Oct 28

On the 16th February 2003, the Invertebrate team at Melbourne Zoo received a pair of one of the rarest invertebrate species on the planet, the Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis).  The pair was affectionally known as Adam and Eve.  We knew from the moment they arrived that we had just one chance to secure the long term survival of this Critically Endangered species. To add to the enormity of the task, virtually nothing was known about the species, so around the clock observations were initiated for the first few weeks.

LHISI hatching - Photograph credit Rohan Cleave Melbourne Zoo

© Rohan Cleave, Melbourne Zoo, Australia

The Lord Howe Island stick insect was abundant on Lord Howe Island until the accidental grounding of a supply ship in 1918.  Black rats (Rattus rattus) escaped the grounded vessel, and by the 1930s the Lord Howe Island stick insect was presumed extinct.  In 2001, a five-member scientific team landed on Balls Pyramid, a rocky outcrop 23kms off the coast of Lord Howe Island, and miraculously rediscovered a very small and vulnerable population of this “lost” species.  This began the significant challenge of securing a population to save them from extinction.

Juvenile LHISI - Photograph credit Rohan Cleave Melbourne Zoo

© Rohan Cleave, Melbourne Zoo, Australia

There have been many challenges since this species arrived under the care of the Invertebrate team at Melbourne Zoo, Australia.  Since 2003 we have hatched over 10,000 individuals and have now developed world class facilities and knowledge of how to care for this species. This is a momentous achievement, as they can be extremely difficult to keep alive, let alone successfully breed.

At any one time we house between 400 and 500 stick insects in different purpose-built glasshouses and incubate thousands of eggs.  A sample of eggs is measured and weighed in weekly batches and will then be incubated for between 6 to 9 months before hatching.  Each nymph that hatches at Melbourne Zoo has a length measurement taken for our records.  In 2013 Melbourne Zoo is breeding our 10th generation.

A number of scientific studies have been undertaken over the past 10 years, including investigating mate selection and parthenogenesis. Diet is an important aspect of animal husbandry and continual research and adjustments have taken place. 2013 sees the invertebrate department expand this work with investigations of plant species from Lord Howe Island both within Zoo grounds and on Lord Howe Island.  All of this adds to the data base of important information on the species.

Rohan Cleave with a LHISI - Photograph credit Jane Satchell Zoos Victoria

© Jane Satchell, Zoos Victoria, Australia

The Lord Howe Island stick insect is an integral species in Zoos Victoria’s “Fighting Extinction” campaign.  In 2012 the Australian Federal Government and New South Wales State Government announced funding of AUS $9.2 million dollars to eradicate black rats from Lord Howe Island.  It is hoped that this will restore the natural ecosystem of one of the world’s most beautiful heritage sites.  One day we hope to see this species back in its natural environment on Lord Howe Island.  The future of the Lord Howe Island stick insect now looks very bright indeed.

Wildscreen patron, Sir David Attenborough visited the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect at Melbourne Zoo in August, 2012.

Sir David Attenborough with a LHISI - Photograph credit Dani Knox, Melbourne Zoo photographer

© Dani Knox, Melbourne Zoo photographer

Find out more about the Lord Howe Island stick insect and the work of Melbourne Zoo:

http://www.zoo.org.au/melbourne/animals/lord-howe-island-stick-insect

http://www.actwild.org.au/actwild.org.au/animals/stick-insect/

http://vimeo.com/14413689

http://vimeo.com/59621703

Rohan Cleave, Melbourne Zoo, Australia

The Lord Howe Island stick insect is one of the animals featured in ARKive’s new Conservation in Action campaign, which highlights a selection of species that are on the road to recovery thanks to the hard work and dedication of conservationists around the world.

Oct 26
Photo of Florida perforate reindeer lichen on sand

Florida perforate reindeer lichen (Cladonia perforata)

Species: Florida perforate reindeer lichen (Cladonia perforata)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The Florida perforate reindeer lichen is not known to reproduce sexually, instead spreading vegetatively when broken-off pieces of the lichen re-grow.

More information:

As its name suggests, the Florida perforate reindeer lichen is found only in Florida in the United States, where it occurs in three separate regions, each with a number of highly fragmented populations. Like other lichens, this species consists of two different organisms, a fungus and an alga, living in a close symbiotic relationship. The Florida perforate reindeer lichen grows in a complex branching pattern, with each branch measuring around four to six centimetres in length. The branches are smooth and yellowish- or greyish-green, and have conspicuous holes at the base. This species grows slowly, only branching once a year. The Florida perforate reindeer lichen grows on high sand dune ridges among Florida rosemary scrub, where it typically occurs in open patches of sand between the shrubs.

One of the main threats to the Florida perforate reindeer lichen is habitat loss due to development and land conversion. This species is also vulnerable to disturbances caused by fires and hurricanes, and can be trampled by people and by vehicles using sand dunes for recreation. In 1993, the Florida perforate reindeer lichen became the first lichen species to be placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List, meaning that all federal landowners with populations of this species are responsible for protecting and conserving it. In addition, Florida has an active conservation programme which monitors and conserves species such as this by acquiring and managing land. Several of this lichen’s populations are protected, and the species has been reintroduced to some locations. Further measures are needed to ensure that the Florida perforate reindeer lichen and its habitat are protected from trampling and unsuitable fire regimes.

 

Find out more about conservation in Florida at The Nature Conservancy – Florida and the Conservation Trust for Florida.

See more images of the Florida perforate reindeer lichen on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Oct 25

We’ve been sending out sneak peek teasers about our newest educational adventure all week but the time has come to fully unveil it. The Engineering in Nature Challenge is now live on ARKive Education complete with a Starter Kit and the 5 different engineering challenges that students can complete during this 3 week event, all inspired by nature!

Challenges include building a beak, exploring seed dispersal, learning about light reflection in trees, designing a gliding bird, and engineer an octopus suction pad.

         All of the Engineering in Nature challenges are inspired by wildlife in the ARKive collection!

Now, before you dive right into the challenge, be sure to sign up using the link below:

Sign up for the Engineering in Nature Challenge!

Why sign up? 

For this challenge, ARKive has partnered with Iridescent, a science education nonprofit that links science professionals with under privileged youth through its innovative learning platform, the Curiosity Machine. Every student registered for the challenge will be paired with a real world scientist who will work with them to create their Nature in Engineering Challenge inventions and these aren’t just any scientists! The mentors for the Engineering in Nature Challenge are practicing science at distinguished institutions such as Harvard, Stanford and more!

Signing up for the challenge also includes an invitation to our weekly Google Hangout events where Iridescent and ARKive team members will be there to support you throughout the three week challenge period in any way we can.

Ready to go?

So, are you ready to bring engineering to the classroom in a WILD way? Then, sign up today and have a look at the challenge materials on ARKive!

 Download the Engineeing in Nature Challenge Materials

Our first rounds of Google Hangouts are starting up. Join us next Friday, November 1 at 4pm ET or 4pm PT! We look forward to “seeing” you!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Oct 23

From saving the world’s most threatened species of sea turtle to bringing unusual amphibians back from the brink of extinction, no conservation conundrum is a lost cause if knowledge, dedication and strong partnerships are put into play. This is the message being championed by ARKive to celebrate its tenth anniversary this year.

Through its unparalleled collection of wildlife imagery, ARKive – an initiative of wildlife charity Wildscreen – has become a platform to inform, and a place to encourage conversation for conservation. To mark a decade spent educating, enthusing and inspiring people to care about the natural world and highlighting the importance of biodiversity, ARKive is flying the flag for conservation by featuring ten species which are set to improve in status over the next ten years should positive action continue.

Juliana's golden-mole image

Juliana’s golden-mole

ARKive’s chosen species, which were selected in consultation with species experts of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC), represent a variety of taxonomic groups, and reflect the fascinating array of organisms with which we share our planet. From Juliana’s golden mole, one of Africa’s oldest and most enigmatic mammals, to the Asian white-backed vulture, a bird which has suffered a 99.9% population decline in just over a decade, this selection of species aims to raise awareness of the myriad threats faced by wildlife, and demonstrate how targeted conservation action can truly make a difference.

ARKive is working with the world’s leading wildlife filmmakers, photographers, conservationists and scientists to promote a greater appreciation of our natural world and the need for its conservation,” said Wildscreen CEO, Richard Edwards. In this our tenth year, we wanted to celebrate not only the great diversity of life on Earth, but also the vital conservation work that is being carried out around the world, and highlight that by working together to raise awareness, share knowledge and take positive action conservation can and does work.

Lord Howe Island stick insect

Lord Howe Island stick insect

One particularly impressive conservation story is that of the Lord Howe Island stick insect, a large, flightless invertebrate endemic to Australia. Once common on Lord Howe Island, this unusual insect was driven to extinction following the accidental introduction of rats to the island, only surviving in an area of 180 square metres on a large rock to the southeast of its original habitat. Without detailed scientific knowledge of the reasons behind its decline, this fascinating species might, by now, have been added to the ever-increasing list of extinct species. However, thanks to scientific exploration and understanding, and with the invaluable application of appropriate conservation measures, it is believed that the Lord Howe Island stick insect could be re-introduced to its native habitat in the next few years.

Kihansi spray toad image

Kihansi spray toads

Another species on the road to recovery as a result of targeted conservation action is the Kihansi spray toad, a rare dwarf amphibian found only in a two-hectare area of habitat in eastern Tanzania’s Kihansi River Gorge. In addition to catastrophic population declines due to a devastating amphibian fungal disease, the Kihansi spray toad has suffered at the hands of habitat loss. The construction of a dam on the Kihansi River in 2000 caused the diminutive toad’s wetland habitat – which relied on being moistened by waterfall spray – to dry out, leading to the amphibian’s dramatic decline and its listing as Extinct in the Wild on the IUCN Red List.

By working in partnership, zoos and conservation organisations were able to set up successful captive breeding programmes for the Kihansi spray toad, boosting an initial captive population of 499 individuals to an incredible 6,000. Conservationists also took the unusual step of setting up an artificial sprinkler system, which by 2010 had restored the Kihansi spray toad’s habitat, and by December 2012 an international team of experts – including scientists from the IUCN SSC Amphibian and Re-introduction Specialist Groups – had re-introduced 2,000 toads to Kihansi. This incredible achievement marks the first time that an amphibian classified as Extinct in the Wild has been returned to its native habitat.

The state of the natural world is increasingly worrying, with many species teetering on the brink of extinction,” said Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN Species Survival Commission. “However, conservation does work and we should be greatly encouraged by success stories such as the re-introduction of the Kihansi spray toad. Many other admirable conservation achievements also show that the situation can be reversed thanks to the dedication and determination of experts and scientists worldwide. With continued effort and support, there is much we can achieve.”

Kemp's ridley turtle image

Kemp’s ridley turtle

Another case in point is that of the Kemp’s ridley turtle, a marine reptile which once numbered in the tens of thousands, but which declined dramatically in the 1950s and 1960s primarily due to the overexploitation of eggs and adult turtles. Thanks to the outstanding efforts of turtle biologists, a wealth of information on the Kemp’s ridley turtle’s biology, distribution and potential threats has been collected in recent years, which has contributed greatly to a special recovery plan for the species.

Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity have made a commitment, through the Aichi Targets, not only to prevent the extinction of threatened species but also to improve their conservation status – ARKive’s tenth anniversary campaign is a perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of conservation and show that it really does work,” said Dr Jane Smart, Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group. “Along with our extensive network of scientific experts, we look forward to working even more closely with ARKive, an IUCN Red List Partner, to strive towards achieving the important goals the world has set.

Asian white-backed vulture image

Asian white-backed vulture

While the work of conservationists and scientific experts is a vital component in the fight against species extinctions, ARKive is also keen to highlight the role that members of the general public can play in the future survival of Earth’s incredible biodiversity. By learning more about the natural world around them and understanding its importance, it is hoped that people will be inspired to take action in their daily lives to safeguard our invaluable species and ecosystems. From recycling and limiting plastic usage to making wiser seafood choices and supporting some of the many hundreds of organisations and scientists who devote their lives to conservation, we can all strive towards building a healthier planet.

Find out more about the ten species on the road to recovery on ARKive’s Conservation in Action page.

Oct 21

Saturday was International Sloth Day, so we thought we would celebrate by sharing our favourite sloth facts and images.

Sloth by name, sloth by nature

Sloths are one of the sleepiest animals known to man and can spend up to 20 hours per day sleeping.

Pale-throated three-toed sloth sleeping

We are family

One thing that can definitely be said about sloths is that they are extremely unique. Many people would guess that they are closely related to primates due to their impressive tree-climbing skills, although they are actually closely related to anteaters and armadillos.

Pygmy three-toed sloth climbing

There’s something behind you!

Sloths belong to the group Xenarthra, which means ‘strange joints’. The extra joints in sloth’s necks allow them to rotate their necks a remarkable 270 degrees.

Pale-throated three-toed sloth suspended from tree

Hanging out

The maned three-toed sloth spends so much time hanging upside down that its internal organs are positioned differently to other mammals.

Maned three-toed sloth climbing

Slow and steady

The slightly green appearance of sloths is due to the algae which live in their fur. This algae helps to camouflage the sloth and therefore protects them from aerial predation. This algae is able to flourish within the fur of the sloth due to their tendency to remain still for many hours.

Brown-throated three-toed sloth male hanging from branch

Leaf lovers

The extremely slow movements of sloths can be attributed to their low-energy diet. As folivores sloths eat a primarily leaf-based diet, which has resulted in them having a low metabolism and body temperature.

Southern two-toed sloth feeding while hanging from a tree

Don’t make me come down

Sloths remain in their arboreal habitat for pretty much 100% of their lives,  and only descend from the trees to defecate. Sloths have extremely strong arms but very weak legs, which means that moving along the ground is extremely difficult. When on the ground, they dig in their front claws and pull themselves along on their stomachs. Surprisingly, sloths are very good swimmers, using their long arms to move through the water.

Brown-throated three-toed sloth crawling on ground

Supersize sloths

Fossil records show that sloths have existed on earth for many thousands of years. Some remains indicate that these animals were previously super-sized, with a stature similar to an elephant.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content Officer.

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