Tag Archives | Nature

Wild & Crazy Sci-Fi Abilities of Real-Life Plants

LSOHVia Blastr:

Plants don’t get enough respect as sci-fi monsters. Sure, Triffids will always rule, but sci-fi baddies tend to be mutants, zombies, vampires and other altered mammals. This is in ignorance of plants’ amazingly creepy special abilities. To prove it, we’ve dug up six plant skills that freak us out more than Godzilla.

Eating Rats: Okay, here’s the horrifying plot: You’re a missionary near the Philippine Archipelago. While doing your daily missioning or whatever, you wander up to the top of a mountain. Thirsty, you stumble upon what looks like an ornate birdbath filled with nectar. Leaning over to take a sip, you see a dead rat inside … and it’s slowly being digested by the plant.

This is Nepenthes attenboroughii, one of the most badass scary plants on Earth. See, while most pitcher plants stick to eating bugs, Nepenthes attenboroughii prefers to lure in birds and rats by looking as tasty as possible.

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China’s Economic Boom Fueling Poaching In Africa

ElephantGreg Neale and James Burton writes in the Guardian:

Elephant poaching in Africa and Asia is being fuelled by China’s economic boom, according to a study of the ivory trade.

Authors of the new report found that the number of ivory items on sale in key centres in southern China has more than doubled since 2004, with most traded illegally. The survey comes amid reports of a dramatic rise in rhino poaching across Africa, and a spate of thefts of rhino horns from European museums and auction houses.

Based on the results of their survey, the ivory researchers are calling for China to tighten its enforcement of ivory trading regulations, saying that such a move is vital to reduce the number of elephants that are killed illegally. The report is published on the eve of a meeting in Geneva of the Cites organisation, which is responsible for controlling trade in endangered wildlife species.

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Cryptozoology Meeting In London

ZSL-crypto-composite-June-2011-490-pxCan the search for monsters and mystery creatures please become a reputable branch of science? Scientific American has a report on a meeting of experts who take the matter very seriously. Maybe they can investigate my mother-in-law (*slide whistle*):

The meeting was chaired by Henry Gee. Henry explained how the discovery of Homo floresiensis led him to take seriously the idea that “perhaps stories of other human-like creatures might be founded on grains of truth” (Gee 2004).

Dr. Michael Woodley showed how species discovery curves for large marine animals generally seem to match the numbers of undiscovered species purported to exist on the basis of circumstantial accounts. In discussing several key ‘Cadborosaurus’ and long-necked seal accounts, Michael also explained how – since most cryptozoological claims are published in the ‘grey literature’ – they escape evaluation, even when this is deserved or even required.

If cryptozoology is imagined as the investigation of ‘target’ animals whose existence is supported by circumstantial and/or anecdotal evidence (eyewitness accounts forming the bulk of such evidence), then one might argue (as I have) that cryptozoology is practised far and wide by ‘ordinary’, technically qualified biologists.

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Our Brain’s Neurons Look Exactly Like The Structure Of The Universe

neuron2At top is a microscopic photo of a few neurons. Below it is a simulated rendering of what astrophysicists believe to be the universe’s structure, with clusters of galaxies and dark matter. Marvel at the remarkable symmetry and wonder, do we exist inside a gigantic brain? Via Convozine:

One is only micrometers wide. The other is billions of light-years across. One shows neurons in a mouse brain. The other is a simulated image of the universe. Together they suggest the surprisingly similar patterns found in vastly different natural phenomena.

Mark Miller, a doctoral student at Brandeis University, is researching how particular types of neurons in the brain are connected to one another. The image [on the left] shows three neuron cells on the left (two red and one yellow) and their connections.

An international group of astrophysicists used a computer simulation last year to recreate how the universe grew and evolved.

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World’s Largest Cicada Brood Begins Hatching In U.S. South

cicadasIf the world is going to end this coming weekend, this seems about right. USA Today notes:

Here comes the Brood. An enormous brood of cicadas that covers parts of 16 states is beginning to wake from its 13-year slumber underground.

The inch-long insects have been reported hatching in South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Arkansas. They will appear farther north as soil temperatures reach 64 degrees.

“There are billions of them in the trees,” Greta Beekhuis says, speaking by phone from Pittsboro, N.C. The sound of the cicadas is clearly audible over the line. “When I drove from my house to the grocery store, I ran over thousands of them. They’re everywhere. The air is just thick with them.”

Scientists call these cicadas the Great Southern Brood or Brood XIX. It is the world’s largest “periodical” brood, one that surfaces after years.

Cicadas aren’t dangerous, and are non-toxic and even edible, says Kritsky, a biology professor at the College of Mount St.

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Insects Recover Lost ‘Wings’

Female Buffalo Treehopper (Stictocephala bisonia) boring a hole into a branch for laying eggs. Photo: Quartl (CC)

Female Buffalo Treehopper (Stictocephala bisonia) boring a hole into a branch for laying eggs. Photo: Quartl (CC)

Is evolution backtracking? Physorg reports:

The extravagant headgear of small bugs called treehoppers are in fact wing-like appendages that grew back 200 million years after evolution had supposedly cast them aside, according to a study published Thursday in Nature.

That’s probably shocking news if you are an entomologist, and challenges some very basic ideas about what makes an insect an insect, the researchers said. The thorax of all insects is by definition divided into three segments, each with a pair of legs.

In most orders, there are also two pairs of wings, one on the middle segment of the thorax and another at the rear. Other orders such as flies and mosquitoes have only one set of wings, at the rear, and a few — most ants, for example — have no wings at all.

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Termites Eat Millions Of Indian Rupees In Bank

TermitesVia Yahoo News:
LUCKNOW, India – It was an all you can eat buffet at the bank. An army of termites munched through 10 million rupees ($222,000) in currency notes stored in a steel chest at a bank, police in northern India said Friday. The bank manager discovered the damage when he opened the reinforced room in an old bank building on Wednesday, police officer Navneet Rana told The Associated Press. "It's a matter of investigation how termites attacked bundles of currency notes stacked in a steel chest," he said. The money was put in the chest in January. The termites had damaged bank furniture and documents in the past. The police have registered a case of negligence against bank officials in Barabanki, a town 20 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Lucknow, the Uttar Pradesh state capital. In India, police register a case before opening an investigation.
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Bolivia Grants Human Rights To Planet Earth

Laguna Suches Perú, Bolivia. Photo: Rojk (CC)

In a blur of where Governments begin and end, Mother Nature is granted rights just like humans. Sadly, she still can’t vote. Via Wired:

Bolivia is to pass a law — called la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra (The Law of Mother Earth) —  which will grant nature equal rights to humans.

The law — the first of its kind — aims to encourage a major shift in attitudes towards conservation and to reduce pollution and exploitation of natural resources. It sees a range of new rights established for nature including the right to life; the right to water and clean air; the right to repair livelihoods affected by human activities and the right to be free of pollution.

Bolivia is one of South America’s poorest countries and is seeing its rural communities suffer with failing crops due to climatic events such as floods and droughts.

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Why Are Penguins Losing Their Feathers?

Photo: Jeffrey Smith

Photo: Jeffrey Smith

Jennifer Viegas writes for Discovery News:

A new condition is causing many penguin chicks to lose their feathers, with some victims dying as a result of the mysterious problem, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The condition, called “feather-loss disorder,” appears to have emerged recently and is now affecting penguin colonies on both sides of the South Atlantic.

“Feather-loss disorders are uncommon in most bird species, and we need to conduct further study to determine the cause of the disorder and if this is in fact spreading to other penguin species,” Dee Boersma was quoted as saying in a WCS press release. Boersma has conducted studies on Magellanic penguins for more than three decades.

“We need to learn how to stop the spread of feather-loss disorder,” she added, “as penguins already have problems with oil pollution and climate variation. It’s important to keep disease from being added to the list of threats they face.”

So far, Boersma and her colleagues offer the following as possible causes for feather-loss disorder: pathogens, thyroid disorders, nutrient imbalances or genetics…

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The Last Free People On Earth

Joanna Eede writes for National Geographic:
Deep in one of the remotest parts of the Brazilian Amazon, in a clearing at the headwaters of the Envira River, an Indian man looks up at an aeroplane. He is surrounded by kapok trees and banana plants, and by the necessities of his life: a thatched hut, its roof made from palm fronds; a plant-fiber basket brimming with ripe pawpaw; a pile of peeled manioc, lying bright-white against the rain forest earth.
The man’s body is painted red from crushed seeds of the annatto shrub, and in his hand...
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