Wildlife

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 Universit√§t M√ľnchen

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.

How businesses can help preserve endangered species
December 5, 2014 08:24 AM - Sarah Clinton, Mizzou University

Raptors, or birds of prey, some of which are endangered species, typically live in environments that provide natural land cover, such as forests and grasslands. Protecting endangered raptor species helps maintain food chain balance and prevents overpopulation of common raptor prey, such as snakes and rodents. As more businesses are built on the edges of urban areas, land where raptors once lived becomes industrialized, which raises concerns about the consequences of habitat destruction on raptor populations. Now, University of Missouri researchers have found that businesses can contribute to raptor preservation efforts by engaging in less development of lawn areas and increased planting or preservation of native grasslands and woodlots.

Arabian Sea Humpback Whales Isolated for 70,000 Years
December 3, 2014 04:34 PM - Wildlife Conservation Society

Scientists from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), the Environment Society of Oman, and other organizations have made a fascinating discovery in the northern Indian Ocean: humpback whales inhabiting the Arabian Sea are the most genetically distinct humpback whales in the world and may be the most isolated whale population on earth. The results suggest they have remained separate from other humpback whale populations for perhaps 70,000 years, extremely unusual in a species famed for long distance migrations.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
December 3, 2014 10:18 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or The People’s Tree, began in 1964 when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack (D-MA) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. This tree lived three years before succumbing to wind and root damage. In 1970, the Capitol Architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree. Since then, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide The People’s Tree. This national forest also works with state forests to provide companion trees that are smaller Christmas trees for offices in Washington, D.C. 

 

This year, the 88-foot-tall white spruce tree was harvested from the Chippewa National Forest in northeastern Minnesota by Jim Scheff who won the Logger of the Year award from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI). 

 

That begs the question how can a logger win an award from a sustainability group? 

Do City Birds Outlive Country Birds?
December 1, 2014 08:45 AM - Smithsonian Science

Researchers at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center have found four bird species living in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region that survive longer than those living in rural settings. The study was led by the Migratory Bird Center using the Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch program in which citizen scientists and researchers visit participating residences and parks to collect information about local bird populations. From 2000 to 2012, Neighborhood Nestwatch participants captured, tagged and released more than 7,000 birds from about 280 sites within the urban forest of Rock Creek Park, suburban Maryland backyards and the National Mall.

Manatees need some love too!
November 29, 2014 07:55 AM - Mindy Townsend, Care2

Manatees can be divided up into three distinct species that roughly correlate to where they live. The West Indian manatee lives in the Caribbean and is divided into two subspecies: the Florida manatee and the Antillean or Caribbean manatee. Manatees also live in the Amazon and off the West African coast, called the Amazonian manatee and West African manatee, respectively. (A possible new species of dwarf manatee has been seen in freshwater habitats in the Amazon, but the veracity of that claim in in question.)

According to the IUCN, all three extant species of manatee are considered vulnerable, which means that they are at a heightened risk of extinction. The manatee’s Pacific cousin, the dugong, is also vulnerable. Hopefully, we’ll be able to learn a lesson from our experiences with another manatee relative, the Steller’s sea cow, which humans hunted to extinction less than 30 years after its discovery.

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