Tag Archives: nature

Sea turtles are Gulf travelers, scientists say

23 Dec
 Loggerhead “exchanges” between study sites. Tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads (Caretta caretta) 119941 and 119946 during the inter-nesting period in 2012 (A); tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads 108172 (2011) and 119940 (2012) during the inter-nesting period (B). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066921.g002

Loggerhead “exchanges” between study sites.
Tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads (Caretta caretta) 119941 and 119946 during the inter-nesting period in 2012 (A); tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads 108172 (2011) and 119940 (2012) during the inter-nesting period (B).
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066921.g002

Gulf Loggerheads were always thought to be homebodies.

After the females nested, they would make a home at their local beach. They would never travel too far from familiarity.

But, these  threatened female loggerheads are more curious than scientists once thought.

A new study suggests that the turtles nest in different places–laying eggs on the coast of Louisiana one week and traveling hundreds of miles to make another home in Florida weeks later.

The authors of the U.S. Geological Survey study say that the travel routes–which may be littered with leftover oil and increased predators–pose a greater risk to the sea turtle population. The conservation efforts may need to be modified to reflect the findings.

“The satellite data and our observations on the ground tell the same story: loggerheads in this subpopulation nest at multiple beaches, sometimes hundreds of miles apart,” lead author Kristen Hart, a USGS research ecologist, said.

Co-author and USGS biologist Meg Lamont said that simply protecting beaches that are known to be highly populated with sea turtle nests may not be enough.

“These data show it is not sufficient to just protect habitat around high density nesting beaches – such as the St. Joseph Peninsula – because many turtles that nest on the Peninsula use the entire region from the eastern Florida Panhandle to Louisiana,” said Lamont.

Hart said she and her team are continuing to map out the travel routes by tagging the turtles.

“We are working towards defining areas where sea turtles concentrate their activities at sea, effectively building a map of in-water turtle hotspots,” Hart said. “The more we know about their habitat use, the more questions are raised about their behavior and ability to adapt. We hope to build a better understanding of how frequently turtles return to these same locations, and whether or not they move to new habitats when those locations are impacted. This type of information would be extremely valuable for developing management strategies to help in population recovery.”

The study, “Movements and Habitat-Use of Loggerhead Sea Turtles in the Northern Gulf of Mexico during the Reproductive Period,” was published July 3 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Native Florida wildlife caught on camera

22 Jul

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wildlife photographer Michael Stone, a graduate student in science/health communications at the University of Florida, posts the different species and subspecies he sees in his online catalog.

“My hope is that people will see how diverse this planet is, and that they will want to stop that diversity from eroding farther than it already has,” Stone said.

All of the species in this gallery are native to the great state of Florida, enjoy!

Sea turtles are Gulf travelers, scientists say

16 Jul
 Loggerhead “exchanges” between study sites. Tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads (Caretta caretta) 119941 and 119946 during the inter-nesting period in 2012 (A); tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads 108172 (2011) and 119940 (2012) during the inter-nesting period (B). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066921.g002

Loggerhead “exchanges” between study sites.
Tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads (Caretta caretta) 119941 and 119946 during the inter-nesting period in 2012 (A); tracks of satellite-tagged adult female loggerheads 108172 (2011) and 119940 (2012) during the inter-nesting period (B).
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066921.g002

Gulf Loggerheads were always thought to be homebodies.

After the females nested, they would make a home at their local beach. They would never travel too far from familiarity.

But, these  threatened female loggerheads are more curious than scientists once thought.

A new study suggests that the turtles nest in different places–laying eggs on the coast of Louisiana one week and traveling hundreds of miles to make another home in Florida weeks later.

The authors of the U.S. Geological Survey study say that the travel routes–which may be littered with leftover oil and increased predators–pose a greater risk to the sea turtle population. The conservation efforts may need to be modified to reflect the findings.

“The satellite data and our observations on the ground tell the same story: loggerheads in this subpopulation nest at multiple beaches, sometimes hundreds of miles apart,” lead author Kristen Hart, a USGS research ecologist, said.

Co-author and USGS biologist Meg Lamont said that simply protecting beaches that are known to be highly populated with sea turtle nests may not be enough.

“These data show it is not sufficient to just protect habitat around high density nesting beaches – such as the St. Joseph Peninsula – because many turtles that nest on the Peninsula use the entire region from the eastern Florida Panhandle to Louisiana,” said Lamont.

Hart said she and her team are continuing to map out the travel routes by tagging the turtles.

“We are working towards defining areas where sea turtles concentrate their activities at sea, effectively building a map of in-water turtle hotspots,” Hart said. “The more we know about their habitat use, the more questions are raised about their behavior and ability to adapt. We hope to build a better understanding of how frequently turtles return to these same locations, and whether or not they move to new habitats when those locations are impacted. This type of information would be extremely valuable for developing management strategies to help in population recovery.”

The study, “Movements and Habitat-Use of Loggerhead Sea Turtles in the Northern Gulf of Mexico during the Reproductive Period,” was published July 3 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Croaking Cuban frogs Create Competition in South Florida

3 Jun
Cuban Tree Frog. Photo courtesy of www.floridagardener.com

Cuban Tree Frog. Photo courtesy of http://www.floridagardener.com

Southern Florida, particularly the more metropolitan areas such as Miami and Ft. Lauderdale are definitely not known for being quiet areas. The constant honking of horns, people yelling in multiple languages and bold headlines of bizarre news events make South Florida a melting pot of noise.

While I lived there, I would often here screaming arguments ending in “go back where you came from” when cultures clashed. Scientists have found that humans may not be the only ones participating in the battle of “who gets the last word.”

Native tree frogs may be amping up their mating calls to be able to be heard over the invasive Cuban tree frogs that arrived to the state in the 1930s. The Cuban tree frogs likely ended up in Florida as stowaways in shipping crates.

Ecologist Jennifer Tennessen, a graduate student at The Pennsylvania State University, and her colleagues recorded the calls of the Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) to see how they affected two native species of tree frogs: green tree frogs and pine woods tree frogs.

“We predicted that Cuban tree frog chorusing would interfere most with native tree frogs whose acoustic behaviors were similar,” Tennessen said, “and that these would be the most likely candidates to modify their acoustic behavior to avoid interference.”

Her prediction was right. After playing recordings of the Cuban tree frogs, green tree frogs (who have a call similar to Cuban tree frogs) in Everglades National Park doubled their number of calls per minute. This change did not occur in pine woods tree frogs and researchers predict this is because their call is more easily distinguishable from the others.

“By increasing their call rate, green tree frogs may be able to increase the likelihood that potential mates can detect them amidst the noise,” Tennessen said. “This response, however, likely comes at the cost of requiring additional energy, which could be detrimental as it may divert energy away from other important functions like digestion and immune function.”

She also explained that because the green tree frogs are doubling their call rate, predators may find them more easily. The competing call of the Cuban tree frog could also disrupt the soundscape of other organisms who rely on sound for survival.

 

 

Monkeys in Florida? iPhonatography from a jungle in Central Florida

28 May

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As I pondered ideas on what to do on Memorial Day Monday, I decided I needed to explore the land-locked area of Florida I often complain about, being a spoiled coastal girl who is accustomed to living near a beach. A friend mentioned a trip he took where he saw wild monkeys on an island in the middle of Silver River, near Silver Springs, Fla. After doing some preliminary research (mainly hear-say from Gainesville locals) I found out that  Silver River was the filming site the early Tarzan movies. Some of the monkeys escaped, bred and hence that is why there are wild monkeys in Florida.

“How cool,” I thought. I knew the area had to be gorgeous and jungle-y if a man had to surf on vines for the film.

But, after digging a bit more into the history in order to post this blog, I realized I was wrong.

The monkeys had actually arrived in 1938 when Colonel Tooey thought it would be a good idea to create a monkey island in the middle of the river and profit from “jungle cruises.” He figured it would be okay since they were on an island and “couldn’t swim.” To his surprise, when they were released they did know how to swim, which created the Rhesus monkey populations throughout Silver Springs.

Today, the monkey population is controversial because they are an invasive species who sometimes have trouble finding food. Residents have had similar complaints as those related to raccoons, such as digging through garbage. But, other residents cherish the presence of the monkeys as part of the quirkiness that is Florida. Although the term “invasive species” is often connected, at least in Florida, to not-so-cute critters, such as Lionfish, African snails and giant pythons, environment officials warn that this cute creature still has consequences on the natural ecosystems.

Today, some even capture the monkeys to be used both for research and profit.

Either way, I sure enjoyed them!

If you want to visit Silver River State Park to get a glimpse of the monkeys (who are not afraid of people, one almost jumped in our canoe), visit the Silver River State park website.