the wwf’s living planet report 2014, which discovered that we’ve lost half of all the world’s wildlife in the past fourty years, showed more specifically that the population of common dormice dropped by 43 percent between 1993 and 2010.

not only are dormice vulnerable to habitat loss, but they’re hesitant to cross open fields, and the grubbing out of hedgerows in recent decades has removed the wildlife corridors between woods that has allowed the dormice to move more freely to new habitat.  

dormice have very specialized diets of berries and nuts, and with less habitat they are unable to seek out enough food to fatten up before their six month hibernation (which was featured in these two posts). 

photos by (click pic) andrea zampatti, richard austin xmiroslav hlávkobengt lundberg, david kjaer and ingo ardnt

California becomes first US state to ban plastic bags

California has become the first American state to ban the use of plastic bags for environmental reasons – but critics argue the policy will cost jobs.

Under the new law, plastic bags will be banned in phases. Grocery stores and pharmacies will be required to stop handing out disposable bags by July 1, 2015. Afterwards, customers will be charged 10 cents for paper bags or reusable plastic bags. By 2016, convenience stores and liquor stores will have to do the same.

“This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks, and even the vast ocean itself,” said California Governor Jerry Brown on signing the milestone bill into law. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

The law allows exceptions for the purchase of meats, fruits and vegetables, and authorizes local governments to impose fines of up to $5,000 on businesses that violate the rule.

Environmental advocates claim that single plastic bags pollute rivers, oceans, parks, and beaches, adding that they are dangerous to animal life and don’t easily decompose. They also clog city storm drains, costing municipalities millions of dollars to clean up.



Surfing for Healthy Oceans

Titans of Mavericks and the Aquarium are teaming up to shape a future with healthy oceans.

The Aquarium will be the official conservation partner of the world’s premier big wave surfing event, held annually in Half Moon Bay at the most iconic big wave surfing spot in the nation. 

“Through this groundbreaking partnership, Monterey Bay Aquarium will help drive focused initiatives and ocean conservation awareness through the athletes who compete in this highly anticipated event,” said Griffin Guess, president of Cartel Management, which directs the newly re-faced Titans of Mavericks event and festival.

“We know that the surfing community is passionate about the ocean,” said Mimi Hahn, vice president of marketing and communications for the Aquarium. “As the conservation partner of the Titans of Mavericks, we hope to weave the message of ocean protection through every element of the event and to help its audiences engage more deeply in safeguarding the ocean that sustains all life on our planet.”

“The goal of Titans of Mavericks is to empower the athletes as ambassadors who can drive public awareness of the threats facing our oceans, and help inspire the fans of Mavericks to do more to protect the living ocean,” said Zach Wormhoudt, a waterman and big wave surfer from Santa Cruz. He’s one of 56 surfers vying to be among the 24 selected to compete in Titans of Mavericks in 2015.

Learn more about Titans of Mavericks and the new ocean conservation partnership.

The David Bowie spider: what’s behind its name?

A few days ago I posted about the David Bowie spider, Heteropoda davidbowie (Sparassidae). The reason for this peculiar name has aroused curiosity and, in fact, there is a good story behind its scientific name, it is a bit long but worth telling.

This spider was described in 2008 by Peter Jäger, a renowned arachnologist who has discovered more than 200 species of spiders in the last decade. Many of the taxa described by Jäger have something in common besides being spiders, their scientific names are especially curious. 

The origin of this apparent extravagance came when the huntsman spider Heteropoda maxima from Laos, described by him in 2001, rose to fame in 2003 thanks to a short documentary that was widely viewed on YouTube and some BBC shows. Such fame and glory had its disadvantages, since the species was introduced as a pet terrarium without knowing that most of the animals taken from the caves where they live die during transport due to heat. So in 2009 an expedition to the habitat of this spider revealed that the population structure of the species had been severely affected by over-collection, since it was not possible to find sexually mature specimens.

According to Jäger, funding for basic taxonomic research is very little compared to the total resources allocated to other research, so that in such a situation may be centuries before we can make a record of all the organisms that make up the vast diversity of species of tropical spiders. This is a race against time if you consider the rate of destruction of tropical habitats due to overpopulation and habitat loss from deforestation.

Faced with this problem Jäger wrote and put online a small manifesto in favor of conservation and decided that he would name some of the species described by him with provocative names, so that it would attract the attention of people towards the problems of overpopulation and the challenges of conservation.

Heteropoda davidbowie was named in this context, taking the liberty of the taxonomist to choose a name with style, hoping that the name will spread and draw attention to that man should realize his mistake and stop of destroy nature. 

Some other names chosen by Jäger are really provocative, as in the case of the spider Heteropoda homstu, in which the species name is an abbreviation of “Homo sultus" (stupid), pointing to the stupidity of man depriving himself of natural resources without seriously addressing the problem of overpopulation. Also, other species have been named after generous donors in a kind of agreement in which donation of a certain amount of resources to the research project allows the donor to choose a name for a species.

So Heteropoda davidbowie was really and effectively named after the legendary British rocker to raise awareness, but not especially on the vulnerability of the species itself (the species is still common in its natural habitat, and not considered -yet- an endangered species), but of all spiders and foremost about the threats facing their tropical habitats.

Photo credit: ©Peter Jäger in: Jäger, Peter (2012). Spinnenforschung in Laos. Nach der Riesenspinne. Arachne, 17. Jahrgang, Ausgabe 5, September 2012, Deutsche Arachnologische Gesellschaft eV.  | Locality: Weibchen (Malaysia), 2008

This Chaco Tortoise (Chelonoidis chilensis) is ready for its close up! In 2008 the Turtle Conservancy traveled to Argentina and Uruguay to document the ecology, status, and distribution of this vulnerable species. You can see the full film at: http://www.turtleconservancy.org/videos/



Marine Reserves are designated patches of sea where fishing and other forms of exploitation are banned, offering a safe haven for fish and other marine organisms.

Marine reserves are pretty important for both conservation and food security. How so?

Protecting a patch of sea from exploitation helps preserve habitats like coral reefs, which support high levels of biodiversity.

The protection also provides highly-targeted species with a bit of breathing room, giving them time and space to reproduce and re-populate, without the pressure of fishing. 

Because of this protection, well-enforced Marine Reserves are usually teeming with life. The clips above were all taken during dives in Marine Reserves throughout the Philippines. 

video source: Pop Sea’s Kevin, and the JAnticamara Lab Group.

reference: Gell and Roberts. 2003.

Zoos neither educate nor empower children, newly published research suggests

"A newly published paper in academic journal, Conservation Biology, now appears to have confirmed this view as it was found that, of over 2,800 children surveyed following visits to London Zoo, the majority demonstrated no positive learning outcomes at all. Indeed, many children were deemed to show not just a lack of learning, but a negative learning outcome.

The study considered learning outcomes for pupils who were part of either visits guided by a member of educational staff from the zoo or unguided visits. Only 38% of children were able to demonstrate positive learning outcomes, said the paper’s author. In comparison, the majority of children (62%) were deemed to show no change in learning or, worse, experienced negative learning during their trip to the zoo.

In addition, despite zoos claiming that they inspire children to become proactive conservationists, it was concluded that the zoo’s impact on children’s belief in their ability to actively do something about conservation was “weak”. The author went on to conclude that his findings suggested that pupils did not feel empowered to believe that they can take “effective ameliorative action” on matters relating to conservation after their zoo experience.

In contrast to the findings, London Zoo claims on its website that its site offered “the perfect education choice” and boasts “a diverse and highly skilled Education Team, provid[ing] unique learning sessions for all ages and abilities”.

Said CAPS Director, Liz Tyson:

“It is hardly surprising to learn that most children visiting zoos are neither empowered nor educated by the experience of seeing captive wild animals so far removed from their natural habitat. Zoos present an entirely false view of both the animals themselves, and of the real and very urgent issues facing many species in their natural homes.  This new research appears to confirm what we have said for many years. Zoos do not educate nor do they empower or inspire children to become conservationists”.

A 2010 government-commissioned report raised concerns that, despite zoos promoting education programmes, there was little evidence of educational impact by the industry.

Ms Tyson added:

“We know that zoos will not stop making their loaded and misleading claims surrounding educational benefit and so are calling upon schools and parents to consider the findings of this research and make up their own minds. There are many ways to learn about the natural world without holding animals captive for their lifetimes in order to do so. We would like to encourage schools and parents everywhere to look to more compassionate, inspiring and educative activities for their children”.”

SciNote Spotlight is a weekly post highlighting active and interesting science blogs on tumblr.

This week’s SciNote Spotlight blog of the week is:


About the Author:

Being a biologist by profession but a naturalist at heart, I am convinced that every effort for the conservation of the biodiversity of the planet is based, firstly, on the information and knowledge of the species and their environment. We cannot effectively conserve what is not known, and as a society, we will make no effort toward conservation if we are not informed and motivated. That’s why this blog is dedicated to showing and providing scientific data on all types of organism, and to addressing topics related to the physical context in which life occurs (geology, mineralogy, meteorology, landscape), as well as artistic expressions reflecting the close relationship between man and nature.

Featured Posts: 

Nomia iridescens: a bee with colourful abdominal stripes

Agalychnis annae: an extraordinary and endangered frog

View all original posts from Libutron here

Guarda su turtleconservancy.tumblr.com

Matt Dillon supports turtle Conservation!


On this day, in 1890, Congress established Yosemite National Park. It was the third National Park in the U.S., after Yellowstone and Sequoia, thanks to lobbying from John Muir and other environmental activists. 

Richard Sellars provides a detailed history of the formation of the national parks in Preserving Nature in the National Parks. The book traces the epic clash of values between traditional scenery-and-tourism management and emerging ecological concepts in America’s most treasured landscapes and provides an analysis of why the Service has not responded in full faith to the environmental concerns of recent times.

Pollution Linked To Lethal Sea Turtle Tumors

DURHAM, N.C. — Pollution in urban and farm runoff in Hawaii is causing tumors in endangered sea turtles, a new study finds.

The study, published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PeerJ, shows that nitrogen in the runoff ends up in algae that the turtles eat, promoting the formation of tumors on the animals’ eyes, flippers and internal organs.

Scientists at Duke University, the University of Hawaii and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducted the study to better understand the causes behind the tumor-forming disease Fibropapillomatosis, which is the leading known cause of death in green turtles, said Kyle Van Houtan, adjunct associate professor at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

“We’re drawing direct lines from human nutrient inputs to the reef ecosystem, and how it affects wildlife,” said Van Houtan, who is also a scientist in NOAA’s Turtle Research Program.

This research builds on a study published in 2010 that found the disease was more prevalent in areas with high levels of nitrogen runoff. That study hypothesized the disease might be linked to how algae that the turtles eat store extra nitrogen, and designed this study to test that idea.

“In this paper we drill down on whether excess nitrogen inputs are causing a nutrient cascade in the system that’s ending up in these tumors in green turtles,” said Van Houtan.

Read more here.

(via ScienceDaily)

Text credit:  Kati Moore

Photo credit: Chris Stankis

anonimo ha detto:

you studying herpetology and marine biology, do you know what kind of job you can do after that? cause it sounds interesting

I would really love to work in conservation biology! Something along the lines of TV work/education/public outreach (with a particular focus on “ugly/scary” animals that need a little more love).

What an amazing find!

A female Sundarbans River Terrapin (Batagur baska) was discovered in a family pond in Bangladesh. The turtle had been kept as a pet for 16 years. After much discussion, the turtle’s owner agreed to sell the critically endangered turtle to the team’s breeding colony, adding a seventh female and diversifying the genetic base! In this touching photo, the previous owner says good-bye to her beloved pet.

You can read more about this exceptional story here:

Turtle Survival Alliance


september 22 is world rhino day, meant to raise awareness about the struggle faced by all five species of rhino, help curtail the supply of rhino horns, and highlight efforts to ensure the animal’s continued survival.  

one such effort involves a four man anti poaching team tasked with guarding the ol pejeta conservancy’s four remaining northern white rhinos. with only eight left, it is the world’s most endangered species. located in the laikipia district of kenya, ol pejeta conservancy is also the largest sanctuary for the black rhino.

the rise in asia’s middle class has meant that demand for rhino horn has soared, with prices on the black market exceeding that of gold and cocaine. with an increase in poaching in ol pejeta, the anti poaching team now provides twenty four hour armed protection for the rhinos, and has developed a close relationship with the animals.

poachers will track rhinos from helicopters, darting them from above and then hacking off the horn and part of the face with a chainsaw. the animals are often left to suffer and die. the rhinos seen here were found wandering in unimaginable pain, but remarkably survived thanks to timely veterinary supervision.

to protect the rhinos and deter poachers, veterinarians will remove much of the animal’s horn (as seen in the second last photo). the rhinos are anesthetized, and suffer no trauma. the horn is not like an elephant’s tusk, and will grow back in a few years.  

photos by brent stirton’s. see also: posts on the efforts of the lewa wildlife conservancy and the black rhino range expansion project 


In honour of Steve Irwin. — "Yeah, I’m a thrill seeker, but crikey, education’s the most important thing."

Stephen Robert ”SteveIrwin (22 February 1962 – 4 September 2006), nicknamed “The Crocodile Hunter”.

"If there’s one thing that I, Steve Irwin, would wanna be remembered for, it’s be remembered for passion and enthusiasm. Conservation is my job, my life, my whole persona.

Please help continue Steve’s legacy and find out more about his passion here. [Inspired by this post and this video.]