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Archive for January, 2008

Brazil displays “missing link” crocodile fossil



‘Missing link’ croc displayed in Brazil


BY STAN LEHMAN, Associated Press Writer 

The 80 million-year-old remains of a land-bound reptile described as a possible link between prehistoric and modern-day crocodiles were displayed to the public for the first time on Thursday.

The fossil of the 5 1/2-foot-long predator was found in 2004 near the small city of Monte Alto, 215 miles northwest of Sao Paulo, paleontologist Felipe Mesquita de Vasconcellos said by telephone, after presenting the find to a news conference at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

The long-limbed and extremely agile animal, dubbed “Montealtosuchus arrudacamposi,” roamed arid and hot terrain that is now Brazilian countryside, Vasconcelos said.

“As a missing link to prehistoric crocodiles, it offers us an excellent opportunity to study the evolutionary transition of these animals,” Vasconcellos said. “It has a mix of morphological traits common in prehistoric crocodiles and in the ones that exist today.”

Details of the discovery were published in October 2007 in Zootaxa, a peer-reviewed scientific journal based in New Zealand.

Michael J. Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, said the discovery could be of major importance.

“We have very little evidence of terrestrial crocodiles, so the example from Brazil could form a missing link of a whole evolutionary diversity,” said Ryan, who was not involved in the research.

Two years ago, paleontologists from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, announced the discovery of a fossil of a prehistoric crocodile which they called Uberabasuchus Terrificus, or the “terrible crocodile of Uberaba.”

Uberabasuchus lived 70 million years ago and was smaller than today’s crocodiles — only about 10 feet long and weighing about 650 pounds.


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Three foot long Idaho spitting earthworm seeks protection



The Palouse area in Idaho is home to mammoth fossils dating back 50,000 years or so.  Idaho is frequently in the news with unique stories and this is another which hints at how little we know about the “earth beneath our feet…”

Rare 3-Foot Spitting Earthworm Found in Legal Battle


Charles Q. Choi
Special to LiveScience
Tue Jan 29, 8:25 AM ET

A rare 3-foot-long spitting earthworm that smells like lilies is at the heart of a legal battle between conservationists and the U.S. government.

When taxonomist Frank Smith discovered the giant Palouse earthworm (Driloleirus americanus) in 1897 by, he described it as “very abundant.” Nowadays, however, sightings of the worm are rare.

The only recent confirmed worm sighting was made in 2005 by a University of Idaho researcher. Before that, the giant worm had not been spotted in 17 years, since 1988.

It reportedly grows up to three feet long and has a peculiar flowery smell (Driloleirus is Latin for “lily-like worm”). The cream-colored or pinkish-white worm lived in permanent burrows as deep as 15 feet and spat at attackers.

“This worm is the stuff that legends and fairy tales are made of. A pity we’re losing it,” said Steve Paulson, a board member of Friends of the Clearwater, a conservation group based in Moscow, Idaho.

Unlike the European earthworms now common across the United States, the giant Palouse earthworm is native to the Americas. Specifically, the giant worm dwelled in the prairies of the Palouse, the area of the northwest United States. The Palouse has been dramatically altered by farming practices, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noted.

“The giant Palouse earthworm is extremely rare and faces substantial risk of extinction,” said Noah Greenwald, a conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group based in Tucson, Ariz.

Conservation groups had petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2006 to protect the worm as an endangered species. The World Conservation Union currently ranks the worm as “vulnerable” — one step away from “endangered” in terms of conservation status.

Last October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided the worm did not warrant protection as an endangered species. Still, “we share the petitioners’ concern for the species,” said Susan Martin, supervisor for the Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office in Spokane, Washington, in a press release.

“They do seem to be rare, but rarity doesn’t mean endangered,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Tom Buckley told LiveScience. “They may be in trouble, but we’d need more information to know, and based on the information we received, there’s not enough scientific data out there to make a determination.”

Greenwald countered, saying, “Rarity is certainly a factor in species endangerment. It’s possible to have a species that is rare but not endangered, that only occurred naturally in one or two places, with those places being entirely secure, but that is not at all the case here with the giant Palouse earthworm. Its presumed habitat is almost gone — something like 3 percent of the native Palouse prairies is left.”

Now conservation groups have filed suit to overturn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. “The earthworm needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act to survive,” Paulson said.

The conservation groups note that in seeking protection for the worm, they are also hoping to defend the prairies of the Palouse.

“In order to protect endangered species, you have to protect the places in which they live,” Greenwald told LiveScience. “In seeking to protect the earthworm, we want to protect those remnants of the Palouse prairie that still exist.”

Why Does Rain Bring a Flood of Earthworms? Image Gallery: Backyard Bugs Secret Insect Weapons Original Story: Rare 3-Foot Spitting Earthworm Found in Legal BattleVisit for more daily news, views and scientific inquiry with an original, provocative point of view. LiveScience reports amazing, real world breakthroughs, made simple and stimulating for people on the go. Check out our collection of Science, Animal and Dinosaur Pictures, Science Videos, Hot Topics, Trivia, Top 10s, Voting, Amazing Images, Reader Favorites, and more. Get cool gadgets at the new LiveScience Store, sign up for our free daily email newsletter and check out our RSS feeds today!

Posted by Frank, January 29, 2007


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Chameleons may change color to communicate


Check out this article in National Geographic News about Chameleons and color:

Chameleons Evolved Color Changing to Communicate

Posted by Frank, January 29, 2007

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Sea turtle sets migration record



Turtle Migrates 12,774 Miles


Andrea Thompson
LiveScience Staff Writer
Tue Jan 29, 6:05 PM ET

A leatherback turtle was tracked by satellite traveling 12,774 miles (20,558 kilometers) from Indonesia to Oregon, one of the longest recorded migrations of any vertebrate animal, scientists announced in a new report on sea turtle conservation.

Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) are the largest of all living turtles and are widely distributed throughout the world’s oceans. They have been seen in the waters off Argentina, Tasmania, Alaska and Nova Scotia.

Adult leatherbacks periodically migrate from their temperate foraging grounds to breeding grounds in the tropics.

Scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) tracked one female nester, who was tagged on Jamursba-Medi beach in Papua, Indonesia, on her journey back to her foraging grounds off the coast of Oregon. She was tracked for 647 days covering a distance about equal to two round trips between New York and Los Angeles.

The turtle’s trip set a new record for sea turtles, and is among the longest documented migrations for any marine vertebrate.

The longest measured annual migration for any animal is the 40,000-mile (64,000-kilometer) journey between New Zealand and the North Pacific of the sooty shearwater (Puffinus griseus), a medium-sized seabird.

The leatherback tracked by the NMFS belongs to one of two distinct breeding populations in the Pacific, the western group. Other research has shown that nesters from this population migrate through areas in the Philippines, South China Sea, Japan, and the waters around many other countries, spurring conservationists to call for an international effort to protect the species, which is listed as Critically Endangered on the World Conservation Union’s Red List.

The turtle’s journey is featured in an article in the third annual volume of the State of the Worlds’ Turtles Report, written by NMFS scientists Peter Dutton and Scott Benson and Creusa Hitipeuw of WWF-Indonesia.

Top 10 Most Incredible Animal Journeys Beach Patrols Help Sea Turtles Rebound Do All Turtles Have Shells? Original Story: Turtle Migrates 12,774 MilesVisit for more daily news, views and scientific inquiry with an original, provocative point of view. LiveScience reports amazing, real world breakthroughs, made simple and stimulating for people on the go. Check out our collection of Science, Animal and Dinosaur Pictures, Science Videos, Hot Topics, Trivia, Top 10s, Voting, Amazing Images, Reader Favorites, and more. Get cool gadgets at the new LiveScience Store, sign up for our free daily email newsletter and check out our RSS feeds today!

Posted by Frank, January 29, 2007


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Continuing the salamander saga


Salamander on finger, originally uploaded by EcoSnake.

I just wanted to share this close-up picture of the little salamander who’s growing back his leg and tail. Click on on the pictures to follow through with his story. There’s so much we can learn from these wonderful animals who have been on the earth so many millions of years.


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Saga of a Salamander


Salamander update, originally uploaded by EcoSnake.

Follow the links by clicking on the pictures to discover how this little salamander is regenerating a leg and tail. They were accidentally cut off by a shovel in November, 2007. The salamander was underground and could not be detected.

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A peaceful time…for reflection and hope…


Peaceful…, originally uploaded by EcoSnake.

Reminiscent of these lines written by William Wordsworth:

“To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.”

One year from today, January 20, 2008 at noon, the United States will have a new President. Let’s hope we can do better this time - especially for nature and wildlife and our planet and, in turn, ourselves…

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Morelia spilotes cheynei


Morelia spilotes cheynei, originally uploaded by EcoSnake.

“Shaggy” is a Jungle carpet python (Morelia spilotes cheynei). He was a rescue from some folks who had purchased him in a pet store and had no idea how to care for him. He’s a native of Australia.

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“Dozer” just ate


"Dozer" just ate, originally uploaded by EcoSnake.

A new picture…

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“Dumpster” a Green iguana (Iguana iguana)


"Dumpster", originally uploaded by EcoSnake.

Check him out on the flickr link - I just thought you’d like to look at an iguana!

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