Natural History News

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For weeks we’ve been following the oil spill’s impact on wildlife along the Gulf coast, but there is also an endangered species known to feed in the murky depths right where oil is leaking: sperm whales. Audubonmagazine.org reports that an estimated 1,665 sperm whales in the northern Gulf of Mexico that may be at risk as oil continues to spew from Deepwater Horizon.

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Just 1.5 million years before humans began taking leisurely dips in the ocean, the waters were home to an immense shark "Megalodon" (formally known as Carcharocles megalodon). Despite coming in at more than 60 feet long, young C. megalodons would still have been vulnerable to other predators of their time, much like young great whites are today. According to a new study published in PLoS One the "mega-toothed shark" may have protected its young by delivering them in nurseries.

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The recent catastrophic explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico has put Florida, Mississippi, and our home state of Alabama on high alert. And even though we are an international adventure travel company, we are first and foremost Alabamians. Many of us vacation several times a year on the Gulf Coast and have friends and family living there who depend on the Gulf Coast's perennial draw as a destination.

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We'll just come right out and say this: We’re a little late to the game, Dear Blog Reader, in responding to the International League of Conservation Photographers' list of  “Top 40 Nature Photos of All Time” unveiled last week for Earth Day, but given the context of “all time,” a few days is trivial.

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It's been well-documented that invasive species are threatening the Galapagos Islands'  native flora and fauna, with alien or exotic species making up as much as 23% of the archipelago's insect fauna. One of these insect invaders, the sap-sucking cottony cushion scale, is being brought under control by the lady bug beetle.

"'Populations of cottony cushion scale in 2002 were so high and spread across so many islands that several endemic and native plant populations were thought to be going into decline because of heavy infestations,' said Hoddle, a biocontrol specialist.

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Malaysian conservationists working in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund captured a photo of a critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros thought to be pregnant, raising hopes that the species on Borneo island may be breeding in the wild. The Sumatran rhino – once widespread on Borneo – is now confirmed to exist only in the northeast state of Sabah, where the photo was taken, and is possibly extinct from its former habitats in Sarawak (Malaysia) and Kalimantan (Indonesia).

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Researchers in Peru have recently filmed the long-whiskered owlet, one of the world's rarest birds, at La Esperanza, Peru. How rare is this six-inch owlet? It's estimated that fewer than 15 people have ever seen this bird in the wild.

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Thought to have disappeared in the 1970s, the yellow-spotted bell frog (Litoria castanea) was rediscovered in late-2009 in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales. Since then, tadpoles have been taken to Sydney's Taronga Zoo to boost populations through a captive breeding program.

"The Yellow-spotted Bell Frog (Litoria castanea) had not been seen in the wild for almost 30 years and so many people had written the species off as extinct. That was until Luke Pearce spotted what he thought might be one in a small stream on the Southern Tablelands of NSW.

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A team of scientists working for Reptile & Amphibian Ecology International have discovered previously undiscovered biodiversity in a rare and dwindling ecosystem in coastal Ecuador. The apparently new species include a blunt-snouted, slug-sucking snake and 30 species of rain frog.

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