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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Hilarious video shows grizzly bear rolling down a hill at Denali National Park

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The video shows a close up of the bear as he stumbles then realizes that rolling down the hill was way more fun. (NPS)

Chances of spotting bears in Alaska’s Denali National Park are not impossible, but pretty rare.  So, what’s the chance you’d see a bear barrel rolling down a hill?

A fun-loving grizzly playing up to the camera was captured on video enjoying himself in Denali National Park.

In the background, tourists can be heard laughing amid the clicks of digital cameras.

The video begins with a close up of the bear as he stumbles then realizes that rolling down the hill was way more fun.

The group of stunned eyewitnesses can be heard laughing, with one saying: “I think he’s drunk.”

“This is hilarious,” another adds.

After the bear realizes he has an audience, he sits up slightly dizzy and starts rolling once more. At one point the camera shot widens to see the tourists at a safe distance from the frolicking bear.

The playful footage has become an Internet hit and has been seen online more 800,000 times since it was uploaded on YouTube Sunday.

There are around 300 to 350 grizzly bears in Denali.  Park rangers stress that visitors should use the designated animal viewing stations. The best places to spot a bear is on the north side of the Alaska Range on open tundra or along river beds from June 11-Sept 8.

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Zoo discovers 150 alligators, crocodiles living in Toronto home

 

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Tank holds rescued reptiles from Toronto home. (Indian River Reptile Zoo)

The founder of a Canadian zoo had a hard time believing owners of a Toronto home were living with 150 large alligators and crocodiles until he discovered it wasn’t just another reptilian urban myth.

Bry Loyst of the Indian River Reptile Zoo in Ontario says the homeowners approached him when the reptiles began to outgrow the enclosures where they were kept, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported.

“They told me the number and I was like, ‘Yeah, right,’” Loyst said. “So I went down and had a look, and sure enough it was true.”

It recently took Loyst and 20 volunteers four days to transport the adult-sized creatures to the zoo in construction tubes. The zoo doubles as an animal sanctuary.

The reptiles ranged in size from 4 feet to 11 feet. Their habitat home violated Toronto ordinances prohibiting ownership of any large reptiles in a city residence.

“They did the right thing by donating them to a better place,” Loyst said. “We don’t question or yell or scream at them or say, ‘You’re stupid for buying an alligator, let alone 150 of them.’”

The crocs and gators are getting a new home in a crocodile building that’s being built and that will open to the public next summer.

Loyst said the highest priority now is ensuring the alligators and crocodiles stay healthy and don’t become too agitated about the recent move or changes to their surroundings.

 

 

Originally available here

National Zoo panda gives birth to twins

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The cubs arrived about five hours apart Saturday. Panda mom Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) gave birth to the first cub at 5:35 p.m. and a second at 10:07 p.m., the zoo said. If the cubs survive, they would be the 17-year-old panda’s third and fourth surviving offspring.

Mei Xiang’s first cub, Tai Shan, was born in 2005 and returned to China in 2010. Her second cub, Bao Bao, turns 2-years-old Sunday and still lives at the zoo.

The new additions mean that for the first time the zoo has five pandas in residence. In addition to Bao Bao, Mei Xiang and the new cubs, the zoo is also home to an adult male panda named Tian Tian. In the past, the zoo has never had more than three pandas at one time.

Zoo director Dennis Kelly said at an evening news conference following the first cub’s birth that he was “so happy, so pleased, so excited.” The zoo’s chief veterinarian Don Neiffer was also asked about the possibility of a second cub. In 2013, when Mei Xiang gave birth to Bao Bao, she also gave birth to a stillborn cub. Asked about the possibility of a second cub this time around, Neiffer said that during an ultrasound earlier this week he did see “two areas that made me excited.”

The zoo says after the second cub was born, keepers removed one of the cubs and moved it to an incubator. The zoo says it will alternately swap the cubs, allowing one time to nurse and spend time with Mei Xiang while the other is bottle fed. The zoo said it could not confirm whether the cub that was removed was the first or second born. It says pandas give birth to twins about 50 percent of the time, but this is only the third time a giant panda living in the United States has given birth to twins.

Keepers will be watching the newest cubs closely. Pink, hairless and blind, newborn cubs weigh three to five ounces and are about the size of a stick of butter.

Kelly, the zoo director, called it a “very fragile time.”

“We’re very excited, but we’re very cautious,” he said before the second cub’s birth, noting that in 2012, Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub that died after just six days. Its lungs hadn’t fully developed.

Still, Neiffer, the zoo’s chief veterinarian, said the first cub had shown “all signs of being healthy and happy.” Keepers have heard it squeal and grunt. The zoo said on Twitter that the second cub also appeared healthy.

Even if the new cubs are physically fit, panda fans shouldn’t expect to see them in person for a while. After Bao Bao was born in 2013, it was about 5 months before she made her public debut. Fans who want to see the newest pandas will have to try to catch a glimpse of them on the zoo’s online panda cameras. Though the zoo’s camera-viewing site can host about 850 viewers at a time, spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson says the site has been overloaded with people trying to watch. Fans can also download a zoo app to view the cameras.

The public also won’t learn immediately whether the cubs are male or female or whether the zoo’s male panda, Tian Tian, is the cub’s father. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated with sperm from Tian Tian and a panda named Hui Hui from Wolong, China, who was determined to be one of the best genetic matches.

The zoo will use saliva from the cubs’ mouths to determine gender and paternity, said Laurie Thompson, a giant panda biologist at the zoo.

The National Zoo is one of only four zoos nationwide to have pandas, which are on loan from China, and its cubs are the only ones born in the United States this year. Pandas also have a history at the Washington zoo that makes them closely watched.

The zoo’s first pair of pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, were a gift from China following President Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 visit to the country. The pair had five cubs while living at the zoo but none survived.

The zoo’s current pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the parents of both Bao Bao and Tai Shan, arrived in 2000. The pandas belong to China as do any cubs they have.

The cubs’ birth isn’t the only event being celebrated at the zoo this weekend. For Bao Bao’s second birthday Sunday she will get a cake made out of ice with the number “2” on top. She will stay at the zoo until she is four years old when she will return to China.

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‘Sea monster’ figurehead hauled from the Baltic Sea

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Divers recently retrieved the monster-headed figurehead of a Danish warship known as the “Gribshunden,” or “grip dog,” that sank beneath the waves in 1495 off the coast of Sweden. The ship may be the only preserved warship from the time period (Foto Ingemar Lundgren, Ocean Discovery)

A sea monster that lay hidden beneath the waves for five centuries has finally been recovered from the Baltic Sea.

The “monster” — a ship figurehead that may show a scowling dog or perhaps a fantastical sea dragon with a helpless human clutched in its jaws — was fixed atop the Gribshunden, a vessel that last sailed in 1495.

“I think it’s some kind of fantasy animal — a dragon with lion ears and crocodilelike mouth,” Johan Ronnby, a professor of marine archaeology at Södertörn University in Sweden, who recovered the figurehead, told BBC News.”And there seems to be something in his mouth. There seems to be a person in its mouth, and he’s eating somebody.” [See Images of the “Grip Dog” Ship’s Monstrous Figurehead]

The sunken ship could provide an unprecedented look at how warships were made at that pivotal time in world history.

“What is unique is that there are no other warships from this time in the world,” said Marcus Sandekjer, the director of the Blekinge Museum in Karlskrona, Sweden, where the figurehead is being kept.

The Gribshunden, or the “Grip Dog,” could even provide clues to the construction of the ships that Christopher Columbus used to sail to North America, he added.

The team isn’t quite sure what a “grip dog” is. In Danish, “Gribshunden” is a combination of the words for a griffon — a mythical Greek creature that is part lion, part bird — and a dog or hound.

“It’s an odd name also in Danish,” Sandekjer told Live Science

Either way, the Gribshunden was the flagship of King Hans of Denmark’s naval fleet. In 1495, the king was sailing on the Gribshunden to the southeastern Swedish city of Kalmar, where he planned to negotiate a political union between the Scandinavian countries. But partway through the journey, while King Hans was off the boat visiting the nearby port of Ronneby in what is now Sweden (then Denmark), the Gribshunden caught fire and sank. An eyewitness account from a Danish nobleman who escaped the wreckage describes a terrible conflagration in which “many knights and poor men burned to death,” Sandekjer said.

Divers first discovered the wreck in the 1970s, but scientists identified the ship in 2013, only after two excavations in 2007 and 2011 to analyze the wood. Earlier this week (Aug. 11), divers managed to heave the monstrous figurehead from the frigid waters. It is now sitting in a bath of water at the Blekinge Museum. Researchers hope to restore it and then put it on display at the museum.

The forbidding face of the Gribshunden likely would have struck fear in enemies who encountered it: From nose to end, it spans 11.1 feet. It would have been the terrifying face of an imposing warship that was up to 100 feet long and held 150 seamen.

Such ornate figureheads served several purposes: They helped people in preliterate societies identify a ship at a glance. And in Viking culture, dragons and other monsters carved into figureheads were used to ward off evil spirits that were thought to attack on a hazardous ocean voyage, according to the British Museum. In this case, it’s also possible that the human head wedged in the monster’s jaws could represent the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale (or sea monster), Sandekjer said.

The building of the Gribshunden was an international project. The timbers hailed from northern France and were felled sometime between 1482 and 1483, analysis of the tree rings suggests. The ship itself was likely constructed in Flanders or in the Netherlands, he said.

The Gribshunden is unusual in that it is still in near-pristine condition. Most ocean shipwrecks have been eaten away by sea worms or degraded by the salty water, but the Baltic has less saline waters and no shipworms to ravage the boats, Sandekjer said.

 

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

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Marine survives bear attack with help from his dog

As a combat veteran, 66-year-old Larry Yepez knows when it’s time to fight. Even if his opponent is a vicious 200-pound black bear.

Yepez, who served in the Marines and was awarded a Purple Heart during his time in Vietnam, found himself in the clutches of the creature outside his California home around 4 a.m. Thursday.

“I could feel the blood running out of me,” Yepez told the Washington Post. “That’s when I decided, ‘I’ve got to fight, man.’”

“If it had been a little kid who got attacked, he’d be dead right now”

– Larry Yepez

Yepez got an assist from an unlikely comrade in arms – his 10-pound Yorkshire Terrier, who, though only a fraction the size of the bear, attacked the beast and distracted it long enough for Larry to break away.

“The bear turned around and swatted at the dog,” Yepez said. “And that gave us just enough time to get back in and slam the door.”

The bear tried charging the door but eventually left Yepez and his Terrier, Benji, alone in their house near Yosemite National Park.

“I’m not a bear hater,” Yepez said. “I believe we live in the bears’ habitat up here in the mountains. But like the game warden says, if it had been a little kid who got attacked, he’d be dead right now.”

Bloodied, Yepez was able to drive himself to a hospital where he was treated for multiple puncture wounds and lacerations to his head, legs, arms, abdomen, hands and feet, according to a statement from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Officers from the department are investigating the incident, but have not yet found the bear. The bear “will be humanely destroyed when found,” according to the statement.

“I realize I’m a lucky human being,” Yepez said.

 

Originally available here

Drones spook bears

 

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A drone flies toward the location of a collared bear in northwestern Minnesota. Researchers found bears’ heart rates spiked when these unmanned aerial vehicles flew overhead. (Jessie Tanner (@jessiectanner))

Bears apparently find UFOs unbearable — airborne robots and other unidentified flying objects can make bear hearts beat four times faster, researchers say.

This finding suggests that greater caution might be necessary with drones flying above wildlife, scientists added.

Airborne drones — also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — are becoming increasingly popular, with Amazon suggesting they could deliver goods to online shoppers and tech giants such as Google potentially investigating their use to bring wireless Internet connectivity across the planet. Drones are growing more and more valuable to scientists as well, helping them research wildlife, including endangered species, in their natural settings over difficult terrain and from long distances. [8 Totally Cool Uses for Drones]

Animals often appeared to take encounters with these UFOs in stride. For instance, American black bears typically barely seem startled when a UAV comes near, the researchers said.

However, recently scientists in the Antarctic found that robots could stress penguins out, even if the birds gave no outward sign of their distress.

Now, another group of researchers finds that despite the calm demeanor bears may display in the presence of airborne robots, drones make bear heart rates soar, a major sign of stress.

“The magnitude of some of the heart-rate spikes were shocking,”study lead author Mark Ditmer, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Minnesota at St. Paul, told Live Science. “To see heart rates go from 41 beats per minute prior to the unmanned aerial vehicles’ flight to over 160 beats per minute during the flight was far beyond what we expected.”

Ditmer and his colleagues noticed the heart-rate spike while studying bear hibernation. “Bears are able to hibernate for many months with only a little loss of muscle strength despite no food or water,” Ditmer said. “Understanding how they are able to do this may help long-term patient care — human muscle atrophies after being bedridden for just a few weeks — or even space exploration.”

The researchers implanted heart monitors in free-roaming American black bears to better understand how their hearts work. The devices were originally developed by the medical device firm Medtronic in Elizabeth, New Jersey, for use in people with abnormal hearts. To see the effects of humans — or drones — on the bears, the researchers also looked at data from GPS collars on the animals and investigated how bear heart rates changed when near human locales or flying robots.

The collars sent the scientists an email with each bear’s location every 2 minutes while the implanted heart monitors, or “biologgers,” captured every heartbeat. The researchers then programmed a UAV to fly to the bear’s most recent location.

“It was always constantly windy in that area — northwestern Minnesota — so the UAV often was really fighting the wind, which required us to keep the flights rather short, about 5 minutes,” Ditmer said.

The scientists admit their conclusions are based on limited data — “only four bears and 18 UAV flights,” Ditmer said. But they felt they could not wait another year to gather more conclusive data before reporting their discovery “due to the meteoric rise in UAV use, especially for research and conservation,” he said. “It should serve as a cautionary tale, and at least get people who use them thinking about the potential impacts they may have that might not be apparent.”

The scientists did note that bear heart rates recovered very quickly after UAV flights.

“By no means are we advocating against the use of UAVs, especially for research or conservation,” Ditmer said. “However, until we know which species are tolerant of UAVs, at what distance animals react to the presence of UAVs, and whether or not individuals can habituate to their presence, we need to exercise caution when using them around wildlife, especially at close distances.”

The researchers plan to experiment with bears living in captivity with implanted heart monitors to see if they can get used to overhead UAV flight, “and if so, at what time scale that habituation takes place,” Ditmer said.

The scientists detailed their findings online Aug. 13 in the journal Current Biology.

 

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Great white shark mauls seal just yards from swimmers on Cape Cod beach

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A great white shark is seen in this AP photo. (Associated Press)

Two Cape Cod beaches were forced to close Wednesday after witnesses saw an “explosion of water and blood” when a great white shark mauled a seal about 30 yards off the beach.

Beachgoers at Nauset Light in Eastham, Mass., saw the shark attack the seal at around 4 p.m. The seal was then thrown out of the water onto the beach, where it died, witnesses said.

“It was almost like “Jaws,” one witness told WCVB.com.

A one-hour swimming suspension was issued for Nauset Light and Coast Guard beach, due to their proximity to each other. Paige Long, a dispatcher with the Cape Cod National Seashore, says that’s standard protocol.

“We didn’t see the fin of the shark, but we saw the seals booking it the opposite way”

– witness

“All of a sudden the lifeguards were like (yelling) get out of the water get out of the water,” Shelby Carney, who was at the beach, told the station. “We didn’t see the fin of the shark, but we saw the seals booking it the opposite way. All the other seals were gone.”

Seals are a primary food source for great white sharks, which have been spotted in the Cape in increasing numbers over the years. The station reported that officials say there were 68 great white sharks off the coast last summer.

The Boston Globe reported earlier this month that 16 sharks were identified off the shoreline during a four-and-a-half hour search, which one researcher called, “a very bus day for us.”

“This was the biggest day of the season in terms of the number of sharks that were identified,” Cynthia Wigren, president of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, told the paper. “We even had two sharks that swam by the boat at the same time, one from one direction and one from the other.”

 

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Originally available here

This May Be the Biggest Great White Ever Filmed

DEEP BLUE IS BELIEVED TO BE 20 FEET LONG, 5K POUNDS

Published on www.newser.com

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2015 9:41 AM CDT

(NEWSER) – Don’t be surprised if this beast appears in your nightmares tonight. Shark expert Mauricio Hoyos Padilla has released footage of a massive, 20-foot-long great white shark that might just be the largest ever caught on camera, reports ABC News. Though Padilla says he first found the shark near Guadalupe Island off the Mexican coast in 2013, it isn’t clear when this video was recorded; an earlier video of the shark appearing to high-five a diver was released in June. Nicknamed “Deep Blue,” the female shark is estimated to weigh 5,000 pounds and was believed to have been pregnant when the footage was taken. It shows Deep Blue approaching a cage of divers before swimming toward a camera—seemingly with a smile on her face.

“A shark of that size is at least 50 years old and that tells me protection and conservation efforts are really working,” says Padilla of nonprofit marine research organization Pelagios-Kakunjá. “Deep Blue has been spared from longlines and the inherent dangers of being in the wild, and somehow she has found her way in the vast ocean.” Though great white sharks often visit Guadalupe Island to feed on seals in November and December, Padilla says they head to shallow waters to give birth. “These areas are close to shore and very vulnerable to several human threats,” he says, per the Washington Post. The video of Deep Blue, who is tagged, has tallied 2.7 million views since it was posted on Facebook on Monday. (This heartwarming video shows a great white rescue.)

This footage shows Deep Blue, perhaps the largest great white shark ever filmed.
(Facebook)