Rise Above Microplastics

To find micro plastics in your daily life, look no further than your bathroom cabinet. Microplastic particles and microbeads can be found in facial scrubs, shampoos & soaps, toothpaste, eyeliners, lip gloss, deodorant and sunblock sticks. Moreover, microbeads flow through sewer systems around the world before making their way into rivers and canals and ultimately, straight into the seas and oceans, where they contribute to the plastic soup. 

Micro-plastics are pervasive in the environment; they absorb persistent organic pollutants, and are consumed by a variety of marine life, including the fish we consume daily. 

(Source: 5Gyres)

Marine species are unable to distinguish between food and microplastics and therefore indiscriminately feed on micro plastics, as theylook just like fish eggs, and thus like food to a variety of aquatic organisms. Fish and seafood regularly consumed by humans have been recorded with plastic fragments inside their guts and body tissues. Scientists hypothesize that over time, they will start accumulating in the food chain, transferring from species to species, with consequences ultimately for humans.

(Source: National Geographic)

It’s bad enough that microbeads are contributing to our ongoing plastics problem. But unlike most other microplastics, which result from plastic litter that has broken down over time, microbeads are actually designed to go down our drains and through our pipes. Once they do, they’re small enough to pass through the filters in wastewater-treatment systems—and right into lakes, rivers, and oceans.

(Source: Master Divers)

Great, sustainable alternatives are products made with apricot shells or cocoa beans. Responding to pressure from groups like 5 Gyres, a number of cosmetics companies—including Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and the Body Shop—have pledged to remove microbeads from their products. Eventually. Unfortunately, they say, it will take a few years to find safe and effective natural alternatives.

Please act responsibly and do not purchase anymore product that contain microbeads (usually in the form of polyethylene), as they are devastating for our oceans. It’s the in the small, daily actions of every individual that will lead to cleaner oceans.

I highly suggest you read 5Gyres’ paper on their findings during a Great Lake research trip, and it will also give you more information on the different kinds of micro plastics and microbeads found in various cosmetics products.

The Daily Species #106:

Northern Tamandua (Tamandua mexicana)

The northern tamandua is a species of tamandua, a small anteater in the family Myrmecophagidae. They live in tropical and subtropical forests from southern Mexico, through Central America, and to the edge of the northern Andes

The northern tamandua is a medium-sized anteater with a prehensile tail, small eyes and ears, and a long snout. Like other anteaters, the northern tamandua is highly adapted to its unusual diet. The tongue is long, extensible, and covered in sticky saliva able to pick up ants and termites. It has unusually well developed muscles, attached to a large hyoid bone and rooted to the top of the sternum. The entire oral cavity is modified to accommodate this tongue, and is so elongated that the back of the soft palate is level with the fifth cervical vertebra near the base of the neck, rather than at the top of the pharynx as in most other mammals. The jaw muscles and mandible are reduced, and the latter is particularly fragile. Like other anteaters, the northern tamandua has no teeth.

In addition to its diet, and unlike the giant anteater, the northern tamandua is also adapted to an arboreal lifestyle. The muscles of the toes and the presence of a tough pad on the palms makes the forefeet prehensile, enabling them to grip onto projections as it climbs. The middle toe of the forefeet also bears an unusually large claw, and the toe has enough muscle and leverage to allow it to rip open wood to get at the ants within.


Pallid Sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus)

The Pallid Sturgeon is native to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers in the United States. They are opportunistic bottom feeders, foraging for insects and small fish like minnows. They can live for up to 50 years, and potentially even longer. It is difficult to tell the age of the fish as their skeleton is made of cartilage, not bone, and they have no scales. 

Pallid Sturgeon have been listed as Endangered since 1990. Damming and channelization of their native rivers has reduced flow rates and sediment loads which has continued to have an impact on their populations. In addition, dams stop sturgeon from migrating up stream to spawn. The Keystone Pipeline would cross the rivers where these rare fish are found, and would have further negative impacts on this already fragile species. 

The Daily Species #46:

Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)

In honor of Toola….

The sea otter is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Adult sea otters typically weigh between 30 to 100 lb, making them the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest marine mammals. Unlike most marine mammals, the sea otter’s primary form of insulation is an exceptionally thick coat of fur, the densest in the animal kingdom. Although it can walk on land, the sea otter lives mostly in the ocean.

The sea otter inhabits offshore environments where it dives to the sea floor to forage. It preys mostly upon marine invertebrates such as sea urchins, various molluscs and crustaceans, and some species of fish. Its foraging and eating habits are noteworthy in several respects. First, its use of rocks to dislodge prey and to open shells makes it one of the few mammal species to use tools. In most of its range, it is a keystone species, controlling sea urchin populations which would otherwise inflict extensive damage to kelp forest ecosystems. Its diet includes prey species that are also valued by humans as food, leading to conflicts between sea otters and fisheries. 

Sea otters, whose numbers were once estimated at 150,000–300,000, were hunted extensively for their fur between 1741 and 1911, and the world population fell to 1,000–2,000 individuals in a fraction of their historic range. A subsequent international ban on hunting, conservation efforts, and reintroduction programs into previously populated areas have contributed to numbers rebounding, and the species now occupies about two-thirds of its former range. The recovery of the sea otter is considered an important success in marine conservation, although populations in the Aleutian Islands and California have recently declined or have plateaued at depressed levels. For these reasons the sea otter remains classified as an endangered species.


Bats Have Sparkly Poop

Bats eat a lot of bugs — up to two-thirds of their body weight in insects daily for some species. There’s an unexpected side effect of all that insect eating, though. Bat scat is described as “sparkling with insect exoskeletons.” Generally the words “sparkling” and “feces” aren’t found together, unless you have a toddler that’s gotten into a jar of glitter.

It’s a diet of insects that puts the shine in bat guano. Insects’ exoskeletons, or hard outer coverings, are made of chitin. Chitin is chemically a lot like plant cellulose; it’s difficult to digest, and passes through a gut relatively unchanged. If you eat a lot of shiny insects, you are going to produce Twinkle Turds.

Exoskeletons are a chitinous candy bar wrapper around a delicious protein meal. It’s not uncommon for birds to shuck off insect wings and legs before consuming an insect snack. Insectivorous bats, however, chew everything up and the exoskeleton comes out the other end as shiny stools. (Fruit- and seed-eating bats have “splatty” feces with no gleam.) (Read more)

Source: Wired

Dolphin Alliance: Two Distinct Species Share Daily Life

Dolphins have long been hailed as some of the most intelligent animals in the known world, capable of complex social interaction that rivals that of even chimpanzees. Now researchers have revealed that not only do these animals enjoy cross-species friendships, but they can also enter complex alliances that last generations.

That’s at least according to a study recently published in the journal Marine Mammal Science, which details how Atlantic bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus) and spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) regularly form mixed species encounters (MSE) and even actively share resources in Bahama waters.

Photo : Flickr:  sheilapic76

The Daily Species #78:

Ring-Tailed Lemur (Lemur catta)

The ring-tailed lemur is a large strepsirrhine primate and the most recognized lemur due to its long, black and white ringed tail. Like all lemurs it is endemic to the island of Madagascar. Known locally in Malagasy as maky or hira, it inhabits gallery forests to spiny scrub in the southern regions of the island. It is omnivorous and the most terrestrial of lemurs. The animal is diurnal, being active exclusively in daylight hours.

The ring-tailed lemur is highly social, living in groups of up to 30 individuals. It is also female dominant, a trait common among lemurs. To keep warm and reaffirm social bonds, groups will huddle together. The ring-tailed lemur will also sunbathe, sitting upright facing its underside, with its thinner white fur towards the sun. Like other lemurs, this species relies strongly on its sense of smell and marks its territory with scent glands. The males perform a unique scent marking behavior called spur marking and will participate in stink fights by impregnating their tail with their scent and wafting it at opponents.

As one of the most vocal primates, the ring-tailed lemur uses numerous vocalizations including group cohesion and alarm calls. Experiments have shown that the ring-tailed lemur, despite the lack of a large brain (relative to simiiform primates), can organize sequences, understand basic arithmetic operations and preferentially select tools based on functional qualities.

How Jetlag Disrupts The Ticks of Your Microbial Clock

“Your genome is the same right now as it was yesterday, last week, last year, or the day you were born. But your microbiomes—the combined genes of all the trillions of microbes that share your body—have shifted since the sun came up this morning. And they will change again before the next sunrise.

Christoph Thaiss from the Weizmann Institute of Science has discovered that the communities of microbes in out guts vary on a daily cycle. Some species rise to the fore during daylight hours and recede into the background at night, while others show the opposite pattern.”

Learn about how microbes are affected by jetlag at Not Exactly Rocket Science.

The Daily Species #120:

Blue Sea Slug (Glaucus atlanticus)

Blue Sea Slugs, also known as the sea swallow, blue glaucus and blue ocean slug is a species of small-sized blue sea slug, an aeolid nudibranch, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Glaucidae. This is the only species in the genus Glaucus.

This nudibranch is pelagic, and is distributed throughout the world’s oceans, in temperate and tropical waters. This species floats upside down on the surface tension of the ocean. Blue Sea Slugs prey on other, larger pelagic organisms: the dangerously venomous Portuguese Man o’ War, the by-the-wind-sailor, the blue button and the violet snail. Occasionally, individual slugs will become cannibals if given the opportunity.

Blue Sea Slugs are able to feed on the Portuguese Man o ‘War due to its immunity to the venomous nematocysts. The slug consumes the entire organism and appears to select and store the most venomous nematocysts for its own use. The venom is collected in specialized sacs (cnidosacs), on the tip of their cerata, the thin feather-like “fingers” on its body. Because the slug stores the venom, it can produce a more powerful and deadly sting than the Man o’ War upon which it feeds.

The Daily Species #67:

Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

The axolotl is a neotenic salamander, closely related to the Tiger Salamander. Larvae of this species fail to undergo metamorphosis, so the adults remain aquatic and gilled. It is also called ajolote (which is also a common name for different types of salamander). The species originates from numerous lakes, such as Lake Xochimilco underlying Mexico City. As of 2010, wild axolotls are near extinction due to urbanization in Mexico City and polluted waters. The axolotl is currently on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s annual Red List of threatened species.
Axolotls display three pairs of external gill stalks (rami), which originate behind their heads and are used to move oxygenated water. The external gill rami are lined with filaments (fimbriae) to increase surface area for gas exchange. Four gill slits lined with gill rakers are hidden underneath the external gills.
Axolotls have four different colors, two naturally occurring colors and two mutants. The two naturally occurring colors are “wildtype” (varying shades of brown usually with spots) and melanoid (black). The two mutant colors are leucistic (pale pink with black eyes) and albino (golden, tan or pale pink with pink eyes).

The Daily Species #65:

Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus)

The Klipspringer is a small species of African antelope. The word klipspringer literally means “rock jumper” in Afrikaans/Dutch. The klipspringer is also known colloquially as a mvundla (from Xhosa “umvundla”, meaning “rabbit”). The klipspringer lives through Southern Africa, where it is found in rocky koppies in woodland and savanna, all the way up East Africa and into the highly mountainous highlands of Ethiopia.

Reaching approximately 22 inches at the shoulder, klipspringers are relatively small animals compared to some of their larger antelope cousins. Male klipspringers have horns that are usually about 4–6 inches long. Female klipspringers in Eastern African populations also have horns.

With a thick and dense speckled “salt and pepper” patterned coat of an almost olive shade, klipspringers blend in well with the koppie (rock outcrops, pronounced “koh-pee/copy”) on which they can usually be found. They stand on the tips of their hooves and can fit all four hooves on a piece of cliff the size of a Canadian dollar coin.

Klipspringers do not live in herds but rather in breeding pairs. Klipspringers mate for life and a mated pair will spend most of their lives in close proximity to one another. When one klipspringer is eating the other will assume lookout duty, helping to keep the pair aware of any predators. It is preyed upon by leopards, caracals and eagles.

The Daily Species #59:

Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Sockeye salmon also called red salmon or blueback salmon in the USA, is an anadromous species of salmon found in the Northern Pacific Ocean and rivers discharging into it. There are also completely landlocked populations of the same species, which are known as kokanee or “silver trout”. Sockeye salmon is the third most common Pacific salmon species, after pink and chum salmon. The name “sockeye” is an anglicization of suk-kegh (sθə́qəy̓), its name in Halkomelem, the language of the indigenous people along the lower reaches of the Fraser River (one of British Columbia’s many native Coast Salish languages). Suk-kegh means red fish.

Sockeye salmon ranges as far south as the Columbia River in the eastern Pacific (though individuals have been spotted as far south as the Mendocino Coast of California) and northern Hokkaidō Island in Japan in the western Pacific, and as far north as Bathurst Inlet in the Canadian Arctic in the east and the Anadyr River in Siberia in the west. Landlocked populations occur in the Yukon Territory and British Columbia in Canada, and in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, New York, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming in the United States.

The Daily Species #43:

Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque)

The Mountain Tapir or Woolly Tapir is the smallest of the four species of tapir and is the only one to live outside of tropical rainforests in the wild. It is most easily distinguished from other tapirs by its thick woolly coat and white lips. Like the other types of tapir, they have small stubby tails and long, flexible proboscises. The species name comes from the term “La Pinchaque”, an imaginary beast said to inhabit the same regions as the Mountain Tapir.

The Mountain Tapir is found in the cloud forests and páramo of the Eastern and Central Cordilleras mountains in Colombia, Ecuador, and the far north of Peru. The Mountain Tapir commonly lives at elevations between 2,000 and 4,300 metres (6,600 and 14,100 ft), and since at this altitude temperatures routinely fall below freezing, the animal’s woolly coat is essential. 

The Mountain Tapir is the most threatened of the four tapir species, classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN in 1996. Due to the fragmentation of its surviving range, populations may already have fallen below the level required to sustain genetic diversity, and the IUCN has predicted that there is a 20% chance that the species could be extinct as early as 2014.