Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Rare male sea dragon pregnant

June 16, 2008

After setting the mood with lighting and finessing, the Georgia Aquarium’s attempts to coax rare sea dragons to mate have finally worked — just in time for Father’s Day.

The pregnant male weedy sea dragon is now only the third of its kind in the United States to successfully become pregnant outside of its natural habitat.

The sea dragon, found in nature only in the waters off southern Australia, became pregnant Tuesday when a female transferred her eggs onto his tail.

Dennis Christen, assistant manager of animal care and husbandry, said that male sea horses, sea dragons and pipe fish all carry the eggs instead of the female.

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Lizard pops a wheelie

June 13, 2008

Why bother running on hind legs when the four you’ve been given work perfectly well? This is the question that puzzles Christofer Clemente. For birds and primates, there’s a perfectly good answer: birds have converted their forelimbs into wings, and primates have better things to do with their hands. But why have some lizards gone bipedal? Have they evolved to trot on two feet, or is their upright posture simply a fluke of physics? Curious to find the answer, Clemente and his colleagues Philip Withers, Graham Thompson and David Lloyd decided to test how dragon lizards run on two legs.

But first Clemente had to catch his lizards. Fortunately Thompson was a lizard-tracking master. Driving all over the Australian outback, Clemente and Thompson eventually collected 16 dragon lizard species, ranging from frilled neck lizards to the incredibly rare C. rubens, found only on a remote Western Australian cattle station. Returning to the Perth lab, Clemente and Withers set the lizards running on a treadmill, filming the reptiles until they were all run-out.

Clemente admits that when he started, he thought that the lizards would fall into one of two groups; lizards that mostly ran on two legs, occasionally resorting to four, and lizards that never reared up. Not so. Even the lizards that he’d never seen on two legs in the wild managed an occasional few steps on their hind legs. In fact, the lizards’ propensity for running on two legs seemed to be a continuum; C. rubens and P. minor spent only 5% of the time on their hind legs while L. gilberti spent 95% up on two.

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Wild animals use rope bridge to safety

June 9, 2008

A 70-metre rope bridge strung across a busy highway in Victoria is helping locals cross over safely – only the locals in this case are wild animals.

Yes, researchers have reported that endangered local species have indeed started using what has been dubbed the world’s first “wildlife rope-bridge”, thus avoiding accidents that were killing and maiming many.

“We have early proof that our native animals are regularly crossing the rope bridge over the Hume Highway near Benalla and many other animals are investigating the bridge,” said Rodney van der Ree of the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology (Arcue).

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Memory In Honeybees: What The Right And Left Antenna Tell The Left And Right Brain

June 8, 2008

It is widely known that the right and left hemispheres of the brain perform different tasks. Lesions to the left hemisphere typically bring impairments in language production and comprehension, while lesions to the right hemisphere give rise to deficits in the visual-spatial perception, such as the inability to recognize familiar faces.

In the last few years, we have become used to the idea that functional asymmetry between the left and right sides of the nervous system is not unique to humans: fishes, amphibians, birds and mammals have functional and anatomical asymmetries.

So, the idea that all vertebrate species, even non-human ones without any linguistic skills, have an asymmetric brain seems to be finally accepted. Now, this process of extension among species is going on and brain lateralization has been extended beyond the class Vertebrata. Insects, with their nervous system so different from that of vertebrates, are also “lateralized”, as shown in a paper published in PLoS ONE by Lesley J. Rogers of the Centre for Neuroscience and Animal Behaviour, University of New England (Australia), and Giorgio Vallortigara, of the Centre for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento (Italy).

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Animal welfare group says eBay auctions in US of suspect ivory increasing

June 6, 2008

An animal welfare group says eBay auctions in the U.S. of illegal or possibly illegal ivory are skyrocketing.

In a statement Friday, the International Fund for Animal Welfare says eBay affiliates in Germany, Australia, France and China have nearly eliminated illegal ivory trading on their sites. The watchdog group says, however, that sales had shifted to North America.

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Fish 380 Million Years Old Found With Unborn Embryo

June 6, 2008

In 2005, Museum Victoria’s expedition to the Gogo fossil sites in north Western Australia, led by Dr John Long, made a swag of spectacular fossil discoveries, including that of a complete fish, Gogonasus, showing unexpected features similar to early land animals.

Now the same team has made a new discovery: a remarkable 380-million-year-old fossil placoderm fish with intact embryo and mineralised umbilical cord.

The discovery, published in Nature, makes the fossil the world’s oldest known vertebrate mother. It also provides the earliest evidence of vertebrate sexual reproduction, wherein the males (which possessed clasping organs similar to modern sharks and rays) internally fertilised females.

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Honeybee Dance Breaks Down Cultural Barrier

June 4, 2008

Asian and European honeybees can learn to understand one another’s dance languages despite having evolved different forms of communication, an international research team has shown for the first time.

The nine species of honeybees found worldwide separated about 30 to 50 million years ago, and subsequently developed different dance ‘languages’. The content of the messages is the same, but the precise encoding of these languages differs between species.

Now researchers from Australia, China and Germany have discovered that the two most geographically distant bee species — the European honeybee Apis mellifera and the Asian honeybee Apis cerana — can share information and cooperate to exploit new food sources.

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Crocodile chomps on shark

May 23, 2008

Paul van Bruggen snapped these amazing pictures of a 2.5m saltie dining out on a shark on the banks of the Daly River, The Northern Territory News reports.

“We went past one section of the river and we heard some splashing,” he said.

“We looked across and saw a shark’s tail coming up out of the water and then a crocodile’s head came up and grabbed it.”

Mr van Bruggen said the crocodile knew exactly what it was doing, dragging the shark on to unfamiliar dry land before finishing off its prey.

“How smart is the crocodile? It if was you or me it would be dragging you in to drown you, but it takes the shark up on dry land,” he said.

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World First Discovery: Genes From Extinct Tasmanian Tiger Function In A Mouse

May 21, 2008

Researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Texas, USA, have extracted genes from the extinct Tasmanian tiger (thylacine), inserted it into a mouse and observed a biological function — this is a world first for the use of the DNA of an extinct species to induce a functional response in another living organism.

The results showed that the thylacine Col2a1 gene has a similar function in developing cartilage and bone development as the Col2a1 gene does in the mouse.

“This is the first time that DNA from an extinct species has been used to induce a functional response in another living organism,” said Dr Andrew Pask, RD Wright Fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Zoology who led the research.

“As more and more species of animals become extinct, we are continuing to lose critical knowledge of gene function and their potential.”

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Tasmanian Devils Named Endangered Species

May 21, 2008

The Tasmanian devil, a feisty marsupial that lives only in the Australian island state of Tasmania, was deemed an endangered species this week by the state’s government.

The government had previously classified the creature as vulnerable. But its more critical status comes in response to a fatal epidemic of devil facial tumor disease, which has wiped out large numbers of the animal.

Devil numbers are difficult to estimate, but state government figures suggest the animals may have plummeted from around 150,000 in the mid-1990s to between 20,000 and 50,000 by the end of 2006.

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Kangaroos Threaten One Of Australia’s Last Remaining Original Grasslands, And Endangered Animals

May 21, 2008

Australian Department of Defence is currently culling hundreds of kangaroos on the outskirts of the capital Canberra that have produced heated discussions and hit international headlines. Australia’s iconic animal has multiplied so much over recent years that Canberra now has three times as many kangaroos as inhabitants. The situation is particularly critical at two enclosed military sites on the outskirts of the city, which form an ideal refuge for the eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus).

The grasslands there are now completely overgrazed – with dramatic consequences for other species. These areas are some of the few natural grasslands in Australia, making them one of the remaining reserves for endangered animal species, like the golden sun moth (Synemon plana) and the grassland earless dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla), one of the world’s rarest lizards. Around 400 of nearly 600 kangaroos at a 200-hectare military site will be killed during the next days with lethal injections after the government ruled out a resettlement programme as too expensive. Resettlement would only relocate the problem.

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Roo ‘saviours’ targeted wrong animals

May 21, 2008

Protesters broke into defence property in a bid to disrupt the controversial cull of more than 400 kangaroos – but targeted the wrong animals.

Instead of stopping the cull they frightened and agitated a group of kangaroos which had been sedated and were due for release from a fertility trial, defence said.

Culling resumed this afternoon after an estimated 40 eastern grey kangaroos were put down by defence contractors yesterday.

The roos are being gathered in a pen at the former naval communications property at Lawson, in northern Canberra, then moved into an enclosed area where they are put down.

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Wife of ‘Croc Hunter’ Steve Irwin to fight mine

May 19, 2008

The widow of the Australian conservationist and entertainer Steve Irwin said Monday she would fight to stop a wildlife zone dedicated to her husband being mined for bauxite.

Terri Irwin said the 135,000-hectare (333,450-acre) Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve on Cape York Peninsula in Australia’s far northeast was home to a number of vulnerable species and needed to be protected.

The lease to the site, purchased by an Irwin family company with the help of the Australian government in 2006 and renamed in tribute to the “Croc Hunter”, is the subject of an application from a mining company to mine 50 million tonnes of bauxite, she said.

Terri Irwin, who is the mother of Irwin’s two children Bindi, nine, and Bob, four, said she would take the legal fight as far as possible.

“Setting aside this land will not break the bank for (mining company) Cape Alumina, and yet it would make such a huge difference environmentally,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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Biological Weapons To Control Cane Toad Invasion In Australia

May 12, 2008

New research on cane toads in Northern Australia has discovered a way to control the cane toad invasion using parasites and toad communication signals.

Professor Rick Shine from the University of Sydney has been studying the biology of cane toads, and will reveal his new research May 7 at the Academy of Science’s peak annual event Science at the Shine Dome.

He says that controlling toads has been difficult as things that kill them will often kill frogs. Professor Shine and his team studied cane toads in Queensland that lagged behind the invasion front and found they were infected with a lungworm parasite which slows down adults and, in laboratory tests, kills around 30% of baby toads.

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Australian inmates to train greyhounds to be pets

April 24, 2008

Retired racing greyhounds are being sent to the doghouse to be trained by prisoners to be good pets.

The Second Chance at Life Prison Pet Partnership program is being hailed for saving the lives of dogs that would otherwise be killed, and for giving a bit of happiness to prisoners.

Since September, greyhounds from Seymour have been placed in six-week stints at nearby minimum security Dhurringile prison at Murchison, 160km north of Melbourne.

The prison’s supervisor, Roger Jorgensen, said prisoners volunteered to be part of the program in which a dog trainer taught them how to train the dogs to become domesticated pets.

“These are greyhounds that would otherwise be euthanased because racing is their reason for existence but that is not there anymore,” he said.

“A lot of really good dogs were being put to death.

“The prisoners teach the dogs basic obedience commands such as sit, which greyhounds don’t naturally do, like heel, drop, stand and come.”

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Spider plague closes Australian hospital

April 24, 2008

A tiny Australian hospital is closing temporarily because of an infestation of poisonous spiders.

The Baralaba Multi Purpose Health Service will close for 24 hours starting Thursday morning so officials can fumigate the building to get rid of redback spiders that have been found in large numbers in the main part of the hospital.

Three or four patients will need to be moved to another hospital while the building is closed, according to a statement from Queensland state health officials.

Redback spiders, common throughout most of the country, have a painful bite and a toxic venom, although an anti-venom is available.

The statement said warm weather had caused more redback spider eggs to hatch than usual

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Bikini Corals Recover From Atomic Blast, Although Some Species Missing

April 16, 2008

Half a century after the last earth-shattering atomic blast shook the Pacific atoll of Bikini, the corals are flourishing again. Some coral species, however, appear to be locally extinct.

These are the findings of a remarkable investigation by an international team of scientists from Australia, Germany, Italy, Hawaii and the Marshall Islands.  The expedition examined the diversity and abundance of marine life in the atoll.

One of the most interesting aspects is that the team dived into the vast Bravo Crater left in 1954 by the most powerful American atom bomb ever exploded (15 megatonnes – a thousand times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb).  The Bravo bomb vapourised three islands, raised water temperatures to 55,000 degrees, shook islands 200 kilometers away and left a crater 2km wide and 73m deep.

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Australia decrees national cane-toad killing day

April 4, 2008

Why are the cute animals always the ones that suck at mating, while vermin like pigeons, rats, and bacteria are breeding their brains out? To rectify the situation, many eager citizens have illegally taken matters into their own hands. But in Australia, where the poisonous, invasive cane toads that plague the country have evolved longer legs to expedite their conquering of the outback—lawmakers themselves are getting into the spirit of things.

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New multi-million $ sea animal exhibit at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo

April 3, 2008

The Great Southern Oceans display – the largest building project in the zoo’s 91-year history – was unveiled Thursday by NSW Premier Morris Iemma.

The new exhibit should give visitors to the zoo a chance to get close-up and personal with the Southern Ocean’s greatest inhabitants, Mr Iemma said.

“This state-of-the-art exhibit is home to some of the amazing ocean life around Australia’s 60,000km coastline and confirms the zoo’s place as a jewel in Sydney’s tourism crown,” he told reporters at the Zoo today.

“Children and adults alike will come face to face with these magnificent ocean creatures in surrounds reflecting their natural marine habitat.

“Combining entertainment and discovery with education, conservation, research and vital breeding programs, Great Southern Ocean will encourage the community to support wildlife protection and take care of our environment,” he said.

Features of the new exhibit included a 950-seat Seal Discovery Theatre, a simulated Submarine Research Station and special climate change workshops for children, to teach them about the impact of everyday actions on our environment, Mr Iemma said.

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Spider mom dies, spider kids have catfights

March 20, 2008


Battles to the death are taking place across Australia as sisters fight it out for the family home.

Dr Linda Rayor, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra, uncovered the gruesome family feuds while studying the tree-dwelling species of huntsman spider Delena cancerides.

Rayor, from Cornell University‘s Department of Entomology, says her study of D. cancerides has shown it is the only one of the 1039 known huntsman species that lives a social life with family members.

Among the world’s 40,000 known spider species only 1% are social with this species one of only two that does not spin a web.

Rayor believes the communal lifestyle has been thrust upon the spider by a lack of suitable accommodation in the wild.

In travels around remote Australia looking for the spider, Rayor has found the arachnid is in the midst of a housing crisis.

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