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Mammals And Bird Have An Edge Over Reptiles When It Comes To Adapting To Climate Change

blue coral snake

As climate change continues to affect the planet it would seem that warm-blooded animals may have an edge when it comes to adaptation to the new reality. According to the latest research, over the last few million years of Earth’s history, birds and mammals have been able to better adapt to changing temperatures than amphibians and reptiles by shifting their habitats to more suitable locations. The study examined data on over 11,000 species of vertebrate as well as fossil records dating back 270 million years.

Reptiles and amphibians are slower to adapt

When the records were compared with ancient temperature models, the researchers found that warm-blooded species were better able to expand their ranges and adapt to new climate conditions. Such shifts in reptiles and amphibians occurred at a much slower pace. Scientists say this fact could have a huge impact on extinction rates and how our world will look in the future. There are a number of reasons why warm-blooded species have been historically more successful at adaptation. Birds and mammals regulate their own body temperatures in contrast to cold-blooded species. This means there is no need to adjust how they behave in response to the temperature as dramatically as cold-blooded species must.

Regulating your own body temperature is a huge advantage

For example, reptiles and amphibians are forced to significantly scale back their activities when temperatures drop which means they are at a disadvantage when it comes to mating, finding food or seeking new habitats. Warm-blooded species can use their own body heat to maintain the temperature of developing babies whilst cold-blooded species are forced to remain in suitable climate conditions for their eggs to develop and hatch. Therefore, it is not surprising that birds and mammals are able to disperse around the world when the Earth goes through cooling periods.

Global warming will be a problem for cold-blooded species as well

Some scientists however have come to believe that the current rapid global warming we are experiencing may also have disproportionate effects on cold-blooded species as well. One study which looked at lizard extinction rates in relation to changing conditions in the climate suggests that 20 per cent of all lizard species globally could simply become extinct by 2080. Locally the extinction rate could reach as high as 40 per cent of species.

All species have temperature limits

It is easy to assume that snakes and lizards are happy to bask in warm weather, reptiles like all species have their own temperature limits. As the Earth’s temperature continues to rise, some places may simply become to hot for cold-blooded residents and as has been pointed out, historically these species have found it more difficult to migrate into more suitable habitat when compared to warm-blooded animals.

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Plastic Pollution Endangering Marine Life

plastic pollution

Scientists are warning that much more research must be conducted on the impact of plastic pollution on sea life such as sharks, rays and whales. Studies suggest that these creatures may be swallowing hundreds of bits of micro-plastic every day. Scientists say that micro-plastic pollution could result in the reduction of the population of large filter feeders, however very little research is being conducted into the risk it poses. European and American researchers have examined data on the threats to large filter feeders from these plastic pieces measuring less than five millimetres long and found they can be extremely harmful to aquatic life.

We have no idea what the magnitude of risk is

Researchers say the full magnitude of the risk of ingesting micro-plastics has not yet been fully investigated. Risks could include damage to the digestive system, reduction in nutritional uptake and exposure to toxins. The final risk could have an impact on many biological processes including growth and reproduction which puts further strain on the filter feeding population. The research suggests that large filter feeders which tend to be economically important as well as charismatic species should be the priority when it comes to further research in to the risks of micro-plastics.

Plastic is extremely toxic

Filter feeding species process hundreds of cubic metres of water every day in order to obtain their nutritional requirement and obviously swallowing such huge amounts of water will inevitably include ingesting micro-plastics in the process. This type of plastic is very similar in size and mass to many forms of plankton. Studies have shown that the chemicals associated with micro-plastics have ended up in the bodies of fin whales and whale sharks. Scientists say that exposure to the toxins associated with micro-plastics are a significant threat to these species because it can change the hormones that regulate their growth, development, metabolism and reproductive functions.

Huge amounts of plastic are ingested

The study estimates that whale sharks that feed off the coast of Mexico where they also breed swallow as many as 200 pieces of plastic each day. Fin whales located in the Mediterranean Sea are believed to swallow almost 2,000 particles of micro-plastic per day. The researchers say that a whale carcass in France contained 800 kilograms of plastic. Another carcass in Australia contained six square metres of plastic sheeting and an addition 30 complete plastic carrier bags.

Flagship species

Whale sharks and other species that are considered to be flagship may serve as a point of focus for research particularly in countries that depend on tourism. Researchers add that using iconic species such as whale sharks, manta rays and whales will attract the attention of communities and policy makers who may implement rules that will benefit their marine ecosystems. Many filter feeding species are on the brink of extinction and whilst they do have a long life-span, they give birth to few offspring over the course of their lives. The IUCN has listed the whale shark as Endangered and put the species on its Red List.

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Experiment Finds Killer Whales Able To Mimic Human Speech

Killer Whale

It is a well-known fact that whales have an impressive ability to communicate enabling pods to ‘talk” with one another through a series of complex clicks and singing, even when the pods are more than 100 miles apart. A new study has revealed that these mammals also have the ability to mimic human speech which until now was a skill believed to be limited to primates, birds, elephants, dolphins and seals. Scientists have a recorded a killer whale named Wikie repeating the words hello, bye bye, counting till three and even the name of her trainer Amy.

First time experiment

Wikie is a 14-year-old killer whale and resided at Marineland at Antibes in France, and this is the first-time scientists have ever recorded a whale mimic human speech. What makes this achievement even more special is that whales do not have the same kind of vocal abilities as humans, with their own sound making capabilities having evolved underwater. Humans make use of the larynx in order to converse whilst whales use their nasal passage to produce sounds through bursts of air.

Whale pods have their own accents

Scientists have also recently discovered that whales also have different accents which are picked up when whales are young as they imitate the adults in their pod, very similar to the way human children learn to speak. Killer whales live in groups known as pods with each one possessing its own dialect that includes calls which are completely unique to themselves. It is even believed that some clicks represent individual names.

Mimicking has been observed in the past

In the past killer whales have been known to mimic sea lions barking and the whistles of dolphins. Beluga whales have been filmed mimicking humans but until this study, no controlled experiments have been conducted to verify these claims. In this experiment, Wikie was trained to understand a signal for ‘copy’ and was then asked to repeat 11 completely new sounds given to her by her trainer. The sounds included a wolf howl, an elephant call, a creaking door and human words.

Repeating words and sounds in real time

The orca was rewarded with a fish or affectionate pat when she repeated the sound correctly to reinforce the learning and there were six judges on hand who were asked to rate whether her vocalisation matched the original word or noise. The researchers reached the conclusion that Wikie was able to make recognisable copies of the sounds in real time.

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Amur Tiger Terrorising Siberian Village

amur tiger

Russian forest officials are searching the frozen countryside in a frantic bid to locate a Siberian tiger that is hunting local dogs in remote Siberian village. The Amur tiger is an endangered species and the tiger that is killing the dogs was actually bred in captivity and then released into the wild as part of a conservation program that has been personally endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Not the first time this has happened

This isn’t the first time that a captively bred tiger that was released into the wild as part of Putin’s conservation campaign has caused concern with local communities. In 2014 another tiger crossed the border into China and killed five chickens. This time residents of the Russian village which is also close to the border with China in Russia’s Eastern Primorye region claim that a tiger has been hunting dogs and dragging their carcasses away.

Conservation department investigating

Two groups have been set up within the Department of Hunting and Supervision in Primorye region to search for the tiger with the assistance of local conservationists said department spokesperson Dmitry Pankratov to state news agency RIA Novosti. Mr Pankratov says that the department has confirmed that the big cat has already carried away four dogs from the village. The situation is genuinely worrying and that is why it has been decided that the tiger must be removed from nature and the reasons for its behaviour must be determined.

Tiger could be a mother with a cub to feed

Mr Pankratov adds that such behaviour from the tiger is most unusual. There was one instance where the tiger dragged the carcass of a dead dogs for almost two-and-a-half miles.  Such behaviour has led experts to speculate that the tiger may well be a female with cub, but they are yet to confirm the theory.

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How Wild Dogs Tigers And Leopards Coexist In India’s Jungles

Tiger Poaching On The Rise

Whilst domesticated cats and dogs may fight tooth and nail, India’s big cats and wild dogs seem to get along with each other just fine. Tigers, leopards, dholes (the Asian wild dog) living in India’s Western Ghat region all compete with each other for exactly the same resources. However, according to a new study which used camera traps to monitor what is happening, all three species seem to coexist with very little conflict between them.

Adaptation is key

The obvious question is how do they manage it? It turns out that that all three species have managed to adapt to life in relatively small reserves of the Western Ghats region and tend to hunt in different areas or at different times say the researchers. The success of these tactics however depend entirely on the density of prey and the overall health of the ecosystem says head researcher Ullas Karanth of the Wildlife Conservation Society. He adds that conservationists can learn from the adaptive strategies undertaken by the predators.

Delicate dance between species

Dr Karanth says there is a delicate dance taking place between tigers, leopards and dholes in these protected areas and all three species seem to be thriving. In a statement he said the researchers were surprised to seek how each species has made the remarkable adaption to hunting different prey sizes, using different habitat types or simply hunting at different times. The IUCN classifies both the tiger and the dhole as endangered which means that they are at high risk of extinction in the wild. Leopards are classified as a vulnerable species which means in the wild there is a high risk of endangerment.

Wild dogs hunt during the day whilst the big cats hunt at night

Using the camera traps and analysing the footage, the researchers found that reserves that were filled with potential prey saw very little overlap when it came to hunting times. The dholes hunt during the day and rarely come into contact with tigers and leopards which are largely nocturnal predators. However, the researchers also found that when prey became scarce, hunting activity started to overlap. Even then according to the camera traps, the dholes managed to avoid the big cats. Similarly, leopards tend to avoid their larger tiger cousins in areas where both predator and prey are in abundance.

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