150 of America’s Last Wild Buffalo Now Trapped in Yellowstone, All Destined for Slaughter
[Editor's note: For an update on this story, click here.]
Park rangers have begun capturing wild bison in the Stephens Creek trap within Yellowstone National Park. Since Feb. 20, approximately 150 of America's last wild buffalo have been trapped. According to park officials, all are destined for slaughter.
"Yellowstone's slaughter of wild bison is as lacking in scientific reason as it is in public support," said Buffalo Field Campaign's Stephany Seay.
The National Park Service claims that they are reducing the wild bison population due to the threat of brucellosis, a livestock disease originally brought to North America by Eurasian cattle. There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to livestock. Elk, who also carry brucellosis and have transmitted the disease to livestock numerous times in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, are free to migrate from Yellowstone and are managed by hunting based on sustainable populations in available habitat in Montana.
Buffalo Field Campaign habitat coordinator Darrell Geist says the state of Montana and Yellowstone National Park refuse to manage wild buffalo like wild elk, an alternative that would put the government out of the buffalo capture for slaughter business.
"Montana is blessed with an abundance of public lands but cursed by a statute that stands in the way of managing migratory buffalo as a wildlife species," said Geist. “Few people know that MCA 81-2-120 is almost entirely funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to back Department of Livestock management of wild buffalo. Without American taxpayer funding, Montana and Yellowstone National Park would have to changes their ways."
Yellowstone and the other Interagency Bison Management Plan (IMBP) partners have stated that they want up to 900 wild bison killed this year. More than 400 have already been killed by hunters. The agencies aim to kill hundreds of wild bison every year until they drive the population—now estimated at 4,400—down to just 3,000 animals. This population target is a result of livestock industry pressure to address unfounded brucellosis fears and Yellowstone's false premise that there are “surplus" wild bison.
Buffalo Field Campaign executive director Dan Brister questions the faulty science that Yellowstone and IBMP partners are operating under.
"There is no such thing as 'surplus' wild bison," said Brister. "Yellowstone's target population cap of 3,000 animals is nothing more than a politically derived number that has nothing to do with carrying capacity."
Yellowstone's capture for slaughter operations adversely impact the wild population's natural immunity to introduced diseases, including brucellosis and increases the risk of more virulent and persistent strains arising in the wild population. Cumulative impacts of management actions pose a significant threat to the viability of wild buffalo remaining in Yellowstone.
Under the voluntarily agreed to IBMP, Yellowstone National Park and the other IBMP agencies continue to operate under faulty assumptions and outdated information, in contravention of the agency's mandate to use the best available science to inform decision makers and the public.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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