No matter where you look, just about every creature
is obsessed with:
sex, real estate, who's the boss, and what's for dinner.
87 Animal Intelligence News Articles
from 4th Quarter of 2016
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
12-30-16 Ants craft tiny sponges to dip into honey and carry it home
Ants craft tiny sponges to dip into honey and carry it home
Ants may be smarter than we give them credit for. Tool use is seen as something brainy primates and birds do, but even the humble ant can choose the right tool for the job. István Maák at the University of Szeged in Hungary and his team offered two species of funnel ants liquids containing water and honey along with a range of tools that might help them carry this food to their nests. The ants experimented with the tools and chose those that were easiest to handle and could soak up plenty of liquid, such as bits of sponge or paper, despite them not being found in the insects’ natural environment. This suggests that ants can take into account the properties of both the tool and the liquid they are transporting. It also indicates they can learn to use new tools – even without big brains. Some ant species are known to use tools, such as mud or sand grains, to collect and transport liquid to their nests. But this is the first time they are shown to select the most suitable ones, says team member Patrizia d’Ettorre from the University of Paris-North, France. (Webmaster's comment: So much for tool use being unique to man, birds, chimps, or other higher animals. It obviously goes across the spectrum of living creatures.)
12-30-16 China announces ban on ivory trade by end of 2017
China announces ban on ivory trade by end of 2017
China has announced a ban on all ivory trade and processing activities by the end of 2017. Conservation groups hailed the decision as "historic" and a "game-changer" for the future of elephants. The move follows a resolution at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in South Africa in October. China has the biggest ivory market in the world - some estimates suggest 70% of the world's trade ends up there. Ivory can reach $1,100 (£850) per kilogram in China. The commercial processing and sale of ivory will stop by 31 March, and all registered traders will then be phased out, bringing a full halt to the market by the end of the year. Conservation group WWF welcomed the latest news, calling it a "historic announcement... signalling an end to the world's primary legal ivory market and a major boost to international efforts to tackle the elephant poaching crisis in Africa". (Webmaster's comment: Say what you will will about the evils of China but they have made unilateral decisions regarding the climate, environment and wildlife that lead any others being made anywhere on the whole planet.)
12-29-16 Invasive parakeets muscle in on native bird’s nests in Israel
Invasive parakeets muscle in on native bird’s nests in Israel
There just aren’t enough palm tree homes to go around. Invasive ring-necked parakeets have prompted a rapid decline in Israel’s native hoopoe population, probably because of their aggressive takeover of nesting cavities in palm trees. Reuven Yosef at Ben Gurion University, Israel, and colleagues followed densities of hoopoes in four palmeries in rural areas over a period of 10 years. In the two that were invaded by parakeets in 2000 and 2006, the team found a significant decline in hoopoe population density. By contrast, in the two palmeries without parakeets the hoopoe density remained unchanged. These invasive parakeets usually nest in existing tree cavities. But in Israel they were observed digging new cavities, which suggests there is a lack of nesting sites. Parakeets start breeding earlier in the season than hoopoes do, and may use up all nesting sites before hoopoes can get to them, the team says.
12-29-16 Bears Ears and Gold Butte: Obama creates two nature preserves
Bears Ears and Gold Butte: Obama creates two nature preserves
President Barack Obama has unilaterally designated two new "national monument" nature preserves in the western US states of Nevada and Utah. The Bears Ears National Monument and the Gold Butte National Monument will protect areas rich in Native American artefacts from energy drilling. Some Republicans in those states are opposed to the move and say it amounts to a federal land-grab. It comes as Mr Obama attempts to secure his environmental legacy. Since the election of Republican Donald Trump as next US president, Mr Obama has moved to block new mining claims by Yellowstone National Park and new oil drilling in the vulnerable Arctic Ocean. The Hawaiian-born president has protected more land and water acreage than any other US president. But experts say it will be hard for Mr Trump to reverse it when he takes power. Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said a sitting president cannot undo a previous president's national monument designations.
12-28-16 Bumblebee numbers hit by 'unsettled decade'
Bumblebee numbers hit by 'unsettled decade'
Bumblebees and butterflies have seen their numbers plummet after another year of unsettled weather, according to a National Trust study. The 10th annual wildlife report from the trust said mild winters and bad weather in summer created bad conditions for small plants. But whilst insects suffered, grass growth rose, meaning a good year for livestock farmers. Conservationists and farmers must work together, the trust said. Warmer winter months and bad summers have become the norm, according to the report, which said the UK has not had a good summer since 2006. Nature and wildlife specialist for the Trust, Matthew Oates, said: "2016 comes on top of an unsettled decade, with many species struggling in the face of climate change and more intensive farming practices. "When you do get good weather during the brighter months of the year, it's almost inevitably short-lived and finished with something nasty. "During the brightest months, we do seem to be getting more extreme weather events, most of which aren't nice."
12-26-16 Cheetahs heading towards extinction as population crashes
Cheetahs heading towards extinction as population crashes
The sleek, speedy cheetah is rapidly heading towards extinction according to a new study into declining numbers. The report estimates that there are just 7,100 of the world's fastest mammals now left in the wild. Cheetahs are in trouble because they range far beyond protected areas and are coming increasingly into conflict with humans. The authors are calling for an urgent re-categorisation of the species from vulnerable to endangered. According to the study, more than half the world's surviving cheetahs live in one population that ranges across six countries in southern Africa. Cheetahs in Asia have been essentially wiped out. A group estimated to number less than 50 individuals clings on in Iran. (Webmaster's comment: The Cheetah population has fallen 75% since 1950. Mankind is driving the mass extinction of almost all the world's species except those we eat, and even some of them.)
12-23-16 Trillions of high-flying migratory insects cross over UK
Trillions of high-flying migratory insects cross over UK
For the first time scientists have been able to track the hordes of high-flying insects that pass across the skies of Southern England every year. Unseen and unnoticed by humans, researchers found that 3.5 trillion bugs and butterflies annually migrate across the region. The researchers say their mass is equivalent to 20,000 flying reindeer. The count was made using vertical radar and insect nets mounted on balloons. Over a 10-year period, the scientists looked at insects flying night and day, between 150 and 1200m above the ground. While their origins weren't recorded the researchers believe that many were travelling to and from the UK from across the English Channel and the North Sea. Although the vast majority of the insects were tiny creatures like cereal crop aphids, flies and midges, there were also larger ones including hoverflies, ladybeetles, moths and butterflies.
12-22-16 Long-ignored, high-flying arthropods could make up largest land migrations
Long-ignored, high-flying arthropods could make up largest land migrations
Each year, 3.5 trillion aphids, moths, flies and their kin fly over southern United Kingdom. Adding up ladybugs (seven-spotted species shown) and other high-flying insects and their kin that travel overhead each year reveals what could be the biggest migration of land animals on the planet. Forget honking Vs of geese or gathering herds of wildebeests. The biggest yearly mass movements of land animals may be the largely overlooked flights of aphids, moths, beetles, flies, spiders and their kin. About 3.5 trillion arthropods fly or windsurf over the southern United Kingdom annually, researchers say after analyzing a decade of data from special entomological radar and net sweeps. The larger species in the study tended to flow in a consistent direction, suggesting that more species may have specialized biology for seasonal migrations than scientists realized, says study coauthor Jason Chapman, now at the University of Exeter in Penryn, England.
12-19-16 China finds new love for wildlife films
China finds new love for wildlife films
British-Chinese cameraman Jacky Poon is among very few professionals documenting endangered animals hidden deep in China's mountains and valleys. Many Chinese people were only introduced to wildlife films this year after the first nature blockbuster, Born in China, made an impressive debut in cinemas and a wildlife documentary called the Mystery Monkeys of Shangri-La won an Emmy nomination. We hear from Jacky about what it is like to be part of the budding wildlife movie industry in China.
12-19-16 'Casper octopod under threat from deep sea mining'
'Casper octopod under threat from deep sea mining'
A deep sea octopod, dubbed "Casper" after the film ghost because of its appearance, could be at risk from mining, scientists say. The animal, possibly a new species, was discovered last spring at depths of more than 4,000 metres (2.5 miles). Studies suggest females nurture their eggs for several years on parts of the seabed that contain valuable metals. Commercial companies are interested in harvesting metals and minerals from the bottom of the ocean. Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue. Media captionAn octopod, dubbed "Casper" after the film ghost, could be at risk from deep sea mining. There are growing concerns about the future impact of mining on life in the deep sea, much of which has yet to be discovered and categorised.
12-19-16 Monkeys have vocal tools, but not brains, to talk like humans
Monkeys have vocal tools, but not brains, to talk like humans
Videos of grunting, cooing show macaques could make key vowel, consonant sounds. Macaque monkeys have vocal tracts capable of producing enough vowel sounds to speak English and many other languages, a new study finds. But the monkeys’ brains aren’t up to the task of enabling their airways to articulate words, researchers say. Macaque monkeys would be quite talkative if only their brains cooperated with their airways, a new study suggests. These primates possess the vocal equipment to speak much as people do, say evolutionary biologist and cognitive scientist W. Tecumseh Fitch of the University of Vienna and colleagues. But macaques lack brains capable of transforming that vocal potential into human talk. As a result, the monkeys communicate with grunts, coos and other similar sounds, the scientists conclude December 9 in Science Advances. “Macaques have a speech-ready vocal tract but lack a speech-ready brain to control it,” Fitch says.
12-15-16 Chimps look at behinds the way we look at faces
Chimps look at behinds the way we look at faces
Humans are really good at picking out faces. Our brains are so good at this that we even see faces in places they don’t exist — like Jesus on toast. Flip a face upside down, though, and the brain needs an extra moment to determine that, yes, that’s a face. This is known as the inversion effect. And a new study finds that we’re not the only species to demonstrate it: Chimps do, too. Only they do it with butts. And this says something about human evolution — but we’ll get to that in a bit. In 2008, Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny of Emory University in Atlanta showed in an Ig Nobel–winning experiment that chimpanzees could recognize each other from their behinds — or at least photographs of them. The chimp rear, it turns out, conveys important information about sex and, in females, ovulation status. Both males and females pay attention to those signals, which are important in mating and competition.
12-16-16 Mexico bid to save world's smallest vaquita porpoise
Mexico bid to save world's smallest vaquita porpoise
Mexican authorities and scientists are trying to save the world's smallest porpoise by capturing illegal "ghost" fishing nets. They have managed to remove more than 100 dumped or lost nets left floating in the sea from October to December. Local fishermen and conservationists helped to trawl 11,814km (7,340 miles) in the Gulf of California, the only area where the vaquita porpoise live. Its population is estimated to be down to about 60 individuals. Conservationists say they fear the porpoise will be extinct by 2022. The main threat to the porpoise are the nets used to illegally catch fish known as the totoaba which is hunted for its swim bladder - fetching tens of thousands of dollars on the black market in China.
12-15-16 Orcas seen hunting and killing rare whales for the first time
Orcas seen hunting and killing rare whales for the first time
Never before seen pictures show big groups of killer whales hunting rare, lone, beaked whales in bloody battles lasting for over an hour. Killer whales off Australia have been seen killing and eating rare beaked whales – a behaviour never observed before. Since 2014, a small team including Rebecca Wellard of Curtin University in Perth has been going out with commercial whale-watching boats to study killer whales off Australia’s south coast. On four occasions, they have seen and photographed groups of up to 20 killer whales attacking lone beaked whales. The hunts lasted an hour or two. The orcas chased the beaked whales and eventually killed them by biting them and forcing them underwater to drown them. On two occasions they were seen stripping carcasses of skin, so it seems clear that these are predatory attacks. Little is known about the killer whales that live around Australia. But it has become clear that populations elsewhere in the world HAVE THEIR OWN DISTINCT CULTURES and specialise in particular prey. Some feed on fish such as herring, while others hunt mammals such as seals, dolphins and the calves of large whales.
12-15-16 Light pollution dampens urban robins' song
Light pollution dampens urban robins' song
The song and behaviour of the UK's favourite bird is being affected by light and noise pollution. That is according to research from Southampton University, which revealed how robins are affected by night-time lighting and road noise in a city park. They measured how much the quality of robin territory was affected by its proximity to a lit path and a road. They presented the results at the British Ecological Society meeting in Liverpool.
12-14-16 First evidence that wild mammals benefit from bigger brains
First evidence that wild mammals benefit from bigger brains
A study of red deer on a Scottish island reveals some of the first evidence in wild mammals of a clear link between brain size and evolutionary fitness. We pride ourselves on our big brains, but when it comes to figuring out whether people or other animals with particularly big brains do better than others, the evidence has been lacking. Now, for the first time, a study in red deer is showing that bigger brained mammals tend to be more successful in the wild, and that brain size is a heritable trait that they can pass on to their offspring. Corina Logan from the University of Cambridge and her team have looked at the skulls of 1314 red deer (Cervus elaphus) from the Isle of Rum. The complete life histories of the deer are well known thanks to the Isle of Rum Red Deer Project, which has been collecting data on the island for more than 40 years, spanning seven deer generations. “This kind of study has not been conducted before because it requires long-term data from a large number of individuals,” says Logan.
12-12-16 Rare Arabian leopards forced out by frankincense harvesters
Rare Arabian leopards forced out by frankincense harvesters
One of the world’s rarest cats is being squeezed out of its habitat by a combination of desertification, livestock farming and frankincense harvesters. The habitat of one of the world’s rarest and most elusive big cats is shrinking fast, with the latest pressure coming from frankincense collectors. Only around 200 critically endangered Arabian leopards remain in the wild, with the largest population in Oman. And while the latest camera trap photographs show a small but thriving population in the country, the cats are being squeezed out by encroaching humans, which brings them into conflict with camel farmers. “We have seen leopards moving away from areas where they used to be,” says Hadi Al Hikmani, a wildlife biologist at the Office for Conservation of the Environment in Oman. “In Jabal Samhan nature reserve they’re moving around 6 kilometres southwards, but in areas like Nejd, north-west of the Dhofar mountains, they’re moving northwards, where they were not found in the last 10 years.” The displacement is most likely due to an influx of people looking for fresh sources of valuable frankincense, used in perfume and incense. “A small community that harvests frankincense trees has recently established some semi-permanents camps in the Jabal Samhan area, especially near water resources,” says Al Hikmani.
12-9-16 Monkeys should be able to talk just like us – so why don’t they?
Monkeys should be able to talk just like us – so why don’t they?
There’s nothing anatomical stopping monkeys from making human-like sounds we could understand finds a new study, which suggests they lack the brains for it. Ooh, ooh, ooh, ee, ee, ee! Shouting monkeys may have more sophisticated vocal abilities than we give them credit for. It seems that the anatomy of their vocal tract is theoretically capable of producing the five basic vowel sounds on which most human languages are based – and these could be used to form intelligible sentences. The results add to a growing body of evidence that some monkeys and apes can mimic or generate rudimentary sounds needed for speech-like communication. “No one can say now that there’s a vocal anatomy problem with monkey speech,” says Asif Ghazanfar at Princeton University, and co-leader of the study team. “They have a speech-ready vocal anatomy, but not a speech-ready brain. Now we need to find out why the human but not the monkey brain can produce language.”
12-9-16 What dogs remember
What dogs remember
It’s no secret that dogs can recall sensory cues, like someone’s scent or the jangling of a leash at walk time. But episodic memory—the ability to relive mentally a past experience—was thought to be uniquely human. A new study suggests, however, that dogs possess a similar skill and may recall events much as people do. Researchers in Budapest tested the memory of 17 dogs by having them imitate unfamiliar actions previously performed by their owners, reports NPR?.com. For example, dogs would watch people tap an open umbrella that was resting on the ground. Then they were led away and told to lie down on a mat. An hour later, the animals were commanded to “Do it,” and in most cases they recalled and mimicked their owners’ actions, walking up to the umbrella and tapping it with a paw. “If you ask a dog to imitate an action that was demonstrated some time ago, then it is something like asking, “Do you remember what your owner did?’” says study author Claudia Fugazza. Granted, there may be limits to canine memory. When people recall experiences they usually imagine themselves in past events, a degree of self-awareness dogs probably lack.
12-9-16 Hardest working rodent
Hardest working rodent
Margaret Rican was puzzled when dozens of bulbs mysteriously began disappearing from the Christmas lights outside her home. Eager to identify the thief, the Seattle resident staked out the crime scene and eventually spotted the culprit—a particularly industrious squirrel. She made a video of the critter chewing through wires and leaping off her deck with colored bulbs in its mouth. The tiny bandit stole 150 lights in 24 hours and buried them, presumably having mistaken the bulbs for brightly colored nuts. “He’s the hardest-working rodent we’ve ever seen,” said Rican.
12-8-16 Giraffes facing 'silent extinction' as population plunges
Giraffes facing 'silent extinction' as population plunges
A dramatic drop in giraffe populations over the past 30 years has seen the world's tallest land mammal classified as vulnerable to extinction. Numbers have gone from around 155,000 in 1985 to 97,000 in 2015 according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The iconic animal has declined because of habitat loss, poaching and civil unrest in many parts of Africa. Some populations are growing, mainly in southern parts of the continent. Until now, the conservation status of giraffes was considered of "least concern" by the IUCN. However in their latest global Red List of threatened species, the ungainly animal is now said to be "vulnerable", meaning that over three generations, the population has declined by more that 30%. According to Dr Julian Fennessy, who co-chairs the IUCN giraffe specialist group, the creatures are undergoing a "silent extinction". (Webmaster's comment: Another species biting the dust thanks to us!)
12-6-16 How scientists are saving whales by listening to the ocean
How scientists are saving whales by listening to the ocean
Recently, New Yorkers were surprised and charmed by the sight of a vagabond whale taking what seemed to be an inter-borough tour of Manhattan's waterways. But for scientists, it's no surprise that there are whales in the waters that surround New York. It turns out that the New York Bight, an area of water that runs from Montauk to just south of Atlantic City, is full of whales — and researchers have a new way of detecting the rarest of these beautiful behemoths. Meet Melville, an acoustic buoy located 22 mile south of Fire Island. Melville is the most sophisticated buoy of its kind. "We're kind of on the bleeding edge of real-time [whale] detection," says Mark Baumgartner of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which developed the software for Melville. On the surface, Melville looks like a standard buoy with an antenna. But beneath the water, it's connected to a digital acoustic monitoring instrument that both records audio and detects sounds in real time. Every two hours, the buoy transmits information about the sounds it's picking up on to a satellite, which then transmits the data to Baumgartner's lab in Massachusetts. There, a software program compares the sounds to a library of whale calls and sends the data to both a public website, and a researcher for analysis.
12-6-16 Seal studies reveal secret life
Seal studies reveal secret life
It's a cold, grey morning as we set off for the Farne Islands. Located just off the coast of Northumberland, in the north of England, they are a haven for wildlife - especially grey seals. There are estimated to be 5,000 of them living here. Our boat approaches one of islands and it is covered in the marine mammals; some lulling about on the rocks, others playing in the shallows. "Grey seals spend about a third of their time hauled out and about two-thirds of their time at sea. And most of the research that's been done has been on their behaviour on the land," says Ben Burville, who has been diving with seals for years. Now, working with the University of Newcastle, he has launched Project Grypus. He is attempting to capture seal behaviour on camera that's never been seen before. And I'm joining him for an icy dip to see the animals up close.
12-5-16 Bird plus goggles equals new insight into flight physics
Bird plus goggles equals new insight into flight physics
Unexpected vortices form in parrotlet’s wing wake. o study the air flow produced when birds fly, scientists trained a Pacific parrotlet to fly through laser light. To protect the bird’s eyes, custom-made laser goggles were a necessary precaution. A bird in laser goggles has helped scientists discover a new phenomenon in the physics of flight. Swirling vortices appear in the flow of air that follows a bird’s wingbeat. But for slowly flying birds, these vortices were unexpectedly short-lived, researchers from Stanford University report December 6 in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. The results could help scientists better understand how animals fly, and could be important for designing flying robots (SN: 2/7/15, p. 18).
12-5-16 Why baby flatfish grow into the wonkiest animals in the world
Why baby flatfish grow into the wonkiest animals in the world
These fish have a travelling eye and swim on their sides in what is the most extreme example of vertebrate asymmetry – now we know how they develop this useful trait. The mystery of how a Japanese flatfish pushes both eyes to one side of its body has finally been unravelled. When Japanese flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus) are newly hatched, they have eyes on opposite sides of their heads just like most other fish. But after three weeks, one eye migrates over the top of the skull to the other side. The skin on the side of the body with two eyes then turns sand-coloured, while the other side stays pale. At this point, the fish tips sideways and swims flat against the ground. The side facing upwards has two eyes to look for prey and sea-floor colored skin for camouflage in what is some of the most asymmetric body shape of all vertebrates. Although some invertebrates like sponges can be asymmetric, almost all vertebrates have the same left and right sides to promote efficient locomotion.
12-2-16 Whales talk to each other by slapping out messages on water
Whales talk to each other by slapping out messages on water
Humpback whales break the surface and splash down to make a long-distance call, while fin-slapping is for local conversations. It’s something all whale-watchers yearn to see. The sight of whales breaking the surface and slapping their fins on the water is a true spectacle – but the animals don’t do it just for show. Instead, it appears that all that splashing is about messaging other whales, and the big splashes are for long-distance calls. Ailbhe Kavanagh at the University of Queensland in Gatton, Australia, and her colleagues studied 94 different groups of humpback whales migrating south along the Queensland coast in 2010 and 2011. Humpback whales regularly leap out of the water and twist on to their backs – an action known as breaching – and slap their tails and fins in a repetitive fashion. The resulting sounds travel underwater and could possibly communicate messages to other whales.
12-1-16 Dragon lizards fly by grabbing their fold-up wings with ‘hands’
Dragon lizards fly by grabbing their fold-up wings with ‘hands’
The unique way of gliding may allow the lizards to steer using their front legs, which seem to have adapted to rotate and grab the extendable wings. But real dragons — gliding lizards of the genus Draco — form their “wings” from flaps of skin stretched over elongated ribs and use their forelimbs for a different role: to help spread the wings and maybe even steer during flight. Maximilian Dehling, a herpetologist at the University of Koblenz, Germany, photographed about 50 flights as Draco lizards glided from tree to tree in southern India. In every case, immediately after launching from its tree the lizard reached back with its forelimbs, grabbed the unfolding wing – known as a patagium – and spread it forward. “This is a very rapid movement,” says Dehling. “It’s quite difficult to take photographs of the process.”
11-30-16 'Predator of the deep' or gentle giant?
'Predator of the deep' or gentle giant?
Scientists say the giant manta ray, known as a gentle leviathan, is in fact a "predator of the deep" preying on fish and other animals. The ray, which can grow up to 7m (23ft) across, was thought to feed on tiny floating animals at the surface. New evidence shows much of the ray's diet is made up of food from the deep. The finding raises questions about the future of the giant manta ray, which is listed as a vulnerable species. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the fish is likely to become endangered unless its survival chances improve. Giant manta rays are known to feed on zooplankton drifting on the ocean surface, but a new study suggests the animals could also be getting their food from the depths.
11-28-16 Build green highways for bees to help save vital pollinators
Build green highways for bees to help save vital pollinators
Habitat loss, farming and climate change are behind the loss of wild pollinators, which are crucial to three quarters of the world's crops. Urgent action is needed to halt a global decline in pollinators which threatens economies and food supplies, a new review says. The authors of a major United Nations report blame the decline of pollinators on habitat loss, climate change and farming methods. Possible solutions include building “bee highways” to allow the insects to move freely between foraging locations, reducing “green deserts” – landscapes dominated by a single crop species – and helping farmers work with nature. “We conducted the most thorough review of the science ever undertaken, sifting through all the available evidence, to provide governments with the best and latest evidence on pollinator decline,” says lead author Simon Potts, from the University of Reading, in the UK.
11-28-16 Rare river dolphins get trapped in fishing nets as waters drop
Rare river dolphins get trapped in fishing nets as waters drop
Draining rivers for irrigation puts the Ganges river dolphin at higher risk of being ensnared by fishing nets. Nepal’s endangered river dolphins are in a tangle. Not only can they die in fishing nets, but farmers further threaten their survival by draining rivers for irrigation. A 15-year study of the Karnali river found that competing demands for river water, especially during the dry winter months, have led to a near halving of this river’s small population of blind Ganges river dolphins (Platanista gangetica gangetica). In 2010, severe flooding shifted the balance of water flow in a tributary of the Karnali river, from primarily flowing through a protected national park where fishing is restricted, to a region dominated by fishing and agriculture. Water levels in the national park reached below 2 metres – a minimum threshold required to sustain the dolphins. They responded by migrating to the now-deeper waters outside the park. The unusual event caught the attention of a research team in Nepal and India, led by conservation biologist Gopal Khanal at Nepal’s Tribhuvan University, who investigated how the change in habitat affected the dolphins.
11-24-16 Health Canada proposes ban on pesticide linked to bee deaths
Health Canada proposes ban on pesticide linked to bee deaths
Canada's health regulator is planning to ban a controversial neonicotinoid pesticide, which it says has contaminated waterways and killed important aquatic insects. Health Canada wants to ban virtually all uses of the pesticide Imidacloprid. It said Imidacloprid poses risks to Canada's aquatic wildlife. Studies have linked neonicotinoid use to bee deaths around the world, although whether it is to blame for colony collapse is still being debated.
11-21-16 Porpoises plan their dives and can set their heart rate to match
Porpoises plan their dives and can set their heart rate to match
The discovery suggests all cetaceans can do this, and provides a new clue to how noise pollution may trigger strandings. Two captive harbour porpoises called Freja and Sif have helped to reveal that porpoises —and probably all cetaceans — consciously adjust their heart rate to suit the length of a planned dive. By doing this, the animals optimise the rate at which they consume oxygen beforehand to match the intended depth and length of their dive. “Until now, we knew that the heart rates of porpoises and cetaceans in general correlate with different dive factors, such as dive duration, depth and exercise,” says Siri Elmegaard of Aarhus University in Denmark, who led the research. “Now we can conclude that harbour porpoises have cognitive control of their heart rate.”
11-21-16 Brazilian free-tailed bats are the fastest fliers
Brazilian free-tailed bats are the fastest fliers
The new record holders can reach ground speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour. Brazilian free-tailed bats have bested the world’s fastest birds in a test of flight speed. The new record-holder for fastest flying animal isn’t a bat out of hell. It’s a bat from Brazil, a new study claims. Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) can reach ground speeds of 160 kilometers per hour. It’s unclear why they need that kind of speed to zoom through the night sky, but Brazilian bats appear to flap their wings in a similar fashion to ultrafast birds, an international group of researchers report November 9 in Royal Society Open Science. A sleek body, narrow wings and a wingspan longer than most other bats’ doesn’t hurt either.
11-18-16 Mood and personality interact to determine cognitive biases in pigs
Mood and personality interact to determine cognitive biases in pigs
Cognitive bias has become a popular way to access non-human animal mood, though inconsistent results have been found. In humans, mood and personality interact to determine cognitive bias, but to date, this has not been investigated in non-human animals. Here, we demonstrate for the first time, to the best of our knowledge, in a non-human animal, the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus), that mood and personality interact, impacting on judgement. Pigs with a more proactive personality were more likely to respond optimistically to unrewarded ambiguous probes (spatially positioned between locations that were previously rewarded and unrewarded) independent of their housing (or enrichment) conditions. However, optimism/pessimism of reactive pigs in this task was affected by their housing conditions, which are likely to have influenced their mood state. Reactive pigs in the less enriched environment were more pessimistic and those in the more enriched environment, more optimistic. These results suggest that judgement in non-human animals is similar to humans, incorporating aspects of stable personality traits and more transient mood states.
11-18-16 An echidna’s to-do list: Sleep. Eat. Dig up Australia.
An echidna’s to-do list: Sleep. Eat. Dig up Australia.
Short-beaked species of this mammal is a valuable ecosystem engineer. Yes, a short-beaked echidna is a mammal—warm-blooded with fur and mother’s milk—but with quirks. With no nipples and reptilelike eggs, short-beaked echidnas look like a first draft of a mammal. Yet, as Australia’s other digging mammals decline from invasive predators, the well-defended echidna is getting new love as an ecosystem engineer. The only mammals today that lay eggs are the four echidna species and the duck-billed platypus. Eggs are probably a holdover from the time before mammals split from reptiles. Each year or so, the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) lays one leathery egg “about the size of a grape,” says Christine Cooper of Curtin University in Perth. Instead of constructing a nest, mom deposits the egg in her version of a kangaroo pouch and waddles around with it.
11-17-16 In some ways, hawks hunt like humans
In some ways, hawks hunt like humans
A hunter’s gaze betrays its strategy. And looking at what an animal looks at when it's hunting for prey has revealed foraging patterns in humans, other primates — and now, birds. Suzanne Amador Kane of Haverford College in Pennsylvania and her colleagues watched archival footage of three raptor species hunting: northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis), Cooper’s hawks (A. cooperii) and red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). They also mounted a video camera to the head of a goshawk to record the bird’s perspective (a technique that’s proved useful in previous studies of attack behavior). The team noted how long birds spent fixating on specific points before giving up, moving their head and, thus, shifting their gaze.
11-17-16 Watch some of the most endangered seals caught napping underwater
Watch some of the most endangered seals caught napping underwater
We used to think they only slept on land in caves, now endangered Mediterranean monk seals have been caught sleeping underwater for the first time. Mediterranean monk seals have been caught on video snoozing underwater. Completely motionless, either on their bellies or sides, they seem to fall fast asleep with their eyes and nostrils closed. “We had never seen Mediterranean monk seals sleeping in the water before,” says Alexandros Karamanlidis of MOm/The Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal in Athens, Greece. “Until now, we thought that they slept only on land, in remote, inaccessible marine caves.” Now it seems this endangered species, Monachus monachus, isn’t obliged to find land and instead can stay at sea to sleep, where it is possibly better protected from humans, says Karamanlidis. There were six separate observations of seals sleeping at sea from 2011 to 2016, across different Greek coastlines. In most cases, the seals were documented by speargun fishers who happened upon them at depths of approximately 7 metres or shallower.
11-16-16 Pilot whales babysit each other’s young while swimming in groups
Pilot whales babysit each other’s young while swimming in groups
Many calves spend time swimming beside adult companions other than their mothers. Perhaps they are brushing up on their social skills. It takes a village to raise a whale. Rather than sticking exclusively to their mothers’ side, baby pilot whales in the north Atlantic take turns swimming next to other adults – including both females and males. Pilot whales are social creatures. They are thought to live in multigenerational family units of about two to four dozen individuals, says Joana Augusto at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. Those units often gather in larger groups that stay together for up to a few weeks, allowing whales to travel, feed, rest and socialise together. And while anecdotal evidence suggests calves sometimes accompany members of the gang that aren’t their mothers, nobody had systematically studied the behaviour in pilot whales before, Augusto says. “People have noticed that the calves didn’t really stay with the same adults,” she says. “We would see the babies just go from one individual to the other and then jump back.”
11-16-16 Creative cockatoos skilfully make tools from different materials
Creative cockatoos skilfully make tools from different materials
A parrot genius known to make tools has now shown that it does this with a specific purpose in mind, making useful items from twigs, wood and cardboard. It’s toolmaking with intent. Goffin’s cockatoos in the lab use their beaks to carefully cut out a tool from a sheet of cardboard before using it to retrieve an out-of-reach nut. In 2012, a male Goffin’s cockatoo named Figaro proved to be smarter than the average bird: he worked out that he could get to a nut just beyond his reach by tearing a long splinter off a chunk of wood and using it to rake the food. The behaviour – which some other cockatoos also picked up later – seemed to suggest the intentional creation of tools with a specific design for reaching food. But there were some doubters. “There were questions on whether the elongated shape of the tool was intentional,” says Alice Auersperg at the University of Vienna in Austria, who described Figaro’s behaviour in 2012. “He could just have bitten the material out of frustration and ended up with a functional tool due to the age lines of the wood.” In other words, wood naturally tears into the shape of a nut-retrieving tool, making it unclear whether the birds set out deliberately to fashion tools of the right shape for the task, or whether they just stumbled upon one that works well. Auersperg and her colleagues have now performed some follow-up investigations to make a stronger case for cockatoos having a specific intention in their toolmaking.
11-16-16 Cockatoos proven able to create tools
Cockatoos proven able to create tools
Researchers at Oxford and Vienna University have shown that Goffin’s cockatoos can make and use tools out of different materials to reach a reward. (Webmaster's comment: This video shows them doing it.)
11-16-16 Food made from natural gas will soon feed farm animals – and us
Food made from natural gas will soon feed farm animals – and us
ALL of the food you’ve ever eaten originated with sunlight captured by plants just a few months or years before you ate it. But some of the energy on your plate could soon come from sunlight captured by plants millions of years ago, thanks to plans to make animal feed from fossil fuels. Californian biotech company Calysta has announced the first ever large-scale factory that uses microbes to turn natural gas – methane – into high-protein animal feed. The factory, which will be built in the US in collaboration with food giant Cargill, will produce 200,000 tonnes of feed a year. The feed has already been approved in the European Union for use with farmed fish and livestock such as pigs. Calysta is seeking approval in the US, too – and not just for farm animals. “We want to take it all the way to cats and dogs, and potentially even humans,” says the head of Calysta, Alan Shaw.
11-16-16 The tragic beauty of Europe's vanishing forest
The tragic beauty of Europe's vanishing forest
One of the world's oldest ecosystems is under siege by a tiny, deadly force. Straddling the border of Poland and Belarus, the Bialowieza Forest is home to 20,000 animal species, including roughly a quarter of the world's bison population. At nearly 600 square miles, it is the largest remaining section of the continent's oldest primeval forest, which once stretched across the entire European plain. Its delicate ecosystem, largely untouched by humans, dates back to the Ice Age, some 10,000 years ago. That this ancient forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, and its wildlife are so well preserved is a testament to decades of conservation efforts. But, despite such protection, the Bialowieza Forest remains threatened by a deadly force: An infestation of bark beetles that are consuming spruce trees at an alarming rate. The situation has splintered environmentalists. Many are adamant the infestation is a natural part of the forest and must be left alone. Others — including the Polish government — are uncompromising in the belief that humans have a duty to actively stop the infestation by chopping down trees where the bark beetles live. For now, the Polish government has won — the logging campaign began in the spring of 2016. But in 2017, a World Heritage Site committee will evaluate the logging's consequences on the otherwise undisturbed ecosystem and determine a new conservation plan. Until then, take a closer look at what's left of Europe's lush primeval forest and its inhabitants. (Webmaster's comment: 600 square miles is nothing size-wise. It only 25 miles on a side. Not even as big as a large U.S. city.)
11-14-16 Bunnies eat toxic leaves to conquer Australia’s snowy peaks
Bunnies eat toxic leaves to conquer Australia’s snowy peaks
Rampaging rabbits are colonising Australia's mountains by adapting to a diet of poisonous snow gum leaves. Nothing will stand in their way. After devastating Australia’s low-lying regions, European rabbits are now muscling in on snowy mountainous areas by adapting to survive on toxic snow gum leaves. Rabbits were introduced to Australia in the 19th century and rapidly spread across the continent, creating huge problems for native wildlife and farmers. The only areas they have failed to colonise are those with snow cover in winter, because the grass they eat is buried. But in 2011, Ken Green at Australia’s National Parks and Wildlife Service began to notice rabbits living above the winter snowline in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. To understand how they are surviving, he collected their faecal pellets for three years and sent them to the University of Melbourne for dietary analysis.
11-11-16 Narwhals are really, really good at echolocation
Narwhals are really, really good at echolocation
Audio recordings from the Arctic suggest that narwhals take directional sonar to the extreme. Narwhals use highly targeted beams of sound to scan their environment for threats and food. In fact, the so-called unicorns of the sea (for their iconic head tusks) may produce the most refined sonar of any living animal. A team of researchers set up 16 underwater microphones to eavesdrop on narwhal click vocalizations at 11 ice pack sites in Greenland’s Baffin Bay in 2013. The recordings show that narwhal clicks are extremely intense and directional — meaning they can widen and narrow the beam of sound to find prey over long and short distances. It’s the most directional sonar signal measured in a living species, the researchers report November 9 in PLOS ONE.
11-10-16 Giggling rats help reveal how brain creates joy
Giggling rats help reveal how brain creates joy
To trace nerve cell response, researcher spent three years tickling rodents. Rats seem to enjoy a good tickle, which activates nerve cells in a part of the brain that detects touch. Tickle a rat and it will jump for joy, gleefully squeak and beg for more. In addition to describing these delightful reactions to a tickling hand, a new study identifies nerve cells in the brain that help turn rats into squirmy puddles of giggles. The results, published November 11 in Science, offer insight into how the brain creates glee, an understudied emotion. “People really underrate the positive things — fun, happiness, joy,” says study coauthor Shimpei Ishiyama of Humboldt University of Berlin. (Webmaster's comment: I observed this 50 years ago when working with lab rats at college. They seemed to enjoy my tickling their tummies. It would make their month seem to chatter but I could hear nothing. We have since learned that a rat laughs at frequencies above our ability to hear. Truly fascinating creatures.)
11-11-16 Swifts’ nonstop flight
Swifts’ nonstop flight
The common swift flies faster and higher than most other birds, earning it the nickname “greyhound of the skies.” New research reveals swifts are also astonishingly durable, holding the record for nonstop flight: They can stay airborne for up to 10 months straight. Every year, swifts embark on an epic 6,000-mile migration, flying round-trip from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa. A Swedish study tracked 19 of these tiny, torpedo-shaped birds for two years, after fitting them with lightweight devices that monitored how fast and high they flew as well as when they rested. The researchers found the swifts spent less than 1 percent of their migration on the ground. Remarkably, three of the birds never stopped flying. “They feed in the air, they mate in the air, they get nest material in the air,” researcher Susanne Åkesson tells NationalGeographic.com. “They can land on nest boxes, branches, or houses, but they can’t really land on the ground.” Swifts’ long wings and short legs prevent them from taking off from flat surfaces. The birds likely evolved to fly continuously, feeding on insects and possibly even sleeping during flight.
11-10-16 Dog's dinner: DNA clue to how dogs became our friend
Dog's dinner: DNA clue to how dogs became our friend
Dogs have been dining on human food scraps since the early days of their domestication, it appears. Our canine companions developed the ability to digest starchy foods during the farming revolution thousands of years ago, according to DNA evidence. Scientists think dogs may have been domesticated from wolves when they came into settlements, scrounging for food. Modern dogs can tolerate starch-rich diets, unlike their wolf cousins, which are carnivores. A study of DNA extracted from the bones and teeth of ancient dogs at archaeological sites in Europe and Asia suggests their ability to eat starchy foods goes back millennia.
11-10-16 Chemical clue to why seabirds eat plastic
Chemical clue to why seabirds eat plastic
Plastic pollution in the sea gives off a smell that attracts foraging birds, scientists have found. The discovery could explain why seabirds such as the albatross swallow plastic, causing injury or death The smell, similar to the odour of rotting seaweed, is caused by the breakdown of plankton that sticks to floating bits of plastic. About 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic and may keep some in their bellies, putting their health at risk. The rate of plastic pollution is increasing around the world, with a quarter of a billion tonnes of plastic waste recorded in the oceans in 2014. Scientists think seabirds associate the smell of plastic with food - and are tricked into swallowing plastic waste.
11-9-16 The sweet scent of plastic lures seabirds to a dangerous snack
The sweet scent of plastic lures seabirds to a dangerous snack
Plastic beads left to marinate in the ocean develop the same smell that some birds seek out when foraging for food. Birds may follow their noses to dangerous, fake feasts. Bits of plastic left in the ocean develop the same scent that certain seabirds use to locate food – and the aroma could lure hungry birds towards morsels of litter instead of their natural prey. Plastic pollution fouls oceans across the globe: there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic swirling around the world’s seas. All that trash makes its way up the food chain, resulting in poisoned fish and leaving birds with bellies full of plastic. It is not entirely clear why some creatures mistake garbage for grub, says Matthew Savoca at the University of California, Davis. Perhaps plastic looks like a tasty treat – to human eyes, for example, a suspended plastic bag resembles a drifting jellyfish. But many seabirds and other marine animals find dinner by sniffing out their quarry. “And yet no one’s actually tested the way plastic smells before,” Savoca says.
11-9-16 Ocean plastic emits chemical that tricks seabirds into eating trash
Ocean plastic emits chemical that tricks seabirds into eating trash
Some seabirds, including blue petrels (Halobaena caerulea), use the smell of dimethyl sulfide to find food. Plastic debris in the ocean gives off the same smell, sometimes tricking the birds into eating garbage. Plastic smells like supper for some seabirds. When the ubiquitous material ends up in the ocean, it gives off a chemical that albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters often use to locate food, researchers report online November 9 in Science Advances. That might lead the birds to ingest harmful junk instead of a real meal. Researchers let small beads of three common plastics linger off the coast of California. After a couple of weeks, the once-clean plastic accumulated grit, grime and bacteria that gave off an odiferous gas called dimethyl sulfide. Phytoplankton give off the same gas, and certain seabirds use its odor as a cue that dinner is nearby. Birds that rely more heavily on dimethyl sulfide as a beacon for a nearby meal are more likely to ingest plastic than birds that don’t, the team found. And other plankton-feeding marine animals could be also be fooled.
11-9-16 Hundreds more species than we thought might be endangered
Hundreds more species than we thought might be endangered
A survey suggests that 210 bird species are more threatened than we knew and it could be true of other animals, too. The velvet-purple coronet lives a life of little concern. Conservationists think that this iridescent hummingbird, found in parts of Colombia and Ecuador, isn’t likely to be endangered. But a new study indicates that this bird, and 210 other bird species, may be at greater risk than we thought. The work, which uses detailed satellite data of elevation and forest cover to assess suitable habitats, suggests that we need to rethink how we classify endangered creatures. “If this bird disappears from Colombia, it disappears from the world,” says Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela of ETH Zurich in Switzerland, who led the work. Since 1964, endangered species have been tracked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Switzerland. Their Red List assigns species a threat level according to population numbers and changes in their habitat.
11-9-16 Speedy bat flies at 160km/h, smashing bird speed record
Speedy bat flies at 160km/h, smashing bird speed record
Brazilian free-tailed bats may have snatched the title for the fastest muscle-powered flight, outpacing even the record-holding common swift. Brazilian free-tailed bats may have achieved speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour in level flight, which would make them faster than any bird. “These are the fastest powered flight speeds documented yet in any vertebrate that is, in bats or birds,” says Gary McCracken of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “We didn’t expect these results, even though the Brazilian free-tailed bats are known for their exceptional fast flight.” Previous studies suggested that birds fly faster than bats, but birds have received much more attention, McCracken says. The fastest bird on record for level flight is the common swift (Apus apus), which reaches around 112 km/h. McCracken’s team now claims bats have beaten that record. The team used an airplane tracking device on seven bats from the Frio Bat Cave in south-western Texas to track ground distance covered by bats. They found that all bats achieved speeds of almost 100km/h, with one bat logging a top speed of 160 km/h.
11-8-16 Old bonobos have bad eyesight — just like us
Old bonobos have bad eyesight — just like us
Older bonobos are longsighted — they have presbyopia — just like many older humans, a new study finds. It’s a familiar sight: Your mom or grandmother picks up a document and immediately holds it out at arm’s length to make out the small letters on the page, while simultaneously reaching for her reading glasses. As people age, their ability to see things close up often fades, a condition known as presbyopia. The eye can no longer focus light on the retina, focusing it instead just behind and causing poor close-up vision. Many have thought that presbyopia was a consequence of living in an era in which people are overburdened by tasks that require frequently focusing in the near-field of vision. But perhaps not: A new study finds that if bonobos could read, they too would need glasses as they age.
11-7-16 Middle-aged bonobos need reading glasses to groom their friends
Middle-aged bonobos need reading glasses to groom their friends
The eyesight of older bonobos appears to deteriorate at almost the same rate as in humans, implying that it’s a natural process, not lifestyle-related. If only they had “grooming glasses” they’d be fine. But in the absence of a pair of specs, ageing bonobos have been found to compensate for dodgy eyesight by focusing on fur that’s further away. The discovery of five cases of age-related long-sightedness at a bonobo colony in Wamba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, has demonstrated for the first time that ageing bonobos and humans develop poor eyesight at almost exactly the same rate. This suggests that it might be an unavoidable throwback to a common ancestor of apes and humans, rather than a result of too much staring at books and computer screens. The team inferred deteriorating eyesight from the increasing distance between the eyes of a bonobo and their grooming target as they got older. “I didn’t expect age to be such a strong predictor of long-sightedness,” says lead researcher, Heung Jin Ryu of the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University, Japan. Nor did he expect the compensatory increa
11-7-16 Most illegal ivory is less than three years old
Most illegal ivory is less than three years old
Around 90 percent of ivory seized by law enforcement came from African elephants that died shy of three years before being collected, a study of ivory samples finds. The results confirm what many conservationists have suspected: Long-term stockpiles don’t contribute much ivory to illegal trade, and recent poaching is pushing regional elephant populations into a nose-dive. Last year, DNA evidence linked tusks to poaching hotspots in Africa. Now researchers have used radiocarbon dating on some of the same tusks to pinpoint the time of death of the elephants to which they once belonged. The team sampled 231 specimens seized in 14 large-scale raids from 2002 to 2014.
11-3-16 City dolphins get a boost from better protection and cleaner waters
City dolphins get a boost from better protection and cleaner waters
Human activities such as manufacturing had made the Port River estuary near Adelaide, Australia, inhabitable to bottlenose dolphins. But the creation of a small sanctuary for the marine mammals and efforts to clean up the water appear to be helping, and the dolphins have returned. There are many places in the world where you can see bottlenose dolphins, but the dolphins swimming in the Port River estuary near Adelaide, Australia, are special. They gambol about in waters surrounded by factories, power stations and other signs of human habitation. For much of the 20th century, there were no dolphin sightings in the inner estuary. Prior to European settlement in 1858, bottlenose dolphins were commonly seen by the local Kaurna aboriginal tribal group. But as the city of Adelaide was built, the dolphins disappeared. What changed that enabled their return? A combination of improved environmental conditions, a little bit of protection and some public education, researchers report October 24 in Marine Mammal Science.
11-3-16 Bees collect honeydew from bugs before spring blossoms arrive
Bees collect honeydew from bugs before spring blossoms arrive
In the absence of nectar, bees get by on the sweet secretions of other insects — but they still need flowers for their protein-laden pollen. When nectar is scarce, bees can tap into another source of sweet stuff: the droppings left behind by other insects. This honeydew, a sugar-rich substance secreted by sap-sucking scale insects, may tide hungry bees over until spring flowers bloom. Although we tend to think of bees as hive-living socialites, most bee species are solitary, with each female building a nest to protect her developing offspring. Adults emerge in the spring and live for just a few weeks, when they mate and gather pollen and nectar. Fragrant, colourful flowers are like neon arrows pointing to those resources. But how wild bees survive if they mature before the blooms do was still largely a mystery, says Joan Meiners at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Unlike colony-building honeybees, solitary bees don’t stockpile honey for times when blossoms are scarce. “There’s really not much that’s known about what bees do when there aren’t flowers,” Meiners says.
11-2-16 Whale tales: The real-life Moby Dicks
Whale tales: The real-life Moby Dicks
Meticulously kept logbooks from 19th-century US whaling ships hold clues that could help us save what they once hunted. We know all this because Shattuck was the ship’s log-keeper. More than 5000 logbooks and journals exist from the era of North American commercial whaling. They give a remarkable insight into life at sea, but also meticulous detail on which whale species were present where and when. By digitising some of these treasures, a new project aims to use the hunters’ records to shed light on historical populations and migration patterns – and so inform conservation efforts today. European settlers began whaling off North America’s east coast in the mid-17th century, moving into deeper waters from the 1720s as coastal whale numbers declined. In the 1860s, the US whaling industry began to shrink in the face of foreign competition and reduced demand for whale oil. But continued unsustainable hunting eventually pushed some species to the brink of extinction, prompting a voluntary moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986. From the 1700s to 1920, a period that covers the heyday of large-scale whaling, there were some 15,000 voyages, typically with 20 to 35 men aboard each ship. The logbook, in some instances illustrated to detail individual hunts (see picture, page 35), was the official record. “Every single voyage has some element of drama to it,” says Michael Dyer at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Sickness was rife and accidents were common. “People were forever dying,” says Dyer. Often, logbook entries recounting deaths are outlined in black, or have a coffin symbol stamped in the margin.
10-28-16 Last-ditch effort to save the world’s smallest porpoise agreed
Last-ditch effort to save the world’s smallest porpoise agreed
Critically endangered vaquitas are set for greater protection and Japan’s “scientific” whaling faces scrutiny thanks to international agreements. The vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise, may be saved from extinction thanks to measures agreed yesterday at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission. Unique to the Gulf of California, this iconic animal has seen its numbers collapse from 567 individuals in 1997 to just 59 in 2015. The main reason is that they get accidentally caught and drowned in gill nets spread out to illegally catch totoaba fish, whose swim bladders are prized in Chinese medicine. Now, new measures will oblige the Mexican government to enforce gill-net bans throughout the range of the vaquita, also known as the “panda of the sea”. Likewise, efforts will be strengthened to eliminate the illegal trade in swim bladders from totoaba, and increase funding for vaquita monitoring programmes. “It’s not too late for the vaquita, but it’s going to be close, with only an estimated 59 animals left,” says Matt Collis, the team leader at the meeting for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “What’s truly tragic is that this could have been entirely preventable, because we’ve long known where vaquitas live and what we need to do to protect them.”
10-28-16 Fish swims to the same nest each year just like migrating birds
Fish swims to the same nest each year just like migrating birds
Is it a bird? No, it’s a fish. The shanny returns home to the same nest every year, where it tends to its eggs before they hatch. The ocean is a big place, but one small fish finds its way back to the same nest to tend to its eggs year after year. This behaviour is reminiscent of migratory birds such as white storks or swallows. But unlike them, the fish does not migrate over long distances. Instead, it disappears for months on end from its rocky shore breeding sites along the western coasts of Europe and North Africa, travelling offshore to feed. “The most interesting thing is that they get back to the same nest or to a very close one,” says Paulo Esteves Jorge at the University of Lisbon in Portugal. “It’s surprising to see in a non-migratory species standard behaviours of a migratory one.” Male shannies (Lipophrys pholis) – which care for the eggs – were already known to return to their nests if they were artificially removed during their breeding season, from October to April. “Males show a great fidelity to the nest, being able to quickly return to it in the same year if they were taken away,” says Jorge.
10-27-16 Swifts break record by staying aloft for 10 months at a time
Swifts break record by staying aloft for 10 months at a time
Common swifts probably sleep and mate on the wing, and juvenile birds may fly even longer than adults – perhaps for two years non-stop. We long suspected that they sleep and mate on the wing. Now, for the first time, there’s evidence that common swifts probably have to do both, because they spend an astonishing 10 months per year without landing – a world record for sustained flight in nature. Their nearest rival is the alpine swift, which flies non-stop for up to six months a year. In Europe, common swifts land for two months to breed, spending the nights roosting in their nests. Then they’re off to Africa – where no one has ever found roosting sites belonging to them – before returning again in Europe 10 months later to breed. “It had been hypothesised in the 1950s and 1960s that they spend such prolonged periods in flight,” says Anders Hedenström of the University of Lund in Sweden. Now, he and his colleagues have shown that they do, by fitting seven swifts with lightweight data loggers and monitoring their movements and location for two years. “Three of them never reached the ground for 10 months,” says Hedenström. “The others did land briefly, for a few nights, but never for more than half a per cent of the total time of their migratory periods.”
10-27-16 World wildlife 'falls by 58% in 40 years'
World wildlife 'falls by 58% in 40 years'
Global wildlife populations have fallen by 58% since 1970, a report says. The Living Planet assessment, by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and WWF, suggests that if the trend continues that decline could reach two-thirds among vertebrates by 2020. The figures suggest that animals living in lakes, rivers and wetlands are suffering the biggest losses. Human activity, including habitat loss, wildlife trade, pollution and climate change contributed to the declines. Dr Mike Barrett. head of science and policy at WWF, said: "It's pretty clear under 'business as usual' we will see continued declines in these wildlife populations. But I think now we've reached a point where there isn't really any excuse to let this carry on. "We know what the causes are and we know the scale of the impact that humans are having on nature and on wildlife populations - it really is now down to us to act."
10-26-16 Wildlife numbers more than halve since 1970s in mass extinction
Wildlife numbers more than halve since 1970s in mass extinction
Mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles from around the world have seen 58 per cent fall in population - with the 2 per cent drop in numbers a year continuing. Global wildlife populations are set to have fallen by more than two thirds on 1970 levels by the end of the decade, conservationists warn. Assessment of 14,152 populations of 3,706 species of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles from around the world reveals a 58 per cent fall between 1970 and 2012 – with no sign the average 2 per cent drop in numbers each year will slow. By 2020, populations of vertebrate species could have fallen by 67 per cent over a 50-year period unless action is taken to reverse the damaging impacts of human activity, the Living Planet report from WWF and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said. The figures prompted experts to warn nature was facing a global “mass extinction” for the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs. African elephants in Tanzania have seen numbers crash due to poaching, maned wolves in Brazil are threatened by grasslands being turned into farmland and European eels have declined due to disease, over-fishing and changes to their river habitats. (Webmaster's comment: At this rate by 2050 wildlife could be essentially gone, and certainly by 2080. Human beings are the most destructive creatures ever evolved on earth. If all intelligent life in the universe evolves along this same path then that explains why there is no intelligent life in the universe. "Intelligent life" essentially destroys the planet it lives on shortly after achieving dominance.)
10-21-16 Smart lab rats filmed using hooked tools to get chocolate cereal
Smart lab rats filmed using hooked tools to get chocolate cereal
Lock up your cereal. Rats can learn to use tools, such as hooked rakes, to reach food, and they can even choose the right tool for the job. Some rodents have a sweet tooth. And sometimes, you need to get crafty to reach your sugar fix. Rats have been filmed for the first time using hooked tools to get chocolate cereal – a manifestation of their critter intelligence. Akane Nagano and Kenjiro Aoyama, of Doshisha University in Kyotanabe, Japan, placed eight brown rats in a transparent box and trained them to pull small hooked tools to obtain the cereal that was otherwise beyond their reach. In one experiment they gave them two similar hooked tools, one of which worked well for the food retrieval task, and the other did not. The rats quickly learned to choose the correct tool for the job, selecting it 95 per cent of the time.
10-19-16 Some of our Stone Age tools may just be crafty monkey throwaways
Some of our Stone Age tools may just be crafty monkey throwaways
Capuchins make stone flakes that could be mistaken for hominin tools, but they do so by accident in search of mineral dust they lick, perhaps as a medication. Toolmaking may not have been such a unique feat for our immediate ancestors after all – even modern monkeys have now been found to create stone tools. The surprising finding casts doubt on the assumption that intentional stone crafting required complex skills found only in hominins, such as changes in hand shape, coordination and cognitive skills. It also raises the possibility that at least some of the ancient tools we attribute to human ancestors were actually the handiwork of monkeys.
10-19-16 Wild monkeys throw curve at stone-tool making's origins
Wild monkeys throw curve at stone-tool making's origins
Unlike early hominids, capuchins don’t use sharp-edged rocks to dig or cut. A capuchin monkey in Brazil uses a handheld stone to hammer an embedded rock. Researchers say these wild primates unintentionally detach pieces of rock shaped like basic hominid stone tools, raising questions about how toolmaking evolved. A group of South American monkeys has rocked archaeologists’ assumptions about the origins of stone-tool making. Wild bearded capuchin monkeys in Brazil use handheld stones to whack rocks poking out of cliffs and outcrops. The animals unintentionally break off sharp-edged stones that resemble stone tools made by ancient members of the human evolutionary family, say archaeologist Tomos Proffitt of the University of Oxford and his colleagues. It’s the first observation of this hominid-like rock-fracturing ability in a nonhuman primate. The new finding indicates that early hominids needed no special mental ability, no fully opposable thumbs and not even any idea of what they were doing to get started as toolmakers, the researchers report October 19 in Nature. All it may have taken was a penchant for skillfully pounding rocks, as displayed by capuchins when cracking open nuts (SN Online: 4/30/15).
10-14-16 Worms seen farming plants to be eaten later for the first time
Worms seen farming plants to be eaten later for the first time
A type of ragworm has been spotted dabbling in gardening for the first time, a behaviour that allows it to grow much bigger by unleashing more nutrition. Marine worms have been spotted growing sprouts in their burrows, a type of cultivation never seen before in animals other than humans. Ragworms (Hediste diversicolor) were thought to consume the seeds of cordgrass, an abundant plant in the coastal habitats where they live. But the seeds have a tough husk, so it was a mystery how the worms could access the edible interior. Zhenchang Zhu at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research in Den Hoorn and his team have now discovered the worms’ surprising trick: they bury the seeds and wait for them to germinate, later feeding on the juicy sprouting shoots. The worms have a varied diet. They prey on small invertebrates and suck up plant debris from soil, the most abundant source of food in their environment.
10-12-16 Painted lady butterflies’ migration may take them across the Sahara
Painted lady butterflies’ migration may take them across the Sahara
Painted lady butterflies are found all over the world. New evidence shows that some may make an epic migration — across the Mediterranean and Sahara. Butterflies look so delicate as they flitter from flower to flower. And yet, they are capable of migrating incredibly long distances. The monarch, for example, migrates between Canada and Mexico, covering distances of up to 4,800 kilometers, riding a combination of columns of rising air, called thermals, and air currents to travel around 80 to 160 kilometers per day. No single monarch makes this entire journey, though. The round trip is done by a succession of as many as five generations of butterflies. But now scientists have found that there’s a species of butterfly that may rival the monarch’s migratory record — the painted lady (Vanessa cardui).
10-11-16 Dolphin pictured killing porpoise by flipping it into air
Dolphin pictured killing porpoise by flipping it into air
A bottlenose dolphin has been pictured flipping a porpoise into the air in a deadly attack. The rarely seen event was witnessed by gig rowers in Newlyn Harbour in Cornwall. Dolphin attacks on porpoises accounted for about one death a year on average, said Cornwall Wildlife Trust (CWT). It is unclear why dolphins attack porpoises but it could be an aggressive response to feeding competition or even "misdirected sexual aggression".
10-10-16 African elephants walk on their tippy-toes
African elephants walk on their tippy-toes
African elephants may develop foot problems when they tiptoe across hard surfaces in captivity. Elephants don’t wear high heels, but they certainly walk like they do. Foot problems plague pachyderm conservation efforts. But it’s not clear if being in captivity causes changes in walking gait that drive these foot problems or whether the environment messes with their natural walking style. Regardless of species or setting, a trend emerged: Elephants put the most pressure on the outside toes of their front feet and the least pressure on their heels, scientists report October 5 in Royal Society Open Science. Thus, elephants naturally walk on their tiptoes, and harder surfaces of captive environments must cramp their walking style. As a potential monitoring system, the pressure plates used in the study could aid conservationists and elephant podiatrists.
10-7-16 Bees take longer to learn floral odors polluted by vehicle fumes
Bees take longer to learn floral odors polluted by vehicle fumes
Roadside pollution interferes with basics of foraging for nectar. Honeybees usually learn floral scents quickly, but it’s harder for them when the fragrance of roadside flowers mixes with car exhaust. Here’s another reason not to love car exhaust: The fumes may make it harder for honeybees to learn floral scents. In lab tests, bees normally caught on quickly that a puff of floral scent meant a researcher would soon offer them a taste of sugar, Ryan James Leonard of the University of Sydney said September 30 at the International Congress of Entomology. After two sequences of puff-then-sugar, just a whiff of fragrance typically made the bees stick out their tongues. But when that floral scent was mixed with vehicle exhaust, it took the bees several more run-throughs to respond to the puff signal. Honeybees buzzing among roadside flowers must contend with vehicle pollution as they learn various foraging cues. Another lab reported in 2013 that diesel exhaust reacted with some of the chemical components of canola flowers, rendering them more difficult for bees to recognize.
10-7-16 Whale calf seen pushing stranded mother off sandbank
Whale calf seen pushing stranded mother off sandbank
A humpback whale which was stranded on an Australian sandbank has freed itself after its calf was seen apparently nudging it into deeper water. The whale was spotted near North Stradbroke Island, about 100km (62 miles) south-west of Brisbane, early on Wednesday morning. Her distressed calf was later seen apparently pushing her as she splashed in the water to get free. About 40 minutes after getting stuck, the whale was able to dislodge herself.
10-6-16 Chimps, bonobos and orangutans grasp how others view the world
Chimps, bonobos and orangutans grasp how others view the world
Apes’ ability to anticipate how a misinformed person will behave suggests they can see the world from the perspective of others – though maybe not consciously. Apes may be even more like us than we thought. They appear to anticipate that a person’s actions will follow his or her beliefs, even when they know the person is wrong – an ability never before demonstrated in non-human primates. The capacity to infer what others might be thinking, known as theory of mind, is central to what makes us human, and is reflected in the ways we cooperate and communicate, says Christopher Krupenye at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Humans, for example, possess an awareness of false beliefs held by other individuals, recognising that the thoughts of others don’t necessarily reflect reality. To see whether apes have this same type of awareness, Krupenye, Fumihiro Kano at Kyoto University in Japan, and their colleagues filmed scenarios designed to stimulate apes. The videos involve conflict between pairs of human actors, one of whom is dressed in a King Kong costume. “The apes are curious; they want to know what’s going on,” says Krupenye.
10-6-16 Chimps, other apes take mind reading to humanlike level
Chimps, other apes take mind reading to humanlike level
A group of captive apes, including this orangutan, performed tests indicating that they can grasp when others are about to act based on false beliefs. This finding indicates that social thinking skills of apes and humans are more alike than previously thought. Apes understand what others believe to be true. What’s more, they realize that those beliefs can be wrong, researchers say. To make this discovery, researchers devised experiments involving a concealed, gorilla-suited person or a squirreled-away rock that had been moved from their original hiding places — something the apes knew, but a person looking for King Kong or the stone didn’t. “Apes anticipated that an individual would search for an object where he last saw it, even though the apes knew that the object was no longer there,” says evolutionary anthropologist Christopher Krupenye. If this first-of-its-kind finding holds up, it means that chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans can understand that others’ actions sometimes reflect mistaken assumptions about reality. Apes’ grasp of others’ false beliefs roughly equals that of human 2-year-olds tested in much the same way, say Krupenye of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and his colleagues.
10-6-16 Do animals have souls?
Do animals have souls?
Non-humans have feelings. Does that mean they have souls? In common parlance, the word "soul" pops up everywhere. We may speak of a vast, soulless corporation or describe an athlete as the "heart and soul" of his team. Soul music gets us swaying. We want our lover, body and soul. In each case, "soul" connotes deep feeling and core values. "Feelings form the basis for what humans have described for millennia as the … soul or spirit," the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio eloquently expounds in his groundbreaking book Descartes' Error (1994). Today, studies increasingly show that many non-human beings feel. Elephants appear to feel grief, while dolphins and whales express joy, or something much like it. Parrots can become cranky, pigs and cows terrified, chickens saddened, monkeys seemingly embarrassed. Experiments have shown that rats become agitated when seeing surgery performed on other rats and that, when presented with a trapped lab-mate and a piece of chocolate, they will free their caged brethren before eating. There's even evidence that rats take pleasure in being tickled. None of this will come as a surprise to pet owners or anyone who has observed virtually any kind of animal for any length of time. Science is rediscovering what Charles Darwin, in his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) concluded: that the variations between humans and other species in their capacity to feel and express emotion are differences in degree rather than in kind.It's a short step from there to recognition that individual animals have personalities, and to reckon that not only do they live — they have lives. (Webmaster's comment: Animals do not not have souls. And neither do we.)
10-5-16 Thousands of animals flock to annual party hosted by starlings
Thousands of animals flock to annual party hosted by starlings
A seasonal bounty of food brings together an unusual menagerie of species all gathering under the trees where starlings nest in tropical Australia. Every summer, crowds of animals gather around trees at the northernmost tip of Australia to enjoy a feast hosted by starling colonies. Metallic starlings (Aplonis metallica) migrate each year from New Guinea to the tropical rainforests of north-east Australia, where they stay from November to April. The birds return to same patch each season, with up to 1000 individuals nesting communally in the same tree. As a result, the areas underneath the nesting sites become the most diverse animal hotspots in the world. Mammals, reptiles, amphibians and other birds congregate to feed on seeds scattered by the starlings, as well as fallen eggs and chicks. Bird droppings enrich the soil, boosting insect populations and root growth, which provide additional food sources. An eight-year study of 27 starling colony trees on Cape York Peninsula found that they attracted 42 different species during the nesting season. Many species were 100 to 1000 times more abundant under nesting trees than trees elsewhere. “The hotspots are spectacular,” says Daniel Natusch at the University of Sydney, who led the study. “It is uncommon to have a single resource that attracts such a diverse assemblage of species.” We know that other bird colonies attract animals, for example, penguins lure in predatory seals, whales and sharks, but Australia’s starling colonies pull in the highest number and diversity of species by far.
10-5-16 Eels may not take most direct route in epic ocean-crossing spawning runs
Eels may not take most direct route in epic ocean-crossing spawning runs
European eels may not all rush to migrate for their once-in-a-lifetime chance to spawn. Analysis of tag data finds unexpected slow wandering. Storied spawning runs of European eels may not be an en masse push to a mating site. Roundabout routes may delay many eels so much that they miss the big event and have to wait to mate until next season. The most extensive reconstructions of individual eel journeys challenge an assumption that Europe’s freshwater eels (Anguilla anguilla) migrate and spawn as a group, says behavioral ecologist David Righton of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in Lowestoft, England. Eels tagged for the study took so long on their various journeys that tags scheduled to pop off on April 1 — the expected peak of the spawning — found that none of 33 ocean-going eels had yet made it all the way to the Sargasso Sea mating grounds. Calculating routes and speeds indicates that many eels were already too far off-track to reach the mass gathering that season without unrealistic jumps in swimming speed, Righton and an international team argue October 5 in Science Advances. The eel that came the closest to the Sargasso Sea before its tag detached had already traveled almost 10 months and meandered more than 6,900 kilometers, farther than the distance of a direct route.
10-4-16 Don’t worry, bee happy: Bees found to have emotions and moods
Don’t worry, bee happy: Bees found to have emotions and moods
Treats seem to trigger bumblebees’ dopamine pathways, appearing to make them feel happy and take a more upbeat outlook on life. Bumblebees may experience something like happiness after getting a treat that makes them appear more optimistic. We normally think of an emotion as the internal awareness of a feeling, but there’s more to it than that, says Clint Perry at Queen Mary University of London. Physical changes to your body and shifts in your behaviour accompany sensations of happiness or sadness. “Many of these things actually cause the subjective feeling that we have,” says Perry. “Those are all necessary parts of emotion.” Researchers can measure those adjustments in behaviour when they’re studying emotions in animals, he says.
10-4-16 Pangolins and parrots protected – lions and elephants lose out
Pangolins and parrots protected – lions and elephants lose out
A major international meeting has agreed to upgrade protection for a host of endangered species, but the fight is not over. It’s been a red-letter week for many of the world’s most iconic and threatened species, tinged only by disappointment at failure to win complete protection for elephants and lions. Overall, countries voted en masse to back outright bans on trade in the parts and tissues of a whole host of threatened species, including African grey parrots, all species of pangolins, and Barbary macaques. The decisive votes were cast this week and last in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the 17th triennial conference of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. “Most of the decisions favour protection of animals for the long term, so overall it’s been a very strong pro-conservation agenda,” says Kelvin Alie, acting vice president of animal welfare and conservation at the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Many of the votes increased protection for species by upgrading them from Appendix II, which gives relatively weak protection, to Appendix I which forbids all trade in tissues and parts from those animals.
10-3-16 Extreme bird nests bring comforts and catastrophe
Extreme bird nests bring comforts and catastrophe
Like most weaver bird homes, the underside of this nest is covered with dark holes?—?entrances to tunnels that lead to each family’s private unit. That heap of hay in a tree is not a typical animal commune. Huge group nests of sociable weaver birds across southern Africa are about as close as nature gets to building condos. Ant nests, beaver lodges and many other marvels of animal architecture enclose shared space. But small, sparrowlike Philetairus socius push together beakful after beakful of grass to create a haystack of apartments. The nests can grow to weigh a ton and last about a century. Tunnels opening from the shaggy underside lead to each family’s unit. For better and worse, a weaver bird nest “in practice is like a block of flats,” says evolutionary biologist Rita Covas of CIBIO Research Center at the University of Portugal. The condos have great insulation, an important perk for birds that don’t migrate from the hot-then-cold Kalahari. In summer, Covas can feel shady relief when she reaches up into a nest. In winter, condos are heated by snuggle power. The thatch keeps a chamber with a lone bird at about 12° Celsius. An apartment crowded with five birds reaches a toasty 33° C, Covas and colleagues reported in June in the Journal of Avian Biology.
10-3-16 'Indiana Jones' shark gains protection at Cites meeting
'Indiana Jones' shark gains protection at Cites meeting
Known for its long whip-like tail, the threatened Thresher shark is among a number of marine species given extra protection at the Cites meeting. Thresher sharks are often found entangled in fishing lines or nets. Devil rays and Silky sharks have also been given additional safeguards. These shark species have seen huge population falls over the past decades, due to the demands of the shark fin trade. Devil rays are valued for the gill plates which are used in Chinese medicine. Campaigners believe the safeguards under Cites will make a real difference to these species survival.
10-3-16 Efforts to boost elephant protection fails at Cites
Efforts to boost elephant protection fails at Cites
Attempts to give the maximum level of international protection to all African elephants have foundered at a key species conference in Johannesburg. A proposal put forward by Kenya was strongly supported but failed to gain the two-thirds majority required. The opposition of the EU, which voted as a block, was pivotal in the defeat. Other proposals that would have opened up new ivory markets were also rejected. Proponents of the increased protection say it is a missed opportunity to safeguard the future of the species and end the current poaching crisis.
10-3-16 'Flying ivory' hornbill bird gains extra protection
'Flying ivory' hornbill bird gains extra protection
An Asian bird species under threat for its ivory like helmet has gained extra protection at the Cites conference in Johannesburg. Numbers of the helmeted hornbill have plummeted in recent years as demand soared for the so-called "red ivory" that makes up its bill. Prized in China the hornbill helmets are worth up to five times the price of elephant ivory. The Cites meeting has now voted for extra efforts to curb illegal trade.
10-3-16 The magpie that saved a family
The magpie that saved a family
Sam Bloom fell into a deep depression after a fall from a roof terrace during a family holiday left her paralysed from the chest down. But help was to come from an unexpected source - a magpie chick which had fallen from its nest. When the family took in the bird, it brought joy back to their home and allowed Sam to make a new start.
10-2-16 Call to close ivory markets agreed at Cites conference
Call to close ivory markets agreed at Cites conference
Delegates at a UN wildlife conference have endorsed calls for the closure of all domestic ivory markets. The non-binding proposal was approved at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in South Africa. Conservationists hailed it as a significant step towards ending the current elephant poaching crisis. However Japan, which has a large domestic ivory trade, said the proposal did not apply there. While the international market in ivory has been closed since 1989, legal domestic markets have continued in many countries around the world. There has been growing concern that domestic trading has encouraged the poaching of elephants. A surge in killing over the past seven years has seen populations across Africa shrink by a third, according to the recently published Great Elephant Census. What is driving the slaughter is the value of ivory, which can sell for around $1,100 (£850) per kilo in China. Countries including the US and China have announced plans to close their markets. The UK recently did the same, banning all trade in ivory dated from 1947 until the present day. Trade in materials from before 1947 will continue.
10-1-16 Cheetah trade: Nations to suppress social media enticement
Cheetah trade: Nations to suppress social media enticement
Arab nations have joined forces with the African countries to suppress the illegal live trade in cheetahs. A recent BBC report highlighted the desperate plight of young cheetahs trafficked from Africa to the Middle East. One key element of the new plan is to tackle the use of social media to flaunt, pose or advertise these endangered big cats. Experts welcomed the new approach as a big step for a diminishing species.
10-1-16 Hawaiian bees are first on US endangered species list
Hawaiian bees are first on US endangered species list
Seven species of yellow-faced bee native to Hawaii have become the first bees to be added to the US federal list of endangered and threatened species. Conservationists say the bees face extinction through habitat loss, wildfires and the introduction of non-native insects and plants. The bees are crucial to pollinating some of Hawaii's endangered plants. The listing follows years of study by researchers including the Xerces Society conservation group.