Archive for the ‘species survival’ category

“Strange Evidence” Predator Resurrection

February 10, 2019

The Strange Evidence series on the Science (SCI) channel is one of the better shows currently televised on unexplained phenomena and scientific speculation. If somewhat uneven and episodic, the shows have decent production values and offer commentary and opinions by scientists as well as observers of the topics under consideration.  It’s a mixture of the far out and things that just might be possible; I like it!

With each installment comprised of several segments, the S1/Ep10 offering included camera trap footage taken in Tasmania in 2016 of an animal unfamiliar to observers that may have been a Tasmanian tiger, a species thought to have been hunted to extinction in the 1930’s with the last specimen in captivity (above) having died in 1936. Actually a marsupial, the Tas tiger was wolf-like with stripes and a long, inflexible tail. Due to the low resolution of the film taken, experts consulted could not conclusively identify the animal present, and thought it might have been a quoll, which is a smaller carnivorous mammal common to Tasmania.

So is the Tasmanian tiger still out there?  I remain skeptical, but stranger things have happened…

“Animal Apocalypse” on Monsters & Mysteries Unsolved

September 27, 2016

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Episode 10, Season 1 of Monsters and Mysteries Unsolved looked  at a global increase in animal die-offs, a phenomena referred to as the “Animal Apocalypse.”  Several examples of this were then investigated.

On New Year’s Eve 2010 in Beebe, Arkansas, blackbirds swarmed all over the town, impacting with buildings and other objects, and dropping dead on lawns and streets.  The next morning, residents found 5,000 dead birds in the city.  In a scene reminiscent of The X-Files, crews in Hazmat suits were called in, collecting the birds and taking them to a wildlife health center in Madison, Wisconsin where experts examined the bodies and found that birds were not ill but had impact injuries, dying from blunt force trauma.  The question was why had blackbirds bruised and battered their bodies in Beebe; nothing like a little alliteration to liven things up!  The best answer was that New Year’s Eve fireworks displays had scared hundreds of thousands of birds, forcing them into flight at night when the species couldn’t see, causing them to simply fly into things, which did not go well for them.  

Elsewhere in Ozark, Arkansas 80,000 drum fish were found dead along the Arkansas River. No abnormal toxins were found in the water, but examination of the fish revealed that they had over-inflated swim bladders, a condition referred to as gas bubble disease.  This condition was felt to have been caused by an abnormally high number of gate openings at a dam on the river.

Some entire species of bees are disappearing at a furious rate in a phenomena referred to as “Colony Collapse Disorder .”  Such things could pose a direct threat to the world food supply of fruits, nuts, and vegetables where pollination by bees is critical.  The mystery of the vanishing bees remains unsolved.  “White Nose Syndrome” has also ravaged bat populations in the eastern U.S., causing strange behavior such as bats flying out during the day and in winter.  Five to seven million bats were lost during the winter of 2008, with the afflicted bats showing a fungus which eroded through tissues and made them thirsty during normal hibernation times.

Time was given to a Pastor Wohlberg, who felt that species die-offs were part of Biblical end times prophesy.  By this viewpoint, it’s all a reflection of corruption of the Earth due to human immorality…

Wildlife die-offs have been noted globally, in countries that have included England, Brazil, Italy, the Philippines, and Peru.  Pandemics are likely to happen as animal diseases jump to human populations.  This occurred with the Black Death that ravaged medieval Europe, as well as with the 1918 Influenza epidemic, the West Nile virus, the Swine Flu, and others.  Pathogens getting into the human population increases every year, so we can reasonably expect more of the same in the future, with animal populations providing an advance warning.  

Sad-Looking, Cute, and Threatened…

December 17, 2012

cute slow loris– – Have you ever seen anything look this sad and cute at the same time?–Don’t you just want to take it home with you?–Well, you may not want to, because it’s a venomous primate, a type of slow loris species called Nycticebus kayan newly discovered in Borneo.

Now the slow loris (which sounds like a Dr. Sseus character) is a nocturnal primate found across Southeast Asia that is closely related to a lemur and is characterized by unique fur coloration on its face and body.  The creatures are poorly understood due to their lifestyle of nighttime activity and slow movements.

To access its poison, a slow loris rubs its hands under glands near its armpits, then applies the poison to its teeth.  The resulting bite can put a person or predator into potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.  Despite its toxic defense, the species is threatened due to deforestation and poaching.  Sadly, the cuteness of the species may lead to its undoing, making it a prime candidate on the illegal pet-trade market in Asia.  Due to the toxicity of its bite, captive animals often have their canine and incisor teeth pulled out, which puts them at risk since they then can’t chew properly, ultimately resulting in death…

Killer Catfish and Adaptive Behavior…

December 9, 2012

catfish– – Too often, fish are regarded as dumber than a  sack of hammers.  This may not be true of all of our finned friends, however.  In France, researchers at the University of Toulouse have observed catfish hunting pigeons as prey in a development scientists are calling evidence of adaptive behavior. 

European catfish originated east of the Rhine River, but were introduced to the Tarn River in 1983.  They adapted their natural behavior to feed on novel prey in the area, grabbing pigeons on the shore, and dragging them into the water; this behavior has not been known to occur in the native range of the species.  In France, pigeons gather along the river gravel to clean and bathe as the catfish patrol the water’s edge.  When the three to five-feet long catfish hunt the pigeons, they even temporarily strand themselves on land for a few seconds to grab their meal.  The hunting habits of the Tarn catfish are so similar to orcas that they have been called, “freshwater killer whales…”

Urban Disaster Survivors…

December 6, 2012

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– – It’s time to cue up the Willard movies!  While superstorm Sandy killed many rats in New York City, those which survived have been driven from flooded subway tunnels, emerging to find new sources of food that include rotting trash, pigeons, fish, and other rats.  Rats will burrow beneath buildings to  establish new homes, and can slide into holes as small as half an inch (the width of their skulls), even though their bodies can measure up to 18 inches long.  (“Ben, you’re always running here and there…”)

Weep not for the pigeons, either.  Originally cliff-dwelling birds, skyscrapers suit pigeons well.  When displaced, they tend to find a safe place to get out of the wind, and then fly to new food sources.

Rats and pigeons are successful around humans as they are well-adapted to what we do…Adapt and prevail,” as the Borg would say…