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Poll

Do you think a reintroduction possible for the Asturian bear cub PROVIDED she recovers from her injuries?  

Yes, but only back to her mother
Yes, but on her own when she's old enough
No, it would never work

Oso pardo

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Offline lisa

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« on: April 07, 2007, 16:01 PM »
Incredibly, many of our visitors (mainly non-Spanish) aren't aware of the existence of bears in Spain. Despite the work of conservation NGO's such as Fapas http://www.fapas.es/, who promote awareness among hunters, denounce furtive trappers, use cameras for controlled photographic tracking, establish fruit and beehive plantation, etc, the species is listed on the Spanish Catálogo Nacional de Especies Amenezadas as in danger of extinction http://www.mma.es/portal/secciones/biodiversidad/especies_amenazadas/catalogo_especies/
What I don't understand is why they are not listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species? Is it because the subspecies is not universally recognised? Taken from the Fundación Oso Pardo - "Debido a esta extraordinaria variabilidad en su aspecto externo, sobre todo en lo que se refiere a tamaño y color, algunos especialistas diferencian un gran número de subespecies o variedades. No obstante, se considera que todos los osos pardos europeos pertenecen a la misma subespecie, aunque el aislamiento producido tras la última glaciación y a causa de la presión humana ha posibilitado que existan diferencias genéticas entre los distintos núcleos del continente. En el caso de los osos cantábricos se ha comprobado que pertenecen a un linaje genético diferenciado de otros núcleos oseros, lo que los hace únicos y les confiere, por lo tanto, un mayor interés biológico y conservacionista. Este valor se acrecienta por el hecho de que se trata de una de las poblaciones oseras más escasas y amenazadas del mundo, además de una de las que habitan en un ambiente más humanizado."
How can a species be internationally protected if there is so much confusion over it's identity? It doesn't make sense to me!

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Offline nick

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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2007, 11:15 AM »
Hi Lisa,

Although the Cantabrian brown bear is genetically distinct from other bears most experts would say it is not a separate subspecies, but rather at most race, if you were. I seem to remember for reasons of glaciation it is more genetically related to Scandanavian bears than to Balkan bears hence the debate on reintroducing a Balkan bears in the Pyrenees - which essentially would have been the same "race".

Fapas seem to be doing a great job. And they've always been more than helpful with my questions. Great source for news too.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2007, 11:25 AM by nick »
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Offline SueMac

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« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2007, 12:56 PM »
Lisa -  your post sent me scuttering to Mike Tomkies book "In Spain's Secret Wilderness" first published in 1989.  A book that first persuaded me that I would like to live in the high areas of Spain has a chapter of course on the bears.  On pages 227 -228 to paraphrase he says that Ursus actos pyrenaicus ought better to be called Ursus arctos Hispanicus as the Pyrenean population is almost extinct.  He refers to it as a sub species of the European brown bear. He talks then of "el gran senor" being the most seriously endangered large mammal of the country.
SueMac
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Offline lisa

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« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2007, 15:52 PM »
Thanks SueMac, that was the book that first introduced me to Spanish bears but it's a long time since I read it. I know I pretty much answered my own question, I just find it so frustrating. Might contact some lynx people to find out about raising awareness of the bear's plight as they've done.
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Offline nick

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« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2007, 16:03 PM »
Sorry to disagree.

It may or may not be a subspecies but just because an author called it one in 1980 it is doesn't make it one. I don't want to be unromantic but species are decided in the laboratory by bone structure and DNA.

It is surely sufficeint that in Spain there are only one hundred odd left of such an emblematic and beautiful beast to continue and improve upon its protection. If the only crietria to save an animal is that it is in danger of world extintion (as with the Iberian lynx), so much conservation would lose its meaning. Local extinxtion is often just as important.

Nick
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Offline Dave

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« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2007, 18:38 PM »
Hi Nick
I agree absolutely, lots of local extinctions=world extinction. As with my Rooks, they may be common as muck in Europe, but if we lost our local population, it would be a tragedy. I remember in England (passing reference only) Sparrows were common when I was young.
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Dave

Offline SueMac

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« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2007, 19:02 PM »
Not sure what you are disagreeing with Nick. I thought he was making the point that it is the Spanish Bear and if someone doesnt do something about it that wont be around because of illicit hunting, human activity etc.
Tomkies' voice was a strong  naturalist voice from the 80s and had its place.
SueMac
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Offline nick

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« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2007, 20:15 PM »
Yes, not very clear.

What I mean is that:

1. I don't think it is a sub-species - until 300-500 odd years ago there would have been a continuous population of bears from the Cordillera Cantábrica to the Alps and from there to the Balkans. This separation would not be enough to form a sub-species, but there would of course have been subtle differences in population. The only way to decide it is by scientic means. If the DNA says its a sub-species, it is. And vice-verse. As it stands, the term "Cantabrian brown bear" is a human construct - and a valid one if we don't undertstand it to mean a sub-species.

I haven't looked into this recently and I may well be wrong. What do DNA studies say?. There is, it should be said, always great debate as to the defintion of what is a species, let alone a sub-species. I'll dig and scan in and excellent extract on this genetics expert Steve Jones.

2. I don't believe any of the above matters in terms of protecting brown bears in the Cordillera Cantabrica. It is worth protecting on its own terms, and for its role Cantabrian human history.

Hopes that's a bit clearer Nick

Nick
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Offline SueMac

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« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2007, 21:40 PM »
Now I agree with you  - nothing really matters but this amazing country retains its fantastic natural diversity and and
those who can find ways to say this loud and clear - well, all strength to their voice.

However like Lisa I am amazed by people's lack of fundamental knowledge of Spain and  I love watchng people's faces when you say something about bears in Spain......
SueMac

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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2007, 23:42 PM »
Greetings All,
Agree with importance of retaining natural diversity, etc. and the general need to protect whatever minority needs protecting.

As to the question of sub-species, etc., as we saw in my tropiezo with the biology kingdoms (http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php?topic=208.0), just who is the most reliable source, who decides on the consensus? For every six reputable sources who profess to one scientifically accepted theory, there are another half-dozen equally reputable s. who would be able to argue equally convincingly the opposite (without even taking into consideration such pseudoscientific aberrations and wilful manipulations as Intelligent Design).

As for "hard evidence", DNA, like fingerprints, is only as reliable a source as the human being responsible for matching, etc., it. Over the last few years, in the US, at least, there have been an increasing number of judges who are refusing to accept fingerprint and DNA evidence due to the margin of error involved (20% in the case of the former!).

Just by way of practical example, surgeon friend of mine just this week was telling me that there was an unacceptably high number of errors in interpretation of MRI in areas other than neurosurgery (which is where the highest perfection is obviously required) and that he was constantly being sent patients with MRIs and corresponding diagnoses (?) which were totally off skew 'cos they were being interpreted by "experts" in radiology, general medicine, or whatever, and not in the specific discipline in anatomy or whatever the branch of medicine that would have to deal with the ailment on the basis of the MRI in question.

Regs.
Technopat

Ps.
My sons were born in Spain - does that make 'em Spanish. OK, bad example. How 'bout this one: solitary stork from wherever (Paris?), (e)migrating and stopover in León. Takes a liking to the nice warm pylon he/she's perched atop, invites local bird over to share nest (roost?) and decides to settle here permanently. Chapter 2. Offspring. And so on.

Purity of the genes? The Ib. Pen. was occupied for 800-odd years by persons coming from the African continent. The Basques? An Aryan race? Last week, I was in a neighbouring valley to Lisa's Cantabrian Picos but on the Asturian side. Doddle for a bear. The list of purist beliefs is endless, but I digress. For a change.

Pps.
Anyone know the Sp. for waffle? (I do - please post answers on tapas and tipple board.)
« Last Edit: January 14, 2008, 23:19 PM by Technopat »
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2007, 01:30 AM »
Greetings All,
Re. DNA, etc.
These things being way over my head, and thus too complex for me to summarise in my own words, have to resort to including here the more-or-less full text of Steven Pinker's explanation of the "fallacy" behind DNA proof (even if the context is different, it's all biology, innit? Or is it chemistry? OK, it's all naytcher, anyway):

"... The argument is based on the finding that chimpanzees and humans share 98% to 99% of their DNA, a factoid that has become widely circulated ... The implication is that we must be 99% similar to chimpanzees.
But geneticists are appalled at such reasoning and take pains to stifle it in the same breath that they report their results. The recipe for the embryological soufflé is so baroque that small genetic differences can have enormous effects on the final product. And a 1% difference is not even so small. In terms of the information content in the DNA it is 10 megabytes, big enough ...with lots of room left over for the rest of the instructions on how to turn a chimp into a human. Indeed, a 1% difference in total DNA does not even mean that only 1% of human and chimpanzee genes are different. It could, in theory, mean that 100% of human and chimpanzee genes are different, each by 1%. DNA is a discrete combinatorial code, so a 1% difference in the DNA for a gene can be as significant as a 100% difference, just as changing one bit in every byte, or one letter in every word, can result in a new text that is 100% different, not 10% or 20% different. The reason, for DNA, is that even a single amino-acid substitution can change the shape of a protein enough to alter its function completely... Data on genetic similarity are useful in figuring out how to connect up a family tree (for example, whether gorillas branched off from a common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees or humans branched off from a common ancestor of chimps and gorillas) and perhaps even to date the divergences using a "molecular clock." But they say nothing about how similar the organisms' brains and bodies are."

The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker (2000) - HarperPerennial Modern Classics
ISBN-13 978-0-06-095833-6

Apologies for the denseness, but it does put a perspective on DNA. Would love to know how genetically similar Russula paludosa (edible) is to Russula emetica (inedible) - 100%?
Regs.
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline steveT

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« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2007, 00:03 AM »
Dear Lisa and all,

I've been following Spanish bear fortunes after first reading about them in the late eighties in a BBC Wildlife magazine. Things are in a better state than they  have been ages. Nicks points are all spot on. They are a vunerable race of urus acrtos and should be view as such.

What is important for their long term survival is space and numbers. Probably for their short term to medium term survival a minum population of 250 to 500 need be roaming the northern Spain - 500 to a 1000 would be a much healthier popoulation ....but is there the space? These figures are ball park figures based on available habitat and minimum viable populations for large mammals that I've seen mentioned in articles, and depend on so many other parameters.

 Their should be a captive breeding programme( we are wasting the genes of Tola and Paco .... the only 2 in captivity by not using them as part of programme with other wild bears)! This is vital as Spanish bears will always be vunerable, as their numbers are never going to be great, and as such susceptable to freak events (like diseases). The 2 bear groups in the north need to be linked via secure corridors and corridors created to link islands of appropriate forest and moorland that dot northern Spain. Large roads need to be "bridged" at specific points with wide spanning structures that are vegetated. I'm not sure as to what point the carrying capacity of existing bear occupied land has been reached, but as bear numbers continue to increase, at some point it will become an issue and corridors will be vital. As Nick says FAPAS are doing a good job.....but I'm not clear on of their long term strategic plan, but it would have to include what I've mentioned....anyone got any information?

SteveT

Offline nick

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« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2007, 00:10 AM »
Interesting points Steve

How about this for a long term goal? The news was from 2005

http://www.iberianature.com/material/spainbearnews.htm#bear_corridor

Nick
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Offline lisa

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« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2007, 12:08 PM »
Hi SteveT and all,
I'm not sure there's any point in discussing long-term goals if there are so many obstacles in the way of the short-term ones. However, a viable, healthy population in the Cordillera must be the eventual aim. I think Nick's right to doubt the possibilities of linking western Europe's bears if there are hurdles such as ******* ski resort threats obstructing the linking of just the Spanish populations.
By the way I had an interesting reply on another forum from Banff "In Canada, there are numerous down-hill ski resorts located in prime Grizzly habitat. From the developer/operator's point of view, the ski resort is running when the bears are sleeping (which is true) and, therefore, poses no threat to the bears. " Climate change combined with lower altitude excludes that theory from the Spanish equation as we've seen in the last couple of years, the Oso pardo is finding hibernation unnecessary.
 Anyway, back to corridors - these are ancient trails used by generations of bears. Both Fapas and the Fundación Oso Pardo http://www.fundacionosopardo.org/article5.html are buying fincas to give a certain amount of control over bear habitat. There's an (old) interview with one of their directors here http://www.geocities.com/wild_spain/spains_bears_dont_cry_wolf.html. He also interestingly comments that FOP would like to become a stronger NGO with powers along the lines of the B.......h RSPB, (the Ramblers sprung to my mind too). Ursus International comment on connectivity here http://www.ursusinternational.org/issuesconnectivity.htm. (See also this ref. to taxonomy of brown bear.) As to the range of the brown bear, they need between 10 and 380 sq. miles - another link http://www.bear.org/Grizzly/Grizzly_Brown_Bear_Facts.html. O.K. so that's grizzlies but same species!
Hope that's a bit more info. and I forgot to say that bears cross the Picos periodically (my other half has seen tracks). Being a Parque Nacional, that particular part of the corridor should be safe at least.
That's enough bears, Ed.
(For now...)
« Last Edit: February 12, 2008, 06:53 AM by lisa »
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Offline nick

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« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2007, 12:31 PM »
Thanks for that Lisa. Will foloow all of these links.
Nick
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Offline steveT

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« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2007, 21:18 PM »
 Lisa ,Nick.....

Thanks ..... I didn't know Fincas are being bought up to create corridors.That's good news .... a start anyway.

Steve

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2007, 15:30 PM »
Greetings All,
Came across the following Wikipedia reference re: DNA, etc. (while looking for further ID on my Asturian bird):

Systematics

The Red Kite has been known to successfully hybridize with the Black Kite in captivity where both species were kept together, and in the wild on the Cape Verde Islands.

The Red Kites on the Cape Verde Islands are (or rather were) quite distinct in morphology, being somewhat intermediate with Black Kites. The question whether the Cape Verde Kite should be considered a distinct species (Milvus fasciicauda) or a Red Kite subspecies was never really settled. A recent mtDNA study[6] on museum specimens suggests that Cape Verde birds did not form a monophyletic lineage among or next to Red Kites.

However, this interpretation is problematic: mtDNA analysis is very susceptible to hybridization events, the evolutionary history of the Cape Verde population is not known, and the genetic relationship of Red Kites in general is very confusing, with geographical proximity being no indicator of genetic relatedness and the overall genetic similarity high,[7] perhaps indicating a relict species.

Given the morphological distinctness of the Cape Verde birds and the fact that the Cape Verde population was isolated from other populations of Red Kites, it cannot be conclusively resolved at this time whether the Cape Verde population wasn't a distinct subspecies (as M. migrans fasciicauda) or even species that frequently absorbed stragglers from the migrating European populations into its gene pool. More research seems warranted, but at any rate the Cape Verde population is effectively extinct since 2000, all surviving birds being hybrids with Black Kites (which merely raises further questions about their taxonomic status).

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Kite)

Even I can tell the difference between a bear and a kite (even if one of them is in the air) but the same confusion and lack of knowledge of hybridization, evolutionary history, etc. would surely apply to both cases.

Regs.
Technopat

Ps.
I do realise that the kite doesn't really belong here on the Mammals of Iberia thread, and that there is in fact a specific Kite thread elsewhere (possibly under Birds?) but not sure how to cross reference it without risking losing this text, so here it stays unless someone wants to shift it.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2007, 16:03 PM by Technopat »
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline lisa

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« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2007, 22:07 PM »
Thanks Technopat,
it's all relevant. Here's what I found on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Bear "DNA analysis has recently revealed that the identified subspecies of brown bears, both Eurasian and North American, are genetically quite homogeneous, and that their genetic phylogeography does not correspond to their traditional taxonomy." So I had to look at "phylogeography" and am still digesting - 
"Phylogeography is the study of the processes controlling the geographic distributions of lineages by constructing the genealogies of populations and genes [1]. This term was introduced to describe geographically structured genetic signals within and among species. An explicit focus on a species' biogeographical past sets phylogeography apart from classical population genetics [2]. Phylogeographical inferences are usually made by studying the reconstructed genealogical histories of individual genes (gene trees) sampled from different populations [2]. Past events that can be inferred include population expansion, population bottlenecks, vicariance and migration. One of the goals of phylogeographic analyses is to evaluate the relative role of history in shaping the genetic structure of populations relative to important ongoing processes. Approaches integrating genealogical and distributional information can address the relative roles of different historical forces in shaping current patterns."
The article goes on to cite studies of African elephants and salamanders, among others.
It's a minefield out there.
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Accommodation, ski touring, snowshoeing, walking and info on the flora and fauna of the Picos de Europa.
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Offline nick

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« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2007, 22:59 PM »
Hi Lisa,

If it's any consolation even biologists don't agree on what defines a species. Steve Jones, in his excellent Almost Like a While, a rewriting of Origin of Species, notes there are as many as 12 different definitions, and doesn't bother getting stuck in the minefield by defining it himself.

Scanner needs dusting off.

Nick

PS I love the way we start on one theme, and from there all sorts of questions come up, and we go off at tangent and research stuff and come up with fascinating things like you've just posted Lisa. Every post is a potential opening to a new area of knowledge.
Nick
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Offline Dave

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« Reply #19 on: April 27, 2007, 18:03 PM »
Hi everbody
Has anybody got a creationist angle on all this, apparently they have just opened a Natural history museum in the USA, with an interesting ? take on things.
Regards
Dave