Monday, 30 June 2014

'Mystery Creature' Roaming The Bronx Turns Out To Be Really, Really Cute

NEW YORK (AP) — A mysterious long-haired critter that's been sighted on the streets of a Bronx neighborhood for several months has a name.

It's a member of the weasel family called a fisher or fisher cat.

Zoologist Roland Kays of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences tells WCBS-TV ( ) that the short-legged, furry-tailed creature may have come down the river.

New Yorkers should be thrilled. Turns out the fisher preys on rats and squirrels, but is not a threat to humans.

Fishers were found in Manhattan when the island was first settled. The fur trade pushed them north and into the Adirondacks.

Fisher trapping was banned in the 1930s. Kays says today the fisher population is booming in the Northeast and a trapping season has been reinstated.

Mountain lion scares shoppers in Utah

SANDY, Utah (AP) — Utah authorities captured a mountain lion Friday that startled people but didn't hurt anybody at a shopping center in a Salt Lake City suburb.

The mountain lion was spotted walking across a street and into Jordan Commons in Sandy, Utah, just before 8 a.m., Sandy police Sgt. Dean Carriger said.

Officers found the female cat hunkered down at the entrance of a steakhouse. Though it was early, there were dozens of people coming and going, many of whom work at a nearby office building, Carriger said.

As Iraq runs dry, a plague of snakes is unleashed

An unprecedented fall in the water levels of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has left the rural population at the mercy of heat, drought – and displaced wildlife. Patrick Cockburn reports

Swarms of snakes are attacking people and cattle in southern Iraq as the Euphrates and Tigris rivers dry up and the reptiles lose their natural habitat among the reed beds.

ALAMY"People are terrified and are leaving their homes," says Jabar Mustafa, a medical administrator, who works in a hospital in the southern province of Dhi Qar. "We knew these snakes before, but now they are coming in huge numbers. They are attacking buffalo and cattle as well as people." Doctors in the area say six people have been killed and 13 poisoned.

In Chabaysh, a town on the Euphrates close to the southern marshland of Hawr al-Hammar, farmers have set up an overnight operations room to prevent the snakes attacking their cattle.

Thailand set to become next country to destroy ivory stocks

Thai officials have announced that they are to recommend the destruction of the country’s ivory stockpile. The request is to be submitted to a forum of relevant agencies on July 8th and is expected to be approved.

Acting Director-General of the. Department of National Parks Nipon Chotibal said that his department wanted to demonstrate their commitment to fighting the illegal trade in ivory and elephant poaching. The meeting of agencies will involve relevant ministries in the government, NGO’s and law enforcement agencies.

Thailand stockpile has grown from 1992 to include 6 tonnes of raw tusks – about 300 tusks representing 150 elephants – 330 worked ivory pieces and about 2,500 ivory pieces such as bangles.

Watch the video of a giant barrel jellyfish filmed in Cornwall

Large barrel jellyfish like this one have been seen in great numbers recently off the coasts of Cornwall

A man swimming with his dog in Cornwall captured some amazing footage of a giant barrel jellyfish. On his YouTube commentary Matt Slater said: “This barrel jellyfish (Rhizostoma pullmo) was filmed in the Percuil Estuary, near St Mawes, Cornwall.

“Large numbers of these, the UK's largest jellyfish species have been seen this year around our coast.

“They are totally harmless and feed on plankton. They do have stinging cells but they are not able to get through human skin.

“They can grow to 80cm wide and weigh up to 30 kilos!”

The film gives a perfect example of the size as Matt’s dog Mango swims by.

According to the Torquay Herald Express, sightings were reported to the Marine Conservation Society at Petitor Cove, at Brixham breakwater, Teignmouth, Coryton Cove, Dawlish and in the River Teign off Bishopsteignton. In Torquay harbour there were more than 100.

Read on

Invasion of the monogamous fish

1 hour ago

( —Researchers at the University of St Andrews have made a shock discovery; that restricting a normally multiply mating fish to monogamous mating does not impair their colonisation ability. Their findings show that releasing just one or two fish into the wild may be enough to trigger an aquatic invasion.

In a paper published this month in the journal BMC Ecology researchers from the University of St Andrews tested whether forcing female guppies to be monogamous would impede their ability to establish viable populations.

The guppy (Poecilia reticulata) is a successful invasive species throughout the tropics. In the wild it employs a 'multiple mating' strategy, and resulting broods commonly contain offspring sired by up to five different fathers.

Badger cull claims flawed, vets say

Efficacy of indiscriminate killing of badgers to control TB in cattle not supported by scientific evidence, Friday 27 June 2014 17.00 BST

Government claims that badger culling is needed to tackle tuberculosis in cattle based on successes in other countries are "seriously flawed", a group of vets has said.

Ministers warn that no country in the world with TB in wildlife has eradicated the disease in cattle without controlling it in wild species, pointing to programmes in places such as New Zealand, Ireland and the US. 

But in a letter to the Veterinary Record, 19 vets raised concerns about the claims, saying that very few countries had needed to kill wildlife as part of TB control programmes. 

In New Zealand brush tail possums have been targeted to tackle TB, but the species is not a native breed, has caused significant problems for other wildlife and has very different habits and social structure to badgers, the vets said.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The shocking truth about electric fish: Sequencing electric eel genome

Writing June 27, 2014 in the journal Science, a team of researchers led by Michael Sussman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Harold Zakon of the University of Texas at Austin and Manoj Samanta of the Systemix Institute in Redmond, Washington identifies the regulatory molecules involved in the genetic and developmental pathways that electric fish have used to convert a simple muscle into an organ capable of generating a potent electrical field.

The work establishes the genetic basis for the electric organ, an anatomical feature found only in fish and that evolved independently half a dozen times in environments ranging from the flooded forests of the Amazon to murky marine environments.

"These fish have converted a muscle to an electric organ," explains Sussman, a professor of biochemistry and director of the UW-Madison Biotechnology Center, who first undertook the exploration of the electric organ almost a decade ago. The study published in Science provides evidence to support the idea that the six electric fish lineages, all of which evolved independently, used essentially the same genes and developmental and cellular pathways to make an electric organ, needed for defense, predation, navigation and communication.

Black bear digs through insulation to get honey

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A black bear in Juneau, Alaska, didn't let a few floorboards keep him from getting at some honey.

The male bear walked up the stairs of a porch at the home of Janet and Donald Kussart and tore through the floorboards and some insulation to get his treat, the Juneau Empire reported ( ).

The bear was wearing an Alaska Department of Fish and Game tag.

A neighbor, Ira Winograd, said the bear must have smelled a beehive the wall of the house, so he tore it up to get to his meal. Afterward, the bear ambled along a walkway and eventually darted into the forest.

Janet Kussart said people are used to having bears in the Starr Hill neighborhood.

On Saturday, a different bear fell through a skylight at the Juneau home of Alice Bishop and Glenn Merrill as they prepared for their son's first birthday party.

From the Frontline: Saving Australia's Threatened Mammals

This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Almost a third of Australia’s mammals have become extinct or are facing extinction, largely thanks to introduced predators such as cats and foxes. But what is the best way to save the species still alive?

In a recent article on The Conversation, John Woinarksi and Peter Harrison wrote that “controlling cats is likely to do more for the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity than any other single action”. But until we find a solution for controlling predators, we have to use more immediate measures.

Tiny wallaby among three newly discovered mammals in remote forest

An Australian-led expedition says it has discovered three new mammal species in Papua New Guinea, releasing for the first time a picture of one of the animals – a diminutive wallaby – to Guardian Australia.

More than 40 camera traps were set up in two little-studied mountains in the remote Torricelli range, in north-east Papua New Guinea, during the four-month study.

The Docopsulus wallaby, a small marsupial, was captured on camera, as well as a “Dumbo” mouse with giant ears, and an antechinus, a sort of shrew-like marsupial.

Euan Ritchie, an ecologist at Deakin University in Melbourne, partnered with the Tenkile Conservation Alliance, a group headed by Australians Jim and Jean Thomas which is dedicated to protecting tree kangaroos, for the project.

US company in Iowa churns out 100 cloned cows a year

In the meadow, four white-haired Shorthorn heifers peel off from the others, raising their heads at the same time in the same direction. Unsettling, when you know they are clones.

From their ears dangle yellow tags marked with the same number: 434P. Only the numbers that follow are different: 2, 3, 4 and 6.

The tag also bears the name of the company that bred them and is holding them temporarily in a field at its headquarters in Sioux Center, Iowa: Trans Ova Genetics, the only large US company selling cloned cows.

A few miles away, four Trans Ova scientists in white lab jackets bend over high-tech microscopes in the company's laboratories. They are meticulously working with the minute elements of life to create, in Petri dishes, genetically identical copies of existing animals.

Each year, the company gives birth, using the cloning technique, to about 100 calves. It also clones pigs and horses.

Baby bear euthanised by Swiss zoo amid public outrage will now be stuffed and displayed to teach children 'nature can be very cruel'

A Swiss zoo which caused a public outcry by euthanising a healthy baby brown bear because it was being bullied by its father has said the cub will now be preserved and displayed to educate schoolchildren.

The bear, known only as "Cub Four", was put down after 360kg male bear Misha killed its sibling because he was jealous of the attention they were receiving from mother Masha, zoo staff said at the time.

In the wild, female bears normally protect their young by driving away the father after giving birth, and Swiss animal protection groups slammed the zoo for keeping them in the same enclosure.

But now staff at the Dählhölzli Zoo in Bern say the stuffed corpse of Cub Four will be used to teach visitors that "nature can be very cruel", The Local reported.

Yesterday a taxidermist began preserving the cub's fur, which will then be glued onto an artificial model the shape of its body. The whole process will be completed by the beginning of autumn, and is being overseen by Bern's Natural History Museum.

Running cures blind mice

Exercise combined with visual stimulation helps to quickly restore vision in unused eye.
27 June 2014

Mice with 'lazy eye', a partial blindness caused by visual deprivation early in life, improved faster if they were exposed to visual stimuli while running on a treadmill.

Running helps mice to recover from a type of blindness caused by sensory deprivation early in life, researchers report. The study, published on 26 June in eLife1, also illuminates processes underlying the brain’s ability to rewire itself in response to experience — a phenomenon known as plasticity, which neuroscientists believe is the basis of learning.

More than 50 years ago, neurophysiologists David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel cracked the 'code' used to send information from the eyes to the brain. They also showed that the visual cortex develops properly only if it receives input from both eyes early in life. If one eye is deprived of sight during this ‘critical period’, the result is amblyopia, or ‘lazy eye’, a state of near blindness. This can happen to someone born with a droopy eyelid, cataract or other defect not corrected in time. If the eye is opened in adulthood, recovery can be slow and incomplete.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Chimps Reveal Their Taste in Music

By Megan Gannon, News Editor | June 27, 2014 12:56pm ET

If you ever run into a group of chimpanzees in a record store, you may find them congregating around the Indian classical section.

That's according to a new study that tested the musical tastes of humans' primate cousins. The researchers found that while chimpanzees shun the steadily strong beats common in Western genres, they like Indian ragas and Akan tunes from West Africa.

"Our objective was not to find a preference for different cultures' music," study co-author Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University in Atlanta, said in a statement. Rather, the researchers used music from Africa, India and Japan to test how the primates reacted to specific acoustic characteristics, such as the ratio of strong to weak beats (or stressed to unstressed beats).

Snakebite Causes Huge Mass in Woman's Leg, 50 Years Later

By Bahar Gholipour, Staff Writer | June 27, 2014 11:50am ET

More than 50 years after being bitten by a venomous snake, a woman developed a large mass in her lower leg, according to a new report of her case.

The 66-year-old woman in Thailand had been bitten by a Malayan pit viper, a venomous snake native to Southeast Asia, when she was 14.

The painless mass had become noticeable 10 years earlier, and on an X-ray it looked like an enlarged cavity wrapped in a tough, calcified membrane, resembling an eggshell. It ultimately grew so large that it broke through the woman's skin. Doctors surgically removed the mass, and the wound completely healed by one month after the surgery, they wrote in their report, published June 16 in the Journal of MedicalCase Reports.

New rules introduced to protect Scottish seals

Those found guilty of harassing a seal in Scotland could face a jail sentence of up to six months, or a fine of up £5,000, under new rules designed to protect the seals once they come ashore.

Under the draft order, it will be an offence from 30 September to intentionally or recklessly harass the animals within the designated areas.

There are nearly 200 protected sites around Scotland’s coastline where seals come ashore to rest, breed or moult.

Together with the existing network of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for seals, they will protect at least half of Scotland’s grey and common (or harbour) seals.

Scottish environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Seals are one of Scotland’s most iconic species and that is why we have introduced a raft of new measures to better protect them.

Synchronised imaging techniques: One more chance for rhinoceroses' foot treatment

June 26, 2014

Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB)

A new imaging strategy of synchronizing computed tomography with digital radiography helps to diagnose and initiate appropriate treatment of foot diseases in mega-vertebrates. Despite their long history in captivity, extending at least to Roman times, the fate of some rhinoceros species in zoological collections is still uncertain. Captive rhinos are confronted with chronic foot diseases, a group of severe disorders previously thought to be confined to soft tissues and recently shown to include diverse severe bone pathologies.

Audobon Society asks N.J. to grow milkweed

By James M. O'Neill The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)

HACKENSACK, N.J. - Plant some milkweed in your yard this year - and you can help save the monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterflies, known for their migration from across the U.S. down to Mexico each fall, have been in decline for years, and are at the lowest numbers scientists have seen in the several decades they have been tracking them.

The easily identifiable orange-and-black monarchs have been hit hard by a number of factors, but perhaps most devastating is the loss of the one species of plant the monarch lays its eggs on - milkweed.

As a result, the Audubon Society is asking residents to plant milkweed in their gardens and for highway road crews and parks groundskeepers to avoid cutting milkweed that grows wild along roads and in open spaces. Bergen County Audubon Society also is donating milkweed plants to schools and community gardens.

"We're trying to do what we can to help," said Don Torino, Bergen Audubon's president. "Some environmental issues seem so big and overwhelming, and people feel powerless. But here's something simple they can do to help."

The Last Wild Tigers

An in-depth report from the scattered remaining strongholds of these beleaguered—and magnificent—creatures.

Published: 06/25/2014

At the turn of this century, by general estimate, 100,000 tigers shambled over a vast range of Asia extending from southern India to the Siberian taiga and from the equatorial tropics of Java and Bali to the Transcaucasus and eastern Turkey. By 1950 one authority was already predicting that "the species is now on its way to extinction"; three years from now, when the present century ends, perhaps no more than 2,500 scattered individuals of Panthera tigris will still wander a few isolated regions of their former range.

Get insects to bug off this summer

June 26, 2014

Loyola University Health System

Summer means an increase in bug and insect activity. How do you know which insects are harmful, what diseases they carry and how to safely avoid them? “Mosquitoes and ticks are the two pests you primarily want to avoid because they potentially carry infectious diseases,” says an infectious disease specialist.

Bright blue stinging jellyfish will "definitely" come to North Devon

BRIGHT blue stinging jellyfish have been spotted in their hundreds and will “definitely” come to North Devon, according to an expert. 

The blue jellyfish, or cyanae lamarckii, have long tentacles, a bright blue bell and purple lines running down their insides. 

They can deliver a sting similar to a nettle and can trigger anaphylactic shock in people who happen to be allergic. 

They have been spotted in Newquay, Cornwall and Lawrence Raybone of Ilfracombe Aquarium said their arrival on the shores of North Devon is imminent. 

Friday, 27 June 2014

First evidence of an important marine migration corridor between Costa Rica and Ecuador

Sanjay, a 53k (117lb) male endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizii), recently made history when he completed a 14-day migration from the Cocos Island Marine National Park in Costa Rica to the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador.

Sanjay (right) is the first turtle to directly link these two protected marine areas, proving the connectivity of the Eastern Tropical Pacific, as well as highlighting the importance of protecting migration routes.

“It’s truly remarkable,” said Alex Hearn, conservation science director for the Turtle Island Restoration Network, based in California.

“Sanjay knew where he was headed, and made a beeline from one marine protected area to the next.

“These protected areas of ocean are hot spots for endangered green sea turtles, but we also need to think about their migratory corridors between protected areas.” 

Odours can keep insects from finding flowers

By Zoe GoughReporter, BBC Nature

Insects find locating their favourite flowers more difficult when pollution and other odours get in the way, new research has shown.

Tobacco hornworm moths feed on the nectar of plants which can grow hundreds of metres apart.

Researchers found the moths tracked the flower's scent better in clean air, when other smells were not present.

They discovered the other odours changed how the moth's brain processed the plant's scent.

The findings are reported in the journal Science.

Adult tobacco hornworm moths, Manduca sexta, have wingspans of 4in (10cm) and can travel up to 80 miles (129km) in an evening, looking for food and mates.

Animals built reefs 550 million years ago, fossil study finds

June 26, 2014

University of Edinburgh

It is a remarkable survivor of an ancient aquatic world -- now a new study sheds light on how one of Earth's oldest reefs was formed. Researchers have discovered that one of these reefs -- now located on dry land in Namibia -- was built almost 550 million years ago, by the first animals to have hard shells.

Facial differences help monkeys avoid interbreeding

Looking different facially has helped Old World monkeys avoid interbreeding with closely related and geographically proximate species, new research shows.

The researchers, from New York University and the University of Exeter, studied 1,400 photographs of nearly two dozen species of guenons, chosen because many of the different species live in close proximity to each other, often travelling, feeding, and sleeping side-by-side.
"These results strongly suggest that the extraordinary appearance of these monkeys has been due to selection for visual signals that discourage hybridization," said lead author William Allen, now at the University of Hull.

"This is perhaps the strongest evidence to date for a role for visual signals in the key evolutionary processes by which species are formed and maintained, and it is particularly exciting that we have found it in part of our own lineage."

'Immediate protection' needed for Pitcairn's marine bounty

Matt McGrath
Environment correspondent, BBC News

Researchers say that "immediate protection" is required for the waters around the remote Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific, home to one of the world's rarest and most valuable collections of marine species.

The waters have "unique global value that is irreplaceable" says the report, from an international team of scientists.

They've carried out the first underwater surveys of the deep and shallow waters around the islands, best known for their connection to the mutiny on the Royal Navy ship, Bounty, in the 18th century.

Some of the mutineers settled on Pitcairn and around 50 of their descendents still live there, governed as a British overseas territory.

The four islands in the group lie halfway between New Zealand and South America.

They are said to be further from a continent than any other inhabited island.

The extremely remote location has prevented prior scientific exploration of the unsullied waters.

"It is a treasure trove of marine species," Dr Enric Sala told BBC News.

"People know about the mutiny on the Bounty but the true bounty of the Pitcairn's is underwater."

The scientists found healthy coral reefs and an abundance of fish, around half of them not found anywhere else in the world.

New species of small mammal: Round-eared elephant-shrew found in Namibia

June 26, 2014

California Academy of Sciences

Scientists have discovered a new species of round-eared sengi, or elephant-shrew, in the remote deserts of southwestern Africa. This is the third new species of sengi to be discovered in the wild in the past decade. It is also the smallest known member of the 19 sengis in the order Macroscelidea.

Bristol Zoo giant tortoise treated for 'sinusitis'

24 June 2014 Last updated at 15:33

A giant tortoise has been checked in to an on-site clinic at Bristol Zoo after developing the symptoms of sinusitis.

Helen, a 90kg (14 stone) tortoise, was given a health check after keepers noticed her unusual breathing.

Staff vet Richard Saunders said: "The whistling, raspy breathing in her nose could be heard from several feet away, so we took samples under anaesthetic."

The 32-year-old tortoise, described as a "good patient" by Mr Saunders, is currently on a course of antibiotics.

Helen is an Aldabran giant tortoise - a species classified as "vulnerable" - and has been at Bristol Zoo for 11 years.

But after developing a nasal infection, the tortoise had to take a trip to the vet for a nasal flush, tests under anaesthetic and a course of antibiotics.

Pablo Escobar’s hippos: A growing problem

By William Kremer
BBC World Service

A herd of hippopotamuses once owned by the late Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar has been taking over the countryside near his former ranch - and no-one quite knows what to do with them.

It was in 2005, 12 years after Escobar's death, that people in rural Antioquia, 200 miles north-west of Bogota, began phoning the Ministry of Environment to report sightings of a peculiar animal.

"They found a creature in a river that they had never seen before, with small ears and a really big mouth," recalls Carlos Valderrama, from the charity Webconserva.

He went to look, and found himself faced with the task of explaining to startled villagers that this was an animal from Africa. A hippopotamus.

"The fishermen, they were all saying, 'How come there's a hippo here?'" he recalls. "We started asking around and of course they were all coming from Hacienda Napoles. Everything happened because of the whim of a villain."

Situated halfway between the city of Medellin and Bogota, the Colombian capital, Hacienda Napoles was the vast ranch owned by the drugs baron Pablo Escobar. In the early 1980s, after Escobar had become rich but before he had started the campaign of assassinations and bombings that was to almost tear Colombia apart, he built himself a zoo.

He smuggled in elephants, giraffes and other exotic animals, among them four hippos - three females and one male. And with a typically grand gesture, he allowed the public to wander freely around the zoo. Buses filled with schoolchildren passed under a replica of the propeller plane that carried Escobar's first US-bound shipments of cocaine.

While Don Pablo masterminded the operations of the Medellin Cartel from his villa on the hill, the locals gazed at the strange animals and even stranger concrete dinosaurs that Escobar built for his son.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Liberia caterpillar plague causes mass evacuation and crop destruction

A plague of caterpillars has forced thousands of people to flee their homes in northern Liberia, as well destroying crops, contaminating water and forcing schools to close.

Residents of at least 25 villages and towns in Lofa and Gbarpolu counties have joined a mass exodus so far this month to escape the trail of caterpillar excrement, according to the Voice of America (VOA).

It is the second such invasion in five years. A state of emergency was declared in 2009 after tens of millions of caterpillars swept through at least 80 towns and villages in the centre and north of the country.

Dr Sizi Subah, deputy agriculture minister for technical services, told Liberia's The Inquirer that the caterpillars, which travel in huge numbers, have the capacity to destroy large areas since they feed on the leaves of cash crops such as coffee, cocoa and vegetables during the larva stage before developing into butterflies.

Subah linked the latest infestation to "climate change", the Inquirer reported.

Cavemen didn’t just eat meat – they ate vegetables as well

While modern men might turn their nose up at having a bit of salad with their barbecued burger, it seems our paleolithic predecessors were more open minded.

Although we have an image of cavemen as club-wielding, blood-spattered hunter gatherers gorging themselves on mammoth steaks, it appears they quite enjoyed a side of vegetables too.

A sample from the world’s oldest known fossilised poo, which dates back 50,000 years, suggests even Neanderthals could appreciate the value of eating your greens.

Researchers from the University of La Laguna in Spain and Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysed samples found in El Salt, Spain, and used faecal biomarkers to identify what was in the caveman’s diet.

The tests found they predominantly ate meat because of the high levels of one biomarker formed by bacteria reducing the levels of cholesterol in the gut.

Woman scales barrier to feed cookies to lions in Tennessee zoo

By Tim Ghianni

(Reuters) - A woman climbed over a railing at the Memphis Zoo, breached a barrier of thorn bushes and tried to feed lions cookies through a piano wire fence as she sang to them, a zoo spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The woman, who the zoo did not identify, has been banned for life after the incident on Monday, zoo spokeswoman Laura Doty said.

"She was trying to stick (the cookies) through the piano wire," Doty said, adding that the three lions in the enclosure backed away from her.

Doty said the woman was singing a song she had apparently made up. Zoo officials did not know what kind of cookies she tried to feed to the lions. It was the second incident in two weeks involving the same woman, she said.

Witnesses who called zoo security told authorities the woman appeared to drop her cell phone over the railing and retrieved it before going back over a second time, Doty said.

Years of research reveal more about iconic orcas

SEATTLE (AP) — Scientists studying Puget Sound orcas for the past decade now know they are among the most contaminated marine mammals, with pollutants particularly high in young killer whales, according to a report released Wednesday.

The report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration summarizes a decade of research findings that reveal the mysterious lives of a small population of endangered killer whales that frequents the inland waters of Washington state.

Future Soldiers May Wear Bulletproof Spider Silk

By Elizabeth Howell, Live Science Contributor | June 25, 2014 11:45am ET

Ultra-strong spider silk, one of the toughest known natural fibers, could one day protect soldiers on the battlefield from bullets and other threats, one company says.

Spider silk is light and flexible, and is stronger by weight than high-grade steel. Its potentialapplications span a wide range of industries, from surgical sutures for doctors to protective wear for the military. But producing and harvesting enough spider silk to make these types of products commercially available has posed a challenge.

Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, based in Lansing, Michigan, genetically engineered silkworms to produce spider silk, and has used the material to create gloves that will soon undergo strength testing. 

Evidence that an Influenza A virus can jump from horses to camels

June 24, 2014

University of Florida

Evidence that an influenza A virus can jump from horses to camels has been found by scientists – and humans could be next. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve been amazed at all the cross-species jumps of influenza. Now we’re finding yet another,” said one researcher. Although there is no immediate risk, the inter-mammalian transmission of the virus is a major concern for public health researchers interested in controlling the threat of pandemic influenza.

Squatter Beetles Eat Snails and Steal Shells

By Megan Gannon, News Editor | June 25, 2014 05:00pm ET

The awkward stage of adolescence drives some insects to murderous home invasion.

When the time comes to shed their skin, certain beetle larvae in Greece scout out a sleeping snail, break into its shell, eat the victim alive and then squat in its home for days.

But the snail targets aren't completely defenseless; on the contrary, they may be locked in an evolutionary arms race with the juvenile beetles, trying to outwit their intruders with break-in-proof shells and other security strategies, a new study finds.

Young researcher discovers source of disco clams' light show

June 24, 2014

University of California - Berkeley

The disco clam was named for the rhythmic, pulsing light that ripples along the lips of its mantle. A graduate student was fascinated the first time she saw the clam, and set out to investigate the reflective material on its lips and why it flashes. She reports that the mirror is actually a highly reflective, densely packed layer of silica spheres a mere 340 nanometers across never before seen in animals.

Vampire bats' blood diet leads to loss of bitter taste

By Zoe GoughReporter, BBC Nature

Vampire bats' strict blood diet has made them lose much of their ability to taste bitter flavours, a study has found.

Bitter taste acts as a natural defence against eating poisonous foods and was thought to be indispensable in animals.

Researchers say the bats' special diet and use of smell, echolocation and heat could have made taste less important.

Their work shows poor bitter taste is more widespread in animals than previously thought.

The findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Toxins typically taste bitter to animals but bottlenose dolphins and some whales have been shown to have reduced bitter taste, probably because they swallow their food whole, making taste unnecessary.

Vampire bats are the only mammals to feed solely on blood meaning they are unlikely to encounter toxic foods in the wild. The research team wanted to find out if that had left them with a lack of bitter taste.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Value of environmental crimes dwarfs global international aid

Posted by: Kevin Heath / 3 hours ago

The scale of the problem of environmental crime was revealed today with the publication of a joint report from the United Nationals and Interpol. Globally environmental crimes have a value of up to US$213 billion a year – compare that to a combined global total of US$135 billion a year spent on overseas aid and the scale of the problem becomes very real.

The Environmental Crime Crisis: a rapid response assessment was released on the opening day of the first ever United Nations Environment Assembly currently being held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The report looked into the full range of environmental crime from elephant poaching to illegal logging, mining and toxic waste dumping. The estimated value of the trade is put at between US$70 billion and US$213 billion. The scale of the profits put governments at risk from terrorism and organised crime and it also puts at risk the environment and the sustainability of entire economies.

The report highlight one terrorist group in East Africa that makes between US$38 million and US$56 million a year just from charcoal produced from illegal logging. Across Africa terrorists and local rebel militia are thought to be making between US$111 million and US$289 million a year just from charcoal – either producing it illegally or ‘taxing’ producers.

Monarch butterfly uses magnetic, Sun compasses, study finds

The North American monarch butterfly uses the Sun as well as Earth's magnetic field as navigational tools for its famous long-distance migration, scientists said Tuesday.

The insects with their characteristic orange-and-black wings flutter thousands of kilometres each year from the United States and southern Canada to the Michoacan mountains in central Mexico, where they overwinter.

The butterflies, whose Latin name is Danaus plexippus, have long been known to use a type of solar compass in the brain.

Yet, curiously, they are also able to migrate when skies are heavily overcast, which suggested co-reliance on a magnetic compass.

Restricting competitors could help threatened species cope with climate change

June 24, 2014

Durham University

Threatened animal species could cope better with the effects of climate change if competition from other animals for the same habitats is restricted, according to new research. Observing the goats in the Italian Alps during the summer, the researchers found that Chamois tended to move to higher altitudes where it is cooler on hotter days and in the middle of the day, but moved much higher when sheep were present. To their surprise, they discovered that competition with sheep had a far greater effect on Chamois than the predicted effects of future climate change.

Invasion Of Greater White-toothed Shrew Threatens Pygmy Shrew Population In Ireland

An invading species of shrew first discovered in Ireland in the pellets of barn owls and kestrels in 2007 is spreading across the landscape at a rate of more than five kilometers a year, according to findings published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

University College Dublin scientists who conducted the study say that the invading species, the greater white-toothed shrew (Crocidura russula) is capable of colonizing the entire island by 2050. This, they say, is leading to the disappearance of the pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus) from Ireland, one of the world’s smallest mammals, which has been on the island for thousands of years.

“The invading population of the greater white-toothed shrew currently covers an area of 7,600 km2 and is found in Counties Tipperary, Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny, Offaly and Laois,” says Dr Allan McDevitt, UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin, the lead author of the paper.

“Small satellite populations have also been found in Cork city and more recently in Mullingar, but according to our data they have not yet crossed the Shannon,” he adds.

“Species can live together after invasions occur, but in this case there may not be sufficient landscape complexity in Ireland to allow niche partitioning between these two species of shrew.”

“The displacement of the pygmy shrew will continue in Ireland as the greater white-toothed shrew carries on spreading rapidly, with the invader only being temporarily hindered by rivers and other barriers,” adds Dr Jon Yearsley, a co-author on the PLOS ONE paper, who is also based at University College Dublin.

Related Posts with Thumbnails