Saturday, November 10, 2012

Friday Roundup: Mexican Amphibians and Sharks for Dinner

Trouble for the Mexican Axolotl: The Axolotl is a large aquatic salamander (similar to the mudpuppy we have in the States) and a fascinating creature that defies the typical amphibian life never leaves the water and remains looking like a juvenile animal. Its native range includes much of what is now Mexico City and, as you might expect, its aquatic habitats are heavily polluted. A summary of the Axolotl's precarious position.

Study Shark Eaten: Radio-telemetry and satellite technology have revealed some extraordinary aspects of animal ecology, informing us of wildlife behavior and movements. Often, researchers are able to learn about common predators too...many of the snakes I've radio-tracked were eaten by hawks, for example.  Shark researchers in South Africa recently had a similar revelation, when a tagged White Shark was found to have been killed and eaten by people in nearby Mozambique. The organization sponsoring this research, OCEARCH, does fascinating work on large sea creatures. Check out their site to keep track of a number of sharks that are still swimming around.

Speaking of Study Animals Being Captured: From our neck of the woods, a catfish angler landed some huge bycatch in the Tallapoosa River in Alabama, an 83 lb (38 kg) Alligator Snapping Turtle. Turns out that this turtle had been captured and tagged eight years earlier by amateur body-builder and freelance beard model Jim Godwin when he was studying the species for the Alabama Natural Heritage Program. Instead of becoming soup (the species is protected), the turtle was released back into the river. Although the article mentions that the Alligator Snapping Turtle is the largest species of freshwater turtle, that's only true in North America...there are softshell turtles in Asia that likely take the crown as the world's biggest.

Octopus Killed in Washington Sparks Outrage: A diver legally killed a Giant Pacific Octopus in a popular diving spot. These huge animals (at reaching over 150 lbs <70 kg="kg">, they are the largest species of octopus) are intelligent and beautiful, at least to divers frequent the area (check out this picture if you don't believe me), and the event created a lot of controversy. This editorial emphasizes some of the positive outcomes and lessons learned: the diver that killed the animal is now advocating for regulations forbidding future killings of octopus at the site.

The Rarer Your Species Becomes, the More You're Worth: A summary from NPR about the economics of rare species. As collecting and poaching get out of control, the desired species becomes rarer and rarer. Because these species become rarer to find, the cost for that species increases. That only increases the incentive to capture the few remaining individuals.

Dirk Stevenson, the Barbara Walters of Herpetology: Dirk Stevenson, who once helped me not find Indigo Snakes in Florida, spends a day in the field with herpetologist and professor Carlos Camp and relates the experience on his blog, The Naturalist.

Rarely Observed Animal Washes Up On New Zealand Shore: There is still so much we don't know about the natural world. A couple years ago, two animals washed up on a New Zealand beach and this event represented the first time scientists were able to see their species (they had only been known from three partial skulls). They were whales.

Crocodile Skin is Sensitive Too: Most people probably don't think of the rough and scaly skin of a crocodile as being sensitive, but perhaps they should. On Croc Blog, Adam Britton summarizes a recent study suggesting crocodile skin is more sensitive than our fingertips.

I Need To Get Some of These: Setting up traps to take a picture or record video when an animal walks by is a great way to learn what creatures are prowling around, especially when those animals are secretive or elusive. Here's a Townsend's Big-eared Bat from Nature of a Man and some weasels from Camera Trap Codger and TrailBlazer.

Artificial Rivers in Zoos May Lead to More Hellbenders in Missouri: A story about some recent successes breeding Hellbenders for eventual release in the wild.

Ever Wonder Why You've Never Seen a Snake Eat Fruit? Wonder no more, thanks to Andrew Durso at Life is Short, but Snakes are Long.

Don't Do This: Competitive eating is one thing, competitive eating of insects and worms is another. A participant dies after competing in (and winning) a contest to win a pet snake. I do, however, recommend eating grasshoppers in moderation.

No comments: