Web Bytes from the land Down Under

From the Web: Nature, Science & Tech

News about several species in Australia.

The manta ray who appealed for help

When Freckles the manta ray approached divers Jake Wilton and Monty Halls, in Coral Bay, Western Australia, they were shocked to see fishing hooks embedded under her right eye. More surprising was that she stopped near them, appearing to ask for help.

“It’s all purely accidental, but a lot of the reefs out in the bay are areas where manta rays visit to be cleaned by little wrasse [fish], to keep them healthy,” Jake Wilton explains. “People fish on those cleaning stations, and then accidentally hook the manta rays.”

It’s a common problem in Coral Bay, he says, although he adds that “this is the first time we’ve had one actually approach us and try and get [the hooks] out”.

Jake dived down several times, each time swimming up close and removing the hooks from her skin. Freckles waited patiently for him to finish.

Jake has since checked in on Freckles and told BBC News that she’s doing well, and may even have recognised him.

14 July 2019 on bbc.com


Whispering mother whales

They might be twice the size of the top ocean predators, but southern right whales don’t take any chances when it comes to protecting their babies.

These marine mammals, which can grow to be upwards of 45 feet long and reach 20 feet even as calves, are known to prefer cloudy waters that will keep them hidden.

And, scientists now say they may even lower their voices to stay off orcas’ radar, their known predators. In a new study, researchers have recorded what they say are essentially whale whispers, as the animals hide out in the noisy surf and keep communications to a low to stay unnoticed.

Researchers studied the conversations between southern right whale mothers and their calves in Flinders Bay, off the southern tip of Western Australia.

By Cheyenne MacDonald – 11 July 2019 on dailymail.co.uk


Australian seagulls carry antibiotic-resistant superbugs

Scientists found more than 20% of silver gulls nationwide carrying bacteria such as E. coli, which can cause urinary tract and blood infections and sepsis.

The research has raised fears that the antibiotic-resistant bacteria – similar to superbugs which have hit hospitals – could infect humans and other animals. Scientists have described it as a “wake-up call”.

“I think that it is a wake-up call for all government and various agencies, like water treatment and big councils that manage waste, to properly work collaboratively to tackle this issue,” said Dr Sam Abraham, a lecturer in veterinary and medical infectious diseases.

Humans could contract the bacteria if they touched the seagull faeces, but the risk is considered low if they wash their hands afterwards.

10 July 2019 on bbc.com


Australia’s cutest marsupial “functionally extinct”

Experts at the Australian Koala Foundation announced on May 10, 2019 that they believe no more than 80,000 koalas are left on the continent.

That’s not zero, of course, but functionally extinct means a species’ population has declined so much that it no longer plays a significant role in the ecosystem (for example, as predators of other creatures). That’s now true of koalas.

Deforestation, warmer weather, and droughts have all hampered the critters’ ability to survive and thrive.

About 80% of koalas’ natural habitat has disappeared, and the animals are also threatened by dogs and cars, which kill 4,000 of the marsupials every year, according to the AKF [Australian Koala Foundation].

The Koalas’ severe decline is part of a larger trend: A growing body of evidence suggests the planet is amid a sixth mass extinction. A recent report from the United Nations found that up to 1 million species could disappear, many within decades, thanks to human activity.

Video was produced by YT Wochit News

By Aylin Woodward – May 17, 2019 on businessinsider.sg

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