Entries in amphibians (7)
Male Tungara frogs sing to attract mates, which is something that most animals do. But a study has shown that this won’t stop clever bats lurking in the trees, and goes on to underline the extreme complexity of the evolution of sexual signalling in general.
Amphibians spend the majority of their lives in stagnant, fetid waters filled with microorganisms, and have evolved strong immune systems, almost as complex as humans, to combat this unpleasant milieu. Yet, the chytrid fungus is able to break through their defences. A recent study suggests why.
Amphibians stand at the frontline of global biodiversity loss. More than one third of amphibian species are globally threatened, and over 120 species have been categorised as extinct by IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of nature) since 1980.
Now that spring is arriving, it is a perfect time to create a beautiful wildlife garden. Many creatures will emerge from hibernation, flowers will begin to flourish and birds will begin nesting; therefore, I am going to inform you of several easy ways to transform your garden into a wildlife haven.
photo: Li Bo source: treehugger
A disturbing and cruel trend is emerging in China; keyrings containing live animals. The keyrings may contain one of three options for the discerning customer: one newt, one Brazil turtle or two small kingfish. Each keyring contains ‘nutrient rich water’ in varying choices of colour and can be bought for as little as £1.00. Of course, the water is not nutrient rich (tested by veterinarians) and the animals are contained in a small space until they die a few days later due to suffocation. But with prices this cheap, does it really matter to the customer if they die quickly when they can purchase more of them cheaply, ever increasing the demand?
The keyrings are sold openly in public areas due to this trade being completely legal in China as they are not ‘wild animals.’ Members of the general public acquire these keyrings perhaps as a ‘cool novelty’ or as one unidentified customer said “I'll hang it in my office, it looks nice and brings good luck.” Some well-wishers are unintentionally increasing demand as they are buying large quantities of keyrings and releasing the animals into the wild.
In addition to increasing demand, the released animals may cause additional problems to the ecosystem if animals are released in the wrong environments, resulting in competition for limited resources. Customers should also be aware of the health risks posed by the animals in the keyrings. For example, turtles are carriers of salmonella bacteria, which may be extremely harmful if individuals come in contact with it.
This obvious cruelty is becoming increasingly popular in China. Encouragingly, so is the global awareness of this trade, sparking campaigns to try and stop the sale of these keyrings immediately. If the general public of China use their better judgement, hopefully the demand will drop and the trend will decrease.
Sign the petition and help put an end to animal cruelty.
Some of the more obvious and even famous examples of predator and prey relationships include the lion and wildebeest in Africa, the bear and salmon in Canada and of course the farmers arch enemy; the rabbit that eats the lettuce. However, there is one particularly unprecedented predator-prey relationship that has caught the attention of researchers at the Department of Zoology at Tel-Aviv University in Israel.
In a study published in the online journal PLoS ONE, hungry larvae of two recently discovered beetles of the genus Epomis have been found to have reversed their predator-prey relationship with amphibians, thus becoming the predator themselves. Usually it is amphibians that catch unsuspecting bugs for a tasty snack, but it appears that this particular type of larvae has evolved to take advantage of their would-be predators with an almost 100 per cent success rate.
Laboratory research has shown that the larvae combine a sit-and-wait strategy while enticing the amphibians with a ‘dance’ of their mouths and antennae. The study shows that when the amphibian ‘goes in for the kill’ of what it expects to be a relatively easy meal, the larva dodges the predator's tongue and uses its unique double-hooked mouthparts to attach itself to the amphibian's body. From the safety of its host, the larvae will feed on the defenceless and duped amphibian, ultimately resulting in death.
“Normally amphibians eat small larvae, so the larvae seem to be taking their revenge here,” said entomologist and leader of the study, Gil Wizen.
According to the report about 10 per cent of predator-prey relationships in the animal kingdom result in a smaller animal eating a bigger one, but they are all active attacks — not a small creature luring its prey and outwitting them in a magnificent feat of evolution.
These novel findings extend the perspective of co-evolution between predator and prey and suggest that this counterattack, defense behavior has evolved into predator-prey role reversal; the hunter has become the hunted.
Is this just a unique and one-off accident of nature or is it an extremely rare glimpse of what is to come in the next steps of evolution? Will it be the wildebeest that turns on the lion in a glorious battle of revenge, or a school of salmon taking on a bear in a Canadian waterfall?
Who knows what will become of the notorious relationship between the rabbit and the lettuce.
By Nicki Hollamby