The Moirai Blog

The Moirai Blog


Not so fast - the Palos Verdes Blue butterfly is not extinct.


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-09-14  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-09-14  


Endangered Palos Verdes blue butterfly. Photo Credit: Jane Hendron - Pacific Southwest Region USFWS 

Good news is tough to come by, especially if you frequently type the word "extinct" into search bars (it's part of my job and also the reason I spend Friday nights drinking).
The Palos Verdes blue butterfly, found in California's Palos Verdes Peninsula, are a tiny reminder that good news often gets overlooked.

Palos Verdes blues were declared extinct in 1983 due to the city bulldozing the limited scrub habitat of the endangered butterfly for a baseball field. If you're wondering if city officials knew they'd be wiping out an endangered species, then rest assured that they totally knew and did it anyways. 
Palos Verdes Blue. Photo Credit: William McKenna

Thankfully, and to the delight and surprise of researchers, in 1994 those little blue butterflies popped back up in the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Nowadays, the Palos Verdes blue species is still endangered, but it does have a lot of folks fighting to protect it. The Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy maintains scrub land that provides locoweed, rattlepod and deerweed as larval host plants for the species. Captive breeding programs contribute greatly to saving this species thanks to the work of The Urban Wildlands Group and Moorpark College. And finally, the Defense Logistics Agency and the U.S. Navy support and fund habitat restoration in association with the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy.

In other words, right now there are members of the U.S. Navy assisting in the reintroduction and protection of butterflies. Let that sink in. Maybe there's hope for humans...Maybe.
Palos Verdes Blue butterflies have great taste in home locations. Point Vicente Lighthouse, Palos Verdes. Photo Credit: Mike Quach




The Science Saving Ethiopian Wolves


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-08-22  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-08-22  


The world's rarest canid. Photo Credit: Charles J. Sharp

Ethiopian wolves are one the world's most endangered canids (mammals of the dog family) and researchers worldwide have been working hard to save them from extinction. Only 500 Ethiopian wolves remain in the wild and Oxford's Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme hope to change that via rabies vaccinations. 

It's not easy to catch, vaccinate and release wolves, so oral vaccines are incorporated into meat left overnight for the wolves. Researchers will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the vaccines, but it's a positive move forward for the species.
Ethiopian wolf.  Photo Credit: Laika AC

The rabies virus can kill entire wolf packs in a short amount of time. Symptoms of rabies infection include pica, hydrophobia, seizures, aggression and paralysis. Prognosis: death. By the time symptoms are obvious, it's too late. Thank you to the hard work of WILDCRU and scientists working to save endangered animals.
Illustration of rabies virus. Photo Credit: Center for Disease Control and Prevention






What happens when habitat loss is combined with anthrax?


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-08-13  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-08-13  


The chimpanzee is one of our closest living genetic relatives.  Photo Credit: Author unknown

The answer is extinction.

Bonobos and chimpanzees are the closest living relatives to humans. Chimpanzees prefer living in dense rainforest in Central and West Africa. Chimpanzees and bonobos are both listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the western subspecies of chimpanzees that live in Africa's  Taï National Park are critically endangered. Chimpanzees are more male dominant and aggressive, whereas bonobos are female dominant and prefer relaxing and enjoying life when they are not being shot at by poachers.

Habitat destruction and poaching are the main culprits behind the dwindling population of chimpanzees, but that's just the beginning.  A species of bacteria, Bacillus cereus biovar anthracis, is contributing to significant chimpanzee deaths.
Bacillus cereus.  Photo Credit: Mogana Das Murtey and Patchamuthu Ramasamy

Bacillus cereus strains can cause disease, but not all strains are bad and some even act as probiotics in humans. Bacillus cereus biovar anthracis (Bcbva), on the other hand, is what happens when Bacillus cereus gets bored and starts hanging out with the wrong crowd - that crowd being Bacillus anthracis, which is the causative agent of anthrax. A few too many drinks and Bacillus cereus ended up with new anthrax genes via plasmids from Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax is deadly without proper treatment and the last I checked, wildlife do not visit the emergency room all that often.

Bcbva is killing wildlife throughout the African rainforest, but notably the critically endangered western subspecies of chimpanzees. Infected chimps display a rapid decline in activity, labored breathing and death. Researchers believe that this anthrax causing bacteria will eliminate all chimpanzees that live in the Taï National Park, Côte d'Ivoire, Africa within 150 years. Add in poaching and you probably see the sad ending here.

Scientists are attempting to reduce deaths through vaccinations and many questions are being addressed about human susceptibility to this new strain.

At the rate of human population growth, habitat destruction, and disease, just how long will it be until the only diversity we see are domesticated animals?
Deforestation. Photo Credit: Crustmania




The animal that lives over 10,000 years


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-08-06  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-08-06  


Yellow Picasso sponges belong to the class belongs to the class Hexactinellida. Photo Credit: NOAA/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Folks tend to forget that sponges are indeed animals. Sponges, like other animals, are made up of many cells and cell types (multicellular), produce sperm cells and they are heterotrophic (this means an organism that cannot make its own food). Sponges differ from other animals in that they do not form true tissues or organs.

The Hexactinellid sponge can reach up to 15,000 years old, which is a neat trick if you're interested in longevity research. 
This Hexactinellid sponge is older than you, way older. Photo Credit: NOAA - Ocean Explorer

So, how do they do it? Researchers are not really sure because there's not much research in the first place. Scientists from the University of Barcelona believe that a sessile and stable lifestyle favors long life. Humans are rapidly threatening all species and rising water temperatures, pollution, and habitat disturbances may threaten to eliminate uncovering how some sponges can live an amazingly long time. 




What is the Captain Planet Project?


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-07-24  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-07-24  


The Captain hard at work. Photo Credit: Garrett Stuart

Captain Planet, also known as Garrett Stuart, is a Marine Biologist that promotes conservation and education. He not only talks-the-talk, he walks-the-walk by promoting sustainable agriculture and cleaner oceans. Garrett is unique in that his weapon of choice is education. He understands the importance of protecting natural resources, especially in Florida where we are facing enhanced algal blooms and an alarming rate of coral and fish die-offs.  His vision is to see everyone become citizen scientists and planet protectors. Garrett's down-to-earth knowledge and passion is inspiring.

Garrett Stuart

The Captain is making a difference by attacking apathy and using compassion to motivate others.

As Garrett says: "What did you do for the planet today?"

Learn more about the Captain Planet Project: The Cap's Facebook and his website, The Captain Planet Project.








But Will It Still Be Florida’s Official State Animal Once It’s Gone?


Written by: Genesis Alvarez  
Published: 2018-07-23  

Written by: Genesis Alvarez

Published: 2018-07-23  


Photo Credit: Rodney Cammouf

     The Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi) is a beautiful wildcat native to Florida and quickly facing extinction. There are only 100-180 panthers left in the breeding population. This large cat that once freely roamed a majority of the southeastern United States is now confined to the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. 
Florida panther.  Photo Credit: Larry W. Richardson
      Panthers live in a variety of habitat types, from wooded areas to swamps, but prefer vast areas for optimal prey accessibility. Areas with dense understory are ideal for feeding, resting, escaping the heat, and creating dens. 
Panther cubs. Photo Credit: David Shindle
      Florida panthers are carnivores and mostly sustain on white-tailed deer and wild hog. They are also opportunistic predators and will consume smaller mammals like raccoons and rabbits, and sometimes even livestock and pets. However, encounters with livestock and pets are rare as panthers are generally reclusive.
Mother with cubs. Photo Credit: David Shindle
     Urbanization, road construction, and vehicle fatalities increasingly threaten these already endangered cats. The current goals of wildlife officials are to encourage breeding and monitor the adult population with the hopes of moving the Florida panther from the endangered to the threatened list. 

Here are a few ways that you can assist the Florida panther population: 
     1) Abide by posted speed limits, especially in wildlife management areas.
     2) Report panther sightings, injured or orphaned panthers to the FWC at:
                                                      1-888-404-FWCC.




10- Year Old 'Toad Trapper' - The hero we didn't know we needed.


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-07-19  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-07-19  


Cane toads will eat anything, but they are especially dangerous to pets and native species. Photo Credit: Scott Murray

Cane toads are native to South and Central American and they can grow to be almost 6 inches long. These giants secrete a toxin from their skin, which can kill wild and domesticated animals. They are particularly a problem for dogs because dogs tend to like to put everything in their mouths.

Cane toads will eat anything: native frogs and toads, rodents, snakes, carcasses, dog food, snails, your wallet...Anything.  These toads are considered an invasive species here and Florida, but we have something the toads are not expecting, we have the Toad Trapper.
You thought I was kidding about this. I wasn't. Photo Credit: Unknown

Landen Grey of Naples, Florida is taking back the South Florida streets (and yards).  Landen is hired by locals for $5.00 per house to keep their yards cleared of Cane toads and business is booming. The 10-year old is booked out by two weeks at any given time! Landen is also working with the state to use the toad poison to attract Cane toad tadpoles so that they can be euthanized before reaching adulthood! How cool is this kid?

If you want to join the effort to protect native Florida species, be sure to do your research. Small Cane toads can look very similar to native toads and the last thing you should do is kill something you're not sure about. Keep in mind that compassion goes a long way. Cane toads were brought here by a much more invasive species - humans. The best way to kill a Cane toad is to rub 20% benzocaine toothache gel on the lower belly of the toad, then wait for it to immobilize and place it in the freezer for 48 hours. 

Native Southern Toad VS Invasive Cane Toad. Photo Credit: Dr. Steve A. Johnson

Cane toad in my backyard that likely ate my lunch. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield

Off to keep Florida clean. Photo Credit: Unknown




Scallops are watching you with hundreds of eyes


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-07-18  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-07-18  


We're watching you     Photo credit: NOAA

Scallops can have up to 200 eyes and each has a tiny mirror that reflects light onto the retina above it. Researchers recently found that these eyes act like reflecting telescopes and are made up of tiny, square guanine crystals that look like tiles [1].

Scallops see rather well thanks to hundreds of these eyes. Some species of Bay scallops in Northern latitudes may live over 20 years [2].
Macro photo of scallop eyes   Photo credit: Mathew Krummins  



1. Biologically controlled crystal growth: the image-forming mirror in the eye of the scallop. Acta Crystallographica. Palmer et al. 2017. 

2. Project Oceanography. Scallop Aquaculture. USF Marine Science, 
       http://www.marine.usf.edu/pjocean/packets/sp98/scallop_1.pdf      
        Accessed 12/11/2017




Extinction in the World's Oldest Rainforest - Can Poachers be Stopped?


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-07-17  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-07-17  


Malayan tiger, perhaps one of the last. Photo Credit: Jöshua Barnett Follow

The oldest rainforest, Taman Negara in Malaysia, arose nearly 130 million years ago and has flourished with remarkable species until recently. Taman Negara is home to the Malayan tiger, Malayan gaur and Asian elephant. Malayan tigers are critically endangered and only around 250 to 340 remain in the wild.
Tamara Negara, the oldest rainforest. Photo Credit: Vladimir Yu. Arkhipov, Arkhivov

Unfortunately, this ancient rainforest also attracts poachers that profit from extinction. Six poachers were recently arrested with tiger skins, claws and meat from Malayan tigers. They were also busted with parts from protected bears and leopards along with goats and pythons. Malaysian officials say they have witnessed a disturbing increase in foreign poachers.
Malayan gaur, aka Indian bison. Photo Credit: PJeganathan

Most people feel like there's very little they can do to stop poaching, it is such a distant problem from those we face in our day-to-day routines. So what can you do?
  1. Educate yourself and others. How can funding be raised to eliminate poaching if no one knows it's a problem to begin with? 
  2. Donate to reputable organizations that are responsible for working with governments to stop poaching, track animal numbers, and provide protection for animals. Google is an amazing tool for this. The International Anti-Poaching Foundation is great.
  3. Get involved: Support stricter guidelines and laws for poaching in your own area. Here in Florida, we work very hard to preserve the Everglades and bring awareness to how the loss of species diversity directly impacts humans.
  4. Be a better human. Leave the world better than you found it or what was the point of the journey?




Taking the quote 'the world is yours' to an extreme: The Osprey


Written by: John Canfield  
Published: 2018-07-16  

Written by: John Canfield

Published: 2018-07-16  


Osprey. Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield

If you ever find yourself in Florida and near a relatively large body of water (which is pretty much everywhere in Florida), you just may be lucky enough to spot the beautiful Osprey soaring above your head.
Osprey with breakfast. Photo Credit: Clare Canfield

And when I say lucky, I really mean that. The Osprey was one of many birds species, including the Bald Eagle and the Peregrine Falcon, whose U.S. population was decimated due to widespread overuse of DDT. Between the 1950's and 1970's, nearly 90% of the breeding pairs were wiped out in some areas. Fortunately, their populations rebounded extremely well after the ban of DDT, and it is estimated that the U.S. breeding population is ~100,000 and growing! I love birds and success stories, and the Osprey fits both of those. 

Here are some quick facts on the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
  • The Osprey can be found on every continent except Antarctica . . . which is pretty awesome if you ask me!
  • 99% of their diet consists of fish that weigh anywhere from 0.33-0.66 pounds.
  • They dive, sometimes as deep as 3 feet, and successfully catch a fish around 25% of the time (that is a higher success rate than when I open the refrigerator looking for a snack)
  • For aerodynamic purposes, after catching a fish the Osprey holds the fish in a head-first manner as it flies back to its perch.
  • Female Osprey typically have a pronounced black 'necklace', whereas males have a more solid white neck/breast. This makes them one of the easier birds of prey to distinguish between the sexes. 
Osprey in all of that color Photo Credit: Clare-Anne Canfield

Male Osprey in flight. Photo Credit: Clare Canfield
The unmistakable Osprey. Photo Credit: Clare Canfield