August 2018

August 2018


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.