Tag Archives | Nature

Chimps Attacking Humans In Revenge For Habitat Destruction?

Does this portend a future war between apes and humanity? Local media in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are interpreting a spate of chimp violence perpetrated against people as motivated by revenge. Via New Scientist:

Habitat loss may be to blame for an apparent spate of violent attacks by chimpanzees on humans in the war-torn eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mistrust of chimpanzees has been heightened by local media reports, which suggest that as many as 10 people have been killed and 17 injured by chimps, in acts that were reported as “revenge attacks” for people encroaching on their territory.

Klaus Zuberbuhler, a psychologist at the University of St Andrews in Fife, UK, and scientific director of the Budongo Conservation Field Station in Uganda, says restricting the chimps’ habitat can certainly affect their behaviour, though it is debatable whether the chimps’ aggression towards humans is a form of revenge.

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Giant Eyeball Washes Ashore On Florida Beach

The Orlando Sentinel reports on a monstrous find:

In Pompano Beach, Gino Covacci noticed a strange ball-like object at the high tide line. He kicked it over and found himself staring at the biggest eyeball he had ever seen. “It was very, very fresh,” he said Thursday. “It was still bleeding when I put it in the plastic bag.”

He notified a police officer, who gave him the phone number for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It will be preserved in formalin, a mixture of formaldehyde and water, before being sent for analysis to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, said Carli Segelson, spokeswoman for the wildlife commission.

No one could say immediately what species the giant eye came from. Charles Messing, a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center, said he couldn’t rule out a giant squid.

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A Science In Search Of A Subject

"Water's Early Journey in a Solar System" (Artist Rendition)

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ever wondered if we are not alone in the universe?

As this truly nerdgasmic crash-course by Robert A. Freitas Jr speculates, the scope for alien life could be positively astronomical.  Via xenology.info:

Xenology is the study of all aspects of life, intelligence, and civilization indigenous to environments other than Earth. Over the last three decades xenology has advanced rapidly on many fronts. Biochemists have studied the origin of life on this planet, knowing that if they can duplicate the major early steps of “abiogenesis” in the laboratory then the evolution of alien life is a very likely – maybe inevitable – event. NASA biologists have spent much time developing sophisticated life detection instruments such as the miniature biochemical automated test laboratories carried to Mars by Viking in 1976. There is growing interest in SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, in which radio scientists look for powerful transmissions or leakage radiation from advanced extraterrestrial supercivilizations.

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Simple, Brainless Organisms Store Memories Externally

Barely-alive creatures, such as the slime mold at right, are able to produce “memories” — they just store them in their physical surroundings rather than a brain, Ars Technica has the latest news on the secret lives of simple beings:

Is it possible to know where you’ve been when you don’t have a brain? Depending on your definition of “know,” the answer may be yes. Researchers have shown that the slime mold, an organism without anything that resembles a nervous system (or, for that matter, individual cells), is capable of impressive feats of navigation. It can even link food sources in optimally spaced networks. Now, researchers have shown it’s capable of filling its environment with indications of where it has already searched for food, allowing it to “remember” its past efforts and focus its attention on routes it hasn’t explored.

In the course of studying the slime mold, some researchers noticed that the slime mold would avoid any areas covered in slime.

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New Zealand Grants Personhood Rights To River

In my eyes, this makes more sense than the Citizens United ruling. Via Care2:

In a landmark case for the Rights of Nature, officials in New Zealand recently granted the Whanganui, the nation’s third-longest river, with legal personhood “in the same way a company is, which will give it rights and interests”. The decision follows a long court battle for the river’s personhood initiated by the Whanganui River iwi, an indigenous community with strong cultural ties to the waterway.

Under the settlement, the river is regarded as a protected entity, under an arrangement in which representatives from both the iwi and the national government will serve as legal custodians towards the Whanganui’s best interests.

While it may seem an odd extension of rights, in many ways it harkens back to a time when mankind’s fate was more readily acknowledged as being intertwined with that of the rivers, lakes, and streams that sustained us.

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Birds Hold Funerals For Their Dead

Disputing the notion that the deaths of animals are insignificant or interchangeable, Discovery News writes that birds gather in vigil by their dead and join together in song:

Researchers have just observed what appears to be the avian version of a funeral. Teresa Iglesias and colleagues studied the western scrub jay and discovered that when one bird dies, the others do not just ignore the body. Multiple jays often fly down to gather around the deceased.

The subsequent ceremony isn’t quiet either. “Discovery of a dead conspecific elicits vocalizations that are effective at attracting conspecifics, which then also vocalize, thereby resulting in a cacophonous aggregation,” Iglesias and her team wrote.

Prior research suggests giraffes and elephants might also hold ceremonies for their dead. If so, perhaps there are shared factors with humans and birds. Solidifying group togetherness and social bonding appear to be key benefits, along with learning how to avoid (if possible) whatever did in the deceased.

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The Growing Silence Of The Natural World

The rich, complex musical symphonies produced by nature are now being irrevocably destroyed. The Guardian writes:

When musician and naturalist Bernie Krause drops his microphones into the pristine coral reef waters of Fiji, he picks up a raucous mix of sighs, beats, glissandos, cries, groans, tones, grunts, beats and clicks. The water pulsates with the sound of creatures vying for acoustic bandwidth. He hears crustaceans, parrot fish, anemones, wrasses, sharks, shrimps, puffers and surgeonfish.

But half a mile away, where the same reef is badly damaged, he can only pick up the sound of waves and a few snapping shrimp. It is, he says, the desolate sound of extinction.

Krause, whose electronic music with Paul Beaver was used on classic films like Rosemary’s Baby and Apocalypse Now, has spent 40 years recording over 15,000 species, collecting 4,500 hours of sound from many of the world’s pristine habitats.

But such is the rate of species extinction and the deterioration of pristine habitat that he estimates half these recordings are now archives, impossible to repeat because the habitats no longer exist or because they have been so compromised by human noise.

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The Fukushima Disaster Produced Mutant Irradiated Butterflies

Radiation turns your dreams to nightmares, via Mother Jones:

Researchers collected butterflies immediately following the nuclear meltdown and six months later, both from the surrounding areas of Fukushima and from various other localities in Japan. As compared with the butterflies collected from elsewhere, Fukushima butterflies showed some abnormally-developed legs, dented eyes, deformed wing shapes, and changes to the color and spot patterns of their wings, with an overall abnormality rate of around 12 percent.

While these levels of mutations were still relatively mild, more alarming were the same data on butterflies collected six months later, in September of last year. The overall rate of similar mutations among these butterflies was around 28 percent, while this number skyrocketed to around 52 percent in the second generation produced from the collected butterflies.

The study renews worries that humans, too, might be affected by the released radiation in the Fukushima area, but the researchers insist that this is not an easy line to draw.

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The Nazi Plan To Breed Lost Animal Species

Jurassic Park fifty years prior? Cabinet Magazine on a strange form of zoology in Nazi Germany, centered around the cordoning off of untainted forests for the re-creation of pure, ancient breeds of ponies, boars, and a mystical striped oxen called the auroch:

In 1920, the brothers Lutz and Heinz Heck, directors of the Berlin and Munich zoos, respectively, began a two-decade breeding experiment. Working with domestic cattle sought out for their “primitive” characteristics, they attempted to recreate “in appearance and behavior” the living likeness of the animals’ extinct wild ancestor: the aurochs.

This conflation of biological and aesthetic destiny coincided with a strain of Nazi thought that sought to apply pseudo-Darwinian theories in support of a racialized conception of the state. In this mode, the zoologist Konrad Lorenz identified parallels between the changes he observed in animals as the result of their domestication and what he saw as the deleterious genetic effects of civilization.

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The A to Z of Foraging

Fir002 (CC)

From The Ecologist:

Fed up of paying a premium for supermarket berries and herbs? Take a walk on the wild side and pick your own

Foraging – a word that evokes images of wild boars scouring for truffles and dawn raids on your local woodland’s wild mushroom supply – is set to become a major food trend in 2012, according to a recent study by food and drink tasting company My Secret Kitchen. Fresh, wild food is an attractive option for those strapped for cash or who simply want to avoid supermarket produce and eat more naturally. ‘During the recession, more people have been buying British produce and cooking homemade dishes so the natural next step was foraging,’ says Phil Moran of My Secret Kitchen. ‘It’s all about people wanting to go back to their roots and to feel more in control psychologically.’

Fortunately though, raiding Mother Nature’s buffet of goodies doesn’t require burying your face into the forest floor wild-hog-style.

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