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Weekly News Roundup 12/18 to 12/23

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Python-sniffing dogs are Florida’s newest weapon in fighting invasive snakes

For decades, pythons have been identified as one of the biggest and most concerning invasive species in Florida, having drastically impacted the populations of a number of native species and permanently altering the ecosystem since they were first introduced into the wild. But now, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have new means to control the population of these threats to natural wildlife in the region: Truman the black Labrador and Eleanor the point setter. Truman and Eleanor are the two biggest stars of the FWC’s new Detector Dog Team. Their task? Hunting down and helping their handlers remove Burmese pythons from the wild. . . . more

Allergic diseases more common among dogs and their owners in urban environments

Allergic diseases are more common among dogs and their owners who live in urban environments compared to those living in rural areas. Simultaneous allergic traits appear to be associated with the microbes found in the environment, but microbes relevant to health differ between dogs and humans. In a joint research project known as DogEnvi, researchers from the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Environment Institute, and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare have previously observed that dogs are more likely to have allergies when their owners suffer from allergic symptoms. In the new study, the researchers investigated whether such simultaneous presence of allergic traits is associated with gut or skin microbes shared by dogs and their owners. A total of 168 dog-owner pairs living in rural and urban environments participated in the study. . . . more

A wild mink in Utah has COVID-19 and some health officials fear it’s just the beginning

A coronavirus that originated in bats jumped to humans, causing the COVID-19 pandemic. And the SARS-CoV-2 virus can jump again, from humans back into wildlife, where it can wait, mutate, and change. Perhaps, years from now, it can infect people again. “If we’re careful—and we’re lucky—there won’t be a wildlife population that becomes infected and becomes an established reservoir that can also infect people,” Sarah Olson, PhD, associate director of the health program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said. “If it does, then we’ve got a long-term issue here, where this virus has the potential to be with us for millennia. And millennia is a long time. The risk may be small, but the consequences are huge.” Our luck may soon be tested. On December 13, the US Department of Agriculture reported that a wild mink in Utah tested positive for the coronavirus. . . . more

Devastating skin disease covering up to 70% of a dolphin’s body tied to climate change in new study

Scientists at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California—the largest marine mammal hospital in the world—and international colleagues have identified a novel skin disease in dolphins that is linked to climate change. The study could be groundbreaking, as it marks the first time since the disease first appeared in 2005 that scientists have been able to link a cause to the condition that affects coastal dolphin communities worldwide. Due to the decreased water salinity brought upon by climate change, the dolphins develop patchy and raised skin lesions across their bodies—sometimes covering upwards of 70% of their skin. . . . more

What’s up, Skip? Kangaroos really can “talk” to us, study finds

Animals who have never been domesticated, such as kangaroos, can intentionally communicate with humans, challenging the notion that this behavior is usually restricted to domesticated animals. That’s according to a new study from the Universities of Roehampton and Sydney in Australia. The research, which involved kangaroos—marsupials who were never domesticated—in three locations across the subcontinent, revealed that kangaroos gazed at a human when trying to access food that had been put in a closed box. The kangaroos used gazes to communicate with the human instead of attempting to open the box themselves, a behavior that is usually expected for domesticated animals. . . . more

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