7 Surprising Facts About the Giant River Otter

Reddit users are going crazy about the giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)—an Amazonian giant that can reach up to six feet (1.8 meters) long. That’s more than twice as long as a North American river otter—arguably with double the coolness.

01Here are seven facts you otter know about this South American member of the Mustelidae family.

1. The first ever giant river otter cub born in Asia arrived at Wildlife Reserves Singapore just this last August, UPI reports. Dr. Cheng Wen-Huar, WRS’s chief life sciences officer, was quoted as saying, “With increasing threats such as habitat destruction and poaching, captive breeding programs play a pivotal role in conserving threatened species for our future generations.” You can see a newborn member of the next generation looking impossibly cute here on ZooBorns. Read more

Water Flows Into Colorado River Delta in Historic First

Sunday March 23, 2014, at a little after 8 am, the gates at Morelos Dam on the Mexico-Arizona border were opened for the first time in history for the purpose of allowing the Colorado River to flow downstream into its delta to water the plants and animals that live there.  A crowd of more than 100, many from the local community, plus a handful of reporters and water workers from afar, waited just downstream.

A cheer went up when the water began to pour down, first in a trickle, and then a steady gushing flow.  It took a long time for the institutions that manage the Colorado River to make this happen.  Now we have the chance to see how long it takes the river to move downstream, and how far it goes. (See “Historic ‘Pulse Flow’ Brings Water to Parched Colorado River Delta.”)

water-through-the-damLater in the day, after some excellent adobada tacos, a few of us drove downriver to look for the front of the flow. We found it about 18 river miles below the dam, cool and clear. A lot of the flow is soaking into the parched, sandy channel, and downstream progress is slow but steady. The water was cool and clear. Read more

Aral Sea’s Eastern Basin Is Dry for First Time in 600 Years

Once the fourth largest lake in the world, Central Asia’s shrinking Aral Sea has reached a new low, thanks to decades-old water diversions for irrigation and a more recent drought. Satellite imagery released this week by NASA shows that the eastern basin of the freshwater body is now completely dry.


In 2000 (left), Asia’s Aral Sea had already shrunk to a fraction of its 1960 extent (black line). Further irrigation and dry conditions in 2014 (right) caused the sea’s eastern lobe to completely dry up for the first time in 600 years.

“It is likely the first time it has completely dried in 600 years, since medieval desiccation associated with diversion of Amu Darya [river] to the Caspian Sea,” Philip Micklin, an Aral Sea expert and a geographer emeritus from Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo, told NASA about the sea’s eastern basin. (See “Photos: Dried Up Aral Sea Aftermath.”) Read more

Water in America: Is It Safe to Drink?

A chemical spill that left 300,000 residents of Charleston, West Virginia, without tap water last month is raising new concerns about the ability of the United States to maintain its high quality of drinking water.

001While the U.S. has one of the safest water supplies in the world, experts say the Charleston contamination with a coal-washing chemical shows how quickly the trust that most Americans place in their drinking water can be shattered.

“We often don’t think about where our water comes from,” said Steve Fleischli, director and senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Water Program in Los Angeles. “Does it come from a nearby river or a lake, intermittent streams, isolated wetlands, or an aquifer? Yes, you may have a water treatment plant, but if your water source is not protected, people face a real risk.” Read more

River Algae Known as Rock Snot Boosted by Climate Change?

But it’s more widely known as “rock snot”—mats of algae carpeting the bottoms of some rivers and lakes—and it’s quickly spreading around the globe, possibly because of climate change, a new study says.

adaptSo far, scientists say its effects on the environment are unknown, though they are concerned specifically about the impact on salmon.

The mats can cover up to 75 percent of a river bottom in some places. (See a striking picture of didymo coating a river bottom.)

As the algae spread worldwide in recent decades, including to New Zealand, South America, and the United States, scientists theorized that it was an invasive organism whose cells were hitchhiking with people as they enjoyed the outdoors.

Not so, found Joshua Kurek, a biologist at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, and his colleagues. Read more