This post highlights zoology-related articles which have been featured in the news in the last two weeks.
The extremely rare hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana) was photographed in Sabah, Borneo. The otter was caught by an automatic camera trap set up in Deramakot Forest Reserve by conservation scientists. This latest finding was published in Small Carnivore Conservation (see here). The hairy-nosed otter is only found in a few locations outside of Borneo and is listed as endangered by the IUCN. Conservationists hope the news will boost the conservation of the species in other countries. Read the BBC news article here.
Australian marsupials may share a common American ancestor. A team from the University of Muenster used sequences of retroposon insertion markers (so-called “jumping genes”) to reconstruct the basal relationships in the marsupial phylogeny. Their results, published in PloS Biology, suggest that a single marsupial species migrated from South America to Australia and subsequently diversified into the varied forms we see today. Read the BBC news article here.
The amount of phytoplankton in the oceans has declined by about 40% over the last hundred years. The study, published in Nature, examined records of ocean water transparency and showed a global decline of about 1% of the global median a year. Phytoplankton form the base of the marine food web and this decline could have serious repercussions for marine ecology. The researchers believe that the change is linked with rising sea temperatures and global warming. Read the news articles on the Independent and BBC websites and on Nature News.
Male spiders may be smaller than females due to gravity. A study published in BMC Evolutionary Biology suggests that some species of spiders show extreme sexual size dimorphism due to the aerial locomotion behaviour known as bridging. The researchers showed that smaller males were more successful at bridging than larger females, and consequently would benefit from increased mating opportunities. Read the BBC news article here.
Research published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology suggests that the triceratops may be a juvenile form of another dinosaur, the torosaurus. Read the Daily Mail news article here.
White-nose syndrome may drive little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) to extinction in just less than 16 years if the disease continues to spread at its current rate. The article published in Science examines 17 years of data from bat colonies and puts the mortality rate of little brown bats in an infected colony at 73%. Read the news articles from the BBC, New York Times blog, National Geographic and the Science blog.
Prehistoric members of the crocodile family may have been more ecologically and morphologically diverse than they are today. Research published in Nature describes a new species of crocodyliform, Pakasuchus kapilimai, which was unearthed in the Rukwa Rift Basin of southwestern Tanzania. The animal differs substantially from typical crocodylians in that it has a short broad skull with teeth similar to modern mammals. Read the BBC news article here or see the Nature News piece here.
by Anne Braae