Posts Tagged ‘Nature’


Germany’s Green Belt is one of Europe’s most unique open spaces: a once heavily militarized stretch of the Iron Curtain that’s now a natural wonderland filled with a variety of threatened animal species.

by Matt Hickman

Although the Berlin Wall came crashing down on Nov. 9, 1989, there’s another important milestone for a reunified Germany that was ushered in this month. As of Feb. 5, 2018, the heavily fortified concrete barrier that divided the German capital beginning in 1961 has now been down longer than it was up: 28 years, two months and 27 days.

That being said, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the physical and ideological divide between East and West wasn’t just limited to a famous 90-some-mile wall in Berlin.

Predating the Berlin Wall by 16 years and located nearly 100 miles east, the Inner German Border was the true physical manifestation of the Iron Curtain: a 870-mile frontier that ran the entire length of the divided country from the Baltic Sea in the north to the former Czechoslovakia in the south. On one side of this 650-foot-wide strip of land stood the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and on the other — just beyond an extensive network of dog runs, minefields, concrete watchtowers, bunkers, booby traps and forbidding electrified barbed wire fences — stood the German Democratic Republic (GDR), a communist dictatorship that remained firmly in the grasp of the Soviet Union until the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc.

Remnants of the “Death Strip” that once severed Germany still exist — so called because hundreds of East Germans perished while attempting to flee the GDR for less totalitarian pastures. Many of the old watchtowers, fortifications and short stretches of fence have been preserved. Here, history, no matter how painful, hasn’t been paved over and replaced with shopping malls and tract housing. And as such, the scars of a divided Germany remain. But what unusual and beautiful scars they are.

Almost the entirety of the Inner German Border has been reclaimed by Mother Nature as part of a sprawling wildlife reserve and outdoor recreation area known as Das Grüne Band — the Green Belt. Encompassing large swaths of undisturbed countryside and farmland in addition to the border zone, in some ways the Green Belt — often described as a “living monument to reunification” and a “memory landscape” — remains a no man’s land given that a wide variety of plants and animals, many rare and endangered, positively rule.


Germany’s Green Belt isn’t entirely continuous. However, most of this exclusion zone-turned-wildlife haven remains in a near-natural state.

From ‘death zone into a lifeline’

Rich in biodiversity and largely unhampered by 21st century human development, the Green Belt is a project of German environmental group Bund Naturschutz (BUND) that dates back to 1989. However, work had begun on the non-fortified western side of the border zone much earlier after conservationists noticed that this woeful place was also a wildlife magnet. “The division of Germany was a travesty that robbed people of their freedom, but a positive side effect was the way the sealed border allowed nature to flourish,” Eckhard Selz, a park ranger hailing from the former East Germany, explained to the Guardian in 2009.

In a 2017 NBC News profile, conservationist Kai Frobel, considered by many to be the father of the Green Belt, explained that “nature essentially has been given a 40-year holiday” in the erstwhile border area, which itself has been transformed from a “death zone into a lifeline.”

“When we grew up in this area, we all thought that this monster of a border line had been built for eternity,” 58-year-old Frobel says of his teenage years spent as a budding conservationist hailing from Colburg, a Bavarian town located on the western side of the border but largely surrounded by the GDR. “No one, really no one, believed in German reunification at the time.”

When the Iron Curtain collapsed, Frobel and his fellow conservationists, including many from the former East Germany, rushed to protect and preserve the border zone. The worry was that the largely untouched area would give way to roads, housing and massive commercial farming operations — a “brown belt,” if you will. Vital wildlife habitats just recently discovered would be lost.

With governmental backing, the Green Belt became the first German nature conservation project to involve parties from both sides of a nation that had just been fused back together. Decades later, an impressive 87 percent of the Green Belt, which passes through nine of Germany’s 16 states, remains in an undeveloped or near-natural state. While there are some gaps in this unusually elongated wildlife refuge, BUND is continually working to restore them and prevent other sections from giving way to development.

“You will find no other place in Germany with the richness of habitats and species that the Green Belt provides,” Frobel tells NBC News.


A Cold War era concrete watchtower still stands along the eastern section of what was once the notorious Inner German Border.

The one upside of a nation-dividing no man’s land

In October of last year, Frobel, along with Inge Sielman and Hubert Weiger, were awarded the German government’s top environmental prize for their tireless work preserving and protecting the old Inner German Border and environs. (The trio received a combined 245,00 euros or roughly $284,300.)

As Deutsche Welle explains, the Green Belt’s dual function as a historical site and wildlife refuge is more vital today than ever. Many animals, forced to seek out new habitats due to encroaching development in outlying areas of the German countryside, are flocking to the protected area in record numbers.

“The Green Belt is now home to countless natural wonders that have been crowded out in other areas,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeir explained at October’s Germany Environmental Prize ceremony, held in the city of Brunswick.


Tranquil, sobering and biologically diverse, the Green Belt is popular amongst hikers, cyclists, birders and history buffs alike.

In total, conservationists believe the Green Belt to be home to upwards of 1,200 plant and animal species that are endangered or near-extinct in Germany, including the lady’s slipper orchid, the Eurasian otter, wildcats and the European tree frog. The Green Belt also hosts a large number of rare and threatened birds such as the black stork.
“We discovered that over 90 percent of the bird species that were rare or highly endangered in Bavaria — such as the whinchat, the corn bunting and the European nightjar — could be found in the Green Belt. It became a final retreat for many species, and it still is today,” Frobel tells Deutsche Welle.

One less rare species found in growing abundance throughout the Green Zone are tourists. Germany has long touted the region as a sustainable “soft” tourism hotspot, particularly in recent years. Laced with hiking trails and dotted with nature viewing areas along with a fair number of memorials, museums, quaint villages and a handful of crumbling leftovers from the Cold War era, the Green Zone passes through already tourism-friendly nature regions including the Franconian and Thuringian forests, the Harz Mountains and the verdant floodplain of the river Elbe.

In addition to local conservation groups, a number of local tourism authorities are working alongside BUND to promote the natural splendors of the once inaccessible border region. “Numerous cycling and hiking trails along the Green Belt connect special points of experience and information,” reads the Green Belt tourism page. “You can see cranes and northern geese from observation ramparts, conquer castles and palaces, descend into diminutive mining pits, climb border towers, dart along old border trails in the dark, or be inspired by works of art.”


With informative signs guiding the way and pointing out important sights, the Green Belt is described as a ‘memory landscape.

A model for something much bigger

Of course, Germany wasn’t the only country cracked by the Iron Curtain.

For nearly four decades, the entire European continent was split between East and West with little movement between the two sides. And much like the heralded conservation area that’s flourishing in a once-divided Deutschland, the European Green Belt Initiative aims to protect biodiversity along the line of former Iron Curtain but on a much more ambitious scale.

Stretching from the Barents Sea on the Russian/Norwegian border and along the Baltic coast before cutting through the heart of Central Europe and terminating at the Adriatic and Black seas, the 7,500-mile European Green Belt links 24 individual countries through a winding necklace of national parks, nature preserves and other protected areas.

As in Germany, many of these European border regions were largely restricted/avoided during their existence. And so, wildlife moved in and flourished in relative solitude.

“Unwittingly, the once-divided Europe encouraged the conservation and development of valuable habitats. The border area served as a retreat for many endangered species,” explains the European Green Belt website.

Founded in 2003 and very much modeled on the work of BUND in Germany, the European Green Belt Initiative is a burgeoning grassroots movement comprised of around 150 governmental and non-governmental conservation organizations hailing from a diverse number of countries.

And in addition to inspiring a band of protected wilderness that bisects the European continent, the many successes of Germany’s Green Belt have also inspired South Korean officials to reach out to Frobel and his colleagues and discuss ways that the Korean Demilitarized Zone could some day (emphasis on some day) be transformed into a protected wildlife area.

“Conservationists are already preparing a so-called Green Belt Korea, and are in close consultation with us,” Frobel told Deutsche Welle in a 2017 interview with Deutsch Welle. He points out that the Korean Demilitarized Zone, home to “a well-preserved biodiverse habitat,” is the “only region in the world that can be compared with Germany before 1989.”

“They are using Germany’s Green Belt as its model for when reunification comes — even though the situation doesn’t look too good at the moment,” says Frobel.

https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/blogs/germany-nation-dividingdeath-zone-reimagined-nature-reserve

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An Amazon molly, Poecilia formosa, an asexual fish species native to Texas that is entirely female.

By Shana Hutchin

Highlights

The Amazon molly has flourished by defying nature’s odds to reproduce asexually, cloning themselves by duping the male fish of another species to waste their germplasm

Females steal the entire genome of their host males, keep it for one generation and then throw it out again

The existence of Amazon mollies back anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 years ago to a sexual reproduction event involving two different species of fish

Faculty Fellow Dr. Manfred Schartl led the international team that recently sequenced the first Amazon molly fish genome

No species is immune from the suffering of unrequited love, but scientists expect to learn volumes about the biological basis of sex from the newly sequenced genome of an all-female, asexual Texas native – the Amazon molly fish – that has thrived as a master of male manipulation over millennia.

The fresh waters along the Texas-Mexico border serve as home to this evolutionary anomaly – a fish that has flourished by defying nature’s odds to reproduce asexually through a natural form known as parthenogenesis in which growth and development of embryos occurs without fertilization, resulting only in daughters that are true clones of their mothers.

Texas A&M University Hagler Institute for Advanced Study (HIAS) Faculty Fellow Dr. Manfred Schartl led the international team that recently sequenced the first Amazon molly genome and the genomes of the original parental species that created this unique fish in an effort to better understand how its reproduction deviates from the male-female sexual norm and why the Amazon molly as a species has fared so well in the process.

The evolution of sex

The findings from their National Institutes of Health-funded research are published online today (Feb. 12) in the Nature research journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

“The existence of two sexes, male and female, is one of the oldest and most widespread phenomena in biology,” says Schartl, a world leader in cellular and molecular biology of Xiphophorus model systems including platyfish and swordtails. “Studies on the exceptional case of asexuality helps us to better understand the biological meaning and evolution of sex.”

Animals that reproduce asexually are rare, compared to the overwhelming majority of species that exist as males and females and reproduce sexually. Because it was long thought that vertebrates would not be able to exist in such a way, Schartl says it was a sensation when the Amazon molly was the first asexual vertebrate discovered in 1932.

But even the most independent females occasionally need a male – in the Amazon molly’s case, to kick-start the parthenogenensis process. They seduce males from related sexual species for this service, which Schartl notes lacks the regular benefit for these males, which do not contribute their genes to the next generation.


An Amazon molly (right), caught in action while seducing a male Sailfin molly to steal sperm.

Thriving by cloning

“In essence, mollies repeatedly clone themselves by duping the male fish of another species to waste their germplasm,” Schartl says. “This reminds one of the tribe of female warriors in the Greek mythology, from which their name is derived.”

The team’s research traces the existence of Amazon mollies back anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 years ago to a sexual reproduction event involving two different species of fish, an Atlantic molly and a Sailfin molly.

“That’s about 500,000 generations if you calculate it out to the present day, which makes them genetically older than humans,” Schartl says. “This is unexpected because asexuals are expected to be at disadvantage compared to their sexual counterparts.”

Schartl notes that one of the theories as to why asexual reproduction is incompatible with a species’ sustainability is the idea that if no new DNA is introduced during reproduction, then harmful gene mutations can accumulate over successive generations, leading to eventual extinction. Another hypothesis states that asexual reproduction is not like sexual reproduction, where the different genomes of the two parents are newly combined and create new genomes with every offspring. Because the absence of recombination in asexuals limits genetic diversity within a species, he says it gets more and more difficult to adapt to changes in the environment.

“Unexpectedly, we did not find the signs of genomic decay as predicted,” Schartl adds. “Our findings suggest that the molly’s thriving existence can be explained by the fact that the fish has a hardy genetic makeup that is often rare in nature and gives the animals some survival benefits.”

Schartl says the hybridization of the Atlantic and Sailfin mollies’ two different species genomes into a new one created a situation well known in the animal and plant breeding world — an artificial hybrid that is bigger, more colorful and capable of generating more and better products than the purebred parents, a phenomenon known as hybrid vigor.

https://today.tamu.edu/2018/02/12/texas-am-biologist-leads-international-team-that-sequences-first-amazon-molly-fish-genome/

By Ed Yong

When an animal’s body consists almost entirely of leg, its biology gets really weird.

If sea spiders had a creation myth, it would go something like this. An inebriated deity stumbles home after a hard day’s creating, finds a bunch of leftover legs, glues them together, and zaps them to life before passing out and forgetting to add anything else. The resulting creature—all leg and little else—scuttles away to conquer the oceans.

This is fiction, of course, but it’s only slightly more fanciful than the actual biology of sea spiders. These bizarre marine creatures have four to six pairs of spindly, jointed legs that convene at a torso that barely exists. “They have to do most of their business in their legs,” says Amy Moran from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, who studies these animals. They have, for example, no lungs, gills, or respiratory organs of any kind. Instead, they rely on oxygen diffusing passively across the large surface area provided by their legs.

Their genitals are found on their legs, too. A female will grow eggs in her thighs—“it’s as if my arms were full of ping-pong balls,” says Moran—and release them through pores. A male, clambering over her, releases sperm from similar pores to fertilize the eggs, which he scoops up and carries around. Among these animals, the dads care for the young.

The legs are also where most of sea spiders’ digestion takes place. There’s so little distance between their mouths and anuses that their guts send long branches down each leg. Put your wrists together, spread your hands out, and splay your fingers—that’s the shape of a sea spider’s gut.

For all their prominence, the legs themselves are oddly clumsy. “[Sea spiders are] very slow, they stumble around, and they fall over a lot,” says Moran. “Frankly, I don’t know how they get away with being so ineffective.” Perhaps it has to do with their choice of food. They feed on immobile prey like sea anemones or sponges, whose juices they suck with stabbing mouthparts at the end of their tiny heads.

Sea spiders, also known as pycnogonids, aren’t actual spiders. There’s a hazy consensus that they belong with the chelicerates—the group that does include true spiders—although some geneticists think that they’re more distantly related. Regardless, “they’re about as closely related to a terrestrial spider as a seahorse is to a horse,” says Moran.

They do live in the sea, though, so the Department of Naming Things got things half-right at least. There are around 1,300 known species, found in oceans all over the world. The smallest are just a millimeter long. The biggest, found in Antarctica, are the size of dinner plates. To prove this, here is a picture of one sitting on a dinner plate.

Moran and her colleague Arthur Woods started studying these creatures because they wanted to know why the giant Antarctic species got so big. Bigger animals need more oxygen. They need to get more of the gas into their bloodstreams, and they need to pump that blood around their bodies. Humans do so with our hearts, but when Woods examined the hearts of sea spiders, he discovered yet another remarkable trait about these already remarkable animals.

He injected fluorescent chemicals into their blood to see how far their hearts can push blood into their legs. Not very far, it turns out. Instead, the creatures largely pump their blood using their guts.

Each leg is a solid tube containing a branch of the sea spider’s guts and some blood vessels. The guts can contract to move food along, just as ours can. But unlike our abdomens, which are flexible, a sea spider’s leg is hard and can’t stretch or expand. If it pushes digestive fluids down its legs, it also forces blood back in the other direction. If it pushes the digestive fluids up, the blood goes back down.

After oxygen passively diffuses into the animal’s legs, it is actively pushed into its torso by the contracting guts.

Woods confirmed this by capturing sea spiders and lowering the oxygen levels in their water. In response, the animals’ guts started contracting faster. “It’s like when you take a person up to altitude and they breathe faster and their heart rate goes up,” says Moran. Same thing, except the sea spiders “are using their legs as gills and their guts as hearts.”

The creature’s actual heart is too small and weak to push blood down the long legs. It only takes over once the blood has reached the animal’s core, circulating it around the torso and head. Finally, says Claudia Arango, a sea spider specialist who was involved in the new study, “we know how they live without having an specialized system for pumping blood.”

Nothing else in nature behaves quite like this. Sea cucumbers breathe using feathery outgrowths of their guts, and several insect larvae breathe using butt snorkels. But all of these species have changed a part of their gut to take in oxygen. The sea spiders are the only ones that use the guts to pump their blood.

Like everything else about sea spiders, the origin of this weird circulatory system is mysterious. These animals are an ancient group that first appeared during around 500 million years ago during the Cambrian period—the point in Earth’s history when most modern animal groups exploded into existence. It could be that the earliest members already had spindly legs and branching guts, and simply co-opted these into ersatz hearts. Alternatively, the double-purpose guts may have come first, allowing the sea spiders to evolve their long legs.

Whatever the route, given how widespread and persistent these animals are, the results were undeniably successful.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/07/sea-spiders-pump-blood-with-their-guts-not-their-hearts/533088/

By Joshua Rapp Learn

Nobody ever told Gilligan the dolphin not to bite off more than he could chew. The male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin is the first known cetacean to die from asphyxiation by octopus, a new study says.

He “seems to have been extremely greedy and thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to swallow it whole,'” says study leader Nahiid Stephens, a pathologist at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia.

When the young male, found on a beach about two hours south of Perth, was brought to Stephens’ lab for a post-mortem in August 2015, bits of a Maori octopus were still hanging out of his mouth.

Other dolphins have been observed killing and eating octopi before, so Stephens conducted a post-mortem to figure out what went wrong—particularly because the animal, nicknamed Gilligan, was in amazing condition. First, she had to remove the octopus.

“It really was a huge octopus, I just kept pulling and pulling and thought, ‘My god! It’s still coming,'” Stephens says, adding that it had a tentacle span of 4.2 feet.

The autopsy, described in a recent study in the journal Marine Mammal Science, revealed that the problem arose when Gilligan was swallowing what would be his last meal

Dolphins can disengage their epiglottis—a flap of tissue that connects the larynx to the blowhole—to open up their throats and swallow larger pieces of food

Stephens says that the 4.6-pound cephalopod appeared to have grabbed onto Gilligan’s larynx with a tentacle, preventing it from reconnecting to the dolphin’s breathing apparatus and effectively suffocating him to death.

“That octopus might have been, in theory, dead, but the sucker was still functional,” Stephens says, adding that while nobody wins in a situation like this, “the octopus gets a bit of a last hurrah.”

Playing With Their Food

Kate Sprogis, a research fellow at Murdoch University, says an octopus is “not easy prey to just swallow.”

While studying the dolphin population near Bunbury, where Gilligan died, Sprogis has observed dolphins tossing octopi in the air in an attempt to tenderize the invertebrates—breaking them up into smaller, more digestible pieces.

A cetacean will often breach the surface and send the octopus flying through the air—quite the spectacle, according to Sprogis, who wasn’t involved in the new study.

“It’s quite energetically demanding for the dolphins,” she says, adding the unhappy cephalopods will try to cling to the dolphins’ heads. The sheer effort required is “why we think the octopus is highly nutritious.”

After throwing their prey around, the dolphin usually bites off the octopus’ head—though the battle is far from over, since its arms can remain active for some time. (Related: “Why These Dolphins Behead Their Prey.”)

As for Gilligan, “he obviously didn’t toss it enough, and got a bit cocky and swallowed it,” Sprogis says.

Learning From Tragedy

While Gilligan’s unique death may have been a first as far as scientists are concerned, it likely happens more frequently in nature.

Historic seafarers told stories of sperm whales battling krakens—likely just misunderstood fights between giant octopi and sperm whales, Stephens says.

Gilligan’s situation is “an interesting way of highlighting the things that happen in our backyard all the time that we’re not really aware of,” she says.

Not only that, but the dolphin’s unfortunate end helps scientists learn more about the animals and their biology. As a young healthy male, Gilligan is also an important counterpoint to many of the sick, old biological samples that pathologists often encounter.

“These opportunities don’t come up that often,” Stephens says, “so the more we can visualize these individuals after the unfortunate, tragic event of their death, the better it is.”

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/01/animals-octopi-dolphins-death-oceans/

by PETER DOCKRILL

It’s pretty hot in Australia right now. A brutal heatwave that’s incinerated temperature records threatens devastating bushfires – and to make matters worse, authorities have to contend with an ancient breed of flying arsonists that may as well be miniature dragons.

A new study incorporating traditional Indigenous Australian ecological knowledge describes the largely unknown behaviour of so-called ‘firehawk raptors’ – birds that intentionally spread fire by wielding burning sticks in their talons and beaks.

These flying firestarters are spread across at least three known species – the Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus), and Brown Falcon (Falco berigora) – but while their hell-raising may be observed in Indigenous knowledge, that’s not so elsewhere.

“Though Aboriginal rangers and others who deal with bushfires take into account the risks posed by raptors that cause controlled burns to jump across firebreaks, official skepticism about the reality of avian fire-spreading hampers effective planning for landscape management and restoration,” the international team explains in their paper.

While news of aerial arsonists fire-bombing the landscape may seem surprising or even shocking, the researchers are eager to emphasise that this destructive phenomenon has actually been witnessed for untold millennia.

“We’re not discovering anything,” one of the team, geographer Mark Bonta from Penn State Altoona, told National Geographic.

“Most of the data that we’ve worked with is collaborative with Aboriginal peoples… They’ve known this for probably 40,000 years or more.”

According to the team, firehawk raptors congregate in hundreds along burning fire fronts, where they will fly into active fires to pick up smouldering sticks, transporting them up to a kilometre (0.6 miles) away to regions the flames have not yet scorched.

“The imputed intent of raptors is to spread fire to unburned locations – for example, the far side of a watercourse, road, or artificial break created by firefighters – to flush out prey via flames or smoke,” the researchers write.

This behaviour, documented in interviews with the team and observed first-hand by some of the researchers, sees prey driven toward the raptors by a wall of flame, enabling them to engage in a feeding frenzy upon fleeing or scorched land animals.

The inspiration for the study came from a passage in the 1964 autobiography of Indigenous doctor and activist, Phillip Waipuldanya Roberts.

“I have seen a hawk pick up a smouldering stick in its claws and drop it in a fresh patch of dry grass half a mile away,” he said, “then wait with its mates for the mad exodus of scorched and frightened rodents and reptiles.”

Of course, as any law student knows, crimes not only entail a physical component, but a mental one.

In this case, do the birds really know what they’re doing, or are they only accidentally clutching at (burning) straws?

The researchers think the former is the case, saying accounts of multiple witnesses suggest this behaviour is not a fluke – and even more scary, it looks to be coordinated like a pack hunt.

“It’s not gratuitous,” one of the team, Australian ethnobiologist and ornithologist Bob Gosford, told The Washington Post in 2016.

“There’s a purpose. There’s an intent to say, okay, there are several hundred of us there, we can all get a meal.”

If the hypothesis is correct, it means we finally have confirmation of a new force in nature that can spread devastating wildfires – and local Indigenous people knew it all along.

“The birds aren’t starting fires from scratch, but it’s the next best thing,” Bonta told The Washington Post.

“Fire is supposedly so uniquely human.”

The findings are reported in the Journal of Ethnobiology.

https://www.sciencealert.com/birds-intentionally-set-prey-ablaze-rewriting-history-fire-use-firehawk-raptors

Thanks to Mike Lutter for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

Poison frogs produce toxins that plow down a nervous system. Get a tiny amount of the poison in your system, and you’re in for trouble. They manage this by storing up toxins ingested from their prey. And yet the frogs themselves are totally immune. How does a frog that stores and dispenses poison manage to avoid negative effects from its own lethal toxins? It’s actually a complex evolution of amino acid replacements, according to a recent study in the journal Science.

The frog neurotoxin epibatidine binds to acetylcholine receptors, which makes it difficult for frogs to gain a resistance to epibatidine. But one amino acid replacement that has evolved in three clades of poison frogs allows the amphibians a lower sensitivity to epibatidine, while still maintaining receptor functionality.

The study’s authors “found that the single amino acid change common to all the poison frogs made the receptor less sensitive to the toxin, yet also rendered it less responsive to acetylcholine, its endogenous ligand,” the Scientist magazine notes. “But the different combinations of additional amino acid substitutions observed in two of the groups of poison frogs recovered the receptor’s function, suggesting that these mutations compensate for the cost associated with avoiding self-poisoning.”

In other words, poison frogs are immune to the toxins because they have been able to reorganize how their nervous system works using amino acid replacements.

https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/blogs/why-dont-poison-dart-frogs-poison-themselves

A very rare two-headed rattlesnake has been caught in the US, and is being donated to a nature centre.

The venomous snake was found this week according to American TV station KLRT and is believed to have been captured near Forrest City in Arkansas.

A Facebook post from a friend of the man who caught the snake read “It is is absolutely real! But I don’t think it’s a sign from God that the end times are near…”.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) confirmed the snake is, indeed, real.

The author of the Facebook post, Mark Young, explained that Rodney Kelso, District Two Manager at Woodruff Electric, was the one who caught the snake.

Game and Fish are trying to nurse it back to health.

“It’s not doing too well right now. Obviously two heads, two minds might have been thinking different things. With predators it’s easy to get to want to do two different things,” Keith Stephens with the Arkansas Game and Fish said.

In 2016, a two-headed snake was found in Indiana.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/37024043/two-headed-snake-found-in-the-us/