Earth's first ecosystems were more complex than previously thought
November 28, 2015 06:44 AM - Universtity of Bristol

Computer simulations have allowed scientists to work out how a puzzling 555-million-year-old organism with no known modern relatives fed, revealing that some of the first large, complex organisms on Earth formed ecosystems that were much more complex than previously thought.

The international team of researchers from Canada, the UK and the USA, including Dr Imran Rahman from the University of Bristol, studied fossils of an extinct organism called Tribrachidium, which lived in the oceans some 555 million years ago.  Using a computer modelling approach called computational fluid dynamics, they were able to show that Tribrachidium fed by collecting particles suspended in water.  This is called suspension feeding and it had not previously been documented in organisms from this period of time.

These 10 Endangered Species are Running Out of Room to Roam
November 25, 2015 06:27 AM - Alicia Graef, Care2

It’s never been easier for us to get where we want to go, but our growing transportation systems mixed with development are taking a serious toll on wildlife, from tiny amphibians to large mammals, and pushing some who are already in danger of disappearing even closer to the brink.

A new report from the Endangered Species Coalition, No Room to Roam: 10 American Species in Need of Connectivity and Corridor, focuses on imperiled species who need just what the title says: room to roam.

Tourists may bring more home than just souvenirs
November 23, 2015 07:17 AM - Amy McDermott, MONGABAY.COM

Invasive species are great hitchhikers. They float in the ballast of ships, lurk in luggage, stick to unwashed sports gear, and cling to the soles of hiking boots. Scientists focus on stopping them from spreading because, once a new species gets rooted, it is expensive to manage and nearly impossible to remove.

Shipping and industry are the major pathways for invasive species, but studies have also shown that tourists can spread them into protected wilderness. 

Half the world's natural history specimens may have the wrong name
November 17, 2015 07:07 AM - University of Oxford

Even the most accomplished naturalist can find it difficult to tell one species of plant from another or accurately decide which genus a small insect belongs to. So when a new specimen arrives at a museum, finding the right name from existing records can sometimes prove difficult. In turn, that can lead to specimens being given the wrong name – which can prove problematic for biologists.

Climate change is impacting birds more than previously thought
November 16, 2015 01:30 PM - Oxford University Press via ScienceDaily

Scientists have long known that birds are feeling the heat due to climate change. However, a new study of a dozen affected species in the Western Cape suggests their decline is more complex than previously thought -- and in some cases more serious.

According to the study, published in Conservation Physiology, by scientists from the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute at the University of Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, there could be several reasons why birds are being negatively affected by human-made climate change.

Would you choose love over food?
November 13, 2015 06:59 AM - University of Oxford

Scientists from the Department of Zoology found that mated pairs of great tits chose to prioritise their relationships over sustenance in a novel experiment that prevented couples from foraging in the same location. This also meant birds ended up spending a significant amount of time with their partners' flock-mates. And, over time, the pairs may even have learned to cooperate to allow each other to scrounge from off-limits feeding stations.

To Kill or Not to Kill: The Great Specimen Debate
November 12, 2015 07:20 AM - Shreya Dasgupta, MONGABAY.COM

Indeed, museum collections are fascinating. Many of us probably still gawk at stuffed collections of extant and extinct birds, beetles, vibrantly-colored butterflies, and other animals that fill up glass cases and exhibition halls. Many of these collections were borne out of expeditions to remote parts of the world; treks that involved trapping, killing, preserving and cataloging animals that explorers encountered. Many of these collections have been useful in shaping what we know of the natural world. However, species conservation or scientific advancement was not always the goal of animal-collection. Often, it was done simply to suit the aesthetic whims of society’s elite.

Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline
November 9, 2015 06:41 AM - Center for Biological Diversity

In a crucial victory for the climate, wildlife and the millions who spoke against it, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL project today, saying that building the tar sands oil pipeline is not in the national interest.

Over the past four years, scientists, environmentalists, tribes, farmers, celebrities and business people joined forces to fight the pipeline, with more than 2 million comments submitted to the U.S. State Department, tens of thousands participating in rallies against Keystone in all 50 states, and thousands of citizens arrested in peaceful civil disobedience.

“This is a historic moment, not just for what it means about avoiding the impacts of this disastrous pipeline but for all of those who spoke out for a healthy, livable climate and energy policies that put people and wildlife ahead of pollution and profits,” said Valerie Love with the Center for Biological Diversity. “President Obama did the right thing, but he didn’t do it alone: Millions of Americans made their voices heard on this issue, and will continue pressing Obama and other political leaders to do what’s necessary to avoid climate catastrophe.”

Invasive marine species benefit from rising CO2 levels
November 9, 2015 06:24 AM - Plymouth University

Ocean acidification may well be helping invasive species of algae, jellyfish, crabs and shellfish to move to new areas of the planet with damaging consequences, according to the findings of a new report. Slimy, jelly-like creatures are far more tolerant of rising carbon dioxide levels than those with hard parts like corals, since exposed shells and skeletons simply dissolve away as CO2 levels rise. The study, conducted by marine scientists at Plymouth University, has found that a number of notorious ‘nuisance’ species – such as Japanese kelp (Undaria pinnatifida) and stinging jellyfish (Pelagia noctiluca) are resilient to rising CO2 levels. 

The massive Indonesian fires
November 7, 2015 07:25 AM - lisa palmer, Yale Environment360

The fires that blazed in Indonesia’s rainforests in 1982 and 1983 came as a shock. The logging industry had embarked on a decades-long pillaging of the country’s woodlands, opening up the canopy and drying out the carbon-rich peat soils. Preceded by an unusually long El Niño-related dry season, the forest fires lasted for months, sending vast clouds of smoke across Southeast Asia.

Fifteen years later, in 1997 and 1998, a record El Niño year coincided with continued massive land-use changes in Indonesia, including the wholesale draining of peatlands to plant oil palm and wood pulp plantations. Large areas of Borneo and Sumatra burned, and again Southeast Asians choked on Indonesian smoke.

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