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Look: Penguins Took A Cute Selfie

Look at these adorable penguins taking a selfie. Click To Tweet

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Penguins
Photo: Charlie Marshall | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Eddie Gault, a researcher in the Australian Antartic Division accidentally left a rolling camera in Auster Rookery, Antartica which is mostly frequented by emperor penguins. Naturally, two penguins were curious to check what the device was. They began looking at its lens while the camera was rolling; the result? A rare and mystifying cute selfie (clip below).

The Australian Antartic Division uploaded a short clip of the selfie-loving penguins on their social media sites. They added that the video gives a bird’s eye view on life in the Antartic. For nearly 30 seconds, the pair can be seen closely examining the camera. Currently, the clip has about 615,000 views on Youtube.

The clip begins seeing only the feet of a single penguin. It seems to have kicked the camera so that the lens will face upward. The first penguin looks at the camera, to be followed by the second penguin. Then both of them, bend and look closer towards the camera lens. Afterward, they straighten up and shake their heads. It somehow looks like they agreed that the camera is just a piece of trash.

According to the Australian Antartic Division’s Facebook page, Penguins are curious animals. This may be the second time that the birds are caught fooling around with a camera. Last 2013, a Gentoo penguin took a selfie of its beak with a GoPro camera from a Canadian cruise ship.

Taking a selfie is also in the vocabulary of other animals. In Western Australian, an eagle was intended to record crocodiles, but it unexpectedly filmed itself flying and pecking at the lens. There is also a black macaque who took an Instagram-worthy selfie with David Slater’s camera, a British wildlife photographer. Slater published the photo in one of his books.

According to Dr. Charles and Dr. Elizabeth Schmitz, penguins and humans somewhat have a lot of similarities. They added that we could learn love and relationship lessons from the penguins of Antartica.

Penguins look out for each other, have fun by hanging out with their family/friends, and communicate effectively with each other. They are not shy in expressing their love. Adult penguins kiss their babies a lot. Couple penguins show their love for each other verbally. They say I love you by screaming out loud daily.

But these furry and lovable creatures are having some problems, and they need our help. A lot of issues threaten their life. Their populations decreased at about 80 percent. Most scientists agree that the main reason for it is the increasing temperatures, intense storms brought, reducing penguins’ food supply by climate change.

A 2015 study warned that with the current rate of plastic production and pollution, 99.8 percent of seabirds would be eating plastic trash. If a bird swallows a certain amount of plastic, it will be built up in its digestive system and prevent it from digesting natural food. 

Meanwhile, African penguins are usually the victims of overfishing. These type of penguins often eat nutrient-riched sardines. But in the 1970s, the population of sardines decreased significantly because of overfishing.

Some penguins were forced to replace their diet with gobies, which is low in fat and nutrients. According to reports, some penguin populations declined because of this unhealthy diet. Other factors that threaten the penguin population include invasive predators, industrial development (it displaces the penguins’ critical nesting sites), oil spills, and illegal egg harvesting.

The selfies got viral, and it led to one thing: create awareness to take good care of these cute penguins. Since climate change poses a growing threat to these adorable fish-loving butlers, there are a lot of things we can do to minimize our carbon footprint.

We can help them by eating less meat, buying less stuff, reduce the instances of driving and flying as much as possible, and eating seafood from well managed and sustainable fisheries. One can also help by supporting campaigns from organizations like Oceana.

Their campaigns aim to reduce bycatch, end overfishing, and protect aquatic habitats. The selfies got viral in social media, and social media as a powerful tool becomes an outlet for these creatures to touch every soul. If we somehow do our part to save these animals, more cute selfies are coming.

Here’s the viral penguin selfie:

I've been contributing news since 2010, both online and print. Aside from Z6Mag, I manage independent news blogs that provide awareness on a diverse list of topics to every reader.

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Look: Exotic Pets Turned Invasive Pests

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Exotic Pets
Marcie Kapsch from Loxahatchee NWR holding the exotic sailfin catfish (FL). Photo: USFWS Fish and Aquatic Conservation | Flickr

A recent study published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, a journal from the Ecological Society of America, documented how researchers gain more awareness in the dynamics of the exotic pet trade and the role it plays in introducing nonlocal and invasive vertebrates worldwide.

As exotic pets become more popular, we need to have a clearer understanding of the factors that affect the trade to minimize the threat of having a pet-to-pests invasion soon.

Lockwood, the lead author of the study, said that since the 1970s, the market for exotic pets is continuously growing and the amount of vertebrate animals that are traded globally is surprising, even to the experienced biologists. Over the past decades, the population of reptiles and marine fish significantly increased — caused by their viral popularity as exotic pets.

Researchers take a closer look at the socioeconomic and socioecological factors that affect the exotic pet trade of vertebrates (animals with the backbone; namely fishes, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles).  The mentioned factors depend on the unique economic, social, regulatory, and cultural contexts of a particular country. There is an increasing and widespread demand for exotic pets worldwide, but it occurs mainly in developing countries like South America and Asia. In the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, more than half of all households have at least one pet.

What are exotic pets? 

In the study, it is defined as “species without a long history of domestication that are legally captured from their native range or bred within facilities and sold to consumers as household companions,” and are kept for non-utilitarian reasons (characterized by or aiming at beauty or ornament rather than utility).

Lockwood explains that species of goldfish or monk parakeets are considered as common pets for decades. Other species appear in the market for only one or two years; after that, they disappear.

The reason for this dynamic is not yet known, but researchers noted that this might be because of some species are easy to take care and breed well in captivity (which makes them cost cheaper). She added that thousands of different species are sold yearly. If a small percentage will escape or be free, they are capable of forming wild populations.

Is it really bad if our former pets decided to form a big family in the wild?

Lockwood and her team said that invasive reptiles and amphibians could force local species into extinction.

For example, the red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) are turtles popularly kept as pets in the United States. It is native to the south-central region of the US, but it has created non-native populations in other parts of the country. These turtles are the real-life counterparts of the Famous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Red eared slider turtle Credits: Jim, The Photographer| Flickr | Unknown

The reasons why owners release exotic pet is not widely documented. But it includes difficulty in taking care of large, old, aggressive, or sick animals. Cute little animals don’t always stay the same; sometimes, they grow and live longer than the pet owners had expected. Most countries don’t have the proper documentation of imported pet species. Also, there are challenges in monitoring and regulating them; some animals are usually recorded as “unidentified” or wrongly identified.

Factors such as the popularity of owning exotic animals, the ease of buying exotic pets from websites, and the lack of adequately implemented regulations — made it possible for the species to spread not only in their original locations but also in other parts of the globe.

This increase the possibility of having invasions in the future. To avoid or minimize the chances of having an exotic pet invasion, we need to have a better understanding of the forces that affect the worldwide trade of exotic pets.

In conclusion, Lockwood said that first “we need to know the reasons why certain species are in the trade, or what factors lead them to escape or be released,” so that we can make the right policies. These policies should be able to make both sides happy. Some people are still free to love their exotic pets while minimizing the probability of invasion.

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Baby Tiger Sharks Munch On Land Birds

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Tiger Sharks
Photo: Tony Alter | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Tiger sharks can eat anything — from dolphins, other sharks, sea turtles to rubber tires and other ocean trash, hence, nicknamed as the garbage cans of the sea. But recently, scientists discovered by analyzing the DNA of a shark’s barf that baby tiger sharks have a different diet. They documented that baby tiger sharks eat songbirds (such as sparrows, woodpeckers, and doves), and not the usual sea birds (seagulls or pelicans).

Kevin Feldheim, one of the co-authors of the study and led to the DNA analysis of the shark’s diet, said that “if these sharks with their tigerlike stripes see an easy target or meal, they will undoubtedly go for it.” But, he was shocked to learn that they’re eating songbirds. He added that this is one of the awesome projects since the discovery of DNA profiling.

Photo Credits: Field Museum.org

Researchers from Mississippi State University studied the tiger sharks’ diet. They wrassle the 3 foot long sharks onto a boat, pump the shark’s stomachs, and examine the sample of its stomach contents. Don’t worry; no sharks are harmed in the process and were released afterward. Shockingly, out of the 105 sharks they’ve examined, 41 had bird remains in their stomachs.

However, it was difficult for scientists to determine what bird species the tiger sharks’ digested. As a solution, the team sought assistance with the Field Museum’s Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution to analyze its DNA.

The team took the bird remains and used chemicals to break them down their primary molecular components. Then, they analyzed the DNA sequences found in the bird’s tissues. Afterward, they compared them to the available databases of bird’s DNA to know what species they are.

“We found out that none of them were seagulls, pelicans, cormorants, or other types of marine birds. They were all terrestrial birds that usually live in our backyards,” said Marcus Drymon, the paper’s lead author.

Moreover, this is not the first time that tiger sharks are known to eat birds. In Hawaii, some adult tiger sharks haunt baby albatrosses who are just learning to fly, says Feldheim. But this is the first time that we acquired scientific evidence that tiger sharks eat songbirds that usually live on land.

Feldheim added that the sharks hunt on songbirds since its easy to prey due to the species’ difficulties in traveling over the ocean. During migration, they’re exhausted, and sometimes they fall into the sea during a typhoon. Also, terrestrial birds are more appealing than seabirds because seabirds can handle themselves better in the water compared to songbirds.

What is the impact of this study?

It proves the importance of having DNA databases, which should be available for scientists. DNA can tell something that observation cannot.

Also, this study gives us a better understanding of tigers sharks. This information can somehow help us to protect them. According to Feldheim, all sharks currently facing some severe problems. We still don’t know how industrialized fishing affected them, but most of the top predator populations are continuously declining.

Although tiger sharks are notorious for being man-eaters, we humans pose a more significant threat. Based on National Geographic, most populations of tiger sharks are harvested for their fins, skin, and flesh. Their livers are a good source of vitamin A, and usually, it is processed into vitamin oils. In general, sharks take a long time to mature sexually and have low birth rates. Their population may also suffer due to overfishing. As of today, they are included in the near-threatened list of species.

Sharks are known to be the top predators, and they are essential in keeping the oceans in balance. They prey on the weak and prevent the potentially harmful fish populations from taking over a particular ecosystem. They are at risk of accumulating too many toxins from the prey they eat.

For example, plastics break down into microplastics — which are eaten by small fish. But these microplastics further break down into toxins that stay in the fishes’ system. This can cause sufficient harm to sharks if they’ve eaten it over time.

What can we do to help save sharks?

We need to stop buying shark products. We need to raise awareness that just like us, sharks are just living their own lives. They are acting like police offers, regulating the rules set by Mother Nature.

If sharks disappear in the world’s oceans, there will be negative consequences. Without them, at the top of the food chain, some population of aquatic creatures may also decline and suffocating algae blooms will increase. These algae blooms create toxins and can ruin coral reefs. We must do our part to save these creatures from extinction.

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Look: Chimpanzees Eat Crabs For Survival

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Chimpanzee eats crabs for survival
Photo: Aaron Logan | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Apes eating bananas are cute and typical, but chimpanzees that chomp on crabs are too unusual. Today, researchers at the Department of Anthropology from the University of Zurich revealed for the first time that chimpanzees could eat crabs. The research finding aims to widen “our understanding of why aquatic fauna became more and more important as a source of nutrition in the course of human evolution.”

Researchers from Kyoto University observed how wild chimpanzees caught and preyed on fresh-water crabs in a rainforest in the Nimba Mountains in Guinea year-round. The finding somehow contradicts the common idea that anthropoid apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas, the closest species to humans do not eat aquatic animals.

A copy of the research findings was published Wednesday in an online website of the Journal of Human Evolution. The study reveals the first evidence which proves that non-human apes usually catch and eat aquatic fauna, said Kathelijne Koops, one of the researchers.

In the small and shallow rivers of the rainforest, the chimpanzees haunt for the crabs by scratching and beating up the riverbed with their fingers.

The said study began in 2012 when the team observed how chimpanzees ate river crabs at a water hole in the forests of Guinea in West Africa. To prove that such behavior of chimpanzees happened, the team set up camera traps at four water holes between 2012 and 2014 — this documented and recorded chimpanzees that eat crabs for almost 181 times.

The research team also discovered that these chimpanzees living in the rain forest in the Nimba Mountains of Guinea consumed freshwater crabs year-round. This means that non-human apes regularly catch and choose aquatic fauna as a source of food to survive.

Chimpanzees do eat crabs even though fruits are available. They searched for it in shallow streams in the mountainous rain forest region through either scratching or digging up the riverbed with their fingers. It is in the riverbed where these crabs were mostly found with high nutritional value.

Researchers explained that on rainy season, more river crabs appear on the area. Although, much to their surprise, researchers emphasized that there was no correlation between crab-fishing activity and the amount of monthly rainfall. Chimpanzees like to eat crabs regardless whether it’s rainy or dry season; where there’s not enough water in the streams where crabs can survive. 

However, some curious scholars from another institute questioned whether these chimpanzees only rely on river crabs for primary food. Researchers at the Department of Anthropology emphasized, as a result of almost two years of observation, that chimpanzees eat more crabs when there are only a few ants available to munch. This means that aside from river crabs, chimpanzees also like to eat ants. Another possible explanation is that Chimpanzees like to eat crabs and ants because both contain the same nutritional value.

Furthermore, the researchers noticed that female chimpanzees and their young babies spend more time finding and eating crabs compared to adult males. The group of lactating and young female chimpanzees was the frequent consumers of river crabs. Their babies lined up and waited to be fed, while the younger ones — who understands the laborious work of finding crabs — came with their mothers to dig. Koops said that one of the possible explanations for this discovery is that crabs contain fatty acids and micronutrients that are good for both the mother and baby’s health.

What will be the impact of this study?

Chimpanzees are our closest living family in the animal kingdom. Past studies found that human ancestors ate fish, turtles, and other aquatic animals way back two million years ago when they left the comforts of the forest and decided to settle in the savanna. Matsuzawa, one of the researchers of this project, said that humans might have been eating aquatic animals since the earliest humans lived in forests for over four million years ago.

If chimpanzees eat river crabs, then it is possible that humans — as far as four million years ago — already ate aquatic organisms as a source of food to survive the drastic change in the environment.

The results of this study can help us understand that marine organisms are a vital source of nutrition, and it somehow helped in human evolution. The study presents an idea and a step towards finding out when and how humans began to eat aquatic animals.

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