maritimus

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It’s that time of year again! Mammal March Madness has arrived! 

This is the annual tournament of simulated combat between mammal species organized by four biologists. 65 species enter … and only one is crowned the champion. Here’s how it works:

Scientific literature is cited to substantiate likely outcomes as a probabilistic function of the two species’ attributes within the battle environment. Attributes considered in calculating battle outcome include temperament, weaponry, armor, body mass, running speed, fight style, physiology, and motivation.

Through the scientific information embedded in the bout descriptions, participants are educated about inter-species interactions, the importance of ecological context, how natural selection has shaped adaptations, and conservation management of endangered species.

The first bout - a wildcard match between the Thor Hero Shrew and the King Midas Bat has already finished (winner: HERO SHREW) - but you still have time to fill out your bracket before the first round of regular match-ups (the “chill mammal” division) begins tonight. Download your bracket here and fill it out!

You can follow the matches on twitter via the #2016MMM hashtag. Tournament schedule:

Week One
3/8    Chill
3/9    Mascots
3/10  Mighty Giants
3/11  Nouns                 

Week Two
3/14  MG & C
3/16  M&N
3/17  Sweet 16

Week Three
3/21  Elite Trait
3/22  Final Roar
3/24  Championship

My favorite to win? Ursus maritimus.

Here’s my terrible, punny sports-radio style send-up of last year’s competition:

The illustrations in the poster up top were created by Charon Henning - check out more of her artwork here.

The other polar bears

Glacier was so big, he got his own post, but I thought you’d like to see Mr. B, Polar, and Randy too. :-)  They all got dramatically whiter.  First is Mr. B, who was sort of gray and floppy when he came to the hospital.  His person had written:

I am attaching a few pictures of my daughter’s most beloved bear. She has had this bear since she was less than a year old (she’s almost 8) and there is nowhere that she has gone that the bear hasn’t made a trip to at least once! Sadly, all that love is making poor Mr. Bear pretty rough looking and she could use a good professional cleaning and restuffing. :D While the munchkin is not thrilled at the tought of her bear being gone, even for a little while, she understands that some TLC is definitely needed and is willing to let Teddy out of sight, “for her own good.”

Here’s Mr. Bear on arrival:

You can see he needed some stitches too.  The goal was to keep his wrinkly face shape.  He had his spa:

And he got a nice lavender heart:

All stitched up and ready to fly home:

Her family wrote:

Mr. Bear made it safely home and P is utterly thrilled!!!! She hasn’t put her down (except to eat and then she’s on the table watching P!! lol) since she got her.
Thank you SO, SO, SO much for giving her bear a new lease on life and making my daughter so happy!!!

Next up is Randy (these three all arrived within a couple of days of each other, the week after Glacier came in).  Randy had the tail wound, and needed a spa.  Here’s his arrival photo:

A bit grayish brown, but so cute!  Here’s his spa:

You can see the brown better there.  He got a red heart:

Had all his wounds stitched and was ready to fly home:

Randy’s family in Baltimore wrote:

He looks great! Thank you for taking such good care of him. We really appreciate it.

Finally, we have Polar.  Polar needed his nose recovered in addition to the spa.  Here he is on arrival:

Here’s his spa picture:

And here’s his heart (red like Randy’s) being made with a bit of his original stuffing and going in:

Now Polar’s nose originally had a leather like feel (it was a faux leather fabric) and it was sewn on rather than being a separate nose held in place by a post.  His people opted to recover it with new fabric.  Here are his after photos with his nice white fur and shiny new black nose:

Polar’s people wrote:

Oh, he looks JUST RIGHT!!!!!  A completely rejuvenated Ursus maritimus!
Thank you SO much!!!!  This is truly thrilling!!!  

anonymous asked:

My dad says Zoo's are becoming politically incorrect. I've seen both arguments but I wanna hear your opinion on it: do you think Zoo's are a good idea?

Well, let’s see if I can keep this response short.

First, I’m guessing that by ‘politically correct’ you mean ‘ethically sound.’ So, is keeping animals in zoos an ethical thing to do? As with many things, there is no easy or even single answer to that question.

Without a doubt, there are bad zoos- private or roadside zoos, zoos that keep their animals in abhorrent conditions, zoos that allow visitors to engage in unsafe things like cub-petting schemes. It is obvious that these types of zoos are unethical and exploitative.

(Hint: something like this is never a good sign.)

On the other hand, what constitutes a ‘good’ zoo? In the best captive conditions currently available, is it okay to keep an animal locked up? Some say no, no matter what; some say what we have now isn’t good enough. Others say yes- the best zoos are able to provide their captives with good lives.

This of course brings us to just what a ‘good’ life is. Those who say that animals should never ever be placed in captivity usually value a sense of freedom above all else. Even in perfect captive conditions, an animal will not be free, wild, or ‘natural.’

However, we must acknowledge that ‘freedom’ is a concept created and defined by humans. A human locked in a prison knows the difference between captivity and freedom, and is able to conceptualize that certain ‘rights’ that they have are being violated. But for animals, this may be too complex to perceive. How far back do you have to move a fence before a kudu decides that he is wild again? The idea that animals sense when they are ‘free’ versus ‘not free’ is, to me, not realistic.

Animals do, however, benefit from the ability to be free to make choices, such as what they eat, where they will go, who they will interact with, and so on. Undeniably, captivity presents animals with fewer choices of these kinds than they would have in the wild. The best zoos are now implementing programs to accommodate these choices, particularly with highly intelligent animals such as elephants and apes.

One such example: the “O Line” at the Smithsonian National Zoo allows orangutans to choose one of two buildings to stay in during the day. Other animals, such as the otters, can choose whether or not to be on exhibit via spaces in their enclosure that are sheltered from the public. Scatter feeding and foraging enrichment is yet another way that zoos allow animals to choose what food they want to eat.

Still, despite these improvements, there will always be limitations of choice in captive environments compared to wild ones by the very definition of ‘captivity.’ Furthermore, while many strides have been taken to update enclosures with choices in mind, the fact remains that the implementation of behavioral science in zoos lags behind the research due to the costs, and often due to the stress of the animals themselves when trying to adjust to new schedules and norms (even if they are theoretically better ones).

A forty-year old captive elephant will have lived through decades of zoo reform, and we can’t erase those negative experiences from her mind.

One danger of comparing captive animals to their wild counterparts is assuming that captive environments should mirror the wild ones as closely as possible. But what the wild even is is not well-defined. ‘Wild’ deer roam my suburban neighborhood: should that habitat be replicated in their zoo enclosure? Wild environments include predators, diseases, and natural disasters: is it better that those be implemented in zoos as well?

In actuality, an animal born in captivity likely has no sense of what its natural environment should look like. Certainly it has natural instincts and inclinations- a tiger likes to urine-mark vertical objects and a gibbon likes to climb- but neither of them specifically needs a tree to do this with- a post or rope swing would also work. The ‘naturalistic’ look of many zoo enclosures is actually for the benefit of the visitors, not the animals. In fact, a lush, well-planted habitat could still be an abysmal one for an animal if all of its needs aren’t being met.

This brings us to one of the most important aspects of zoos: the visitors. Theoretically, one of the major purposes of good zoos is to educate and inspire the public about animals, particularly in regards to their conservation. But do zoos actually do this?

The answer is yes… to a small extent. People given surveys upon entering and leaving a zoo exhibit generally do know slightly more about the animals than they used to, but this depends a lot on how educated they were to begin with. While many visitors express an increased desire to engage in conservation efforts after leaving a zoo, not many of them have actually followed up on it when surveyed again a few weeks later. Still, most zoo visitors seem to leave the zoo with several positive if perhaps short-term effects: interest in conservation, appreciation for animals, and the desire to learn more. If a visitor experiences a “connection” with an animal during their visit, these effects are greatly increased.

However, certain types of animal “connections” and interactions can also produce a negative effect on zoo visitors. This reflects what I said earlier about the naturalistic design of habitats being more for the visitors than the animals. Individuals who view animals performing non-natural behaviors (such as a chimpanzee wearing clothes and acting ‘human,’ or a tiger coming up to be petted) are less likely to express an increased interest in their conservation, and even less likely to donate money towards it. Generally, our own perception of freedom and wildness matters much more than the individual animal’s.

The fact of the matter is that, worldwide, zoos spend about $350 million dollars on wildlife conservation each year. That is a tremendous amount of money, and it comes from visitors and donations. What amount of discomfort on the part of captive animals is worth that money being devoted to their wild counterparts? It’s hard to say.

This is a very, VERY general overview of some of the ethical issues surrounding zoos; to go over it all, I’d need to write a book. But hopefully, it got you thinking a little bit about what your own opinion on all this is. (I didn’t explicitly state mine on purpose, though it’s probably fairly clear.)

Refs and further reading below the cut!

Keep reading

No safe haven for polar bears in warming Arctic

Not a single polar-bear haven in the rapidly warming Arctic is safe from the effects of climate change, researchers have found.

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) rely on sea ice for roaming, breeding, and as a platform from which to hunt seals. When the ice melts in the summer, the bears spend several months on land, largely fasting, until the freeze-up allows them to resume hunting. So if they are to survive, they need pockets of ice to persist almost year-round.

Some climate models suggest that most of the Arctic may be ice-free in summer by mid-century[1]. But icy refuges near the North Pole currently support 19 populations of polar bears, totalling some 25,000 individuals.  Scientists weren’t sure about the exact rate of ice retreat in these habitats, or whether some refuges might not yet be dwindling.

All of the Arctic refuges are in fact on the decline, a detailed examination of satellite data now suggests. Mathematician Harry Stern and biologist Kristin Laidre at the University of Washington in Seattle used a 35-year satellite record to examine each of the 19 population areas, which range from 53,000 to 281,000 square kilometres in size. For each, they calculated the dates on which sea ice retreated in the Arctic spring and advanced in the autumn, as well as the average summer sea-ice concentration and number of ice-covered days.

Polar bears’ sea-ice habitat is dwindling as the Arctic warms. Theo Allofs/Minden Pictures/FLPA

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NAMJOONSBUTTERFLY 1000 FOLLOW FOREVER

ignore my ugly edited gifset 

Hello Everyone! (You may know me as @day6pls @protectastro or @cw-the-flash ) I’m back with another follow forever! This time it’s because I finally reached 1000 followers! Thank you everyone so much for sticking around with me! 

This is gonna be hella long! 

# - @1mj @6-astro @6astronauts @97-kook @97gu @97x95

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I’m so sorry I missed someone! Message me and I’ll add you! 

Love you all <3