Courtesy USDA Forest ServiceWhile it's been a pretty good 16 years for Minnesota wolves and bald eagles, that's not been the case for moose. The behemoths will likely be moving on to the state's list of species with special concerns, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. In total, 67 animals and 114 plants are being proposed to be added to the lists while 15 plants and 14 animals – including wolves and bald eagles – have rebounded in numbers to be removed from the designations. Climate change is being credited as the big threat to Minnesota's moose population.
Courtesy StefanWith their numbers now above endangered levels, this fall wolves will be among the species Minnesota hunters can legally take. The wolf hunting season will run concurrent with deer season in sections of northern Minnesota. A wolf trapping season will follow, starting on Jan. 1, 2013. The new season will limit the take of wolves to 400 out of a state population estimated at about 3,000 wolves.
Visitors at the Science Museum of Minnesota can weigh in on their thoughts about a wolf hunting season at the Science Buzz poll kiosk on Level 5. Currently, a strong majority of opinion is against the idea of hunting wolves.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conducted a similar online survey to gauge public opinion on a wolf hunting season...with 80 percent of respondents saying they were against the idea. But proponents of the hunting season say that survey was rigged with a huge anti hunt contingent of opinion coming in from outside of the state. You can read more about that survey here.
Also, some Native American tribes in Minnesota aren't thrilled with the idea of a wolf hunting season. You can learn more about their thoughts on this issue here.
What are your thoughts about a wolf hunting season restarting in Minnesota? Share your opinion here with Science Buzz readers.
Courtesy Public domain (via Wikipedia)Poised on the edge of extinction, some rarely-seen Javan rhinoceroses (Rhinoceros sondaicus sondaicus) have been captured - on motion-triggered video cameras - at the Ujung Kulon National Park on Indonesia's island of Java. Park officials and the World Wildlife Fund recorded four of the ungulates, a number that amounts to about 10 percent of the species living population. NPR has the story and some of the video and pictures here.
Some Javan Rhino Info
The Hawaiian monk seal, Monachus schauinslandi, is known to the Native Hawaiians as 'ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua', or "dog that runs in rough water".
Courtesy Karen Holman and James Watt
This endangered seal, along with the Hawaiian Hoary Bat, are the only mammals endemic to the Hawaiian Archipelago: they are found nowhere else in the world.
Seals can be injured or killed by becoming entangled in marine debris.
There are fewer than 1200 Hawaiian monk seals left in the wild. If you are lucky enough to see one on a beach or swimming, please keep your distance and do not disturb them: they are protected by both state and federal laws.
This afternoon keepers released video footage of the baby white cheeked gibbon born at the Minnesota Zoo on December 27. The baby -- the 10th one born at the Minnesota Zoo -- is being cared for by people because her mother, "Tia," shows little interest in mothering her. Still, the baby is growing well and keepers are hopeful that Tia will come around eventually.
The baby gibbon won't be on exhibit for a few months, so watch the video.
Courtesy Mark RyanExtinction is a fact of life. Species rise up, consume energy, reproduce, radiate to fill their range, and die off. It happens all the time. In fact, nearly 99% of all creatures that have ever lived on Earth have gone extinct. That’s just the way it is. Sometimes the cause for extinction is minor – a subtle change in the environment such as increased competition for a food source or the introduction of a harmful contaminate or virus. Other times it can be more heavy-handed, like when a giant asteroid hurls in from outer space and slams into the planet sending the biosphere into a tizzy, and wiping out entire faunas. Either way it sucks big time.
But now there may be a third, more insidious reason. Extinction could be built into the genes of some unfortunate creatures, and according to the new study, it may be get passed on as an ancestral species branches out into new ones. Meaning extinction is a family affair.
The research team, composed of Kaustuv Roy of the University of California, Gene Hunt from the Smithsonian Institute, and David Jablonski of the University of Chicago, studied a whole gamut of extinction patterns in shelled marine animals such as clams, mussels and scallops. Their paper, which appeared recently in the journal Science, suggests that propensity for extinctions could be passed on through the whole groups of species that share common ancestors.
"Biologists have long suspected that the evolutionary history of species and lineages play a big role in determining their vulnerability to extinction, with some branches of the tree of life being more extinction-prone than others," said Roy, a biology professor at UC San Diego.
"Background extinctions" are the normal extinction rates that occur between major extinction events (e. g. killer asteroids), and usually don’t include those caused by human activity. (I don’t see why not – are we not part of Nature?) Anyway, when the team analyzed ‘background rates” from the Jurassic to the present they were struck by how some of the marine species with the highest rate of extinction during those “normal” times were also the most vulnerable (along with their close relatives) during major extinction events.
"Big extinctions have a filtering effect. They tend to preferentially cull the more vulnerable lineages, leaving the resistant ones to proliferate afterwards," Hunt said.
This means extinction isn't as random as we’d like to think, and actually tends to affect entire genera not just species within them. These clustered extinctions chop off larger branches from the family tree and cut deeper into the lineage history.
"Now we know that such differential loss is not restricted to extinctions driven by us but is a general feature of the extinction process itself," Roy said.
The study, according to evolutionary biologist Charles Marshall of Harvard University, shows how fossils are an important record of evolution’s workings.
"Only by analyzing the past do we get a direct sense of the rules by which evolution has worked and will continue to work,” he said.
Last January, Bryan praised Barack Obama’s inaugural address for promising to make decisions based on observation, data and statistics. Bryan also said,
We will keep a watchful eye over the next four years to make sure that science policy adheres to the agenda and principles that our new president has set out.
So, how are things going so far?
Last week, the White House released a new report on climate change. Roger Pielke Jr., professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, says the study is seriously flawed. He finds the report relies on data that is old, narrow, non-peer reviewed, second- and third-hand, and contradicted by more recent, peer-reviewed studies. He specifically objects to claims that global warming is leading to more natural disasters. Such disasters are Dr. Pielke’s specialty, and he argues there is no such trend.
Back in February, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said that global warming was going to destroy agriculture in California. Dr. Pielke (who is becoming something of a one-man band in reigning in the more outrageous claims of global warming) picked apart that one as well.
In March, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar removed gray wolves in the northern Rockies from the Endangered Species list. This action was first proposed by President George W. Bush just before he left office, but suspended by the incoming administration. Two months later, they decided that Bush was right to accept the unanimous recommendation of Fish and Wildlife scientists.
Mark hates it when I point out stuff like that…
I just downloaded the Raptor Resource 2008 Project Banding Report (how's that for a little light reading?), and I found the following:
"We removed the High Bridge stack nest box after the 2007 nesting season. Xcel Energy was converting from a coal facility to natural gas turbine operation, and planned to raze the stack some time in early 2008. We installed a replacement nest box on the nearby ADM stackhouse, but it appears that the falcons chose to nest under the nearby High Bridge instead."
All spring we watched and waited, and the birds were there all along! I'll get in touch with the folks at Xcel and Raptor Resource and see what we can do about watching the peregrines during the 2009 nesting season.
Here's a report of a metro man facing a prison sentence after shooting a wolf in northern Minnesota while the animals were still catagorized as an endangered species.
For the first time in 70 years, biologists have confirmed that a leatherback sea turtle has nested in Texas. Though they did not see the animal itself, the researchers found its unmistakable tracks and a freshly-dug nest.
The leatherback, the largest reptile in the world, is endangered worldwide. Many drown when caught in fishermen’s nets. Poachers steal their eggs. Development encroaches on the sandy beaches the turtles need for their nests. The return of at least one turtle to Padre Island, Texas is hopeful sign that the species may be making a slow comeback.