The ghost slug, discovered in south Wales, is named after its appearance and nocturnal habits
* Quentin Wheeler * The Observer, Sunday 1 August 2010
Friend of the earth: Selenochlamys ysbryda – the ghost slug.
The ghost slug, Selenochlamys ysbryda, is a species new to science discovered in a garden in Glamorgan, south Wales. Like about one-third of British species of slugs, this one may have been accidentally introduced to the UK by human commerce. The residence where it was found sits on land that was once a horticultural nursery. Since its initial discovery, this species has been collected from a number of urban environments in south Wales and neighbouring England. The size of the slug, up to 110mm when fully extended, illustrates gaps in our knowledge of species, literally in our own gardens. The name is a Latinised form of the Welsh ysbryd (meaning ghost or spirit), referring to its appearance and nocturnal habits.
International Institute for Species Exploration, Arizona State University
Pygmy hippo baby makes public debut August 5, 2010
Pygmy hippo calf Kambiri at Taronga Zoo. Photo: AFP/Rick Stevens
Taronga Zoo's youngest pygmy hippo calf has made her public debut a month after her birth.
Kambiri, a Nigerian name meaning "allow me to join this family", was born on June 26 at 2.30am and weighed in at 5.3 kilograms.
She has been growing fast, 300 grams per day, and weighed 16 kilograms as she walked around her enclosure today.
"She is quite cheeky ... she is also very shy as well, so visitors will have to be patient when they see her in the next couple of weeks," zoo spokeswoman Danielle McGill said.
Kambiri's first public appearance took its toll on her.
"She was out for about an hour and now she's completely exhausted," Ms McGill said.
Pygmy hippo calf Kambiri with her mother Petre at Taronga Zoo. Photo: Reuters
"She's gone back to bed."
Kambiri is the second calf to be born to mother Petre and father Timmy.
Zookeepers are happy with the treatment she's receiving from her mum.
"Her mother is being an absolute wonderful mother. She's very content [and] guiding the calf around," Ms McGill said.
When Kambiri is older she will join the Australasian Breeding Program, which helps provide a safety net against extinction for pygmy hippos.
But for now Ms McGill says the zoo and its visitors will enjoy watching their youngest hippo grow.
"We'll just be watching her confidence grow each day," she said.
Pygmy hippos are a solitary forest-dwelling creature native to west Africa and little is known about them in the wild with the majority of research recorded about the species learnt from those cared for in zoos.
The World Conservation Union estimates that there are fewer than 3000 pygmy hippos remaining in the wild.
Beaver born in the wild in UK for first time in 400 years
Scottish conservationists sight at least two baby beavers born to animals released last year in remote Scottish woodland
* Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent * The Guardian, Friday 13 August 2010
Success for Scottish Beaver Trial: The first beaver kits to be born in the wild A young beaver on the water’s edge. Other kits have been born in Knapdale forest after wild beavers were released there last May. Photograph: Steve Gardner/PA
It has taken a while to arrive, but late last month the first beaver to be born in the wild in Britain in roughly 400 years emerged from its lodge.
The young animal, known as a kit, is one of at least two that have been born to wild beavers released in May last year around several lochs deep in an ancient, uninhabited forest on the Kintyre peninsula in Scotland.
The small, shy animals are now about eight weeks old and their arrival is a profound relief to the Scottish conservationists who have pioneered the reintroduction of beavers into the UK, centuries after they were hunted for their pelts and oil into extinction.
The first kit was spotted by Christian Robstad, a field officer with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. "It emerged as part of a 'family outing' with its parents and older sister close by to offer additional protection," he said. "It kept close to the edge of the loch and called out to its family for reassurance while it began to learn to forage for food."
The experiment at Knapdale, south-west of Lochgilphead, is being closely watched by naturalists in southern England and Wales, where beaver reintroduction projects are being pursued.
The Scottish scheme has had a troubled history. Six of the wild beavers flown in from Norway in 2008 died in quarantine or could not be released. After back-up beavers were moved from a wildlife reserve in the Highlands, 11 were eventually freed in Knapdale. Since then one family of three has gone missing, with fears that the female was deliberately shot. A fourth new pair was released in May to bolster numbers.
Simon Jones, the Scottish Wildlife Trust's project manager, said: "Receiving confirmation of the presence of at least two beaver kits this year in Knapdale is a fantastic step forward, as we can now begin to see how a small reintroduced population starts to naturally establish itself in the wild.
"Both families have built their own lodge and one family has had great success building a dam to access better food supplies. This has created a magnificent new area of wetland in which wildlife is now flourishing."
Kihansi Spray Toads Make Historic Return to Tanzania
A diminutive Kihansi spray toad newborn rests on the back of an adult female. Reared at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo, these amphibians -- now extinct in the wild -- are part of an international program to reintroduce the Kihansi spray toad back into its former habitat in Tanzania. (Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society)
ScienceDaily (Aug. 17, 2010) — In a bold effort to save one of the world's rarest amphibians from extinction, one hundred Kihansi spray toads have been flown home to Tanzania after being painstakingly reared at the Bronx Zoo and The Toledo Zoo working in close partnership with the Tanzanian government and the World Bank.
The toads now reside at a new, state-of the-art propagation center in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's commercial capital, with the eventual goal of reintroducing the tiny amphibians into their former habitat.
"On behalf of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, we are very grateful to the Bronx Zoo and The Toledo Zoo for taking care of these precious toads (KST) for ten years, and now they have safely arrived home via KLM flight and all 100 toads are cheerful as witnessed by our Tanzanian trained KST keepers at the facility at UDSM Zoology Department. We are very optimistic that they will acclimatize soon and be taken to their homeland in Kihansi Gorge in the near future," said Anna Maembe on behalf of the Government of Tanzania.
According to Dr. Anne Baker, The Toledo Zoo's Executive Director and CEO, "We are extremely proud of the staff members, curators, and keepers whose expertise in scientific husbandry made this tremendous accomplishment possible. The level of collaboration involved here -- from the World Bank, the Tanzanian government, and the participating zoos to the Tanzanian field biologists and students who shared their knowledge with us -- has been nothing short of inspiring."
"The return of these special creatures to Tanzania is a landmark achievement for the Bronx Zoo, the Tanzanian government, The Toledo Zoo, and the World Bank," said Jim Breheny, Director of the Bronx Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Society Senior Vice President of Living Institutions. "For years, the Bronx Zoo has been anticipating this important step toward reintroduction of the species, and we are ecstatic that the first toads are thriving in the new facility."
The Kihansi spray toad's unique odyssey began shortly after the species was first discovered in 1996 living in a five acre micro-habitat created by the spray of nearby waterfalls in the Kihansi Gorge.
In 1999, the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the gorge dramatically changed the Kihansi spray toad's habitat. Although this dam is vital to the Tanzanian economy in that it generates one-third of Tanzania's total electrical supply, its construction reduced the original size of the Kihansi falls to 10 percent of its former flow, drastically lessening the mist zone in which the toads thrived.
Following an agreement between WCS and the Tanzanian government and with funding from the World Bank, which constructed the dam, scientists and Tanzanian officials collected an assurance colony of 499 Kihansi spray toads from the gorge.
The toad was last seen in the wild in 2004, and in 2009 the toad was declared to be extinct in the wild by the by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Today, 5,000 toads live at The Toledo Zoo and 1,500 reside at the Bronx Zoo. Both zoos will continue breeding and exhibiting the animals, returning additional shipments to Tanzania as their numbers rebound.
The Tanzanian government has been managing the Lower Kihansi Environment Management Project in the gorge. A system of sprinklers, replicating the toad's habitat, has been installed in preparation for the species' return. The ultimate goal is to return the toads to their natural habitat within the gorge.
Scientists are still debating the ultimate cause of extinction of this species in the wild, but theorize a combination of habitat change, pesticide exposure, and the emergence of infective chytrid fungus led to their demise. Chytrid is responsible for alarming crashes and extinctions of amphibian species in many parts of the world.
A species unusual among toads -- females give birth to live, fully-formed young, rather than laying eggs that hatch into free-living tadpoles.
University of Cincinnati researchers are reporting on the discovery of a bug with bifocals -- such an amazing finding that it initially had the researchers questioning whether they could believe their own eyes. (Credit: Elke Buschbeck)
ScienceDaily (Aug. 24, 2010) — University of Cincinnati researchers are reporting on the discovery of a bug with bifocals -- such an amazing finding that it initially had the researchers questioning whether they could believe their own eyes.
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of truly bifocal lenses in the extant animal kingdom," the researchers state in the Aug. 24 cover feature of the life-science journal Current Biology.
The new article is an exploration of two eyes of the larvae of the sunburst diving beetle (Thermonectus marmoratus). The two eyes have the bifocal lens, which the researchers have found in four of the larvae's 12 eyes, says researcher Elke K. Buschbeck, a UC associate professor of biology.
The article explains that using two retinas and two distinct focal planes that are substantially separated, the larvae can more efficiently use these bifocals, compared with the glasses that humans wear, to switch their vision from up-close to distance -- the better to see and catch their prey, with their favorite food being mosquito larvae.
"In addition, we think that within the principle eyes, separate images of the same object could be focused on each of the two retinas, allowing each eye to function as 'two eyes in one,'" the researchers reveal in the article. The tubular-shaped eyes with the bifocals allow them to efficiently focus onto their two retinas, says Annette Stowasser, a UC biology doctoral student and first author on the paper.
The discovery was made in Buschbeck's lab and was supported by her National Science Foundation CAREER award to recognize the research and teaching talent of young faculty. "We're hoping this discovery could hold implications for humans, pending possible future research in biomedical engineering," Buschbeck says.
"The discovery could also have uses for any imaging technology," adds Stowasser.
Bugs with Bifocals
The sunburst diving beetle larvae that was studied typically live in creeks and streams around Arizona and the western United States. It's classified as a holometabolous insect -- the group of insects that morph into something completely different from how they originated -- like the caterpillar/moth or the maggot/fly. The larvae of these beetles have the bifocal lens. They lose these intricate lenses when they become a beetle.
Researchers Couldn't Believe Their Eyes
As the researchers zeroed in on how the multiple eyes of this insect worked, they did even more research to try to disprove what they saw. They first used a microscope to look through the lenses of the two eyes detailed in the research article. They saw how the lens could make a second image grow sharper -- something that could only happen with a bifocal. "It was my first research project, and I seriously thought I made a mistake, and then we did additional research to try to kill the hypothesis," says Stowasser. However, their findings were confirmed with more research in addition to observing the operation of the lens and the two focal planes via a microscope. They saw the bifocal again when they used a method to project a narrow light beam through the lens. "Our findings can only be explained by a truly bifocal lens," write the researchers.
Contributing researchers included Alexandra Rapaport, a UC undergraduate neuroscience major; John E. Layne, UC assistant professor of biological science; and Randy C. Morgan, Invertebrate Conservation program manager for the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
The UC research was supported by Buschbeck's $805,000 CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, which was awarded in 2005. The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden provided the original population of sunburst diving beetles for the research.
1. Annette Stowasser, Alexandra Rapaport, John E. Layne, Randy C. Morgan and Elke K. Buschbeck. Biological Bifocal Lenses with Image Separation. Current Biology, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.07.012
ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2010) — The smallest frog in the Old World (Asia, Africa and Europe) and one of the world's tiniest was discovered inside and around pitcher plants in the heath forests of the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. The pea-sized amphibian is a species of microhylid, which, as the name suggests, is composed of miniature frogs under 15 millimeters.
The discovery, published in the taxonomy journal Zootaxa, was made by Drs. Indraneil Das and Alexander Haas of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, and Biozentrum Grindel und Zoologisches Museum of Hamburg, respectively, with support from the Volkswagen Foundation. Dr. Das is also leading one of the scientific teams that is searching for the world's lost amphibians, a campaign organized by Conservation International and IUCN's Amphibians Specialist Group.
"I saw some specimens in museum collections that are over 100 years old. Scientists presumably thought they were juveniles of other species, but it turns out they are adults of this newly-discovered micro species," said Dr. Das.
The mini frogs (Microhyla nepenthicola) were found on the edge of a road leading to the summit of the Gunung Serapi mountain, which lies within Kubah National Park. The new species was named after the plant on which it depends to live, the Nepenthes ampullaria, one of many species of pitcher plants in Borneo, which has a globular pitcher and grows in damp, shady forests. The frogs deposit their eggs on the sides of the pitcher, and tadpoles grow in the liquid accumulated inside the plant.
Adult males of the new species range between 10.6 and 12.8 mm -- about the size of a pea. Because they are so tiny, finding them proved to be a challenge. The frogs were tracked by their call, and then made to jump onto a piece of white cloth to be examined closer. The singing normally starts at dusk, with males gathering within and around the pitcher plants. They call in a series of harsh rasping notes that last for a few minutes with brief intervals of silence. This "amphibian symphony" goes on from sundown until peaking in the early hours of the evening.
Amphibians are the most threatened group of animals, with a third of them in danger of extinction. They provide important services to humans such as controlling insects that spread disease and damage crops and helping to maintain healthy freshwater systems. Teams of scientists from Conservation International and IUCN's Amphibian Specialist Group around the world have recently launched an unprecedented search in the hope of rediscovering 100 species of "lost" amphibians -- animals considered potentially extinct but that may be holding on in a few remote places.
The search, which is taking place in 20 countries on five continents, will help scientists to understand the recent amphibian extinction crisis. Dr. Das is leading a team of scientists who will search for the Sambas Stream Toad (Ansonia latidisca) in Indonesia and Malaysia in September. The toad was last seen in the 1950s. It is believed that increased sedimentation in streams after logging may have contributed to the decline of its population.
"Amphibians are quite sensitive to changes in their surroundings, so we hope the discovery of these miniature frogs will help us to understand what changes in the global environment are having an impact on these fascinating animals," said Conservation International's Dr. Robin Moore, who has organized the search on behalf of IUCN's Amphibian Specialist Group.
1. Indraneil Das, Alexander Haas. New species of Microhyla from Sarawak: Old World’s smallest frogs crawl out of miniature pitcher plants on Borneo (Amphibia: Anura: Microhylidae). Zootaxa, 2010; 2571: 37-52 www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2010/f/z02571p052f.pdf
A lungless salamander with five toes and a projectile tongue has been discovered in the Appalachian mountains
* Quentin Wheeler * The Observer, Sunday 29 August 2010
New to Nature: Urspelerpes brucei Urspelerpes brucei, aka the ‘patch-nosed salamander’. Photograph: Trip Lamb
A tiny new lungless salamander species, Urspelerpes brucei, has been discovered along nine different streams in the Appalachian mountains of north-east Georgia and north-west South Carolina. Measuring only 25-26mm when mature, the species is unusual in its sexually dimorphic colour patterns.
Unlike most other miniaturised plethodontid salamanders, which have four toes, Urspelerpes brucei retains the ancestral five toe condition. Adults of the "patch-nosed salamander" have been collected under rocks and in leaf litter along streams. Its jaw and tooth structure suggest that it uses a projectile tongue to capture small prey such as species of the related genus Eurycea.
International Institute for Species Exploration, Arizona State University
ScienceDaily (Aug. 31, 2010) — A York University doctoral student who discovered a new species of bee on his way to the lab one morning has completed a study that examines 84 species of sweat bees in Canada. Nineteen of these species -- including the one Jason Gibbs found in downtown Toronto − are new to science because they have never been identified or described before.
Gibbs' expansive study will help scientists track bee diversity, understand pollination biology and study the evolution of social behaviour in insects. It is also much anticipated by bee taxonomists who, like Gibbs, painstakingly examine the anatomy (morphology) of bees to distinguish one type of bee from another.
Bees are responsible for pollinating many wildflowers and a large proportion of agricultural crops. As much as one of every three bites of food that humans eat, including some meat products, depends on the pollination services of bees. Sweat bees are common visitors to a wide range of plants, including fruit and vegetable flowers in Toronto gardens. Sweat bees − named for their attraction to perspiration − can be smaller than 4 mm in length, often have metallic markings, and make up one-third to one-half of bees collected in biodiversity surveys in North America. Complete species descriptions of 84 metallic sweat bees in Canada are included in Gibbs' study, "Revision of the metallic species of Lasioglossum (Dialictus) in Canada." It was published August 31 by the peer-reviewed journal Zootaxa as a single issue.
Despite their numbers and their importance as pollinators, sweat bees remain among the most challenging bees to identify to species, perhaps because they evolved so rapidly when they first appeared about 20 million years ago. Gibbs' research significantly improves upon all other available tools for the identification of these bees.
These bees are morphologically monotonous. They are a nightmare to identify to species because their physical characteristics -- their morphologies -- are so similar among species. No one has been able to identify these bees until now even though they make up so many of the bees we collect," says Gibbs. "It's important to identify these species, because if we don't know what bees we have, we can't know what bees we're losing."
Gibbs examined tens of thousands of individual bees over about four years, from his own and others' collections as well as historical collections housed in museums. To identify bees to species, he first sorted them using morphological study, then tested his assessments using DNA sequences generated at the Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding at the University of Guelph, which assigns "barcodes" to species based on their DNA. Finally, he carefully re-examined the bees' physical characteristics to draw even finer distinctions between the bees and identify them to species.
Among the 19 new species of sweat bee identified by Gibbs is one that he collected on his commute from downtown Toronto to York University. When he arrived at his York lab and examined it, he knew he had found a new species, never before identified by science but, as it turns out, quite common in Toronto and throughout eastern Canada and the USA. He also identified and described 18 other species from Canada that are new to science including a cuckoo bee: like a cuckoo bird, it doesn't build a nest or collect food but it has big mandibles for fighting. This cuckoo sweat bee is believed to invade the nest of another sweat bee species to lay its eggs on the pollen and nectar collected by its host.
Gibbs received the 2010 Dissertation Prize from York University for the manuscript that led to this published study. A postdoctoral researcher in York Professor Laurence Packer's bee lab, he will continue his research this fall at Cornell University. He is working on similar bee studies for the Eastern United States and Mexico.
Increase in Cambodia's Vultures Gives Hope to Imperiled Scavengers
This "venue" of vultures (a group of vultures can also be called a "committee" or a "wake") in this image includes slender billed (left), white-rumped (m), and red-headed vultures (right), all of which have persisted in Cambodia while other vulture populations in Asia have all but vanished. (Credit: Hugh Wright)
ScienceDaily (Sep. 3, 2010) — While vultures across Asia teeter on the brink of extinction, the vultures of Cambodia are increasing in number, providing a beacon of hope for these threatened scavengers, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other members of the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project.
Researchers report that record numbers of vultures have been counted in Cambodia's annual vulture census, with 296 birds of three species found at multiple sites across the Northern and Eastern Plains of Cambodia by the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project, a partnership of conservationists led by the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The record count means that Cambodia is home to the only increasing population of vultures in Asia. Specifically, the census indicates that the country's population of white-rumped vultures is increasing; populations of red-headed and slender billed vultures were found to be stable. All three of Cambodia's vulture species are listed as "Critically Endangered" by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
Vulture populations in Southeast Asia are primarily threatened by the declining number of large herbivores in the region, but have been largely unaffected by a far greater threat to Asia's vultures: the veterinary drug diclofenac. Widely used as an anti-inflammatory drug for cattle in South Asia, diclofenac is toxic to vultures, causing death through renal failure and visceral gout to birds that feed on the cattle carcasses and has led to global population declines higher than 99 percent in some vulture species.
The census success follows a record breeding season for vultures in Cambodia. This year, a total of 36 vulture chicks fledged from colonies across the north and east of the country, an increase from last year's total of 19 chicks.
Vulture conservation efforts in Cambodia are the result of a number of activities promoted by the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project. For instance, vulture nests are protected by local community members who are paid a small fee for their support. This ensures that vulture nesting success is greatly improved and also benefits local community members who often have few other sources of income during the dry season, which coincides with the vulture breeding season. Vulture food sources are supplemented by 'vulture restaurants,' feeding stations that also give visitors the opportunity to see these huge birds up close.
"By protecting nests and supplementing food supplies, we are saving some of the world's largest and most charismatic birds," stated Dr. Hugo Rainey, WCS technical advisor to the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project. "Nowhere else in Asia do vultures have such a promising future."
While conservationists can point to recent successes in the conservation of Cambodia's vultures, they also warn of the rising threat of agricultural pesticides to the birds. Since December 2008, more than 20 vultures are known to have died from consuming domestic animals that had been poisoned accidentally by the inappropriate use of pesticides. This practice may also present a risk to human health.
Song Chansocheat, Ministry of Environment and WCS Vulture Project Manager, commented that "Cambodia is the only Asian country where diclofenac is rarely used and vulture populations are managed. We have been monitoring vultures since 2004 and there have been increasing numbers of poisoned birds recently. Educating people about the risk to wildlife and people from incorrect use of poisons is important."
"Cambodia has become a critical source site for vultures, one that we need to protect as a means of saving these ecologically valuable birds," said Joe Walston, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Asia Program.
The Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project is a partnership of different government agencies and conservation organizations led by WCS and also includes the Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the General Department of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection of the Ministry of Environment, BirdLife International in Indochina, Worldwide Fund for Nature, Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) and Conservation International. Support for these efforts is provided by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF)/United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), ACCB, WWF US and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.
Post by Big Bunny on Sept 10, 2010 15:28:39 GMT -5
Vultures Circling Back to Life in Cambodia
This 'venue' of vultures (a group of vultures can also be called a 'committee' or a 'wake') in this image includes slender billed (left), white-rumped (m), and red-headed vultures (right), all of which have persisted in Cambodia while other vulture populations in Asia have all but vanished says a new report. Photograph: Hugh Wright
September 2, 2010
Vultures have been dwindling throughout Asia for years. The unlucky scavengers have been eating cattle carcasses laced with an anti-inflammatory drug that is fatal to the birds. The drug—dicloflenac—has driven some Asian vulture populations to near-extinction.
But good news is now soaring in the skies above Cambodia. Researchers report that record numbers of vultures have been counted in Cambodia’s annual vulture census. Almost 300 birds of three different species are flying and foraging across the northern and eastern plains of the country.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists all three of Cambodia’s vulture species—white-rumped, red-headed, and slender billed—as “Critically Endangered.” Still, the census, conducted by the WCS-led Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project, shows that the country is home to the only increasing population of these birds in Asia.
“By protecting nests and supplementing food supplies, we are saving some of the world’s largest and most charismatic birds,” stated Dr. Hugo Rainey, WCS technical adviser to the project. “Nowhere else in Asia do vultures have such a promising future.”
Rare antelope-like mammal caught in Asia By Katia Moskvitch Science reporter, BBC News
There may only be a few dozen of Saola left in the wild
An extremely rare animal known as the "Asian unicorn" - in spite of having two horns - has been caught by villagers in Laos.
No biologist has ever reported seeing the rare Saola in the wild and there are none of them in captivity.
The animal was discovered in the forests of South-East Asia as recently as 1992.
There have only been a few photos of the Saola taken so far, by villagers and automatic camera traps.
The Saola - Pseudoryx nghetinhensis - is believed to inhabit the Annamite Mountains of Laos and Vietnam, and that is where villagers from Laos' central province of Bolikhamxay caught the unfortunate adult male earlier this August.
They brought the mammal back to the village. Unfortunate death
Surprised by the odd-looking animal, the villagers took a few photos and notified the Lao authorities. But by the time a team from the Bolikhamxay Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office reached the remote location, the Saola was dead.
"The death of this Saola is unfortunate," said a spokesperson of the provincial conservation unit of Bolikhamxay province.
"But at least it confirms an area where it still occurs and the government will immediately move to strengthen conservation efforts there." New species
In 1992, biologists declared the Saola a news species after analysis of its physical features and DNA.
It resembles the antelopes of North Africa, but is believed to be more closely related to wild cattle.
The Saola is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species. Only a handful have reportedly been sighted, mainly by the local population.
"At best a few hundred survive, but it may be only a few dozen. The situation is critical," said Pierre Comizzoli, a veterinarian with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and a member of the IUCN Saola Working Group.
The technical team took the carcass to the provincial capital Pakxan for further analysis.
"Our lack of knowledge of Saola biology is a major constraint to efforts to conserve it," noted Dr Comizzoli. Not much time
"This can be a major step forward in understanding this remarkable and mysterious species. It's clear that further awareness-raising efforts about the special status of Saola are needed but Saola doesn't have much time left."
The Lao authorities have urged villagers not to capture any Saola, and if they do, immediately release the animal.
"This incident highlights the importance of Laos to global wildlife conservation. Saola and several other rare endemic species are found almost nowhere else in the world," said Latsamay Sylavong, the national representative for the IUCN Lao programme.
"Our knowledge of them is limited, and in Laos we need to improve protection of both the ecosystems and the special species they hold, like the Saola. Much needs to be done."
Elephant shrew in Kenya - The elephant shrew is more closely related to elephants than shrews. Photograph: Zoological Society of London
A team of scientists working in a Kenyan rainforest has discovered what is thought to be a new species of elephant shrew. Weighing in at a hefty 600g, the two-foot long creature is unusually large compared to other species.
The mammal, which is more closely related to elephants than to shrews, was caught on motion sensor cameras set up by the Zoological Society of London's Edge of Existence programme in the threatened Boni-Dodori rainforest, which sits on Kenya's north-eastern coast next to Somalia.
"It's really rare to discover a new species of mammal, and it's particularly remarkable that we've found a new species of elephant shrew just five years after the last one was discovered in Tanzania's Udzungwa mountains," says Raj Amin, who led the team. This brings the total number of elephant shrew (Macroscelidea) known to science to 18 species - all found in Africa.
The crew are yet to see one of the species alive, having caught one on camera and found a dead elephant shrew in one of their nets. Members of the Boni tribe also brought them two more dead specimens of the new species.
DNA from the samples is currently being analysed to confirm that the animal is a new species, but Amin remains confident: "You can distinguish elephant shrews based on their colour, and this one looks completely different from all the others."
"It doesn't have a golden rump, or a rufous-coloured face, or spots, but it does have grizzled yellow-brown sides and shoulders, a black rump and thighs and what appears to be a dark mane," says Amin. Because the animal was captured on camera during the day, it is also likely to be diurnal.
Until 2005, security was too tight for scientists to enter the Boni-Dodori forest but in 2008, Amin's team got permission to survey the area. They were amazed at how intact it was, as neighbouring regions have largely been logged and converted into biofuel farms.
"As it turns out, the Boni-Dodori forest is infested with sleeping sickness, a parasite transmitted by the tsetse fly, so herders and other people have left it well alone for the most part," says Amin.
After the inevitable buzz around finding a new species dies down, Amin hopes that the discovery will draw attention to the plight of the roughly 2,216 sq km patch of forest, which may not be protected by sleeping sickness for much longer.
"China wants to rebuild a nearby port in order to ship out minerals, and there are also plans for an oil pipeline," says Amin. "In addition, biofuel companies are growing crops on freshly deforested land that's less degraded, just to make a quick profit."
In January, WWF set up the first conservation project in the forest. The project will last for three years and produce an inventory of the forest's biodiversity.
An Omaniundu reed frog. Conservationists have found two species of African frog and a Mexican salamander that was previously thought to be extinct. Photograph: Jos Keilgast/Conservation International/AFP/Getty Images
A team of scientists have discovered three species of amphibian previously thought to be extinct. Their finds include a cave-dwelling salamander last seen in 1941 – the same year that it was discovered – and two species of frog that dwell in west Africa. In total, the scientists hope to rediscover roughly 100 species of amphibian.
Conservation International, in conjunction with the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group, has organised a string of international expeditions to search for "lost" amphibian species that are highly threatened by habitat loss, climate change and disease. More than one third of amphibian species are under threat of extinction.
One of the creatures discovered by the team is the cave splayfoot salamander, Chiropterotriton mosaueri. After abseiling into a humid cave fringed with pine and oak forest in Mexico, the team found the salamander clinging to a crevice. It was last seen 70 years ago.
On a separate expedition to the Ivory Coast, scientists spotted a red-limbed Mount Nimba reed frog in a swamp near the Liberian border. The frog, which was last seen in 1967, is in urgent need of protection as the forests of Mount Nimba are threatened by deforestation, according to Conservation International.
In the flooded forests that sit on the banks of the Congo river, the team also discovered an Omaniundu reed frog, Hyperolius sankuruensis. Speckled with bright green spots, the frog was last seen in 1979. Because it only emits short, infrequent calls late at night, it is extremely hard to find.
"Indeed, because so many species of amphibian are tiny and live under rocks in streams or in other hard to find places, it is very impressive that these expeditions have found just three species previously thought to be extinct," says David Sewell, who studies amphibian conservation at the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent.
But despite the finds of species thought to be extinct, there's no reason to rejoice yet, says Sewell. "Finding three species is brilliant, but what about the remaining 97 species that the expeditions set out to find? While we live in hope that these species will be rediscovered, most of them are probably extinct."
Among the 97 species that have not been espied by the team are the sharp-snouted day frog, Schneider's banana frog and the gastric brooding frog, which lives underneath rocks in streams in Australia. Females swallow their eggs and raise tadpoles in their stomach. During that time, their stomachs stop producing hydrochloric acid.
Rediscovery of this frog would have interesting implications for medicine, says Sewell. For example, understanding how the frog downregulates production of hydrochloric acid could lead to novel ways to treat stomach ulcers. But rediscovery is unlikely, given that the frog was last seen in 1985 and is listed as extinct on the IUCN Red List, he says.
Trevor Beebee, a conservation geneticist based at the University of Sussex, is more optimistic. "Proving extinction is a notoriously difficult thing to do, especially in remote and complex habitats such as rainforests. Another hard look at amphibian extinctions might therefore generate at least a little much-needed optimism."
Post by Big Bunny on Sept 22, 2010 20:52:49 GMT -5
New Species of Sea Slug Discovered
Click on image to enlarge
This is the newly discovered California sea slug, Flabellina goddardi, with egg case. (Credit: Jeff Goddard, MSI, UCSB)
ScienceDaily (Sep. 22, 2010) — Sometimes, treasures can be found in your own backyard -- especially if you know what to look for. This is what happened to Jeff Goddard, project scientist with the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara.
Goddard was working in the tide pools at Carpinteria Reef, in Carpinteria State Park, Calif., when he found a new species of nudibranch -- a group of sea slugs noted for their bright colors and delicate forms. Recognizing it as new, Goddard carefully documented the living specimen before preserving it and sending it off to Terrence M. Gosliner, an authority on the taxonomy of sea slugs at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Goddard kept the slug in his lab for a few days, until it laid an egg mass, and was also able to observe its early development and hatching larvae.
Gosliner named the new sea slug after Goddard when he described it -- and one other newly discovered species of California nudibranch -- in the Sept. 15 online edition of the Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences.
"The shallow-water nudibranch fauna of Southern California especially is well known, so it was pretty exciting to find a new species right under our noses here in Santa Barbara County," said Goddard. "Only one specimen was found, so now we need to find out where more are hiding, what they feed on, and whom they interact with."
Goddard said that he was honored that Gosliner chose to name the new species after him. The scientific name is Flabellina goddardi, and it measures about 30 millimeters long when stretched out and crawling. The genus Flabellina also includes the well-known "Spanish shawl" nudibranch, Flabellina iodinea. Goddardi is now the fifth species of Flabellina known from California.
In the scientific article, Goslinger writes: "Flabellina goddardi is named for friend and colleague Jeff Goddard who found the only specimen of this distinctive species. Jeff is the consummate naturalist with superb powers of observation."
For the scientific record, Goddard describes the new species as "characterized externally by its smooth rhinophores; long tail and cephalic tentacles; pointed foot corners; red and orange tipped cerata; and lack of pigmentation on the head, body and head tentacles."
Goddard discovered the sea slug in 2008. As with many taxonomic discoveries, the finding often takes a couple of years for documentation, comparison with known species, and publication. Meanwhile Goddard and his colleagues will continue searching for more specimens of the newly described species.
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of California -- Santa Barbara.