A new database and study drew on 4,500 anatomical traits of live and fossilized species as well as DNA to explore the evolutionary relationships between mammals, all the way back to a hypothetical predecessor to all placental species, an animal that resembles a shrew. The resource was designed to grow as data from additional fossil and genetic finds are uncovered. Expert David Archibald summarized the significance of the findings: "The explosive model for placental evolution did not come about until after the extinction of dinosaurs. I think that's the big finding. All orders we are familiar with, even if you are not trained in biology -- primates, elephants, whales -- all groups show up within 10 million years of the end of the age of dinosaurs."
Minnesota's moose population has plummeted by 52% since 2010, and officials have launched a $1.2 million investigation into the species' decline. Nearly 100 moose have been collared, allowing researchers to track the animals, collect other data and get to them quickly in the event of mortality in an effort to better understand the cause of the decline. The state's 2013 moose hunt has been canceled as well to reduce pressure on the population.
Three animals from the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Mich., visited patients at the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital this week. A chinchilla, a scorpion and a screech owl helped give ill children some educational and enjoyable entertainment. "When you're in the hospital, sometimes animals make things better," said 17-year-old patient Brittani Herdon. "It makes you smile."
Elk in Montana's Pioneer Mountains are free of brucellosis, according to state wildlife officials who tested 100 animals this winter. The disease has apparently been eliminated nationwide except for the Yellowstone National Park area. Efforts to control and eradicate the disease include regular testing and vaccination of cattle herds as well as wildlife monitoring.
Two Nebraska high school students who handled a bat while helping free it from a window at their school must undergo injections to prevent rabies because the bat tested positive for the deadly virus. Officials took the opportunity to remind people that handling bats isn't safe and they should call authorities if they encounter a bat.