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Rare Blue Bee That Scientists Thought Was Extinct Is Rediscovered in Florida’s Sand Dunes

The blue calamintha bee is considered a hyper-local creature that evolved in the isolated sand dune patches lying along the ridges of central Florida.

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(TMU) – Insect scientists in Florida are abuzz after an incredibly rare blue bee, long believed to be extinct, was discovered to actually be thriving in the central part of the state.

The researchers say that the blue calamintha bee (Osmia calaminthae), which was discovered in 2011 before being pronounced to have gone extinct a few years later, may possibly be saved as a species after it was discovered near Lake Wales Ridge in central Florida, a highly threatened ecosystem which is recognized around the world as a major hub of biodiversity.

The brilliant blue calamintha bees tend to nest alone and feed on the endangered Ashe’s Calamint plant, a pale lavender-colored perennial deciduous shrub that is found only in Florida.

The bee was rediscovered after researcher Dr. Chase Kimmel returned to the forest on March 9 where the bees were originally discovered in hopes to see if it was still alive.

In a release from the Florida Museum of Natural History, where Kimmel is currently conducting his post-doctoral research, he said:

“I was open to the possibility that we may not find the bee at all so that first moment when we spotted it in the field was really exciting.”

Researchers from the museum have launched a two-year study to find out what the blue calamintha bee’s current population status and distribution is, as well as its nesting and feeding habits.

While they do know that the solitary blue bee nests alone, they haven’t yet actually stumbled across any of its nests. They do know, however, that the pollinator bobs its head on the blooming Ashe’s calamint plant to collect pollen using its tiny hairs.

The bee is considered a hyper-local creature that evolved in the isolated sand dune patches lying along the 150-mile ridge running south to north in central Florida.

Kimmel’s adviser, Jaret Daniels, said:

“This is a highly specialized and localized bee.”

Experts consider the bee to be a “species of greatest conservation need,” but it hasn’t yet been listed as threatened or endangered. While activists tried to include it in the endangered species list through a petition launched in 2015, the bee did not qualify for the listing because so little information was known about the species.

Kimmel and Daniels hope that their research about the elusive insect can bear interesting results. At present, basic biological facts about the bee are unknown, including whether the blue calamintha prefers sun or shade. Kimmel said:

“We’re trying to fill in a lot of gaps that were not previously known. There’s a lot of neat discoveries that can still occur.”

The researchers are hoping that they can continue monitoring the bee over the next year in spite of the challenging conditions resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Since the early spring season, when he first found the rare pollinator, he’s struggled to locate another blue calamintha bee specimen. Kimmel said:

“I haven’t found the bee in a couple of weeks,” Kimmel told Weather.com, adding “I’m coming up a bit short right now.” He believes that this may be due to the dry Spring season coming to an early end.

The two researchers are doing their best to work through the COVID-19 lockdowns so they can monitor the bee over the next year.

Either way, Kimmel believes that there are “good signs the bee can recover,” especially if their research is successful and paves the way for conservation efforts. Kimmel said:

“Having this bee in more abundance than we expected is really encouraging for its survival — that it can survive in the long run.”

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years

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Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.

Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.

The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.

Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.

It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.

“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”

Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.

Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.

“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.

“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”

Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.

“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.

Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.

“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”

In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.

Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.

A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.

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