Friday, 25 May 2012

The rise and fall (and resurrection?) of the Aurochs

Skeleton of an Aurochs
With the extinction of the mammoth and straight-tusked elephants of Europe only two really large bodied herbivores remained, the Wisent or European Bison (Bison bonasus) and the Aurochs Bos primigenius. Although Wisent reached the coast of France just as the climate warmed, they apparently never occurred in Britain in post-glacial times and the few thousand individuals surviving today have a distinctly southern and eastern distribution. For most of Europe the role of top herbivore was played by the Aurochs.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The changing ecology of Britain - Part 1

Hand axe from Boxgrove
Since the end of the last glaciation around 10,000 years ago, the environment of Britain has been transformed repeatedly by both natural and man-made alterations. New species have colonised, thrived, and become extinct, sometimes repeatedly, as alterations in climate, especially summer temperatures and rainfall, have made the British Isles suitable for one species and less so for others. Human predation has removed some species, especially large carnivores, but farming and forestry has also created new kinds of habitats which some species have exploited with great success. This series will cover some of those changes, and both the losers and the gainers in the changing face of Britain.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

News you may have missed

As a break from series focussing on the animals on display, here are some news items that probably did not make the front page of your paper. For the full stories and more, check out the conservation links on the right.

Mauritius Wildlife Foundation:

Rodrigues Fruit Bat
MWF has saved most of the surviving bird species of Mauritius, home of the dodo, and is now working on environmental restoration of the pre-discovery habitats on Mauritius and the related island of Rodrigues. For more news check out their website.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Turtles 8: It swam with Dinosaurs

Young C.inscuplta
The last of Bristol Zoo’s chelonians (for now) is perhaps the strangest freshwater turtle in the world, the Fly River or Pig-nosed Turtle, Carettochelys insculpta. Now known only from Papua New Guinea and parts of northern Australia, it is the last survivor of an ancient turtle lineage related to the more familiar soft-shell turtles Trionyx, and which was once found all over the world. The family dates back to the early Cretaceous, but became progressively restricted in distribution after the end of the age of dinosaurs and it has probably been restricted to its current range since the start of the Pliocene.