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New species of frog sings like a bird

(12/12/2011) If you're trudging through the high-altitude rainforests of northern Vietnam and you hear bird song, you might want to check the trees for frogs. Yes, that's right: frogs. A new species of tree frog has been discovered in Vietnam that researchers say has a uniquely complex call that makes it sound more like a bird than a typical frog. Discovered in Pu Hoat Proposed Nature Reserve, the new species, dubbed Quang's tree frog (Gracixalus quangi), dwells in the forests at an altitude 600-1,300 meters (nearly 2,000-4,265 feet).


Estimating the rich diversity of galling insects

(12/12/2011) How does one estimate the number of tiny, cryptic "galling" insects without finding and describing every one (a task that could take centuries of taxonomic work)? According to a new paper in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science, you count the plants. Galling insects use plant tissue for development creating a "gall," or abnormal growth on the plant. Such little-known insects include gall wasps, gall midges, aphids, and jumping plant lice. The groups are known to be highly diverse, with over 2,000 species described from the US alone; scientists have previously estimated that there may be as many as 132,000 different species.


Evidence mounts that Maya did themselves in through deforestation

(12/08/2011) Researchers have garnered further evidence for a smoking gun behind the fall of the great Maya civilization: deforestation. At the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference, climatologist Ben Cook presented recent research showing how the destruction of rainforests by the Mayan ultimately led to declines in precipitation and possibly civilization-rocking droughts. While the idea that the Maya may have committed ecological-suicide through deforestation has been widely discussed, including in Jared Diamond's popular book Collapse, Cook's findings add greater weight to the theory.


Picture of the day: Amazonian shaman with hallucinogenic frog

(12/06/2011) The giant monkey frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor) is known for its mind-altering skin secretions. A small handful of tribes deep in the Amazonian rainforest between Peru and Brazil have used this species in hunting rituals.


Yeti crab cultivates bacteria on its claws to feed itself

(12/02/2011) A species of deep-sea crab found in hydrothermal vents off Costa Rica cultivates "gardens" of bacteria on its claws to feed itself, reports Nature News.


Eat like an orangutan to save rainforests

(11/30/2011) One doesn't have to be a scientist or a government official to help save the world's vanishing rainforests, one can also be a chef. World-renowned chef Andre Chiang has added a new item to his menu called Orangutan Salad, reports the Wall Street Journal, which he hopes will raise awareness for the endangered apes at his Singapore eatery, Restaurant Andre. The new salad gives restaurant-goers the chance to enjoy all the subtle, earthy tastes of a typical orangutan meal, including ferns, tree fungi, figs, berries, orchid leaves, and durian flowers.


$500 offered for rediscovery of extinct snake

(11/29/2011) Need to make a quick 500 bucks? Easy: head to Glades County, Florida and find a specimen of the South Florida rainbow snake (Farancia erytrogramma seminola), which the US government says is extinct. In an unusual bid two NGOS, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Center for Snake Conservation, are offering a substantial reward to the first person who can prove that the South Florida rainbow snake has not vanished forever.


Photos: bizarre new mammal discovered in Vietnam

(11/28/2011) A new species of omnivorous mammal has been found in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam. A part of the weasel family, the new species is known as a ferret-badger, a strange subfamily of mammals that have been little-studied by researchers. Smaller than proper badgers, ferret-badgers have elongated faces and long bushy tails.


Bathtub-sized marine sponge rediscovered after a century of extinction

(11/22/2011) Not found alive for over a century the evocatively named Neptune's cup sponge (Cliona patera) has been rediscovered off the shores of Singapore. Researchers with the environmental consulting DHI Group found the species during a routine dive. Although the specimen they found was small, the goblet-shaped sponge can reach nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters) high and the same in diameter.


One night only: new orchid species surprises scientists

(11/22/2011) A mysterious new orchid blooms for one night only, opening around 10 PM and closing at 10 AM. Discovered on the island of New Britain near Papua New Guinea, the new species is the world's first orchid that flowers only at night. Scientists found the new flower, named Bulbophyllum nocturnum, in a logging concession on the tropical island.


800 nearly-extinct giant snails freeze to death in conservation center

(11/14/2011) Eight hundred large carnivorous snails, known as Powelliphanta snails (Powelliphanta augusta), died in a Department of Conservation (DOC) fridge in New Zealand over the weekend. A faulty temperature gauge caused the fridge to cool down to zero degrees Celsius, slowly killing all the molluscs but a lone survivor. The snails in question were taken from Mount Augustus into captivity before their habitat was mined for coal.


Photos: bizarre shell of new snail baffles researchers

(11/10/2011) A new species of snail with a bizarre shell has surprised scientists. Discovered near massive waterfalls in pristine lowland rainforest in New Guinea, the tiny new species' shell is shaped like a cornucopia, spirals flying freely instead of fused together like most shells. Latvian malacologist (one who study molluscs) Kristine Greke, who described the new species, named it Ditropopsis mirabilis, meaning miraculous or extraordinary. To date, scientists are uncertain why the super small snail—2 to 6 millimeters (0.07 to 0.23 inches)—would have evolved such a strange shell.


Small mammals use Borneo pitcher plant as toilet in exchange for nectar

(11/08/2011) Tree shrews and nocturnal rats in the forests of Borneo have a unique relationship with carnivorous pitcher plants. The mammals defecate, and the pitchers are happy to receive. A study published on May 31 in the Journal of Tropical Ecology shows a species of giant mountain pitcher plants (Nepenthes rajah) supplements its diet with nitrogen from the feces of tree shrews (Tupaia montana) that forage in daylight and summit rats (Rattus baluensis) active at night. When the small mammals lick nectar from the underside of the pitcher’s lid, they stand directly over the jug-shaped pitcher organ.


Beetle bonanza: 84 new species prove richness of Indo-Australian islands

(11/08/2011) Re-examining beetle specimens from 19 museums has led to the discovery of 84 new beetle species in the Macratria genus. The new species span the islands of Indonesia, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, tripling the number of known Macratria beetles in the region. "Species of the genus Macratria are cosmopolitan, with the highest species diversity in the tropical rainforests. Only 28 species of this genus were previously known from the territory of the Indo-Australian transition," Dr. Dmitry Telnov with the Entomological Society of Latvia, who discovered the new species, told mongabay.com.


Photos: three bizarre bats discovered in Southeast Asia

(10/30/2011) In the forests of Cambodia and Vietnam, researchers have discovered three new species of tube-nosed bats, known for extraordinary nostrils that look like blooming flowers. The new bats, described in the Journal of Mammalogy, are likely imperiled by deforestation. "They all possess specially shaped nostrils (hence the name for the group) the exact role of which not known yet," Gabor Csorba, lead author of the paper with the Hungarian Natural History Museum, told mongabay.com.


Photo surprise: Antarctic seal shows up on rainforest beach in Gabon, Central Africa

(10/23/2011) A male sub-antarctic fur seal on the beach between Louri and Tassi in Loango National Park, Gabon on September 1, 2011.


Giant one-celled organisms discovered over six miles below the ocean's surface

(10/23/2011) Imagine a one-celled organism the size of a mango. It's not science fiction, but fact: scientists have cataloged dozens of giant one-celled creatures, around 4 inches (10 centimeters), in the deep abysses of the world's oceans. But recent exploration of the Mariana Trench has uncovered the deepest record yet of the one-celled behemoths, known as xenophyophores.


Photos: satellite tracking of the unicorn of the sea

(10/19/2011) A new program aims to track one of the ocean's most enigmatic creatures: the narwhal (Monodon monoceros). Tagging nine narwhales in August, researchers plan to track the species in order to gain new insights about how the little-known toothed whale will withstand a rapidly melting Arctic due to climate change. "[This] is a chance to better understand these animals while their world changes around them. We know narwhals are often associated with sea ice, and we know the sea ice is shrinking. WWF is trying to understand how narwhals, as well as all other ice associated animals in the arctic can adapt to a changing environment," says Peter Ewins with WWF-Canada.


If camera traps don't prove existence of Bigfoot or Yeti nothing will

(10/13/2011) Let me state for the record that I am skeptical of the existence of Bigfoot or the Yeti, however I do have a fascination for following the latest news on the seemingly never-ending search for these hidden hominids. This week a Yeti conference in Russia announced 'indisputable proof' of the legendary hairy ape in the wilds of Southern Siberia. What did this proof consist of? Not DNA, photographs, video, or the Yeti itself (dead or alive) as one would expect from the word 'indisputable', but a few alleged Yeti hairs, an alleged bed, and alleged footprints. Cryptozoologists, those who are fascinated by hidden species such as the proposed Yeti and Bigfoot, don't serve their cause by stating the reality of a species without the evidence long-deemed necessary by scientific community to prove it—either a body or DNA samples combined with clear photographic evidence—instead they make themselves easy targets of scorn and ridicule.


'Indisputable proof' of Yeti discovered

(10/10/2011) A conference has announced that given recent evidence they are 95 percent convinced the yeti, a mythical or perhaps actual primate, exists in the cold wilds of Siberia. Scientists and cryptozoologists (those who have a fascination for the 'study of hidden species' such as Bigfoot) met in the Kemerovo region of Russia to exchange information on the yeti, also known as the Abominable Snowman, and to conduct fieldwork. According to a statement from the conference, members found new evidence of the yeti's cryptic existence.


Could blockbuster animated movies help save life on Earth?

(09/26/2011) Some scientists may scoff at the idea that animated anthropomorphized animals—from Bambi to Simba to Nemo—could have an important impact on conservation efforts to save real-world species, but a new opinion piece in mongabay.com's open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science argues that conservationists would do well to join forces with the makers of animated blockbusters to help save the world's dwindling biodiversity. The paper points out that a number of recent films focused on imperiled places, such as coral reefs (Finding Nemo) and the Atlantic Forest (Rio), as well as conservation problems like overfishing (Happy Feet) and climate change (Ice Age: the Meltdown).


Scientists confirm ancient Egyptian knowledge: Nile crocodile is two species

(09/20/2011) DNA has shown that the Nile crocodile is in fact two very different species: a bigger, more aggressive crocodile and a smaller, tamer species that today survives only in West Africa. While the taxonomy of the Nile crocodile has been controversial for over a century, the new study points out that the ancient Egyptians recognized the differences in the species and avoided the big crocodile for its rituals.


Featured video: the Caribbean's last mammals

(09/11/2011) Although they are little-known, the hutia and solenodon are some of the last surviving mammals of the Caribbean. A hefty rodent, the hutia spends its time grazing in trees like a giant arboreal hamster. While, the solenodon may be one of the world's oddest creatures: a 'living fossil', the solenodon's evolutionary origins goes back all the way to the time of dinosaurs.


World's oldest person discovered in Amazon rainforest

(08/31/2011) Maria Lucimar Pereira is arguably the world's oldest living person: a member of the Kaxinawá tribe, Pereira lives in the Brazilian Amazon and will be soon celebrating her 121st birthday, according to Survival International.


Meet the just discovered 'Komodo dragon' of wasps

(08/28/2011) A new species of warrior wasp has been discovered on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi that is so large and, frankly, terrifying-looking that it has been dubbed the 'Komodo dragon' of the wasp family. Bizarrely, the male of the species has jaws that outstretch its limbs. "I don't know how it can walk," said the wasp's discoverer, entomologist Lynn Kimsey of the University of California, Davis and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, in a press release. "Its jaws are so large that they wrap up either side of the head when closed."


Humanity knows less than 15 percent of the world's species

(08/23/2011) Scientists have named, cataloged, and described less than 2 million species in the past two and a half centuries, yet, according to an new innovative analysis, we are no-where near even a basic understanding of the diversity of life on this small blue planet. The study in PLoS Biology, which is likely to be controversial, predicts that there are 8.7 million species in the world, though the number could be as low as 7.4 or as high as 10 million. The research implies that about 86 percent of the world's species have still yet to be described.


Amazon rainforest communities added to Google Street View

(08/22/2011) Google is adding addresses along sections of the Amazon River and Rio Negro to its Street View service.


Animal picture of the day: 18 pound lobster saved from dinner plate

(08/18/2011) Although big, this is not by far the largest American lobster (Homarus americanus) ever found.


New species is eel-equivalent of the coelacanth

(08/18/2011) The ocean holds endless surprises still. In an underwater cave off the Pacific island nation of Palau, reachers have made an astounding discovery: an eel species unknown to science that harkens back 200 million years. The species, described in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B as an 'enigmatic, small eel-like fish', sports anatomical features that differentiate it from the over 800 known species of eel surviving today.


Over 80 percent of rediscovered species still face extinction

(08/18/2011) Imagine if your job was to locate extinct species. In 2010, biologists with The Search for Lost Frogs set out on a tropical mission hoping to confirm the existence of frog species not seen in decades. The team recovered proof of four out of a hundred missing species, including a toad among the expedition's Top Ten Amphibians list. According to a new study study in the open access journal PLoS ONE, such biological surveys are critical conservation tools to prevent the 'romeo error': the abandonment of conservation efforts due to belief that a species is extinct. The study, the first of its kind, found that rediscovered species are especially in danger of vanishing again, this time altogether, without targeted conservation measures.


Animal picture of the day: the brilliant cock-of-the-rock

(08/16/2011) The Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus) is an unmistakable bird, whose males support such brilliant and bushy head plumage that their beaks are often hidden entirely, giving them a look wholly unique in the animal kingdom.


Featured video: WWF's Astonish Me

(08/16/2011) Highlighting new species recently discovered around the world, the short film Astonish Me, was created as apart of a happy 50th birthday celebration for conservation organization WWF.


Rat uses 'poison arrow' toxin from tree to defend against predators

(08/02/2011) The African crested rat, a rodent from East Africa, applies to plant toxin from tree bark to make itself poisonous, reports a new study published in Proceedings of The Royal Society B..


Fish use tools

(07/17/2011) A blackspot tuskfish (Choerodon schoenleinii) has been photographed picking up a clam in its mouth, swimming over to a rock, and then using the rock as an anvil by smashing the clam against it until it breaks open. In the journal Coral Reefs scientists argue this is the first conclusive evidence of a fish using tools. Once thought only the domain of humans, biologists have found that tool use is actually present all over the animal kingdom, from elephants to chimps, and crows to capuchins. Such tool use is often considered evidence of higher intelligence.


Brainy lizards rival birds in intelligence

(07/13/2011) Reptiles have long been thought to be dim-witted, but a new study in Biology Letters finds that the Puerto Rican anole, a type of lizard, can match birds in smarts. Using cognitive tests that have been previously used on birds, researchers with Duke University found that the lizards were capable of solving a problem they've never encountered before, remembering the solution in future trials, and even changing techniques when presented with new challenges. In fact, the tiny anoles solved the test with fewer tries than birds. Given reptiles' reputation of being slow-on-the uptake the head author, Manuel Leal, said the findings are 'completely unexpected'.


Forgotten species: the rebellious spotted handfish

(07/12/2011) Evolution is a bizarre mistress. In her adaptation workshop she has crafted parrots that don't fly, amphibians with lifelong gills, poison-injecting rodents, and tusked whales. In an evolutionary hodge-podge that is reminiscent of such mythical beasts as chimeras and griffins, she has from time-to-time given some species' attributes of others, such as the marine iguana who is as happy underwater as a seal, the duck-billed platypus that lays eggs like a reptile, and the purple frog that has a lifestyle reminiscent of a mole. Then there's one of her least-known hodge-podges: the fish who 'walks' with hands instead of swimming.


Photo: Scientists discover 'SpongeBob' mushroom in Borneo

(06/16/2011) Scientists have discovered a colorful new species of mushroom in the rainforest of Borneo and named it after a popular cartoon character: SpongeBob.


New bee species sports world's longest tongue

(06/14/2011) A new species of bee discovered in the Colombian rainforest could give the world's biggest raspberry! Researchers say the new bee has the longest tongue of any known bee, and may even have the world's longest tongue compared to body size of any animal: twice the length of the bee itself. The new species has been named Euglossa natesi in honor of bee-expert Guiomar Nates.


Google Earth used to identify marine animal behavior

(06/14/2011) From the all-seeing eye of Google Earth, one can spy the tip of Mount Everest, traffic on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, and the ruins of Machu Picchu, but who would have guessed everyone's favorite interactive globe would also provide marine biologists a God's-eye view of fish behavior? Well, a new study in the just-launched Scientific Reports has discovered visible evidence on Google Earth of the interactions between marine predators and prey in the Great Barrier Reef.


World's 'most social' lizard builds multigenerational homes

(05/31/2011) Researchers from Macquarie University in Australia have discovered that the threatened great desert burrowing skink lizard forms stable families that construct and maintain elaborate underground homes, reports ABC News. This is the first lizard in the world known to practice such familial behavior. Native to central Australia, researchers are conducting studies on the great desert skink (Liopholis kintorei) at Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, where rangers monitor the threatened species. Over 5,000 species of lizard have been documented globally, but only the Uluru skinks live together in immediate and social families that invest in the construction of long-lasting homes.


Photos: the top ten new species discovered in 2010

(05/23/2011) If we had to characterize our understanding of life on Earth as either ignorant or knowledgeable, the former would be most correct. In 250 years of rigorous taxonomic work researchers have cataloged nearly two million species, however scientists estimate the total number of species on Earth is at least five million and perhaps up to a hundred million. This means every year thousands of new species are discovered by researchers, and from these thousands, the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University selects ten especially notable new species.


Uncovering the private lives of Amazon wildlife through camera traps

(05/20/2011) One of the best words to describe Amazon wildlife, including large mammals and birds, is cryptic. A person can spend a day trekking through the dense green and brown foliage of the Amazon and see nothing more than a few insects, maybe a frog here and there if they have good eyes. In fact, researchers have spent years in the jungle and never seen a jaguar, let alone a tapir. Some species like the bushdog and the giant armadillo are even more cryptic. Almost never encountered by people, in some parts of the Amazon they have taken on a mythic status, more rumor around the fire than reality. However, camera traps—automated cameras that take a flash photo whenever an animal triggers an infrared sensor—in the Amazon have begun to reveal long-sought information about the presence and abundance of species, providing new data on range and territories. And even at times giving glimpses into the private lives of species that remain largely shrouded in mystery.


Red rodent shows up at Colombian nature lodge after 113 years on the lam

(05/18/2011) The red-crested tree rat (Santamartamys rufodorsalis) had not been recorded since 1898 and was thought possibly extinct—that is until one showed up at 9:30 PM on May 4th at a lodge in El Dorado Nature Reserve in northern Colombia. 'He just shuffled up the handrail near where we were sitting and seemed totally unperturbed by all the excitement he was causing,' said Lizzie Noble, a British volunteer with Fundacion ProAves.


No limbs or sight needed: bizarre new lizard uncovered in Cambodia

(05/09/2011) A new species of legless lizard has been discovered in Cambodia. Herpetologist Neang Thy uncovered, literally, the new species when he turned over a log in the species-rich Cardamom Mountains. While the new lizard looks like a snake or a big earthworm, it is in fact a lizard belong to the Dibamidae family. These bizarre reptiles spend much of their lives burrowing underground for insects, which has allowed them to lose the need for limbs.


Forgotten species: the endearing Tenkile tree kangaroo

(05/03/2011) With their long snout, furry body, soft eyes, and, at times, upright stance, tree kangaroos often remind me of the muppets. Of course, if there were any fairness in the world, the muppets would remind me of tree kangaroos, since kangaroos, or macropods, have inhabited the Earth for at least 5 million years longer than Jim Henson’s muppets. But as a child of the 1980s, I knew about muppets well before tree kangaroos, which play second fiddle in the public imagination to their bigger, boxing cousins. This is perhaps surprising, as tree kangaroos possess three characteristics that should make them immensely popular: they are mammals, they are monkey-like (and who doesn't like monkeys?), and they are desperately 'cute'.


With 24 eyes, box jellyfish are constantly looking up

(04/28/2011) Lacking brains does not mean box jellyfish are incapable of complex visual behavior, according to a new study in Current Biology. Researchers have known for over a century that box jellyfish support an astounding two-dozen eyes. Now, they are beginning to find out how these eyes are used: four of a box jellyfish's 24 eyes are always peering up out of the water finds the new study. These four eyes, no matter how the body is oriented, allow the jellyfish to navigate their shallow, obstacle-filled habitats, such as mangroves—and keep them from straying too far from home.


Vietnam creates reserve for newly-discovered, nearly-extinct mammal, the saola

(04/14/2011) The Vietnam government and local people have approved a Saola Natural Reserve to protect one of the world's most endangered—and most elusive—mammals. Only discovered by the outside world in 1992, the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) inhabits the lush forests of the Annamite Mountains. No one knows how many saola remain, but it has been classified as Critically Endangered as it is likely very few. Recently, conservationist William Robichaud told mongabay.com that the saola was "perhaps the most spectacular zoological discovery of the 20th century", comparing it only to the discovery of the okapi in central Africa in 1900.


The saola: rushing to save the most 'spectacular zoological discovery' of the 20th Century

(04/04/2011) The saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) may be the most enigmatic, beautiful, and endangered big mammal in the world—that no one has ever heard of. The shy ungulate looks like an African antelope—perhaps inhabiting the wide deserts of the Sahara—but instead it lives in the dense jungles of Vietnam and Laos, and is more related to wild cattle than Africa's antelopes. The saola is so unusual that is has been given its own genus: Pseudoryx, due to its superficial similarities to Africa's oryx. In the company of humans this quiet forest dweller acts calm and tame, but has yet to survive captivity long. Yet strangest of all, the 200 pound (90 kilogram) animal remained wholly unknown to science until 1992.


Escaped Bronx Zoo cobra found! (picture)

(03/31/2011) The missing Bronx Zoo cobra that caused consternation among some New York residents while becoming a pop culture icon has been found after a thorough search of the zoo's Reptile House.


'Huge reduction' of water from plants due to higher carbon levels

(03/30/2011) As if ocean acidification and a warming world weren't enough, researchers have outlined another way in which carbon emissions are impacting the planet. A new study shows that higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have taken a toll on how much water vapor plants release, potentially impacting the rainfall and groundwater sources. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has found that carbon dioxide levels over the past 150 years has reduced plants' spores, called stomata, by over one third (34%). This is important because stomata take in oxygen and carbon dioxide and release water vapor in a process dubbed 'transpiration'. Less stomata means less water driven into the atmosphere.



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