Hamster Butts [via]
This is a blog about animals, but my favorite kinds are usually found in the ocean.
Thank you, Smithsonian Libraries, for these scientific illustrated whales animated gifs. What would the internet do without you?
The Ocean Portal
Ever wonder what the ancestors of modern-day whales and penguins looked like?
Here is one idea, from artist Carl Buell, showing three ancient whales and a penguin from around 50 million years ago discovered by Smithsonian paleontologist Nick Pyenson.
Read Nick’s blog post about the discovery on the Ocean Portal blog.
Photo Credit: Carl Buell, http://carlbuell.com/
Lystrosaurus: The Most Humble Badass of the Triassic
by Annalee Newitz
One of the greatest survivors in all of Earth’s history was a humble creature named Lystrosaurus. It was a dog-sized animal whose peculiar lineage evolved about 270 million years ago, and looked like a cross between a pig and a lizard. Snub-faced and splay-legged, it was a burrower with powerful front legs who probably dug its own den every night. And somehow, it managed to survive the worst mass extinction the world has ever known.
About 250 million years ago, at the close of the Permian period, an enormous volcano called an igneous province started erupting in the region of the world that would one day be Siberia. At the time, this volcano was at the northern tip of a supercontinent called Pangaea that stretched from the north pole all the way down to the south. The eruption formed massive vents, rifts in the earth that released wave after wave of lava, along with billowing clouds of ash, carbon, and other toxins.
The Siberian igneous province laid waste to the environment for over a thousand years, ultimately releasing as much as to 43,000 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere. It’s likely that the planet cooled down for a time, then heated up into a devastatingly profound greenhouse. At the same time, all that carbon caused ocean acidification. The resulting climate changes ultimately killed off 95 percent of all species on Earth.
But not Lystrosaurus… (read more: Laelaps)
illustration by Dmitry Bogdanov
Beautiful Schaus Swallowtail found in Biscayne Bay!
The Schaus Swallowtail (Papilio aristodemus) has been in decline for decades. It was first listed as “threatened” in 1976 then elevated to the most serious “endangered’’ category in 1984 as the population plummeted, largely as a result of pesticide spraying for mosquito control and development destroying the coastal forests they call home.
Read more here: Miami Herald
Why Female Loggerhead Sea Turtles Always Return to Their Place of Birth
Marine turtles are among the most endangered species of the world ocean. For a better protection of these fascinating animals, scientists try to understand why turtles return to their birthplace in order to reproduce after rather long distance migrations. Using molecular tools applied to turtles from the Cape Verde islands, scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany) found that males and females adopt different strategies: while females are very faithful to their island of birth, males appear less selective and mate at multiple locations.
Furthermore, the study published now in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences demonstrates that females from different islands have different immune genes, suggesting that returning home to reproduce is linked to advantages in parasite resistance. This is the first evidence ever to explain why many migratory animals show this type of behavior.
Meet the real life mermaid who swims with jellyfish and can hold her breath under water for up to five minutes
Linden Wolbert travels the world as a full time professional mermaid and uses her custom-made 6ft tail to propel her through the water.
The 32-year-old freediver and model can swim to depths of 115ft and uses her skills to promote ocean conservation and education.
‘Landscape of Fear’ Not Impacting Yellowstone’s Elk
by Virginia Morell
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Not elk in the Greater Yellowstone area of Wyoming and Montana. That’s the contention of a new study that disputes the notion that Rocky Mountain gray wolves, which were reintroduced into the region in 1995, have turned the once peaceful area into a “landscape of fear.”
After the wolves’ return, scientists noticed that the aspen trees and willows began to recover, while elk numbers declined. Researchers attributed the trees’ new growth to the wolves, because the elk could no longer blithely feed; they had to be vigilant and on the move. That added stress, some suggested, could also cause female elk to have fewer successful pregnancies, which would account for the elk population’s dropping numbers.
But a new study published online today in Ecology Letters suggests that the elk aren’t that stressed by the wolves…
(read more: Science/AAAS) (image: Dan Stahler)