Shark bites top of kayaker’s foot in waters off California coast

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A kayaker was bitten by a shark in the waters off the California coast and was taken to the hospital with cuts to the top of his foot, authorities said on Saturday.

Ventura County Fire Capt. Ron Oatman said the kayaker, who was fishing with a friend in Malibu, reported that he was dangling his feet in the water when a shark came up, bumped against or bit his foot before swimming away.

Ventura County officials told Fox 11 Los Angeles the shark was a 10-foot hammerhead.

Lidia Barillas, public information officer with the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Lifeguards Division told the Los Angeles Times the bite was “nothing severe, but a very deep wound.”

“It was a bite and release,” she said.

The wounded kayaker was able to flag down a fishing boat that was nearby and got onboard, where he was able to control the bleeding. He was then airlifted back to a local hospital, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Oatman said lifeguards paddled to the boat and accompanied the man back to shore. Los Angeles County Lifeguards have said none of the beaches they patrol will be closed.

The shark encounter occurred about a mile off the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Deer Creek Road.

Last Saturday, Morro Strand State Beach was closed for three days after a great white shark took a bit out of a surfer’s board. Elinor Dempsey was surfing in the morning when the shark took a 14-inch wide bite out of the surfboard she was paddling on.

“First I thought it was a dolphin and I thought, ‘What the hell is he doing?’” Dempsey told the San Luis Obispo Tribune. “And he kind of landed on my board. Then I realized he had taken a chunk. And I was, like, that’s not what dolphins do.”

Officials closed the beach for 72 hours and posted warning signs at nearby beaches.

The odds of being bit by a great white shark in the waters off the California coastline have dropped by 91 percent, the Los Angeles Times reports, citing analysis from Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Swimmers and divers alike have all seen declines in shark attacks over the last 63 years.

Click for more from Fox 11 Los Angeles.

Click for more from the Los Angeles Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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60,000 antelopes died in 4 days – and no one knows why

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In May 2015, nearly half of all the saigas, a critically endangered antelope that roams the steppe of Kazakhstan, died off. Exactly why is still a mystery. (Credit: Albert Salemgareyev)

It started in late May.

When geoecologist Steffen Zuther and his colleagues arrived in central Kazakhstan to monitor the calving of one herd of saigas, a critically endangered, steppe-dwelling antelope, veterinarians in the area had already reported dead animals on the ground.

“But since there happened to be die-offs of limited extent during the last years, at first we were not really alarmed,” Zuther, the international coordinator of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative, told Live Science.

But within four days, the entire herd — 60,000 saiga — had died. As veterinarians and conservationists tried to stem the die-off, they also got word of similar population crashes in other herds across Kazakhstan. By early June, the mass dying was over. [See Images of the Saiga Mass Die-Off]

Now, the researchers have found clues as to how more than half of the country’s herd, counted at 257,000 as of 2014, died so rapidly. Bacteria clearly played a role in the saigas’ demise. But exactly how these normally harmless microbes could take such a toll is still a mystery, Zuther said.

“The extent of this die-off, and the speed it had, by spreading throughout the whole calving herd and killing all the animals, this has not been observed for any other species,” Zuther said. “It’s really unheard of.”

Crucial steppe players

Saigas play a critical role in the ecosystem of the arid grassland steppe, where the cold winters prevent fallen plant material from decomposing; the grazing of the dog-size, Gonzo-nosed antelopes helps to break down that organic matter, recycling nutrients in the ecosystem and preventing wildfires fueled by too much leaf litter on the ground. The animals also provide tasty meals for the predators of the steppe, Zuther said. [Images: Ancient Beasts of the Arctic]

“Where you find saiga, we recognize also that the other species are much more abundant,” Zuther told Live Science.

Saigas, which are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, live in a few herds in Kazakhstan, one small herd in Russia and a herd in Mongolia. The herds congregate with other herds during the cold winters, as well as when they migrate to other parts of Kazakhstan, during the fall and spring. The herds split up to calve their young during the late spring and early summer. The die-off started during the calving period.

Die-offs of saigas, including one that felled 12,000 of the stately creatures last year, have occurred frequently in recent years. But the large expanse of the country affected by last year’s die-off meant veterinarians couldn’t get to the animals until long after their deaths. The delay hindered any determination of a cause of death, and researchers eventually speculated that an abundance of greenery caused digestion problems, which led to bacterial overgrowth in the animals’ guts.

Detailed analysis

This time, field workers were already on the ground, so they were able to take detailed samples of the saigas’ environment — the rocks the animals walked on and the soil they crossed — as well as the water the animals drank and the vegetation they ate in the months and weeks leading up to the die-off. The scientists also took samples of the ticks and other insects that feed on saiga, hoping to find some triggering cause.

The researchers additionally conducted high-quality necropsies of the animals, and even observed the behavior of some of the animals as they died. The females, which cluster together to calve their young, were hit the hardest. They died first, followed by their calves, which were still too young to eat any vegetation. That sequence suggested that whatever was killing off the animals was being transmitted through the mothers’ milk, Zuther said.

Tissue samples revealed that toxins, produced by Pasteurella and possiblyClostridia bacteria, caused extensive bleeding in most of the animals’ organs. ButPasteurella is found normally in the bodies of ruminants like the saigas, and it usually doesn’t cause harm unless the animals have weakened immune systems.

Genetic analysis so far has only deepened the mystery, as the bacteria found were the garden-variety, disease-causing type.

“There is nothing so special about it. The question is why it developed so rapidly and spread to all the animals,” Zuther said.

Mystery endures

A similar mass die-off of 400,000 saigas occurred in 1988, and veterinarians reported similar symptoms. But because that die-off occurred during Soviet times, researchers simply listed Pasteurellosis, the disease caused byPasteurella, as the cause and performed no other investigation, Zuther added.

So far, the only possible environmental cause was that there was a cold, hard winter followed by a wet spring, with lots of lush vegetation and standing water on the ground that could enable bacteria to spread more easily, Zuther said. That by itself doesn’t seem so unusual, though, he said.

Another possibility is that such flash crashes are inevitable responses to some natural variations in the environment, he said. Zuther said he and his colleagues plan to continue their search for a cause of the die-off.

 

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Shark mauls man, injuring leg as attacks continue off Australian coast

A 65-year-old man was mauled by a shark off Australia’s most populous state on Friday, but managed to get back on his surf ski and get help for a serious leg injury, police said.

David Quinlivan was paddling a surf ski near the New South Wales state town of Forster, 185 miles north of Sydney, when he was attacked, police said. They said he fell into the water but got back on the surf ski and managed to get closer to shore, where bystanders were able to help him from the water.

One of those bystanders, Warren Thompson, said he and others ran into the surf to help Quinlivan.

“He had lost his paddle but was able to climb back onto the ski and caught a wave to the shore,” Thompson said.

Thompson added: “It looked to us like he was having a heart attack. When we reached him, he told us to stay out of the water.”

Quinlivan was flown by helicopter for emergency surgery to a leg injury. The state ambulance service described that injury as serious.

Two weeks ago, a 38-year-old surfer suffered life-threatening injuries when he was attacked by a shark at Port Macquarie, 60 miles north of Forster.

Three weeks earlier, a 52-year-old surfer was seriously injured as he repeatedly punched a shark that mauled him off Evans Head, 140 miles north of Port Macquarie, in the 11th attack — including one fatality —  in five months along a 12-mile stretch of northern New South Wales coast.

On Feb. 9, a 41-year-old Japanese tourist was killed around the tourist town of Ballina, also is northern New South Wales. The only fatal attack in Australia since then was in July, when a 46-year-old diver was killed off the island state of Tasmania, 1,000 miles south of Ballina.

Sharks are common off Australia’s beaches, but fatal attacks are rare. The country has averaged fewer than two deadly attacks per year in recent decades.

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A real big bug problem: Iowa fossils show giant sea scorpion was dominant predator of its time

 

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This rendering provided by Yale University shows a Pentecopterus decorahensis. Earth’s first big predatory monster was a weird water bug, newly found fossils show. Almost half a billion years ago, Earth’s dominant large predator was a sea scorpion that grew to 5 feet 7 inches with a dozen claw arms sprouting from its head and a spike tail, according to a new study. (Patrick J. Lynch/Yale University via AP) (The Associated Press)

Earth’s first big predatory monster was a weird water bug as big as Tom Cruise, newly found fossils show.

Almost half a billion years ago, way before the dinosaurs roamed, Earth’s dominant large predator was a sea scorpion that grew to 5 feet 7 inches, with a dozen claw arms sprouting from its head and a spike tail, according to a new study.

Scientists found signs of these new monsters of the prehistoric deep in Iowa, of all places.

Geologists at the Iowa Geological Survey found 150 pieces of fossils about 60 feet under the Upper Iowa River, part of which had to be temporarily dammed to allow them to collect the specimens. Then scientists at Yale University determined they were a new species from about 460 million year ago, when Iowa was under an ocean

Then, all the action was in the sea and it was pretty small scale, said James Lamsdell of Yale, lead author of the study published Monday in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

“This is the first real big predator,” Lamsdell said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be swimming with it. There’s something about bugs. When they’re a certain size, they shouldn’t be allowed to get bigger.”

Technically, this creature — named Pentecopterus decorahensis, after an ancient Greek warship — is not a bug by science definitions, Lamsdell said. It’s part of the eurypterid family, which are basically sea scorpions.

Those type of creatures “are really cool,” said Joe Hannibal, curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Hannibal wasn’t part of the study, but praised it for being well done, adding “this species is not particularly bizarre — for a eurypterid.”

Unlike modern land scorpions, this creature’s tail didn’t sting. It was used more for balance and in swimming, but half this creature’s length was tail, Lamsdell said.

There were larger sea scorpions half way around the world at the same time but those were more bottom feeders instead of dominant predators, he said.

Lamsdell could tell by the way the many arms come out of the elongated head how this creature grabbed prey and pushed it to its mouth.

“It was obviously a very aggressive animal,” Lamsdell said. “It was a big angry bug.”

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Rhino crushes experienced tour guide to death in Zimbabwe game park

A game park director says a rhino crushed a tour guide to death at a private nature reserve in Zimbabwe.

Kate Travers, director of the Imire Game Park, said on Wednesday that Tafadzwa Gosho died on Monday night after he was crushed by a rhino he was tending to.

Travers said Gosho was “an experienced rhino handler” and that such attacks were rare. The Imire Game Park is 40 kilometers (24.86 miles) from the capital, Harare.

On its website, the Imire Game Park is described as “an intensive black rhino breeding station,” which has successfully released 11 rhinos into the wild.

In August, an experienced guide was mauled to death by a lion, while leading a walking tour through Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.

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How ‘vampire’ spiders could help in the fight against malaria

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Evarcha culicivora (University of Canterbury)

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand has highlighted a pair of unlikely recruits in the battle against human malaria – two species of spider.

In particular, the research by Fiona Cross and Professor Robert Jackson citedEvarcha culicivora, an eight-legged vampire, which is drawn to female mosquitoes whose guts are filled with blood.

“Evarcha culicivora has a particular hankering for Anopheles mosquitoes – the very mosquitoes notorious for being malaria vectors,” said Jackson, in astatement. “This little spider is a predator that likes us and eats our enemies.”

The study also highlighted the role of the Paracyrba wanlessi spider, which feeds on mosquito larvae lurking in pools of water inside bamboo.

Both spiders are found in Kenya but live in very different habitats. Evarcha culicivora is typically found on the walls of buildings inhabited by people in East Africa while Paracyrba wanlessi is found in hollow stems of bamboo.

“These two spider species are highly specialised mosquito assassins,” said Cross, in the statement. “Like Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ or Arnold Schwarzenegger in the James Cameron movie ‘The Terminator’, these little specialist predators ignore any other insects that get in the way as they pursue their target victims – mosquitoes.”

Jackson added that, by attacking blood-filled mosquitoes, Evarcha culicivoraacquires a “blood perfume” that is attractive to members of the opposite sex.

The scientists’ study has been published in the Journal of Arachnology. In the Journal, the researchers explained that humans have nothing to fear from the spiders, noting that malaria is a mosquito-borne, not spider-borne disease. “It is exceedingly difficult to make a rational case for worrying about malarial spider bites,” they said.

 

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Iguana relative shows how lizards spread worldwide

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The newfound lizard species Gueragama sulamerica was found at a site in Brazil known for its pterosaurs fossils (Julius Csotonyi)

An 80-million-year-old lizard discovered in southern Brazil has provided a surprising clue about how these reptiles evolved, and where they once lived, according to a new study.

Until now, researchers had found acrodontans only in the Old World, including Africa and Asia. (This is a type of lizard is called an iguanian that has teeth fused to the top of its jaws, a group that includes chameleons and bearded dragons.) But the newfound fossil, a partial lower jaw of a new species of acrodontan, shows that they lived in the New World much earlier than thought.

The fossil suggests that acrodontans managed to distribute themselves worldwide before the ancient supercontinent Pangaea broke up about 200 million years ago, the researchers said. [Image Gallery: 25 Amazing Ancient Beasts]

“This fossil is an 80-million-year-old specimen of an acrodontan in the New World,” study co-author Michael Caldwell, a biological sciences professor at the University of Alberta in Canada, said in a statement. “It’s a missing link in the sense of the paleobiogeography and possibly the origins of the group, so it’s pretty good evidence to suggest that back in the lower part of the Cretaceous, the southern part of Pangaea was still a kind of single continental chunk.”

Paleontologists discovered the fossil in the rock outcrops of desert that dates to the late Cretaceous in the Brazilian municipality of Cruzeiro do Oeste. The researchers named the new species Gueragama sulamericana — guera meaning “ancient” in native Brazilian; “agama” in reference to agamid, a family of iguanian lizards; and “sulamericana” meaning “from South America” in Portuguese.

The jaw is missing a few teeth, but has room for 18 of them, and the teeth almost uniformly increase in size from the front to the back of the mouth, the researchers found.

During the Late Cretaceous, G. sulamericana lived in an arid desert environment, although evidence of ancient wetlands suggests that water was available seasonably, the researchers said. G. sulamericana also had company. Other fossil findings, including “hundreds of bones” of the pterosaur species Caiuajara dobruskii, show that larger animals lived there, too, the researchers wrote in the study.

G. sulamericana may have lived in burrows to avoid extreme daytime heat, just as some modern lizards do today, the researchers added.

Surprise finding

Among living lizards, iguanians comprise one of the most diverse groups, with more than 1,700 species. Previous research has found that acrodontan iguanians dominated the Old World, and nonacrodontan iguanians (such as iguanas) dominated the New World, particularly the American South, Caldwell said.

The oldest known acrodontans are from the early to middle Jurassic period in present-day India. However, now researchers know that acrodontans had spread elsewhere in the world by the late Cretaceous, the researchers said.

“This Gueragama sulamericana fossil indicates that the group is old, that it’s probably southern Pangaean in its origin,” Caldwell said. “After the [Pangaean] breakup, the acrodontans and chameleon group dominated in the Old World, and the iguanid side arose out of this acrodontan lineage that was left alone on South America.”

Eventually, nonacrodontans replaced acrodontans in the Americas. But nonacrodontans remain as natives in the Old World, the researchers said.

“This is an Old World lizard in the New World at a time when we weren’t expecting to find it,” Caldwell said. “It answers a few questions about iguanid lizards and their origin.”

The research was published online Aug. 26 in the journal Nature Communications.

 

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Wildlife officials say they are searching for 8-foot-long king cobra snake that escaped home

 

 

Wildlife officials in Florida say they’re searching for an 8-foot-long king cobra snake that escaped from a home in Orlando.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Greg Workman says the snake was reported missing Wednesday by its owner.

Officials say the non-native, venomous snake is green and yellow.

Workman says the snake’s owner has the proper permit to keep it as a pet and officials say the owner is an experienced snake handler.

Wildlife officials say they’ve been canvassing the area looking for the snake. Officials warn residents not to approach the reptile if they see it and instead urge them to contact the agency’s alert hotline.

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Elusive sea creature with hairy, slimy shell spotted after 31 years

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Allonautilus scrobiculatus off the coast of Ndrova Island in Papua New Guinea. (Peter Ward)

An elusive sea creature that boasts a vibrant golden shell covered in thick, slimy hair was recently spotted for the first time in 31 years, researchers say.

The Allonautilus scrobiculatus, a species of mollusk in the same family as the nautilus, was spotted off the coast of Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific in early August, the scientists said. This was the same region where the animal was spotted more than three decades ago, they added.

The Allonautilus‘ shell has been known to science since the 1700s. However, the mollusk’s “soft parts,” including its living tissue, weren’t observed until 1984, when Bruce Saunders, a professor of geology at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, spotted the creature, said Peter Ward, a professor of biology and earth and spaces sciences at the University of Washington. Ward saw the mollusk a few weeks after Saunders in 1984 and then again earlier this month. [Marine Marvels: Spectacular Photos of Sea Creatures]

The Allonautilus is so rare likely because it is completely reliant on scavenging to survive, Ward said. “It needs to find a big, dead fish, and the world just doesn’t have much room for big scavengers,” Ward added.

Misidentified

Scientists previously categorized the rare Allonautilus in the same genus as the nautilus. That classification was made due to the Allonautilus’ shell, which is called a “drift shell” because it drifts all over the ocean after the creature dies, eventually losing its trademark hair to erosion.

However, in an effort to not judge a mollusk by its shell, the researchers noted that, “Of all the various nautilus species, it was the one that really looked different,” Ward told Live Science.

The creature was so different that the scientists added the prefix “allo,” which is Greek for “other,” creating a completely separate genus.

The Allonautilus‘ shell looks different from the nautilus’s in both color and texture, Ward said. The Nautilus pompilius, for instance, is white with blood-colored stripes along its shell, and the Allonautilus scrobiculatus is a bright orange-yellow color. “It’s just an amazing color,” Ward said.

Alone among nautilus species, the Allonautilus has thick, slimy hair covering its shell, Ward added. “The first time we picked them up, we almost dropped it. It’s the most slippery thing,” he said.

The shell’s sliminess could be an anti-predatory adaptation, Ward said. For instance, fish who try to bite into the Allonautilus will find themselves chomping down on air when the slippery shell shoots out between their teeth.

“[It’s really a very cool way not to get eaten,” Ward said.

Although the nautilus is considered a “living fossil” because the species has been around since before dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the Allonautilus “is actually really new,” Ward said.

The Allonautiluss DNA revealed that it has been on Earth for only 1 million or 2 million years, Ward said, which means the creature could be a recent relative of the nautilus.

Habitat and population

The nautilus appears to live deeper in the ocean, in front of coral reefs, while theAllonautlius lives in shallower waters, up against rock walls, Ward said. TheAllonautlius is also a weaker swimmer compared to its counterpart, likely because the Allonautlius doesn’t need to swim much as it moves in and out of caves on the rock walls, Ward said.

The Allonautilus can withstand slightly warmer waters than can the nautilus, which also helps explain the Allonautilus’s fuzzy, gooey shell. “As you get shallower, you get more and more predators,” Ward said.

The narrow habitats of the nautilus and Allonautilus worry conservationists, who fear the animals’ ecosystems could be severely harmed by deep-sea–mining operations.

“They’re going to be pulling up unbelievable quantities of sediment,” which can smother food supplies and kill off the species, Ward said. “If these things are as rare as I think, any disruption in their food supply is going to kill them off.”

Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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Surfer narrowly escapes shark attack off California coast

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A California surfer narrowly escaped injury on Saturday after a great white shark bit off a chunk of her board off the state’s central coast.

Elinor Dempsey, 54, of Los Osos, California, said she was surfing at Morro Strand State Beach, just north of Morro Bay, around 10 a.m. when a shark swam under her board and chomped on it, leaving a 14-inch wide bite mark.

“First I thought it was a dolphin and I thought, ‘What the hell is he doing?’” Dempsey told the San Luis Obispo Tribune. “And he kind of landed on my board. Then I realized he had taken a chunk. And I was, like, that’s not what dolphins do.”

Dempsey pushed her board toward the shark and jumped off. Other surfers who saw the attack warned everyone else to get out of the water. Some of the surfers helped Dempsey reunite with her board, and she got back on it to get to the shore.

“I saw her being tumbled off her board and the shark underneath the board,” surfer Jamie Bettencourt, who witnessed the incident, told the newspaper. “So it was kind of a tangle of her and the board and the leash and the shark — dark gray fin and tail. And she was yelling and the shark went under and swam away.”

Officials closed the beach for 72 hours and posted warning signs at nearby beaches, said beach’s supervising ranger, Lisa Remington.

Experts will analyze the bite mark and teeth pattern to determine the size of the shark. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist who happened to be in the area and examined the board estimated that the shark was a 6-foot-long adult male.

Ralph Collier, a shark researcher at the Los Angeles-based Shark Research Committee who will examine the board, said the bite “might only be 30 percent of the actual jaw.

“You could be looking at an animal 13 to maybe 15 feet,” he told the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

Collier added that great white sharks have been protected in California for 15 years, which has led to a population boost – and therefore more encounters with humans. On Aug. 18, a shark attacked a fisherman’s kayak near Gaviota State Beach.

Dempsey told the newspaper that she was shaken by her close encounter with the shark and might take a break from surfing.

“I’ll be staying close in from now on,” she said. “I’ll probably be on my boogie board for a little while.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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