reduced flight response as well as an enhanced conspicuousness induces a higher risk for these winged lovers to be easy prey."
"In order to provide evidence that it is really the sound that makes the flies detectable for the bats, the researchers mounted dead, noiseless fly pairs on the shed ceiling in a position they usually take during copulation. These exhibits provide a larger reflection area for echolocation of the bats compared to a single fly. However, they were never attacked by the bats. Only when the researchers played back the copulation sounds of the flies, did the bats try to attack the loudspeakers. Accordingly Stefan Greif summarizes the results of the study in a simplistic way: "sex kills"."

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