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Recent accessions to the fish collection of the New York State Museum contained specimens of Myrophis punctatus (Speckled Worm Eel) from New York waters. This is the first published documentation of the species in New York based on specimens of the leptocephalus stage and juveniles. Its small size and behavior make the Speckled Worm Eel particularly difficult to sample with conventional gear, and it may be more abundant and widespread than historical observations indicate.
Sylvilagus floridanus (Eastern Cottontail) is a common lagomorph of the eastern US. Despite a bounty of literature on the nesting ecology of this mammal, reports of arboreal nesting are largely absent from the literature. We report the first observation of an arboreal Eastern Cottontail nest since a report in 1940. The previous observation was of a nest situated in the crotch of a Salix spp. (willow) in New York; nest success was questionable. Our observation was in a suburban backyard. The rabbit placed her nest ~2.5 m above the ground, up a vertical slope of tightly-wound twining Wisteria spp. (wisteria) stems. The nest was successful; the 4 litter mates continued to use the site for ~10 days after leaving the nest before moving elsewhere in the suburban environment.
To evaluate the status of native Salvelinus fontinalis (Brook Trout) on Pennsylvania's Laurel Hill, we sampled fish, assessed habitat, and documented water quality from 20 non-randomly selected headwater streams of northwest- and southeast-facing slopes. In late spring and early summer of 2011 and 2014–2016, we sampled fish communities and measured specific conductance (μS/cm), total alkalinity (mg/l as CaCO3), pH, and total dissolved aluminum (2011 and 2016). In addition, in 2015 we determined land-use patterns, riparian canopy, and substrate composition. Mean pH values among the streams recently assessed were significantly higher than historic values; however, all other water-quality parameters were similar. Native Brook Trout were present in all streams, and annual natural reproduction was evident in 90% of streams. Even though fish were present, we observed marked declines in total catch in both 0-age and adult trout; the overall reduction approached 60% when compared with those documented in 1983. We discuss possible causes for the observed declines, including acid deposition, introduction of nonnative/invasive species, water withdrawal, habitat fragmentation/alteration, predation, and climate change.
A taxonomic key, diagnoses, and geographic distributions are provided for the 24 species of harvestmen that are known from or are likely to occur in Maryland. Twenty species are documented, with records of Caddo agilis, Phalangium opilio, Odiellus pictus, Leiobunum flavum, and Vonones sayi published for the first time. Four additional species— Acropsopilio boopis, Crosbycus dasycnemus, Leiobunum cretatum, and Sabacon cavicolens—are expected to occur in Maryland but have yet to be recorded. Due to misidentifications or other taxonomic issues, 2 species (Hadrobunus grandis and Leiobunum crassipalpe) have been reported erroneously from the state and another (L. speciosum) may be a color variant of a widespread species, L. vittatum. Additional species may yet emerge, primarily through new systematic analyses or unanticipated range extensions of known taxa. The key uses many new characteristics, including those that substantially improve the identification of females. Information on the collection, preservation, rearing, dissection, and identification of harvestmen is summarized.
Intraspecific chemical communication among related and unrelated conspecifics may play an important role in social organization and kin recognition within snakes. We monitored the movements of 7 adult Crotalus horridus (Timber Rattlesnake) and 22 of their neonates from May 2008 to October 2010. Our objective was to determine if neonates follow their mothers to suitable den sites in North Central Missouri. Mothers tended to move away from the rookery between parturition and ingress, but neonates stayed in the vicinity of their release site for up to a week after the dispersal of their mother. Despite the loss of radiotransmitters, we were able to follow 6 neonates to ingress: 5 overwintered in the same den as their mother and 1 overwintered in a known den of a conspecific female. Our observations support the hypothesis that Timber Rattlesnake neonates follow their mother or, at the very least, follow conspecifics to suitable den sites in the ir first year.
Ixobrychus exillis (Least Bittern) is listed as a species of high concern in the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan and is a US Fish and Wildlife Service migratory bird species of conservation concern in the Northeast. Little is known about the population of Least Bitterns in the Northeast because of their low population density, tendency to nest in dense wetland vegetation, and secretive behavior. Urban and agricultural development is expected to encroach on and degrade suitable wetland habitat; however, we cannot predict the effects on Least Bittern populations without more accurate information on their abundance and distribution. We conducted surveys of wetlands in Vermont to assess the efficacy of a monitoring protocol and to establish baseline Least Bittern abundance and distribution data at a sample of 29 wetland sites. Surveys yielded detections of 31 individuals at 15 of 29 sites across 3 biophysical regions and at 5 sites where occupancy had not been previously reported. Probability of occupancy was positively related to wetland size and number of patches, though the relationships were not strong enough to conclude if these were true determinants of occupancy. Call—response broadcast surveys yielded 30 detections, while passive surveys yielded 13. Call—response broadcasts (P = 0.897) increased the rate of detection by 55% compared to passive surveys (P = 0.577). Our results suggest that call—response broadcast surveys are an effective means of assessing Least Bittern occupancy and may reduce bias in long-term monitoring programs.
Saltmarshes are highly productive ecosystems that provide nursery and refuge habitat for animals, buffer storm-wave effects, and stabilize coastlines. Unfortunately, saltmarshes are in decline due to several cumulative stressors. Beneficial root-associated fungi are known to colonize >80% of land plants, but are understudied in intertidal zones. We examined arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in the roots of 2 dominant saltmarsh cordgrasses, Spartina patens (Saltmarsh Hay) and Spartina alterniflora (Smooth Cordgrass) (Poaceae), in the Minas Basin, NS, Canada. We collected 9 sediment cores at the beginning, middle, and end of the 2016 growing season (May–September) for each plant species (n = 54). We examined AMF root colonization using microscopy and fungal-DNA barcoding. Smooth Cordgrass had an AMF root colonization rate of 9%, while Saltmarsh Hay exhibited a higher AMF root colonization rate of 68%. We identified 1 AMF species, Funneliformis geosporum (Glomeraceae), in both host-plant species. We present the first Spartina spp. (cordgrasses) AMF root-colonization data for northeastern North America north of Connecticut, which may aid saltmarsh restoration efforts in Nova Scotia.
Our understanding of how human activities impact insect communities is limited. Dung beetles, well known for the ecosystem services they provide, are faced with many conservation threats, particularly from deforestation and agriculture. Here we used 200-m transects and human-dung—baited pitfall traps to examine dung beetle populations in 7 forests of Maryland's Coastal Plain. We set traps once a month, from May 2014 to April 2015, to determine species presence, abundance, range, and seasonality. We collected 6463 individuals representing 22 species; Janes Island State Park (JISP) had the highest abundance (2705 individuals) and Martinak State Park (MSP) had the highest species richness (19 species). During summer 2015, we examined the succession of dung beetles attracted to bait in JISP and MSP. We set 10 traps once a month (May–August) in each site and collected beetles on days 1, 3, 5, 7, 14, and 21 without dung replacement. In JISP, Onthophagus hecate (Scooped Scarab) was abundant throughout each 21-d period, and accounted for 68% of all beetles collected. In MSP, most specimens were collected by day 5. Here we provide information for conservation of locally rare or uncommon species.
Freshwater mussels are among the most-imperiled organisms worldwide, although they provide a variety of important functions in the streams and rivers they inhabit. Among Atlantic-slope rivers, the Delaware River is known for its freshwater mussel diversity and biomass; however, limited data are available on the freshwater mussel fauna in the lower, non-tidal portion of the river. This section of the Delaware River has experienced decades of water-quality degradation from both industrial and municipal sources, primarily as a function of one of its major tributaries, the Lehigh River. We completed semi-quantitative snorkel surveys in 53.5 of the 121 km of the river to document mussel community composition and the continued impacts from pollution (particularly inputs from the Lehigh River) on mussel fauna. We detected changes in mussel catch per unit effort (CPUE) below the confluence of the Lehigh River, with significant declines in the dominant species Elliptio complanata (Eastern Elliptio) as we moved downstream from its confluence—CPUE dropped from 179 to 21 mussels/h. Patterns in mussel distribution around the Lehigh confluence matched chemical signatures of Lehigh water input. Specifically, Eastern Elliptio CPUE declined more quickly moving downstream on the Pennsylvania bank, where Lehigh River water input was more concentrated compared to the New Jersey bank. A definitive causal link remains to be established between the Lehigh River and the dramatic shifts in mussel community composition, warranting continued investigation as it relates to mussel conservation and restoration in the basin.
The absence of predators is often invoked to explain the ability of non-native species to successfully invade a habitat, however native species can control or regulate populations of invasive species through predation. To better understand the regulation of invasive Gambusia affinis (Western Mosquitofish), we conducted a laboratory experiment to examine the potential for native Cambarus thomai (Little Brown Mudbug) and adult conspecifics to consume Western Mosquitofish fry. On average, female Western Mosquitofish consumed nearly 3 times the number of fry in 24 h than males. Little Brown Mudbug, consumed some of the Western Mosquitofish fry, but the resulting mosquitofish mortality was not significantly higher than the control (which had 100% survivorship). Our results show that cannibalism is a potentially significant source of mortality in Western Mosquitofish, and thus may be a factor involved in the regulation of their population dynamics. However, native Little Brown Mudbug, while they do consume mosquitofish fry, are probably not a major source of mosquitofish mortality in nature.
Road-salt runoff is an increasing problem in areas of North America that receive snow. Its effects include groundwater salinization, loss or reduction in lake turnover, and changes in soil structure. Road-salt runoff can affect biotic communities by causing changes in the composition of fish or aquatic invertebrate assemblages. It also poses threats to birds, mammals, and roadside vegetation.
Since the arrival of Pilgrims in 1620, Morone saxatilis (Striped Bass) has been an important commercial fish species for residents of Massachusetts. Early attempts by the Plymouth Colony to develop fishery commerce by selling Striped Bass products to Spain failed. Viable domestic markets for Striped Bass were established by the 18th century and continue to present day. Application of laws to control the commercial harvest of Striped Bass to address local declines in abundance first appeared in the Massachusetts Acts andResolves in the late 18th century, and most laws restricted the taking of Striped Bass by seines. In 1945, a temporary Massachusetts law prohibiting the taking of Striped Bass by any method other than hook-and-line was made permanent. More-restrictive size and quota regulations were not imposed until the early 1980s as inter-state conservation efforts responded to the declining trends in coastal stocks. In present day, the Striped Bass commercial fishery in Massachusetts is regulated by minimum size and quotas established under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Striped Bass Management Plan and by state no-take days and daily bag limits.
Carcinus maenas (European Green Crab) is an invasive marine portunid crab that has established populations globally outside of its native range and has been implicated in declines of benthic invertebrates in invaded ecosystems. Observations of Green Crab on intertidal mudflats in the upper Bay of Fundy have increased in recent years. We assessed the distribution and relative abundance of crab populations in Chignecto Bay, an arm of the upper Bay of Fundy, by trapping Green Crab and native Cancer irroratus (Say) (Rock Crab) at mudflats and in rocky intertidal zones in 2013 and 2014. Spatial distribution of Green Crabs indicated a preference for rocky intertidal habitats and greater abundance geographically lower in the Bay, which would correspond with an initial introduction at the mouth of the Bay and subsequent inward expansion. Abundance declined drastically from 2013 to 2014, suggesting that Green Crab may not yet be well established in Chignecto Bay. Carapace width indicated that crab age may be less variable further into the Bay, suggesting these sites may only be colonized in years with favorable environmental conditions. The population may be vulnerable under poorer conditions in other years, like 2014, when high overwintering mortality is a possible cause for the observed decline. There was not a corresponding decline in native Rock Crab. While Green Crab abundance is currently relatively low in Chignecto Bay, and their impact on mudflats likely minimal, prolonged favorable environmental conditions could lead to an increased presence.
In the summer of 2016, a population of Lepomis peltastes (Northern Sunfish), a New York State threatened species, was discovered in an 8-km reach of the Great Chazy River in Clinton County, NY. This population is the first known from the Lake Champlain watershed. Further investigation showed the population extending upstream of the lowest fish barrier for 2.3 km. Northern Sunfish were found in sheltered habitat shared with several other species of Centrarchidae. While a variety of methods were successfully used to catch Northern Sunfish, backpack electroshockers were the most effective. The future of the Northern Sunfish in New York is discussed, as well as the ecological implications for some of the other fish species in the river.