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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.

Elias Marat

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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.”

Animals

As Marine Life Flees the Equator, Global Mass Extinction is Imminent: Scientists

Elias Marat

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The waters surrounding the equator are one of the most biodiverse areas in the globe, with the tropical area rich in marine life including rare sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures.

However, rampant rises in temperate have led to a mass exodus of marine species from the sensitive region – with grave implications for life on earth.

While ecologists have long seen the thriving biodiversity of equatorial species holding constant in the past few centuries, a new study by Australian researchers published in The Conversation has found that warming global temperatures are now hitting the equator hard, potentially leading to an unprecedented mass extinction event.

The researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Queensland, and the Sunshine Coast found that as waters surrounding the equator continue to heat up, the ecosystem is being disrupted and forcing species to flee toward the cooler water of the South and North Pole.

The massive changes in marine ecosystems that this entails will have a grave impact not only on ocean life – essentially becoming invasive species in their new homes –  but also on the human livelihoods that depend on it.

“When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine species died,” the researchers wrote.

To see where marine life is headed, the researchers tracked the distribution of about 49,000 different species to see what their trajectory was. The global distribution of ocean life typically resembles a bell curve, with far fewer species near the poles and more near the equator.

However, the vast alteration of the curve is already in motion as creatures flee to the poles, according to a study they published in the journal PNAS.

These changes augur major disruptions to global ecosystem as marine life scrambles in a chaotic fight for food, space, and resources – with a mass die-off and extinction of creatures likely resulting.

The research underscores the dire need for human societies to control rampant climate change before the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet is pushed past the point of no return.

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Animals

Rare Creature Photographed Alive In The Wild For The First Time Ever

Elias Marat

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Advances in the methods used by researchers to watch wildlife have allowed for the photographing of a rare creature whose image had never been captured in the wild before.

Researchers in the West African nation of Togo were able to spot the rare Walter’s duiker, a rare species of petite African antelope, for the first time in the wild thanks to camera traps equipped with motion sensors.

In addition to the Walter’s duiker, the camera traps were also able to discover rare species of aardvarks and a mongoose, reports Gizmodo.

At a time when the extinction of entire species is becoming more common worldwide, such devices should help conservationists not only preserve creatures sought by bushmeat hunters but also spot rare animals whose presence is elusive for human observers. In the past, biologists were forced to rely on the same hunters for information.

“Camera traps are a game changer when it comes to biodiversity survey fieldwork,” said University of Oxford wildlife biologist Neil D’Cruze.

“I’ve spent weeks roughing it in tropical forests seemingly devoid of any large mammal species,” D’Cruze continued. “Yet when you fire up the laptop and stick in the memory card from camera traps that have been sitting there patiently during the entire trip—and see species that were there with you the entire time —it’s like being given a glimpse into a parallel world.”

The Walter’s duiker was discovered in 2010 when specimens of bushmeat were compared to other duiker specimens. The new images of the creature are the first to have been seen.

Rare species like Walter’s duiker are often not listed as “endangered” by groups like the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to a lack of data.

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Animals

‘Horrific’ Swarms of Spiders, Snakes Invade Australian Homes Amid Devastating Floods

Elias Marat

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In recent years, Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) has faced everything from drought to brushfires, a pandemic, a recent all-consuming plague of mice and now, devastating floods and massive hordes of spiders.

In videos shared across social media, hundreds if not thousands of spiders can be seen scrambling through people’s homes and garages prior to an evacuation order being issued on early Saturday in expectation of the floods.

In one video posted to Facebook by Melanie Williams, the arachnids of all sizes can be seen scrambling about in search of shelter from the coming deluge.

“Check these spiders out, oh my god, oh my god! Look at them all,” Williams said in the video. “No! No! Oh my god.”

The Guardian reports that Kinchela resident Matt Lovenfosse was pulling up to his home on Monday morning when he witnessed what appeared to be a sea of “millions” of spiders climbing about to escape the floodwaters.

“So I went out to have a look and it was millions of spiders,” Lovenfosse said.

“It’s amazing. It’s crazy,” he continued. “The spiders all crawled up on to the house, on to fences and whatever they can get on to.”

The flooding has resulted in some 18,000 residents fleeing their homes since last week, with authorities warning that the cleanup could last until April.

The floods have also seen thousands of snakes and insects of every kind scrambling to flee from the floods, with some snakes even leaping into rescue boats to avoid being drowned.

“There were also skinks, ants, basically every insect, crickets – all just trying to get away from the flood waters,” vistor Shenae Varley told Guardian Australia.

It’s just the latest reminder that Australia isn’t just another country – it may be its own entirely different world.

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