March 6, 2006, 11:38 PM CT
The Way To A Bigger Brain
A newly hatched trout (Rebecca Kihslinger/UC Davis photo)
Hatchery-reared steelhead trout show increased growth of some parts of the brain when small stones are scattered on the bottom of their tank, as per a new study by scientists at UC Davis. The brains of those young fish were closer to those of salmon reared in the wild, and the fish also showed behavior closer to wild than to hatchery-reared fish.
"There's an obvious difference between the hatchery and the wild fish," said graduate student Rebecca Kihslinger, who carried out the study with Gabrielle Nevitt, professor of neurobiology, physiology and behavior at UC Davis. "A simple change affected brain growth in a large-scale way".
The results could affect the design of hatcheries for breeding fish to restock wild populations, Kihslinger said. The study is reported in the February 2006 issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Wild steelhead lay their eggs in gravel nests on the riverbed. After hatching, the fry, called alevins, stay among the gravel and live off their yolk sac until they emerge as free-swimming fry. In hatcheries, the fish are reared in tanks of clean, well-aerated water, but without environmental features or enrichment.
Earlier work by Nevitt's lab at UC Davis and other labs has shown differences between hatchery-reared and wild fish, Kihslinger said. But most studies have looked at older fish, and have not distinguished between the effects of selective breeding for "domesticated" fish and of the environment in which the fish live.........
Posted by: Kelly Permalink Source
March 3, 2006, 7:05 AM CT
Mass Migration Of Mormon Crickets Driven By Hunger And Fear
Mormon cricket (ARS file photo K4797-1)
An international team of researchers, including Kent State University professor Dr. Patrick D. Lorch, have revealed the motivating factors behind the seasonal mass migration of Mormon crickets in western North America.
The researchers report hunger for protein and salt, and a fear of cannibalism, drives the mass migration of Mormon crickets in western North America.
Throughout their seasonal migration, millions of Mormon crickets (relatives of locusts and grasshoppers) cover more than 50 miles of ground, destroying farmland and causing hazardous driving conditions along the way.
The research team, led by Dr. Stephen J. Simpson, conducted field observations and experimentation to determine that two driving forces are behind the migration: a need for protein and a fear of cannibalism.
Their results reveal a different model for collective motion, with the crickets' migration in effect a forced march. The constant threat of cannibalism from the rear appears to push the crickets' movement as much as the need to find protein and salt pulls it, scientists say.
The team's findings could lead to more environmentally friendly tactics for controlling large swarms of insects.........
Posted by: Kelly Permalink Source
March 2, 2006, 10:57 PM CT
Charity postage stamps
Want to see Cerulean Warblers and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers fly out of your hands? Put 'em on your snail-mail envelopes!
American Bird Conservancy now offers the first U.S. postage stamps to benefit bird conservation. The 39-cent stamps are available through the ABC website.
The nonprofit ABC is considered a top-rated charity by Charity Navigator, and more than 25 percent of the net proceeds will go to ABC's conservation programs.
The stamps spread the word about restoring American songbird populations and halting species extinction. Graphic designer Gemma Radko used a photograph by bird bander Robert Mulvihill to create the warbler stamp, while artist Todd Telander painted the woodpecker stamp.
Images courtesy of American Bird Conservancy/Zazzle.com
March 2, 2006, 10:45 PM CT
Fury ist krank!
March 2, 2006, 10:34 PM CT
Image of the Day: Fishermen Reduce Seaturtle Death By Changing Bait
LiveScience.com posted a photo:
Earthwatch scientists find that changing swordfish bait from squid to mackeral can reduce loggerhead turtle bycatch up to 80%. credit: Mark Eveleigh
March 2, 2006, 10:12 PM CT
Birds in the backyard!
Yesterday we got our new birding scope, an 85mm Zeiss Diascope together with a Zeiss zoom eyepiece (20x-60x). The first impression I got when looking through this small instrument can be described in one word: stunning! I never had an instrument with this optical quality. The Zeiss Diascope will not only be used for birding, but also for astronomy. I think it will be very good for observing (and imaging) the Moon but I'm also very curious how it will perform on larger deepsky objects like the Pleiades, the Orion Nebula, M 31 or the Double Cluster in Perseus.
Click to enlarge
Today however, it was completely clouded, so I tried to shoot some images from a few backyard visitors: a Robin and a Collared Dove. I used the Coolpix 4500 and a Televue 32mm plossl connected to the Zeiss Diascope with a special "astro-Adaptor". Below are the first results (click images to enlarge). All images were only slightly processed (unsharp masking, levels, contrast brightness) and finaly resized from 2272x1704 to 800x600.
Click to enlarge
March 1, 2006, 11:47 PM CT
What Drives Salamander Metamorphosis
Whether salamanders transform into their terrestrial, adult form or retain their aquatic, juvenile form depends on the nature of the streambed where they develop. A study published recently in the open access journal BMC Biology reveals that the Oklahoma salamander Eurycea tynerensis metamorphoses into a more terrestrial adult form in streambeds composed of fine, tightly packed gravel but retains its juvenile, or paedomorphic, form in streambeds made of large, loosely packed particles. This study highlights how a simple difference in habitat microstructure can have a major influence on patterns of development, morphology and evolution.
Ronald Bonett and Paul Chippindale from the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas, USA, analysed the type, size and degree of sorting of streambed sediments for 22 populations, 11 paedomorphic and 11 metamorphic, of the plethodontid salamander E. tynerensis living on the Ozark Plateau in south-central North America.
Bonett and Chippindale's results show that paedomorphic salamanders prevailed in streambeds made of large well-sorted gravel, whereas metamorphic salamanders were found where streambeds consisted of small, unsorted sediments. The authors found a strong negative correlation between small streambed sediments and paedomorphosis.........
Posted by: Kelly Permalink Source
February 27, 2006, 8:16 PM CT
Fungus Devastates Frogs, Salamanders
Picture Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation
Something wicked this way comes, if you're a frog or salamander living near El Cope, Panama.
An outbreak of an infectious disease called chytridiomycosis, attributed to the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, has infected and caused rapid die-offs in eight families of Panamanian amphibians, researchers report in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
A survey of amphibian populations in central Panama has uncovered a case of chytridiomycosis that is rapidly radiating outward from western Panama into the El Cope region, spreading from northwest to southeast from Costa Rica toward Colombia.
"Chytridiomycosis is an alarming model system for disease-driven extinction of a high proportion of an entire class of vertebrates," the researchers write in PNAS. "It is no longer correct to speak of global amphibian declines, but more appropriately of global amphibian extinctions".
The fungus has been implicated in the decline of more than 40 amphibian species in Central America and 93 such species worldwide. But few scientists have been able to detect and monitor the presence of the fungus before a disease outbreak, and then witness the impact of an epidemic as it occurred, said zoologist Karen Lips of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, lead author of the report.........
Posted by: Kelly Permalink
February 27, 2006, 8:06 PM CT
Life Leaves Subtle Signature
Mars looks more like Earth the more we see of the red planet's surface, but there's one big difference: complex life forms have existed on Earth for billions of years.
"The meandering stream channels, deltas and alluvial fans of Mars are all familiar to us here," said William Dietrich, a geologist at the University of California at Berkeley. "But we're looking at Mars from a distance. Up close and personal, the view of Earth is a very different one.
"Can we tell from topography alone that life pervades Earth?" wondered Dietrich and colleagues.
They found, to their surprise, no overt signature of life in Earth's landforms, but a more muted signature does exist. The main topographical difference between an Earth teeming with life and one with no life, Dietrich concludes, is that life likely creates more of the rounded hills typical of Earth's vegetated areas, and fewer sharp, rocky ridges.
"It turns out that life creates a more subtle effect on the land," said Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences. "The absence of life likely would lead to a planet with sharp hill slopes of exposed bedrock, which is not what Earth looks like".
Everywhere you look, "life is causing sediment to move downhill," Dietrich said. "Tree roots, gophers and wombats all dig into the soil and raise it, tearing up the underlying bedrock and turning it into rubble that tumbles downhill and leaves behind more rolling hills".........
Posted by: Kelly Permalink
February 26, 2006, 9:08 PM CT
WildBird on the Fly
Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 3
Today's festival events brought news crews from Little Rock television stations. I got a kick out of seeing the trucks in the parking lot and the personnel inside the convention center. It would've been interesting to learn what they thought of what they observed.The afternoon had to include some quackery, thanks to the IBWO that visited the vendor expo and stopped in Larry Chandler's
Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 2
Pete Dunne spoke Thursday afternoon to a packed room. After describing his first visit to Arkansas many years prior, the WildBird Advisory Board member related the story of the Small-headed Flycatcher and connected it to the 2004 rediscovery of the IBWO. The well-told tale elicited chuckles and guffaws from the crowd, particularly when Dunne shared the last comments from the odd blue-eyed boy in
Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 1
The festival's vendor expo filled a room at the Brinkley Convention Center when I arrived before noon. (The drive east from Little Rock on Hwy. 70 was delightful, by the way. I took notes on spots to revisit later for photo opps.) Mayor Billy Clay welcomed everyone in the main hall and said the chamber hopes to turn the celebration into an annual event. Then Bill Holimon of Arkansas Natural
Answering the call
The Call of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration will begin tomorrow. My flight to Little Rock should land about 9:15 a.m., allowing ample time to amble east on Highway 70 toward Brinkley before the mayor makes his welcoming remarks.I'm looking forward to seeing familiar faces--Pete Dunne, Stephen Ingraham, Jeff Bouton, Sharon Stiteler, Bobby Harrison and Tim Gallagher--and meeting other
Federal money for ivory-bill efforts
Hot off the e-mail server!Deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior Lynn Scarlett will visit Brinkley, Ark., on this Friday during The Call of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration. At a 1 p.m. event, she will announce President Bush's request for more than $2.1 million for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker recovery effort in the 2007 federal budget.Scarlett also will announce $800,000 in
Avian personality tests
The Birdhouse Network--a citizen-science program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology--has initiated a Personality Profiles experiment. The project involves placing a harmless object on nestboxes.We believe that examining avian responses to novel objects can help us understand why some bird species respond well and others poorly to environmental disturbance. A willingness to explore new features of
L.A. County breeding bird atlas available in 2007
The first breeding bird atlas for Los Angeles County covers more than 4,080 square miles.... which is part of why the effort began in 1995 and is just now nearing publication.The project involved 200 volunteers canvassing 410 10-square-mile blocks between 1995 and 2000. They found 230 breeding species amid the landscape's freeways, parks, neighborhoods, woodlands, mountains and beaches.The
More Emperor Penguins
A researcher from the University of Tasmania recently found a colony of about 5,000 adult Emperor Penguins and 2,500 chicks in Antarctica. The birds live on Siple Island, where previous explorers reported finding dirty ice.Researcher Mary-Anne Lea and expedition leader Tim Soper found the colony while traveling on the Russian icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov during December 2004 and January 2005.
Bird flu overreaction?
Dear Germany: Please don't call off the World Cup. We football aficionados really would appreciate it if you waited before making a possibly hasty or unnecessary decision. Thank you very much.Sincerely,an AYSO alumnus
Presidents' Day sunset
The holiday weekend brought the 2004 Birder of the Year, Jody Hildreth, and his wife, Kelly, to Southern California. We met last February when we converged in the lower Rio Grande Valley for four days of intense birding that added a few lifers to Jody's list. (You can read about that trip in the May/June 2005 issue.) This visit is their first to California, and they began with the Salton Sea,
Back Bay with Jan
The last two nights brought blessed rain to SoCal. As much as I appreciate the precipitation in this dressed-up desert, I hoped that it wouldn't infringe on plans to visit a preserve with a friend.Thankfully, when Jan and I began walking the dirt trails at Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve aka Back Bay, this was our skyward view: lovely, puffy, dramatic clouds. They shielded the sun's warmth for
Homer to halt eagle handouts
Homer, Alaska, hosts Bald Eagles by the hundreds, which seems really cool.... until the large birds with 7-foot wingspans start injuring themselves or apparently eating pets. The city council voted this week to stop a feeding program next winter. No longer will the eagles receive handouts of herring, halibut and salmon. The ban on free meals does not affect Jean Keene, aka the Eagle Lady, until
Winter weather not nice for Whoopers
Last weekend's rain and snow on the East Coast caused "major damage" to the endangered species captive propagation complex at the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. The weather also released nine Whooping Cranes and nine Sandhill Cranes from their pens.The staff at the Laurel, Md., center worked throughout the weekend, but the storm almost destroyed the birds' flight
Habitat restoration for San Francisco Bay NWR
This week, the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service
Bald Eagle killer sentenced to five years in prison
Alfred Craft of West Monroe, La., recently received a five-year prison sentence along with a $50,000 fine, a bill for $11,000 in restitution to the state of Arkansas, and (I really like this part) a bill for the $23,000-per-year cost of his incarceration.Craft's sentence stems from his guilty plea of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and his
Bid for birds' benefit
Get your credit card ready for a little exercise! An online auction, the 2006 Benefit for Birds, by Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania will support various conservation programs. Items up for bird.... I mean, "bid".... include an autographed two-volume collection of illustrations by Roger Tory Peterson, a hummingbird morning with Scott Weidensaul (I know someone who'll swoon over that
I and the Bird #17
The festival season began recently. That means fun is on the horizon! My friend Sharon and I compared schedules and found that the first annual I and the Bird Festival coincided with some open days in our calendars. Woo hoo!We perused the website, registered online for various events and looked forward to catching up with friends and making more of them. We also checked out the host city's
Making a magazine 5
Did you know that magazine editors typically work two to three months ahead? The May/June issue has me in its grips. This week's flurry of activity includes editing features and departments and columns (oh my), factchecking, rounding up photos from an errant columnist (ahem), and choosing photos for the features and departments.The art directors and I agreed on two photos for the cover of the
Reminder: Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend!
Ready to count species and the number of individual birds for the benefit of the birding community? The GBBC will begin this Friday and will offer prizes for the first time.More details here.
Comments sought about delisting Bald Eagles
The U.S. Fish WS
Analysis of the Luneau IBWO video
Did you hear about the new webpage that provides details galore about the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's analysis of David Luneau's video of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker sighting?The Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Team (which includes WildBird Advisory Board member Peter Stangel) met early last week, and that's when Cornell released the examination of Luneau's four-second video."Even after the
San Diego Bird Festival 3
The pelagic trip out of San Diego's festival typically sells out. This year was no exception, and I barely got onto the boat. Thank goodness. I enjoyed last year's pelagic.The jam-packed bus left Marina Village conference center at 6:10 a.m. for the short drive to H it's a learning process!)
San Diego Bird Festival 2
Today's field trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park included different habitats and a cool variety of species. I saw some great new birds and enjoyed revisiting some childhood haunts.After leaving Marina Village Conference Center at 5:45 a.m., the bus traveled east. Along Highway 78, we-led by Bob Miller-stopped at Ramona Pond and watched two American White Pelicans feeding in unison as well as
San Diego Bird Festival 1
After five and a half hours behind the wheel in great driving conditions, I pulled into Marina Village Conference Center, registered for the San Diego Bird Festival and belatedly joined the digiscoping class. That technique involves combining a digital camera, usually a point-and-shoot model, with a spotting scope to take photographs of far-off birds. (A digiscoping article appears in the
SHOT Show 3
File this under Sights You'll Probably Never See at a Bird Festival.a mechanized, talking dog a "booth babe" named Christina who signs posters while wearing a corset and white leather chaps. She admits to developing a soft spot for rubber ducks after her boyfriend gave her a really cute one.a vehicle parked inside the festival's vendor areaa camouflage Harley-Davidson Sportster. I know
SHOT Show 2
Oh. My. Goodness. SHOT Show is quite the spectacle. On the first day of the 28th annual trade show for shooters and hunters, I managed to visit only 14 of the more than 20 optics booths amid the bonanza of booths in the Las Vegas Convention Center.Fortunately, I wasn't alone during today's scavenger hunt for the booths and their new binoculars. Cynthia Fox-a very fun Wild Bird Center owner from
SHOT Show 1
The 265-mile drive from Lake Forest to Las Vegas went splendidly.... aside from the dearth of avian life. I saw all of two Rock Pigeons, three LBJs, four Turkey Vultures and 12 American Crows. Perhaps that's to be expected between 1 and 5 p.m. on an interstate through the desert.Along the way, I had to pay homage to the world's largest thermometer in Baker. It stands 134 feet tall, and I think it
And now, a little white-line hypnosis
It's time for a drive. Got yer water? Got yer bins and camera? Buckle up and get comfy 'cause we're first goin' north and east on the 15 to Sin City.The SHOT show focuses on gun aficionados and like-minded outdoorsmen, but it also showcases new binoculars by optics manufacturers. That's my quarry--the binoculars. I'll aim for the optics booths on Thursday and visit as many as possible within
Red Knots in the news
The ban on horseshoe crab harvests in 2006 and 2007 should be good news for Red Knots, the topic of many conversations in the last few years. Red knots once were considered one of New Jersey's most abundant shorebirds. Now state biologists fear they will go extinct in as few as five years. Their numbers have plummeted recently from 95,000 in 1989 to as few as 13,000 last year.While the red
Come on, come all! Prepare for the arrival of the biweekly I and the Bird carnival on Feb. 16. Please submit a recent bird-related post to ahooper at bowtieinc dot com or by clicking on the e-mail link in the right sidebar. The deadline is Feb. 14.
Bloggers typically like to amuse themselves. "Tagging" falls into that category. Here's an example, via the I and the Bird creator, of a game of tag: the 23-5 meme.The rules:1. Delve into your archives.2. Find the twenty-third post.3. Post the fifth sentence with these instructions.4. Tag five people to do the same thing.Twenty-third post: Autumn Weekend 5, written Oct. 30, 2005, about the
Ivory-bill in the news again
Yesterday, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an Associated Press article about the lawsuit to halt the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project.Attorneys representing the National Wildlife Federation and Arkansas Wildlife Federation argued yesterday that U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson should stop the project--created to help farmers and the local economy--until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
New bird species in Indonesia
This is too cool! In a CNN.com article, we learn that scientists visited a 1,200-square-mile area (about the size of Rhode Island) in New Guinea's Foja Mountains and found a new honeyeater. The scientists also photographed a Berlepsch's Six-wired Bird of Paradise and a Golden-fronted Bowerbird.To see the photographs and read more details, visit Conservation International.
The above headlines are from WildBird on the Fly