Tag Archives | Nature

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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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.
Continue Reading

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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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…

For more information, see original article.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

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...
Continue Reading

Indonesia’s Plant-Based Birth Control Pill for Men

GandarusaWhile the U.S. progress lags, Indonesia readies a male contraception pill. Patrick Winn writes on Global Post:

On the remote Indonesian island of Papua, tribesmen have long noticed the curious effect of a shrub called “gandarusa.”

If you chew its leaves often enough, men say, your wife won’t get pregnant. Indonesian scientists, who have transferred this folk method from the jungle to the lab, claim they can extract the shrub’s active ingredient and mass produce it as an over-the-counter pill.

If they’re right, they will accomplish what Western pharmaceutical giants have researched but failed to deliver for decades: a birth control pill for men.

“With luck, it could be released late this year, but it will probably be sold in stores early next year,” said Sugiri Syarief, the head of Indonesia’s state-run National Family Planning Coordination Board. Researchers began analyzing gandarusa in 1988, Sugiri said. Animal and human trials began in the 1990s and the plant’s effective compound was patented in 2007.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

The Horrifying ‘Spider Trees’ Of Pakistan

Ah, the wonders and surprises of Mother Nature. The 2010 floods in Pakistan caused an unexpected evolution in arachnoid behavior — to escape the rising waters, millions of spiders took to living in trees. The UK’s Department for International Development has an eye-popping Flickr gallery of what is now typical across Pakistan. The sticky, web-cocooned trees have proven extremely effective at catching pests and curbed the mosquito population. (The trees in the below picture are festooned with dead bugs.)

5571181942_838e448bf5_z

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Earth Getting Mysteriously Windier

Occluded Mesocyclone TornadoMason Inman writes on National Geographic:
The world has gotten stormier over the past two decades — and the reason is a mystery, a new study says. In the past 20 years, winds have picked up around 5 percent on average. Extremely strong winds caused by storms have increased even faster, jumping 10 percent over 20 years, according to the new analysis of global satellite data. The study, the first to look at wind speeds across such a large swath of the planet, bolsters some earlier findings, according to study leader Ian Young, of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. "Some regional studies had found similar results, so we suspected there may be an increasing trend," Young said.
Continue Reading

Artificial Trees Convert CO2 To O2

398px-Trees_near_CoggeshallWhat would happen if there were no longer any trees? Well, we could just make our own. Via AOL News:
It's not nice to fool Mother Nature. Or is it? If you're not getting enough air, you might want to spend time sitting under a newly designed artificial tree that converts carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen. In the modern world of urban pollution, we can't seem to grow enough trees to naturally convert carbon dioxide into life-sustaining air -- the process of photosynthesis -- until now. Researchers at New York's Columbia University, working with Influx Studio in Paris, France, have designed a faux or artificial tree. It's basically a machine fashioned to resemble a dragon blood tree, complete with wide branches and umbrellalike tops that are used as support for the large solar panels...
Continue Reading