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Do Dolphins And Humans Share A Special Bond?

dolphinAre the dolphins trying to tell us something, if we would only listen? Via Aeon Magazine, Justin Gregg ponders:

The science makes one fact undeniably clear: wild dolphins of some species are noted for seeking out social encounters with humans. The phenomenon of lone sociable dolphins — for whom human contact appears to substitute for the company of their own kind — is documented extensively in the scientific literature. Among the better-known examples are Pita from Belize, Davina from England, Filippo from Italy, Tião from Brazil, and JoJo from Turks and Caicos.’

But should this kind of social contact also be considered friendly? There, the record is more ambiguous. Of the 29 well-studied dolphins just mentioned, 13 of them exhibited ‘misdirected sexual behaviour’. A number of these dolphins made a habit of abducting people — dragging them out to sea, preventing them from returning to shore, even pinning them to the seabed.

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Ingenious Skills of Tribal Peoples

A neat photo gallery at Survival International, with text by Joanna Eede:

For many tribal peoples, continuous immersion in nature over thousands of years has resulted in a profound attunement to the subtle cues of the natural world.

Acute observations have taught tribes how to hunt wild game and gather roots and berries, how to sense changes in climate, predict movements of ice sheets, the return of migrating geese and the flowering seasons of fruit trees.

Sophisticated hunting, tracking, husbandry and navigation techniques have also been the ingenious responses of tribal peoples to the challenges of varied, and often hostile, environments.

The development of such observations and skills is not only testament to the latent creativity of humans and their extraordinary ability to adapt, but has also ensured that when living on their lands, employing the techniques they have honed over generations, tribal peoples are typically healthy, self-sufficient and happy.

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Scientists Baffled By Mysterious Tiny Towers Spotted In Peruvian Jungle

tower

Ever get the feeling we have no idea what’s actually going on? Via Wired Science:

Something in the Peruvian Amazon is making weird, intricate structures that resemble white picket fences surrounding an Isengard-like spire. No one has any idea who the mysterious craftsbug (fungus? spider?) is, or what the structure is even used for.

Troy Alexander, a graduate student at Georgia Tech, spotted the first of these structures on June 7. The little, seemingly woven fence was parked on the underside of a blue tarp near the Tambopata Research Center, in southeastern Peru. He later spotted three more of the bizarre enclosures on tree trunks in the jungle.

“I have no idea what made it, or even what it is,” said William Eberhard, an entomologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

“I’ve seen the photo, but have no idea what animal might be responsible,” echoed Norm Platnick, curator emeritus of spiders at the American Museum of Natural History.

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A Jaguar In The Peruvian Jungle Tripping On Hallucinogenic Plants

Did humans discover the components of ayahuasca by observing animals? And when large cats go on a psychedelic trip in the jungle, what do they see? The Daily Grail reveals:
A jaguar in the Peruvian rain forest eating the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, one of the major constituents of the shamanic brew ayahuasca. (The jaguar seems to be affected somewhat by the vine.) To make things doubly interesting, one of the most commonly reported elements in ayahuasca visions are...jaguars! And these visions even seem to transcend cultural and geographical boundaries. Chilean psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo administered harmaline to 35 white, urban volunteers, without telling them the substance they were taking nor the expected effects. He was surprised to note that "strangely enough, tigers, leopards or jaguars were seen by seven subjects even though big cats are not seen in Chile."
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Animals Self-Medicate Far More Than Previously Realized

animals self medicateScience Daily on animal pharmacology as part of the ecosystem:

It’s been known for decades that animals such as chimpanzees seek out medicinal herbs to treat their diseases. But it now appears that the practice of animal self-medication is a lot more widespread than previously thought, according to University of Michigan ecologist Mark Hunter and his colleagues.

Animals use medications to treat various ailments through both learned and innate behaviors. The fact that moths, ants and fruit flies are now known to self-medicate has profound implications for ecology and evolution.

Wood ants incorporate an antimicrobial resin from conifer trees into their nests, preventing microbial growth in the colony. Parasite-infected monarch butterflies protect their offspring against high levels of parasite growth by laying their eggs on anti-parasitic milkweed. Lacking many of the immune-system genes of other insects, honeybees incorporate antimicrobial resins into their nests.

“Perhaps the biggest surprise for us was that animals like fruit flies and butterflies can choose food for their offspring that minimizes the impacts of disease in the next generation,” Hunter said.

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Mass Death Of Bees Accelerated Greatly In 2012

Perhaps genetically engineering poison into our food supply was a short-sighted idea, hints the New York Times:

A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.

A conclusive explanation so far has escaped scientists studying the ailment, colony collapse disorder, since it first surfaced around 2005. But beekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor.

The European Union has proposed to ban the use of neonicotinoids on crops frequented by bees. Some researchers have concluded that neonicotinoids caused extensive die-offs in Germany and France.

The Agriculture Department says a quarter of the American diet, from apples to cherries to watermelons to onions, depends on pollination by honeybees.

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Rainforests Adapting to Global Warming

Man is doing his best to destroy the Earth’s resources, but nature has a way of adapting and resisting. James Fleure reports for Science Recorder:

A team of researchers, led by Dr. Chris Huntingford from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, has discovered more evidence of rainforest resilience to global warming. Their findings reveal that tropical forests are less likely to lose biomass due to global warming than climatologists previously thought. According to the BIOMASS Energy Centre, biomass is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms.

Researchers undertook the most comprehensive study yet of the risk of tropical forest dieback due to global warming. They contend that their results have significant implications for the role of tropical rainforests in the global climate system and carbon cycle.

FatuIva TropicalRainForest 20061111

Researchers utilized computer simulations with 22 climate models to examine the response of the tropical forests in the Americas, Africa and Asia to greenhouse-gas-induced climate change.

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Swarm Of 30 Million Locusts Consumes Egypt

This certainly looks like the end of the world. The last time a swarm of a similar magnitude occurred was 2004, causing massive crop damage across the country. The prevalence of locust mega-outbreaks is expected to increase with global warming:
In Cairo, residents burned tires to create a black fog to keep the locusts from settling in the city. Swarms were also reported to have reached Egypt's Red Sea city of Zafarana, some 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Cairo. The Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture issued a statement saying it had set up task forces to deal with the locust plague.
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Study Suggests Psychiatric Drugs In Water Supply Are Altering Fish Behavior

Anxiety medications flushed down toilets in our pee causing heightened appetite and boldness in fish. Soon the global water supply will be a giant soup of antidepressants. Via the Los Angeles Times:

Pharmaceuticals may be affecting the behavior of wild fish as [the drugs] filters out of our bodies, through our toilets and into treated wastewater that is released into natural water sources, according to a new study.

The findings, which examined the effect of trace levels of the anti-anxiety medication oxazepam on wild European perch, have implications for the survival rates of fish and the delicate food web in aquatic ecosystems.

Scientists have known for years that such “micropollutants” end up in natural waterways like streams and rivers after being flushed through human systems into wastewater. But current research hasn’t really looked at whether psychotherapeutic drugs can affect the behavior of aquatic creatures.

The researchers’ findings could well reflect reality in waters worldwide: Their low concentrations in the lab were roughly equivalent to levels found in wild fish in the River Fyris in Sweden.

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Kentucky Town Terrorized By Swarm Of Millions Of Birds

Will global warming do us in by provoking multitudes of agitated, disease-laden birds to descend upon us? Via the Bangor Daily News:

Millions of birds have descended on a small Kentucky city this winter, fouling the landscape, scaring pets and raising the risk for disease in a real-life version of Alfred Hitchcock’s horror film, “The Birds.”

The blackbirds blacken the sky of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, before roosting at dusk, turn the landscape white with bird poop, and the disease they carry can kill a dog and sicken humans.

David Chiles, president of the Little River Audubon Society, said the migratory flocks’ roosting in the city rather than flying further south is tied to climate warming.

The birds also pose a serious health hazard because their droppings can carry a fungal disease which can cause lung infections and symptoms similar to pneumonia. It is particularly dangerous for people with compromised immune systems or respiratory ailments.

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