Monday, 16 January 2017

Japan criticised after whale slaughtered in Australian waters

Australia’s environment minister says government ‘deeply disappointed’ after Sea Shepherd photos show minke whale killing in Antarctic sanctuary

Monday 16 January 2017 08.35 GMT

Australia’s federal environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, has criticised Japan following the release of photographs allegedly showing the slaughtering of protected whales inside Australia’s Antarctic whale sanctuary. 

Frydenberg’s statement came as conservationists called for tougher action from Australia.

“The Australian government is deeply disappointed that Japan has decided to return to the Southern Ocean this summer to undertake so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” Frydenberg said.
 “Australia is opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” he said. “It is not necessary to kill whales in order to study them.”

The photographs, taken by Sea Shepherd activists from a helicopter, appear to show a dead minke on the deck of the Japanese whaler Nisshin Maru at 11.34am on Sunday.

After the Japanese crew saw the Sea Shepherd helicopter, they covered the harpoons and attempted to hide the whale carcass with a tarpaulin, according to Sea Shepherd.

The images emerged on Sunday afternoon while the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was in Australia on a state visit.

The slaughter was the first documented killing since the international court of justice ruled Japan’s Antarctic whaling illegal in 2014. So far the Australian government has resisted calls to send official vessels to patrol its waters and intervene in illegal whaling.

But Frydenberg said no country has done more than Australia to try to end whaling.

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Mysterious fossils find place on the tree of life

By Helen Briggs BBC News
11 January 2017

A strange animal that lived on the ocean floor 500 million years ago has been assigned to the tree of life, solving a long-held mystery.

The creature has eluded scientific classification since the first fossil was discovered 175 years ago.

The extinct hyolith has a cone-shaped shell, tentacles for feeding and appendages that acted as "feet".

It belongs to an invertebrate group that includes animals such as the horseshoe worm, say scientists.

Joseph Moysiuk, of the University of Toronto, made the discovery after analysing more than 1,500 specimens dug out of rocks in Canada and the US.

"Hyoliths are small cone-shaped sea dwelling animals. They are known from all around the world, mostly from fossils of their shells," he told BBC News.

"They appear in the fossil record about 530 million years ago and survived until about 250 million years ago.

"But the question of where hyoliths actually fit into the tree of life has been somewhat of a mystery for the last 175 years, since they were first described."

The research, published in the journal Nature, analysed soft tissue preserved in "very special fossils" from a site in Canada known as the Burgess Shale.

In the past, hyoliths have been interpreted as being related to molluscs, which are common today and include squid, clams and snails.

The new research suggests the animals are in fact more closely related to a different group of shell-bearing organisms, known as lophophorata, which includes brachipods (lamp shells), among others.

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Cat trapped in Stranraer recycling bin - via Tabitca Cope

CatThe Scottish SPCA has appealed for information after a cat was found dumped in a recycling bin in Stranraer.

A dog walker found the animal trapped inside the bin on Friday in an area known locally as The Approach.

The cat - which has been named Dusty - had been left with a puppy blanket but no food or water.

It is now being looked after at the charity's animal rescue and re-homing centre and being treated for eye and ear injuries.

Scottish SPCA Inspector Geraldine Lawrie said, "Dusty is a very friendly and affectionate wee man so he's obviously belonged to someone.

"He's lucky that he was found by the member of the public whose dog took an interest in the bin.

"Dusty was inside the bin with the lid closed."

She said that a vet who had seen the cat was confident it would recover from its injuries.

"We are appealing for anyone who has any information, or noticed any suspicious activity to get in touch with our animal helpline on 03000 999 999," she said.

The Scottish SPCA said that abandoning an animal was an offence under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

It said anyone found guilty of doing so could expect to be banned from keeping animals for a fixed period or for life.


Elusive Ruby Seadragons Show Off on Camera for First Time

By Kacey Deamer, Staff Writer | January 13, 2017 03:18pm ET 

An elusive ruby seadragon that was previously known only from museum specimens has been spotted alive in its natural habitat for the first time.

The scarlet-colored fish (Phyllopteryx dewysea) was first discovered as a distinct species in 2015, when researchers uncovered a misidentified preserved specimen while studying the two known species of seadragons — the orange-tinted leafy seadragon and the yellow-and-purple common seadragon. Since the discovery, scientists have sought the 9.4-inch-long (24 centimeters) ruby seadragon in the wild. Now, a team of researchers have observed two ruby seadragons on video for nearly 30 minutes in the waters off Western Australia, in the Recherche Archipelago.

Using a small remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in waters more than 160 feet (50 meters) deep, the researchers waited several days before spotting the rare fish. These observations of the ruby seadragons in the wild have led to a greater understanding of the unique species' anatomy, habitat and behavior, the scientists said. 

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