Wildlife

New study finds massive eruptions likely triggered mass extinction
September 16, 2015 09:14 AM - Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office

Around 252 million years ago, life on Earth collapsed in spectacular and unprecedented fashion, as more than 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species disappeared in a geological instant. The so-called end-Permian mass extinction ­— or more commonly, the “Great Dying” — remains the most severe extinction event in Earth’s history.

Is the fate of the polar bear really doomed?
September 9, 2015 08:36 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

With global warming and melting ice, it isn’t easy being a polar bear anymore. Some studies have predicted that polar bears could very well be extinct by the end of the century. The good news is not all researchers think the bears are absolutely doomed. Scientists at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) have published a new paper indicating that things might not be as bleak for polar bears as their peers expect.

The long-term effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill
September 8, 2015 10:02 AM - NOAA FISHERIES WEST COAST REGION via EurekAlert

For 25 years, methodical research by scientists has investigated the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 on Alaskan communities and ecosystems. A new study released today into the effects of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska shows that embryonic salmon and herring exposed to very low levels of crude oil can develop hidden heart defects that compromise their later survival, indicating that the spill may have had much greater impacts on spawning fish than previously recognized.

The herring population crashed four years after the spill in Prince William Sound and pink salmon stocks also declined, but the link to the oil spill has remained controversial. The new findings published in the online journal Scientific Reports suggest that the delayed effects of the spill may have been important contributors to the declines.

Hummingbirds and Hawks, perfect together?
September 6, 2015 07:58 AM - Elizabeth Pennisi - Science

Sometimes it pays to have big, bad neighbors. Weighing in at about 3 grams, black-chinned hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri) can do little but stand by and watch Mexican jays 40 times their weight chow down on their eggs. So in the mountains of southeastern Arizona, the hummers have learned to build their nests near goshawk and Cooper’s hawk nests (Accipiter gentilis and Accipiter cooperii). Almost five times bigger than the jays (Amphelocoma wollweberi), the hawks enjoy these birds for lunch. So to avoid hawks swooping down and surprising them, the jays only forage above the hawks’ nests. Thus a cone-shaped safe zone exists below the 20-meter-high hawk nests, extending out about 100 meters, researchers report today in Science Advances. Of 342 hummer nests studied over three years, 80% were near hawk nests—and for good reason.

The million year old monkey
September 5, 2015 08:08 AM - University of Melbourne

An international team of scientists have dated a species of fossil monkey found across the Caribbean to just over 1 million years old.

The discovery was made after the researchers recovered a fossil tibia (shin bone) belonging to the species of extinct monkey Antillothrix bernensis from an underwater cave in Altagracia Province, Dominican Republic. The fossil was embedded in a limestone rock that was dated using the Uranium-series technique.

In a paper published this week in the well renowned international journal, the Journal of Human Evolution, the team use three-dimensional geometric morphometrics to confirm that the fossil tibia does indeed belong to Antillothrix bernensis, a primate that we now know existed on Hispaniola relatively unchanged for over a million years. This monkey, roughly the size of a small cat, was tree-dwelling and lived largely on a diet of fruit and leaves.

Ants - Pests or pest controllers?
September 2, 2015 08:55 AM - Jessica Ramos, Care2

While many are used to thinking of ants as pests (especially during the summertime), new research published in British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology says not so fast. Ants are actually pest controllers. They’re efficient, sustainable and safe, and these little guys are making a big impact on our planet.

Ocean plastic plague threatens seabirds
September 1, 2015 12:36 PM - Chris Wilcox, Britta Denise Hardesty & Erik van Sebille, The Ecologist

Already 60% of seabird species have plastic in their guts, often as much as 8% of their body weight. And with ocean plastic increasing exponentially, that figure will rise to 99% by 2050, threatening some birds' survival. Unless we act.

Fossil of prehistoric sea scorpion discovered in Iowa!
August 31, 2015 10:16 PM - BIOMED CENTRAL via EurekAlert

The fossil of a previously unknown species of 'sea scorpion', measuring over 1.5 meters long, has been discovered in Iowa, USA, and described in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology

Dating back 460 million years, it is the oldest known species of eurypterid (sea scorpion) - extinct monster-like predators that swam the seas in ancient times and are related to modern arachnids.

Looking into a Chameleon's Eye
August 31, 2015 08:49 AM - NoCamels Team, NoCamels

Well known among nature’s best tricksters for their ability to change color to fit their background, chameleons have yet another talent up their lizardly sleeves – eyes that swivel around and appear to be looking in two directions at once.

Walrus's hit the beaches again
August 29, 2015 07:11 AM - WWF Global

On both sides of the Bering Strait, summer sea ice has once more dropped to a level that is driving thousands of walruses onto coastal beaches.
 
Photos taken in Ryrkaypiy in Chukotka, Russia show an estimated 5,000 walruses hauled out in that spot, while across the strait in the United States, thousands more are hauled out near the village of Point Lay, Alaska. Villagers in both places are working to protect resting walrus herds from curious onlookers, as walruses hauled out in such large numbers on beaches are prone to being stampeded, killing smaller animals in the crush.
 
During the late summer and early fall, the Pacific walruses of the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska and of Russia’s Chukotka prefer to rest on sea ice over the shallow waters of the continental shelf.  In those areas they can readily access food on the seabed.

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