Rare Wild Singing Dogs Are Not Extinct After All
The New Guinea singing dog is a rare breed of dog that makes a unique howl similar to the song of a humpback whale. Sadly, however, scientists thought its call had been forever silenced in the wild.
Until now. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday revealed that a New Guinea population of highland wild dogs were in fact related to the New Guinea singing dogs surviving in captivity.
"For decades we've thought that the New Guinea singing dog is extinct in the wild," study coauthor Heidi G. Parker of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) told The New York Times. "They are not extinct. They actually do still exist in the wild."
You can read the full research paper here: https://t.co/9D44ENkECz.— National Human Genome Research Institute (@National Human Genome Research Institute)1598906612.0
Scientists aren't exactly sure when New Guinea singing dogs first arrived on the island, but they think it was around 3,500 years ago, the same time that dingoes arrived in Australia, according to Science. The dogs were first described in 1897, a press release from the NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute pointed out.
The dogs are especially famous for the singing that gives them their name.
"Most of the singing dog's vocalizations are similar to that of the wolf, dingo, and domestic dog, but their howl is incredibly unique," the San Diego Zoo explained. "Sonograms show the howl is similar to the song of the humpback whale! The singing dog's howl sounds like a yodel, with the tones going up and down. And when in a group, one dog starts singing and others join in at different pitches, each with its own unique voice."
But habitat loss put pressure on this musical canine's population, Science reported, and none had been seen in the wild since the 1970s. It was thought the only ones left were the 200 to 300 living in captivity.
Then, in 2012, an ecotourism guide photographed a wild dog in the highlands of the Indonesian province of Papua on New Guinea, The New York Times reported. That photo was seen by James McIntyre, a researcher and president of the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation. He secured funding from a company that operated a gold mine near the wild dog sightings and documented 15 dogs in 2016.
Efforts to protect the environment around the Grasberg gold and copper mine had created an inadvertent habitat for the dogs, CNN pointed out. But just documenting the dogs did not prove that they were related to the captive singing dogs. So McIntyre and his team returned in 2018 to take DNA samples.
The result? The highland wild dogs overlapped 70 percent with the captive singing dogs.
"We found that New Guinea singing dogs and the Highland Wild Dogs have very similar genome sequences, much closer to each other than to any other canid known. In the tree of life, this makes them much more related to each other than modern breeds such as German shepherd or bassett hound," Parker said in the press release.
The researchers think that the genetic differences are due to the fact that the captive populations are extremely inbred. Their descendants came from eight dogs brought to the U.S., which is why their wild counterparts have more genetic variation.
The discovery has important conservation implications. The researchers now hope they can breed the wild and captive dogs.
"New guinea singing dogs are rare, they're exotic (and) they have this beautiful harmonic vocalization that you don't find anywhere else in nature, so losing that as a species is not a good thing. We don't want to see this (animal) disappear," study senior author and NIH distinguished investigator Elaine Ostrander told CNN.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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