Friday, December 7, 2012

Biodiversity news from commercial sources for 12/7/12

Continuing with my series of news posts about cars, fuel and climate.  All stories originally used in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Obamafish edition) on Daily Kos.  I'll begin with the featured story from that diary.

This week's featured story comes from Scientific American: All the Presidents’ fish: Five new species named after Obama, Clinton, Roosevelt, Carter and Gore
By Becky Crew
November 29, 2012
Getting a second term is pretty good, but getting your own fish is arguably pretty good too because Obamafish. Say it out loud, it’s great.

Five new species of colourful, freshwater fish called darters have been discovered in river drainages in eastern North America and named after four Presidents and a Vice. Darters are the smallest members of the perch family, and are named after their ability to zip around, under and into rocks and sediment on the beds of clean, fast-moving waterways.
The first of the new species to be described by the researchers in a paper to be published by the Bulletin of the Alabama Museum of Natural History is the spangled darter (Etheostoma obama), the males of which are resplendent in bright orange and iridescent blue spots, stripes and checks. Endemic to the Duck and Buffalo Rivers of the Tennessee River drainage, the males can grow up to 48 mm long, while the largest females reach just under 43 mm. Twenty-nine percent of the specimens observed had palatine teeth.

“We chose President Obama for his environmental leadership, particularly in the areas of clean energy and environmental protection, and because he is one of our first leaders to approach conservation and environmental protection from a more global vision,” says Layman regarding how he and Mayden chose its name.
There are also species named after Carter, Clinton, Gore, and Teddy Roosevelt.

More stories after the jump.

Michigan State University: Hardy organisms discovered in bitter-cold Antarctic brine
November 26, 2012
Where there’s water there’s life – even in brine beneath 60 feet of Antarctic ice, in permanent darkness and subzero temperatures.

While Lake Vida, located in the northernmost of the McMurdo Dry Valleys of East Antarctica, will never be a vacation destination, it is home to some newly discovered hardy microbes. In the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Nathaniel Ostrom, Michigan State University zoologist, has co-authored “Microbial Life at -13ºC in the Brine of an Ice-Sealed Antarctic Lake."

Ostrom was part of a team that discovered an ancient thriving colony, which is estimated to have been isolated for more than 2,800 years. They live in a brine of more than 20 percent salinity that has high concentrations of ammonia, nitrogen, sulfur and supersaturated nitrous oxide ­– the highest ever measured in a natural aquatic environment.

“It’s an extreme environment – the thickest lake ice on the planet, and the coldest, most stable cryo-environment on Earth,” Ostrom said. “The discovery of this ecosystem gives us insight into other isolated, frozen environments on Earth, but it also gives us a potential model for life on other icy planets that harbor saline deposits and subsurface oceans, such as Jupiter’s moon Europa.”
This is a story I should have used as an article.  I still might if I get around to writing a "best of MSU science" series, which would qualify as evergreen content.

Now the rest, which is mostly bad news except for the stories about whales and wolverines.

Reuters via Scientific American: Brought in ballast, aggressive seaweed spreads along East Coast
By Jason McLure
LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - An invasive Asian seaweed that likely was brought to the New England coast from Europe has spread across more than 400 miles of Atlantic coastline since it was first discovered in U.S. waters off Rhode Island in 2009, biologists say.

The Red Asian seaweed is creating problems for the fishing industry as it gums lobster traps and fishing pots while displacing marine creatures that feed on native seaweed varieties.

"It's outcompeting them," said Matt Bracken, a Northeastern University biologist who is studying the spread of the plant known scientifically as Heterosiphonia japonica.

"It's better at taking up nutrients, it grows more readily and is not eaten as readily by animals like snails and small crustaceans," he said in an interview on Friday.
Reuters via Scientific American: Strandings of endangered sea turtles on rise in Massachusetts
By Daniel Lovering
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - Endangered sea turtles are becoming stranded on Massachusetts' Cape Cod shores so frequently that they are on track to break records and wildlife conservation workers scrambled on Friday to cope with the influx.

In the past four days, some 67 sea turtles suffering from hypothermia have been brought to the New England Aquarium's Animal Care Center care facility near Boston, said aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse. They are among 120 sea turtles who arrived since early November.

Turtle strandings in Cape Cod Bay typically begin in November during the annual winter migration back to the Gulf of Mexico, LaCasse said. In early summer, the reptiles will migrate back up the eastern seaboard to forage for crab, he said.
Science News: Immune disease an added blow to fungus-ridden bat populations
Rare immune complication previously seen only in people devastates animals that had appeared to evade white nose syndrome
By Janet Raloff
Web edition: November 30, 2012
Some North American bats leave hibernation with little sign of the devastating effects of white-nose syndrome, a fungal epidemic that has claimed the lives of some 5 million bats since it first emerged in winter 2005. But even though those bats seem to have survived the fungal disease, their immune systems reactivate and can then inexplicably — and devastatingly — kick into overdrive, a new study reports.

These animals appear to have what immunologists call immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome, or IRIS. The discovery of the condition in bats “is the first potential example of IRIS that has ever been seen outside a human patient,” observes wildlife pathologist Carol Meteyer of the U.S. Geological Survey in Madison, Wis. Until now, most IRIS victims have been HIV patients treated with medicines to restore flagging immune systems.

Together with Daniel Barber and Judith Mandl at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md., Meteyer describes the bats’ IRIS-like disease in the Nov. 15 Virulence.
Science News: Blue whales’ diet and exercise rolled into one
Marine predator performs underwater acrobatics for best chance at catching a meal
By Susan Milius
Web edition: November 28, 2012
To catch a skittish lunch, blue whales roll their massive bulk over and do a belly-up lunge if that’s what it takes.

Video cameras and high-tech tags stuck to whales’ backs revealed the underwater acrobatics that let the world’s largest living predators survive on some of the tiniest prey, says Jeremy Goldbogen of the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Wash.
Reuters via Scientific American: Lawmakers cry "fowl" over move to help lesser prairie chicken
By Ros Krasny
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A move by U.S. authorities to consider placing a small grassland bird native to parts of the oil and gas belt on the Endangered Species List has drawn the ire of some Western lawmakers.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday announced a plan to consider having the lesser prairie chicken listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.

The lesser prairie chicken is a medium-sized, gray-brown grouse, smaller and paler than the greater prairie chicken, its close relative.

Once found in abundant numbers across much of Southeastern Colorado, Eastern New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, Western Oklahoma and Western Kansas, the lesser prairie-chicken's historical range of native grasslands and prairies has been reduced by an estimated 84 percent, the service said.
Reuters via Scientific American: Judge temporarily blocks wolverine trapping in Montana
By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - A judge on Friday put the brakes on the start of trapping season in Montana for wolverines - ferocious but rare members of the weasel family - until at least the outcome of a hearing early next year on whether a longer-term moratorium should be imposed.

Conservationists filed suit in October seeking to end trapping and snaring of wolverines in the only one of the lower 48 states that permits licensed harvesting of the elusive carnivore, estimated to number fewer than 300 in the Northern Rockies and Cascades.

The temporary restraining order issued by the Montana judge presiding over the case came one day before the state's wolverine season was set to open.
The next one in the series should be about space.  It's been three weeks since I last posted one of those.

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