New Findings On Immune System In Amphibians May Assist Conservation Efforts

June 19, 2008

Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes produce proteins that are crucial in fighting pathogen assault. Researchers from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) characterized genetic variation and detected more than one MHC class II locus in a tailed amphibian. Unlike mammals, not much has been known until now about the immune defence of amphibians.

Globally, amphibian populations are in an unprecedented decline, to a considerable extent caused by rapidly spreading infectious diseases, such as the fungal infection Chytridiomycosis. Therefore future conservation strategies for amphibians could benefit from knowledge about species-specific adaptations indicated by MHC variation, say the researchers writing in the journal Molecular Ecology.

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Man orders pet python to attack police officers

June 19, 2008

Bridgeport police say they arrested a city man after he ordered his pet to attack two officers. Lucky for them that 9-foot-long pythons aren’t very obedient.

Police Lt. James Viadero says 21-year-old Victor Rodriguez was charged with threatening police and disorderly conduct after Monday’s incident. No one was hurt.

Officers were called to Rodriguez’s apartment on a report that he was threatening his girlfriend with the pet reptile.

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Identifying Canadian Freshwater Fish Through DNA Barcodes

June 19, 2008

New research by Canadian scientists, led by Nicolas Hubert at the Université Laval in Québec brings some good news for those interested in the conservation of a number of highly-endangered species of Canadian fish.

The use of DNA for automated species-level identification of earth biodiversity has recently moved from being an unreachable dream to a potential reality in the very near future. The potential of mitochondrial DNA in achieving this target has been successfully assessed for all of the Canadian freshwater fish communities and the approach bears some very exciting promise.

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Bionic spine gives Chris Evans’s dog a pain-free future

June 19, 2008

When vets told Chris Evans his beloved dog should be ‘written off’ after losing the feeling in its hind legs, the radio DJ refused to give up hope.

Enzo the German Shepherd had two herniated discs in his spine, leaving him paralysed and in pain.

His 42-year-old owner made sure he received the latest treatment  –  and now Enzo has a bionic spine.

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Jackals, lizards, raptors delay flights in India

June 19, 2008

Jackals, monitor lizards and raptors descended on a runway at New Delhi’s main airport after heavy rains Monday, delaying flights, an airport official said.

The animals were looking to dry off and warm up after the first monsoon rains hit India’s capital, and their appearance on the runway forced authorities to stop planes from taking off and landing for about an hour, Indira Gandhi International Airport spokesman Arun Arora said in a statement.

Animal welfare authorities cleared the runway of wildlife, including monitor lizards that measured as long as 2-3 feet, Arora said.

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Circus elephant escapes in Brandeburg

June 18, 2008

A circus elephant escaped from its pen in the German state of Brandenburg overnight, police in Neurippen said on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old animal seemed to feel at home with traditional German cuisine, taking time out of his journey through the town of Neustadt to test out potato plants in a local garden. A resident noticed the animal during its starchy snack and called the police.

Authorities had no trouble capturing the elephant, who returned to the big top without a fight.

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Worm-like Marine Animal Providing Fresh Clues About Human Evolution

June 18, 2008

Research on the genome of a marine creature led by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is shedding new light on a key area of the tree of life.

Linda Holland, a research biologist at Scripps Oceanography, and her colleagues from the United States, Europe and Asia, have deciphered and analyzed fundamental elements of the genetic makeup of a small, worm-like marine animal called amphioxus, also known as a lancelet.

Amphioxus is not widely known to the general public, but is gaining interest in scientific circles because of its position as one of the closest living invertebrate relatives of vertebrates. Although amphioxus split from vertebrates more than 520 million years ago, its genome holds tantalizing clues about evolution.

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Teen blames pet gerbil for 3-car accident

June 18, 2008

A teenager is blaming her pet gerbil for a car crash in Springville Tuesday.

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Mysterious Mountain Dinosaur May Be New Species

June 18, 2008

A partial dinosaur skeleton unearthed in 1971 from a remote British Columbia site is the first ever found in Canadian mountains and may represent a new species, according to a recent examination by a University of Alberta researcher.

Discovered by a geologist in the Sustut Basin of north-central British Columbia 37 years ago, the bones, which are about 70 million years old, were tucked away until being donated to Dalhousie University in 2004 and assigned to then-undergraduate student Victoria Arbour to research as an honours project. She soon realized that the bones were a rare find: they are very well-preserved and are the most complete dinosaur specimen found in B.C. to date. They are also the first bones found in B.C.’s Skeena mountain range.

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Scientists See Squid Attack Squid

June 18, 2008

It was like a scene from a grade-B horror film. On a gently rocking vessel in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, a young oceanographer earnestly watches her computer screen while colleagues lower a cable into the water. Instruments aboard the ship, the Pacific Storm, ping sound waves toward the cable. The oceanographer’s eyes flicker across the screen to make sure the signal is clear. Tethered to the cable is a 5-pound Humboldt squid, and the sound waves, set at 38 kilohertz, bounce off the squid. An image shows up on the screen.

The oceanographer raises her fist in triumph. It marks the first time scientists had clearly picked up a strong sonar signal for squid, which lack the bones and swim bladders that give away other marine creatures.

Suddenly a second image appears, darting up from below. The acoustic signal tracks it from the depths toward the cable — and the tethered squid. It is another squid, larger than the first, and it attacks the tethered animal. The oceanographer screams.

Fade to black.

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Bee Species Outnumber Mammals And Birds Combined

June 18, 2008

Scientists have discovered that there are more bee species than previously thought. In the first global accounting of bee species in over a hundred years, John S. Ascher, a research scientist in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, compiled online species pages and distribution maps for more than 19,200 described bee species, showcasing the diversity of these essential pollinators. This new species inventory documents 2,000 more described, valid species than estimated by Charles Michener in the first edition of his definitive The Bees of the World published eight years ago.

“The bee taxonomic community came together and completed the first global checklist of bee names since 1896,” says Ascher. “Most people know of honey bees and a few bumble bees, but we have documented that there are actually more species of bees than of birds and mammals put together.”

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China to probe reports on tiger bone wine

June 18, 2008

Chinese authorities has ordered a probe into reported sale of tiger bone wine in Beijing and northern China and vowed to punish anyone trading in endangered animals or their products.

The action followed a report in Britains’ The Sunday Telegraph that undercover investigators had been offered the chance to buy wine made from the crushed bones of tigers at Qinhuangdao wildlife rescue centre in Hebei province and Badlan safari park in Beijing, state media said.

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Great whites more brainy than ‘Jaws’ typecast

June 18, 2008

Depicting great white sharks lunging out of the water to devour seals doesn’t seem to argue against the species’ reputation as one of the ocean’s most bloodthirsty predators. But Smithsonian magazine does just that in a new story, using the sophisticated way in which great whites hunt to show how they ought to be known more for brains than jaws:

Despite this awesome display of predator power, [marine biologist Alison] Kock and other researchers claim that the shark has been defamed: Its reputation as a ruthless, mindless man-eater is undeserved. In the last decade, Kock and other shark experts have come to realize that sharks rarely hunt humans — and that the beasts are sociable and curious. “Unlike most fish,” Kock says, “white sharks are intelligent, highly inquisitive creatures.”

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The Symbolic Monkey? Animals Can Comprehend And Use Symbols, Study Of Tufted Capuchins Suggests

June 18, 2008

From paintings and photographs to coins and credit cards, we are constantly surrounded by symbolic artefacts. The mental representation of symbols — objects that arbitrarily represent other objects — ultimately affords the development of language, and certainly played a decisive role in the evolution of our hominid ancestors. Can other animal species also comprehend and use symbols? Some evidence suggests that apes, our closest relatives, can indeed use symbols in various contexts. However, little is known about the symbolic competence of phylogenetically more distant species.

A new study presents evidence of symbolic reasoning in tufted capuchin monkeys, a South-American species that diverged from humans about 35 million years ago. In the experiment, five capuchins engaged in “economic choice” behavior. Each monkey chose between three different foods (conventionally referred to A, B and C), offered in variable amounts. Choices were made in two different contexts. In the “real” context, monkeys chose between the actual foods. In the “symbolic” context, monkeys chose between “tokens” (intrinsically valueless objects such as poker chips) that represented the actual foods. After choosing one of the two token options, monkeys could exchange their token with the corresponding food.

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Monkey Uses Garden Hose to Scale Moat, Bolt from Zoo

June 17, 2008

A spider monkey used a garden hose to scale the wall of a moat at a Michigan City zoo before being captured at a nearby boat dealership.

One of two spider monkeys recently added to the Washington Park Zoo broke out of its enclosure this week while workers were cleaning the moat, which had been emptied of water.

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Feather Colors Affect Bird Physiology, Barn Swallows Show

June 17, 2008

In the world of birds, where fancy can be as fleeting as flight, the color of the bird apparently has a profound effect on more than just its image. A new study of barn swallows reveals it also affects the bird’s physiology.

A team of researchers, including one from Arizona State University, found in an experiment that involved artificially coloring the breast feathers of male barn swallows the testosterone levels of the manipulated birds soared in a short period of time. The jump in testosterone, recorded after one week, was unexpected because it was observed at the time in the breeding cycle when levels of sex steroids like testosterone are typically declining.

“The traditional view is that internal processes of birds determine their external features — in other words, physiology forms the feathers,” said Kevin McGraw, an assistant professor at ASU’s School of Life Sciences. “But our results indicate that a perceived change in the color of an animal can directly affect its internal physiological state. A barn swallow’s hormonal profile is influenced by its outward appearance.”

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Pair are beary good friends

June 17, 2008

This Asian black bear and pretty puss are still FURRY friends seven years after they became chums.

The odd friendship began in 2001 after Muschi the cat didn’t even paws for thought before trotting into Mausi the bear’s enclosure.

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Sheep’s Sex Determined By Diet Prior To Pregnancy

June 17, 2008

Maternal diet influences the chances of having male or female offspring. New research has demonstrated that ewes fed a diet enriched with polyunsaturated fats for one month prior to conception have a significantly higher chance of giving birth to male offspring.

This study was carried out by a team of researchers from the Division of Animal Sciences at the University of Missouri and led by R. Michael Roberts. Roberts explains how diet at the time of conception is the most important factor when it comes to influencing the sex of the offspring: “Our study ruled out body condition, ewe weight, previous births, time of breeding, and likely dominance as reasons for the gender skewing. Rather, it was the composition of the diet consumed in the time period around conception that was responsible for this sex-ratio effect.”

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Humans Likely Making Chimps Sick

June 17, 2008

Humans are likely the source of a virus that is making chimps sick in Africa, new research suggests.

After studying chimpanzees in Tanzania for the past year, Virginia Tech researcher Taranjit Kaur and her team have obtained data from molecular, microscopic and epidemiological investigations that demonstrate how the chimpanzees living there at Mahale Mountains National Park have been suffering from a respiratory disease that is likely caused by a variant of a human paramyxovirus.

Paramyxovirus causes various human diseases including mumps and measles. The virus also can cause distemper in dogs and seals, cetacean morbillivirus in dolphins and porpoises, Newcastle disease virus in birds and rinderpest virus in cattle.

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Snapping turtle found in eatery’s sink

June 17, 2008

When Russell Dorm walked into the Panda Chinese Kitchen in York on Friday and spotted a live snapping turtle in the restaurant’s three-bay sink, he didn’t utter a sound.

“When I saw this turtle, I had to sit down and gather myself before I could speak,” said Dorm, York’s health and sanitation officer. “Nothing came out of my mouth.”

Typically, a restaurant’s three-bay sink is used to clean and sanitize utensils, pots and pans.

Housing a turtle in one of the bays represents a contamination risk. Turtles can carry pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli that could lead to foodborne illnesses, he said.

“I saw the turtle outside, and I tried to save its life,” said Andy Zhao, manager of the Panda Chinese Kitchen. “I put it in the sink first. It was wrong that we put it in the sink, that was my fault.”

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