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Sat, 23 Feb 2019
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Animals

Alarm Clock

King salmon vanishing in Alaska, smokehouses empty

Anchorage - Yukon River smokehouses should be filled this summer with oil-rich strips of king salmon - long used by Alaska Natives as a high-energy food to get through the long Alaska winters. But they're mostly empty.

The kings failed to show up, and not just in the Yukon.

Bizarro Earth

US: Outbreak of Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop

Tomato blight
© Meg McGrath/Cornell
Green tomatoes affected by the spores of highly contagious fungus, called late blight.

A highly contagious fungus that destroys tomato plants has quickly spread to nearly every state in the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic, and the weather over the next week may determine whether the outbreak abates or whether tomato crops are ruined, according to federal and state agriculture officials.

The spores of the fungus, called late blight, are often present in the soil, and small outbreaks are not uncommon in August and September. But the cool, wet weather in June and the aggressively infectious nature of the pathogen have combined to produce what Martin A. Draper, a senior plant pathologist at the United States Department of Agriculture, described as an "explosive" rate of infection.

William Fry, a professor of plant pathology at Cornell, said, "I've never seen this on such a wide scale."

Comment: Related Story:

US: The Irish Potato Famine Fungus Is Attacking Northeast Gardens And Farms Now


Butterfly

Watchers Track Butterflies for Environment Signs

Searching
© AP Photo/John Bazemore
Jerry Payne looks for butterflies during the annual butterfly count in Hillsboro, Ga., Friday, June 26, 2009.
The rusty van creaks to a halt and two men jump out, binoculars in hand, heads pivoting. Quickly, questioningly, they call out evocative names: Is that a Pearl Crescent? A Carolina Satyr? A Sleepy Orange? A Swarthy Skipper?

It's butterfly counting time at a central Georgia wildlife refuge. That means a sweaty but fun outing for these two men, one a retired entomologist, the other the abbot of a Roman Catholic monastery. But it has a serious side: some researchers worry butterfly populations may be in decline, possibly signaling a worsening environment.

The flying insects are often viewed as canaries in a coal mine because they are sensitive to changes in their habitats.

Bizarro Earth

US: Algae are killing fish, but how is a mystery

ExpSeveral hundred dead fish, one large algae plume and a "perfect storm" that led to it all have state officials and Rocky Ripple residents scratching their heads over what's killing fish in the White River.

Since July 17, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has received reports of hundreds of dead fish alongside the White River near Rocky Ripple, just north of Butler University.erts puzzle over latest fish deaths in White River

Heart

Whale Saves Drowning Diver, Pulls Her to Surface

A beluga whale saved a drowning diver by hoisting her to the surface, carrying her leg in its mouth.

Terrified Yang Yun thought she was going to die when her legs were paralyzed by crippling cramps in arctic temperatures. Competitors had to sink to the bottom of an aquarium's 20-foot arctic pool and stay there for as long as possible with the beluga whales at Polar Land in Harbin, north east China.
Beluga whale
© Europics
Beluga whale Mila spotted diver Yang Yun struggling in the water at Polar Land in Harbin, northeast China.

Cow

Rare Angolan Antelope Tracked by Research Team

Angolan antelope
© Unknown
One of the last remaining images of Angola's elusive giant sable antelope, last seen 30 years ago before the country's civil war.
A rare Angolan antelope feared to have been killed off during a 27-year civil war has been located, giving hope for the future preservation of the species, a government official said Monday.

Scientists at the weekend spotted three giant black sable antelope -- endemic to Angola where they are the country's national symbol and known in Portuguese as the Palanca Negra -- in two northern reserves.

"This is a huge step for us and it really pushes the project forward," Vladimir Russo, Angola?s national director of environmental management, told AFP.

"We were able to put a collar on one of the females which contains a Global Positioning System (GPS) tracker so we can follow her to find the rest of the herd. It's really great news, we are all very excited."

Better Earth

India: Black Spotted Deer, Uhm, Spotted

Black spotted deer
© Unknown
Indian news services are reporting on Sunday, July 26, 2009, in the Sakaal Times of Pune, India, and in The Hindu of an intriguing example of melanism in a deer.

Needless to say, this may be a rare mutation or a new color morph seen near Coimbatore, India, but it is doubtful, as the article states in the Sakaal Times headline, that it is a "New species of deer spotted." (Since it seems to be a black spotted deer, I am not unaware that the Indian headline writer may have been attempting a bit of a pun here.)

Hourglass

Poaching Crisis As Rhino Horn Demand Booms In Asia

Image
© iStockphoto/Hilton Kotze
Endangered black rhinoceros. Twelve rhinoceroses now are being poached each month in South Africa and Zimbabwe alone, according to new research.
Rhino poaching worldwide is poised to hit a 15-year-high driven by Asian demand for horns, according to new research. Poachers in Africa and Asia are killing an ever increasing number of rhinos - an estimated two to three a week in some areas - to meet a growing demand for horns believed in some countries to have medicinal value, according to a briefing to a key international wildlife trade body by WWF, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and their affiliated wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

An estimated three rhinos were illegally killed each month in all of Africa from 2000-05, out of a population of around 18,000. In contrast, 12 rhinoceroses now are being poached each month in South Africa and Zimbabwe alone, the three groups told the 58th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Standing Committee this week in Geneva.

Frog

Population of nearly extinct frogs found in California

Image
© Adam Backlin, U.S. Geological Survey
USGS scientists found this adult mountain yellow-legged frog on June 10 in Tahquitz Creek, a rediscovered population of the endangered frog in the San Jacinto Wilderness, San Bernardino National Forest, California.
For the first time in nearly 50 years, a population of a nearly extinct frog has been rediscovered in the San Bernardino National Forest's San Jacinto Wilderness. Biologists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assessing suitability of sites to re-establish frogs and scientists from the San Diego Natural History Museum retracing a 1908 natural history expedition both rediscovered the rare mountain yellow-legged frog in the San Jacinto Wilderness near Idyllwild, Calif.

This re-discovery - along with the San Diego Zoo's first successful breeding of the frog in captivity, and successful efforts by California Department of Fish and Game to restore frog habitat - renews hope of survival for this Southern California amphibian.

Globally, amphibians are on the decline because of habitat loss, effects of climate change and the spread of a deadly pathogen called the chytrid fungus. The mountain yellow-legged frog is one of three frogs or toads on the federal Endangered Species List in Southern California. Prior to this recent discovery, USGS researchers had estimated there were about 122 adult mountain yellow-legged frogs in the wild.

Bug

Alien-Wasp Swarms Devouring Birds, Bugs in Hawaii

Wasps
© Erin Wilson
Invasive western yellowjacket wasps in Hawaii (above, a wasp eats an unidentified insect near another wasp) are munching their way through an "astonishing diversity" of creatures, from caterpillars to ring-necked pheasants.
Attacking from nests as big as pickup-truck beds, invasive western yellowjacket wasps in Hawaii are munching their way through an "astonishing diversity" of creatures, from caterpillars to pheasants, a new study says.

Adult yellowjackets consume only nectar. But they kill or scavenge prey to deliver needed protein to their growing broods.

"They basically just carry it in their mandibles - you see them flying with their balls of meat," said lead study author Erin Wilson, who just finished her Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego.

In their native habitat in the western U.S., the wasps die off in winter. But in Hawaii the wasps survive the winter, possibly due to mild year-round temperatures or subtle genetic changes.