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News articles on ecological beauty
Mongabay.com news articles on ecological beauty in blog format. Updated regularly.
(12/17/2009) Tetepare may be one of the last tropical island paradises left on earth. Headhunting and a mysterious illness drove its original inhabitants from the island two hundred years ago, making Tetepare today the largest uninhabited island in the tropical Pacific. The 120 square kilometer island (46 square miles), long untouched by industry or agriculture, is currently threatened by logging interests. However, the island is not without champions: in 2002 descendents of the original inhabitants of Tetepare formed the Tetepare Descendents Association (TDA) to preserve the island. Recently they have teamed up with the Solomon Islands Government and the Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership to develop financing through REDD.
Face-to-face with what may be the last of the world's smallest rhino, the Bornean rhinoceros
(12/01/2009) Nothing can really prepare a person for coming face-to-face with what may be the last of a species. I had known for a week that I would be fortunate enough to meet Tam. I'd heard stories of his gentle demeanor, discussed his current situation with experts, and read everything I could find about this surprising individual. But still, walking up to the pen where Tam stood contentedly pulling leaves from the hands of a local ranger, hearing him snort and whistle, watching as he rattled the bars with his blunted horn, I felt like I was walking into a place I wasn't meant to be. As though I was treading on his, Tam's space: entering into a cool deep forest where mud wallows and shadows still linger. This was Tam's world; or at least it should be.
Guyana expedition finds biodiversity trove in area slated for oil and gas development, an interview with Robert Pickles
(11/29/2009) An expedition deep into Guyana's rainforest interior to find the endangered giant river otter—and collect their scat for genetic analysis—uncovered much more than even this endangered charismatic species. "Visiting the Rewa Head felt like we were walking in the footsteps of Wallace and Bates, seeing South America with its natural density of wild animals as it would have appeared 150 years ago," expedition member Robert Pickles said to Mongabay.com.
The faster, fiercer, and always surprising sloth, an interview with Bryson Voirin
(10/25/2009) Sloths sleep all day; they are always slow; and they are gentle animals. These are just some of the popular misconceptions that sloth-scientist and expert tree-climber, Bryson Voirin, is overturning. After growing up among the wild creatures of Florida, spending his high school years in Germany, and earning a Bachelors degree in biology and environment at the New College of Florida, Voirin found his calling. At the New College of Florida, Voirin "met Meg Lowman, the famous canopy pioneer who invented many of the tree climbing techniques everyone uses today."
Will tropical trees survive climate change?, an interview with Kenneth J. Feeley
(09/24/2009) One of the most pressing issues in the conservation today is how climate change will affect tropical ecosystems. The short answer is: we don't know. Because of this, more and more scientists are looking at the probable impacts of a warmer world on the Earth's most vibrant and biodiverse ecosystems. Kenneth J. Feeley, tropical ecologist and new professor at Florida International University and the Center for Tropical Plant Conservation at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, is conducting groundbreaking research in the tropical forests of Peru on the migration of tree species due to climate change.
Working to save the 'living dead' in the Atlantic Forest, an interview with Antonio Rossano Mendes Pontes
(09/23/2009) The Atlantic Forest may very well be the most imperiled tropical ecosystem in the world: it is estimated that seven percent (or less) of the original forest remains. Lining the coast of Brazil, what is left of the forest is largely patches and fragments that are hemmed in by metropolises and monocultures. Yet, some areas are worse than others, such as the Pernambuco Endemism Centre, a region in the northeast that has largely been ignored by scientists and conservation efforts. Here, 98 percent of the forest is gone, and 70 percent of what remains are patches measuring less than 10 hectares. Due to this fragmentation all large mammals have gone regionally extinct and the small mammals are described by Antonio Rossano Mendes Pontes, a professor and researcher at the Federal University of Pernambuco, as the 'living dead'.
New species everywhere in Papua New Guinea's 'lost' volcano
(09/07/2009) A five week expedition into a remote extinct volcano has uncovered a treasure trove of new species in Papua New Guinea, including what may be the world's largest rat, a fanged frog, and a grunting fish. In all the expedition estimates it may have found around forty species unknown to science. The expedition was undertaken by a BBC film crew and scientists in January. Local trackers led them into the unexplored jungle, hidden beneath the Bosavi volcano's 2,800 meter summit. Six months prior to arrival, fields of spinach and sweet potato were planted to feed the expedition in such a remote area.
Newly discovered deep sea worms throw bioluminescent 'bombs'
(08/20/2009) Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have announced in Science the discovery of seven new species of deep sea worms, five of which drop orb-like parts of their body which cause a brilliant green display of bioluminescence. For this reason researchers have nicknamed them the ‘green bombers’. The worms are not just new species, but a clade of animals entirely unknown to science until now.
Camping in the Okavango Delta in Botswana
(08/19/2009) The first animal we saw in the Okavango was unmistakable. Although far away, we could easily make it out with its telltale trunk: an African elephant—the world’s largest land animal—was striding peaceably through the delta’s calm waters. We watched, entranced, from the mokoro, a small boat powered and steered by a local wielding a long pole to push the craft along.
Moths defend against bats by 'jamming' sonar
(07/16/2009) Researchers have discovered a species of tiger moth that eludes bats by jamming their echolocation with ultrasonic clicks, a discovery that adds to the list of defensive mechanisms that insects use to defend themselves against bats. The study is published in the journal Science.
Dragonflies migrate 14,000-18,000 km from India to S. Africa
(07/16/2009) Millions of dragonflies migrate thousands of kilometers across the Indian Ocean from southern India to Africa, reports the BBC.
Birds found to be key protectors of forest in Tanzania
(07/02/2009) Seed-eating birds play a critical role in maintaining forests in the Serengeti by keeping seed-killing beetles in check, report researchers writing in the journal Science. The finding is another example of ecological interdependency between species.
Photo: brilliant pink moth discovered in Arizona
(06/11/2009) A new species of moth with brilliantly-colored pink wings has been discovered at 7,700 feet in the Chiricahua Mountains of southern Arizona. "This large moth flew in and we didn't think much of it because there is a silk moth very much like it, a Doris silk moth that feeds on pines that has dark wings with pink on the hind wings. It's fairly common there," said University of Arizona biologist, Bruce Walsh, who discovered the species.
Marine scientist calls for abstaining from seafood to save oceans
(06/08/2009) In April marine scientist Jennifer Jacquet made the case on her blog Guilty Planet that people should abstain from eating seafood to help save life in the ocean. With fish populations collapsing worldwide and scientists sounding warnings that ocean ecosystems—as edible resources—have only decades left, it is perhaps surprising that Jacquet’s call to abstain from consuming seafood is a lone voice in the wilderness, but thus far few have called for seafood lovers to abstain.
Migrations of large mammals in serious declines, six have vanished entirely
(06/03/2009) Watch any nature documentary and it’s sure to include pulse-pounding footage of large herbivores migrating across African plains, Asian steppe, or the Arctic tundra. The images have become iconic: wildebeest forging a crocodile-inhabited river, caribou breaking through snow fields, Saiga running over tall grass. Despite such images of plenty, migrations are declining across the world, and in six cases have disappeared entirely.
As wolves face the gun, flawed science taints decision to remove species from ESA
(05/07/2009) On Monday the gray wolf was removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in Idaho and Montana, two states that have protected the wolf for decades. According to the federal government the decision to remove those wolf populations was based on sound conservation science—a fact greatly disputed in conservation circles. For unlike the bald eagle, whose population is still rising after being delisted in 1995, when the wolf is removed from the ESA it will face guns blazing and an inevitable decline.
Gabonese environmental activist receives prize for standing up to government, Chinese company
(04/20/2009) Marc Ona Essangui is a beloved environmental leader in his native Gabon, however by winning the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize he is now being introduced to a larger audience: the world. Essangui received the prize for exposing unsavory truths about a deal between the Gabon government and a Chinese company, CMEC, to mine for iron ore in the Congo rainforest, the world’s second largest tropical forest. The Belinga mine is a $3.5 billion project that also includes a hydroelectric dam, which will flood traditional lands and destroy what is considered the most beautiful waterfall in the forests of equatorial Africa. The Kongou Falls is located in the Ivindo National Park.
Butterfly tricks ants by mimicking their queen’s vocalizations
(02/05/2009) With cohesive hierarchical societies and a number of communication techniques, ants have been able to conquer a wide variety of ecosystems with great success. However, according to a recent paper in Science ants’ highly structured society at times comes with a price. A number of insects have evolved means to covertly infiltrate the ants’ society and live off their work and bounty by closely mimicking various ant communication methods. While scientists believe that these parasitical insects largely mimic ant communications like chemical exchange and physical contact—such as touching antennae—the study, however, discovered a butterfly which succeeds in infiltrating the highest echelons of ant society by vocalizing like a queen.
Invasive ant interferes with gecko's role in pollinating endangered plant
(11/28/2008) Invasive ants are destroying the symbiotic relationship between a colorful gecko and a critically endangered flower on the island of Mauritius, reports New Scientist citing research published by Dennis Hansen and Christine Müller in the journal Biotopica.
Primate conservation may enhance food availability to humans
(09/15/2008) Primate conservation may have the unintended benefit of enhancing food availability to humans reports a study led by African scientists.
For Australian beetles bigger is better; while American beetles don't care about size
(09/03/2008) Researchers have discovered a dung beetle that may be evolving into separate species in a few decades rather than thousands or millions of years. Separated geographically, sub-populations of the species show large differences in the size of their genitalia and horns. Such distinctions could create new species in a short time, because beetles with largely different genitalia cannot successfully mate.
When in season, wolves choose salmon over deer
(09/02/2008) The popular image of hunting wolves is a pack bearing down on a deer, working in concert to make the kill. However, new research has discovered that when available, wolves largely forgo hoofed mammals for salmon.
Scientists discover world's smallest snake species
(08/03/2008) If one wanted to overcome their fear of snakes, they may want to start with the newly discovered Leptotyphlops carlae. Measuring less than four inches long, even stretched out this new species of threadsnake can't compete with the average pen or pencil.
Colorful insects help search for anti-cancer drugs
(07/07/2008) Brightly-colored beetles or caterpillars feeding on a tropical plant may signal the presence of chemical compounds active against cancer and parasitic diseases, report researchers writing in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The discovery could help speed drug discovery.
Chameleon has shortest life span of any four-legged animal
(06/30/2008) A newly discovered species of chameleon lives a cicada-like existence, spending the bulk of its short year-long life in its egg, report researchers writing in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Lemurs are key to health of Madagascar's rainforests
(06/12/2008) Lemurs play a key role in the health of Madagascar's tropical rainforests said a renowned primatologist speaking at a meeting of conservation biologists in Paramaribo, Suriname.
Frog chooses whether to lay eggs on land or in water
(05/19/2008) Researchers in Panama have discovered a frog that can choose whether it lays its eggs on land or in water. It is the first time such "reproductive flexibility" has been found in a vertebrate.
How falling a gecko lands on its feet
(03/17/2008) According to new research the gecko may have the most dynamic tail in the natural world. Two researchers from UC Berkley have discovered that the gecko uses its tail to keep itself from falling off slippery vertical surfaces and when falling to rapidly right itself. So, like a cat, it always lands on four feet.
Predator of the world's largest macaw key to its survival
(03/13/2008) In a bizarre biological twist, a new study shows that the Hyacinth Macaw depends on its greatest predator, the Toco Toucan, for continued survival.
Photos: Caterpillar transforms from mimicking bird droppings to a leaf
(02/21/2008) Scientists have discovered the hormone that enables swallowtail caterpillars to morph from mimicking bird droppings to the bright color form that matches the leaves upon which they feed. The research is published in Science.
Overfishing may hurt Amazon forest trees
(02/05/2008) Overfishing is reducing the effectiveness of seed dispersal by fish in the Brazilian Pantanal, reports Nature. The research suggests that fishing practices can affect forest health.
To reproduce, parasite transforms ant into juicy red berry
(01/17/2008) Scientists have discovered a parasite that transforms the appearance of its host, an ant, into that of a juicy red berry that birds are more likely to eat and disperse into new habitats, reports an article published in The American Naturalist. It is the first example of fruit mimicry caused by a parasite, say the researchers who discovered the parasite, a nematode or roundworm found in the canopy of tropical forests ranging from Central America to the lowland Amazon.
Disappearance of elephants, giraffes causes ecological chain reaction
(01/10/2008) The disappearance of elephants, giraffes and other grazing animals from the eastern African savanna could send ecological ripple effects all the way to the savanna's ants and the acacia trees they inhabit, warns a new study published in the journal Science.
Butterfly tricks ants into caring for its young
(01/03/2008) A species of butterfly in Denmark foolds ants into raising their larvae, reports research published in the journal Science.
Squirrels use snake skin to disguise themselves from predators
(12/20/2007) California ground squirrels and rock squirrels chew up rattlesnake skin and smear it on their fur to mask their scent from predators, according to a new study by researchers at UC Davis. Barbara Clucas, a graduate student in animal behvaior at UC Davis, observed ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) and rock squirrels (Spermophilus variegates) applying snake scent to themselves by picking up pieces of shed snakeskin, chewing it and then licking their fur.
Termites may produce cleaner biofuels
(11/23/2007) Termites may be the key to greener, more effective biofuels, report scientists writing in the November 22 edition of the journal Nature.
Law enforcement key to saving Borneo's rainforests
(11/13/2007) In an interview with mongabay.com, Dr. Rhett Harrison, a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) associate researcher and Secretary for the Asia-Pacific Chapter of ATBC, says that law enforcement could be the key to safeguarding biodiversity contained in Borneo's lowland parks. Harrison says there may be opportunities for conservationists to work with oil palm to developers to ensure that existing forests are not converted for plantations and that palm oil can be produced in a sustainable manner. He also adds that carbon offsets may eventually offer a means to fund conservation and sustainable development efforts in areas that still have standing forest.
Iguanas listen to birds to avoid predators
(10/29/2007) As the world's only sea-feeding lizard, Galapagos Marine Iguanas have long held a unique place in the animal kingdom. While most of their life is spent on land, these lizards forage the seas for their staple food: algae. Now, new research has provided this species with another distinction: although the Galapagos Marine Iguana is mute, it recognizes and utilizes the alarm call of the Galapagos Mockingbird. This is the first instance of a non-vocal species eavesdropping on another species' calls. Both the iguana and mockingbird fall prey to the Galapagos hawk, so by recognizing the mockingbird's warning the iguanas gain important information on avoiding predation.
Scientists find fish that literally lives in trees
(10/17/2007) Scientists have found a fish that literally lives in trees, according to research published in The American Naturalist and highlighted in New Scientist Magazine.
Snake uses trick to avoid poisoning from toxic frogs
(10/16/2007) An Australian snake employs a special feeding behvaior to avoid poisoning by toxic frogs, reports The American Naturalist.
Bird flies 7,150 miles in a week
(09/11/2007) The bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica baueri) makes the longest non-stop migratory flight of any bird species in the world, reports a new study.
Second set of jaws help moray eels feed
(09/06/2007) Moray eels have a unique way of feeding reminiscent of a science fiction thriller, researchers at UC Davis have discovered. After seizing prey in its jaws, a second set of jaws located in the moray's throat reaches forward into the mouth, grabs the food and carries it back to the esophagus for swallowing.
Squid chasing drove evolution of whale sonar
(09/06/2007) A University of California at Berkeley study argues that dolphins and other toothed whales developed sonar to chase schools of squid swimming near the ocean surface at night.
Legless lizard retracts eyes to avoid retaliatory prey bites
(08/14/2007) For creatures without legs, snakes are remarkable predators. Pythons can capture and eat animals well over twice their size, while a mere drop of venom injected by an Australian death adder can kill a person. Scientists believe the main purpose for these adaptations is to help snakes avoid injury when pursuing and eating prey. However, snakes are not the only legless reptiles -- there are more than a dozen species of legless lizard distributed around the world. A new paper examines how these reptiles subdue their prey without venom or constriction.
Squirrels communicate with rattlesnakes using heated tail
(08/13/2007) Ground squirrels heat their tails to defend their young against predatory rattlesnakes, reports a study published in the early online edition of Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Fish cultivate gardens of algae
(07/24/2007) Damselfish cultivate "gardens" of algae, according to a study published last October in the journal Biology Letters.
Why poison dart frogs are poisonous
(05/14/2007) Mites -- not ants as long believed -- appear to be the primary source of toxins used by poison arrow frogs to defend against predators, reports new research published in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Poison dart frogs, colorful amphibians with skin secretions so toxic that they are used by indigenous populations to poison the tips of hunting arrows, are one of several groups of animals capable of sequestering deadly compounds from dietary sources without being harmed. Until now, it was believed that ants were the primary source of these defensive skin alkaloids in frogs.
Neon green gecko key to preventing Mauritian plant extinction
(04/17/2007) A vibrantly colored gecko plays a key role in a highly threatened ecological community in Mauritius reports new research published in American Naturalist. Studying plant-animal interactions in Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island famous for its extinct dodo bird, researchers found that a rare plant, Trochetia blackburniana, benefits from its proximity to Pandanus plants because they house high densities of geckos responsible for pollination. The findings, which unusually identify a lizard as a key pollinator, are significant because they provide "valuable management insights for ongoing conservation efforts to save the highly endangered flora of Mauritius.
Lavender and symbiotic fungi key to Cypress reforestation in Morocco
(01/20/2007) Cypress reforestation efforts are unsuccessful without dual cultivation with lavender or mycorrhizal fungi, according to researchers studying replanting programs in Morocco.
Moray eels and groupers hunt together
(12/05/2006) Moray eels and groupers hunt together according to research published in the December 5 issue of PLoS Biology. A team of researchers lead by Redouan Bshary, a biologist at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, found that moray eels and groupers practice cooperative hunting in Red Sea coral reefs -- behvaior not before described outside primates and birds. The hunting habits of groupers, which are diurnal (day-active) predators that hunt in open water, are markedly different from moral eels, which are evasive nocturnal hunters that sneak through reef crevices in an attempt to ambush and corner prey. As such prey have distinctly different evasive behvaior when confronted by groupers versus morays.
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