November 12, 2013 |
The oldest fossil of a previously unknown ancient leopard species, found in Tibet, is shaking the pantherine evolutionary tree, suggesting that big cats arose in Asia, not Africa, according to a new study. During a 2010 expedition to Tibet, paleontologists led by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and USC discovered a large portion of skull and several intact teeth that they now attribute to a previously undescribed sister species to the modern snow leopard. In all, they collected seven specimens from three individuals, and dated them to 4.1 to 5.9 million years ago - dialing back the clock on big cat evolution by as much as 2 million years, according to the paper, published online Tuesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Panthera blytheae , named for the daughter of longtime museum benefactors Paul and Heather Haaga of La Cañada Flintridge, was slightly smaller than the snow leopard and probably roamed the Tibetan plateau for several million years, dining on antelope, pika and blue sheep, according to paleontologist Zhijie Jack Tseng, lead author of the paper.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 9, 2013 |
The deaths of two California condors found last month in water tanks used by Kern County firefighters have state wildlife officials working on a way to keep the large, endangered birds out of the tanks. California wildlife officials have sent the condor carcasses to a forensics lab in Oregon for necropsies to determine how the birds died. But with so few in the wild, experts called the loss a blow to a still-fragile recovery program. There are a little more than 100 condors living in the wild in California after what few remained were captured in an effort to bring the species back from the brink of extinction in the 1980s.
October 29, 2013 |
A team of scientists says it has found a new species of dolphin swimming off the northern coast of Australia. The dolphin, a member of the humpback family, isn't exactly new to science - researchers have known about the population for years - but it is newly described by science. In fact, it is so new it doesn't have a name. Humpback dolphins are wide-ranging but have not been well studied. They have a tell-tale bump in front of their dorsal fin and prefer coastal waters like estuaries and deltas.
October 21, 2013 |
Scientists seeking the missing link between modern Europeans and Neanderthals ought to head back to Africa, according to a new study that could prune some of the younger branches of the evolutionary tree. Researchers took another look at a common fossil used to date early humans - teeth. By looking at the pattern of points on molars of European fossils, older African and Asian fossils, and modern humans, they arrived at a picture of what the teeth of a common ancestor might have looked like.
October 15, 2013 |
Researchers in the northern Andes believe they have discovered a new species of shrew opossum in Sangay National Park in a remote part of Ecuador, according to a new article in the Journal of Mammalogy. Only four species of shrew opossum were known to exist in the region, but researchers discovered Caenolestes sangay on the eastern slopes of the Andes in an area disrupted by construction of a highway. By analyzing DNA and more than a dozen other variables, biologists determined that, though the C. sangay closely resembled another of the species, there were significant differences.
October 13, 2013 |
We Americans like to think of ourselves as animal lovers. But is this claim true? One way to answer this question is to follow the money. According to government, industry and interest group stats, we spend about $50 billion on our pets annually and donate another $6 billion to animal-related and environmental charities. This sounds like a lot until you compare it to the amount we collectively devote to killing members of other species: $72 billion on hunting and fishing, $60 billion on animal research and $240 billion on meat, poultry and seafood.
October 10, 2013 |
The longer humans live, the more likely they are to push other species to the brink of extinction and, conversely, spur the rise of invasive birds and mammals species. That sobering news comes via a new study from UC Davis, published in the journal Ecology and Society. The research looked at more than two dozen variables in 100 countries - including political stability and availability of water - but concluded that human life expectancy was the key predictor of global extinctions and invasions.
October 9, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - Polar bears and penguins are usually the first creatures that come to mind when considering the likely victims of global warming, but a new study finds that fish, coral and other inhabitants of the tropics will be the first to take the brunt of climate change. An analysis of global temperatures over the last 150 years combined with forecasts generated by 39 independent models concludes that animals in areas closest to the equator will be forced to cope with temperatures that are outside their historical range in as little as about 15 years.
October 7, 2013 |
In a fish-eat-fish ocean filled with sharks and other fierce swimmers, how has the delicate jellyfish survived - and thrived - through hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary culling? A team of biologists and engineers says it has discovered the "jelly's" secret: They're incredibly efficient swimmers. Jellyfish don't look like they're built for speed. Less than 1% of their body mass is devoted to muscle, compared with more than 50% in fish. But they're competent predators - and perhaps even too successful.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 22, 2013 |
Scientists have discovered four new species of legless lizards in California, including one species that lives beneath the sand dunes near Los Angeles International Airport. But before we go on, let's get one thing straight: Yes, a snake is a legless lizard, but not all legless lizards are snakes. Throughout the history of lizard evolution, several lizard lineages have lost their legs, James Parham of Cal State Fullerton said. Snakes are the best-known and most diverse of these lineages, but more than 200 other types of limbless lizards exist throughout the world.