Turtle species in serious decline: Broad ecological impacts

Approximately 61 percent of the world's 356 turtle species are threatened or already extinct, and the decline could have ecological consequences, according to Science Daily.

Turtles are now among the most threatened groups of vertebrate animals on earth, more so than birds, mammals, fish or amphibians. These animals outlived the dinosaurs and have roamed the earth for more than 200 million years. Reasons for the decline of turtles worldwide include habitat destruction, over-exploitation for pets and food, disease and climate change.

"Our goal is to provide resource managers with a full picture of the state of these iconic animals worldwide, and what long-term impacts our environment might experience if populations continue to decrease and species loss continues," said scientist and lead author of the study Jeffrey Lovich. "Turtles contribute to the health of many environments, including desert, wetland, freshwater and marine ecosystems, and their decline may lead to negative effects on other species, including humans, that may not be immediately apparent."

Clown fish: Whence the white stripes?

Coral reef fish are known for the wide range of colors and patterns they display, but the mechanisms governing the acquisition of these characteristics are still poorly understood. These researchers focused on clown fish, a group including thirty-some species distinguished by numbers of white stripes (zero to three) and by their colors, including yellow, orange, red, and black.

The team first demonstrated that stripes are essential for individual fish to recognize others of their species. Such recognition is critical to the social organization of clown fish living among sea anemones where several species may be simultaneously present and young fish seek to establish permanent homes, according to Science Daily.

How hawks hunt so well

 Researchers find they have the best colour vision of any animal (even humans)

The secret of the Harris's hawk's incredible hunting capability may have been found.

Biologists at Lund University found that the Harris's hawk has the best colour vision of all animals investigated to date - and in certain situations, even better than humans, according to Daily Mail.

They now believe it is the colour of the prey that helps predatory birds to detect, pursue and capture them. 

'I did not think that colour vision would be of such significance, rather that birds of prey simply have better visual acuity than humans and that was the reason they detect objects so early and at a great distance,' said Almut Kelber, biologist at Lund University. 

Goats prefer happy people

Goats can differentiate between human facial expressions and prefer to interact with happy people, according to a new study led by scientists at Queen Mary University of London.

The study, which provides the first evidence of how goats read human emotional expressions, implies that the ability of animals to perceive human facial cues is not limited to those with a long history of domestication as companions, such as dogs and horses, according to Science Daily.

Traffic noise may make birds age faster

Traffic noise may be associated with an increased rate of telomere loss in Zebra finches that have left the nest. Telomeres are caps on the ends of chromosomes that protect genes from damage. Shortening of telomeres indicates accelerated biological aging, according to Science Daily.

Researchers, investigated the effect of traffic noise on the telomere length of offspring Zebra finches. The researchers found that zebra finches that were exposed to traffic noise after they had left the nest had shorter telomeres at 120 days of age than Zebra finches that were exposed to noise until 18 days post-hatch (before they had left the nest) and whose parents were exposed to traffic noise during courtship, egg-laying, and nesting. Finches exposed to noise after leaving the nest also had shorter telomeres than those which had not been exposed to traffic noise at all.