Pictures: the top new animal discoveries of 2014
Seemingly every year scientists set a new record with the number of species they describe. 2014 will be no exception. Below are some of the 'new species' highlights from the past year. The list includes species whose descriptions were first published in 2014. Some of the 'discoveries' occurred in years prior.
Ocelots live in super densities on Barro Colorado Island
By comparing camera trapping findings with genetic samples taken from feces, biologists have determined that the density of ocelots on Barro Colorado Island in Panama is the highest yet recorded. There are over three ocelots per every two square kilometers (0.77 square miles) on the island.
Hunting is a greater threat than logging for most wildlife in Borneo
Persistence is the key factor in the two most common human stressors on tropical wildlife. In Malaysian Borneo, hunting continually diminishes wildlife populations, whereas the negative impacts from selective logging are more transient, according to a recent study in Conservation Biology.
Then there were five: rhino death moves species closer to extinction
As if news for rhinos couldn't get any worse: this weekend, Angalifu, died a the San Diego Zoo. Forty four-year-old Angalifu was a male northern white rhino and his death means only five of this subspecies remains on the planet. Angalifu's death, which keepers suspect was simply from old age, follows soon after the death of another northern white rhino, Suni, in October.
Boosting the conservation value of 4M sq km of rainforest logging concessions
Short of buying back logging concessions, switching from conventional logging approaches to reduced impact logging techniques across existing forestry concessions may be the best way boost biodiversity in areas earmarked for timber extraction, argues paper.
An app to save 400 million animals
Brazilian biologist Alex Bager has been leading a crusade to raise awareness of a major but neglected threat to biodiversity in his country. Every year over 475 million animals die in Brazil as victims of roadkill, according to an estimate by Centro Brasileiro de Ecologia de Estradas, an initiative funded and coordinated by Bager. This means 15 animals are run down every second on Brazilian roads and highways.
To collect or not to collect? Experts debate the need for specimens
In 1912, a group of intrepid explorers led by Rollo and Ida Beck, widely acknowledged to be the foremost marine bird collectors of their time, embarked on a most remarkable effort to catalogue South America's oceanic birds. Museums of the day held opportunistically collected specimens from scattered sources, but rarely did these include ocean-bound birds that spent little time near the coast.
For the first time, Sea Shepherd targets Antarctic toothfish poachers
For the first time, marine conservation group, Sea Shepherd, is employing their controversial methods to protect Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish. Dubbed 'Operation Icefish,' Sea Shepherd Australia is sending two ships into Antarctic waters to disrupt illegal vessels targeting the little-known species that are often sold in luxury markets as Chilean seabass.
Pollinators puzzle to find flowers amidst natural and human fumes
While unpleasant car exhaust makes us wrinkle our noses, such human-made fumes may pose serious problems to insects searching for nectar. Researchers recently revealed that background odors make finding flowers difficult for pollinators. The study, published in Science, measured how hawk moths (Manduca sexta) pick out the sacred datura flower scent (Datura wrightii) amidst all the other smells that waft through the environment.
Tribal violence comes naturally to chimpanzees
It all went to hell when Jane Goodall started handing out bananas. Within a few years, the previously peaceful chimpanzees she was studying split into two warring tribes. Gangs of males from the larger faction systematically slaughtered their former tribemates. All over the bananas. Or so the argument goes.
New survey finds surprisingly large population of endangered owl
The Anjouan scops owl—an elusive owl found only on its tiny eponymous island—was once considered among the world's most endangered owls, and even the most threatened birds. However, the first in-depth survey of the owls on the island finds that, in fact, the population is far larger than initially estimated.
Nano-tags track baby sea turtles during their first few hours
Baby sea turtles vanish after they scamper into the ocean. Years later, juvenile turtles may pop up thousands of kilometers away, but often scientists don't see them again until they return to their birthplaces to nest on the beach. Now, using tiny tracking tags weighing no more than two watermelon seeds, a team has followed newborn loggerhead turtles during their first critical hours at sea, revealing how they evade predators and hitch rides on the ocean's currents.
Shark pups may not survive climate change
Fierce predatory sharks rule the oceans from the apex of the food pyramid. But climate change may be tougher than these marine hunters, a new study suggests. As oceans warm and their waters become more acidic, fewer sharks may survive their infancies.
Egyptian art helps chart past extinctions of big mammals
Life in modern Egypt clings to the Nile River. This crowded green strip within the desert supports more than 2,300 people per square kilometer (6,000 per square mile). But 6,000 years ago, all of Egypt was green and vibrant, teeming with life much like the current Serengeti. Over time, this rich ecosystem fell apart.
New calendar celebrates primates and raises money for their survival
Humans, or Homo sapiens sapiens, are really just upright apes with big brains. We may have traded actual jungles for gleaming concrete and steel ones, but we are still primates, merely one member of an order consisting of sixteen families. We may have removed ourselves from our wilder beginnings, but our extant relatives—the world's wonderful primates—serve as a gentle living reminder of those days.
Meet the world's rarest chameleon: Chapman's pygmy
In just two forest patches may dwell a tiny, little-known chameleon that researchers have dubbed the world's most endangered. Chapman's pygmy chameleon from Malawi hasn't been seen in 16 years. In that time, its habitat has been whittled down to an area about the size of just 100 American football fields.
Chameleon crisis: extinction threatens 36% of world's chameleons
Chameleons are an unmistakable family of wonderfully bizarre reptiles. They sport long, shooting tongues; oddly-shaped horns or crests; and a prehensile tail like a monkey's. But, chameleons are most known for their astonishing ability to change the color of their skin. Now, a update of the IUCN Red List finds that this unique group is facing a crisis that could send dozens of chameleons, if not more, to extinction.
New blood record: 1,020 rhinos killed in South Africa
South Africa has surpassed last year's grisly record for slaughtered rhinos—1,004—more than a month before the year ends. In an announcement on November 20th, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs said that 1,020 rhinos had been killed to date.
Jane Goodall: 5 reasons to have hope for the planet
Jane Goodall is not only arguably the most famous conservationist who ever lived, but also the most well-known and respected female scientist on the planet today. Her path to reach that stature is an unlikely as it is inspiring. Told to 'never give up' by her mother, Goodall set out in her 20s to pursue her childhood dream: to live with animals in Africa. By the time she was 26 she doing just this.
Gone for good: world's largest earwig declared extinct
The world has lost a giant: this week the IUCN Red List officially declared St. Helena giant earwig extinct. While its length of 80 millimeters (3.1 inches) may not seem like much, it's massive for an earwig and impressive for an insect. Only found on the island of St. Helena in the remote southern Atlantic, experts believe the St. Helena giant earwig was pushed to extinction by habitat destruction.
Rediscovered in 2010, rare Indian frog surprises by breeding in bamboo
For a long time, this rare white spotted bush frog lived a secretive life: the Critically Endangered Chalazodes bubble-nest frog (Raorchestes chalazodes) was last seen in 1874 and presumed to be extinct. That is until 2010 when a year-long expedition to try and locate ‘lost’ amphibians in India found the elusive frog in the wet evergreen forests of the Western Ghats, after more than 130 years.
Shifting the way the world shops (commentary)
If you are what you eat, then just as true, you are what you buy. From organic, fair-trade, responsible palm oil, Wildlife Friendly, and most recently deforestation-free, consumers can cast their lot with a variety of eco-friendly labels and define who they are by what they buy. It gives someone in New York City the chance to contribute to forest protection in Indonesia by using their wallets to influence the sustainability of the supply chain that serves them with goods.
Of bluefin and pufferfish: 310 species added to IUCN Red List
Today, 22,413 species are threatened with extinction, according to the most recent update of the IUCN Red List. This is a rise of 310 species from the last update in the summer. The update includes the Pacific bluefin tuna, the Chinese pufferfish, and Chapman's pygmy chameleon, among others.
A nature photographer's dream: staff photographer for the Wildlife Conservation Society
Julie Larsen Maher has what many wildlife photographers would consider a dream job: staff photographer for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a non-profit that runs five zoos and aquariums in New York City as well as numerous site-based field programs in the U.S. and overseas. As staff photographer, Maher helps tell the stories behind WCS's conservation work, which ranges from veterinary procedures with Bronx Zoo animals to working with local communities in remote parts of Zambia to protect wildlife.
New tapir? Scientists dispute biological discovery of the century
Nearly a year ago, scientists announced an incredible discovery: a new tapir species from the western Amazon in Brazil and Colombia. The announcement was remarkable for a number of reasons: this was the biggest new land mammal discovered in more than 20 years and was only the fifth tapir known to the world. But within months other researchers expressed doubt over the veracity of the new species.
'Guns kill trees too': overhunting raises extinction threat for trees
A new paper confirms what ecologists have long feared: hunting birds and mammals drastically raises the risk of extinction for tropical trees. Following the long-lifespan of a single canopy tree, Miliusa horsfieldii, researchers discovered that overhunting of animals could increase the chances of extinction for the species fourteen times over a century, from 0.5 percent to seven percent.
Using mobile apps to stop wildlife trafficking at the border
Conservationists are successfully developing mobile apps that enable authorities to identify illegal wildlife products, making it more difficult for traffickers to smuggle animals and animal parts, reports a paper published in the journal Biological Conservation.
Chief Curiosity Correspondent tackles sexism, aids conservation
Have you ever been offered the job of your dreams without knowing you were being interviewed? Have you ever communicated with a 5-year-old about the wonders of Salmonella? Have you ever been disappointed not to have larvae hatching from your skin? If you answered yes to all three questions, then you are either Emily Graslie herself or you should subscribe to her YouTube channel. Immediately.
Citizen scientist site hits one million observations of life on Earth
On Friday, Jonathan Hiew from Singapore took a photo of several insects and uploaded them on the citizen scientist site, iNaturalist. Little did he know that one of the photos, of a butterfly, would prove a record breaker: it was the millionth observation recorded on iNaturalist.
It only took 2,500 people to kill off the world's biggest birds
The first settlers of New Zealand killed off nine species of giant birds, known as moas, with a population no bigger than a few thousand people, according to new research published in Nature Communications. The biggest moas stood up to 3.6 meters (12 feet) tall, making these mega-birds the largest animals in the country and contenders for the biggest birds ever.