University of Florida reports 2012 U.S. shark attacks highest since 2000

February 11th, 2013

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Shark attacks in the U.S. reached a decade high in 2012, while worldwide fatalities remained average, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File report released today.

George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, displays a dusky shark jaw and sharpnose shark embryo specimens in Dickinson Hall on the University of Florida campus. ©Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Eric Zamora

George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, displays shark specimens in Dickinson Hall on the University of Florida campus.
©Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Eric Zamora

The U.S. saw an upturn in attacks with 53, the most since 2000. There were seven fatalities worldwide, which is lower than 2011 but higher than the yearly average of 4.4 from 2001 to 2010. It is the second consecutive year for multiple shark attacks in Western Australia (5) and Reunion Island (3) in the southwest Indian Ocean, which indicates the localities have developed problematic situations, said George Burgess, director of the file housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

“Those two areas are sort of hot spots in the world – Western Australia is a function of white shark incidents and Reunion is a function most likely of bull shark incidents,” Burgess said. “What I’ve seen in all situations when there’s been a sudden upswing in an area is that human-causative factors are involved, such as changes in our behavior, changes in our abundance, or an overt shark-attracting product of something that we’re doing.” (more…)

New study shows river turtle species still suffers from past harvesting

September 25th, 2012

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers studying river turtles in Missouri found populations of the northern map turtle have not recovered from harvesting in the 1970s.

Nickerson

Scientists used data collected by Florida Museum of Natural History herpetology curator Max Nickerson in 1969 and 1980 as a baseline, then surveyed the same stretch of river in the Ozarks in 2004 to determine the northern map turtles had not recovered from a previous 50 percent population loss caused by harvesting, likely for food. River turtles help ecosystems function by cycling nutrients and maintaining food web dynamics. Assessment of the northern map turtle, a protected species in some states, is essential as increasing human populations and global warming further alter its habitat. The study was published Sept. 14 in Volume 3 of Copeia, and is scheduled to appear online this week. (more…)

‘Water: Discovering and Sharing Solutions’ exhibit opens Sept. 29

September 20th, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Covering about 70 percent of the world, water plays a critical role in life.

Florida Museum of Natural History visitors will soon be able to learn how our daily actions impact the water supply, and how University of Florida scientists are working to find solutions to global challenges involving water in a free exhibit opening Sept. 29.

“Water: Discovering and Sharing Solutions” illustrates why water is critical for life on Earth and explains UF research involving water, invasive plants and animals, and food production. (more…)

UF researchers name new cusk-eels useful for understanding environment

September 10th, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A study by University of Florida and University of Kansas researchers describing eight new cusk-eel species provides data for better understanding how disasters like the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill impact biodiversity and the environment.

The 60-year study appearing Tuesday in the Florida Museum of Natural History Bulletin provides a comprehensive taxonomic revision of one of the least-studied groups of cusk-eels, bony fishes distantly related to cod. Although abundant and widespread in the Americas, the fishes in the genus Lepophidium have previously been poorly known to biologists. (more…)

Museum scientists find state record 87 eggs in largest python from Everglades

August 13th, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida researchers curating a 17-foot-7-inch Burmese python, the largest found in Florida, discovered 87 eggs in the snake, also a state record.

Scientists at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus examined the internal anatomy of the 164.5-pound snake Friday. The animal was brought to the Florida Museum from Everglades National Park as part of a long-term project with the U.S. Department of the Interior to research methods for managing the state’s invasive Burmese python problem. Following scientific investigation, the snake will be mounted for exhibition at the museum for about five years, and then returned for exhibition at Everglades National Park. (more…)

UF researchers discover earliest use of Mexican turkeys by ancient Maya

August 9th, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A new University of Florida study shows the turkey, one of the most widely consumed birds worldwide, was domesticated more than 1,000 years earlier than previously believed.

Researchers say discovery of the bones from an ancient Mayan archaeological site in Guatemala provides evidence of domestication, usually a significant mark of civilization, and the earliest evidence of the Mexican turkey in the Maya world. The study appears online in PLoS ONE today. (more…)

Museum researchers receive $53,000 to digitize ancient Mayan collection

June 20th, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History researchers recently received $53,000 to enhance the museum’s online database of Mayan artifacts.

The two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities coincides with the museum’s new temporary exhibit “An Early Maya City by the Sea: Daily Life and Ritual at Cerros, Belize,” open through Oct. 7. Florida Museum curator of Latin American art and archaeology Susan Milbrath and Debra Walker, a museum courtesy assistant curator who has worked extensively in Cerros, received the grant. University of Florida anthropology graduate students Jeffrey Vadala and Lucas Martindale Johnson developed the exhibit under their direction. (more…)

Science fair winner publishes new study on butterfly foraging behavior

April 30th, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida lepidopterist Andrei Sourakov has spent his life’s work studying moths and butterflies. But it was his teenage daughter, Alexandra, who led research on how color impacts butterflies’ feeding patterns.

The research shows different species exhibit unique foraging behaviors, and the study may be used to build more effective, species-specific synthetic lures for understanding pollinators, insects on which humans depend for sustaining many crops.

In a study appearing online in April in the journal Psyche, researchers used multi-colored landing pads and baits in the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity on the UF campus to determine that some butterflies use both sight and smell to locate food, while others rely primarily on smell.

(more…)

Bring fossils, questions to museum ‘Ask a Paleontologist’ events February through May

February 8th, 2012

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Area residents who have discovered a mysterious fossil while gardening or hiking and would like to learn more about it now have the perfect opportunity.

The Florida Museum of Natural History is hosting “Ask a Paleontologist” events from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 12), March 4, April 15 and May 6.

Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology collections manager Richard Hulbert and Florida Museum invertebrate paleontology collections manager Roger Portell will identify fossils for visitors and share information about paleontology March 4 and May 6. Hulbert is also scheduled for Feb. 12 and Portell for April 15. (more…)

Museum ornithologist researches 6,000 years of history in the Bahamas

February 1st, 2012

By Danielle Torrent

The field of restoration ecology, in which native flora and fauna are re-established to create more sustainable environments, is taking off in the 21st century as researchers become more aware of the potentially negative impacts of invasive, non-native species. Humans are among the “non-natives” in many areas, having taken over as apex predators in many situations. In the Bahamas, the arrival of humans about 1,000 years ago led to a considerable disruption of the natural food chain.

With a three-year $164,000 National Science Foundation grant awarded in September 2011, Florida Museum of Natural History ornithologist David Steadman is digging into 6,000 years of history, with hopes that a better understanding of how island organisms respond to human influence may aide  efforts to restore a more functional ecosystem. By collecting fossils from the Bahamas over the last 6,000 years, well before humans reached the area, he will also analyze how plant and animal communities responded to long-term natural environmental fluctuations. (more…)
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