How did the giraffe get its long neck?
May 27, 2016 06:09 AM - Penn State University
For the first time, the genomes of the giraffe and its closest living relative, the reclusive okapi of the African rainforest, have been sequenced — revealing the first clues about the genetic changes that led to the evolution of the giraffe’s exceptionally long neck and its record-holding ranking as the world’s tallest land species. The research will be published in the scientific journal Nature Communications on May 17, 2016.
“The giraffe’s stature, dominated by its long neck and legs and an overall height that can reach 19 feet (~ 6 m), is an extraordinary feat of evolution that has inspired awe and wonder for at least 8,000 years — as far back as the famous rock carvings at Dabous in the Republic of Niger,” said Douglas Cavener of Penn State, who led the research team with Morris Agaba of the Nelson Mandela African Institute for Science and Technology in Tanzania.
How did the giraffe get its long neck? Clues now are revealed by new genome sequencing.
Antarctic fossils show creatures wiped out by asteroid
May 27, 2016 06:03 AM - British Antarctic Survey
A study of more than 6,000 marine fossils from the Antarctic shows that the mass extinction event that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago was sudden and just as deadly to life in the Polar Regions.
Previously, scientists had thought that creatures living in the southernmost regions of the planet would have been in a less perilous position during the mass extinction event than those elsewhere on Earth.
Squid populations on the rise
May 24, 2016 07:09 AM - University of Adelaide
Unlike the declining populations of many fish species, the number of cephalopods (octopus, cuttlefish and squid) has increased in the world's oceans over the past 60 years, a University of Adelaide study has found.
The international team, led by researchers from the University's Environment Institute, compiled a global database of cephalopod catch rates to investigate long-term trends in abundance, published in Cell Press journal Current Biology.
How do trees sleep?
May 18, 2016 07:17 AM - Vienna University of Technology via EurekAlert!
Most living organisms adapt their behavior to the rhythm of day and night. Plants are no exception: flowers open in the morning, some tree leaves close during the night. Researchers have been studying the day and night cycle in plants for a long time: Linnaeus observed that flowers in a dark cellar continued to open and close, and Darwin recorded the overnight movement of plant leaves and stalks and called it "sleep". But even to this day, such studies have only been done with small plants grown in pots, and nobody knew whether trees sleep as well. Now, a team of researchers from Austria, Finland and Hungary measured the sleep movement of fully grown trees using a time series of laser scanning point clouds consisting of millions of points each.
Ocean bacteria are programmed to alter climate gases
May 17, 2016 07:29 AM - Oregon State University via EurekAlert!
SAR11, the most abundant plankton in the world's oceans, are pumping out massive amounts of two sulfur gases that play important roles in the Earth's atmosphere, researchers announced today in the journal Nature Microbiology.
Happy 'Love a Tree Day'!
May 16, 2016 07:19 AM - Judy Molland, Care2
What’s not to love about trees? May 16 marks National Love a Tree Day, which gives everyone a chance to get out and appreciate the
You probably know about the largest living tree: situated in the Giant Forest in California’s Sequoia National Park, the General Sherman tree, a giant sequoia, is the largest living organism, by volume, on our planet. It is 2,100 years old, weighs an estimated 2.7 million pounds, stands 275 feet tall and is 100 feet wide at its trunk. Pretty impressive!
But you don’t have to travel to California to appreciate trees – in fact, they are everywhere!
You are what you eat
May 12, 2016 07:31 AM - Indiana University Bloomington
Biologists at Indiana University have significantly advanced understanding of the genetic pathways that control the appearance of different physical traits in the same species depending on nutritional conditions experienced during development.
In many animals, nutrition -- not genetic differences -- controls the appearance of certain physical traits. Ants and bees, for example, grow into workers or queens based upon the food eaten as larvae.
Coastal birds understand tides and the moon's phases
May 4, 2016 07:28 AM - CENTRAL ORNITHOLOGY PUBLICATION OFFICE via EurekAlert
Coastal wading birds shape their lives around the tides, and new research in The Auk: Ornithological Advances shows that different species respond differently to shifting patterns of high and low water according to their size and daily schedules, even following prey cycles tied to the phases of the moon.
Many birds rely on the shallow water of the intertidal zone for foraging, but this habitat appears and disappears as the tide ebbs and flows, with patterns that go through monthly cycles of strong "spring" and weak "neap" tides. Leonardo Calle of Montana State University (formerly Florida Atlantic University) and his colleagues wanted to assess how wading birds respond to these changes, because different species face different constraints--longer-legged birds can forage in deeper water than those with shorter legs, and birds that are only active during the day have different needs than those that will forage day or night.
Coral Reef Discovered Near Mouth of Amazon River
April 27, 2016 07:07 AM - Jessica Ramos, Care2
While currently more than half of the world’s coral reefs are potentially threatened by humans, scientists just made an incredible discovery: a coral reef the size of Delaware flourishing near the mouth of the murky and Amazon River in Brazil.
Coral reefs don’t typically thrive in murky waters, which makes the discovery even more shocking.
Long-eared bat denied habitat protection under the Endangered Species Act
April 26, 2016 12:13 PM - Center for Biological Diversity
Although northern long-eared bat populations have declined by 90 percent in their core range, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today said it will not protect any of its critical habitat, saying it would not be “prudent” for the species. Under the Endangered Species Act, the government can opt not to designate critical habitat if there is factual evidence that a species would be placed at greater risk of extinction from poachers, collectors or vandals. But in the case of the northern long-eared bat, which is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, there is almost no evidence that the species is at risk from these types of threats. Instead its dramatic decline has been driven mostly by disease and habitat loss.
“This is a terrible turn of events for the northern long-eared bat,” said Tanya Sanerib, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If you don’t protect the places endangered species live, it becomes that much harder to save them. This is yet another instance where the Fish and Wildlife Service has gone out of its way to appease special interests rather than protecting our most vulnerable animals.”