Ocean Preserves Keep Fishing Boats Away from Grey Reef Sharks – Smithsonian

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Scientists tracked hundreds of reef sharks in the Pacific Ocean and used machine learning to find that massive marine refuges can work—if they’re the right size.

Read the full story in Smithsonian.

Tasmanian devils show signs of resistance to devastating facial cancer – Nature

Jason Reed/Reuters

A contagious facial cancer that is almost always fatal has cut a wide swathe through the population of Tasmanian devils since 1996. The disease has reduced the devil population by 80%, and researchers have predicted that the cancer will drive the animals to extinction within decades. But a study published on 30 August in Nature Communications offers hope. Researchers have found that Tasmanian devils have developed some genetic resistance to the disease in just four to six generations.

Biological specimen troves get a reprieve

The bones of the goliath frog help scientists to study modern populations of this species, which is threatened by hunting. Marc Schlossman/Panos

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has quietly reinstated its programme to support biological specimen collections that are important for studying disease, invasive species, climate change and conservation. Scientists had protested against the agency’s decision, announced in March, to suspend the programme pending an evaluation that is due later this year.

Read the full story in Nature.

The Vulturepocalpyse Is Coming, and It’s Bad News

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Vultures are in trouble. Worldwide, 73 percent of vulture species are endangered or near threatened with extinction; only six of 22 species aren’t threatened. The problem is particularly bad in Africa and on the Indian subcontinent, where the birds are mostly killed by poisons and a veterinary anti-inflammatory drug used on livestock, finds a new study in the journal Biological Conservation by Evan Buechley and Çağan Şekercioğlu of the University of Utah.

The prospect of losing the unattractive, bald-headed carrion-eaters may not seem alarming for humans, but it is.

Read the full story in Mental Floss.

Why People Turn to Lemurs and Other Endangered Animals for Dinner in Madagascar – Smithsonian

Image credit: Thomas Marent/Minden Pictures/Corbis

Madagascar is home to many unique and threatened mammals, such as lemurs and small hedgehog-like creatures called tenrecs. Most people wouldn’t think of consuming one of these animals, but for many in Madagascar, bushmeat is on the menu. Scientists assumed that people turned to wild meat just to survive, but two new studies that examine the entire supply chain for this meat have found that consumption of wild mammals in Madagascar is common and far more open a practice than anyone had suspected.Read the full article in Smithsonian.

Biological specimen troves threatened by funding pause – Nature

Image credit: Marc Schlossman/Panos

The cabinets of the Field Museum in Chicago hold a collection of eggs that led to one of the most famous conservation discoveries of the twentieth century: that the pesticide DDT was causing widespread nesting failures in birds of prey.

But such specimen troves — which are used to identify species, track diseases and study climate change — have lost a valuable means of support. Last week, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that it would indefinitely suspend a programme that provides funding to maintain biological research collections.

Read the full article in Nature.