“We found that the bacteria were quite common in all the birds we sampled,” Kent says, adding that 39 percent of the wild individuals they caught tested positive. Yet not all species were affected equally. Ground-foraging birds, such as House and Song Sparrows, showed higher levels of the microbe. On the other hand, some species of hummingbirds and woodpeckers came up clean.
Kent says finding out why there were variations in the level of contamination is probably the next step in the research. So far, there isn’t any reason to panic, Kent says. The microbes have likely been around as long as birds themselves, given their dependence on keratin—perhaps even longer. The impacts may also not all be bad. One potential benefit is that they cause bluebird feathers to shine brighter, allowing males that are covered in bacteria to sire more offspring.
Scientists have discovered the world’s first known amphibious centipede, which grows up to 20cm (nearly 8in) long and has an excruciating bite.
Scolopendra cataracta, from the Latin for “waterfall”, has been found in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and was seen scurrying into the water by entomologist George Beccaloni, during his honeymoon to Thailand in 2001. It is only recently that it has been fully described, in the online science journal ZooKeys.
Last Thursday, 20 breeding pairs of rare hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) were reintroduced in the Yorkshire Dales national park as part of a national scheme to reverse the decline of one of Britain’s most threatened mammals.
The tiny, golden-brown creatures, known for their sleepy disposition and winter hibernation, were once widespread throughout England and Wales. Exact numbers are unknown, but their distribution and population has declined significantly over the past 100 years, and the species is now classed as vulnerable to extinction.
Climate change is disrupting the seasonal behaviour of Britain’s plants and animals, with rising temperatures having an impact on species at different levels of the food chain, new research shows.
The result could be widespread “desynchronisation” between species and their phenological events – seasonal biological cycles such as breeding and migration – that could affect the functioning of entire ecosystems, according to the large-scale study published this week in the journal Nature.
Over the past two decades, nearly 64.5 million birds have disappeared in Spain due to rapid loss of habitat, SEO/BirdLife Spain reports.
The findings, published earlier this month, were based off data collected by more than 1,000 citizen scientists from SACRE, the Spanish chapter of the European Breeding Bird Survey, between 1996 and 2015. The volunteers visited a local spot twice every spring and logged all the birds they saw and heard. In total, observations were inputted from 20,000 stations, Juan Carlos del Moral, research and monitoring coordinator at SEO/BirdLife Spain, says.
Farmland birds posted the biggest losses, but city birds didn't come away unscathed either. Between 1998 and 2005, common rural birds declined by 23 percent, while common urban birds diminished by 18 percent.
The rapidly declining UK hedgehog population is estimated to number less than 1 million, down from more than 30 million in the 1950s. One-third of this loss is thought to have taken in the past 10 years. A 2015 report found rural populations had declined by at least a half and urban populations by up to a third since 2000.
Their long-term but poorly understood decline is attributed to the loss and fragmentation of their habitat in Britain’s towns and countryside, death on roads, and intensive farmland that provides few good foraging or nesting sites. Rising numbers of badgers, their natural predator, have also been cited as a possible cause.
Like an insect version of a barn raising, green ants (also called weaver ants) work together with incredible cooperation to pull leaves together and stitch them into place to create nests high in the trees. Linking their tiny bodies together to form chains from one leaf to another, their efforts are nothing short of Herculean!
A spectacular bearded vulture, believed to be the first recorded in the UK, has been spotted soaring over the Severn estuary and moorland in Devon.
If it is confirmed that the vulture, also known as the lammergeier or ossifrage, is a wild bird, it will be the first of its species to be found in Britain and the sightings have already caused ornithologists to rush to the west country hoping for a glimpse.
One in five of the world’s plant species is threatened with extinction, according to the first global assessment of flora, putting supplies of food and medicines at risk. But the report also found that 2,000 new species of plant are discovered every year, raising hopes of new sources of food that are resilient to disease and climate change.
The State of the World’s Plants report, by experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, reveals that there are currently 390,000 species of known plants, with more than 30,000 used by people.
The decline of the bees is a world wide problem. Did you know that bees pollinate one third of the world's food source and are responsible for almost every fruit and vegetable we eat? When bees go, all of our food will go with them - so they really are important!
The UK has also seen a massive decline in its bee species. In the UK alone, the honey bee population has dropped by 45% since 2010 and three species of bumblebees have gone extinct. Find out about the UK's regional differences in bee species and follow our guide to look out for different bees near you.
C BY 2.0 pexels If city residents all went to a park for a half hour weekly, there would be 7 percent fewer cases of depression and 9 percent fewer cases of high blood pressure.
Oh look, another study extolling the health benefits of getting outside! We’ve seen this again and again, so much research telling us that we need to have contact with nature, even if it's just a walk in the park – yet somehow we don’t seem to quite get it. (For example, this latest study notes that 40 percent of Australians in Brisbane did not visit an urban park in a typical week.)
The 2016 Great British Bee Count has reached the halfway point with more than 189,000 bees recorded so far. The annual count, which runs until 30 June, aims to help people learn more about bees, a key pollinator species that faces multiple threats. Here are some of the species spotted so far
These studies show that a dose of nature does wonders for wellbeing.
Anyone who has ever stepped foot in the forest or dipped a toe in a lake likely knows this, but nature is a happy-maker. With its fresh air and soothing appeal to all the senses, it is a sly mesmerist who can erase stress and instill wellbeing in a manner of minutes.
Every animal on Earth belongs to one of about 35 groups called "phyla". Some are familiar, but others are profoundly strange. The number of species per phylum is always changing, as more animals are discovered.
In 2014 alone, over 1,400 new marine species were discovered, and the largely unexplored deep sea surely holds many more surprises. Also, seemingly separate phyla sometimes turn out to be the same.
As a result, this list of phyla is not definitive. But it is our best attempt to sum up the vast diversity of Earth's animal life.
While we humans are helping to make mincemeat of other species at a worrisome rate, it’s heartening to remember that there are new ones constantly being discovered.
Although it’s a slippery number to confirm, scientists believe there are some 10 million species yet to be discovered, five times more than have already been identified. In 2015 alone, 18,000 new species were named during the course of the year.
For the first time, researchers have found calcium phosphate in the structure of plants – in this case, used to harden the needle-like hairs used to defend against predators.
Revenge of the plants? It’s hard for the mind not to wander into B-movie territory when considering what researchers from Bonn University recently discovered: The first plants found to have calcium phosphate as a structural biomineral.
Calcium phosphate is widely found in the animal kingdom; it’s a hard mineral substance of which bones and teeth are largely comprised. Now the researchers have confirmed its presence in the stinging hairs of rock nettles (Loasaceae), a “well-defended” plant native to the South American Andes.
Successive governments have made popular pledges to plant large numbers of new trees. But do these trees ever actually get planted and, where they do, does it ever achieve anything useful?
Woodlands have a vital role to play in our landscape. As well as being a valuable source of homegrown timber, trees store carbon, provide an essential home for wildlife, absorb air pollution, and are important spaces for pleasure and leisure.
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