Posts about wildlife

Backyard Wildlife: Large Lizards

large thin lizard

Close up of the large, thin, lizard

These photos were taken across the street from my condo in downtown Johor Bahru, Malaysia. From my window I could see Singapore.

It is at least a meter long from head to tail (probably longer, the tail is really long). Still it isn’t huge since it is very narrow (more like a very thick snake with legs than anything else).

A few months before seeing the lizard in the photos I saw a really big lizard 1 block from the Johor Bahru Customs Immigration and Quarantine complex. It was easily 2 meters long (head to end of the tail) and quite large (stout). It was a different species I am pretty sure.

I was standing for awhile looking at a cool patch of wild greenery. All of a sudden I heard a noise and looked down; this large lizard probably got tired of me standing so and moved quickly into the brush. I hadn’t seen it. I would guess it was sunning itself, before I wandered over. Too bad I didn’t have my camera ready.

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Camera Trap Images of Very Rare Wild Cats

This video show some wonderful images from remote cameras equipped to film when an animal is spotted. These camera have aided scientists in understanding wildlife in their natural environment and also by providing us cool images.

Related: Rare Chinese Mountain CatBornean Clouded LeopardPhotos of Rare Saharan Cheetah and Other WildlifeScottish Highland Wildcats

Virgin Births in the Animal Kingdom

Spectacular and Real Virgin Births

Scientists are discovering that virgin births occur in many different species; amphibians, reptiles, cartilaginous and bony fish and birds and it happens for reasons we don’t quite understand.

Initially, a virgin birth, also known as parthenogenesis, was thought to be triggered by extreme situations; it was only documented among captive animals, for example, perhaps by the stress, or isolation. A way to continue the bloodline when all other options had gone, when there was no other choice.

Not necessarily. It now appears that some virgin females produce offspring even in the presence of males.

Another interesting area of research for scientists. The value of sex to aid a species’ success is well understood. The value of being able to produce offspring when no males are around seems obvious also. But how this all works is quite interesting and again shows how much we have to learn.

Related: Fungus-gardening Ant Species Has Given Up Sex Completely (2010)Some Female Sharks Can Reproduce All by Themselves (2007)Amazon Molly Fish are All Female (2008)Bdelloid Rotifers Abandoned Sex 100 Million Years Ago (2007)

USA Designates Large Areas of New Mexico and Arizona as Critical Habitat for Jaguars

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated 764,200 acres of critical habitat for the jaguar (Panthera onca) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This habitat is found within Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties in Arizona, and Hidalgo County in New Mexico.

The final rule reflects the following changes from the July 1, 2013, critical habit at proposal: exclusion of Tohono O’odham Nation lands (78,067 acres) as a result of the Tribe’s efforts working in partnership with the Service to conserve jaguar and other listed species’ habitat on the Nation’s sovereign land. Exemption of Fort Huachuca lands (15,867 acres) due to the conservation benefits to the jaguar provided in Fort Huachuca’s approved Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan.

The revised proposal was based on an updated habitat modeling report that more accurately reflected habitat essential to jaguars in northwestern Mexico and southwestern United States.

Mexico borderlands area is very different from habitat in Central and South America, where jaguars show a high affinity for lowland wet communities. Jaguars have been documented in arid areas of northwestern Mexico and southwestern United States, including thornscrub, desertscrub, lowland desert, mesquite grassland, Madrean oak woodland and pine oak woodland communities. Critical habitat in the United States contributes to the jaguar’s persistence and recovery across the species’ entire range by providing areas to support individuals that disperse into the United States from the nearest core population in Mexico.

Critical habitat is a term defined in the ESA and identifies geographic areas containing features essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management considerations or protection. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.

Related: Jaguars Back in the Southwest USA (2006 post)Big Cats in America (2004)Mountain Lions Returning to the Midwest USA for the First Time in a Century (2012)Backyard Wildlife: Mountain Lion

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Mountain Lions Returning to the Midwest USA for the First Time in a Century

Cougars Are Returning to the U.S. Midwest after More Than 100 Years by John Platt

Cougars once lived throughout most of the U.S. and Canada but state-sponsored bounties put in place to protect livestock and humans from what were often deemed “undesirable predators” led to the cats’ extermination in the east and Midwest.

Things started to turn around for the cougar in the 1960s and 70s when, one by one, the bounties were rescinded and states made the animals a managed-game species. Today they are classified as game species in most states and a “specially protected mammal” in California. This allowed their populations first to grow and then to expand their territories.

Cougars are generalist predators, so LaRue says they can select any habitat with enough prey. They have also been shown to walk hundreds of kilometers in search of new habitat. “They have no problem traveling through cornfields or prairies for long distances if they have to,” she says. But cornfields and prairies aren’t suitable habitat for the cougars to settle in. She says they require forest cover, rugged terrain and dispersal corridors (typically rivers) that allow easy migration for both the cats and their prey.

Mountain Lions are very cool animals. So like our pets but with a size that means they can kill us, if they want. They are not much risk to us though. Occasionally there are attacks (now that the numbers of cougars are growing) but an extremely small number.

Data from the city of Boulder, Colorado:

There has been an average of 0.2 annual human deaths in all of North America from mountain lions between 1900 and 2007. This number is very low compared to annual deaths from black widow spiders (1.4 between 1950-1989), domestic dogs (16 between 1979-1998) and car crashes (45,000 between 1980-2005).

Related: Mountain Lion Foundation timelineBackyard Wildlife: Mountain LionJaguars Back in the Southwest USA
(2006)
Big Cats in America (2004)Snow Leopard Playing in the Snow in Ohio

Bacteria In Cave Isolated for 4 Million Years Highly Resistant to Many Antibiotics

PLoS published an interesting open access research paper on bacteria and their resistance to antibiotics. I am surprised how widespread and strong the antibiotic resistance was is the isolated bacteria that were studied. It raises more interesting questions about the important area of antibiotics.

The lead researcher on this study, Gerry Wright, previously published on antibiotic properties of bacteria found in soil.

Abstract of Antibiotic Resistance Is Prevalent in an Isolated Cave Microbiome

Antibiotic resistance is a global challenge that impacts all pharmaceutically used antibiotics. The origin of the genes associated with this resistance is of significant importance to our understanding of the evolution and dissemination of antibiotic resistance in pathogens. A growing body of evidence implicates environmental organisms as reservoirs of these resistance genes; however, the role of anthropogenic use of antibiotics in the emergence of these genes is controversial.

We report a screen of a sample of the culturable microbiome of Lechuguilla Cave, New Mexico, in a region of the cave that has been isolated for over 4 million years. We report that, like surface microbes, these bacteria were highly resistant to antibiotics; some strains were resistant to 14 different commercially available antibiotics. Resistance was detected to a wide range of structurally different antibiotics including daptomycin, an antibiotic of last resort in the treatment of drug resistant Gram-positive pathogens.

Enzyme-mediated mechanisms of resistance were also discovered for natural and semi-synthetic macrolide antibiotics via glycosylation and through a kinase-mediated phosphorylation mechanism. Sequencing of the genome of one of the resistant bacteria identified a macrolide kinase encoding gene and characterization of its product revealed it to be related to a known family of kinases circulating in modern drug resistant pathogens. The implications of this study are significant to our understanding of the prevalence of resistance, even in microbiomes isolated from human use of antibiotics. This supports a growing understanding that antibiotic resistance is natural, ancient, and hard wired in the microbial pangenome.

Related: Alligator Blood Provides Strong Resistance to Bacteria and VirusesBacteria Survive On All Antibiotic DietClay Versus MRSA Superbug

Evolution in New York City Wildlife

Evolution Right Under Our Noses by Carl Zimmer

White-footed mice, stranded on isolated urban islands, are evolving to adapt to urban stress. Fish in the Hudson have evolved to cope with poisons in the water. Native ants find refuge in the median strips on Broadway. And more familiar urban organisms, like bedbugs, rats and bacteria, also mutate and change in response to the pressures of the metropolis. In short, the process of evolution is responding to New York and other cities the way it has responded to countless environmental changes over the past few billion years. Life adapts.

Dr. Wirgin and his colleagues were intrigued to discover that the Hudson’s population of tomcod, a bottom-dwelling fish, turned out to be resistant to PCBs. “There was no effect on them at all,” Dr. Wirgin said, “and we wanted to know why.”

In March, he and his colleagues reported that almost all the tomcod in the Hudson share the same mutation in a gene called AHR2. PCBs must first bind to the protein encoded by AHR2 to cause damage. The Hudson River mutation makes it difficult for PCBs to grab onto the receptor, shielding the fish from the chemical’s harm.

The AHR2 mutation is entirely missing from tomcod that live in northern New England and Canada. A small percentage of tomcod in Long Island and Connecticut carry the mutation. Dr. Wirgin and his colleagues concluded that once PCBs entered the Hudson, the mutant gene spread quickly.

Carl Zimmer again does a good job of explaining science in an engaging way. It is interesting to learn about science and evolution in urban environments. Lots of life manages to survive the challenges of urban life and it is interesting to learn what scientists are finding about that life.

Related: Trying to Find Pest Solutions While Hoping Evolution Doesn’t Exist Doesn’t WorkMicrocosm by Carl ZimmerNew Yorkers Help Robot Find Its Way in the Big CityParasite RexBackyard Wildlife: Great Spreadwing Damselfly

Image of Map Showing Concentration of Life in Oceans

Image showing regions of life in the oceans

This image shows the abundance of life in the sea, measured by the SeaWiFS instrument aboard the Seastar satellite. Dark blue represents warmer areas where there is little life due to lack of nutrients, and greens and reds represent cooler nutrient-rich areas.

The nutrient-rich areas include coastal regions where cold water rises from the sea floor bringing nutrients along and areas at the mouths of rivers where the rivers have brought nutrients into the ocean from the land. NASA has posted a large gallery of great images for Earth Day.

Related: Altered Oceans: the Crisis at SeaMicrobes Beneath the Sea FloorA single Liter of Seawater Can Hold More Than One Billion Microorganisms

More Photos of Rare Saharan Cheetah and Other Wildlife

photo of a sand cat in Niger

Photo of a sand cat by Thomas Rabeil of the Sahara Conservation Fund

In March of 2009 we posted about photos of the rare Saharan cheetahs caught on wildlife cameras. Recently more photos have been released by the Sahara Conservation Fund showing a ghostly cheetah and other wild cats and other wildlife, including this wonderful photo of a sand cat.

Elusive Saharan Cheetah Captured in Photos

The animal is so rare and elusive scientists aren’t sure how many even exist, though they estimate from the few observations they’ve made of the animal and tracks that fewer than 10 individuals call the vast desert of Termit and Tin Toumma in Niger home. Fewer than 200 cheetahs probably exist in the entire Sahara.

Their home can reach sizzling temperatures up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius), and is so parched no standing water exists. “They probably satisfy their water requirements through the moisture in their prey, and on having extremely effective physiological and behavioral adaptations,”

The Saharan cheetah is listed as critically endangered on the 2009 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Camera trap photo of Saharan cheetah at night

The elusive Saharan cheetah in Niger, Africa. Sahara Conservation Fund

The photos are part of the Sahara Carnivores Project

The Saharan race of cheetah (Acynonix jubatus hecki) is very rare, and one of the most specialized and threatened in Africa. As part of a major strategy to conserve Sahelo-Saharan wildlife, in collaboration with the Sahara Conservation Fund we are establishing a project to study and protect Saharan carnivores in the Termit/Tin Toumma region of north Niger. We aim to improve our understanding of sympatric Saharan carnivores, and evaluate the impact of human activities on carnivore populations, and that of carnivore predation on livestock. One of the projects aims is to produce an action plan prepared jointly with local land-users to minimize human-carnivore conflict in the Termit/Tin Toumma.

More ghostly cheetah photos: blurry and walking away

‘Ghostly’ Saharan cheetah filmed in Niger, Africa

it not yet known if Saharan cheetahs are more closely related to other cheetahs in Africa, or those living in Iran, which make up the last remaining wild population of Asiatic cheetahs.
Saharan cheetahs appear to have different colour and spot patterns compared to common cheetahs that roam elsewhere in Africa.
However, “very little is known about the behavioural differences between the two cheetahs, as they have never been studied in the wild,” says Dr Rabeil.
“From observations of tracks and anecdotal reports they seem to be highly adaptable and able to eke out an existence in the Termit and Tin Toumma desert.”

Other posts of animals filmed with remote wildlife monitoring cameras: Sumatran Tiger and CubsJaguars Back in the Southwest USAScottish Highland WildcatsRare Chinese Mountain Cat

Photos by John Hunter of cheetahs and other animals in Kenya.

Backyard Wildlife: Robins Attack Holly Tree

photo of robin in a holly tree

Robins like to attack my holly tree and feed on the berries. Getting photos of them is hard but there are lots of them flying around all excited (I did manage to catch one of them in the photo on the left). This tree was actually here when I moved in but I also do try to nurture and add plants that feed wildlife. I like just planting things that will feed and shelter birds (and others) rather than filling bird feeders myself. There is information on how to use your backyard to promote wildlife.

Related: Backyard Wildlife: CrowsBackyard Wildlife: HawkBackyard Wildlife: Fox

Backyard Wildlife: Walking Leaf

photo of insect that looks like a leaf

See some more great photos of the hike on Penang Island in Malaysia, from the Capturing Penang blog.

Related: Backyard Wildlife: FoxBackyard Wildlife: Great Spreadwing DamselflyBackyard Wildlife: Turtle










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