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Expedition Report: Susan Perkins in Saba

In this episode, Associate Curator Susan Perkins describes her long-term study of malarial parasites and their host lizards, work that draws her back again and again to Saba Island—a relatively unspoiled paradise in the Caribbean.

Dr. Perkins is a microbiologist who studies malarial parasites, symbiotic bacteria, and even RNA viruses. Her research includes multiple ways of approaching questions about these microbes, from their evolutionary histories to their genomics.

Listen to more in our Expedition Report series.

Animals and Language
Turns out the ABCs of animal language — from bird chirps to whale song — may be not so random after all. New research suggests there may be an intermediate step on the evolutionary path between the regular grammar of animal communication and the context-free grammar of human language…
read more: National Science FoundationPhoto: A Rufous-collared Sparrow from Curacao. Credit: R. Hays Cummins, Miami University

Animals and Language

Turns out the ABCs of animal language — from bird chirps to whale song — may be not so random after all. New research suggests there may be an intermediate step on the evolutionary path between the regular grammar of animal communication and the context-free grammar of human language…

read more: National Science Foundation

Photo: A Rufous-collared Sparrow from Curacao. Credit: R. Hays Cummins, Miami University

Study Finds, Caribbean Reefs Need Parrotfish, Sea Urchins
by Danica Coto
Colorful parrotfish and spindly sea urchins are the key to saving the Caribbean’s coral reefs, which may disappear in two decades if no action is taken, a report by several international organizations said Wednesday.
The report, which analyzed the work of 90 experts over three years, said Caribbean reefs have declined by more than 50 percent since the 1970s. It said that while many experts have blamed climate change for the problem, a drop in the populations of parrotfish and sea urchins is largely responsible.
Parrotfish and sea urchins feed off seaweed, and a drop in their numbers has led to an increase in seaweed, which smothers coral reefs, Jeremy Jackson, lead author of the report, said…
(read more: SF Gate)
photograph by Wilfredo Lee, AP

Study Finds, Caribbean Reefs Need Parrotfish, Sea Urchins

by Danica Coto

Colorful parrotfish and spindly sea urchins are the key to saving the Caribbean’s coral reefs, which may disappear in two decades if no action is taken, a report by several international organizations said Wednesday.

The report, which analyzed the work of 90 experts over three years, said Caribbean reefs have declined by more than 50 percent since the 1970s. It said that while many experts have blamed climate change for the problem, a drop in the populations of parrotfish and sea urchins is largely responsible.

Parrotfish and sea urchins feed off seaweed, and a drop in their numbers has led to an increase in seaweed, which smothers coral reefs, Jeremy Jackson, lead author of the report, said…

(read more: SF Gate)

photograph by Wilfredo Lee, AP

turtleconservancy
turtleconservancy:

While establishing our assurance colonies with Richard Branson on Necker Island, we were amazed by the thriving population of Anegada Island Iguanas (Cyclura pinguis).
In the early 80s, several Iguanas were taken to Necker Island in an attempt to save the species and since then the population has grown to approximately 150-200 individuals. This Critically Endangered species has been able to recover here because it does not have to compete with livestock for food and there are no feral animals to prey on it. 

turtleconservancy:

While establishing our assurance colonies with Richard Branson on Necker Island, we were amazed by the thriving population of Anegada Island Iguanas (Cyclura pinguis).

In the early 80s, several Iguanas were taken to Necker Island in an attempt to save the species and since then the population has grown to approximately 150-200 individuals. This Critically Endangered species has been able to recover here because it does not have to compete with livestock for food and there are no feral animals to prey on it. 

The World’s Most Endangered Frogs:
Macaya Breast-spot Frog (Eleutherodactylus thorectes)
Status: Critically-Endangered
One of the smallest frogs in the world, the Macaya breast-spot frog is only found on the Formon and Macaya peaks in southwestern Haiti. The species is expected to decline by 80 percent over the next ten years as a result of habitat destruction. Slash and burn agriculture and the logging of trees for charcoal are driving this loss of habitat.
(read more: Nature - PBS)
photo by Robin Moore

The World’s Most Endangered Frogs:

Macaya Breast-spot Frog (Eleutherodactylus thorectes)

Status: Critically-Endangered

One of the smallest frogs in the world, the Macaya breast-spot frog is only found on the Formon and Macaya peaks in southwestern Haiti. The species is expected to decline by 80 percent over the next ten years as a result of habitat destruction. Slash and burn agriculture and the logging of trees for charcoal are driving this loss of habitat.

(read more: Nature - PBS)

photo by Robin Moore

Behind the Scenes: First-ever Black-capped Petrel Satellite Tracking

By Rob Ronconi

Locally known as diablotín, which translates loosely to “little devil,” the Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) is one of the world’s most imperiled and least known seabirds. This species was thought to be extinct for most of the 20th century, then was rediscovered in 1963 nesting high up in the mountains of southeastern Haiti.

Since then, various expeditions have found diablotíns nesting among the cliffs, boulders, and pine forests of four sites on the island of Hispaniola.

In early April 2014, in a joint project led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Clemson University, Grupo Jaragua in the Dominican Republic, and American Bird Conservancy, I had the privilege and pleasure to join an expedition to Sierra de Bahoruco National Park in the Dominican Republic…

(read more: American Bird Conservancy)

Photographss by Tazio Taveres and Rob Ronconi

Dog Island in Anguilla is declared rat-free

Anguillan wildlife is already showing signs of recovery after the successful removal of black rats from Dog Island.

Following an intensive five-month programme to eradicate black rats and two years of careful monitoring, Dog Island in Anguilla has officially been declared rat-free. This is the largest Caribbean island to be successfully cleared of non-native rats to protect the island’s threatened wildlife, which is now showing promising signs of recovery.

Covering 207 hectares, Dog Island is an internationally-recognised Important Bird Area, with over 100,000 pairs of nesting seabirds. It also supports lizards found nowhere else on earth and endangered sea turtles, which nest on the island’s white sandy beaches. Until recently, the island was also infested with thousands of invasive black rats, which caused severe damage by suppressing native plants and preying on eggs, chicks, and other animals…

(read more: Fauna & Flora International)

photos: Jenny Daltry/FFI/DIRP