Illinois Natural History Survey News
Illinois Natural History Survey News
With all the hype surrounding Punxsutawney Phil, Environmental Almanac's Rob Kanter decided to interview INHS Mammalogist Joe Merritt, who reported that groundhogs don't generally come out of hibernation until early March. According to Merritt, while groundhogs do hibernate, most mammals in Illinois do not truly hibernate, rather they go into a state of "winter lethargy." Of the 60 mammal species in Illinois, only 16 truly hibernate, 12 of which are bats.
For more interesting information on how mammals survive the winter, read Environmental Almanac.
Watch a short video on groundhogs from INHS Outreach Group
A recent study by INHS researchers Jeffrey M. Levengood, David J. Soucek,, Gregory G. Sass, Amy Dickinson, and John M. Epifanio showed that overall, concentrations of arsenic, selenium, and mercury in bighead and silver carp from the lower Illinois River do not appear to be a health concern for a majority of human consumers. The full results of the study have been published in the journal Chemosphere.
Average mercury concentration in fillets was below the US Food and Drug Administration Action Level and EPA Screening Value for Recreational Fishers, though some individual fish had mercury concentrations high enough to recommend limiting consumption by sensitive groups (children < 15 years and women of childbearing age) to 1 meal/week. Mercury concentrations were greater in bighead carp and were elevated in both species taken from the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. "These fish are low in mercury in comparison to many other commercially available fish. However, as always consumers need to make informed decisions about their food choices," said Dr. Jeff Levengood, lead investigator of the study.
Arsenic and selenium concentrations in bighead and silver carp fillets examined did not pose a risk to human consumers. Inorganic arsenic concentrations were undetectable and concentrations of selenium in carp fillets were well below the 1.5 mg/kg threshold for restricting the number of meals according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. "Carp species, size and collection location should be considered in judging risks associated with uses of these fish taken from the Illinois River ", Levengood said.
Members of the Illinois Grand Prairie Master Naturalists came to the Illinois Natural History Survey to help identify some of the 2,300 insect specimens that were collected by an "amateur" entomologist and donated to INHS. The volunteers were assisted by INHS Entomologists Joe Spencer, Sam Heads, Michael Jeffords and Susan Post. Portions of the collection will stay at INHS and others will be used for educational purposes through the Master Naturalist Program and Sugar Grove Nature Center.
Read more in the Environmental Almanac
On 25 January 2014, INHS Biologist Steve Taylor gave a presentation at a ceremony announcing the purchase of 535 acres of land over Illinois' largest and most biologically diverse cave. Fogelpole Cave is home to several protected species including the endangered Illinois Cave Amphipod and Indiana Bat. Taylor serves as science advisor for the project, which is being managed by Clifftop, a non-profit organization.
INHS Paleontologist Sam Heads was featured in Inside Illinois in a story about his research that found an ancient fig wasp that pre-dates any known fig trees. According to Heads, “This is a tiny parasitic wasp, it’s the smallest fossil wasp found in this particular deposit and it’s the oldest representative of its family. More importantly, it’s possible that this wasp was fig-associated, which is interesting because it’s Early Cretaceous, about 115 to 120 million years old. That’s a good 65 million years or so prior to the first occurrence of figs in the fossil record.”
INHS Oligochaetologist Mark J. Wetzel and John W. Reynolds (Oligochaetology Lab, Ontario, Canada) recently launched a new website presenting the second edition of Nomenclatura Oligochaetologica, as Nomenclatura Oligochaetologica Editio Secunda – a catalogue of names, descriptions, and type specimens of the Oligochaeta.
INHS Post-doctoral researcher Andrea Fritts is a co-author on a recently published study examining the effects of the antidepressant fluoxetine on the behavior of freshwater mussels, which could impact their survival and role in their ecosystem.
The study found that chronic exposure led to "increases in movement, decreased time to movement, and increased likelihood of diurnal movement, and increased rates of lure display in mussels. Changes in mussel movement [in the wild] are likely to increase susceptibility to predation, and may also alter sediment nutrient cycling and oxygenation through changes in bioturbation provided by mussels."
Read the full article in Aquatic Toxicology
INHS Psocodea expert Kevin Johnson and post doctoral researcher Julie Allen led a recently published study comparing the rate of evolution in primates with that in their louse parasites.
This study is the first to look at the pace of molecular change across the genomes of different groups. It compared a total of 1,534 genes shared by the primates and their parasites and found that lice evolve faster than their primate hosts.
The study found that although the louse genes are changing at a faster rate, most of those changes are "silent," having no effect on the proteins for which they code and making no difference in the life of the organism, whereas the changes in primate genes more often led to changes in protein structure.
Read the complete press release from the Illinois News BureauThe new analysis is the first to look at the pace of molecular change across the genomes of different groups. It compared a total of 1,534 genes shared by the primates and their parasites.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-01-lice-men-chimps-tracks-pace.html
Read the complete article in the Proceedings of the Royal SocietyThe new analysis is the first to look at the pace of molecular change across the genomes of different groups. It compared a total of 1,534 genes shared by the primates and their parasites.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-01-lice-men-chimps-tracks-pace.html#jCp
INHS researchers at the Forbes Biological Station recorded the historic numbers of waterfowl this year in the Illinois River Valley. At migration’s peak, 329,590 mallards were counted, the highest number since 1999. Northern pintails (141,840), green-winged teal (179,620), gadwall (146,300) and northern shovelers (49,060) were present in the highest numbers since the survey began.
“These were the highest peak abundances and use days that we’ve ever seen here — higher than Frank Bellrose ever saw here, since the beginnings of the survey,” said Heath Hagy, director of the Illinois Natural History Survey’s Forbes Biological Station.
Read the complete article in the State Journal Register
Learn more about the waterfowl aerial inventories
Follow the Forbes Biological Station on Facebook
INHS Ornithologist Chris Whelan is a co-author on a recent publication reporting that woodpeckers may be helpful in controlling Emerald Ash Borer Beetles. Their study found that bark foraging birds, such as woodpeckers, foraged more heavily on ash trees and preferred ash trees with visible canopy decline over healthy trees. "Predation by bark-foragers significantly reduced tree-level EAB densities by upwards of 85%." The authors conclude that enhancing habitat for woodpeckers and other bark foragers may help control infestations and create more resilient forests.
Full article in Forest Ecology
Junior High students are once again adding to our knowledge of biodiversity in Illinois. Prairie Central Junior High Science teacher Scott Saffer and his seventh grade students conduct herpetological field surveys each year in Livingston County. After catching and identifying reptiles and amphibians, the students have their finds confirmed by INHS Herpetologists Andrew Kuhns and Chris Phillips. This year the students found three more species not previously documented in Livingston County.
“It’s great that these kids are out making real contributions to science. Their finds help us update the known ranges for these species,” said Kuhns.
In a recent paper in Phytokeys, INHS Botanist Dr. Geoffrey Levin described a new species of Drypetes from Costa Rica. This new species of flowering tree produces asymmetrical drupes (fleshy fruits), leading to its name Drypetes asymmetricarpa.
Read the paper
INHS post doctoral researcher Tanya Hawley Matlaga, INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips, and INHS Ecotoxicologist David Soucek report that bullfrogs are less sensitive to elevated chloride concentrations than some other amphibian species. The study was designed to mimic the level of salt found in roadside ponds following de-icing events. The study found that bullfrog tadpoles did not experience reduced survival, growth, or ability to evade predation in elevated chloride concentrations, and thus, their populations are not expected to be impacted by road salt. While this is good news for bullfrogs, it's an additional stress for other species inhabiting ponds with these voracious predators.
This week's Environmental Almanac featured recent research by two groups of INHS researchers - Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla's Wildlife Epidemiology Lab and Dr. Andrew Miller's Mycology Lab.
For more information on this research, read the posts below.
INHS Mycologist Andrew Miller and graduate student Daniel Raudabaugh recently published a paper on the fungus Pseudogymnoascus (Geomyces) destructans, which causes white nose syndrome in bats. In this first, in depth study of the basic biology of the fungus, the researchers found that P. destructans can survive on a wide variety of nutrient sources.
According to Raudabaugh, “It can basically live on any complex carbon source, which encompasses insects, undigested insect parts in guano, wood, dead fungi and cave fish. We looked at all the different nitrogen sources and found that basically it can grow on all of them. It can grow over a very wide range of pH; it doesn’t have trouble in any pH unless it’s extremely acidic.”
This research indicates that even if the bats are absent from the cave, the fungus can persist. “All in all the news for hibernating bats in the U.S. is pretty grim,” Miller said.
Illinois News Bureau
Read the research article in PLOS ONE: Nutritional Capability of and Substrate Suitability for Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the Causal Agent of Bat White-Nose Syndrome
INHS Wildlife Epidemiologist Nohra Mateus-Pinilla and postdoctoral researchers Mary Beth Manjerovic and Michelle Green conducted research on the effectiveness of culling deer to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is a 100% fatal disease in deer, likened to Mad Cow Disease. Their paper, "The importance of localized culling in stabilizing chronic wasting disease prevalence in white-tailed deer populations," compared the culling strategy used in Illinois to the two different management strategies used in Wisconsin over a decade.
From 2003-2007, both Illinois and Wisconsin were actively culling and there were no statistical differences between state CWD prevalence estimates. In 2007, Wisconsin ceased culling and average prevalence over the next five years was 3.09 ± 1.13% with an average annual increase of 0.63%. Illinois continued government culling and there was no change in prevalence throughout Illinois.
"Despite its unpopularity among hunters, localized culling is a disease management strategy that can maintain low disease prevalence while minimizing impacts on recreational deer harvest."
Read the News Release from U of I News Bureau
Listen to the interview on Focus 580
INHS researchers Samantha Carpenter and Nohra Mateus-Pinilla recently published a paper in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. Carpenter, Mateus-Pinilla, and University of Illinois Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory researchers, analyzed liver tissue samples from 23 river otters looking at 20 organohalogenated compounds used in agriculture and industry.
“The PCBs, dieldrin and DDE were the contaminants that we detected in highest concentration, in terms of average concentrations,” Carpenter said. “And male river otters had significantly higher concentrations of PCBs compared to females.”
PCBs are polychlorinated biphenyls used in manufacturing which were banned in 1979
DDE is a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT which was banned in the 1970s
Dieldrin is an insecticide and byproduct of the pesticide aldrin used across the Midwest and banned in 1987
Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) was recently discovered in DuPage County in Northeast Illinois. One of the most aggressive invaders in the forests of southern Illinois, the DuPage County discovery, along with the discovery of populations in Will County in 2011 and in McHenry County in 2012, indicates that stiltgrass has the potential to establish anywhere in Illinois.
Finding and controlling any new populations before they become well established is crucial to management. Please keep a look out for this species and if you find a suspect population, please report it. There are many people and programs available to help you with verification of ID and control strategies.
If you are in NE Illinois, you can report populations to the New Invaders Watch Program at www.newinvaders.org.
For areas outside of NE Illinois, you can report infestations to Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan Invasive Species Campaign Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information: Illinois CAPS Program
INHS Malacologist Kevin Cummings will be honored by Prairie Rivers Network with the Outstanding Public Servant award this year in recognition of his dedication to protecting and promoting the health of rivers and their wildlife. Kevin has spent his career researching and protecting freshwater mussels, most recently working to reintroduce endangered mussels back to Illinois' rivers. The award will be presented at the Annual Dinner on October 11, at the I Hotel and Conference Center, 1900 S First Street in Champaign IL.
Scientists from the Illinois Natural History Survey at the Prairie Research Institute at University of Illinois have discovered four new species of springtails - minute ancient relatives of the insects - in the caves of the Salem Plateau in southern Illinois. The four new species: Onychiurus pipstrellae (the Bat Cave Springtail), Pygmarrhopalites fransjanssens (Jannsens’ Globular Springtail), Pygmarrhopalites salemsis (the Salem Plateau Springtail) and Pygmarrhopalites incantator (the Wizard Springtail) are described in a paper published recently in the Journal of Cave and Karst Studies – URL: http://www.caves.org/pub/journal/PDF/v75/cave-75-02-146.pdf
According to Dr. Felipe Soto-Adames, “these animals may be small, but they represent a unique piece of the wondrous diversity of life on our planet as well as an important part of our state’s natural history.”
In their surveys of the Salem Plateau caves, Soto-Adames and co-author Dr. Steve Taylor found 49 species of springtails, including the 4 new species and five additional species that had never before been documented in Illinois.
Springtails (Order Collembola) are tiny, insect-like animals, typically less than 6 mm (0.24 in) long; the four new species range in size from 0.65 mm (0.03 in) to 2.2 mm (0.09 in). The name springtail comes from the furcula, a forked, tail-like appendage capable of propelling an individual up to 10 cm (3.9 in). As decomposers and nutrient recyclers, springtails are an important part of many ecosystems.
INHS Blog post about the new species
Fall is the time for many insects to start making their ways indoors for the winter. The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), Halyomorpha halys is believed to have been introduced from Asia and can be a pest on tress and crops.
Researchers are still trying to determine the range of the BMSB and need your help. If you believe you have BMSB, we would be very interested in looking at it. (click image at left to enlarge) To positively confirm any insect as BMSB, we need to look at an actual specimen. Suspect stink bugs may be sent to Kelly Estes, 1816 S. Oak St., Champaign, IL 61820. Please put stink bugs in a crush-proof container (pill bottle, check box, etc).
Illinois CAPS Blog
Factsheet on BMSB
The schedule is up for the First Detector workshops for 2014. This program, a cooperative effort between University of Illinois Plant Clinic, University of Illinois Extension, and the Illinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey Program (Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute), is a great way to learn about new pests, diseases, and plants heading into Illinois. Last year, the trainings focused on forested ecosystems; this year the focus is on Landscape and Nursery pests.
Objectives of the Illinois First Detector Program:
- Improve first-detector training and invasive species awareness
- Reduce potential risk from pathogens and pests
- Increase rapid and affordable plant diagnostic support to local, state, and national agriculture and green industry programs as well as other end users.
Dates for the 2014 First Detector Workshops
January 14 Peoria
January 16 Collinsville
February 20 Murphysboro
February 27 Rockford
March 12 Decatur
March 27 Joliet
Illinois CAPS website
A timber rattlesnake was found dead on the road near Carrollton, Illinois, which according to INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips was a "little bit shocking." Timber rattlesnakes have been declining in Illinois and are classified as threatened under the Illinois Endangered Species Act. Phillips, who has studied snakes for the past 25 years in Illinois was contacted by The Telegraph newspaper about this unusual find and said the sighting was odd, not just because of the rarity of the species, but the species is typically found along the bluffs closer to the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.
INHS Behavioral Entomologist Joe Spencer is looking at rotation-resistant western corn rootworms, which are causing severe injury to crops. Crops modified to resist infestation by insects and crop rotation are some of the methods to control injurious insects, but some rootworms have developed resistance to these mechanisms. Repeated use of the modified corn year after year has given the rootworms time to adapt. Producers are encouraged to watch their fields for injury.
Over the course of a week, 1000 endangered mussels were collected from under a bridge construction site in Pennsylvania, packed for safe transport, quarantined, marked, measured, and released into new sites in Vermilion County, Illinois. This is the third relocation from Pennsylvania to Illinois as part of the Species Survival Plan for two endangered mussels, the northern riffleshell and the clubshell.