This bird might look like a holiday ornament, but it is actually a rare half-female, half-male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis, pictured with female plumage on the left and male plumage on the right) spotted a few years ago in Rock Island, Illinois. Researchers have long known such split-sex “gynandromorphs” exist in insects, crustaceans, and birds. But scientists rarely get to extensively study a gynandromorph in the wild; most published observations cover just a day or so. Observers got to follow this bird, however, for more than 40 days between December 2008 and March 2010. They documented how it interacted with other birds and even how it responded to recorded calls. The results suggest being half-and-half carries consequences: The cardinal didn’t appear to have a mate, and observers never heard it sing, the researchers report this month in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. On the other hand, it wasn’t “subjected to any unusual agonistic behaviors from other cardinals,” according to the paper. Intriguingly, another gynandromorph cardinal sighted briefly in 1969 had the opposite plumage, they note: the male’s bright red plumes on the right, the drabber female feathers on the left.
When one thinks of Rio de Janeiro, one usually doesn't think: rainforest. However, in the heart of the city sits a massive rainforest sprung over long-gone sugar and coffee plantations. The forest—protected today as the Tijuca National Park—is home to hundreds of threatened species, but no agoutis, a common ground mammal in Latin America.
By Earth Porn There are many animals that come to mind when you hear the word ‘cute.’ Fluffy ponies, furry kitties, cuddly puppies…but about a slimy lizard, or a funky frog? Turns out, reptiles are incredibly cute, much cuter than...
Primates don't monkey around when deciding where to spend the night, but primatologists have had a poor grasp on what drives certain monkeys toward specific trees. Now, two extensive studies of Indonesian primates suggest that factors in selecting trees each evening are site-specific and different for each species—and that some overnight spots result in conflicts between monkeys and humans.
(Phys.org)—Ornithologists Brian Peer and Robert Motz, with Western Illinois University, found themselves with a unique opportunity a couple of years ago—to study a gynandromorphy in its native environment for an extended period of time.
Biologists describe upwards of 15,000 previously undocumented species every year. Some of these species are complete surprises, sometimes representing new genera. Others may be identified after genetic analysis distinguishes them from closely-related species. Some — especially conspicuous birds and mammals — are already known to local populations, but hadn't been formally described by scientists.
He's trailed them and photographed them, mapped their family trees and counted their offspring, coming to identify individuals by their markings, sometimes even ascribing personalities based on behavior.
Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) have developed a cost-effective way to save a wide range of threatened species, including rare old ones that may be costly to protect. Their new technique to help maximise both the species and genetic diversity we save helps resolve the dilemma facing conservation managers worldwide: whether to rescue a larger number of recent and more common species or fewer, unique and older species that may be more costly to preserve.
The technology will help nations such as Australia and New Zealand to protect as much diversity of both species and their genes as possible, says lead researcher Dr Joseph Bennett of CEED and The University of Queensland (UQ). "The global extinction crisis is getting worse, and conservation funds are seldom enough to stop biodiversity from declining," says Dr Bennett. "This is like a library on fire – and we have to save as much of the precious information as we can.
"If we have to choose, do we carry out a few rare, old tomes, or do we carry a larger number of smaller books that may contain less information than the ancient tomes?" Dr Bennett explains that highly distinct species have few close relatives, and their lineage has been isolated on the tree of life for many millions of years. The platypus is one example of Australia's 'rare old tomes' – its ancestors diverged from other mammals somewhere between 160 and 200 million years ago.
As the distinct species are isolated from others, they also contain unique genes, which may in the future prove very important to the health of ecosystems, or even the development of medicine. For example, Ginkgo biloba is an old and genetically distinct species that was once close to extinction, but is now used traditional medicine, he says.
"So losing the more distinct species – akin to losing the rare old tome – could mean the loss of this genetic information, along with millions of years of evolution," he says. "But when these species are expensive to protect, it may mean spending money to save one or two species instead of five or ten other species."
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