Q:The Amazing world of bats episode on Eco Sapien was informative, fun and entertaining! Well done! Good press for the bats is what we need more of! Extremely jealous that you got to go out with Leeds Uni and see so many bats up close.
Hi! Thank you so much! A lot of my recent research has concerned bats and I certainly have a soft spot for them. I studied and work at Leeds Uni so have had the opportunity. You should contact Prof. John Altringham and ask if you can join him next year at a swarming site. Just search his name on Google. Really glad you enjoyed it!
Thanks to @wolfrinck-vonbats for the kind words!
To be poor and be without trees, is to be the most starved human being in the world. To be poor and have trees, is to be completely rich in ways that money can never buy
Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Seen the new episode yet? Have a watch, you might like it! :)
Deadly virus striking European amphibians
A virus that has slipped into several European countries is alarming herpetologists, as it ravages amphibians. A type of ranavirus (RV) is being blamed for gruesome deaths and declining populations of a wide range of species in the Picos de Europa National Park in northern Spain, according to research published today in Current Biology. “This is the best example to date of RV being a serious threat to amphibian populations,” says Karen Lips of the University of Maryland, College Park, who was not involved in the research.
The virus adds to the woes of the world’s amphibians, which have been declining at a worrying rate. A major culprit, the chytrid fungusBatrachochytrium dendrobatidis has afflicted a wide range of species since it was discovered in 1998. In particular, it has apparently driven many species of frogs extinct in the tropics. The new RV, in contrast, seems to be a problem for temperate species.
Unusual amphibian deaths in the Spanish park were first noticed in 2005. With help from Jaime Bosch of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, park biologists have kept close tabs on six common species of amphibians that live there. They’ve been seeing sick animals with necrotic tissue, open sores, and internal hemorrhages. Some vomit blood. “It’s not a pretty sight,” says Stephen Price, a molecular biologist at University College London.
In 2007, the pathogen was identified and named the common midwife toad virus (CMTV), a new kind of RV. RVs have surfaced on every continent except Africa and infect a broad range of hosts, including fish and reptiles, but it is uncommon for them to kill large numbers of individuals in more than one or two species.
That’s exactly what they are doing in Picos de Europa National Park, the new study shows. Pulling together population trends across the park, the team found that the common midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans) has been most severely affected, with populations crashing. The common toad (Bufo bufo) and the alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris) have taken a nosedive as well. Three other species, including salamanders, are susceptible, too.
When Price analyzed tissue samples from the park, he found that CMTV was the only pathogen present in the five ponds with declining populations. CMTV was absent from three other sites in the park with healthy animals. The park is relatively pristine, so other kinds of stress such as pollution are probably not to blame.
It’s not clear how the virus passed through the park gates. The various infected ponds are separated by many kilometers of rugged terrain, raising the prospect that humans rather than amphibians spread the virus within the park. “Muddy boots are about my best guess right now,” Price says.
There are other mysteries, too. Little is known about whether the virus is spreading or where it first came from. Closely related viruses have been found in China and in commercially exchanged amphibians, so trade is a possible route, which raises the odds of more introductions. “There’s a strong possibility we’re at the beginning of a broader emergence,” Price says. CMTV was implicated in deaths of more than 1000 newts and frogs in the Netherlands in 2010, infected bullfrogs in Belgium, and more recent deaths in France.
Virologists are wondering what the next chapter will bring. “I am fascinated and worried about yet another challenge to amphibians and reptiles around the world,” says Jesse Brunner, who studies RVs at Washington State University, Pullman.
Source - news.sciencemag.org
Today’s wildlife fact
Primarily famous for the komodo dragon, the Komodo island is also home to the incubator bird. This bird buries its eggs below mounds of vegetation that releases heat as it decays, meaning eggs are kept warm and safe whilst the bird is away.
Photo courtesy of James Eaton
Today’s wildlife fact!
The rougheye rockfish is a deep-sea animal of slightly unassuming appearance. Its lifespan, however, is not so ordinary: the rougheye rockfish has been known to live for more than 200 years. That means there could now be individuals at the bottom of the sea that were alive during the American Civil War, and even before the invention of the bicycle!
The People’s Climate
On the 21st September 2014, mass demonstrations took place across the world to protest excessive carbon emissions, and emphasise the catastrophic relevance of climate change. In New York, as many as 310,000 people took to the streets, led by such famous people as Leonardo Di Caprio. Across the world, similar marches took place, with as many 40,000 people marching on the Houses of Parliament in London, and 10,000 marching on the streets of Melbourne. Worldwide, the UN estimated that as many as 161 countries and 570,000 people were involved in the protests. The importance of demonstrations such as these within a functioning democracy cannot be overstated, and although detail of human environmental damage won’t be discussed here, its harrowing truth cannot realistically be denied. Having said this, it does appear that some marches adopted a slightly unconventional perspective on climate change.
On an internship on a nature reserve in South Africa, I came across one particular march that appeared to stress a very imminent demise of planet Earth: “in roughly six months, this planet will unleash a giant wall of ice across central Europe and the Northern Hemisphere”. Such apocalyptic and immediate repercussions of carbon emissions are very loosely grounded in scientific evidence, which then leads us to a very difficult problem: are scientifically incorrect climate change demonstrations actually damaging to the environmental movement?
In 2009, the story broke. A series of emails sent between senior scientists at the University of East Anglia appeared to indicate that research had been manipulated to exaggerate global warming. The scandal that followed became known as “Climategate”, which has since left an indelible mark on the climate change movement. In a paper published in 2012, Anthony Leiserowitz and a team from George Mason University examined the impact of the scandal, and found a 14% reduction in Americans that believed climate change was happening. Perhaps more broadly worrying though, are statistics concerning trust in scientists: 53% of Americans that followed the scandal closely were found to have a reduced trust in scientists. Considering other variables – a change in administration, particularly cold winter, and high unemployment – Leiserowitz appreciates that reduction in trust cannot be entirely attributed to the “Climategate” scandal, but concludes it should undoubtedly be considered a main contributing factor.
In the context of “Climategate”, it therefore becomes apparent that apocalyptic messages are actually not so helpful in championing the environmental movement; and that with a significant proportion of the global population already harbouring doubts for the validity of scientific claims, unfounded doomsaying will only bring yet more scientific scepticism.
Written by Joe Millard, 2014
Today’s wildlife fact
The greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), an African species of antelope (photo taken from Umphafa Private Nature Reserve). Did you know, the age of horned males can be approximated by the number of twists in the horns of the animal? Four years for every twist makes this ̴ 200kg individual roughly seven years old!
- Provided to us by Joe Millard