Enn Original News
Ancient Tortoise Lives On
January 9, 2012 02:58 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The Galápagos tortoise or giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is the largest living species of tortoise, reaching weights of over 880 lb and lengths of over 5.9 feet. With life spans in the wild of over 100 years, it is one of the longest-lived vertebrates. The subspecies that lived on Floriana Island until 1850 had a modest fame as the one of the species that Darwin used in his studies. A new analysis, published January 9 in the journal Current Biology, suggests that the direct descendants of extinct Chelonoidis elephantopus live on the volcanic slopes of the northern shore of Isabela Island — 200 miles from their ancestral home of Floreana Island, where they disappeared after being hunted to extinction by whalers. "This is not just an academic exercise," said Gisella Caccone, senior research scientist in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and senior author of the paper. "If we can find these individuals, we can restore them to their island of origin. This is important as these animals are keystone species playing a crucial role in maintaining the ecological integrity of the island communities."
Study: Warming Arctic Is Decimating Harp Seal Populations
January 9, 2012 09:44 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Scientists from Duke University and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have conducted a study of the harp seal in northern Canada. Harp seals, the cute and cuddly creatures, have long been hunted for their prized furs. To add to their struggle, the thinning ice is playing havoc with their breeding ground. Female seals depend on stable winter ice to give birth and feed their young in peace. Forced to go to ice closer to land, the baby seals are sitting ducks for arctic predators and human hunters. The seal pups are being forced to fend for themselves before they are ready. As a result, their populations are dropping catastrophically.
Meteor Showers in 2012
January 6, 2012 12:13 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
A meteor shower is a celestial event in which a number of meteors are observed to radiate from one point in the night sky. These meteors are caused by streams of cosmic debris called meteoroids entering the atmosphere extremely high speeds on parallel trajectories. Most meteors are smaller than a grain of sand, so almost all of them disintegrate and never hit the Earth's surface. Intense or unusual meteor showers are known to produce greater than 1,000 meteors an hour. Whether you're watching from a downtown area or the dark countryside, there are some tips to help you enjoy these celestial shows of shooting stars. Those streaks of light are really caused by tiny specks of comet-stuff hitting Earth's atmosphere at very high speed and disintegrating in flashes of light. First a word about the moon - it is not the meteor watcher's friend. Light reflecting off a bright moon can be just as detrimental to good meteor viewing as those bright lights of the big city. There is nothing you can do except curse, so you'll have to put up with it or wait until the next favorable shower.
The Great Extinction
January 6, 2012 11:07 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Some 250 million years ago, the earth suffered the greatest biological crisis in its history. Around 95% of all living species died out--a global catastrophe far greater than the dinosaurs' demise 65 million years ago. How this happened remains a mystery. But there are many competing theories. Now, they have discovered a new culprit likely involved in the annihilation: an influx of mercury into the eco-system. "No one had ever looked to see if mercury was a potential culprit. This was a time of the greatest volcanic activity in Earth's history and we know today that the largest source of mercury comes from volcanic eruptions," says Dr. Steve Grasby of the University of Calgary, co-author of a paper published this month in the journal Geology. "We estimate that the mercury released then could have been up to 30 times greater than today's volcanic activity, making the event truly catastrophic."
EPA Report Identifies Toxic Contamination in Communities Across the Country
January 6, 2012 09:32 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Yesterday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual report of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI consists of information on toxic chemical disposals and toxic air emissions, as well as waste management and pollution prevention activities. The EPA report covers neighborhoods all across the United States for the year 2010. Many of the facilities identified in the TRI are regulated by the EPA and state agencies through various programs such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Community-Right-to-Know (CRTK). Total toxic releases for 2010 were higher than the previous two years, but lower than 2007 and 2006.
'No evidence' of links between Pacific earthquakes
January 5, 2012 12:43 PM - María Elena Hurtado, SciDevNet
Scientists have rejected fears that a series of highly destructive large-scale earthquakes in the past few years, in countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, signal an increased global risk of these deadly events. Several vast earthquakes have taken place since 2004 — in Chile, Indonesia and Japan — leading some academics to express concern that they may be linked.
The Perils of Vacuum Cleaners
January 5, 2012 12:24 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
A vacuum cleaner is a device that uses an air pump to create a partial vacuum to suck up dust and dirt, usually from floors, and optionally from other surfaces as well. Does not sound so bad does it? Some vacuum cleaners — those basic tools for maintaining a clean indoor environment in homes and offices — actually contribute to indoor air pollution by releasing into the air bacteria and dust that can spread infections and trigger allergies, researchers report in a new study. It appears in the ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology. Lidia Morawska and colleagues explain that previous studies showed that vacuum cleaners can increase levels of very small dust particles and bacteria in indoor spaces, where people spend about 90 percent of their time. In an effort to provide more information about emission rates of bacteria and small dust particles, the scientists tested 21 vacuum cleaners sold in Australia. The vacuums came from 11 manufacturers, included those marketed for household and commercial use, ranged in age from six months to 22 years and cost from less than $100 to almost $800. They looked at the effects that age, brand and other factors had on the amount of small particles and bacteria released into air.
Study: Parasitic Fly to Blame for Honeybee Population Decline
January 5, 2012 09:34 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Populations of honeybee have been in a seemingly unstoppable downward spiral, and scientists are still grasping to find the cause. A new study from the San Francisco State University suggests that one factor may be a parasitic fly, Apocephalus borealis, which lays its eggs in the bees' abdomens. The parasitic eggs cause atypical behavior in the bees, causing them to abandon their hives. Like a scene out of Alien, the eggs eventually hatch and the newborn flies burst out of the bee, killing it in the process.
European Carbon Regulation for Airlines Takes Off
January 4, 2012 02:47 PM - Raz Godelnik, Triple Pundit
2012 started with some good news. On Sunday, the European Union began charging all airlines flying into and out of Europe for their carbon emissions. Covering a third of all global flights, this new scheme is one of the widest-reaching measures adopted lately by any country or regional bloc to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Given all the hurdles and protest it faced, the fact that this scheme actually began is not just an incredible accomplishment for the EU, but also a bit of a miracle. The new scheme will make all airlines flying to, from or within the EU liable for their CO2 emissions. They will receive tradable carbon allowances, covering a certain amount of CO2 emitted each year, based on historic data. Carriers that exceed their limit will be able to buy allowances from other carriers that have emitted less than allowed. The EU believes this cap and trade scheme is the fairest way to cope with aviation’s contribution to global warming and incentivize airlines to reduce their footprint, which represents about 3 percent of global CO2 emissions.
Deep Down in the Sea: A Lost World
January 4, 2012 02:26 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Deep down under the sea is another universe of sheer blackness hidden from the sun. Yet a busy blackness in some cases. Communities of species previously unknown to science have been discovered on the seafloor near Antarctica, clustered in the hot, dark environment surrounding hydrothermal vents. The discoveries, made by teams led by the University of Oxford, University of Southampton and British Antarctic Survey (BAS), include new species of yeti crab, starfish, barnacles, sea anemones and an octopus.