Happy Mother’s Day to Moms of All Species
Mother's Day sealed with a kiss
Seriously...how ridiculously adorable is this? We're re-running this photo (taken by our own William Link) of a smooch between a seal mother and her pup in celebration of Mother's Day because . . . well, isn't it obvious? See the second picture for how the mom feels.
The Weddell seal population of Erebus Bay, Antarctica, has been extensively studied for more than 40 years; the study is one of the longest-running studies of a long-lived mammal. Because of its isolation, this population is undisturbed by human activities. The Weddell seal population is healthy and stable, and thus gives a good example for studies of animal population dynamics. In recent years USGS scientists William Link and James Nichols have collaborated with Jay Rotella of Montana State University, conducting mathematical modeling to address fundamental population and ecological questions including marking and weighing newborn seal pups. Read more about Wedell seal science.
Welcome to the world, wild baby whoopers
This Mother’s Day, a whooping crane mother (and the father too) is watching over Louisiana’s first wild-hatched whooper chicks since 1939. These youngsters hatched two days apart in early April in a soggy Southwest Louisiana crawfish pond. Their parents, a four-year-old female and a three-year-old male, were raised at USGS’ Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, where researchers work to rebuild free-flying populations of the bugle-voiced, endangered birds. Partnering with states and conservation groups, Patuxent scientists hatch and raise whooper chicks for release into the wild as young adults at sites across the Eastern U.S.
The chicks are called LW1-16 and LW 2-16; the letters stand for “Louisiana Wild.” Now three weeks old, they swim and walk the fields with their parents, relying on the adults for meals of insects and small freshwater creatures. State biologists are watching from afar, but won’t come close until the chicks are older, when blood tests may reveal their sex.
For more info on USGS whooping crane program
Hear the unison call of a bonded pair of whoopers. An adult pair gives a “unison call” in the early morning. The male gives the long sustained note and the female joins in with the two shorter notes in-between. This vocalization strengthens the pair-bond between the male and female and is also a display of territoriality.
Don’t mess with Mama!
Not all turtles drop their eggs and trundle away. USGS researchers studying Agassiz’s desert tortoises at a wind farm in the Sonoran Desert discovered two tortoise mamas who protected their nests from predators for several days after laying eggs under the sand at the entrance to their burrow. The mamas sat over the nest, often turned sideways to block the burrow’s entrance from intruders, used their noses to push predators away (yes, including researchers!), and even tried to collapse the burrow over the nest when disturbance continued. Parental care like this is more widespread in turtles than most people think. Turtles can be good mothers too! Check out our research on renewable energy and desert tortoises. Read learn more about our renewable energy and wildlife studies.
Wisdom: the world’s oldest known wild bird and (very) experienced mom
At 65, Wisdom the Laysan albatross hatched another chick a few months ago – breaking her own record as the oldest known wild bird and the oldest wild bird mom. Wisdom has raised at least eight chicks since 2006, and as many as 40 in her lifetime. The latest chick, Kūkini (see picture) pipped her way into the world in February at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
Wisdom, now sporting her 6th band as part of the USGS Bird Banding Program, was first banded in 1956 by legendary USGS scientist Chandler Robbins, now 97. Also amazing is the number of miles Wisdom has logged -- more than 3 million miles since she was first banded. That's up to 6 trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again with plenty of miles to spare. Wisdom demonstrates the value of bird banding to better understand the world around us. For more on what we can learn from bird banding, visit our Bird Banding Lab. Go here for more on Wisdom, her mate, and her most recent chick.
Anything you can do I can do, Mom!
Warning -- Don't overdose on the cub's cuteness . . . Just a few days ago, a USGS grizzly bear researcher snapped this picture of a mother grizzly bear and her cub in Yellowstone National Park. Adult females are the most important segment of the grizzly bear populations because they are the reproductive engine. (Go moms!) Adult females with cubs are the most easily and reliably recognized cohort of grizzly bear populations. Consequently females with cubs are a major focus of USGS - Interagency Grizzly Bear Study monitoring program in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Tracking trend for this segment of the population is generally representative of the trend for entire population. Go here to learn more about grizzly bear science.
Being a mom starts with babies (duh!). Pallid sturgeon young wanted
Since 1990, not a single wild-spawned pallid sturgeon is known to have survived to a juvenile, despite intensive searching.
Pallid sturgeon are an endangered species indigenous to the warm turbid waters of the Yellowstone, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers. The pallid sturgeon population in the upper Missouri River, upstream of Fort Peck Reservoir, has experienced significant decline such that only a few (less than 20) wild fish remain in the population.
Researchers at the USGS Montana Cooperative Fishery Unit, under the direction of Chris Guy, Assistant Unit Leader, show that oxygen-depleted dead zones between dams in the Upper Missouri are directly linked to hatched embryos surviving to adulthood. Watch a short video on pallid sturgeon ecology.
Learn more about the Montana Unit
Rearing babies is a full-time job for black bear moms
Rearing babies is a full-time job for black bear moms, dad is not involved -- Happy Mother’s Day mama bear, well deserved.
The USGS Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and faculty and students from Oklahoma State University are studying spread, population viability and habitat use of expanding black bear populations in eastern Oklahoma. Satellite collars are being deployed on females and select males. These collars offer the opportunity to collect more locational data (up to six locations per day) than traditional VHF collars. Using these data, the research team can evaluate population expansion and monitor reproduction and cub-to- yearling survival during winter den surveys. Read full story here.
The research is supported by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation through funding from the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program.
Fisher moms love their home in the forest
Fishers, which are related to weasels, mink, martens, and otters, had disappeared from much of the Pacific Northwest by the mid-1900s. Little historical information had been recorded about which habitats they preferred. So USGS and partner scientists recorded habitat selection patterns of fishers translocated from British Columbia to northwestern Washington during 2008-2010. Mother fishers in the study chose core areas within forested federal land that had a mix of mid-sized and large trees. Moms also prefer larger trees than dads and used substantially less natural open area. The identification of sex-specific preferences for certain habitat characteristics will be valuable to managers planning future fisher reintroductions in the Pacific Northwest.
Evaluation of fisher reintroduction in Olympic National Park
We're bullish for mama (bull) trouts
Bull trout mamas seek out cold, undisturbed areas of streams in the Pacific Northwest to lay their eggs and raise their young. These little-known cousins of Pacific salmon are highly sensitive to changes in their environment - likely part of the reason why they are listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Future climate changes, especially warming stream temperatures and an increased probability of disruption from flooding, may leave Mama Bull Trout wondering where to nest, as the cold, undisturbed areas she prefers become difficult to find.
Researchers at the Northwest Climate Science Center (managed by USGS) are working to understand and map the threats that bull trout face, so that natural resource managers know how and where to direct conservation efforts. Learn more
Also see USGS blog: In Hot Water: Climate Change Reaches Underwater & Impacts Freshwater Fisheries
USGS mama research: Where do the hatchlings go?
Every two to three years, most female loggerhead sea turtles return to their nesting beach – the one where they were born themselves -- to deposit 4-7 nests. In each nest, they lay on average 100–126 eggs; these hatch after about 60 days. But where do the hatchlings go once they’re born? With the help of beach surveys, satellite tracking and modeling simulations, USGS scientists predicted likely routes used by hatchlings as they swam from their nests in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Results indicated that hatchlings dispersed widely, however, some loggerheads from nesting beaches in the GOM most likely stay in the basin throughout their lives. Visit here for more on USGS sea turtle research on loggerheads.
So many choices. Coho salmon moms are choosy mothers!
During their lifetimes, coho and other Pacific salmon are born in fresh water, migrate to sea and return to their birth streams to breed. Breeding is the final step in the salmon life cycle and the mother decides where it will happen. USGS and BLM scientists found that female coho likely select breeding sites based on habitat features that provide protection for spawning adults, conditions for egg incubation, and nearby habitat for juveniles. Findings of this study have important implications for stream restoration design to benefit spawning by coho salmon, a threatened species in the study area.
Also see USGS blog: In Hot Water: Climate Change Reaches Underwater & Impacts Freshwater Fisheries
Gators win Mom of the Year
Protective mom. Alligators have few predators, but alligator moms swim the extra mile to protect their hatchlings. At hatch, mom digs open the nest mound to help hatchlings leave the nest. Moms stay with their hatchlings for the next one to two years, protecting them from LARGER gators and other predators.
Abby Lawson, researcher at the USGS South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit based at Clemson University has teamed up with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to identify causes of alligator population fluctuations. The findings will be used to help predict population outcomes of management decisions in the northern portion of the species’ range.
According to Lawson, gators are often simultaneously viewed as a keystone species of ecological importance, a controversial public safety nuisance, and a valuable economic resource. Intensive development on South Carolina’s coastal plain within the alligator’s core range presents additional challenges to effective conservation and management decision-making to satisfy multiple stakeholder groups.
Lawson’s dissertation research is examining population ecology of the alligator under advisement of Patrick Jodice and Dr. Clint Moore of the South Carolina and Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units, respectively.
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