African Black Leopard Captured on Camera for the First Time in a Century

Will Burrard-Lucas
Will Burrard-Lucas

Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas has taken what are likely the best images of an African black leopard ever recorded. The elusive animal is rarely seen in the wild, and it's been captured on film even less often. Now photographs of the big cat are circulating around the world.

As The Guardian reports, the leopard's black fur, still patterned with the species's signature spots, is the result of a rare genetic disorder called melanism. An African black leopard was first photographed in 1909 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and though there have been sightings, no confirmed pictures of the animal have been taken since.

Black leopard at night
Will Burrard-Lucas

Burrard-Lucas, a wildlife photographer based in London, set out to become the first person to document a black leopard in a century when he heard reports of one in the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya. Based on eyewitness accounts from locals and animal tracks, he found a spot to set up a Camtraptions Camera Trap in the park. If an animal, like a black leopard, passed through the area at night, wireless motion sensors would trigger the camera and snap a picture.

Black leopard at night
Will Burrard-Lucas

The trap was active for several nights before it finally captured the photos of a lifetime. The pictures show a black leopard staring down the camera and skulking under a full moon, and in each image its unique, mottled coat is fully visible. Burrard-Lucas also recorded clear footage of the leopard prowling around the Laikipia Wilderness Camp at night.

Like albinism, melanism is a rare mutation that results in abnormal pigmentation (in the case of melanism, there's an overabundance of melanin rather than too little). Most leopards with melanism live in Southeast Asia, making the photographs taken in Africa even more remarkable.

Black leopard at night
Will Burrard-Lucas

[h/t The Guardian]

Is There An International Standard Governing Scientific Naming Conventions?

iStock/Grafissimo
iStock/Grafissimo

Jelle Zijlstra:

There are lots of different systems of scientific names with different conventions or rules governing them: chemicals, genes, stars, archeological cultures, and so on. But the one I'm familiar with is the naming system for animals.

The modern naming system for animals derives from the works of the 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (Latinized to Carolus Linnaeus). Linnaeus introduced the system of binominal nomenclature, where animals have names composed of two parts, like Homo sapiens. Linnaeus wrote in Latin and most his names were of Latin origin, although a few were derived from Greek, like Rhinoceros for rhinos, or from other languages, like Sus babyrussa for the babirusa (from Malay).

Other people also started using Linnaeus's system, and a system of rules was developed and eventually codified into what is now called the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). In this case, therefore, there is indeed an international standard governing naming conventions. However, it does not put very strict requirements on the derivation of names: they are merely required to be in the Latin alphabet.

In practice a lot of well-known scientific names are derived from Greek. This is especially true for genus names: Tyrannosaurus, Macropus (kangaroos), Drosophila (fruit flies), Caenorhabditis (nematode worms), Peromyscus (deermice), and so on. Species names are more likely to be derived from Latin (e.g., T. rex, C. elegans, P. maniculatus, but Drosophila melanogaster is Greek again).

One interesting pattern I've noticed in mammals is that even when Linnaeus named the first genus in a group by a Latin name, usually most later names for related genera use Greek roots instead. For example, Linnaeus gave the name Mus to mice, and that is still the genus name for the house mouse, but most related genera use compounds of the Greek-derived root -mys (from μῦς), which also means "mouse." Similarly, bats for Linnaeus were Vespertilio, but there are many more compounds of the Greek root -nycteris (νυκτερίς); pigs are Sus, but compounds usually use Greek -choerus (χοῖρος) or -hys/-hyus (ὗς); weasels are Mustela but compounds usually use -gale or -galea (γαλέη); horses are Equus but compounds use -hippus (ἵππος).

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

A Rare Blue Lobster Ended Up in a Cape Cod Restaurant

Richard wood, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Richard wood, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Lobsters have precious few defenses when it comes to being tossed in a vat of boiling water or on a grill and turned into dinner. They have not yet evolved into not being delicious. But sometimes, one lucky lobster can defy the odds and escape their sentence by virtue of a genetic defect that turns them blue.

According to MassLive, one such lobster has been given a reprieve at Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Named "Baby Blue," the crustacean arrived at the restaurant from the Atlantic and was immediately singled out for its distinctive appearance.

Blue lobsters are a statistical abnormality. It's estimated only one in every two million carry the defect that creates an excessive amount of protein that results in the color. A lobsterman named Wayne Nickerson caught one in Cape Cod in 2016. He also reported catching one in 1990. Greg Ward of Rye, New Hampshire caught one near the New Hampshire and Maine border in 2017.

Lobsters can show up in a variety of colors, including orange, yellow, a mixture of orange and black, white, and even take on a two-toned appearance, with the colors split down the middle. Blue is the most common, relatively speaking. A white (albino) specimen happens in only one out of 100 million lobsters. The majority have shells with yellow, blue, and red layers and appear brown until cooked, at which point the proteins in the shell fall off to reveal the red coloring.

It's an unofficial tradition that blue lobsters aren't served up to curious customers. Instead, they're typically donated to local aquariums. Nathan Nickerson, owner Arnold's, said he plans on doing the same.

[h/t MassLive]

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