The Moirai Blog

The Moirai Blog


Happy Halloween!


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-10-31  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-10-31  


Do not try this at home (here's looking at you Floridians).
I'm certain this alligator is irritated that it was tricked into biting a pumpkin. Photo Credit: Unknown, but the video is great.

Feel free to feed pumpkin to Galapagos tortoises.
Galapagos tortoises love Halloween. Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo
Watch these tortoises enjoying Halloween at the San Diego Zoo.




Celebrating a Personal Sighting of a Urocyon cinereoargenteus (a gray fox)


Written by: Neil Copes  
Published: 2018-10-15  

Written by: Neil Copes

Published: 2018-10-15  


Urocyon cinereoargenteus Photo Credit: California Department of Water Resources

While driving home after dark a few nights ago, I spotted something that took me by surprise – a fox! I’ve been an avid Florida hiker since my teens (longer ago than I like to admit), and in that time I’d only ever seen a live wild fox once. The first sighting was of a gray streak darting across a dark hiking path about 50 yards away. This time the fox was just calmly sitting on the side of a dirt road next to my car, looking completely like a Pixar character. When I slowed to about four feet away, he majestically hopped off into the nearby woods, to do whatever a Florida gray fox does at night. It occurred to me then that besides human, squirrels, bats, dogs, cats, and the occasional opossum, I never really see much of Florida’s native population of 99 mammal species. I don’t know how much that fact is good (they manage to avoid us), or bad (they’re endangered), or both, but I would like to see more of them while I’m here.




Bat Appreciation Month: The Little Bat with a Long Life


Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  
Published: 2018-10-15  

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield

Published: 2018-10-15  


Either a really pissed off or really happy Brandt's bat. Photo Credit: Herman Lankreijer

Brandt's bats (Myotis brandtii) can live up to 41 years old and possibly older. That may not seem like a long time to you, but usually tiny animals have a short lifespan. This is not a rule in science, but generally small animals live fast and die quick. Example: common house mice live two to three years and weigh 40 to 45 grams, whereas Galapagos tortoises weight between 113 and 227 kilograms (that's 250 to 500 pounds) and live well over 100 years with some up to 170 years old

Now let's take a look at Brandt's bat:
- They weigh 4 to 8 grams.
- They live over 20 years.
- One little guy lived to be over 41 years old

So how do these little bats live for so long? Spoiler alert: we're not sure. Here is what we know so far:
- The key may be in their genes. The insulin-like growth factor 1 and receptor growth hormone receptor genes are altered. These genetic changes are associated with increased longevity in laboratory mammals and other long-lived animals. 
Their telomeres do not shorten with age. Telomeres protect the ends of chromosomes and usually shorten as an animal ages, so there's speculation that this may be another tool by which Brandt's bats live longer than expected.
- They're adorable and magic. 
Brandt's bat (Myotis brandtii) Photo Credit: Manuel Ruedi, Natural History Museum of Geneva

References:
Andrej J. Podlutsky, Alexander M. Khritankov, Nikolai D. Ovodov, Steven N. Austad; A New Field Record for Bat Longevity, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 60, Issue 11, 1 November 2005, Pages 1366–1368, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/60.11.1366.

Seim, I., Fang, X., Xiong, Z., Lobanov, A. V., Huang, Z., Ma, S., ... & Gerashchenko, M. V. (2013). Genome analysis reveals insights into physiology and longevity of the Brandt’s bat Myotis brandtii. Nature communications, 4, 2212.

Foley, N. M., Hughes, G. M., Huang, Z., Clarke, M., Jebb, D., Whelan, C. V., ... & Ransome, R. D. (2018). Growing old, yet staying young: The role of telomeres in bats’ exceptional longevity. Science advances, 4(2), eaao0926.




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