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Rare monkeys died in Oregon Zoo

When one living being dies, it could be an accident. But if six living beings died, can't help but think this is negligence. This is what happened to six rare monkeys at the Oregon Zoo. 

PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters by Shelby Sebens) - Six cotton-top tamarin monkeys died unexpectedly soon after their arrival at the Oregon Zoo, following the death of an orangutan that led to the firing of the zoo's director, officials said on Friday.

They were in a group of nine of the squirrel-like primates that arrived at the zoo on May 22 and were placed in quarantine at its veterinarian center, which is routine procedure, officials said.

Six of those nine monkeys died of unknown causes and their bodies were found by veterinarian staff two days after their arrival, officials said in a statement.

The other three monkeys, including a five-week-old baby, appear to be in good health, officials said

Initial necropsy results were inconclusive and tissue samples have been submitted to a pathologist for analysis, said spokesman Jim Middaugh of Metro, the Portland-area regional government that owns and operates the zoo.

Zoo officials said they hope to receive the results within a few weeks.

Middaugh said Metro is working to understand what happened to the monkeys, which have white hair on their heads and live over 13 years on average. It was unclear how long they had been dead before they were discovered by veterinarian staff.

Middaugh said he could not comment on where the critically endangered monkeys came from. "We’re working through that," he said.

The deaths come on the heels of two zoo officials, including the facility's director, being fired earlier this month following the death of an orangutan.

An investigation into the January death of the 20-year-old animal named Kutai found evidence of mismanagement and poor reporting, according to Metro.

"We're really working hard up at the zoo to ensure that everyone feels empowered to share their concerns openly," Middaugh said.

"We really have a team of professionals up there who focus every day on taking care of the more than 200 species at the zoo. Mistakes happen. They don't happen often at the zoo."

Monster Squid vs. Giant Squid – Hoax Photo

There have been thousands of photos showing monster size squids getting stranded or washed on beaches all over the world. The most recent one is the 160-foot-long giant squid which made a stir on social media sites. The monster squid apparently ended up in the beaches of Santa Monica in California. The photo even came with a satirical commentary, saying that the animal was the result of radiation. However, this Godzilla-sized squid is not real.
Giant Squid Hoax

Thanks to how the internet works, the photo became viral in just a short amount of time. The certainty behind the photo was revealed by the popular rumor-research site Staff from the website actually went to the said beach where the giant squid was seen and found no truth about it. David Emery, a writer from, also confirmed that the photo was actually an edited version of a 30-foot-long giant squid which was found in the shores of Spain back in 2013.

So how big do these giant squids actually get? The biggest that was ever recorded was around 55 feet long and was found somewhere in New Zealand. Giant squids can grow big enough to fight sperm whales. Another detail that could cause error on the measurements of these giants is the fact that their tentacles are quite stretchy.
Sperm Whale vs Giant Squid Diorama - 

55 feet is still a long way to go from the 160-foot length of the hoax photo. Researchers say that if giant squids were able to grow to more than a hundred feet, they would have seen ones that are close to that size. 

Dragons of Indonesia

Many of us find the common house lizard creepy. However, imagine one that’s a thousand times bigger with a lethal bite. You might think that this creature is the stuff of nightmares, but they’re actually real, and they reside in certain islands in Indonesia.

Known for their size, the Komodo dragon is definitely an animal you don’t want to mess with. It’s the biggest living lizard. The biggest ever recorded reached about 3.13 meters long and weighed 366 pounds. That’s about as heavy as two people. But don’t worry about getting chased by one, for they are able to run only for a short time at a speed of 13 mph.

How this giant lizard dominates is through power and stealth. They can lie waiting in a single spot for hours, waiting for a goat, a boar, a deer, or anything that can be seized and good enough to be eaten. They also have a very keen eyesight. Komodo dragons can see things as far as 300 meters away from them.  Not only that, another sense that makes these predators rule is their sense of smell. Like snakes, they use their long forked tongue to “taste” the air and find their prey.

The bacteria found in their saliva is another way to cause damage to their preys. If the prey gets away from the Komodo dragon’s powerful bite, it will slowly become infected and die in a matter of days. Komodos are immune to each other’s bites, thanks to the antibodies in their blood.

These strange and mysterious creatures were successfully hatched in captivity back in 1992. Their offspring are now seen in zoos in different parts of the world. 

Dessert Creatures – The Jackrabbit

Also called the Black-tailed Jackrabbit, these furry animals are actually not rabbits. They belong under the genus Lepus and species californicus. Jackrabbits are actually hares because they give birth to babies, called leverets, which are born with eyes wide open and are covered with fur. These creatures line in extreme environments, specifically in chaparrals and deserts where temperatures can really rise up during daytime and drop really low at night. Also, these areas don’t really get much rain, so water is hard to come by.

What makes these hares distinct is their large ears that help regulate body heat. This works by decreasing or increasing blood flow through the ears, so even if they live in areas with harsh temperatures, they can still adopt well. They favor living in wide open areas where predators are clearly seen.

With their long, powerful legs, they can sprint to about 36 mph, fast enough to get away from predators like hawks or wild dogs. The fur covering their soles help cushion their feet and insulate the desert sand’s heat.

Male specimens can weigh at 9 to 11 pounds while females, which are commonly bigger, can reach a good 11 to 13 pounds. They can also grow from 16 to 28 inches and their tails can reach 2-5 inches long. 
Jackrabbits become sexually mature at a year old and can produce a litter with 1 to 6 leverets in every 3 to 4 months. Mother Jackrabbits would usually stay with their leverets for a month, after which will then take care of themselves. 

Gentle Giants – Elephants Today

For something that’s so huge and majestic, it’s strange how secretive elephants are in the wild.  They tend to shy away from humans and keep to themselves. Nowadays, these creatures are being nearly threatened to endangered. If their populations continue to decline, they could end up extinct.

These animals have long been used as symbols and play an important role in the culture of the people living in their natural habitat. For instance, in India, the elephant is considered as a sacred animal. In fact, one of the gods in Hinduism has an elephant head.

There are two species of elephants, African and Asian. Both of these species face a huge threat in habitat loss. Areas where vegetation like grass, bamboo, roots, bark and leaves grow are being destroyed. Some elephants have even gotten into the habit of eating crops like sugarcane and bananas that grow around the area where farmers live.

Like humans, elephants are very social creatures. They build very tight bonds among their herd and are very close to their family members. Herds have a matriarchal system where the group is led by an older and usually bigger female.  Elephants can live in groups of 8 to 100 members, depending on the family size and terrain.

Today, there is an estimate of 35,000 to 40,000 wild Asian elephants, and around 450,000 to 700,000 African elephants. A number of conservation groups are doing their best to save these massive, gentle beasts, but hunters and poachers who kill them for their precious ivory trunks are still rampant.

Bronx Zoo Introduces Asian Dragons- The Mighty Komodos

Komodo Dragons have landed in New York City; and this has nothing to do with the popular Godzilla movie.

Wildlife Conservation Society’s operated Bronx Zoo has opened what they call “Amazing Monitors” habitat for the dragon, also known as Varanus komodoensis which is the largest living lizard species.
komodo dragon

The zoo is located in the Zoo center building and it is the first time that the zoo has Komodo dragons since the 1950s. The new habitat contains 3 dragons; one male and two females.

The exhibit also features 3 more species of monitors that live in very different ecosystems. Mertens’ water monitors also known as Varanus mertensi, yellow spiny-tailed monitors also known as Varanus acanthurus and lives in rocky terrain and Varanus macraei. Each of the lizards is housed in an exhibit which resembles its natural environment.

Jim Breheny, Director of the Bronx Zoo, said in a news release that komodo dragons are some of the most amazing creatures that nature has and they are the top predators in their environments.

By introducing visitors to Komodo, the zoo management hopes that people will learn the challenges faced by komodo in the wild and hopefully appreciate these unique predators. They hope that their work will inspire the next generation of conservationists who will work in places like Indonesia to help save the vulnerable species.

An adult komodo can weigh up to 360 pounds and can be as long as 9 feet from nose to the tip of its tail. However, the dragons in the exhibits measure about five feet an indication that they are still young.

The komodo’s diet consists of large and small mammals, smaller komodo, birds’ eggs and carrion. A komodo can consume 80 percent of its body mass in one feeding. Its bite inflicts a severe wound in its prey killing it within a short time.

Source: Here

Little kiwi, huge extinct elephant bird were birds of a feather

WASHINGTON: They might be the odd couple of the bird world.

Scientists on Thursday identified the closest relative of New Zealand's famed kiwi, a shy chicken-sized flightless bird, as the elephant bird of Madagascar, a flightless giant that was 10 feet (3 meters) tall and went extinct a few centuries ago.

The surprising findings, based on DNA extracted from the bones of two elephant bird species, force a re-evaluation of the ancestry of the group of flightless birds called ratites that reside in the world's southern continents, they added.
kiwi egg
The group, which boasts some of the world's largest birds, includes emus and cassowaries in Australia, rheas in South America, ostriches in Africa and kiwis in New Zealand. Ratites that have disappeared in recent centuries include the moa of New Zealand and the elephant bird.

The researchers compared elephant bird DNA to the other birds and saw a close genetic link to the kiwi despite obvious differences in size, body shape and lifestyle - and the fact they lived about 7,000 miles (11,500 km) apart.

The largest elephant bird species weighed more than 600 pounds (275 kg). Kiwis reach around 11 pounds (5 kg).

There has been a lively debate among bird experts about the origins of the ratites and how they came to live where they do.

The world's first birds arose about 150 million years ago. Over the eons, some species lost the ability to fly but became large and formidable.

Many scientists have thought the ancestors of today's ratites were already flightless when they were isolated in their current locations by the separation and drift of the southern continents over the past 130 million years.

The new findings indicate the continents had already separated before ratite ancestors showed up, meaning the forebears of these flightless birds reached their current homes by flying.

"It does seem a little ironic, but in fact it's the simplest explanation for the facts we observe," said Kieren Mitchell of the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA.

Alan Cooper of University of Adelaide said the new data suggest that flying ratite ancestors dispersed around the world right after the mass extinction killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and before mammals became dominant.

Mitchell said the researchers had expected to find that the elephant bird and ostrich were the most ancient lineages of ratite because Africa and Madagascar were the first landmasses to separate from what had been an ancient super-continent.

Instead, they found that elephant birds and kiwis arose from a common ancestor around 50 million years ago after even New Zealand had become isolated. Previous research had suggested Australia's ratites as the kiwi's closest relatives.

"If the common ancestor of kiwi and elephant birds lived on Madagascar, then kiwis must have flown to New Zealand. If this ancestor lived on New Zealand, then elephant birds must have flown to Madagascar," Mitchell said. "Or perhaps the common ancestor of both elephant birds and kiwis flew to their final locations from somewhere else entirely."

The study was published in the journal Science.

Source: Here

Exotic Pets - Gooty Tree Spider

Although most of us are afraid of spiders, especially the big ones like tarantulas, some people actually admire these insects and even keep them as pets. These bugs come in all colors, and one of them will definitely take you by surprise.

Poecilotheria metallica is not a band, but a beautiful specie of tarantula that reflects a brilliant, shiny, metallic blue color. Just like the other spiders with the same genus, it gives out a complex fractal-like design on its abdomen. These colorful spiders are usually found in the forest of Andra Pradesh, southern India. The P. metallica was initially discovered in Gooty in the Anantapur district, where it took it’s common name, Gooty tree spider. It’s also known as the Gooty sapphire, salepurgu, peacock tarantula, and metallic tarantula.

Another thing that makes this tarantula unique is that it’s only found within that small area of southern India. 
It’s a protected and reserved forest, however it does face threats from the human world. A few surveys have been done to see if the species is found on other nearby forest, but  they didn’t find the spiders there.

These spiders are arboreal. They live in tall trees, spinning webs between tree holes and spend most of their time in the canopy. They mainly prey on small, flying insects that they actually capture while flying and paralyze them. There is a very high demand for these tarantulas, some even pricing at $500 USD for more for an adult specimen. They are currently in the critically endangered classification by IUCN. 

Strange Animals – Mexican Mole Lizard

In certain areas of the world, there are actual creatures that look like they came from a medieval legend. They’re usually uncommon and hard to find however some of them can sometimes be see in our own back yard. Take for example the Mexican mole lizard. This animal is probably one of the tiniest things that you can hold which resembles a dragon.

The Mexican mole lizard, also known as the Bipes biporus, is a common amphisbaenian, a kind of long bodied burrowing reptile which has a wormlike appearance. In fact, many people mistake these for worms because of their small size and soft, pink body. Mexican mole lizard are unique among amphisbaenian since they’re the only ones in the genus that have limbs, specifically, small but very well developed front limbs. 

They’re also the only one in the squamate taxon whose forelimbs developed better than their hind limbs.
This animal is commonly found in the Baja, California area. It spends most of its time digging and burrowed under the sandy desert like a mole, hence their names. They prey mainly on small invertebrates, specifically arthropods. They live in self-made tunnels and typically stay close to the soil’s surface, but they rarely emerge from underground.

Since these animals are so small and they spend most of their time underground, we hardly ever see or even notice them. They’re conservation status is tagged as least concerned. Reproduction for their species is biennial and oviparous. The females lay eggs in small clutches. They only produce one to four eggs in every two years. 

Polar Bears Show Love to Dogs

Bringing together wild and domesticated animals often times ends with the domesticated one becoming too scared to even move, especially when we’re talking about domesticated dogs and a 200 pound wild polar bear.

However, this match-up didn’t really end as bad as most of us think it would. Surprisingly, the dogs and the polar bear went along quit well. They even played together in the snow.

The human owners of the dogs keep a working distance of around 70 feet way from the bears. So the bears understand to keep their distance, they use cracker shells to scare the bears off in case they come too close. As for the dogs, bears are actually very social and curious. Their social adaptability got them closer to the wolf dogs and they are generally very gentle when they play with them.

Old the biggest of the male dogs are allowed to go near to the bears. The humans keep the relationship between the bears very casual. If they notice that there seems to be a bad relationship between one of the dogs and the bears, they pull the dog out.

Polar bears are one of the biggest predators on land. They’re also known as “maritime” bears since they spend a lot of time going around ice, snow, and the open water of the Arctic Ocean, hunting seals which are their main prey. They hunt for food by staying near the edges of the ice and biting down on them with their powerful jaws. 

Giant Insects - Golden Orb Weaving Spider

You’ve probably seen the crazy photos going viral on the net of giant spiders eating snakes that’s caught on their webs. A lot of people think these photos are edited, but there are actual species of spiders that can take on a snake for dinner. Sounds scary right? But don’t worry, there are only a few of them so don’t worry about that spider web in your garage.

One of these spider species would be the golden orb weaving spider, also called the golden orb weaver. These large spiders have silver/gray to deep plum colored bodies and black-brown legs with yellow bands. Males and females of these species have a huge difference in size. Males are usually small and brown to red-brown in color. Females can grow 4.8–5.1 cm or 1.5–2 in while males are commonly 2/3 smaller.

They’re usually found in warm regions all over the world and are very common in the American, Africa, Asia and Australia.  Some golden orb weavers, like the Nephila plumipes found in Sydney, have a knob-like presence found in front of their sternum. Others have heart shaped plates instead of the knob.

Golden orb weavers usually stay in dry, open woodlands or forest areas, shrublands near costal sand dunes and mangrove. They create a wheel-shaped orb web, which they position between shrubs and trees to trap food.

Cicadas, wood moths, locusts, beetles and flies are the most common diet for these spiders. However, the really big ones can take on birds and sometimes, even snakes. 

How many visitors can a Koala bear?

Koalas can become stressed by noisy and up-close encounters with human visitors, a University of Melbourne study has determined.

The koala is a much-loved Australian icon and extremely popular with foreign tourists, but little work had been done to understand how they cope with human interaction.
Koala bear
Dr Jean-Loup Rault from the University's Animal Welfare Science Centre said researchers set out to answer this question.

“Our study showed that up-close and noisy encounters with human visitors resulted in koalas showing so called 'increased vigilance', which is a common response to stress."

"Stress is generally an energy-costly mechanism. This could be a problem as koalas survive on an extremely low energy diet — largely made up of Eucalyptus leaves — and minimize energy expenditure by sleeping 20 hours a day."

Researchers tested the effect of visitor numbers, visitor noise, and visitor proximity on koalas at the Koala Conservation Centre, which forms part of the Phillip Island Nature Parks network.

“This work also highlights the value and importance of behavioural observations as a monitoring tool to assess visitor-related stress in koalas” according to Zoo's Victoria's Sally Sherwen, a collaborator on the study.

The research raises questions about the classic trade off between visitor education and animal welfare.

“Some wildlife parks offer close encounters or even hands on experiences with koalas," said Dr Rault.

"Only now are we beginning to understand the impact of these visitor encounters on koalas’ behaviour and welfare."

'Number of nearby visitor and noise level affect vigilance in captive koalas' is published in the May edition of Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Source: Here

Dive Sightings – Seahorses

When diving, one of the most amazing things that you can find lurking around the coral reefs would be seahorses. These wonderful creatures look so fragile and mysterious that they attract so many marine biologists to study more about their life under water.

Here are a few interesting facts about these animals.

There are around 40 different kinds of seahorse species. They’re commonly seen in pairs where they swim together with tails linked. These animals, like crabs, have very little natural predators. The seahorse’s body is too boney to digest. They’re also masters in camouflage. They mimic the color of sea weeds and other underwater plants.

Seahorses swim upright. They propel themselves using a very small fin found on their back which can flutter 35 times in a second. They steer themselves around with smaller fins found below the back of their heads. When they’re not swimming, they stay close to the reef, anchored to corals and sea grasses. Their long snouts are used for feeding, sucking small crustaceans and plankton that drift near. However, seahorses are actually really bad swimmers due to their fragile body shape. They easily get too tiered and even perish of exhaustion during stormy weather.

Their eating habits are very strange. They don’t have teeth or stomachs. What it eats passes through its digestive system so quickly that they constantly need to keep eating tiny fish and plankton to stay alive. They eat about 3,000 brine shrimps per day, which is a lot considering their size.


Turtle's chances soar with prosthetic fin modelled on wings of F-22 Raptor

A badly injured sea turtle's prospects are looking up, thanks to a new prosthetic fin designed by an Israeli team and modelled on the wings of a US fighter jet.

The green sea turtle, named "Hofesh", the Hebrew word for "freedom", was caught in a fishing net off Israel's Mediterranean coast in early 2009. With his two left flippers badly injured, rescuers had to amputate, leaving him with a pair of stumps that made it difficult to swim.
sea turtle
Yaniv Levy, director of Israel's Sea Turtle Rescue

Shlomi Gez, an industrial design student at Jerusalem's Hadassah College, read about the animal on the internet and wanted to help. He designed a prosthetic based on a fish's dorsal fin. The contraption provided some improvement, but Hofesh still had trouble breathing and rising to the surface.

Then, inspired by the design of Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor warplane, Gez designed a new prosthetic with two fins. The device, somewhat resembling the aircraft's wings, was strapped on to Hofesh's back on Thursday, allowing him to move easily around his tank.

"I discovered it worked better than one fin on the back," Gez explained. "With two fins, he keeps relatively balanced, even above the water."

Levy said that Hofesh will never be able to return to the wild.

But he shares a tank with a blind female turtle named Tsurit, and researchers are optimistic the pair will mate, potentially adding to the local population of the endangered green sea turtles.

He said it was difficult to say exactly how old the two turtles are, but they are estimated to be between 20 and 25, and approaching the age of sexual maturity.

"We have great plans for this guy," Levy said.

"They will never go back to the wild, but their offspring will be released the minute they hatch and go immediately into the sea and live normally in the wild," he added.

Source: Here

Unique Farm Pets - Silkie Chicken

If you were to mix a poodle and a chicken together, you’d get a one of a kind chicken with fluffy feathers that resemble a people’s fur. These chickens are called Silkie Chicken or Chinese Silkie Chicken and have become popular farm pets over the years.

These chickens are said to have origins in Asia. However, despite their names, it’s unclear whether they started breeding them in Japan, China or even India. It’s believed that the explorer Marco Polo was the one who introduced these birds, among a number of other exports, to Europe.

One look and you’ll understand why these chickens are called Silkies. They have a unique look to their feathers which reassembles soft, silky hair. Unlike most fowls, Silkie's lack barbs on their feathers which otherwise would hold the tiny strands together. These individual strands are free of sticking to each other so they flow and move freely.

There are two kinds of Chinese Silkie, non-bearded and bearded. The Non-bearded ones have large, obvious wattles under their beaks while bearded Silkies have small wattles and full, fluffy puffs around their faces.

Both the non-bearded and bearded Silkies have feathery crest which resembles powder puffs and fleshy combs on the top of their heads. Male Silkies have larger combs compared to females. They also have five toes and dark flesh, which is another trait different from most fouls.

Other than their appearance, these chickens basically eat and act like all other chickens. Owners can feed them regular chicken pellets or even ground up corn. 

Reef Signings - Blue Spotted Rays

If you’ve gone swimming in the deep blue ocean, you’d most likely see one of the most beautiful creatures in the deep swimming around the ocean floor.

The Taeniura lymma or blue spotted rays, also called blue spotted fantail rays, ribbontail stingray, and blue spotted stingrays, are one of the few colorful stingray species that are known for their large, blue spots seen around their fin and blue colored side-stripes found along their tails. They have an angular and rounded snout and their bodies are broadly rounded around the outer corners. Their short tail tapers at the end and is usually longer than their body’s length.

Like all stingrays, they have a stinging spine found on their tails, but this is located further from its tail base compared to most stingrays. Color varies from gray, grown, yellow, olive green and reddish brown. These stingrays can grow to around 70 cm.

These colorful creatures can be spotted in most coral reefs, with depths ranging up to 20 meters. They hardly ever stay under the sand and prefer to hover around the sea floor. They’re abundant in the Indo-West Pacific reefs, Red Sea, East Africa, Solomon Islands, Japan and even down to Australia.

Blue spotted rays move around in groups, migrating from one shallow, sandy area to another looking for their favorite meal. These stingrays live off crabs, shrimps, worms and mollusks which commonly hide under the sand. During low tide, they disperse and usually stay near ledges and caves until the tide comes back in. 

24 New Wasp Species Mummify Their Prey

The parasitic Aleiodes wasps deposit their eggs inside a caterpillar, and when the babies hatch, they desiccate them from the inside—which is “pretty unusual” for wasps, said study co-author Scott Shaw, an entomologist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. (Also see “Nearly 200 New Species of Parasitic Wasps Discovered in Costa Rica.”)
wasp mummy
Shaw and a group of students from the University of Wyoming identified the new wasp species during recent expeditions to northern Ecuador’s Yanayacu Biological Station.

For 16 of these 24 wasps, the team identified the caterpillar species upon which they prey, according to the study, published April 28 in the journal Zookeys

Mummy Dearest

Found worldwide, wasps in the genus Aleiodes are obligate parasites, meaning they rely on another species to complete their life cycle.

Once a female Aleiodes wasp finds a caterpillar host, she injects an egg into its body. At first, the caterpillar doesn’t even seem to notice. As the egg develops into a larva, however, it consumes the caterpillar from the inside out, making it shrink and become discolored. Further development inside the caterpillar hardens its surface and causes it to shrivel, creating the mummy-like appearance.

The larvae pupates inside the husk of its host, eventually cutting a hole in the back of the mummy, from which it emerges as an adult wasp.

The whole process takes several months from the initial injection of the egg to the final emergence of the adult.

Source: Here

Desert Rain Frog: Dangerous Beast or Adorable Squeaky Toy?

Breviceps macrops is a frog that is native to the coast of Namibia and South Africa. The frog spends most of the day burrowed in the sand where it is cool and moist, but comes out to feed on insects and their larvae. Unfortunately, these little guys are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, due to continued habitat destruction from human activities like expanding roadways and diamond mines
Like many other ferocious African animals, the Desert Rain Frog lets out a fearsome roar when threatened. Wildlife photographer Dean Boshoff was brave enough to get close so that we could hear how the frog reacts when someone dares to enter the frog's territory.

Source: Here
Breviceps macrops is a frog that is native to the coast of Namibia and South Africa. The frog spends most of the day burrowed in the sand where it is cool and moist, but comes out to feed on insects and their larvae. Unfortunately, these little guys are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, due to continued habitat destruction from human activities like expanding roadways and diamond mines
Like many other ferocious African animals, the Desert Rain Frog lets out a fearsome roar when threatened. Wildlife photographer Dean Boshoff was brave enough to get close so that we could hear how the frog reacts when someone dares to enter the frog's territory.


Two New Huge Dinosaurs Discovered

The discoveries of two new huge plant-eating dinosaurs were announced this week, according to reports in PLoS ONE and the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Both boost the number of known dinosaurs from Latin countries.

Photos: Dinosaur Claws Evolved from Basic to Badass

The first is Zby atlanticus, which lived 150 million years ago during the Upper Jurassic of what is now Portugal. Its remains were excavated in the town of Paimogo, north of Lourinhã, near a site where dinosaur eggs were also found.

This dinosaur grew to over 62 feet long. It also had wider teeth than most other sauropods.

The size makes sense when you consider that Portugal was also home to some of the biggest meat-eating dinosaurs that ever existed. Girth and height must have given herbivorous Zby atlanticus a fighting chance against predators like Torvosaurus gurneyi, the largest carnivorous dino ever to stomp around what’s now Europe.

Rock star paleontologist Octavio Mateus from the New University of Lisbon helped to discover both of the Portuguese dinosaurs.

The new dino’s unique name, Zby atlanticus, comes from paleontologist Georges Zbyszewski, who hunted for dino remains for many years in Portugal. “Zby” honors him. The “atlanticus” part is due to the present locality of Paimogo, which has a scenic view of the Atlantic Ocean.

Video: Could a Fossilized Mosquito Resurrect Dinosaurs?

“We thought for a long time that it was a species that was known in Spain, the turiasaurus, but in fact the anatomical differences we began to notice were sufficient for us to reclassify it, not just as a new species but as a new genus for science”, Mateus told The Portugal News Online.

He explained that “various different crests on the bones of its limbs” helped to distinguish Zby atlanticus from other previously documented dinos.

The second new big dinosaur, now added to the record books, is Leinkupal laticauda. It was found in what’s now Argentina and has at least a couple of claims to fame.

New Dino Ranks As Europe’s Largest Ever Predator

It’s believed to be the first diplodocid from South America, according to Pablo Gallina and colleagues from the Universidad Maimónides and Museo E. Bachmann in Argentina.

Diplodocids are part of a group of sauropod dinosaurs known for their large bodies, as well as extremely long necks and tails.

The size of L. laticauda hasn’t been confirmed yet, but as a diplodocid, it has to be huge.

The other claim to fame is that L. laticauda was the most recent known diplodocid. It lived during the Early Cretaceous period.

Previously it was thought that this group of dinosaurs, which lived throughout the world from the Americas to Africa, died out at the end of the Jurassic. Now we know that wasn’t the case. Perhaps just a single population, represented by Leinkupal laticauda, lived on at least through part of the Early Cretaceous.

Source: Here

Recently-Discovered Wasp Species Named For Harry Potter Creature

If you are familiar with the Harry Potter series, you probably remember the dementors: dark, ghost-like beings that suck every positive feeling away leaving nothing but an empty shell. These awful creatures have now made the transition from fantasy to scientific literature, as they are now the namesake of a newly discovered species of cockroach wasp. The name Ampulex dementor  was chosen through public voting and has been described by Stefanie Krause and her team at the Natural History Museum in Berlin. The paper has been published in PLOS ONE.
dementor wasp
The wasp, native to Thailand, has bright red and black coloring. It is one of over 200 species of wasp which reproduces by way of a host incubator and this species chooses cockroaches. The female lands on top of a cockroach and using its stinger to inject neurotoxins directly into the roach’s head. The cockroach immediately takes on a zombie-like obedient state, following the wasp back to her burrow. There, she lays her egg inside the cockroach. The roach incubates the egg for a few days until it hatches. The larva then feeds on the roach until it is old enough to go off on its own.

With a reproduction strategy like that, it is no wonder that A. dementor was chosen by museum visitors. Here were the options for the voters, as written in the paper:

A. dementor: “The species name refers to the dementors, which are fictional characters appearing in Harry Potter books. Dementors are magical beings, which can consume a person’s soul, leaving their victims as an empty but functional body without personality or emotions. The name is an allusion to the docility of the paralyzed cockroach.”

A. mon: “The Mon people are one of the earliest known ethnic groups in Thailand. The name is an allusion to the geographic origin of the wasp from Thailand.”

A. bicolor: “Derived from the Latin bi = two and color = color; an allusion to the distinctive, black-red coloration of the wasp.”

A. plagiator: “The new species is an ant-mimic: It tries to imitate ants in its general appearance as well as in its way of moving. One can say that the wasp is a plagiarist of the ant, and who is not reminded of current plagiarisms …?”

The researchers note that some 18,000 species are described each year. Researchers often choose to name new species after sponsors or other people who contributed to the study, but having the public weigh in creates a bond between the voters and the new species, which might boost interest in getting the public to care about conservation status.

Do the tactics of this wasp sound familiar? Many other species of wasp use other insects to incubate/feed their young. We have already introduced you to some which use tarantulas or caterpillars. Also, this isn’t the only creature with a name derived from pop culture. The science of naming organisms has been previously discussed on IFLScience: once with genes and once with organisms.

Source: Here

House Cat Saved a Little Boy

Cat defends the boy during a vicious dog attack and runs the dog off before the dog can do additional damage.

Death Match: Tarantula vs. Wasp

With their relatively large, hairy bodies, tarantulas aren’t exactly pretty to look at. Their fear factor goes up when you consider that they they are able to eat larger animals like lizards, mice, and some small birds. However, most of the 900 species have venom weaker than a honeybee and don’t really pose a risk to humans. Besides, if you think these spiders are scary, just imagine the kind of creature that preys on them.
Meet the tarantula hawk:

Adult tarantula hawks are fantastic pollinators and aren't typically aggressive. The males aren’t even able to sting.

The female, on the other hand, is one badass bitch. Though she is pretty docile most of the time, she will strike when threatened. Her sting is described as one of the most severe out of any insect, and for about three minutes, the victim (even a human) completely loses the mental capacity for any other action other than reacting to the pain.

So where do the spiders fit in? Well, when a mommy and daddy tarantula hawk love each other very much want to pass along their genes and come together to fertilize an egg, they want to make sure that it will be well taken care of, as they won’t physically be present to ensure it survives. They need to find a host, and as the name implies, it's a tarantula. Because male spiders will typically forego eating in order to search for a mate, the wasps prefer to target well-fed females.

When the female wasp is ready, she attacks. If all goes well, the wasp stings the spider, rendering it paralyzed for a few minutes but does not kill it. The fertilized egg is then deposited into the spider’s abdomen so it will be kept safe and warm. A few days later, the larva emerges and begins to feed on the spider’s juices. As it grows over the next 20 days, it continues to eat the still-living spider from the inside, but is careful not to eat vital organs which would kill the spider, meaning that the larva wouldn’t have fresh food.

The tarantula isn’t typically able to kill the wasp, because the wasp can just fly out of reach. At best, the spider just hopes to escape and fights fiercely, knowing it is a matter of life and death. Despite the wasp’s advantage, the outcome of the encounter could go either way.

Who do you think will win this round?
Source: Here

Dancing frog species discovered in Indian jungle mountains

Scientists have discovered 14 new species of so-called dancing frogs in the jungle mountains of southern India.

Indian biologists say they found the tiny acrobatic amphibians, which earned their name with the unusual kicks they use to attract mates, declining dramatically in number during the 12 years in which they chronicled the species through morphological descriptions and molecular DNA markers. They breed after the yearly monsoon in fast-rushing streams, but their habitat appears to be becoming increasingly dry.
new frog
"It's like a Hollywood movie, both joyful and sad. On the one hand, we have brought these beautiful frogs into public knowledge. But about 80% are outside protected areas, and in some places, it was as if nature itself was crying," said the project's lead scientist, University of Delhi professor Sathyabhama Das Biju.

Biju said that, as researchers tracked frog populations, forest soils lost moisture and perennial streams ran inexplicably dry. He acknowledged his team's observations about forest conditions were only anecdotal; the scientists did not have time or resources to collect data demonstrating the declining habitat trends they believed they were witnessing.

The study listing the new species published Thursday in the Ceylon Journal of Science brings the number of known Indian dancing frog species to 24. They're found exclusively in the Western Ghats, a lush mountain range that stretches 1,600 kilometers (990 miles) from the western state of Maharashtra down to the country's southern tip.

Source: Here

Exotic Pets - Geckos

Most people are scared of animals like lizards and geckos. However, some of us absolutely adore these creepy crawlers. Others even keep them as pets. Taking care of a gecko isn’t as hard as it sounds like. Here are a few pointers on how you can take care of them as a pet.
First, you need to make sure you get your gecko from a good pet shop or a certified gecko breeder. You want to get a healthy, disease-free gecko. You can also get them online, just make sure the site you get them is reliable.

Get a 10 to 20 gallon aquarium that has a safe screen lid. Geckos can still climb the glass, so make sure you keep the aquarium covered at all times. Never place sand at the bottom of their aquarium, this can actually end up getting into their stomachs which stays and hardens there. Instead, use reptile carpet, paper towel, cabinet liners, tile, or slate tiles.  Place a reptile shelter like a rock cave or log inside as well.

Since geckos originally live in areas with warmer temperatures, you’d need to place a heat pad under their aquariums to keep a steady, warm temperature.

Keep your geckos well fed with meal worms, roaches, wax worms and crickets. Before you give these bugs to the gecko, dust them with calcium and vitamin D powder to help keep their bones healthy. Don’t leave the crickets hopping around the aquarium since they can bite your gecko. Also, leave clean water for swimming/drinking. You should also mist the inside of the aquarium with water every other day to keep it moist.
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