Connect with us

Science

Industry, mild winters clear way for white-tailed deer 'invasion' in Alberta's boreal forest – CBC.ca

Published

 on


Herds of invasive white-tailed deer continue to migrate north in Alberta’s boreal forest — bolstered by milder winters and human development that cuts through the vast wilderness, a new study suggests. 

The survey, recently published in the journal Nature, used 62 trail cameras to track the movements of white-tailed deer near Fort McMurray, Alta., over three years.

It’s a “deer invasion,” said Jason Fisher, study author and wildlife ecologist at the University of Victoria.

“They’re all over the landscape,” Fisher said. “They’re expanding their range. And because they’re having these negative effects on the ecosystem, they could definitely be considered invasive.” 

The cameras captured more than 141,000 images, and white-tailed deer appeared in 80 per cent of them. The survey makes clear that deer are now, by far, the most prevalent large mammal in the habitat, Fisher said.

“We’re kind of feeling around in the dark. But them being there in the numbers they currently are is definitely new, it’s definitely increased, and it’s gotten a lot worse over the last decade.” 

‘Deer don’t really belong in that landscape’

Deer are not native to the boreal forest and their populations are thriving, often at the expense of other species, including fragile populations of woodland caribou, Fisher said. 

The deer create imbalances in the natural food chain. The herds compete with other animals, devouring the boreal forest’s limited grazing lands. Their presence also draws more predators such as wolves to the area.

It’s like a caribou, white-tailed deer teeter-totter with wolves as the fulcrum.– Jason Fisher

“The deer don’t really belong in that landscape,” Fisher said. “They’re not evolved to move quickly over snow the way that caribou are, and so they’re easy targets for wolves. 

“With all these white-tailed deer around, that’s pushing wolf numbers up. With more wolves around, they’re hitting caribou harder.

“It’s like a caribou, white-tailed deer teeter-totter with wolves as the fulcrum. And that’s the big problem.” 

Higher numbers of white-tailed deer are attracting wolves to the area, putting increased pressure on fragile populations of woodland caribou. (Supplied by Jason Fisher)

Historically confined to the Eastern Seaboard, deer have been expanding their territory across the continent since European colonization. First they followed farmers, occupying open areas created when land was cleared of trees.

In their move north, they followed humans again, taking advantage of open grazing areas created by seismic lines and other industrial developments that cut through the thick bush.

“As agriculture swept across North America, white-tailed deer have come with it,” Fisher said. “The increase we’re seeing here in Alberta now is basically the continuation of that process. Alberta has had deer in the south ever since we’ve had agriculture. But the move north is a pretty recent phenomenon.” 

Local populations of deer have been able to rebound after even the harshest winters. (Supplied by Jason Fisher)

The study area — 3,000 square kilometres of white and black spruce, aspen, Jack pine and muskeg — is marked by extensive oil and gas development, logging roads, off-road trails and seismic lines. Deer have only been in the area for a couple of decades, Fisher said. 

Aerial surveys done by the province provide some information on local populations, Fisher said, but his team wanted to better understand the animals in relation to the weather and the landscape. 

According to the thousands of images captured by their cameras, deer were most numerous in areas touched by human development, he said. 

During the three-year study, the severity of winter fluctuated. Populations would soar after a mild winter, but even after a “biblical” second winter, herd numbers appeared relatively untouched, he said. 

‘This isn’t fully a climate-change problem’

Climate change and landscape change are working in tandem to drive the deer invasion, Fisher said. But the loss of mature forest to oil and gas development in the area is the biggest driver, he said.

The altered landscape has given the animals access to new foraging grounds, allowing them to withstand harsh seasons when they might normally starve, Fisher said. 

In an ongoing follow-up study he is overseeing in the Richardson Backcountry, an untouched swath of wilderness north of Fort McMurray, deer numbers are sparse. 

With milder winters expected and more development encroaching into the boreal habitat every year, white-tailed deer territory will only continue to grow, Fisher said.

“This isn’t fully a climate-change problem,” he said. “As long as there is ongoing disturbance in the landscape without restoration, then the white-tailed deer are going to be there.” 

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Talk like you: Scientists discover why humans evolved to talk while other primates can’t – Euronews

Published

 on


Why did humans evolve to talk, while monkeys were left to hoot, squeak and grunt to communicate?

The question has long puzzled scientists, who blamed our closest primate cousins’ inability to reproduce human speech sounds on their vocal anatomy.

Until now, researchers could not quite underpin what happened exactly during our evolution to make us able to speak while apes and monkeys can’t, given our vocal structures look almost identical to other primates.

Now, a new study published on Thursday in the journal Science claims to have the answer – and it’s not what anyone expected.

Analysing the phonal apparatus – the larynx – of 43 species of primates, a team of researchers based mainly in Japan found that all non-human primates – from orangutans to chimpanzees – had an additional feature in their throat that humans do not have.

Ability to speak and develop languages

While both humans and non-human primates produce sounds by forcing air through their larynges, causing folds of tissue to vibrate, monkeys and apes have an additional feature, a thin flap of tissue known as vocal membranes, or vocal lips.

Compared to apes and monkeys, humans were found to lack this anatomical vocal membrane – a small muscle just above the vocal cords – as well as balloon-like laryngeal structures called air sacs which apes and monkeys use to produce the loud calls and screams we’re not quite capable of.

According to the researchers, humans have lost this extra vocal tissue over time, somehow simplifying and stabilising the sounds coming out of our throat, and allowing us, in time, to develop the ability to speak – and eventually develop very complex sophisticated languages.

Monkeys and apes, on the other hand, maintained these vocal lips which don’t really allow them to control the inflection and register of their voice and produce stable, clear vocal fold vibrations.

“Paradoxically, the increased complexity of human spoken language thus followed simplification of our laryngeal anatomy,” says the study.

Communication through sign language

It’s unclear when humans lost these extra tissues still present in apes and monkeys and became able to speak, as the soft tissues in the larynx are not preserved in fossils, and researchers could only study living species.

We know that it must have happened sometime after the Homo Sapiens lineage split from the other primates, some 6-7 million years ago.

The fact that apes and monkeys haven’t developed the ability to speak like humans doesn’t mean that they are not able to clearly communicate with each other.

Though their vocal anatomy doesn’t allow them to form vowel sounds and proper words, non-human primates have a complex communication system based primarily on body language rather than oral sounds.

But monkeys and apes have also proven to be able to communicate with humans.

In the not-often-happy history of the interaction between non-human primates and humans, researchers have been able to teach apes and monkeys to communicate with people.

Koko the gorilla, for example, became famous for being able to use over 1,000 hand signs in sign language, while the bonobo Kanzi was reportedly able to communicate using a keyboard.

But when it comes to having a chat, monkeys and humans might never be able to share one.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

When Summer 'Supermoons' Hit Your Eye: Spectacular Photos – Forbes

Published

 on


When the moon takes the celestial stage during the summer, the spectacle is simply amazing: Currently topping the program is the Sturgeon Supermoon, shining in all its splendor.

In July, it was the Buck Supermoon, the biggest and shiniest of the year. That one followed the Strawberry Supermoon that delighted sky watchers in June.

They have other stage names. This Sturgeon Moon, which derives its principal name from the giant sturgeon fish season in the Great Lakes, is known also as Thunder Moon, Mead Moon and Hay Moon, among others, and is the last supermoon of the year.

July’s Buck Moon, which drew that name because the antlers of male deer — bucks — are in full-growth mode at the time, is also called Salmon Moon and Berry Moon.

The Strawberry supermoon of June gets its name from fruit harvest seasons. It’s also known as Blooming Moon, Honey Moon and the Mead Moon.

The full moon names collected by the iconic Old Farmer’s Almanac come mainly from Native American tribes, Colonial American, and European sources.

“A full moon doubles as a supermoon when it’s near perigee, or the point in the moon’s orbit that is closest to Earth,” the Almanac explains, making it larger and brighter.

August’s Sturgeon Moon is the fourth and final supermoon of the year and it happens to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower, considered by many as “the best meteor shower of the year,” according to NASA. It will peak on August 13 and will remain active through August 24.

And if you happen to notice a bright-looking “star” near the moon, you’re looking at Saturn.

Lunar lovers and star seekers have been enjoying the summer’s stunning celestial performances and here are some of the best photos taken around the globe:

July’s Buck Supermoon

June’s Strawberry Supermoon of June

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Tips on how to spot the 2022 Perseid meteor shower – StrathmoreNow.com

Published

 on


The Perseid meteor shower will peak this year early Saturday morning over Cochrane. 

Local photographer, Dylan Kaniski is gearing up for some sleepless nights to ensure the perfect shot. “I’m always really excited for this meteor shower, it is one of the biggest of the year and we always get a lot of great meteors.”

Meteor showers are clouds of debris left when comets zoom past Earth on their way around the sun. The Perseids come from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which was last visible in 1992. While Cochranites won’t be seeing the comet again until 2125, in the meantime, sky gazers can enjoy the yearly shower from the debris. 

“It does change every year and some years are better than others. But this one is special because the Perseids are pretty consistent from year to year. I usually get a really good shot and that’s why people are really excited about this.”

Unfortunately, a full moon will make it trickier to see this year but Kaniski has plenty of tips for people looking to experience the Perseids for the first time.

“The best way to view the meteor shower is to first get somewhere dark. It doesn’t have to be anywhere super far. I personally like going to the mountains but anywhere around Cochrane, you can go to the countryside just 10 minutes out of town.”

“If you can’t make it out of town, just go into a local park or even turning your back to any streetlights and just letting your eyes adjust is going to help out.”

He also believes you don’t need top-of-the-line photography equipment to get breathtaking shots.

“You don’t need any fancy equipment or anything special. Meteors do move quite fast and they’re usually quite bright so you don’t really have any struggles capturing them with any-level cameras.”

“For advice on cameras, I like to do a higher ISO around like 6,400 and usually a 20-second exposure time. If people are heading out and want to capture it with their cameras, I suggest using a focal length that’s a little bit tighter because a lot of meteors can be a bit smaller, and having a tighter focal length will allow you to emphasize the size of the meteor. Something like 20 to 35 millimeters is what I would recommend.”

”I’d stay away from the super wide angle lenses that you see a lot of nighttime and landscape photographers using.”

While the 2022 Perseid meteor shower will peak early on August 13, 2022, meteors could be visible on clear nights leading up to and past Saturday morning.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending