3 New Species of Chameleons Emerge From Centuries-Old Entanglement
For more than 180 years, several soft-nosed chameleons from Madagascar sat together in a single species complex (Calumma nasutum) until scientists decided to take a closer look. They disentangled the chameleons into 16 distinct species and, in the process, described three new ones.
Calumma emelinae from the east coast of Madagascar, C. tjiasmantoi from the southeast, and C. ratnasariae from the north officially joined the ranks of more than 90 species of chameleon that are endemic to Madagascar, according to a recent paper published in Vertebrate Zoology.
Chameleons are best known for their ability to change colors. Sometimes it's for camouflage, but it can also be a display to dazzle a female or reflect a mood change. They also have a wicked sense of sight — uncoupled eyeballs that can rove independent of each other — and sticky tongues that can stretch to lengths longer than their bodies.
A C. radamanus. David Prötzel
On Madagascar, the oldest island in the world, there is such a variety of them that scientists are still scratching their heads over where to put them. The island hosts not just the largest chameleon, the Parson's chameleon (C. parsonii), but also the tiniest, Brookesia micra. Those two are easy to tell apart, but distinguishing others in between can prove tricky, which is why specimens collected from decades ago, sometimes centuries, remain taxonomically tangled.
"In the last 15 years several expeditions to Madagascar have been organized, and in the last five years we focused on the Calumma nasutum species complex," said David Prötzel from the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Germany, who led the team that is helping resolve this identity crisis.
When the scientists finally got around to them, some specimens had spent about two centuries suspended in time and ethanol. In the 1830s, French collector Alphonse Charles Joseph Bernier (1802-1858), a ship's doctor and botanist, amassed a collection of about 200 plants, insects, lemurs, reptiles and birds from Madagascar and shipped them back to France. The first specimens of C. nasutum were identified from Bernier's assemblage.
Prötzel described lizards from the C. nasutum complex as "tiny chameleons with funny noses." Many chameleons have striking head ornamentation and the Calumma species sport horn-like projections. It's believed that the rostral appendage differs between species and is used to signal their presence to other members of their species.
A C. emelinae. Miguel Vences
In the last two decades, with the aim of resolving several chameleon species complexes, new specimens were collected. The effort has led to nine distinct species being identified within the C. nasutum group itself, including the most recent additions.
Over the years, species can occupy different taxonomic niches based on the available evidence. C. radamanus was first described in 1933 by Robert Mertens, a German herpetologist, who distinguished it from the similar-looking C. nasutum. But nine years later, Fernand Angel, a French herpetologist, concluded that they were one and the same species. Prötzel and his team have revived the name C. radamanus, arguing that it is, in fact, a distinct species.
"This paper shows convincing evidence that the Calumma nasutum species complex represented a number of cryptic species and the paper did a good job of starting to clarify this group," said Christopher V. Anderson, an assistant professor at the University of South Dakota who heads the IUCN's Chameleon Specialist Group and was not involved in the new study. "There are obviously still some pieces of the puzzle to decipher yet, but this work has helped clarify the relationships within the complex immensely."
Members of C. radamanus. David Prötzel
While it is easy to tell the difference between a house cat (Felis catus) and a domestic dog (Canis familiaris), in the case of these chameleons, first impressions can be deceptive. In fact, the early clues about their distinctness came from their DNA. The researchers also studied the morphologies, especially their "noses," and features like the dorsal crest that runs along the back and tail lengths to pinpoint differences. Micro CT scans that create 3D renditions using X-rays helped to home in on variations in skull anatomy.
The attempt to demystify the species is not just about setting the biological record straight; it has implications for conservation efforts. Currently, the C. nasutum group's conservation status is "least concern" on the IUCN Red List. The new paper may lead to a re-examination of that designation. For example, the species for whom the complex was named was believed to be spread over a vast area across northern and eastern Madagascar. The paper has revealed that the actual C. nasutum species is limited to a much smaller area.
"With this revision to the complex, we now know that C. nasutum is actually much more range restricted based on our current knowledge, which may drastically change its conservation status," Anderson said.
A) Distribution of Calumma nasutum all across Madagascar before the redescription according to the IUCN (area marked in orange, Jenkins et al., 2011); (B) the recent disjunctive distribution in eastern and northern Madagascar (area marked in white). David Prötzel
The researchers say they believe still more species might be distinguished within C. radamanus. Since there remains uncertainty about the taxonomic designation of some species, the authors say such species should be listed as "data deficient" on the IUCN Red List. Prötzel and his colleagues may resolve another piece of the puzzle: He has now set his sights on Calumma gallus, another complex of chameleon species, which includes the very long-nosed, and very aptly named Pinocchio chameleon.
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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As we reach the official end of hurricane season, 2020 will be one for the record books. Looking back at these long, surprising, sometimes downright crazy past six months (seven if you count when the first named storms actually started forming), there are many noteworthy statistics and patterns that drive home the significance of this hurricane season, and the ways climate change may have contributed to it.
A summary infographic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms predicted from NOAA's 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook. NOAA
The updated 2020 Atlantic hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms. NOAA
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dana Drugmand
An unprecedented climate lawsuit brought by six Portuguese youths is to be fast-tracked at Europe's highest court, it was announced today.
The European Court of Human Rights said the case, which accuses 33 European nations of violating the applicants' right to life by disregarding the climate emergency, would be granted priority status due to the "importance and urgency of the issues raised."
‘Protect Our Future’<p>Cláudia Agostinho (21), Catarina Mota (20), Martim Agostinho (17), Sofia Oliveira (15), André Oliveira (12) and Mariana Agostinho (8) are <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2020/09/03/youth-climate-lawsuit-portugal-33-european-countries" target="_blank">bringing the case</a> with nonprofit law firm Global Legal Action Network (<span style="background-color: initial;">GLAN</span>), arguing that none of the countries have sufficiently ambitious targets to cut their emissions.</p><p>Portugal recently sweltered through its <a href="https://www.ipma.pt/pt/media/noticias/news.detail.jsp?f=/pt/media/noticias/textos/resumo-clima-julho-20.html" target="_blank">hottest July in 90 years</a> and has seen a rise in devastating heatwaves and wildfires over recent years due to rising temperatures. Four of the applicants live in Leiria, one of the regions worst-hit by the forest fires that killed more than 120 people in 2017. </p><p>Responding to the development, André Oliveira, 12, said: "It gives me lots of hope to know that the judges in the European Court of Human Rights recognise the urgency of our case." </p><p>"But what I'd like the most would be for European governments to immediately do what the scientists say is necessary to protect our future. Until they do this, we will keep on fighting with more determination than ever."</p>
‘Highly Significant'<p>The decision represents a "highly significant" step, <a href="https://www.glanlaw.org/about-us" target="_blank">GLAN</a> Director Dr. Gearóid Ó Cuinn said in a <a href="https://youth4climatejustice.org/" target="_blank">press release</a>.</p><p>"This is an appropriate response from the Court given the scale and imminence of the threat these young people face from the climate emergency," he added. </p><p>By suing the 33 countries all together, the youths aim to compel these national governments to act more aggressively on climate through a single court order, which would potentially be more effective than pursuing separate lawsuits or lobbying policymakers in each country.</p><p>If successful, the defendant countries would be legally bound not only to ramp up emissions cuts, but also to tackle overseas contributions to climate change including those of their multinational enterprises.</p>
‘Major Hurdle’<p>The <a href="https://youth4climatejustice.org/the-case/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countries targeted</a> include all of the European Union member states as well as Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, none of which are currently aligned with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/paris-agreement">Paris agreement</a> target to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and pursue a limit of 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).<a href="https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> </a></p><p><a href="https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Action Tracker rates</a> most of Europe as "insufficient" in terms of its emissions reduction policies based on the Paris target, while Ukraine, Turkey and Russia are assessed as "critically insufficient" – meaning they are on track for a warming of 4 degrees C or higher.</p><p>The European Union has pledged to slash its emissions by <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/eu-climate-action/2030_ctp_en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least 55 percent by 2030</a>. But the Portuguese youth plaintiffs are calling for cuts of at least 65 percent by 2030, a level that <a href="http://www.caneurope.org/energy/climate-energy-targets" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">European climate campaigners say</a> is necessary to meet the 1.5 degrees warming limit.</p><p> The 33 countries must each respond to the youths' complaint by the end of February, before lawyers representing the plaintiffs will respond to the points of defense. </p><p>"Nothing less than a 65 percent reduction by 2030 will be enough for the EU member states to comply with their obligations to the youth-applicants and indeed countless others," Gerry Liston, legal officer with GLAN, said in a press release.</p><p>"These brave young people have cleared a major hurdle in their pursuit of a judgment which compels European governments to accelerate their climate mitigation efforts."</p><p><span></span><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2020/11/29/court-advances-landmark-youth-climate-lawsuit-against-33-european-nations" target="_blank">DeSmog</a>. </em></p>
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By Liz Kimbrough
Six grassroots environmental activists will receive the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in a virtual ceremony this year. Dubbed the "Green Nobel Prize," this award is given annually to environmental heroes from each of the world's six inhabited continents.
Kristal Ambrose, the Bahamas<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzI3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDM5NTk5MX0.fdMrrUqf0HvWq0Uh0Ii3mXxJczHPyN1jcnSsQoXoerE/img.jpg?width=980" id="b9e66" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b8b8777f7964bb7100672b3be0abf3fe" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Kristal Ambrose. Goldman Environmental Prize
Chibeze Ezekiel, Ghana<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzM2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTgzOTE3OX0.KoEZr3oMPKbeG2uT8q-ZsGPOGtIZ3l6V6NXEK5U90FU/img.jpg?width=980" id="65224" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6ec640a8ba56a4db22b57e4f8734a7a4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Chibeze Ezekiel. Goldman Environmental Prize
Nemonte Nenquimo, Ecuador<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzM2Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzYxODYwM30.cys5ZsFGd75UcjybADGBPFt20jrzgrsFujoj_qMTK4E/img.jpg?width=980" id="96b5a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0778ab7334e3297e0ead52d5fd1499e5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Nemonte Nenquimo. Goldman Environmental Prize
Leydy Pech, Mexico<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzQwNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkzOTYzOH0.uHlN2FQoJJ_KFJWTn4oL__lDyjA0-HDnxewBhwgQRVg/img.jpg?width=980" id="9ab07" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc347126d4ce9ddbb3b9c1b4673391b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Leydy Pech. Goldman Environmental Prize
Lucie Pinson, France<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzQxMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NzE0NTU1NX0.OutmX3sfl4pMaoYssTQ4zk7Y14_hans7-Z-0B0xsjfM/img.jpg?width=980" id="4bcd7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4bff14750dc0a70fc79e9484ea2bdbd4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Lucie Pinson. Goldman Environmental Prize
Paul Sein Twa, Myanmar<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0NzQxNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDAyNjU0MH0.DHrKykngmcJyJ5rn4r91ANH7FmQ7Us6ZMEOis8yAzGY/img.jpg?width=980" id="8fa36" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0e703d62288df00931cd678c861c6e0b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Paul Sein Twa. Goldman Environmental Prize
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