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Picture of the Day

Alligators on the beach? Killer whales in rivers? Get used to it

Alligators on the beach. Killer whales in rivers. Mountain lions miles from the nearest mountain? In recent years, sightings of large predators in places where conventional wisdom says they "shouldn't be" have increased in large part because local populations, once hunted to near-extinction, are rebounding -- thanks to conservation. Many observers have hypothesized that as these populations recover, the predators are expanding their ranges and colonizing new habitats in search of food. A newly published paper finds that rather than venturing into new and alien habitats for the first time, alligators, sea otters and many other large predators -- marine and terrestrial species alike -- are re-colonizing ecosystems that used to be prime hunting grounds for them before humans decimated their populations and well before scientists started studying them. By synthesizing data from recent scientific studies and government reports, researchers found that alligators, sea otters, river otters, gray whales, gray wolfs, mountain lions, orangutans and bald eagles, among other large predators, may now be as abundant or more abundant in "novel" habitats than in traditional ones.

Visit Website | Image credit: Brian Silliman/Duke University