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(Bio) Mammals: Preventing Large Mammal Extinction

 
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 9:40 am    Post subject: (Bio) Mammals: Preventing Large Mammal Extinction Reply with quote






Size Matters: Preventing Large Mammal Extinction
Imperial College London
Date: 2005-07-22

Saving large mammals such as elephants and rhino from extinction could be made more effective by focusing efforts on individual species as well as their habitats.

Scientists at the Zoological Society of London's Institute of Zoology (IoZ) and Imperial College London have identified fundamental new approaches to improve the success of large mammal conservation. Published today in the journal Science, the largest study of its kind analyses key factors linked to the extinction of mammals.

"Conservation biologists have always known that large bodied mammals are at greater risk of extinction," comments Professor Georgina Mace of the IoZ, "Now we understand the mechanisms, we are able to tailor conservation programmes dependant on size, to ensure they're more effective."

The study showed that extinction risk in smaller mammals, below approximately 3kg (about the weight of a small domestic cat), is determined primarily by the size and locations of their distributions, and the human impact to which they are exposed. Larger mammals have the additional pressure of biological disadvantages such as long gestation period and late weaning age to contend with, significantly increasing their susceptibility to extinction.

"In a world dominated by people, being big is substantially more of a disadvantage than we realised, which implies that the conservation of large mammals should assume a particular urgency," said Dr Marcel Cardillo of Imperial College London.

"From a conservation policy angle, the message would be: small may be conservable but it is a little trickier for the larger mammals," commented Dr Andy Purvis of Imperial College London.

The research findings suggest smaller species, of around less than 3kg, would benefit from conservation of their habitat area, whereas, larger bodied animals require a different approach, focusing upon the specific species, their biology and their habitat.

"This understanding enables us to predict what species are most at risk in the future," said Dr Purvis. "That provides a way for conservationists to go on the front foot rather than wait for accidents to happen. We can try to work out which species are the ones we can do something for, and do some pre-emptive conservation planning. Of course, prevention is always cheaper than cure."

The research means large bodied mammals such as ungulates (which include rhino and zebra) and many primates are more likely to be predisposed to decline and extinction.

Biological traits such as low population density, slow life history, late weaning age and extended gestation in mammals above a certain size means they are evolutionarily disadvantaged in the face of human impact, compared to species of smaller size. Large mammals may therefore need a more complex conservation strategy, which takes into account their biology in combination with the external threats they face.


###
Notes to Editors
Title: 'On being the wrong size: Multiple routes to extinction for large mammal species'

Authors: Marcel Cardillo1, Georgina M. Mace 2, Kate E. Jones 3, Jon Beilby 2, Olaf R.P. Bininda-Edmonds 4, Wes Sechrest 3, C. David L. Orme 1, and Andy Purvis1.

1 Imperial College London
2 Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London
3 University of Virginia
4 Technical University of Munich

About the Zoological Society of London and the Institute of Zoology

Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: focusing on the conservation of animals and their habitats. The Institute of Zoology (IoZ) is the research division of the ZSL. It is a government-funded research institute specialising in scientific issues relevant to the conservation of animal species and their habitats. www.zsl.org

About Imperial College London

Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (10,000) and staff (5,000) of the highest international quality.

Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture. Website: www.imperial.ac.uk

*************************************************************

Questions to explore further this topic:

Here is an introduction to classification of animals:

http://www.wildanimalpark.co.u.....cation.htm

What are mammals?

http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/mammals/

What are the first mammals?

http://www.learnenglish.org.uk.....mmals.html
http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note2.asp
http://www.enchantedlearning.c.....tion.shtml

Here are some pages about some mammals:

http://worldkids.net/critters/mammals/welcome.htm

How are mammals classified?

http://www.enchantedlearning.c.....ndex.shtml

Here are some pages about large mammals:

http://animal.discovery.com/gu.....mmals.html
http://www.kenyabeasts.org.uk/six.htm
http://www.wildlife-pictures-o.....large.html
http://www.essortment.com/in/A.....e.mammals/

Here are some small mammals:

http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/SmallMammals/

What are the causes of endangerment?

http://www.endangeredspecie.co.....erment.htm

Here is a list of endangered species:

http://www.amnh.org/nationalce.....guide.html
http://endangeredearth.com/tour.cfm

The Mammals of the Philippines:

http://www.fieldmuseum.org/phi.....ammals.htm

GAMES

http://www.apples4theteacher.com/mammals.html
http://www.apples4theteacher.com/hangman.html
http://www.apples4theteacher.com/mammalws.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/an.....hallenges/
http://www.kidscom.com/games/animal/animal.html
http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Anim.....s/ForKids/
http://www.nationalgeographic......ammal.html
http://www.nationalgeographic......index.html


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 9:52 am    Post subject: One Tail Hair Reveals Elephant's Life Tale Reply with quote

One Tail Hair Reveals Elephant's Life Tale
By LAURAN NEERGAARD, Associated Press Writer
Mon Jan 2, 5:30 PM ET

Lewis had gourmet taste: Whenever the dry season browned grass in his Kenyan sanctuary, he'd abandon the other elephants and race 25 miles to the mountains — to raid farmers' corn fields under cover of night. A foot-long hair plucked from his tail, and GPS technology, tell the tale.

It's a new way to track elephants' dietary needs and roaming habits that scientists hope ultimately could help the endangered species survive, information key to minimizing conflicts between pachyderms and people.

Indeed, Lewis' roaming cost him his life. Shortly after the research ended, he was found shot to death, presumably by a farmer tired of the crop-raiding.

"Part of the problem with the elephant is, we need to know how much space they really need," explained geochemist Thure Cerling of the University of Utah, who led the research reported Monday in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Why do they need a particular space? Could we manage the parks to make them work better for them?"

Shrinking living space, as more people move into lands they once freely foraged, and poaching for ivory threaten elephant populations worldwide. But populations vary widely by country. South Africa, Namibia and Botwswana, for example, have booming herds. In contrast, Kenya and certain other African countries are struggling to increase decimated elephant populations.

Because elephants are so large and eat so much, a key question for conservationists is how to designate officially protected areas suitable enough to their needs that they won't roam toward encroaching human settlements.

"Elephants need to find food and water, but also to avoid danger, seek safety and to make social contact with other elephants," explained Iain Douglas-Hamilton of the Save the Elephants Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya. "Understanding elephant motivation defines their needs, and understanding these can help secure a future for the species."

Enter the hair study.

Hair is "like a tape recorder," Cerling said, harboring for long periods traces of dietary chemicals.

He gathered hair from the tails of 35 elephants in Kenya's Samburu National Reserve to analyze for long-lasting forms, called "stable isotopes," of carbon and nitrogen that would appear when an elephant ate mostly grass, trees or some other plant. He matched that testing to Save the Elephants' tracking, using Global Positioning System technology, of elephant movements.

Among the first seven elephants tested, 40-year-old Lewis was the wild guy. During the rainy season, he stayed in Samburu with his fellow pachyderms and ate the plentiful grass.

When the dry season hit and the grass died, the other pachyderms started munching bushes and trees. But Lewis bolted for Mount Kenya's thick Imenti Forest — he could make the 25-mile trek in just 15 hours, an elephant phenomenon called streaking. There, he'd munch bushes or trees by day and raid for corn by night.

Tracking elephant movements suggests the intelligent mammals do know where their protected habitats end, but some still risk human contact to find higher quality food, said Douglas-Hamilton, whose earlier research helped lead to the 1989 international ivory ban.

Bulls in particular are prone to such forays, because the better diet can help their quest for a mate.

More hair sampling, now under way, should help scientists determine how much of certain plants elephants need in their diet, and exactly when they start foraging for them, he said. That data should help conservationists' not only better plan elephant sanctuaries, but help local communities find ways to minimize crop damage when bulls like Lewis decide to roam.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 2:17 pm    Post subject: Whales Found to Speak in Dialects Reply with quote

Whales Found to Speak in Dialects
By Bjorn Carey
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 03 January 2006
08:27 am ET

Some whale species sing in different dialects depending on where they're from, a new study shows.

Blue whales off the Pacific Northwest sound different than blue whales in the western Pacific Ocean, and these sound different than those living off Antarctica.

And they all sound different than the blue whales living near Chile.

"The whales in the eastern Pacific have a very low-pitched pulsed sounds, followed by a tone," said David Mellinger of Oregon State University. "Other populations use different combinations of pulses, tones, and pitches."

Using newly developed underwater microphones called autonomous hydrophones, Mellinger and his colleagues recorded the cacophonous symphony of whale clicks, pulses, and calls throughout the Pacific Ocean.

The hydrophones—which can be deployed independently rather than the Navy's Sound Surveillance System—were developed to listen for earthquakes. But researchers soon realized that they were picking up the sounds of right whales from 25 miles away, and even farther if the water is shallow and the terrain is even.

Researchers also heard the calls of critically endangered North Pacific right whales and sperm whales in the Gulf of Alaska. Many of the sperm whales were detected during the winter—nearly twice as many as in the summer—indicating a surprisingly active "off-season" population that scientists had never known.

"There are a handful of records of people spotting sperm whales in the region—and they're all in the summer," Mellinger said. "The Gulf of Alaska is not a place you want to be in the winter. But apparently, sperm whales don't mind."

Researchers don't know why whales around the world sound differently.

"The difference is really striking, but we don't know if it is tied to genetics, or some other reason," Mellinger said. "We don't know if they are part of a common ‘language' that different populations of whales use to communicate with each other, or if they come from a confused juvenile who hasn't completely learned the complexities of communicating."

The researchers plan to deploy three more hydrophones near a series of long-duration NOAA moorings in the Bering Sea this spring. They plan to analyze possible connections between the appearance of whales and current conditions.

The results from this and other acoustic surveys could help produce more sophisticated surveys that could allow scientists to provide data in near-real time.

The research is detailed in the January issue of the journal BioScience.

*************************************************************

Whales are mammals
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2006 10:30 pm    Post subject: Wildlife Officials Relocating Kenya Rhinos Reply with quote

Wildlife Officials Relocating Kenya Rhinos
By RODRIQUE NGOWI, Associated Press Writer
14 January 2006

Wildlife officials used a small plane, a helicopter and hunters on foot to track down and dart endangered rhinos with tranquilizers Saturday, the latest attempt to capture and relocate some of the animals from oldest Kenya's oldest park.

Conservation workers targeted four black rhinos from the Nairobi National Park during an operation that began early Saturday at the sanctuary on the outskirts of Kenya's capital. The animals were being moved because their population had grown beyond the park's capacity, said Martin Mulama, the Kenya Wildlife Service Rhino Program Coordinator.

The relocation is also intended to restore wildlife diversity in the Meru Conservation Area, where 33 rhinos are being taken.

The rhinoceros population has declined by 90 percent since 1970, with five species remaining in the world today, all of which are endangered. The white and black rhinos are the only species left in Africa, according to the Africa Wildlife Foundation.

The rhino is threatened by people seeking its horn for use in folk medicine and high-priced ornaments and jewelry, although it is not a true horn — it is made of thickly matted hair that grows from the skull without skeletal support.

Rhino relocation is considered an effective method of managing the population. An estimated 200 black rhinos have been relocated to and between Kenya's rhino conservation areas in the past 20 years, officials said.

Wildlife officials are using ultrasound for the first time to determine whether female rhinos are pregnant and so whether they can be transported safely to Meru.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2006 8:21 am    Post subject: Drought, anthrax threaten rare zebra with extinction Reply with quote

Drought, anthrax threaten rare zebra with extinction
Agence France Presse
22 January 2006

Outbreaks of deadly anthrax exacerbated by a searing drought that has hit east Africa has killed scores of rare Grevy's zebras in Kenya and is threatening the endangered species with extinction, wildlife officials and scientists have said.

The zebras, known for their narrow stripes and large ears, are dying of anthrax at an alarming rate in the scrub-peppered, sprawling plains in and around Kenya's central Samburu National Reserve, one of their last remaining habitats, and more are feared to have perished further north, they said.

"They have died in the dozens in the northern part of the reserve and their carcasses are littered all over," said Fred Perezo Sunday, who administers Samburu for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). "They face extinction."

Fewer than 5,000 Grevy's zebras are believed to live in the wild, nearly all of them in the vicinity of Samburu, about 230 kilometers (145 miles) north of Nairobi, and further north towards Kenya's border with Ethiopia.

The region is one of the worst-affected by the drought that has killed at least 40 people, threatens millions with famine, decimated livestock herds and placed Kenya's famed world-reknowned wildlife at risk.

In addition to drying up watering holes and making food scarce, the drought has stirred up naturally occuring anthrax spores from the parched earth, which are now exacting a heavy toll on the Grevy's zebra, a species less hardy than its mountain and plain cousins, officials said.

According to a report prepared by KWS and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), an acute form of equine anthrax began appearing in animals around Samburu in December as the zebras began mixing with livestock in competition for dwindling water and pasture.

In the course of one week in early December, seven Grevy's zebras were found dead in the reserve and many of their carcasses indicated that blood had oozed from their body orifices before death, a characteristic of anthrax, it said.

"It is very unusual for this species to die in large numbers," the AWF said, warning that immediate steps needed to be taken to prevent the anthrax from spreading.

Since that report was issued in late December, many more Grevy's zebras have died, according to Perezo who said urgent action was needed to remove and destroy their anthrax-contaminated carcasses in order to reduce the chance of other animal and human infection.

"The carcasses are increasing the chances of transmission of the disease," he told AFP.

Conservationists say the Grevy's zebra population has decreased from 15,000 in 1970 to less than 5,000 that currently live in arid habitats in northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia and western Somalia.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 8:13 am    Post subject: Orang-utan study Reply with quote

Orang-utan study
Source: Cardiff University

Posted: January 31, 2006


A three year genetic study by wildlife geneticists from Cardiff School of Biosciences has shown a population collapse in the Bornean orang-utan.

The population has declined up to one hundred fold since the late 19th Century, coinciding with the arrival of colonial powers on the island of Borneo and accelerated timber extraction. The research is among the first to link species decline with colonial deforestation, as opposed to when humans first appeared in the region.

"This is the first time that an alarming and recent human related decline of a great ape population has been demonstrated using genetic data," said Dr Benoît Goossens, Cardiff School of Biosciences.

"The research used a new, innovative analysis that meant we could distinguish between population decline that happened thousands of years ago and much more recently".

The team of researchers sampled the faeces from two hundred orang-utans in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, northern Borneo and DNA profiling was used to discover the most likely history of the population that would give rise to their genetic profiles.

"It is clear that the remaining population of Orang-utans in Sabah is a very small fraction of what originally existed, and more importantly, if the decline continues at the same speed, the population will be extinct within a few decades," said Dr Goossens.

Normally the genetic effects of recent events such as colonial deforestation would be obscured by ancient demographic events. However, humans have so devastated orang-utan populations that the genetic signature of the recent bottleneck may have overshadowed any previous population fluctuations.

"The results of the study underscores the need to act now to protect the long term survival of the species. The animals still possess enough genetic diversity to stabilise if immediate action is taken to halt further decline", said Professor Michael Bruford, Cardiff School of Biosciences, who led the study.

The Cardiff University team is working with its partners in Sabah and the local government to set up an effective conservation programme that will identify mechanisms for local and regional economic development that includes the protection of orang-utan habitat.

The groundbreaking findings are published in the top ranking international biology journal, PLoS Biology, and have attracted widespread media coverage, including in The Western Mail, The Times, The Guardian, and BBC.

The study was carried out by Cardiff School of Biosciences, together with the Sabah Wildlife Department, the Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project and the Univesiti Malaysia, Sabah. The research was funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair’s Darwin Initiative.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 7:09 am    Post subject: Top 20 Most-vulnerable African Carnivores Reply with quote

Source: Wildlife Conservation Society

Posted: February 2, 2006

From Lions To Honey Badgers: Report Lists Top 20 Most-vulnerable African Carnivores

It may still be "king of the beasts," but the African lion's kingdom is dwindling, according to a new report released by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) that says these emblematic big cats have disappeared from 82 percent of their historic distribution over the past several decades. The 200-page report looked at the conservation status of the 20 largest species of African carnivores and examined priorities to help ensure that they persist on the continent.

WCS scientists ranked all 20 species using a variety of external factors, from the state of current knowledge on the species, to the threats facing each of them. They also looked at which areas in Africa have retained their full complement of large carnivore species and which areas need more conservation action.

Populations of the lion, listed in the report as "most vulnerable" have dropped steadily in recent decades, primarily due to conflicts with humans, destruction of habitat, and the loss of prey, according to the report. Also making the most-vulnerable list are cheetahs and African wild dogs, which have vanished from 75 and 89 percent of their historical habitat respectively, and Ethiopian wolves which have vanished from an astonishing 98 percent of their range. Other species of concern included the leopard, spotted hyena, and golden cat, all of which suffer from the combined key threats of habitat loss and conflict with people over predation on domestic animals.

By contrast, a handful of species seem to thrive among humans, including the African civet and several species of jackals. While these species also prey on livestock and poultry, their adaptability to a variety of habitats makes them less vulnerable to long-term population declines. Little was known about the conservation status of other species such as the aardwolf and honey badger and the report calls for greater research effort on these little-known carnivores.

The authors of the report say that while such well-known species as lions enjoy a relative wealth of conservation and research-based initiatives, there still remains a range-wide lack of knowledge of many carnivores. In addition, many research programs are geographically biased toward East and Southern Africa, sometimes at odds with the urgent need for increased conservation action in other parts of Africa.

"Africa is world famous for its variety of carnivore species from lions to hyenas," said Dr. Luke Hunter a co-author, who also runs WCS's Global Carnivore Program. "These animals play a key role in the health of ecosystems, and represent all that is wild about Africa. This report lays out a framework for conservationists to better understand both the threats facing these animals, and the conservation action needed to ensure their survival."
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 6:20 pm    Post subject: Fossil Overturns Ideas of Jurassic Mammals Reply with quote

Fossil Overturns Ideas of Jurassic Mammals
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer
23 February 2006

The discovery of a furry, beaver-like animal that lived at the time of dinosaurs has overturned more than a century of scientific thinking about Jurassic mammals.

The find shows that the ecological role of mammals in the time of dinosaurs was far greater than previously thought, said Zhe-Xi Luo, curator of vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

The animal is the earliest swimming mammal to have been found and was the most primitive mammal to be preserved with fur, which is important to helping keep a constant body temperature, Luo said in a telephone interview.

For over a century, the stereotype of mammals living in that era has been of tiny, shrew-like creatures scurrying about in the underbrush trying to avoid the giant creatures that dominated the planet, Luo commented.

Now, a research team that included Luo has found that 164 million years ago, the newly discovered mammal with a flat, scaly tail like a beaver, vertebra like an otter and teeth like a seal was swimming in lakes and eating fish.

The team, led by Qiang Ji of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing, discovered the remains in the Inner Mongolia region of China. They report their findings in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

Matthew Carrano, curator of dinosaurs at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, called the find "a big deal."

An important factor is how specialized the creature was, said Carrano, who was not part of the research group.

"It gives a hint that early mammals were not just these shadowy creatures at the time of dinosaurs" but were having their own evolution. There have been hints of such animals in the past but nothing equal to the remains found by Luo and colleagues, he said.

Thomas Martin of the Research Institute Senckenberg in Frankfurt, Germany, said the discovery pushes back the mammal conquest of the waters by more than 100 million years.

"This exciting fossil is a further jigsaw puzzle piece in a series of recent discoveries," commented Martin, who was not part of Luo's team.

It's the first evidence that some ancient mammals were semi-aquatic, indicating a greater diversification than previously thought, the researchers said.

Modern semi-aquatic mammals such as beavers and otters and aquatic mammals like whales did not appear until between 55 million years ago and 25 million years ago, according to the researchers.

The new animal is not related to modern beavers or otters but has features similar to them. Thus the researchers named it Castorocauda lutrasimilis. Castoro from the Latin for beaver, cauda for tail, lutra for river otter and similis meaning similar.

The researchers found imprints of the fur, both guard hairs and short, dense under fur that would have kept water from the skin.

Weighing in at between 1.1 and 1.7 pounds, about the size of a small female platypus, Castorocauda is also the largest known Jurassic early mammal.

The research was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Ministry of Science and Technology of China, Chinese Ministry of Land Resources, National Geographic Society and Carnegie Museum.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 11:51 am    Post subject: WWF Captures First-Ever Photo of Wild Rhino on Borneo Reply with quote

WWF Captures First-Ever Photo of Wild Rhino on Borneo
For Release: 06/13/2006

WWF

Washington - A motion-triggered camera trap set up in a remote jungle has captured the first-ever photo of a rhino in the wild on the island of Borneo, World Wildlife Fund and the Sabah Wildlife Department announced today.

For the full article and illustration:

http://www.worldwildlife.org/n.....m?prID=288
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 4:35 pm    Post subject: Even Elephants Can't Move Mountains, So They Avoid Them Reply with quote

Even Elephants Can't Move Mountains, So They Avoid Them

By LiveScience Staff

posted: 24 July 2006
12:05 pm ET

Even a small hill can mean a big expenditure of energy for an elephant.

So they avoid slopes, a new study suggests.

Researchers used the Global Positioning System (GPS) to track elephants in northern Kenya, in a region where some 5,400 of the pachyderms roam. They found that elephant density dropped off significantly with increasing hill slopes.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani.....mbing.html
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2006 8:16 am    Post subject: Killer Whales Settle Disputes Like Humans Reply with quote

Killer Whales Settle Disputes Like Humans

By Jeanna Bryner
Special to LiveScience
posted: 23 August 2006
12:05 am ET



Whether it's a blowout argument or a dinner-table disagreement, a spat with your lover can be trying. Humans have of course devised ways of making up, including tight hugs and the customary apology flowers.

Killer whales have their own tricks for mending relations, a new study finds. Rather than a bouquet, however, they might opt for an intimate swim.

Studies have shown that chimpanzees kiss and hug after a dispute, and other primates such as bonobos resort to sexual activity to resolve conflicts. Until now, reconciliatory behavior had not been shown in any marine mammal.

For the past five years, Michael Noonan, a psychologist and specialist in animal behavior at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, has been studying the captive killer whales at the theme park Marineland of Canada in Niagara Falls, Ontario. To learn more about orca social behavior, Noonan videotaped a group of captive killer whales for a total of 2,800 hours.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani....._hugs.html
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 8:13 am    Post subject: Northwestern biologists demote Southeast Asia's 'forest ox' Reply with quote

Northwestern University
15 Septermber 2006

Northwestern biologists demote Southeast Asia's 'forest ox'

EVANSTON, Ill. -- It was one of the most famous discoveries of the 20th century. Shrouded in mystery since its recognition as a new species in 1937, the kouprey -- an ox with dramatic, curving horns -- has been an icon of Southeast Asian conservation. Feared extinct, it's been the object of perilous expeditions to the region's jungles by adventurers, scientists and journalists.

Now, in a paper published by the Journal of Zoology (London), Northwestern University biologists and a Cambodian conservationist present compelling genetic evidence that the kouprey may never have existed as a wild, natural species.

The researchers compared a published DNA sequence from the kouprey with sequences obtained from a true Cambodian wild ox, the banteng. The researchers had predicted, based on a study of kouprey anatomy, that the kouprey was a hybrid form and would show mitochondrial DNA similar to that of the banteng. The prediction was confirmed by their analysis.

The kouprey, which is now the national animal of Cambodia, may have originated as a domestic hybrid, between banteng and zebu cattle, that later became wild. ("Kouprey" means "forest ox" in the Khmer language.)

"The kouprey has acquired a rather romantic, exotic reputation," said Gary J. Galbreath, senior author of the paper and associate director of Northwestern's Program in Biological Sciences. "Some people would understandably be sad to see it dethroned as a species."

But, added Galbreath, "It is surely desirable not to waste time and money trying to locate or conserve a domestic breed gone wild. The limited funds available for conservation should be used to protect wild species." Galbreath has been traveling to Southeast Asia studying its animals since 1999.

Ironically, Galbreath initially began his work in Southeast Asia in hopes of identifying a new species of bear. It turned out to be an undescribed golden color phase of the moon bear. He also was involved in the debunking of another alleged new species of hoofed animal, the "khting vor," that was only known to science from specimens of its horns. Galbreath and others showed that these horns were the work of human artisans -- the "khting vor" was a fake.

Instead of finding new species, Galbreath said, "I've been involved in showing that two named species of large mammal may never have existed as such." But, he notes, "In the end, good science is about what is true, not what is desired to be true."

Galbreath hopes the paper will serve to focus conservation time, dollars and attention on real species that need saving. "The definitely real wild oxen of mainland Southeast Asia -- Banteng, Gaur, wild Water Buffalo -- could soon become extinct if more is not done to protect them from rampant poaching," Galbreath said. "I hope that the publicity from the kouprey story can help make people aware of this problem."

###
The other authors of the paper are John C. Mordacq, lecturer in the Program in Biological Sciences at Northwestern, and F. Hunter Weiler, a conservationist with the Wildlife Protection Office of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 9:36 pm    Post subject: 'Missing Link' of Elephant Family Unearthed Reply with quote

'Missing Link' of Elephant Family Unearthed

By Jeanna Bryner
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 01 November 2006
05:03 pm ET

A 27-million-year-old fossil could be the “missing link” between modern elephants and their ancestors, scientists have concluded.

Researchers led by Jeheskel Shoshani of the University of Amara in Eritrea recently discovered the lower part of a mandible in the northeast African country of Eritrea. The unearthed tooth had a structure intermediate in shape between modern and ancient elephants.

“This is really pointing toward the Horn of Africa as being a real hot bed for the evolution of elephants,” said study team member William Sanders of the Museum of Paleontology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The new species, named Eritreum melakeghebrekristosi, is estimated to have been 1,067 pounds heavy and about 4.2 feet tall at the shoulder. This is far smaller than modern elephants, the researchers note this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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http://www.livescience.com/ani....._link.html
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:35 am    Post subject: Scientists Scramble to Save Elephants as Black Market Ivory Reply with quote

Scientists Scramble to Save Elephants as Black Market Ivory Trade Soars

By Robin Lloyd
LiveScience Senior Editor
posted: 26 February 2007
01:58 pm ET

The illegal trade in elephant ivory is growing again at an alarming pace due to organized crime, but new research estimating the geographic origin of "the Singapore seizure," 6.5 tons of contraband tusks, points to a plan to prevent African pachyderm extinction.

Elephants are hunted for their meat and their tusks—a business that has become especially lucrative in the past few years.

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http://www.livescience.com/ani.....ambia.html
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:19 am    Post subject: Paleontologists discover new mammal from Mesozoic Era Reply with quote

National Science Foundation
14 March 2007

Paleontologists discover new mammal from Mesozoic Era

Animals shows intermediate ear structure in evolution of modern mammals
An international team of American and Chinese paleontologists has discovered a new species of mammal that lived 125 million years ago during the Mesozoic Era, in what is now the Hebei Province in China.

The new mammal, documented in the March 15 issue of the journal Nature, provides first-hand evidence of early evolution of the mammalian middle ear--one of the most important features for all modern mammals. The discovery was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

"This early mammalian ear from China is a rosetta-stone type of discovery which reinforces the idea that development of complex body parts can be explained by evolution, using exquisitely preserved fossils," said H. Richard Lane, program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences, which co-funded the discovery with NSF's Division of Environmental Biology and its Assembling the Tree of Life (AToL) program.

Named Yanoconodon allini after the Yan Mountains in Hebei, the fossil was unearthed in the fossil-rich beds of the Yixian Formation and is the first Mesozoic mammal recovered from Hebei. The fossil site is about 300 kilometers outside of Beijing.

The researchers discovered that the skull of Yanoconodon revealed a middle ear structure that is an intermediate step between those of modern mammals and those of near relatives of mammals, also known as mammaliaforms.

"This new fossil offers a rare insight in the evolutionary origin of the mammalian ear structure," said Zhe-Xi Luo, a paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) in Pittsburgh, Pa. "Evolution of the ear is important for understanding the origins of key mammalian adaptations."

Mammals have highly sensitive hearing, far better than the hearing capacity of all other vertebrates, scientists have found. Consequently, paleontologists and evolutionary biologists have been searching for more than a century for clues to the evolutionary origins of mammal ear structure.

Mammalian hearing adaptation is made possible by a sophisticated middle ear of three tiny bones, known as the hammer (malleus), the anvil (incus) and the stirrup (stapes), plus a bony ring for the eardrum (tympanic membrane).

The mammal middle ear bones evolved from the bones of the jaw hinge in their reptilian relatives. However, paleontologists long have attempted to understand the evolutionary pathway via which these precursor jaw bones became separated from the jaw and moved into the middle ear of modern mammals.

"Now we have a definitive piece of evidence, in a beautifully preserved fossil split on two rock slabs," said Luo. "Yanoconodon clearly shows an intermediate condition in the evolutionary process of how modern mammals acquired their middle ear structure."

Yanoconodon is about 5 inches (or 15 cm) long and estimated to weigh about 30 grams. Its teeth are notable for the three cusps in a straight line on molars (thus known as a triconodont) for feeding on insects and worms. It has a long body, short and sprawling limbs and claws that were ideal for either digging or living on the ground.

In addition to its unique ear structure, Yanoconodon also has a surprisingly high number of 26 thoracic ("chest") and lumbar ("waist") vertebrae, unlike most living and extinct terrestrial mammals that commonly have 19 or 20 thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. The extra vertebrae give Yanoconodon a more elongated body form, in contrast to its relatively shorter and very primitive limb and foot structures. The new mammal also has lumbar ribs, a rare feature among modern mammals.

"The discoveries of exquisitely preserved Mesozoic mammals from China have built the evidence such that biologists and paleontologists are able to make sense of how developmental mechanisms have impacted the morphological evolution of the earliest mammals," said Luo.

###
The article is authored by Luo and his collaborators, Peiji Chen and Gang Li of Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, China, and graduate student Meng Chen of Nanjing University.

The researchers also received support from the National Natural Science Foundation (China), Ministry of Science and Technology (China), and National Geographic Society.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $5.58 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 1,700 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes nearly 10,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Receive official NSF news electronically through the e-mail delivery and notification system, MyNSF (formerly the Custom News Service). To subscribe, visit http://www.nsf.gov/mynsf/ and fill in the information under "new users".

Useful NSF Web Sites: NSF Home Page: http://www.nsf.gov NSF News: http://www.nsf.gov/news/ For the News Media: http://www.nsf.gov/news/newsroom.jsp Science and Engineering Statistics: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ Awards Searches: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 9:18 am    Post subject: Rise of Modern Mammals Occurred Long After Dinosaur Demise Reply with quote

Rise of Modern Mammals Occurred Long After Dinosaur Demise

By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 28 March 2007
01:02 pm ET

The giant asteroid that slammed into Earth 65 million years ago might have marked the beginning of the end for dinosaurs, but it was a mere speed bump in the evolution of modern mammals.

That is the conclusion of a new landmark study, detailed in the March 29 issue of the journal Nature, which maps the evolutionary relationships among nearly all mammals alive today.

The findings challenge a popular claim that the dinosaurs’ demise was what allowed the ancestors of modern mammals to stop cowering in the shadows of "terrible lizards" and flourish.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani.....rsity.html
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 6:43 am    Post subject: Elephants Slaughtered along 'Highways of Death' Reply with quote

Elephants Slaughtered along 'Highways of Death'

By Jeanna Bryner
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 02 April 2007
08:26 pm ET

Roads that now penetrate into the heart of Africa’s jungles are making it easier for ivory poachers to kill large numbers of forest elephants, a new study finds.

The elephants that do survive are being forced to turn tail and retreat to protected parks and spots not yet encroached upon by humans.

“Unmanaged roads are highways of death for forest elephants,” said lead author Stephen Blake, a biologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York.

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http://www.livescience.com/ani.....eaths.html
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:13 am    Post subject: Marine scientists monitor longest mammal migration Reply with quote

NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service
9 April 2007

Marine scientists monitor longest mammal migration

So you think you have a long commute?
MOSS LANDING, Calif. -- Marine scientists recently published a research paper in the science journal, biology letters, that found humpback whales migrate over 5,100 miles from Central America to their feeding grounds off Antarctica; a record distance undertaken by any mammal.

Kristin Rasmussen, a biologist with Cascadia Research Collective, and lead author in the study, finds the record-breaking migration interesting, but is most pleased that the study validates a long held assumption that humpback whales travel to warm water areas during the winter.

"It was very exciting because for years everyone said humpback whales could be found in warmer waters during the winter months, but this was the first time we were actually able to quantify this on a global scale, and relate it to these long distance migrations" said Rasmussen.

Researchers conducted the survey by identifying individual humpback whales on their wintering area off Central America, and then comparing these with whales identified on their feeding areas off Antarctica. Identification of individual whales is accomplished by comparing a unique set of markings on their fluke, like a "fingerprint," with a catalog of photographs held by the Antarctic Humpback Whale Catalog at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine.

The scientists found some humpbacks traveling from Antarctica across the equator to as far north as Costa Rica to overwinter, a distance of approximately 8,300 kilometers or about 5,157 miles. The authors noticed that the presence of cold water along the equator coincided with the occurrence of this northerly wintering area, not only in the eastern Pacific, where the Central American whales were studied, but also in the eastern Atlantic, where another southern hemisphere humpback whale population can be found north of the equator during winter.

Daniel Palacios, an oceanographer working out of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center laboratory in Pacific Grove, Calif., correlated sea-surface temperature with the whale migration by using data collected from satellites and distributed by the National Oceanographic Data Center.

"This study was possible thanks to the availability of reliable, high-resolution sea-surface temperature data collection that cover even the most remote regions of the globe," said Palacios.

###
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

NOAA Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living marine resources and their habitat through scientific research, management and enforcement. NOAA Fisheries Service provides effective stewardship of these resources for the benefit of the nation, supporting coastal communities that depend upon them, and helping to provide safe and healthy seafood to consumers and recreational opportunities for the American public. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries Service, please visit: www.nmfs.noaa.gov.

On the web:

"Southern Hemisphere humpback whales wintering off Central America: Insights from water temperature into the longest mammalian migration":

https://vmail4.nems.noaa.gov/attach/rasmussen_megaptera_central_america_rsbl.pdf

NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov

NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center: http://swfsc.noaa.gov

NOAA’s National Oceanographic Data Center: http://www.nodc.noaa.gov

Cascadia Research Collective: http://www.cascadiaresearch.org

College of the Atlantic: http://www.coa.edu/html/home.htm

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories: http://www.mlml.calstate.edu

Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research: http://uhslc.soest.hawaii.edu/JIMAR
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2007 7:45 am    Post subject: Amur leopard still on the brink of extinction, scientists sa Reply with quote

World Wildlife Fund
18 April 2007

Amur leopard still on the brink of extinction, scientists say



Vladivostok, Russia -- A new census of the world’s most endangered cat, the Amur or Far Eastern leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), shows that as few as 25 to 34 are left in the wild, renewing fears for the future of the species.

In February and March, World Wildlife Fund along with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Pacific Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Science, conducted a routine snow-track census of leopard numbers.

"The recent census confirmed once again that the Amur leopard survives on very shaky ground," said Pavel Fomenko, biodiversity conservation program coordinator at the Far-Eastern branch of WWF in Russia.

Fomenko said encroaching civilization, new roads, poaching, exploitation of forests, and climate change had contributed to the leopards’ plight.

"From my perspective, the leopards’ exact number is not the big question." Fomenko said, "What is really important is that the predator is on the brink of extinction. And still a unified protected area with national park status has not been established, which is the most important thing for the leopards’ survival."

At least four leopard litters were encountered during the census. This is a good sign because it means that the population is not completely depressed and is still able to restore itself. But for long-term survival, at least 100 animals are needed.

"Conservation of large predators needs vast territories with minimal anthropogenic changes, which is difficult," said Dr. Dmitry Pikunov, the coordinator of the 2007 leopard census and head of the laboratory of animal ecology and conservation of the Pacific Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Science.

According to Dr Pikunov, a mature leopard needs 500 square kilometers of habitat with good forests and high and stable amounts of ungulates, including deer. Two to four female leopards would live in the same amount of land, reproduce and nourish their cubs.

"Maybe this is the reason why leopards practically completely disappeared from the Korean Peninsula and north-east China," said Dr. Pikunov. "At the beginning of the past century, the Far Eastern leopard was a common species in the southern parts of Sikhote-Alin and in some Khanka lake areas. Right now it roams only in south-west Primorye."

About 5000 square kilometers of land in the south-west Primorye region, close to the border between Russia, China and North Korea, were transected for the census and tracks left by the leopards in the snow were counted. Scientists were able to determine the number of the leopards by examining the shape, size and patterns of the tracks as well as determine the direction and time of the animals’ movement.

In all, 35 field workers took part in the census, working in more than 158 transected sections.

"The snow track census is an important method to monitor leopard numbers. We see that its population has been balancing on the edge of survival for many years," said Dr. Dale Miquelle, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Russia program and coordinator of the previous census in 2005.

"But to understand the reasons, we should research the ecology of the predator in a more profound way, using latest techniques such as automatic camera traps, radio tracking, genetic and veterinary research."

The census 2007 found 7-9 male leopards, 3-7 females without cubs, 4 females with cubs, 5-6 cubs in all, and 6-8 undefined tracks. Total: 25-34.

This compares with 9 males in 2003, 7 females without cubs, 4-5 females with cubs, 4-5 cubs in all, and four undefined. Total: 28-30.

In 2000, the results were 4-5 males, 8-9 females without cubs, 1-2 females with cubs, 1-3 cubs in all and 8-9 undefined. Total: 22-28.

###
Known in the United States as World Wildlife Fund and recognized worldwide by its panda logo, WWF leads international efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats and to conserve the diversity of life on Earth. Now in its fifth decade, WWF, the global conservation organization, works in more than 100 countries around the world. For more information on World Wildlife Fund, visit http://www.worldwildlife.org
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:43 am    Post subject: Threats to wild tigers growing Reply with quote

American Institute of Biological Sciences
1 June 2007

Threats to wild tigers growing

The animal's range is decreasing, but successful programs point to ways to protect the species
The wild tiger now occupies a mere 7 percent of its historic range, and the area known to be inhabited by tigers has declined by 41 percent over the past decade, according to an article published in the June 2007 issue of BioScience. Growing trade in folk medicines made from tiger parts and tiger skins, along with habitat loss and fragmentation, is believed to be the chief reason for the losses. The assessment, by Eric Dinerstein of the World Wildlife Fund and 15 coauthors, describes the wild tiger's population trajectory as "catastrophic" and urges international cooperation to ensure the animal's continued existence in the wild.

Despite the discouraging numbers--there are believed to be only about 5,000 wild tigers left--some conservation programs have been successful. Dinerstein and his coauthors highlight a program in the Terai-Arc Landscape of northwestern India and southern Nepal as a notable victory. The scheme features wildlife corridors that connect 12 reserves. Tiger conservation efforts have also been successful in the Russian Far East. Many tiger reserves in the India, in contrast, have been mismanaged and have failed to protect the animals, according to the article.

Plans to make use of tiger parts harvested from farmed tigers in China represent an emerging threat, the authors argue. Any trade in tiger parts encourages poaching, because products made from animals farmed at great expense cannot be distinguished from products made from wild tigers.

Because tigers must be able to roam over large areas, long-term conservation of the species will need planning that involves religious and civic leaders as well as national and local governments. International cooperation among nations that harbor the animal will also be essential. Dinerstein and his coauthors conclude by recommending that these countries appoint "tiger ambassadors" to advocate for the species, step up efforts to prosecute poachers, and provide economic incentives to encourage conservation.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2007 7:33 am    Post subject: Koalas, Up Close and Personal Reply with quote

Koalas, Up Close and Personal
Emily Sohn

June 27, 2007

Koalas are, hands down, the cutest animals I've ever seen in the wild. With fluffy fur, pudgy bodies, round eyes, and wisps of spiky hair sprouting from behind their ears, koalas look like teddy bears with attitude.

Every time I saw a koala during my recent trip to Australia, I pulled out my camera and started clicking. And I'm not alone in my fascination for these cuddly-looking creatures.

For the full article:

http://www.sciencenewsforkids......ature1.asp
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2007 7:55 am    Post subject: Report: African, Asian, Latin American farm animals face ext Reply with quote

CGIAR
3 September 2007

Report: African, Asian, Latin American farm animals face extinction

Scientists call for rapid establishment of livestock genebanks to conserve indigenous breeds
INTERLAKEN, SWITZERLAND (3 SEPTEMBER 2007)—With the world’s first global inventory of farm animals showing many breeds of African, Asian, and Latin American livestock at risk of extinction, scientists from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) today called for the rapid establishment of genebanks to conserve the sperm and ovaries of key animals critical for the global population’s future survival.

An over-reliance on just a few breeds of a handful of farm animal species, such as high-milk-yielding Holstein-Friesian cows, egg-laying White Leghorn chickens, and fast-growing Large White pigs, is causing the loss of an average of one livestock breed every month according to a recently released report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The black-and-white Holstein-Friesian dairy cow, for example, is now found in 128 countries and in all regions of the world. An astonishing 90 percent of cattle in industrialized countries come from only six very tightly defined breeds.

The report, “The State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources,” compiled by FAO, with contributions by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other research groups, surveyed farm animals in 169 countries. Nearly 70 percent of the entire world’s remaining unique livestock breeds are found in developing countries, according to the report, which was presented to over 300 policy makers, scientists, breeders, and livestock keepers at the First International Technical Conference on Animal Genetic Resources, held in Interlaken, Switzerland, from 3-7 September 2007.

“Valuable breeds are disappearing at an alarming rate,” said Carlos Seré, Director General of ILRI. “In many cases we will not even know the true value of an existing breed until it’s already gone. This is why we need to act now to conserve what’s left by putting them in genebanks.”

In a keynote speech at the scientific forum on the opening day of the Interlaken conference, Seré called for the rapid establishment of genebanks in Africa as one of four practical steps to better characterize, use, and conserve the genetic basis of farm animals for the livestock production systems around the world.

“This is a major step in the right direction,” said Seré. “The international community is beginning to appreciate the seriousness of this loss of livestock genetic diversity. FAO is leading inter-governmental processes to better manage these resources. These negotiations will take time to bear fruit. Meanwhile, some activities can be started now to help save breeds that are most at risk.”

ILRI, whose mission is poverty reduction through livestock research for development, helps countries and regions save their specially adapted breeds for future food security, environmental sustainability, and human development.

Industrialized countries built their economies significantly through livestock production and there is no indication that developing countries will be any different. Worldwide today, one billion people are involved in animal farming and 70 percent of the rural poor depend on livestock as an important part of their livelihoods. “For the foreseeable future,” says Seré, “farm animals will continue to create means for hundreds of millions of people to escape absolute poverty.”

In recent years, many of the world’s smallholder farmers abandoned their traditional animals in favor of higher yielding stock imported from Europe and the US. For example, in northern Vietnam, local breeds comprised 72 percent of the sow population in 1994, and within eight years, this had dropped to just 26 percent. Of the country’s fourteen local pig breeds, five are now vulnerable, two are in critical state, and three are facing extinction.

Scientists predict that Uganda’s indigenous Ankole cattle—famous for their graceful and gigantic horns—could face extinction within 20 years because they are being rapidly supplanted by Holstein-Friesians, which produce much more milk. During a recent drought, some farmers that had kept their hardy Ankole were able to walk them long distances to water sources while those who had traded the Ankole for imported breeds lost their entire herds.

Seré notes that exotic animal breeds offer short-term benefits to their owners because they promise high volumes of meat, milk, or eggs, but he warned that they also pose a high risk because many of these breeds cannot cope with unpredictable fluctuations in the environment or disease outbreaks when introduced into more demanding environments in the developing world.

Cryo-banking Sperm and Eggs Scientists and conservationists alike agree that we can’t save all livestock populations. But ILRI has helped lay the groundwork for prioritizing livestock conservation efforts in developing regions. Over the past six years, it has built a detailed database, called the Domestic Animal Genetic Resources Information System (DAGRIS), containing research-based information on the distribution, characteristics, and status of 669 breeds of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens indigenous to Africa and Asia.

Seré proposes acceleration of four practical steps to better manage farm animal genetic resources.

A first strategy is to encourage farmers to keep genetic diversity “on the hoof,” which means maintaining a variety of indigenous breeds on farms. In his speech, Seré called for the use of market-incentives and good public policy that make it in the farmer’s self-interest to maintain diversity.
Another way to encourage “keeping it on the hoof,” Seré said, is by allowing greater mobility of livestock breeds across national borders. When it comes to livestock, farmers have to “move it or lose it,” he said. Wider distribution of breeds and access to them makes it less likely that particular breeds and populations will be wiped out by fluctuations in the market, civil strife, natural disasters, or disease outbreaks.
The third approach that Seré is championing is a longer term one with great future potential for resource-poor farmers. It goes by the name of “landscape genomics” and it combines advanced genomic and geographical mapping techniques to predict which breeds are best suited to which environments and circumstances around the world.
But for landscape genomics—or any of the other approaches—to work, of course, scientists will need a wide variety of livestock genetic diversity to work with. For this reason, the fourth approach Seré is advocating is long-term insurance to “put some in the bank,” by establishing genebanks to store semen, eggs, and embryos of farm animals.
“In the US, Europe, China, India, and South America, there are well-established genebanks actively preserving regional livestock diversity,” said Seré. “Sadly, Africa has been left wanting and that absence is sorely felt right now because this is one of the regions with the richest remaining diversity and is likely to be a hotspot of breed losses in this century.”

But setting up genebanks is a first important step towards a long-term insurance policy for livestock. Seré noted that genebanks by themselves are not the only answer to conservation, particularly if they end up becoming “stamp collections” that are never used.

“Individual countries are already conserving their unique animal genetic resources. The international community needs to step forward in support,” said Seré. “We support FAO’s call to action and the CGIAR stands ready to assist the international community in putting these words into action.”

###
About ILRI:
The Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works at the crossroads of livestock and poverty, bringing high-quality science and capacity-building to bear on poverty reduction and sustainable development. ILRI works in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, with offices in East and West Africa, South and Southeast Asia, China and Central America. For further information, please visit www.ilri.org

About the CGIAR:
The CGIAR is a strategic agricultural research alliance for stimulating agricultural growth, raising farmer incomes and protecting the environment. The CGIAR supports ILRI and 14 other research centres worldwide conducting groundbreaking work to nourish the future. For more information, please visit www.cgiar.org
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2007 6:20 pm    Post subject: Why Whales Sing Reply with quote

Why Whales Sing
By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

posted: 06 December 2007 08:01 am ET

Humpback whales may sing not to court mates but to help explore the seas around them.

When a male humpback moves someplace new, he changes his song to match those coming from other nearby whales.

"The traditional explanation for why whales do this is that male whales are singing to seduce female whales, and that females get really turned on by songs that are currently in style," said cognitive neuroscientist Eduardo Mercado III of the State University of New York in Buffalo. "A song that does not follow the most recent trends might be viewed as passé by females, so singers would need to keep current to compete."

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani.....hales.html
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 7:58 pm    Post subject: Africa's biggest mammals key to ant-plant teamwork Reply with quote

University of Florida
10 January 2008

Africa's biggest mammals key to ant-plant teamwork

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Throughout the tropics, ants and Acacia trees live together in intricate interdependent relationships that have long fascinated scientists.

Now researchers are reporting that in Africa, this plant-insect teamwork depends on the very antagonist it is intended to ward off: Africa’s big browsing mammals.

In a paper set to appear this week on the cover of the journal Science, the researchers report that elephants, giraffes and other large plant-eaters spur Acacias to “hire” and support ants as bodyguards – and without the mammals, the trees slash their investment in ants, opening both to other attackers. Because many of the mammals are threatened by human activities, the paper’s conclusions serve as a cautionary tale of how people can influence the ecosystem as their impacts cascade down unexpected paths.

“Throughout sub-Saharan Africa these large mammals are threatened by human population growth, habitat fragmentation, over-hunting, and other degradation, so we have to wonder how their loss will affect these ecosystems,” said Todd Palmer, the paper’s lead author and an assistant professor of zoology at the University of Florida. “The last thing you would think is that individual trees would start to suffer as well, and yet that’s exactly what we see.”

Scientists have observed mutualism, or cooperative interactions between different species, throughout the natural world. The phenomenon is also well-known among plants and insects, with some of the earliest observations surrounding ants and plants in Central America.

What sets the Science paper apart is that it shows how easily these relationships, which likely have evolved over many millennia, can fall apart once a critical cog is removed.

Acacias are mostly shrubby trees common across the tropics and sub-Saharan African savannah. They have swollen thorns that serve as nests for three species of biting ants. Healthy trees have hundreds of the thorns, often containing more than 100,000 ants per tree. Both the ants and the trees benefit from their close cohabitation. The ants get the thorny shelters, as well as nectar they collect from the bases of Acacia leaves. Because the ants swarm in defense against anything that molests the trees, the trees get protection from their chief ostensible nemeses, browsing animals.

That’s when the mutualism is working well. But the research got its start when Palmer noticed that certain Acacias at his research site in central Kenya, which had been fenced off from wild herbivores, looked sickly compared with their unfenced counterparts. That was the opposite of what might be expected, because the browsers feed voraciously on the trees.

Palmer noticed that the sickly trees appeared to have fewer thorn nests, so he began measuring that and other differences on the trees in six experimentally fenced plots and six open plots. The former had been surrounded by an 8,000-volt electric fence for 10 years.

The observations confirmed the fenced trees had fewer swollen thorns. The research also revealed that the fenced trees had fewer active “nectaries” at the base of leaves where the ants sip the trees’ nectar. That indicated the trees were producing less nectar.

Moreover, when Palmer and other researchers jostled the fenced trees, the ants were far less defensive than their counterparts on the unfenced trees. There, the slightest disturbance spurs hundreds of ants to pour out of the thorns.

Without mammals around to eat the trees, sheltering fewer, less aggressive ants would not present a cost to the trees. To the contrary, the trees would seem to be better off, because they would not need to use their resources to support the ants.

But the research revealed that the fewer colonies of weakened ants become less able to defend their territory from another species of ant that, unlike the others, does not have a mutually beneficial relationship with Acacias. Instead, this fourth ant species feeds away from the tree and does not protect it from attackers – in fact, it actually encourages a destructive, wood-boring beetle whose cavities then serve as this ant’s home.

The result appears to be that the trees untouched by browsing mammals are infested with more of the beetles, which is part of the reason that they fare poorly.

Another problem for the fenced trees may be that their ants appeared to gather nectar-like secretions from more aphid-like insects than those on the unfenced trees. This could also serve to weaken the fenced trees, Palmer said. The fenced trees were twice as likely to die as the unfenced ones, and they grew 65 percent more slowly, the paper reports.

“You get a community-wide replacement of ‘good ants’ with ‘bad ants,’ and the result is that the trees start doing poorly,” Palmer said.

One irony of the findings is that the trees have developed their mutualistic relationship with the ants to protect themselves against plant-eating mammals – and yet because of that relationship, the trees wind up actually needing the mammals.

“If you get rid of the large mammals, it shifts the balance of power, because the trees default on their end of the bargain,” Palmer said. “When the trees opt out, their hard-working employees starve and grow weak, which causes them to lose out. So, ironically, getting rid of the mammals causes individual trees to grow more slowly and die younger.”

The research has important implications for conservation.

As Palmer said, “It’s becoming increasingly clear that anthropogenic change can have rapid and unanticipated consequences for cooperative species interactions, and we caught this happening in real time.”
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