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Thousands of blood-sucking ticks found on bodies of Canadian moose –



This story is part of a CBC News series entitled In Our Backyard, which looks at the effects climate change is having in Canada, from extreme weather events to how it’s reshaping our economy.

Flying over southern New Brunswick in a helicopter, it doesn’t take long to spot moose running through the snow in the forest beneath. What isn’t visible from the air are the thousands of ticks invading their bodies.

In nearby New Hampshire and Maine, over a three-year period, scientists found an alarming 70 per cent of calves didn’t make it through their first winter due in large part to tick infestation, according to a study in the Canadian Journal of Zoology. In some cases up to 80,000 ticks were found on a single moose.

Scientists count the number of ticks on a 10-centimetre patch of the moose’s skin. They estimate there are thousands on its entire body. In some cases up to 80,000 ticks have been found on a single moose. (Kayla Hounsell/CBC)

Researchers from the universities of New Brunswick and Laval are now studying how ticks survive in the differing climates of New Brunswick and Quebec and how that affects moose. Their data show moose populations in both provinces have been healthy and growing over the past three decades, but wildlife biologist Serge Couturier says warmer winters and less snow cover make it easier for ticks to survive.

“Global warming is likely increasing their abundance,” he said in an interview in the woods near Tracy, N.B. “The northern limit is moving north and north and north.” 

An aerial view of southern New Brunswick, near Tracy. Scientists believe warmer winters and less snow cover are increasing the abundance of winter ticks in Canada. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

External parasites

Ticks are an external parasite. They feed on the animal’s blood, staying on their skin for the fall and winter, until they drop off to lay their eggs on vegetation. These ticks do not pose any health risks to humans.   

Scientists in southern New Brunswick measure a moose and count the ticks on its body. They’re studying how ticks survive in the climates of New Brunswick and Quebec and how that affects moose. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

Jean-Pierre Tremblay, a professor in the department of biology at Laval University in Quebec City and principal investigator on the moose research project, says unlike other species, such as white-tailed deer, moose tolerate the ticks until it’s too late. Many moose end up weak with anemia. 

He says their skin also becomes inflamed and they change their behaviour, spending more time grooming, rubbing against trees until their fur comes off and less time eating.   

“That’s a critical time of year, at the end of winter, when they have used most of their fat reserve, especially for calves,” said Tremblay.

When infested with ticks, moose eventually rub against trees so hard they lose their fur. (Kayla Hounsell/CBC)

Trapping a moose

When the team spotted a moose from the air, Couturier shot a net from the helicopter to trap the animal, a technique he says is “very efficient, very safe” for the animals.

On the ground, a veterinarian was on hand to sedate the animal, monitor her breathing and temperature and generally keep her comfortable. 

“She’s not really anesthetized, just sedated,” said Dr. Benjamin Lamglait, after he had injected a 172-kilogram female calf. “We want her to be calm.” 

The moose laid on the ground in the snow, her tongue lolling out of her mouth, a mask over her eyes, also to keep her calm. 

A veterinarian is on hand to sedate the animal, monitor her breathing and temperature and generally keep her comfortable while researchers conduct their work. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

When the scientists pulled open her fur, they revealed dozens of ticks attached to a tiny patch of the animal’s skin, literally sucking the life out of it. They estimated there were many thousands on her entire body. 

When the team finished working on the moose they captured, the vet administered a reversal injection and within three minutes the animal woke up and walked away. 

The team is in the process of weighing, measuring and tagging 116 moose with GPS collars in New Brunswick and Quebec. Half of them will be treated with a pesticide used to kill ticks and half won’t. This will help them determine whether the moose are dying from ticks or some other factor. 

“Our GPS collars, we can control them remotely so we can get a location once every hour, or once every several hours,” said UNB master of science student Douglas Munn, who along with the other New Brunswick researchers is based in Fredericton. 

Munn explained that the collars also track the animal’s activity in 15-minute increments, which he says allows him to determine whether heavily parasitized moose differ in how they move and select habitats.

Before the scientists leave the moose in the woods, they inject it with a drug to reverse the sedative and ensure the animal has walked away on its own. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

Future forest management

J.D. Irving Woodlands Division is one of 16 partners on the project, including Parks Canada, the Government of Quebec and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. 

Andrew Willett, director of research for J.D. Irving, says the company needs to understand how climate change is affecting the wildlife on its lands so that it can understand how the habitat is changing in order to potentially adapt its forest management.  

“We’re planting a tree today, we’re going to harvest it in 40 years’ time,” he said. “The climate is going to be completely different in 40 years than it is today.”

Researchers say their work to measure and tag 116 moose in New Brunswick and Quebec is important in part because the moose is such an emblematic animal in Canada. (Kayla Hounsell/CBC)

The scientists say the work is important in part because the moose is such an emblematic animal in Canada. 

“They’re an important game species,” said Munn. “But also because they’re valued spiritually by First Nations and Native Americans in the United States and Canada, and also because of their role in ecological systems.”

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Move over, Stegosaurus, there’s a new armored dino in town – Popular Science



Paleontologists in southern Argentina have recently discovered an adorable, five-foot-long armored dinosaur. The Jakapil kaniukura roamed the Earth during the hot and humid Cretaceous period roughly between 145.5 and 65.5 million years ago, and weighed 9 to 15 pounds–the size of the average domestic cat. 

The tiny dino’s fossilized remains were dug up during multiple digs over the over the past 10 years near a dam in Patagonia’s Río Negro province. The province is home to the La Buitrera palaeontological zone, a region well-known for the discovery of three complete southern raptors (Unenlagia) skeletons, herbivorous terrestrial crocodiles, the oldest found chelid turtles, and more.

Jakapil is part of the Thyreophoran dinosaur group that lived from the Jurassic period to the early Cretaceous period whose name means “shield bearer.” This feisty-looking group includes the bony backed, spiky tailed Stegosaurus and the tank-like Ankylosaurus. Like its prickly cousins, Jakapil had built in physical defenses, with rows of bony oval-shaped armor along its neck, back, and down to its tail.

[Related: This fossilized butthole gives us a rare window into dinosaur sex.]

“It bears unusual anatomical features showing that several traits traditionally associated with the heavy Cretaceous thyreophorans did not occur universally,” wrote the study’s authors, Facundo J. Riguetti, Sebastián Apesteguía, and Xabier Pereda-Suberbiola. “Jakapil also shows that early thyreophorans had a much broader geographic distribution than previously thought.”

The team published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports on August 11th. They first discovered Jakapil’s partial skeleton alongside 15 tooth fragments, which revealed that jakapil’s teeth were leaf-shaped like a modern-day iguana’s. 

According to lead paleontologist Sebastián Apesteguía, Jakapil marks the first-of-its-kind discovery of an armored dinosaur from the Cretaceous in South America. It also resembles a more primitive form of thyreophoran dinosaur that lived in the area significantly earlier. 

“Thyreophorans originated about 200 million years ago and rapidly evolved into various species distributed throughout the world,” Riguetti, first author of the work and a Conicet doctoral fellow at the Center for Biomedical, Environmental and Diagnostic Studies at Maimónides University said in a release. “However,of these early thyreophorans, the lineage represented by ‘Jakapil’ was the only one that lasted until at least 100 million years ago.”

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Full moon may hinder most anticipated meteor shower of the year –



This weekend is the peak of Perseid’s meteor shower, one of the best-known and largest celestial events that can be seen from Earth.

Throughout the past couple of days, meteors have been visible to on-lookers and will get an even better view during the event’s peak on Friday night.

“Meteors are these tiny little pieces of space dust that crash into the earth and burn up, and when that happens we see them in the sky as a falling star or a shooting star,” says Scott Young, the Planetarium Astronomer at the Manitoba Museum. “The meteor is sort of the official name for those objects, and on any night you can probably see one or two of those if you’re lucky, but on certain nights of the year, the Earth goes through a big cloud of cosmic dust and when you get all that dust hitting the Earth all on the same night, you get lots of meteors. So we call that a meteor shower.”

Young also says that it won’t look as if thousands of stars are falling out of the sky, but rather it will be one star every minute instead of one a night.

“It always occurs every year around August 11-13, somewhere in that range because we’re going through the dust bunny left behind by a comet that crosses Earth’s orbit. Now, that doesn’t always mean that you will see all of those things hitting the Earth, and the timing might happen during the day for you. It might be cloudy, or like this year, close to the full moon. When the full moon is up, it makes it hard to see some of those fainter meteors that you would see.”

The best time to see any meteor shower is between midnight and dawn. According to Young, even with the bright light of the full moon on the same night as the peak time to see meteors, it is a strong enough shower that viewers will still be able to see shooting stars. 

“The official peak occurs after midnight, Friday night, so Saturday morning around 3:00 a.m. our time. But to be honest, it’s not a single-night event. It builds up over a previous couple of weeks and each night there’ll be more and more meteor showers until the peak and then after the peak, it fades away for a couple of weeks.”

The comet that causes the meteor shower is comet Swift–Tuttle, discovered by Lewis Swift and Horace Parnell Tuttle in 1862.

“Each meteor shower over the course of the year has its own source objects, most of them are comets and we know that when we get close to the comet’s orbit in our orbit, we’ll see this meteor shower. They’re actually named after the constellations in the sky where the meteors look like they’re coming from. When we’re looking at the sky, it seems that the meteors from the Perseid meteor shower will come from the constellation Perseus, which is rising in the northeastern part of the sky at this time of year. That doesn’t mean you have to know where Perseus is, the meteors can appear all over the sky.”

To get the best view of the meteor shower peak, Young suggests viewers go to a place where there are not a lot of lights and even “put your back towards any bright lights that are like the moon or city lights.” He also suggests putting the phone away, because the bright light will cause your eyes to need time to adjust to the dark sky and some of the dimmer shooting stars may be missed.

“This is one of those things where you have to unplug, disconnect and just lay out under the stars, relax and look up. it’s a great therapeutic way to connect with the sky.”

Normally on the peak day of the event, Young will go out with an all-sky camera and broadcast live on the Manitoba Museum’s Facebook and YouTube pages, but he says it always depends on the weather.

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



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.

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