Wildlife

Crows join rank of species that exhibit advanced relational thinking
December 18, 2014 01:32 PM - Editor, ENN

Next to humans, other species in the animal kingdom such as apes and monkeys have exhibited advanced relational thinking. But are there others? The newest species to join this list of highly intelligible animals? Crows.

Something new to blame climate change on: Beavers.
December 17, 2014 08:38 AM - Springer Science+Business Media, via Science Daily.

There are consequences of the successful efforts worldwide to save beavers from extinction. Along with the strong increase in their population over the past 100 years, these furry aquatic rodents have built many more ponds, establishing vital aquatic habitat. In doing so, however, they have created conditions for climate changing methane gas to be generated in this shallow standing water, and the gas is subsequently released into the atmosphere. In fact, 200 times more of this greenhouse gas is released from beaver ponds today than was the case around the year 1900, estimates Colin J. Whitfield of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. He led a study in Springer's journal AMBIO about the effect that the growth in beaver numbers in Eurasia and the Americas could be having on methane emissions.

The fur trade of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries nearly led to the extinction of beaver populations worldwide. After trapping was limited and conservation efforts led to the re-introduction of these animals into their natural ranges, the number of North American (Castor canadensis) and Eurasian (Castor fiber)beavers grew. The North American beaver has also been introduced to Eurasia and South America (specifically the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego); establishment of these populations has, in effect, created an anthropogenic greenhouse gas source in these landscapes.

Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum had similarities to current warming
December 16, 2014 07:55 AM - University of Utah

The rate at which carbon emissions warmed Earth’s climate almost 56 million years ago resembles modern, human-caused global warming much more than previously believed, but involved two pulses of carbon to the atmosphere, University of Utah researchers and their colleagues found.

The findings mean the so-called Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, or PETM, can provide clues to the future of modern climate change. The good news: Earth and most species survived. The bad news: It took millennia to recover from the episode, when temperatures rose by 5 to 8 degrees Celsius (9 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit).

Update on Climate Change talks in Lima, Peru
December 15, 2014 10:44 AM - JOHN UPTON, CLIMATE CENTRAL, via Discovery News

In the early hours of Sunday morning, bleary-eyed dealmakers from nearly 200 countries and the European Union set a framework for an agreement that would take an unprecedented approach to slowing climate change. Critically, however, they also delayed a host of decisions until next year, which could make reaching a landmark pact even more difficult.

With a large rally in New York to complement it, the United Nations held a Climate Summit in September. Tara explains what the gathering was really all about.

An app to save 400 million animals
December 15, 2014 09:57 AM - Alex Rodriguez, MONGABAY.COM

Brazilian biologist Alex Bager has been leading a crusade to raise awareness of a major but neglected threat to biodiversity in his country.

Every year over 475 million animals die in Brazil as victims of roadkill, according to an estimate by Centro Brasileiro de Ecologia de Estradas (the Brazilian Centre for the Study of Road Ecology) or CBEE, an initiative funded and coordinated by Bager. This means 15 animals are run down every second on Brazilian roads and highways.

"The numbers are really scary and we need people to know about them," Bager said.

To register cases of roadkill throughout the country, Bager came up with the idea of an app, now used by thousands of citizen scientists. And a national day of action in November saw hundreds of volunteers participate in events to highlight the impact of roadkill on biodiversity. 

Asphalt Mounds Found Off West African Coast
December 15, 2014 09:14 AM - Tom Marshall, Planet Earth Online

Scientists have discovered a large area of the deep seabed strewn with mounds of asphalt off the coast of Angola, hosting rich animal life. This is the first such discovery in the Atlantic proper or in the Southern Hemisphere, and the first time the creatures living around them have been studied in detail. It arises from a long-term collaboration between energy company BP and scientists at NERC's National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

New insight from MIT on what killed off the dinosaurs
December 12, 2014 08:38 AM - Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office

Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid more than five miles wide smashed into the Earth at 70,000 miles per hour, instantly vaporizing upon impact. The strike obliterated most terrestrial life, including the dinosaurs, in a geological instant: Heavy dust blocked out the sun, setting off a cataclysmic chain of events from the bottom of the food chain to the top, killing off more than three-quarters of Earth’s species — or so the popular theory goes.

But now scientists at MIT and elsewhere have found evidence that a major volcanic eruption began just before the impact, possibly also playing a role in the extinction.

How birds hear without ears
December 11, 2014 02:44 PM - Technische Universität München

Unlike mammals, birds have no external ears. The outer ears of mammals play an important function in that they help the animal identify sounds coming from different elevations. But birds are also able to perceive whether the source of a sound is above them, below them, or at the same level. Now a research team from Technische Universität München (TUM) has discovered how birds are able to localize these sounds, namely by utilizing their entire head. Their findings were published recently in the PLOS ONE journal.

Pollution May Cause Problems for Pollinators
December 11, 2014 10:57 AM - Lisa Marie Potter, MONGABAY.COM

While unpleasant car exhaust makes us wrinkle our noses, such human-made fumes may pose serious problems to insects searching for nectar. Researchers recently revealed that background odors make finding flowers difficult for pollinators. The study, published in Science, measured how hawk moths (Manduca sexta) pick out the sacred datura flower scent (Datura wrightii) amidst all the other smells that waft through the environment. Datura’s brilliant 15-centimeter trumpets leap from dark, heart-shaped leaves, sending smelly signals into the arid sky of the southwestern deserts where they grow. 

Scientists estimate the total weight of plastic floating in the world's oceans
December 10, 2014 03:17 PM - PLOS ONE via EurekAlert!

Nearly 269,000 tons of plastic pollution may be floating in the world's oceans, according to a study published December 10, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Marcus Eriksen from Five Gyres Institute and colleagues. Microplastic pollution is found in varying concentrations throughout the oceans, but estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics, both micro and macroplastic, lack sufficient data to support them. To better estimate the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world's oceans, scientists from six countries contributed data from 24 expeditions collected over a six-year period from 2007-2013 across all five sub-tropical gyres, coastal Australia, Bay of Bengal, and the Mediterranean Sea.

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