Sunday 30 March 2014

Species of the Day: Pistol Shrimp (Alpheidae)

  The Pistol shrimp are a group of small caribbean crustaceans which are part of the snapping shrimp family. Alpheidae tend to live in colonies and most live in warm costal systems, though some live in highly specialized environments such as freshwater caves.
Pistol shrimp dig down into sediment, where it forms burrows from which to launch its characteristic predatory attacks. 

(note the distinctly enlarged right claw)

  Pistol shrimp distinctive because of the disproportionately large claw on only one side of its body. Unlike most shrimp, this claw doesn't have pincers, but rather has a very special apparatus from which its name is derived. The large claw functions much like a gun. The hammer portion of the claw is pulled into a a cocked, right angle position. When snapped downwards the hammer contacts the other portion of the claw (much like an anvil). When the hammer and anvil contact, a pulse of bubbles is shot from the end of the claw with enormous force, generating a shock wave powerful enough to kill small fish or break glass jars! Because of this snapping effect, Alpheidae competes with sperm whales and beluga whales for the loudest creatures of the sea!

  In their coral reef habitat, pistol shrimp are known to have a symbiotic relationship with gobi fish who share their burrows. The shrimp maintains the burrow for both inhabitants while the gobi fish provides protection by spotting potential threats. The shrimp communicates with the fish using its antennae while the fish communicates using a distinctive tail movement. 

The video below does an amazing job of illustrating this incredible predatory toolset!

Monday 17 March 2014

Species of the Day: Giant golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus)

In Queensland we are pretty used to hearing the chattering of flying foxes by night, seeing them swoop underneath street lights and burst from dark trees as we walk too close. Today I thought I would cover a different species of flying fox facing extinction in the Philippines.

Acerodon jubatus is endemic to the forests of the Philippines. The giant golden-crowned flying fox is immediately recognisable by its massive wingspan (1.5-1.7m / 4'11"-5'7"!!) and the bright golden fur on top of their heads, contrasting the black fur of the rest of their bodies.

Like other flying foxes, Acerodon jubatus lives almost entirely off of fruits. The giant golden-crowned flying fox enjoys figs particularly, but is known to eat many types of fruit as well as cultivated varieties (though this is rare). In the Philippines they are known as "Silent Planters" because they help spread many varieties of fruit seeds in their droppings. This is an example of how important they are to local ecology and how their disappearance could disrupt rainforest cycles.

Acerodon jubatus is largely endangered because of poaching and habitat destruction, much of which is done in the name of agriculture. Although conservation programs are under way, it is very difficult to conserve this species as so little is known about them. However, there are captive breeding programs being instituted and lands in Subic Bay (57 km2) being protected in order to allow this species to recover. The organisations involved include: Bat Conservation International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF, and the Lubee Foundation.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Captive Breeding Success at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

Hello A.P.P.L.E.-lytes!

Way back last year I wrote a quick article about one of my favourite conservation organisations the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. One of Durrell's major goals is to establish captive breeding colonies, ecosystem conservation / restoration and release into the wild. A lot of conservationists are still sceptical about the usefulness or effectiveness of captive breeding / release programs.

I pulled some interesting stats from the Durrell website which advertises their success with captive breeding. Some of their programs have had staggering effects on the species they work with in the wild.

For more information about how Durrell conservation projects work, have a  peek at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust Index which describes their ongoing process.

FREE Movie Night!

Hey All!

We have our first A.P.P.L.E. event of the year planned for tonight!

Come down to the Hamon Centre (Bld. 8255 on the Gatton Campus) tonight (March 12, 2014) at 7:00pm to catch a couple free movies! We'll be watching some great David Attenborough, so who can resist!

Bring your own snacks, blankets, friends or anything else you want to watch:

Kingdom of Plants
Attenborough's Ark

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Vet in the Spotlight : Dr. Mike Cranfield

Hello A.P.P.L.E.-lytes!

   As the first instalment of a new segment to the A.P.P.L.E. blog I thought I would introduce a vet, whose work I have long admired. Dr. Mike Cranfield is a Co-Director of the Gorilla Doctors - Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project based in central Africa. The organisation's work takes place in the often turbulent area spanning Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The goal of Gorilla Doctors is to provide health care on an individual basis for mountain gorillas; a role which is of utmost import as the species has dwindled down to less than a thousand individuals in the wild. 


(Dr. Mike Cranfield)

   Dr. Cranfield was born in Peterborough, Ontario in Canada. In 1977 he completed his DVM at the University of Guelph and went on to complete his residency at the Toronto Zoo. Thereafter Dr. Cranfield moved to the Maryland zoo in Baltimore, where he still operates today. Dr. Cranfield has worked in such fields as in-vitro fertilisation of primates, malaria in penguins, captive breeding of endangered amphibians and parasites in snakes. Thirteen years ago however, Dr. Cranfield decided to take his efforts to the field to better serve endangered species both in captivity and the wild. This is when he took over the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project

   (Dr. Cranfield on right working with a mountain gorilla patient) 

   Dr. Cranfield continues to be an inspiration to many of us aspiring to work as wildlife clinicians in the future. His approach of working with people and animals directly has proved invaluable in protecting one of the world's most endangered species: the magnificent mountain gorilla.

Below I have embedded an interview between Dr. Cranfield and Dr. Elliot Garber. This interview is an instalment of Dr. Garber's Uncommon Veterinarians Podcast.


Species of the Day : Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)

The Jungle Cat is the largest member of the Felis genus. Although Felis chaus is commonly known as the Swamp Lynx, this cat is not actually a member of the Lynx family. The Jungle cat has distinctively long legs and tufts on the end of its ears. It stands about 36cm tall and ranges from 50cm to 90cm long. 

Felis chaus is found ranging from Egypt to southeast asia and the Indian subcontinent where it is amongst the most common of cats. Preferring dry habitats the Jungle cat lives in savannah, dry tropical forest and reedy rivers. Ironically Felis chaus does not inhabit rain forests!
Although the Jungle cat has never been domesticated many have been found as Egyptian mummies. It is speculated they were kept as a rodent control mechanism.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Back to Blogging!

Hello All!

Welcome back to the blog everyone. We're getting back to uni now after a long summer and we've decided to get back to blogging more regularly.  Thanks to everyone who has taken an interest in our organisation and we hope to continue to provide interesting info about wildlife, sustainability, ecology, conservation and anthropology (plus everything in between)!

For those of you on or near the Gatton campus of the University of Queensland, stay tuned for fun events. More info on that soon!