Tag Archives | Nature

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.

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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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The Principles Of Uncivilisation

From the writers and activists network Dark Mountain Project, the manifesto of Uncivilisation, a response to the alleged coming unraveling of modern society:

We reject the faith which holds that the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’.

We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilisation: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from ‘nature’. These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths.

We will reassert the role of storytelling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality.

Humans are not the point and purpose of the planet. Our art will begin with the attempt to step outside the human bubble.

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In the Epicenter of a Kill

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Picture: Matt Knoth (CC)

In early June of 2008 I went on a 130 mile canoe trip down a portion of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. I put in at Sauk City, WI, on the Wisconsin river  and ended the journey at the mouth of the Platte River, just before Dubuque, Iowa, on the Mississippi.  I paddled every day for five days and camped every night on white sand beaches. This journey went through some very beautiful and sparsely populated areas, as well as rolling hills and farm country. I saw a lot of wildlife like herons, and hundreds of turtles sunning themselves on logs.  I occasionally saw other boaters, but for the most part I was alone and spoke to no other human beings for days on end.  It was a very surreal experience.

Once, I decided to paddle through the night under the stars. The water was very still as there was little wind that night and no moon, but hundreds of stars were reflected on the river, and those lit my way.… Read the rest

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Brazil To Clone Animals In Danger Of Extinction

After our planet’s climate drastically changes, the wildlife of today will exist in cloned form in tomorrow’s zoos, Inter Press Service reports:

Brazilian scientists are attempting to clone animals in danger of extinction, like the jaguar and maned wolf, although the potential impact on the conservation of these threatened species is still not clear.

The cloning initiative is being undertaken by the Brasilia Zoological Garden in partnership with the Brazilian government’s agricultural research agency, EMBRAPA, and is now in its second phase. “We already have 420 germplasm samples stored in our bank and are going to continue collecting,” [said] EMBRAPA researcher Carlos Frederico Martins.

Eight animals have been chosen, including the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), the jaguar (Panthera onca) and the black lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysopygus). The bank has also been stocked with germplasm from the bush dog (Speothos venaticus), coati (genus Nasua), collared anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla), gray brocket deer (Mazama gouazoubira) and bison (genus Bison).

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