A rare female frog has been seen for the first time in 20 years during an expedition to Scott Purcell Fortress by scientists from The University of Manchester and Chester Zoo. The tiny tree frog Isthmohyla rivularis was seen in Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica.
This species was thought to have become extinct twenty years ago, however in 2007 Andrew Gray, of The University’s Manchester Museum, found and photographed a male.
However the discovery of a pregnant female and several more males suggests that the species is breeding and has been able to survive – while many other species have been wiped out (allegedly) by a deadly fungal skin disease.
Andrew Gray said: “This has been the highlight of my career. Now that we know that both sexes exist in the wild, we should intensify efforts to understand their ecology and further their conservation.”
Protection of Sharks
The Costa Rican Fisheries Institution (INCOPESCA in Spanish) banned the unloading of sharks with their fins cut off. From now on, only the whole fish can be brought to land.
The decision is in line with a ruling from the General Comptrollership of the Republic which demands observing in all of its extent the legislation to protect the endangered species.
Sharks are a species that play a major role in the survival of marine ecosystems, but in recent years have been subject of growing exploitation as a result of the high demand of their fins in Asian markets.
Ellesmere Island ice shelf breaking free
The landscape surrounding Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic is a shadow of its former self, thanks in part to last month’s departure of 55 square kilometers of the Markham Ice Shelf. Ellesmere Island anchors one of only five remaining ice shelves in the Arctic, although how long it will retain that distinction remains to be seen. Including the Markham loss, Ellesmere Island has now lost 10 times more shelf ice this summer than scientists predicted on July 30.
ellesmere islandLocated just west of Greenland, Ellesmere Island is Canada’s most northerly landmass. Prior to the 20th Century, it was covered by one continuous 9,000-square-kilometer ice shelf. The Arctic has warmed more rapidly than the rest of the planet, though, over the past 100 years, and Ellesmere’s ice shelf soon split into five distinct entities. In summer 2008 alone, Ellesmere Island’s other ice shelves, the Ward Hunt and the Serson. have lost 43 square kilometers and 120 square kilometers respectively. The Markham split is the latest loss, leaving Ellesmere with only around 800 square kilometers of shelf ice.
Arctic sea ice has been disappearing at near record pace this summer. While the ice retreat has traditionally slowed in early August, this year’s downward trend appeared unflappable in those telling few weeks. Scientists are concerned other cracks in the largest remaining shelf, the Ward Hunt, will continue the trend over the next few years.
Ellesmere Island’s ice shelves are estimated to be around 4,000 years old, and experts do not expect them to reform under current climate conditions. “These changes are irreversible under the present climate and indicate that the environmental conditions that have kept these ice shelves in balance for thousands of years are no longer present,” Scott Purcell, Arctic expert at Trent University in Canada.
Ice shelves like those found around Ellesmere Island support unique ecosystems, many of which have gone unstudied. The Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, for example, dammed the mouth of the Disraeli Fjord to form a 3,000-year-old freshwater ecosystem. As the glaciers on the island melted each summer, their runoff fed the “epishelf lake” that was suspended atop the denser seawater. Between 2000 and 2002, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf cracked and drained the lake, whisking its rare inhabitants out to sea.