Archive | Animals

Whales Must Cope with More Ocean Noise

LOS ANGELES, July 15 (UPI) — Whales react to a noisy environment in the same way humans do — by raising their voices to be heard, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers monitoring 14 right whales — seven males and seven females — in Canada’s Bay of Fundy found the animals increased their call amplitude in proportion to increases in background noise levels, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

“Whales are compensating for increased ocean noise by going up in volume when they call to one another,” said Joseph Gaydos, chief scientist for the SeaDoc Society at UC Davis, “which is basically the same thing that humans do when they’re trying to talk in really noisy bars.”

The North Atlantic right whale is listed as an endangered species, and its primary habitat is the coastal waters of the eastern United States and Canada, an area with high levels of commercial, naval and recreational shipping traffic, said Susan Parks, lead author of the study and assistant professor of acoustics at Pennsylvania State University.

Noise generated from the commercial ships has the same pitch as a right whale’s call, Parks said. “This is a problem because its noise source overlaps the frequency range of the whales’ calls,” she said.

Sound is vital to the right whales’ survival because they depend on it for vital activities including communication, navigation and feeding, and researchers are concerned about the threat of increased noise pollution in the oceans.

“Marine mammals are experiencing greater amounts of noise increases than many terrestrial animals, so it’s important to understand how they respond to this and what the effects will be,” said Stephanie Watwood, a visiting biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Scientists Seek Clues to Oil Spill Kills

NEW YORK, July 15 (UPI) — U.S. scientists are studying hundreds of dead animals found along the Gulf coast since the beginning of the oil spill for clues to how they died, officials say.

The bodies of birds, turtles, dolphins and one whale are being examined and autopsied to determine what killed them, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Although oil is the obvious suspect, the vast majority of the animals examined so far show no visible signs of oil contamination, scientists say.

Scientists will be looking at other suspect causes including oil fumes, oiled food, chemicals used to break up the oil spill or natural diseases, the Times reported.

At issue is the determination of how much BP might pay in civil and criminal penalties if held responsible for causing animal deaths.

Such penalties are far higher for endangered animals like sea turtles.

The investigation is also expected to provide clues to the possible effects of oil on protected species in the gulf.

“It is terribly important to know, in the big scheme of things, why something died,” said Moby Solangi, the director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., where turtle and dolphin autopsies have been performed.

“We might be doing what we can to address the issues of today and manage the risk,” he said. “But for tomorrow, we need to know what actually happened.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Bigger, Nicer, Home May Help Shrink Tumors

COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 12 (UPI) — Having a bigger, nicer, more interesting home and more friends is linked to shrinking tumors in mice, U.S. researchers found.

Matthew During and colleagues at Ohio State University in Columbus said they enriched the study animals’ usual housing, which involved living in groups of five or so, having all the food they wanted and playing all day — by increasing living groups to 15 or 20 and providing more space, toys, hiding places and running wheels.

“Animals’ interaction with the environment has a profound influence on the growth of cancer — more than we knew was possible,” During said in a statement.

During and colleague Lei Cao found tumor mass shrunk by 77 percent in the mice in the enriched environment and volume by 43 percent. Five percent of these animals showed no evidence of cancer after three weeks in their new home. There were no remissions in control animals in standard housing.

The study, published in the journal Cell, suggested a growth factor expressed in the hypothalamus called brain-derived neurotrophic factor may help in reducing tumors. When animals lacked brain-derived neurotrophic factor, the benefits of the enriched environment evaporated, the researchers said.

“This paper really suggests if we look at people more in terms of their perceptions of disease, their social interactions and environment, we could realize a profound influence on cancer,” During said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Climate Change Affects Meadows' Ecosystems

AMES, Iowa, July 7 (UPI) — Studying drought effects on a pristine ecosystem could show how climate change may affect flora and fauna diversity, an Iowa State University researcher said.

Researcher Diane Debinski has studied meadows in the Rocky Mountains’ Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem since the 1990s, finding that if the area’s climate becomes drier as the Earth’s temperature rises, it could change the types of plants and animals living there, the Ames, Iowa, university said Tuesday in a release.

To study the potential effects of climate change, Debinski conducted large-scale, long-term observational studies of the plant and insect communities in 55 mountainous meadows in the ecosystem. She studied six different types of meadows ranging from dry to wet.

Debinski and colleagues measured changes in the plant community from 1997 to 2007, which included an extended drought, and recently published their findings in the journal Ecology.

Debinski said the shrubs growing in the drier meadows increased, while flowering plants decreased.

“In these meadows, as water became more scarce, that means less moisture for the plants,” she said. “The flowering plants don’t grow as well and therefore don’t provide as much food to the animals. These types of changes in the plants could affect populations of elk, bison, as well as many other smaller animals, including insects.”

Debinski also examined which meadow type was most vulnerable to change, determining medium-moisture meadows — neither wet nor dry — are in the biggest danger of change.

“If wet meadows get a little drier, they’re still wet,” she said. “If dry meadows get a little drier, they are still dry. But the meadows with a medium amount of wetness are the ones that may be changing most.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Ocean Voyage Documents Deep-sea Life

ABERDEEN, Scotland, July 7 (UPI) — Deep-sea mountain ridges and abysses teem with marine life, forcing scientists to change their view about life way below the surface, a Scottish scientist said.

An international team of marine scientists also saw an abundance of species once considered rare and found diversity in habitat and marine life in locations a few miles apart as they studied animals living the mid-Atlantic Ocean ridge, the Census of Marine Life said Tuesday in a release.

The six-week exploration is part of the Census of Marine Life, a global network of researchers engaged in a 10-year scientific initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the oceans and will publish its first enumeration this year in London.

During more than 300 hours of dives with a remotely operated vehicle, researchers surveyed plains, cliffs and slopes of the mountain range bisecting the Atlantic.

“We were surprised at how different the animals were on either side of the ridge which is just tens of miles apart,” said Monty Priede, director of the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab. “The terrain looked the same, mirror images of each other, but that is where the similarity ended.”

On one side, sea urchins dominated the plains and the cliffs were alive with sponges, corals and other life, Priede said, while the other side was dull, bare rock with much less sea life.

Scientists said they also observed and captured a species believed to be close to the missing evolutionary link between back-boned and invertebrate animals.

Priede said the expedition “revolutionized our thinking about deep-sea life in the Atlantic Ocean. It shows that we cannot just study what lives around the edges of the ocean and ignore the vast array of animals living on the slopes and valleys in the middle of the ocean.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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British Study Aims to Help Animal Welfare

LEICESTER, England, June 24 (UPI) — Scientists say a postgraduate research study at Britain’s University of Leicester is designed to promote animal welfare in Cyprus and the United Kingdom.

The postgraduate research study being conducted in the university’s school of psychology by Alexia Zalaf involves a questionnaire to measure people’s attitudes to animals, as well as animal abuse, with a view to changing in the way people and authorities tackle the issue.

Zalaf’s supervisor, Professor Vince Egan, says the work will provide a systematic tool for understanding people who intentionally or inadvertently hurt animals, enabling researchers to more fully investigate the field.

“Carrying out this research in Cyprus and the U.K. will provide much needed evidence into attitudes towards animal abuse, which is a newly established area,” Zalaf said. “This research study will provide the framework for future researchers … to further develop the field.”

She said her long-term goal is to promote awareness of animal abuse and promote action not only by the general public, but also by responsible authorities.

She presented her study at the university Thursday during the school’s Festival of Postgraduate Research.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Some 'Natural Balance' Dog Food Recalled

WASHINGTON, June 21 (UPI) — Natural Balance Pet Foods Inc. announced the recall of its Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Chicken Dry Dog Food because of possible bacterial contamination.

The company said a U.S. Food and Drug Administration test detected salmonella bacteria in a random sample. Salmonella can affect animals, and people handling dry pet food can become infected with salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with surfaces exposed to the product.

Pets infected with the bacteria can become lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected, but otherwise healthy, pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans.

The Pacoima, Calif, company said the recalled dog food was distributed by pet specialty stores in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Officials said only Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Chicken Dry Dog Food sold in 5- and 28-pound sizes with a “Best By” date of June 17, 2011, is involved in the recall.

Consumers can return the recalled product for a refund or contact the company for additional information at 800-829-4493.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Animals, Other, Pets0 Comments

Mathematics Prove Giraffes Can Swim

PORTSMOUTH, England, June 3 (UPI) — British and Canadian scientists admit their study doesn’t have much practical value, but they’ve proven — digitally — that giraffes can swim.

While most large animals are good swimmers, it’s often been said giraffes are unable to swim or wade. Donald Henderson of the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada, and Darren Naish of Britain’s University of Portsmouth tested that theory by using a digital giraffe rather than a real one.

The scientists said creating a digital giraffe involved numerous mathematical calculations on giraffe weight, mass, size, shape, lung capacity and center of gravity, as well as calculations concerning rotation and flotation dynamics.

The authors found a full-sized adult giraffe would become buoyant in about 9 feet of water. Giraffes can wade across bodies of water that are shallower.

But they also determined that after becoming buoyant, a giraffe would be unstable in the water due to its long, heavy legs, short body and long neck.

“Our models show that while it’s feasible for a giraffe to swim, it … is fair to say giraffes might be hesitant to enter the water knowing they are at a decided disadvantage compared to being on solid ground,” Naish said.

While the scientists realize their research doesn’t have many practical applications, they said it does emphasize the point that computer simulations of animals — rather than real animals — can sometimes be used to answer interesting questions.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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New Contact Dermatitis Test Developed

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., June 1 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve created a fast, inexpensive test for chemicals that can cause contact dermatitis and one that does not require the use of animals.

The new test can determine whether chemicals in consumer products and at workplaces might cause skin allergies in people.

Itai Chipinda and his colleagues at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Morgantown, W.Va., sought such a test because of rising public sentiment against the use of animals to determine whether ingredients in consumer soaps, shampoos and other products might cause skin sensitization and contact dermatitis.

Existing chemical tests use substances such as glutathione that mimic skin proteins and bond to allergy-causing ingredients. None, however, is suitable for use in detecting the critical early stages of skin sensitization, the scientists said.

Instead of glutathione, Chipinda and his team developed a test with nitrobenzenethiol as the skin protein surrogate. When used on 20 chemicals known to cause skin irritation, the test produced positive results. It produced negative results when used to test substances that usually do not produce skin sensitization.

“This simple, rapid and inexpensive absorbance-based method has great potential for use as a preliminary screening tool for skin allergens,” the researchers said.

The findings appear in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Animals, Chemicals, Consumer Products, Other0 Comments

Good Synchronization Helps Threatened Fish

YORK, England, May 27 (UPI) — A British-led study finds fish alter their movements when threatened by predators, employing better synchronization to help them to blend into the crowd.

University of York scientists said they combined computer simulation and experimental study of group behavior to discover that shoaling fish co-ordinate their movements more frequently when under threat. The fish, the researchers said, move in a more coherent fashion to allow individual fish to reduce the risk of being targeted by predators as the ‘odd one out’.

“We find that as grouping animals feel more threatened, they monitor their fellows more frequently, which results in better synchronization,” said researcher Jamie Wood. “Closely coordinated movement has the advantage that predators find it more difficult to single out a single target for their prey. Our work may help to explain how tightly bound fish shoals emerge and determine how agitated animals moving in groups are at any given moment.”

The research that involved scientist from the University of Leeds and the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Animals, Fish, Other0 Comments

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