Wildlife News – August 2017

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How does wildlife respond to a total solar eclipse?

On August 21st, 2017, people in the U.S. saw the dark disk of the moon drifting between the Earth and the Sun. This so called total solar eclipse is a very special experience for humans, but what do we know about how animals react to the abrupt darkness and air temperature drop? For sure we are not the only ones reacting to the effects of a total solar eclipse. Do cows really return to their barn? Do birds stop singing? Or are these just stories…

When the darkness of totality occurs, some animals (like insects and bats) may begin their night routines as night-time has simply come early. It’s been reported that cows are going back into their barns and chickens will likewise go to roost. Other animals, like dolphins, llamas and chimpanzees, appear to change their behaviour in total darkness. Whether this is just because they noticed something is off, or they ‘understand’ what’s happening is a mystery (and will probably be a mystery for a long time).

A small overview of some historical observations made on animals during a total solar eclipse can be found in the article on the National Geographic website.

Although it’s fairly difficult to study the effect of total solar eclipses, as they are rare and usually don’t take long. And who wouldn’t watch the eclipse itself instead of watching how other animals are reacting. The U.S. was going to tackle this lack of data and some people came up with a project to use citizen science and ask the people to collect data using the iNaturalist app. People were asked to get at least a picture 30 min before totality and during totality.

DNA from flies helps survey mammal species

Beside all the fancy stuff like drones, camera traps, GPS collars etc., recently people also focus on so called environmental DNA. This DNA is not taken from the study animals itself, but from other substrates, like water, or in this study from the blood of flies. It sounds like a very good method to detect species and the fact that carrions flies are widespread makes it a method that can be used in a range of different areas.

Resource: http://wildlife.org/dna-from-flies-helps-survey-mammal-species/

 

New grass snake species?

The news reached us they have found a new species of grass snake in England.
Here you can find the article:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/07/new-species-of-grass-snake-discovered-in-england

 

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