‘Not One Drop Of Blood’: Cattle Mysteriously Mutilated In Oregon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

‘Not One Drop Of Blood’: Cattle Mysteriously Mutilated In Oregon

Audio will be available later today.

The crumpled carcass of a bull lies on Forest Service ground. It was among several killed and mutilated this summer in eastern Oregon.

Anna King/Northwest News Network

In early morning light, dust from hooves creates a fog at Silvies Valley Ranch in remote eastern Oregon. Cowboys whistle and talk low to their eager herding dogs. They’re moving the cattle from one vast, sage-studded range to another.

Five young purebred bulls mysteriously showed up dead on the ranch this past summer, drained of blood and with body parts precisely removed.

The ranch’s vice president, Colby Marshall, drives his truck down a U.S. Forest Service road.

“Then we’ll get out and take a little walk to where one of the bulls was found. And the carcass is still there,” Marshall says.

Coming upon one of the dead bulls is an eerie scene. The forest is hot and still, apart from a raven’s repeating caw. The bull looks like a giant, deflated plush toy. It smells. Weirdly, there are no signs of buzzards, coyotes or other scavengers. His red coat is as shiny as if he were going to the fair, but it’s bloodless and its tongue and genitals have been surgically cut out.

Marshall says these young livestock were just reaching their top value as breeding bulls. The animals are worth around $6,000 each. And since these are breeding bulls, hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of future calves are lost too.

Finding these young Herefords in this remote country can sometimes take the ranch’s experienced cowboys days. Ranch staff members are now required to ride in pairs and are encouraged to carry arms.

“It’s rugged,” Marshall says. “I mean this is the frontier. If some person, or persons, has the ability to take down a 2,000-pound range bull, you know, it’s not inconceivable that they wouldn’t have a lot of problems dealing with a 180-pound cowboy.”

Theories abound

Harney County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Jenkins has been working the cattle cases and has gotten dozens of calls from all over offering tips and suggestions.

“A lot of people lean toward the aliens,” Jenkins says. “One caller had told us to look for basically a depression under the carcass. ‘Cause he said that the alien ships will kinda beam the cow up and do whatever they are going to do with it. Then they just drop them from a great height.”

Dan Jenkins, with the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, has been investigating the killings of several cattle on Silvies Valley Ranch.

Anna King/Northwest News Network

Jenkins says the cases have been tough, with little evidence and no credible leads.

On his whiteboard, he has a running list scrawled in green marker with the top theories. What’s clear: Is it isn’t bears, wolves, cougars or poisonous plants. Nor were the animals shot.

The FBI won’t confirm or deny that it’s looking into the multiple slaughters.

Two years ago and 200 miles south, near Princeton, Ore., one of Andie Davies’ cows was also found cut up and bloodless.

She and her husband drove concentric circles around the corpse, but they never found any tracks.

And in this dusty country, “everything you do leaves tracks,” Davies says.

Back in the 1980s, one of Terry Anderson’s mother cows was mysteriously killed overnight. Standing on his ranch near Pendleton, Ore., Anderson points to the exact spot where he found her on top of a mountain.

He remembers his cow lying dead, her udder removed with something razor sharp.

“And not one drop of blood anywhere,” Anderson says.

He has never gotten over it.

“It’s just left a really strange feeling with me since that day. You can’t explain it,” Anderson says. “And, you know, no one else has been able to explain it.”

The Harney County Sheriff’s Office continues to field calls on the killings. And Silvies Valley Ranch has put up a $25,000 reward for information that could solve the case.

11 elephants died in plunge from waterfall while trying to save drowned calf

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

11 elephants died in plunge from waterfall while trying to save drowned calf

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At least 11 wild elephants died after plunging from a waterfall in a national park in Thailand, wildlife officials said Tuesday.

Five elephant carcasses were confirmed Tuesday from drone cameras days after six elephants were first spotted, said Sompote Maneerat, spokesman for the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.

The animals were found at Haew Narok – Ravine of Hell – waterfall in Khao Yai National Park.

Park officials said five adult elephants and a calf were found at the waterfall Saturday. Officials said the baby elephant drowned and the five adults, found in a ravine below the baby, fell trying to reach it.

Elephant deaths: 6 wild elephants die after falling from waterfall in Thailand, reports say

‘Zombie gene’: Elephants rarely get cancer thanks to ‘zombie gene,’ study finds

The five additional elephants confirmed Tuesday were from the same herd, and only two elephants from the herd survived the incident, said Nattapong Sirichanam, governor of Nakhon Nayok province, according to Reuters.

The two surviving elephants had been trapped on a cliff above the baby elephant, park officials said.

A similar incident killed eight elephants at the same waterfall in 1992, and Sompote said the 11th death is the highest number of elephants to die in a single incident in Khao Yai.

According to Reuters, 3,500 to 3,700 wild elephants remain in Thailand. The park is home to about 300 elephants, the news agency reported.

Asian elephants are classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The surviving elephants will probably experience grief. When two elephants died this year at an Indianapolis zoo, officials confirmed that the rest of the herd reacted emotionally.

“We know that elephants grieve. They are intensely social,” Indianapolis Zoo President Rob Shumaker said.

Contributing: Joel Shannon, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

 Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

Walrus sinks Russian Navy boat in the Arctic Ocean

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Walrus sinks Russian Navy boat in the Arctic Ocean

The landing craft had been dispatched from the Russian rescue tug 'Altai', which is on the Northern Fleet's mission in the Arctic Ocean.

London & Moscow (CNN)walrus attacked and sunk a Russian Navy landing boat in the Arctic Ocean last week, with no one hurt in the incident.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the female animal was protecting its calves when it targeted the craft carrying researchers to the shore of Cape Geller in the Arctic.
Those on board were members of a joint expedition by the Northern Fleet — Russia’s naval fleet in the Arctic — and the Russian Geographical Society (RGO).
The ministry said: “Serious troubles were avoided thanks to the clear and well-coordinated actions of the Northern Fleet servicemen, who were able to take the boat away from the animals without harming them.”
The RGO explained in a statement that the boat had “sunk” but confirmed that everyone had reached shore safely.
The organization added: “Recently, we wrote about the risks that accompany expedition members. Wild animals, storms, low temperatures.
“The incident is another confirmation that no one is expecting humans in the Arctic.”
The joint mission is working around the Franz Josef Land archipelago to investigate the flora and fauna of the region, as well as making glaciological observations.
It is also mapping historical expeditions such as those of Austro-Hungarian military officer Julius von Payer in 1874, and American explorer Walter Wellman in 1898.

Hamas Controlled Zoo: Cramped Gaza Zoo Reopens, Only Months After Closure

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Cramped Gaza Zoo Reopens, Only Months After Closure

Sunday, 22 September, 2019 – 11:30
Two lions and three cubs are penned in cages only a few square metres in size at a zoo in the Gaza Strip VIA AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat
A lioness is beaten with sticks while her cubs are dragged away — a Gazan zoo closed after a long campaign has reopened, with conditions seemingly as bad as ever.

The Rafah Zoo in the southern Gaza Strip was known for its emaciated animals, with the owners saying they struggled to find enough money to feed them.

In April, international animal rights charity Four Paws took all the animals to sanctuaries, receiving a pledge the zoo would close forever, AFP reported.

But last month it reopened with two lions and three new cubs, penned in cages only a few square meters in size.

Critics say the owners want to bully Four Paws or other animal welfare organizations into giving them thousands of dollars to free the animals into their care.

Four Paws paid the zoo’s owners more than $50,000 in the year before its closure for medical treatments, food and caretakers.

The zoo’s owner insists the reopening is solely for the enjoyment of local residents.

Meanwhile, when AFP visited the zoo recently, the badly stuffed corpse of a lion was displayed near the entrance. An ostrich in a three-meter-square pen pecked endlessly at the cage’s bars, while two monkeys sat chewing on litter.

At the far end the lion and lioness were kept in separate cages, each only a few square meters.

The owners were seeking to remove the cubs from their mother to play with visiting children.

To do so they hit the lioness with sticks and banged on the cage to confuse her, with staff later taunting her when the cubs had been taken out.

“A lion needs 1,000 square meters to play in. Here they have seven square meters,” Mohammed Aweda, a prominent animal enthusiast in Gaza, told AFP.

“The zoo won’t survive during the winter, because they are lacking in daily goods which cost a lot. For you or I or anyone who owns a zoo (in Gaza), the economy is very tough.”

The newly reopened zoo’s manager Ashraf Jumaa, from the same family that owned the old one, said they brought the new lions through tunnels from Egypt. However others suggested they were bought from another animal centre in northern Gaza.

He denied they wanted to blackmail Four Paws.

“The first goal is entertainment, not trade. The main reason we reopened the zoo was people in the area that supported us,” he said.

He said it would be less expensive because there were fewer animals, but admitted they would struggle to afford enough food once the cubs were fully grown.

“Every day they will need between 22 and 30 kilos of meat costing between 100 and 150 shekels (between $28 and $43),” he said.

They currently receive around 50 visitors a day, he said, with tickets on average costing two shekels (around $0.50).

Four Paws said footage it saw from the zoo was “very concerning”.

“The animals are not kept in species-appropriate conditions. They seem to be in bad conditions and urgently need medical attention and proper food,” it said

An official from the Gaza agriculture ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there had been no coordination regarding the zoo’s reopening.

According to AFP, he said Gaza needed a large park meeting international standards.

When did the dinosaurs roam Earth?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

Science

When did the dinosaurs roam Earth?

The age of the dinosaurs has fascinated the modern imagination for centuries. Often, we are tempted to think of the era as an ancient time when all our favorite dinosaurs squared off against one another in a battle of survival.

However, dinosaurs ruled Earth for a period spanning hundreds of millions of years, during which world-ending events occurred, and the planet changed in ways that are almost difficult to imagine. Here is a guide to the different time periods during which the dinosaurs roamed the planet.

Mesozoic Era

Illustration of dinosaurs during the Mesozoic Era
Credit: CoreyFord/ iStock

The overall time period in which the dinosaurs lived was known as the Mesozoic Era. The Mesozoic Era lasted 180 million years, from 248 million years ago to 65 million years ago. It was preceded by the Paleozoic era, during which life began to take shape, and was followed by the Cenozoic Era, in which we live.

The Mesozoic Era is divided into three distinct time periods:

  • The Triassic Period – 248 million to 206 million years ago
  • The Jurassic Period – 206 million to 146 million years ago
  • The Cretaceous Period – 146 million to 65 million years ago

During the Mesozoic Era, mountains rose, climates shifted, and life reshaped itself multiple times.

Triassic period

Fossil of a pterosaur
Credit: AKKHARAT JARUSILAWONG/ Shutterstock

The first period of the Mesozoic era was the Triassic period. During this time, all the continents were still connected in one giant super continent, known as Pangaea. Temperatures were warmer and there were no polar ice caps.

The oceans teemed with life during this period. Turtles and fish were common, and the corals developed alongside mollusks and ammonites. Large marine reptiles were present as well, such as the plesiosaurus and ichthyosaurus.

On land, early dinosaurs and mammals evolved, and the first flying reptiles, the pterosaurs, took to the skies. There were no flowering plants or grass present during the Triassic period, but cycads, ferns and ginkgoes grew near water sources such as rivers or streams. Small forests of conifers grew in some parts of Pangaea, but for the most part, inland areas were arid deserts with little or no plant or animal life.

Jurassic period

Illustration of Brachiosaurs
Credit: Orla/ iStock

The Triassic period came to an end with a mass extinction that wiped out over 90 percent of the species on Earth. The animals that survived this event began to repopulate the planet and usher in the Jurassic period.

The Jurassic period was marked by the slow break-up of Pangaea into two smaller landmasses known as Laurasia and Gondwana. When the supercontinent split, new mountains arose in the sea, pushing the sea level up and creating a much wetter, more humid environment.

Ferns and mosses covered much of the ground while the small coniferous forest of the Triassic period expanded to cover wide swaths of the two continents.

Giant dinosaurs ruled the land, the largest of which was the plant-eating Brachiosaurs, which scientists believe could grow to be 80 feet long and 50 feet tall. These large herbivores were hunted by massive carnivores such as the Allosaurus.

The Jurassic period also saw the first birds diverge from the reptile family, and the Archaeopteryx flew above these massive dinosaurs.

Cretaceous period

Skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex
Credit: DavidHCoder/ iStock

During the Cretaceous period, the continents continued to drift apart and end in the locations that we know them today. The climate became both wetter and cooler, resulting in the emergence of the polar ice caps and setting the stage for the glaciers that covered large parts of North America, Europe, and Asia in the following era.

The drifting continents resulted in increased specialization and many new types of dinosaurs. Triceratops and Iguanodon traveled in herds, feasting on the ancestors of the flowers, herbs and broad-leaved trees that populate Earth today.

These massive plant-eating animals were hunted by the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex. Snakes first developed during this time period, as well as crocodiles and turtles. Insects and pterosaurs flew in the air, and the first mammals scurried across the ground.

Despite the proliferation of life during this period, another mass extinction followed a natural disaster at the end of the Cretaceous period. While both reptiles and mammals survived in small numbers, the age of the dinosaurs came to an end.

What’s next?

Earth as viewed from space
Credit: dem10/ iStock

In light of this vast history, do you ever wonder what lies ahead for both Earth and us?

Newly identified electric eel is the most powerful ever found, say scientists

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Newly identified electric eel is the most powerful ever found, say scientists

'Electrophorus voltai,' one of the two newly discovered electric eel species.

(CNN)A newly-identified eel living in the Amazon basin can deliver record-breaking electric jolts, according to a study published Tuesday.

Researchers at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have identified two new species of electric eel in the Amazon rainforest, tripling the known number of electric eel species.
One of the new species — Electrophorus voltai — can discharge up to 860 volts of electricity, significantly more than the 650 volts generated by the known electric eel species, Electrophorus electricus, the study published in journal Nature Communications found.
These electric eels — which are actually a type of fish with an eel-like appearance — can grow to up to eight feet (2.4 meters) and highlight how much is yet to be discovered in the Amazon rainforest, study leader David de Santana, a research associate at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, said in a press release.
“They’re really conspicuous,” de Santana said. “If you can discover a new eight-foot-long fish after 250 years of scientific exploration, can you imagine what remains to be discovered in that region?”

What are electric eels?

For 250 years, scientists have known that electric eels live in the Amazon basin. They just haven’t known how many species were lurking there.
Scientists long thought the electric eels found in swamps, streams, creeks and rivers across South America were all the same species. The new study shows that the eels actually belong to three different species.
All three species look pretty much the same externally and use their electricity to navigate, communicate, hunt and for self-defense. But when scientists analyzed 107 samples, they found that the three species had different genetic material, unique skull shapes, and different levels of voltage.
Based on their research, de Santana and his team believe that the three species began to evolve from their common ancestor about 7.1 million years ago.
See electric eels' leaping shock attack

See electric eels’ leaping shock attack 01:05
The eels’ voltage may have been influenced by the conductivity of the waters they lived in, the research found. Electrophorus voltai, for instance, lived in the clear waters of the highlands which did not conduct electricity well. According to de Santana, the species’ stronger voltage may be an adaption to the poor conductivity of the water.
There are about 250 species of fish that are able to generate electricity, but electric eels are the only ones that use electricity to hunt and for self-defense.
In 1799, scientists used electric eels as the inspiration behind the first battery design, and have also inspired ideas about how to improve technology and treat disease.
The newly discovered electric eel species could have evolved unique systems to produce electricity — perhaps a different system than the first discovered species — which could lead to more discoveries, de Santana said.
“It could really have different enzymes, different compounds that could be used in medicine or could inspire new technology,” he said.

Voracious and Invasive Lionfish Is Taking Over the Atlantic. Here’s Why.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LIVE SCIENCE)

 

The Voracious and Invasive Lionfish Is Taking Over the Atlantic. Here’s Why.

Lionfish are voracious eaters and can expand their stomachs 30 times their original volume to accommodate that appetite.

Lionfish are voracious eaters and can expand their stomachs 30 times their original volume to accommodate that appetite.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

One of the most notorious invasive species around, the lionfish, is known for its voracious appetite and can literally eat its competitors out of an ecosystem. And that’s what the striking fish is doing, feasting its way through waters that stretch from the Gulf of Mexico to the Eastern Seaboard.

Now, scientists and startups are crafting methods for capturing and killing the hungry invaders. But while these new ideas show promise, tried-and-true spearfishing seems to be the most effective way to eradicate lionfish, scientists told Live Science.

“It’s actually hard to describe how a lionfish eats because they do it in a split second,” said Kristen Dahl, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida. Lionfish use a complex series of tactics that no other fish in the world is known to employ. In the blink of an eye, a lionfish goes from silently hovering above its prey to flaring its fins, firing a disorienting jet of water from its mouth, unhinging its jaw and swallowing its meal whole, scientists reported in a study published in 2012 in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. The attacks happen so quickly that nearby fish don’t seem to notice.

“It’s actually nice when I’m looking at gut contents,” Dahl said, “because if something has been freshly eaten, it’s in immaculate condition.”

Related: See Photos of Lionfish & Other Weird-Looking Fish

Lionfish ambush their prey and sometimes use their lengthy pectoral fins to “corner” them, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lionfish ambush their prey and sometimes use their lengthy pectoral fins to “corner” them, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

(Image credit: Rich Carey/Shutterstock)

New fish on the block

Lionfish (Pterois volitans) are one of the most notorious invasive species in the United States. Their bold colors and frilly fins make lionfish popular in the aquarium trade; over the past 25 years or so, it seems aquarium fish owners have sometimes dumped unwanted lionfish — which are native to the Indo-Pacific region — into the Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Their popularity in the aquarium trade has also spurred several breeding programs.

Lionfish are fast and powerful, but their biggest advantage is novelty. Atlantic prey fish simply don’t know what’s going on. Biologists call this phenomenon prey naivete, and they believe it is largely responsible for the lionfish’s dramatic success as an invader.

Since the first breeding populations were spotted off the coast of North Carolina in 2000, lionfish have rapidly overtaken coastal environments in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

“Sightings increased rapidly in 2004 along the Atlantic seaboard of the United States,” according to Pam Schofield, research fishery biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

“Lionfish sightings quickly spread throughout the Caribbean and then the Gulf of Mexico,” Schofield, who tracks non-native marine fish in U.S. waters, told Live Science. There are now breeding populations in the coastal waters of Venezuela, throughout the coastal Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. On the Eastern Seaboard, breeding populations extend into North Carolina, and stray individuals are seen as far north as Massachusetts, Schofield said. Reports of lionfish sightings have tapered off since their peak in 2010, but that’s probably not because their populations have decreased — lionfish are so pervasive that spotting one is no longer noteworthy.

Managing an invasion

A spear fisherman catches invasive lionfish in the Caribbean.

A spear fisherman catches invasive lionfish in the Caribbean.

(Image credit: Shane Gross/Shutterstock)

Lionfish aren’t easily caught when traditional fishing techniques are used, so a number of research groups and startup companies are developing novel tools for managing the invasion. These include specially designed traps that lure in lionfish while sparing native species, remotely operated vehicles that allow a human pilot to remotely spear lionfish and autonomous hunting vehicles that use artificial intelligence to find the fish themselves. While some progress has been made in new technologies, spear guns used by scuba divers still seem to be the tool that’s most effective tool at killing them, Dahl said.

Related: Alien Invaders: Photos of Destructive Invasive Species

Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a leader in lionfish management, has a number of incentive programs to entice recreational and commercial scuba divers to harvest lionfish, according to the FWC. The lionfish derby is one of the most successful management tools being used today. At a derby, spearfishing divers spend a day working together to remove as many lionfish as they can. At the larger derbies, organizers award prizes to the teams or individuals who catch the biggest, smallest or most lionfish. “The derbies are a good opportunity to educate people about the lionfish and about the danger of releasing aquarium fish into the wild,” Dahl said. She’s worked and volunteered at dozens of derbies. “If enough people learn about this invasion, maybe there won’t be another ‘lionfish.'”

Culling lionfish one by one will never eliminate the species from the Atlantic, but it can help mitigate their effects. While a single lionfish can eat a lot of native fauna, lionfish wreak havoc on a reef only after their populations reach a certain density, researchers reported in 2014 in the journal Ecological Applications. And the incentives seem to be working. At a handful of popular dive sites in the Florida Keys, recreational divers are so diligent in culling invasive lionfish that it is unusual to see a single one, according to several dive tour operators.

Scientists knew from the start that population growth would eventually taper off as lionfish populations reach the point at which there’s no more food or habitat to support additional individuals. But the number of lionfish in parts of the Gulf of Mexico where Dahl and her colleagues have tracked their populations for several years have actually declined. It’s too early to say what’s behind the change, but Dahl points to a poorly understood parasitic skin lesion that “has put a dent in their population.”

Now, less than two decades since the invasion began, ecologists are still trying to learn enough about lionfish to manage the new invasion.

“We’re not sure if [the population decline] is going to last or if it’s a boom-bust population cycle,” Dahl said. “It could be a little bit of both. We aren’t really sure.”

Originally published on Live Science.

What If There Were No Sharks?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LIVE SCIENCE)

 

What If There Were No Sharks?

A school of scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) swims in the Galapagos.

A school of scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) swims in the Galapagos. In the Galapagos Marine Reserve, these sharks gather in groups of up to several hundred individuals.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

Sharks are magnificent predators that represent an impressive evolutionary success story. They’ve swum the oceans for more than 400 million years, diversifying over time to inhabit rivers and lakes as well. About 500 known species are alive today, and there are likely even more yet to be discovered.

Sharks can be huge, like the massive whale shark (Rhincodon typus); or human-hand-size, like the pocket shark (Mollisquama parini). However, it’s the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) that typically commands the public’s imagination. These sharks have a reputation for aggressiveness toward people, shaped by decades of terrifying portrayals in movies. In fact, these fearful pop-culture portraits of great whites are so pervasive that they might lead some people to wonder if the world would be better off with no sharks at all.

But what might the oceans look like if all of the sharks disappeared?

Related: 7 Unanswered Questions About Sharks

Sharks make their homes in ecosystems around the world, including shallow mangrove habitats, tropical coral reefs, frigid Arctic waters and the vastness of the open ocean. Regardless of where sharks live or how big they are, all of them are predators and, therefore, are vitally important to the health of their habitats, said Jenny Bortoluzzi, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Zoology at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland.

Fish-hunting sharks weed out weak and sick individuals, ensuring that the fish population remains healthy and at a size that the habitat’s resources can support. These fearsome predators can even help to preserve their ecosystems through their presence alone, Bortoluzzi told Live Science in an email. For example, tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) that live in seagrass meadows scare away turtles and keep them from overgrazing the vegetation, she explained.

Sharks also play a role in regulating oxygen production in the ocean, by feeding on fish that devour oxygen-generating plankton, Victoria Vásquez, a doctoral candidate with Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California, told Live Science in an email.

Lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) live primarily in shallow coastal habitats such as mangroves, bays and coral reefs.

Lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) live primarily in shallow coastal habitats such as mangroves, bays and coral reefs.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Coral reef environments are another good example of sharks’ importance for overall biodiversity and ecosystem health, said Toby Daly-Engel, an assistant professor in the marine science department and director of the Shark Conservation Lab at Florida Tech.

“If the sharks disappear, the little fish explode in population, because nothing’s eating them,” Daly-Engel told Live Science. “Pretty soon, their food — plankton, microorganisms, little shrimps — all of that is gone, so all the little fish ultimately starve.”

When that happens, algae and bacteria move into the reef, covering the coral so that it can’t photosynthesize. “The coral will die, leaving just its skeleton behind, which eventually turns into limestone,” Daly-Engel said. “Then, in come the animals like starfishes and sea urchins; we call those grazers. So instead of a bunch of different species — sharks, bony fishes, invertebrates and mollusks — you end up with a reef with four to five species in it, tops. That’s a dead reef.”

Sharks serve another important role in ocean food webs: They are food for marine carnivores. Dead great white sharks that washed up on South African beaches without their livers were thought to have been victims of orca attacks. And video footage recently showed a dogfish shark (Squalus clarkae) feeding frenzy on the bottom of the Atlantic that ended with a grouper swallowing one of the sharks whole. Even octopuses are known to feed on sharks, as demonstrated in a video that National Geographic posted to YouTube in 2009.

Migrating sharks, such as the gray reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos), also provide nourishment for organisms in multiple locations in the ocean, by leaving behind generous helpings of their nitrogen-rich poo, marine biologist Melissa Cristina Márquez wrote in Forbes earlier this year. Márquez is the founder of The Fins United Initiative, which provides educational resources about sharks and their close relatives skates and rays.

In fact, gray reef shark forays between coastal waters and the deep sea in the Pacific Ocean’s Palmyra Atoll bring the reef more than 200 lbs. (95 kilograms) of nutritious nitrogen per day, Márquez wrote.

A murky future

Approximately 25% of all shark, skate and ray species are currently threatened with extinction, according to the Smithsonian Institution’s Ocean Portal. Because sharks have few babies and are slow to mature, their numbers aren’t replenishing quickly enough to keep up with losses from commercial fishing, Daly-Engel said.

In recent decades, some shark populations have declined by up to 90%, reflecting an unsustainable trend of overexploitation in ocean habitats, according to Bortoluzzi.

“Many species also face the loss of habitats, with refuge areas such as mangroves being destroyed to accommodate our growing human population, and habitats such as seabeds and reefs being damaged by destructive fishing methods such as trawling,” Bortolozzi said.

Related: On the Brink: A Gallery of Wild Sharks

What does the future hold for sharks? Federal legislation and international treaties such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora can help to protect vulnerable populations. But many shark species are poorly understood, which can hinder conservation efforts, said Michael Scholl, CEO of the nonprofit Save Our Seas Foundation.

“Government institutions must have validated information to support significant decline in populations, for example,” Scholl told Live Science in an email. To that end, Save Our Seas works alongside marine researchers to gather shark data that can inform much-needed protective measures; the nonprofit also works to raise public awareness of shark diversity and its importance to their marine ecosystems, Scholl said.

But sharks may be running out of time. And if they were to disappear, the repercussions on ocean food webs would ultimately affect humans, too.

“Fisheries may collapse, with artisanal fishers being the likely most affected, and popular tourism destinations which rely on sharks to attract tourists will also suffer greatly,” Bortoluzzi said.

“It’s important to understand that as much as our oceans need sharks, so do we,” she added.

Editor’s note: The article was updated on Sept. 9 to correct the species of dogfish shark that was swallowed by a grouper in a YouTube video: Squalus clarkae, not Squalus acanthias.

Georgia kayaker chased by 360-pound gator: ‘I just paddled’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

 

Georgia kayaker chased by 360-pound gator: ‘I just paddled’

ABCNews.com
WATCH News headlines today: Aug. 30, 2019

A Georgia kayaker says he could only think of paddling faster after realizing he wasn’t alone in a pond.

Bo Storey told WRDW-TV , “I just paddled and paddled. …” on Monday to get away from a 10-foot, 360 pound (163.29 kilogram) alligator that got as close as 5 feet (1.52 meters) from the back of his kayak.

News outlets report Richmond County deputies received a call from Storey saying he was being chased by the behemoth. Storey was practicing for a bass fishing tournament. Deputies arrived on the scene and wrestled the massive gator with help from hunter Trey Durant and his friend Robby Amerson.

The alligator was clearly not afraid of humans and was deemed a nuisance so it was legally killed by Durant.

Florida panthers and bobcats are walking weird Wildlife officials can’t figure out why

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Florida panthers and bobcats are walking weird. Wildlife officials can’t figure out why.

Experts have ruled out “numerous diseases and possible causes” that might explain why the cats are having extreme difficulty walking.
MXCHELLEEX by Michelle Sanders

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