Watch Live Cam of 14,000 Walruses Chillin' on Alaskan Beach
The nonprofit Explore installs live cameras around the world to better connect humans to some of the most amazing animals found in nature. It recently revived a walrus live cam, which is capturing the Pacific male walrus migration, after a nearly 10-year hiatus. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game almost shut the program down because of state budget cuts, but Explore was able to procure a grant to keep the program alive, which the nonprofit says "provides essential preservation and protection of the walrus," which are often illegally hunted for their tusks. The program also promotes scientific research and public education about walruses.
Seeing "a walrus, let alone thousands of walrus, in their natural habitat is one of the rarest views of wildlife imaginable," says Explore. The high-resolution cameras, which first went live in 2005 but "went dormant after private funding dried up" are back, according to Mashable. Daily, they capture up to 2,000 walruses from a mere 14 feet away as these interesting looking creatures stroll onto Main Beach on Alaska's Round Island to rest after the winter mating season.
"Every summer and early fall, large numbers of male walruses migrate away from the ice to feed in Bristol Bay and journey further to Round Island for several days between each feeding foray," says Explore. While "female walruses travel further north and remain on the ice edge with the newborns and young calves, feeding and resting."
The best viewing times are from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Alaska Daylight Time (four hours behind East Coast time) from May through August. Explore has even set up the cameras to have live chat capabilities so that park rangers and walrus researchers can answer viewers' questions.
Round Island is best known for its Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary, which was established in 1960 to protect this vital resting area for walruses.
And it's not just walruses you might see on the live cam. You can also see foxes, ravens and nesting seabirds, for example.
Now, it's time for a walrus watch party!
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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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