Representatives from Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and UN bodies meeting in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, have agreed an international conservation pact for the migratory saiga antelope. Saigas numbered around 1 million animals in the early 1990s, but declined to between 60,000 and 70,000 in 2006, largely due to a sharp rise in poaching after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. The horns of males are in high demand for traditional Asian medicine, especially in China and parts of south-east Asia | source

Representatives from Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and UN bodies meeting in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, have agreed an international conservation pact for the migratory saiga antelope. Saigas numbered around 1 million animals in the early 1990s, but declined to between 60,000 and 70,000 in 2006, largely due to a sharp rise in poaching after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. The horns of males are in high demand for traditional Asian medicine, especially in China and parts of south-east Asia | source

Two unclassifiable species found off Australian coast

Two species of the strange organisms were found that could not be placed in any existing phyla, the large families of living things that include vertebrates and flowering plants.

The animals, known as Dendrogramma, consist mainly of an outer skin and inner stomach separated by a dense layer of jelly-like material.

Scientists suspect they are related to ancient extinct life forms that lived 600 million years ago and may have represented an early attempt at multicellular life.

They were discovered in a collection of organisms dredged up in 1986 from depths of 400 and 1,000 metres on the south-east Australian continental slope.

Researchers have only now isolated the two species of Dendrogramma described in the latest edition of the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.

The species have been named Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides.

Danish lead scientist Dr Jorgen Oleson, from the University of Copenhagen, said: “New mushroom-shaped animals from the deep sea have been discovered which could not be placed in any recognised group of animals.

“Two species are recognised and current evidence suggests that they represent an early branch on the tree of life, with similarities to the 600 million-year-old extinct Ediacara fauna.”

A new attempt may now be made to find other specimens of the creatures.

| images: PLOS ONE

via The Guardian

The rare earless monitor lizard (Lanthanotus borneensis) has remained obscure since the last research was conducted on it in the 1960s. It lives underground and has adaptations such as a lack of external openings for its ears and small eyes and limbs. The animals are officially protected in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia,the countries that make up Borneo. But in the last 2 years, private collectors have begun selling specimens from the wild. TRAFFIC,a wildlife trade monitoring network that is a partnership of conservation organizations,found the animals being offered for sale online in Europe. The organization says many of the lizards are being collected from the wild and smuggled out of Borneo and that the trade should be made illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. All other species of monitor lizard are protected by the convention.
via Sciencemag.org

The rare earless monitor lizard (Lanthanotus borneensis) has remained obscure since the last research was conducted on it in the 1960s. It lives underground and has adaptations such as a lack of external openings for its ears and small eyes and limbs. The animals are officially protected in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia,the countries that make up Borneo. But in the last 2 years, private collectors have begun selling specimens from the wild. TRAFFIC,a wildlife trade monitoring network that is a partnership of conservation organizations,found the animals being offered for sale online in Europe. The organization says many of the lizards are being collected from the wild and smuggled out of Borneo and that the trade should be made illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. All other species of monitor lizard are protected by the convention.

via Sciencemag.org

A mite attack, preserved for the ages
A parasite that bit into an ant’s head and rode its host to a sticky doom millions of years ago has been preserved in a dime-sized piece of amber. The fossil, reported online today in Biology Letters, is the first of a mite from a group whose species commonly plague today’s ants, bees, and wasps. Purchased from a collector who unearthed the gem somewhere in the Baltics, the tiny chunk of amber is probably somewhere between 44 million and 49 million years old. The mite (the large, tick-shaped blob at upper right, above the ant’s head) is one of only 14 known fossils from a group known as Laelapidae, whose modern relatives often live among fallen leaves on the forest floor and parasitize ants. (They’re rare in the fossil record because they’re typically preserved only when they hitch a ride into the trees on a host unfortunate enough to become trapped in oozing resin.) Further study of this gruesome specimen—and others possibly sitting undiscovered in museum drawers worldwide, the researchers say—might provide more information about the origin and evolution of such parasitic mites. That’s of interest because one of this group’s closest modern relatives is the varroa mite, a devastating parasite that afflicts honey bees worldwide.
via science.org
| image: J. Dunlop/Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

A mite attack, preserved for the ages

A parasite that bit into an ant’s head and rode its host to a sticky doom millions of years ago has been preserved in a dime-sized piece of amber. The fossil, reported online today in Biology Letters, is the first of a mite from a group whose species commonly plague today’s ants, bees, and wasps. Purchased from a collector who unearthed the gem somewhere in the Baltics, the tiny chunk of amber is probably somewhere between 44 million and 49 million years old. The mite (the large, tick-shaped blob at upper right, above the ant’s head) is one of only 14 known fossils from a group known as Laelapidae, whose modern relatives often live among fallen leaves on the forest floor and parasitize ants. (They’re rare in the fossil record because they’re typically preserved only when they hitch a ride into the trees on a host unfortunate enough to become trapped in oozing resin.) Further study of this gruesome specimen—and others possibly sitting undiscovered in museum drawers worldwide, the researchers say—might provide more information about the origin and evolution of such parasitic mites. That’s of interest because one of this group’s closest modern relatives is the varroa mite, a devastating parasite that afflicts honey bees worldwide.

via science.org

| image: J. Dunlop/Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Insect molting is ‘like having your lungs ripped out’
When an insect gets too big for its exoskeleton, it sheds it. This process—known as molting—might sound matter-of-fact, but it’s not. Insects stop eating, many lie still, and they become more vulnerable to predators. Now, a study of mayfly larvae has revealed another difficulty: While molting, insects can’t breathe. Alarmingly, the respiratory impairment grows more severe with higher temperatures, suggesting that climate change and other stressors could make molting an even greater challenge.
Aquatic insects breathe with gills. After oxygen diffuses from the water, it passes into a branching network of ever-smaller airways, called tracheoles, which deliver the gas directly to clumps of cells. Larvae can also absorb some oxygen through their soft exoskeleton.
Molting takes their breath away. When larvae slip out of their exoskeleton, the lining of the tracheoles comes with it. “It’s like having your lungs ripped out,” says Joseph Bernardo, an ecologist at Texas A&M University, College Station, who was not involved in the research. Although it was fairly common knowledge among entomologists that the tracheal linings come out—and likely block the trachea in the process—the impact on respiration hadn’t been measured.
Full article

Insect molting is ‘like having your lungs ripped out’

When an insect gets too big for its exoskeleton, it sheds it. This process—known as molting—might sound matter-of-fact, but it’s not. Insects stop eating, many lie still, and they become more vulnerable to predators. Now, a study of mayfly larvae has revealed another difficulty: While molting, insects can’t breathe. Alarmingly, the respiratory impairment grows more severe with higher temperatures, suggesting that climate change and other stressors could make molting an even greater challenge.

Aquatic insects breathe with gills. After oxygen diffuses from the water, it passes into a branching network of ever-smaller airways, called tracheoles, which deliver the gas directly to clumps of cells. Larvae can also absorb some oxygen through their soft exoskeleton.

Molting takes their breath away. When larvae slip out of their exoskeleton, the lining of the tracheoles comes with it. “It’s like having your lungs ripped out,” says Joseph Bernardo, an ecologist at Texas A&M University, College Station, who was not involved in the research. Although it was fairly common knowledge among entomologists that the tracheal linings come out—and likely block the trachea in the process—the impact on respiration hadn’t been measured.

Full article