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Zoology

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Research confirms what dog lovers know — every pup is truly an individual. A new study has found that many of the popular stereotypes about the behavior of dogs aren’t supported by science. The researchers surveyed more than 18,000 dog owners and analyzed the genomes of about 2,150 of their dogs to look for patterns. They found that some behaviors _ such as howling, pointing and showing friendliness to human strangers _ do have at least some genetic basis. But that inheritance isn’t strictly passed down along breed lines. The research was published Thursday in the journal Science.

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A comprehensive new assessment of thousands of reptiles species has found that 21% are considered endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable to extinction. The list of vulnerable species includes such iconic reptiles as the king cobra and the Galapagos marine iguana. Most of the world’s species of sea turtles are also threatened. Worldwide, the greatest threat to reptile life is habitat destruction. Reptiles that live in forest areas are more likely to be threatened with extinction than desert-dwellers — in part because forests face greater human disruptions. The research was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Critically endangered Grauer's gorillas live outside national parks, so conservationists are working with communities in Congo to try to protect the animals. The population of Grauer's gorillas has declined 60% in the past two decades, largely due to habitat loss and hunting. An estimated 3,800 to 6,800 individuals remain. A 2016 law allows communities in Congo to apply for rights to manage their traditional lands. The nonprofit Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has helped communities in eastern Congo complete that paperwork and entered into agreements with families to provide assistance and training for the sustainable management of their lands. 

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A new study says habitat loss from big agriculture and climate change are combining to threaten the world's insects, and insects are essential for growing food. Wednesday's study in the journal Nature says it's not just hotter temperatures and it's not just the lack of food or shelter from habitat loss, but it's how the two problems combine. About 50% of the loss in total numbers of bugs can be blamed on the combination of warmer temperatures and habitat loss. The problems make each other worse. 

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