Pangolins ‘Scaly Anteaters’ – The Worlds Most Trafficked Mammal

Pangolins ‘Scaly Anteaters’ – The Worlds Most Trafficked Mammal

Pangolins are rare, secretive, slow-moving, solitary and nocturnal scaly mammals - the world's only! They have a tapered body shape, varying in size from 30-100cm, with males being larger than their female counterparts. Covering their body and tail are sharp, overlapping keratin scales - the same material as human fingernails. Although pangolins share similar characteristics with Xenarthrans (anteaters, armadillos and sloths), they are actually more closely related to to the order Carnivora (cats, dogs, bears, etc.) [1]. They are also insectivorous and it has been estimated that an adult pangolin can consume an excess of 70 million insects per year! ‘Pangolin’ originates from the Malay word ‘penggulung’ which means ‘rolling ball’. As a defensive posture, pangolins curl up into a tight sphere, projecting their sharp-edged scales. There are eight extant species. Four species are native to Asia and include the Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), Malayan Pangolin (Manis javanica) and Palawan Pangolin (Manis culionensis). The other four species are native...
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The Devil’s Fingers Fungus

The Devil’s Fingers Fungus

A rare and spooky looking fungus called the Devil’s Fingers (Clathrus archeri) was discovered on Halloween at a Nature reserve near Bristol. The Devil’s Fingers is a saprotrophic fungus (soil-forming mushroom) native to Australia and New Zealand [1]. This organism lives off decaying matter and is part of a family of death reeking funguses known as stinkhorns. The Devil’s Fingers was first recorded in Europe in France, 1914. Presumably, this species was transported to Europe with Australian wool or, alternatively, with military supplies at the beginning of the First World War [2]. Its first recorded presence in Britain was in Cornwall, 1946. This was a surprising identification by an Avon Wildlife Trust conservation team on October 31st as there have only been two known records in this region, both from 1999. Also known as Octopus Fungus, this fungal species sprouts red tentacle-like arms from a partly buried white gelatinous ‘egg’. These arms stand vertically and are initially joined at the tip before unfolding backwards into a star shape. 5-7 (sometimes up...
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A Creepy Crawly Crisis?

A Creepy Crawly Crisis?

A new in German study published in the journal, Nature, confirms that some insect species are being pushed to the brink of extinction! Invertebrates make up 97% of the Earth’s animal species [1] and range in size from microscopic mites and almost invisible flies to giant squids with football sized eyes. Invertebrates are the most diverse group of animals and so far around 1.25 million invertebrate species have been described, most of which are insects. Indeed, every day new invertebrate species are being described by morphological and molecular data [4]. The success of insects comes from their ability to reproduce quickly and their adaptability to environmental change. Despite this, more than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered worldwide – with an extinction rate eight time faster than that of birds, mammals and reptiles! New research has found insect and spider populations to be declining rapidly in forests and grasslands across Germany, scientists describe these findings as ‘alarming’ [3]. This...
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Dogs help to keep you happy and healthy!

Dogs help to keep you happy and healthy!

Dogs have long been associated with a range of health benefits such as: Improving your heart health - dog owners have been found to reduce your risk of heart disease. Improving your physical health - dog owners are recommended to do 2 and a half hours of moderate exercise. Helping you lose weight as a result of moderate exercise. Decreasing your stress levels - dogs have been found to help decrease stress hormones in the human body. Improve your social life as you meet more people through your dog. Decrease depression - dogs provide great companionships which helps to decrease loneliness and depression. A new study has recently added increased lifespan to that list! Researchers at Uppsala University, Sweden [1]carried out a 12 year longitudinal study to investigate dog ownership and lifespan. The study analysed 3.2 million Swedes aged 40-80 years old who had no history of illness. In Sweden, all dogs must be registered with the Swedish Board of Agriculture and, consequently,...
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Bats and echolocation – how does it work?

Bats and echolocation – how does it work?

Echolocation is a fascinating process whereby animals are able to emit calls into their surrounding environment and listen for the returning echoes from objects around them. This process not only allows animals to navigate successfully in their environment but also allows successful the detection of prey.Bats are one of a few mammals who use echolocation. They usually reside in environments of total darkness so it is not surprising that these animals have adapted to successful avoid obstacles in their flight path. As bats are nocturnal (they are usually active at night), their echolocation gives them a great advantage in foraging for food as there are more prey available (many inspects are also nocturnal), there is less competition for food and there is also fewer predators who prey on bats.To use echolocation, bats have adapted to the processing of large amounts of information and rapid movement in response to this information. Researchers have been analysing the brains of bats to see...
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A new DNA tool may help reduce illegal wildlife crime

A new DNA tool may help reduce illegal wildlife crime

There are approximately 41 000 species on the Red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)(http://www.iucnredlist.org/), the most comprehensive inventory of the conservation status of plant and animal species. Of these species, 16 306 are classified as endangered species at risk of extinction.Although extinction is a natural evolutionary process, human activity such as hunting and wildlife crime has been a significant contributor to the number of species at risk of extinction and the loss of biodiversity.Wildlife crime refers to the illegal selling and trade of animals and plant parts such as tissue, bone and meat for the purpose of food, pets, leather, medicine and regalia. Increased levels of wildlife trade has caused a negative effect on wildlife populations and is a significant threat to the survival of many species.However, engineers have recently developed a new tool, a DNA barcoder, which can rapidly identify species using a minute sample of tissue.The DNA barcoder uses a DNA sequence to...
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