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Won't fight? Giant rats found alive in south Atlantic eating a one-meter albatross!

by Nares Lapoiya 2 months ago in Humanity
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Won't fight? Giant rats found alive in south Atlantic eating a one-meter albatross!

Gough Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, the most remote volcanic Island on Earth, about 3,000 kilometers off the southwest coast of South Africa, is one of Britain's overseas territories. With annual rainfall of up to 3 meters, the island is lush and rich in food. As the only land in the vast ocean with a radius of thousands of miles, it is a paradise for seabirds to nest and breed. Every year, about 8 million seabirds of 24 different species come to Gough Island to nest and breed. Thalassarche Chlororhynchos, Diomedea Dabbenena, the endangered Albatross and The Atlantic petrel are among the species, but the islands are experiencing a snake swallowing an elephant.

For the first time, scientists have observed "super-sized" rats eating live adult Toshima albatrosses, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reported. Remember, toshima albatrosses weigh about 300 times as much as mice. What is it all about?

When a rat lands on an island, he will come to whatever he fears.

Special island albatross, one of six species of albatross in the albatross family, endemic to Tristan da Cunha Islands. It is also one of the largest seabirds in the world, reaching 1.1 meters in length, weighing about 8 to 9 kilograms as an adult and having a wingspan of more than 3 meters. There are about 2,000 pairs of island albatrosses on earth, 99 percent of which nest and breed on Gough Island, making them critically endangered.

The Toshima albatross is an amazingly long-lived bird, but there are few of them and they breed slowly. After learning to fly, the Toshima albatross spends most of its life soaring over the ocean. He didn't start breeding until he was 10, remained monogamous all his life, and returned to Gough Island every year to breed. They breed every two years, laying eggs in January and hatching in March. The chicks are independent around November and December.

As giant seabirds, there are few natural predators on islands, so the Island albatrosses nest and raise their young directly on land. However, rats were accidentally introduced to the nearby islands by British sailors in the 19th century. Over the course of more than a century, the island's rodents, with no predators to check them, have become the killer birds of Gough Island.

Rats becoming giant bird killers sounds like a tall tale. But for the birds of Gough Island, the nightmare is real. Scientists had never considered how much real damage rats could do to seabirds, but in 2018 the RSPB did a count and found that about two million chicks a year on Gough Island became food for rats. The RSPB's latest population estimate of the toya albatross suggests the species could be extinct within 10 years without human intervention.

How does a tiny mouse eat a mighty albatross?

Over 150 years, the rats that followed sailors to the island have also changed. Their lack of predators allowed them to evolve into predators 50 percent larger than normal mice, so large that they could attack birds 300 times their size. And in warmer, drier summers, the rat population increases, forcing them to attack seabirds much more frequently.

Biologists think that the mice evolved to attack seabirds because the presence of albatross droppings around nests produced invertebrates, such as caterpillars and other insects. Mice, which already eat invertebrates, then found another, more palatable source of food in the nest, such as eggs and chicks. Unfortunately, the albatross chick hasn't seen anything like a rat for tens of thousands of years, leaving it unsure how to respond to a rat attack when it's alone in its nest, especially at night. So in 2019, members of the RSPB filmed nine rats infiltrating the nest and eating their chicks alive.

But what's even weirder is that adult albatrosses don't respond to rat attacks.

Toshima albatrosses usually mate to raise their offspring at the same time, with one bird guarding or incubating while the other goes out to find food. But even in the presence of adult albatrosses, the rats attacked the chicks. And the adult albatross just sits there while the rat slowly eats its chick alive. Chicks don't know how to resist is understandable, as a seabird hundreds of times bigger than mice, also did not make the slightest reaction against, really is the brain watt.

More ominously, the RSPB found for the first time this year that an adult female bird had been eaten by rats. The albatross was found in 1986, tracked by scientists as a chick and one of the oldest and most experienced females on the island. In other words, the threat to the albatross population from rats on Gough island extends from chicks to adults.

To tackle the rat problem on Gough Island, the RSPB team had planned to launch an extermination campaign in 2020, using helicopters to drop grain pellets containing rodenticide across the island. However, due to the impact of the epidemic, the anti-rodent action was delayed.

Similar campaigns have been successful: seabirds on The Antarctic island of South Georgia have been ravaged by rats for 200 years, wiping out 90% of the island's seabird population and nearly wiping out South Georgia's endemic Pipit. Then in 2011 the Environment Organisation (SGHT) launched a £10m programme of mass extermination, including 300 tonnes of poison thrown into the air. It took nearly a decade before south Georgia's rat infestation was declared over. So it will be some time before the albatrosses on Gough Island return to normal.

Finally, human actions can bring rebirth as well as the beginnings of destruction. But if the comfort is too long, little mice dare to ride on your head.


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Nares Lapoiya

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