Sunday, February 26, 2012

Friday Roundup-Eating Roadkill and Turtle Troubles in Canada

A New York Snapping Turtle
Protecting Snapping Turtles in Canada.  The distribution and range of a species is often heavily influenced by climate and habitat. If an area does not have suitable climate or habitat for a species, they cannot occur there. It's that simple. Polar Bears would not be comfortable in tropical jungles and you will not find Green Iguanas basking on icecaps. It gets a little more complicated at the edges of a species' range. In these borderline areas, the climate is often adequate for a species to live there, but it is not a perfect fit. This makes the species relatively more vulnerable to threats and dangers, like disease or harvesting by humans.

Snapping turtles, Chelydra serpentina, are a fairly common species found throughout eastern and central North America. But, they reach the northern extent of their range in Canada. Snapping Turtles rely on the environment to help regulate their body temperature and metabolism. And, as others have noted extensively, it can be tough for some species to adjust to northern latitudes.

Roads present unique dining opportunities
I've written previously about recent concern in many different areas (like Georgia and Alabama) about unregulated harvest of turtles. Now we can add Ontario, Canada to the list. Those in support of a ban on turtle harvesting say too many turtles are killed by cars and those that are harvested for food contain high levels of PCBs and mercury. Not quite the condiments I would choose.

Speaking of Roadkill (and Dinner). A recent article from The Ecologist ponders the ethics, legality, and gross-factor of eating animals, like squirrels, that have been run over by cars. I am guilty of eating both deer and rattlesnake found on road (the deer was most exceptional, the rattlesnake was perhaps a tad overcooked). I would be very interested to know of your experiences with similarly tenderized meals.

A Tiger Salamander, of the Ambystomatid family

Continuing the Theme of Roadkill. Every year, many salamanders (particularly those within the Ambystomatid family) conduct migrations from the forest (where they spend most of their time) to wetlands (where they mate and reproduce). The timing of these migrations vary depending on where the salamanders are in North America, but they often occur in late winter or early spring during cold rains. When roads have been constructed in between forests and wetlands, salamanders may find that their historic migration routes now include a deadly gauntlet over a paved highway. The New York Times offers this story about a group of volunteers concerned about the plight of Spotted Salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum, making their way across the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.

A Georgia Snapping Turtle
Snapping Turtles Are Not the Only Species in Trouble at the Edge of Their Range. The state of Vermont used to pay bounties on Timber Rattlesnakes, Crotalus horridus. Now, after decades of persecution, one of the rarest species in the state is getting a helping hand.

A New Threat for a Historically Persecuted Species. As if rattlesnakes did not have enough to worry about with the loss of their habitats and bad reputation, now Eastern Massasaugas, Sistrurus catenatus, are thought to be succumbing to a deadly fungus in Illinois. It is not yet known how widespread of a concern this new threat may be. You can read more here.

A Sunburn May be the Least of Our Concerns. I have always questioned the logic of coating our bodies with insect repellent. If a tiny insect brain knows enough to stay away from these harmful chemicals, I am not sure why we would risk spraying it all over ourselves. Elizabeth Preston at Inkfish summarizes a recent article that describes how fish metabolism is altered when they are exposed to commercially produced nanoparticles (like those present in suntan lotion, for example).

Want to learn more? Citations to relevant scientific articles are provided below.

Cedervall, T., Hansson, L., Lard, M, Frohm, B, & Linse, S (2012). Food Chain Transport of Nanoparticles Affects Behaviour and Fat Metabolism in Fish PLoS ONE, 7 (2)

de Solla SR, Bishop CA, Lickers H, & Jock K (2001). Organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, dibenzodioxin, and furan concentrations in common snapping turtle eggs (Chelydra serpentina serpentina) in Akwesasne, Mohawk Territory, Ontario, Canada. Archives of environmental contamination and toxicology, 40 (3), 410-7 PMID: 11443374

Allender MC, Dreslik M, Wylie S, Phillips C, Wylie DB, Maddox C, Delaney MA, & Kinsel MJ (2011). Chrysosporium sp. infection in eastern massasauga rattlesnakes. Emerging infectious diseases, 17 (12), 2383-4 PMID: 22172594

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