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July 31st, 2014

thorn-devil

The thorny devil (Moloch horridus) looks like something straight out of an old Japanese monster film. Thankfully, the lizard only averages eight inches (20 centimeters) long and spends most of its time terrorizing ants, not denizens of Tokyo.

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July 25th, 2014

Manvarg_(Chrysocyon_brachyurus)

The maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is the largest canid species in South America. It lives in the grasslands and scrub forests of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru.

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July 14th, 2014

WCM_Logo_horiz

Nature host Chris Morgan gives us a tour of his campsite in the Gunung Leuser National Park on the island of Sumatra. Chris and the rest of the crew take refuge here while they prepare to hoist camera gear 50 meters into the air to film wild orangutans. The interactive map below shows other locations that Chris has visited. Where will he turn up next?


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July 14th, 2014

WCM_Logo_horiz

Nature host Chris Morgan joins wildlife cinematographer Joe Pontecorva for a coffee break high above the Sumatran jungle. They are on the look out for orangutans, the subjects of an upcoming Nature episode set to premiere in the spring of 2015. On the interactive map below you can see some of the other locations Chris has visited. Where will he pop up next? Stay tuned.


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February 25th, 2014

Dear Cloud and Pryor Wild Horse friends;

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From top to bottom, the Pryor Mountains are blanketed with snow. Only the deep green junipers and multicolored cliffs break a landscape of white.  Erika Liljestrand, our newest member of the Cloud Foundation team, and photographer extraordinaire, friend and lover of all things wild, Deb Little, accompany me into the teeth of winter.  For five days we search for wild horses in a forbidding yet wondrous wilderness.

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November 10th, 2013
  1. What Do You Really Know About Octopuses?

    Although they have fascinated us and captured our imaginations for eons, there is much about the octopus that we still don’t know. In a new book, Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea, by Katherine Harmon Courage, the author attempts to fill the gaps in our knowledge. Some interesting facts, as outlined by the Smithsonian review, are that an octopus has three hearts, its tentacles are so heavily neurally wired that they practically act as a separate mind, and its blood is blue.

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November 2nd, 2013
  1. Mouse Immune to Scorpion Venom.

    The small grasshopper mouse of North America can do something no human can do — endure the bite of a bark scorpion without ill effects. It does it by way of an evolutionary twist. It has evolved to become immune to the bite of the bark scorpion. On a molecular level, the evolutionary change causes the specific nerve channel that normally signals pain when the venom is introduced into the system is deactivated in the grasshopper mouse. Scientists are now investigating whether the change to the mouse’s nervous system was inevitable given that scorpions make us a large percentage of the mouse’s diet.

    More at Smithsonianmag.com.

  2. Australia’s “Lost World.”

    Have a look at what is called a lost world in one of Australia’s most remote regions. At Cape Melville in the Cape York Peninsula in Northern Australia, an expedition has uncovered several new species of gekko as well as other vertebrates never seen before. The animals that live in this remote region have been cut off and isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years.

    More at hindustantimes.com.

  3. Invasive Weed Helps Bees on Fiji.

    Usually, invasive new species cause ecological problems for the areas into which they are imported. However, on the island of Fiji, a recent introduction of a weed, normally considered a nuisance to farmers, has proved to be a big hit among the island’s bee population. The weed, called Sphagneticola trilobata, looks like a creeping form of daisy, and since it arrived the bees have thrived. The news is especially exciting since it suggests that the general decline of bee populations in Europe and North America might be helped by new flowering plants that might otherwise be considered invasive.

    More at Nature World News.

  4. Money for the Monarch.

    The monarch butterfly is such a beloved North American species that it is the state butterfly or insect in seven different states. A new effort to save the monarch, whose numbers have been significantly reduced in recent years, is underway. Pledged contributions from individual donors could amount to 6.64 billion dollars, if a recent survey of American households is accurate. If the monarch is going to be saved, there must be a “grassroots” effort to replace the milkweed plants upon which it depends during its migration and which have been lost due to new farming practices. Jay Diffendorfer, a US Geological Survey scientist said: “By reallocating some of those purchases to monarch-friendly plants, people would be able to contribute to the conservation of the species as well as maintain a flower garden.”

    More at redOrbit.

  5. Asian Carp Likely Have Breached Great Lakes.

    It was the event that environmentalists have long feared but fully expected. After spending millions of dollars on electrified fences to keep the invasive asian carp out of the Great Lakes watershed, there is now evidence that the fish has found its way in and may be breeding. If the asian carp spreads throughout the Great Lakes, the fishing industry there can expect losses in the billions of dollars.

    More at Yahoo.

  6. Beavers and Forest Fires.

    As forest fire headlines become more common, more creative prevention methods are being raised. One idea that has gotten little attention is discussed in Wildlife News. Before the era of the beaver trade, widespread beaver ponds throughout the country offered nature’s answer to forest fires: natural fire breaks and an increase in humidity and ground water levels that help stem forest fires. An idea as simple and inexpensive as restoring the beaver population at least in forest fire susceptible areas on the country might go a long way towards staving off future mega-forest fires.

    More at The Wildlife News.

  7. California’s Bobcats Get New Help.

    Bobcats are still hunted in California and elsewhere for their fur, spurred by active asian and european markets that put a high price on pelts. Determined to protect its bobcats, Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation forbidding the trapping of bobcats in areas near its national parks. The legislation was in response to persistent reports that trappers were using bait to lure bobcats out of Joshua Tree National park, so that they could legally trap them. Previous California legislation has also banned the use of lead bullets for hunting in order to prevent the unintended consequence of lead poisoning of other wildlife.

    More at livescience.

  8. This Crustacean Has Venom.

    There are some 70,000 species of crustaceans in the world, but up to now none of them was known to be venomous. A newly discovered species that lives in underwater caves in several places around the world is the first exception. Speleonectes tulumensis has been identified as the first venomous crustacean. The animal looks something like a centipede but is in the crustacean and not the insect family. It produces a venom that is a neurotoxin similar in chemical structure to spider venom. Scientists believe there are other venomous crustacean species that we have not yet discovered.

    More at Sci-News.

  9. The New Big Foot.

    You may never have heard of Argentinosaurus huinculensis, but if you were around 94 million years ago, you likely would have heard him coming. Using computer models, scientists have reproduced what they believe to be the likely gait of Argentinosaurus, who, at 131 feet long, was the world’s largest known dinosaur. Weighing in at a svelte 88 tons, the animal could probably lumber along at around 5 mph. Watch the video and you can see it in action.

    More at livescience.

  10. For Dogs, A Wag Is Not Just a Wag.

    gs, A Wag Is Not Just a Wag.
    You may think you know your dog but a new study suggests that how a dog wags can tell you how it is feeling. The scientists conducting the study found that since dogs, like humans, have bilateral brains, each of which operates somewhat differently, the direction of wagging is just an indication of which brain hemisphere is active. According to the study, wagging to the right indicates a positive mind set for the dog, while wagging to the left is associated with more negative emotions. And, indeed, tests show that a dog can correctly interpret the way another dog is wagging its tail and uses this information to alter its behavior. For example, in the study, dogs watching videos of other dogs reacted more anxiously to negative tail wags than to positive ones.

    More at ScienceDaily.

“The Dirt: This Week in Nature” curated and written by Robert Raciti.

October 29th, 2013
  1. Animal Sound Accents.

    What does a lion sound like in Chinese? For a little fun, Global Animal presents the way the sounds of various animals are heard in a variety of countries.

    More at Global Animal.

  2. Australian Fires Blamed on Eucalyptus Trees.

    The Eucalyptus tree is native to Australia, but it has been exported around the world, most notably to California where it is quite common. The recent spate of fires in Australian forests has put a spotlight on the eucalyptus tree. The tree is actually resistant to forest fires,which actually serve to propagate new plants since the seed pods open up during fires. By coming back quickly after a fire, the eucalyptus outcompetes other plants and trees. However, when it does burn it spreads the fire quickly because its oils are flammable and its leaves disintegrate quickly, creating burning embers that fly through the air and spark new fires. The thousands of eucalyptus trees in California are also responsible for that area’s susceptibility to extensive forest fires. Once again, with little forethought, humans have spread a dangerous invasive species and now must suffer the consequences.

    More at Yahoo.

  3. Herpes Simplex, Our Constant Companion.

    You might not be pleased about getting a cold sore and you may already know that it is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). What you may not know is that the virus has been with us since humanity emerged from Africa and expanded into Europe and Asia 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. Recently, scientists have genetically sequenced strains of HSV-1 from samples take from around the world. They were stunned to realize that the genetic changes in HSV-1 match the anthropological theory of how our ancestors populated the world “out of Africa.” Indeed, the tale told by the genetic fingerprints of HSV-1 matches the expected genetic mutations of the various world populations if they had emerged from Africa in that time frame.

    More at Science Daily.

  4. How I Spent My Summer Vacation.

    For a high school student named Kevin Terris, the 2009 school field trip to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah was indeed a memorable one. Hiking along some stone outcroppings in the park, Kevin spotted what looked like a piece of bone in the rocks. He studied it more closely and eventually realized that he was looking at an ancient skull. In fact, Kevin has discovered what turned out to be the most complete fossilized skeleton of a baby duck-billed dinosaur. The dinosaur, Parasaurolophus, lived in what is now Utah some 75 million years ago. Scientists have since made 3-D digital scans of the find. The specimen, nicknamed “Joe,” can be seen in person at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, California.

    More at Science Daily.

  5. New Human Ancestor Fossil May Be Game Changer.

    The world of physical anthropology was abuzz this week with the publication of findings based on fossils recovered from Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia. A total of five skull fossils of early hominids were discovered there in 2005. One of the skulls was the most complete ever found. The skulls date back to 1.8 million years ago, a time when the genus Homo, had penetrated into Europe and Asia. But the most startling part of the new analysis is that the differences between the five skulls has supported a theory of the human family tree which is much simpler and more straightforward than others. Rather than the existence of several species of the genus Homo in that time frame, the new analysis suggests a single genus and species with individual differences that over the years have been mistaken for different species.

    More at NY Times.

  6. Oarfish and Earthquakes.

    The giant oarfish that washed up on the beaches of California last week were remarkable because of their size. Normally, these fish live in the deep waters and are rarely seen. But an ancient Japanese myth says that the beaching of oarfish portends an earthquake. Sometimes ancient myths have a basis in scientific reality and it is possible according to scientists that oarfish are sensitive to and detect seismic disturbances before an earthquake. For now, without scientific inquiry, the myth remains a myth.

    More at Yahoo.

  7. Outsmarting Bird Flu.

    As concerning as the bird flu (H7N9) has been to the medical community, what really keeps these professionals up at night is the next possible mutation of the virus that could make it even more transmissible and lethal. That is why scientists from the Netherlands have teamed up to deliberately induce H7N9 to mutate under strictly controlled laboratory conditions. The research is being conducted in a highly isolated area of Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam and the expectation is that when new mutations of H7N9 are created there, scientists will at the same time learn what vaccines will likely counter its lethality. The work is not without criticism. Some scientists point to the highly risky nature of the work and the possibility of accidental release, while others are concerned that the research could fall into the hands of terrorists.

    More at HuffPo.

  8. New Finds in the Amazon.

    The jungles of the amazon continue to supply scientists with bevies of new species. Have a look at a new “purring” monkey as well as a new piranha species that is actually vegetarian. In all, 10% of the world’s species can be found in the Amazon.

    More at The Guardian.

  9. The Audubon Biography.

    Smithsonian.com salutes the memory of John James Audubon. As an amateur bird enthusiast, Audubon almost single-handedly romanticized the study and appreciation of birds in nature. From his early 19th century childhood, this brief autobiography traces how Audubon’s obsession with birds led to the publication of one of the most beautiful and influential books on the natural world.

    More at Smithsonian.com.

  10. Chimps Use Long Term Memory for Foraging.

    You’re not likely to forget the location of your favorite restaurant even if you haven’t visited it for some time. It turns out that chimpanzees, our closest relative, have a similar long term memory tool. Researchers watching female chimps forage over a period of several weeks realized that some of the trees they visited were not based upon present sensory cues, but instead were based upon their memory of the tree having been a good source of food in the past. The researchers concluded that chimps, “remember feeding experiences long after trees have been emptied.”

    More at redOrbit.

“The Dirt: This Week in Nature” curated and written by Robert Raciti.

October 25th, 2013
  1. Elephants “Get the Point of Pointing.”

    In the New York Times science section, Carl Zimmer discusses a recent demonstration that puts elephants amongst a select group of animals, including dogs, that understand the meaning of a pointed human finger. One would think that chimpanzees intuitively understand that pointing is meant to draw the individual’s attention to something, but they don’t. However, in a test involving elephants, Dr. Richard Byrne of the University of Saint Andrews, found that elephants understand the concept and get it right at about the same percentage as one-year old human babies.

    More at NY Times.

  2. Big Cats Are Big Suckers for Big Name Perfumes.

    Zoo insiders have long known that the big cats respond to perfume scents. But in 2010, the Wildlife Conservation Society decided to do some scientific experiments to see just how the big cats responded. Bronx Zoo curator Pat Thomas describes the reaction of some big cats to perfume sprayed on a tree: “Sometimes they would start drooling, their eyes would half close, it was almost like they were going into a trance.” Of the popular brands, Calvin Klein’s “Obsession for Men,” is quite popular among the big cats. In fact, jaguars in Central America have been persuaded to visit camera traps by a liberal use of the scent.

    More at redOrbit.

  3. Do Dogs Really Love Us?

    When Gregory Berns lost his dog, Newton, of 14 years, he decided that he wanted to know whether Newton really loved him. And since Berns was a leading expert in interpreting human brain scans, he took a scientific approach to the problem. Using fMRI testing, he soon learned what he, as a dog owner, long suspected. In dogs, as in humans, the same region of the brain, the caudate nucleus, is activated when strong emotional responses are experienced. Bern’s book, “The Emotional Lives of Animals,” explores in details the similarities and differences between the emotional lives of humans and other animals.

    More at livescience.

  4. Echos of Jurassic Park.

    A discovery reminiscent of the story line in classic movie, Jurassic Park, played out in real life. It turns out that a fossil of a 46 million-year-old mosquito encased in amber had been in the possession of a collector for the past 30 years. Recently, Dale Greenwalt, a retired scientist, noticed something unusual about the fossil. The body of the mosquito was obviously engorged by the blood of whatever creature it has last bitten. But here the similarity to Jurassic Park ends. For one thing, dinosaurs were already extinct 46 million years ago. For another, it is unlikely in the extreme that DNA this old can ever be reconstituted.

    More at redOrbit.

  5. Armored Fish Resists Piranha.

    The arapaima is a fish that lives in a bad neighborhood. Its home in the fresh waters of the Amazon river is shared by the vicious piranha fish, whose razor-like teeth can make fast work of most other fish. However, the arapaima has evolved a suitable defense: scales that act like armor protect it from even the bite of the piranha. Scientists studying the scales of the arapaima have learned that the overlapping scales are composed of spiral like structures that have some elastic properties. This means that when bitten, the arapaima’s scales can distribute the load of the force of the tooth and avoid rupture. In another hats off to nature, there also may be military applications for the arapaima’s unique defense.

    More at livescience.

  6. Where Are the Moose?

    Fifteen years ago, Minnesota’s moose populations were doing quite well. Today, there is a serious decline underway — so serious that all moose hunting has been suspended. This year, the death rate for calves was over 70%, which is far higher than normal. Predation by a larger wolf population may be one factor, but scientists are also taking blood samples to see if some unknown pathogen is involved.

    More at Minnesota Public Radio.

  7. Learning Among Primates Enhanced by Tool Availability.

    Just as children learn to use tools by watching adults use them, primate youngsters also learn from example. The more available these artifacts are in a primate population, the more likely that young primates will begin learning to also use them. A key component is the durability of the tools. Stone tools, such as the large stones that are used by some chimps to break open nut shells, are durable and remain within the population group for a long time. These type of artifacts, as opposed to organic matter that disintegrates over a short time, best support the generational transfer of technical learning among primates.

    More at PHYS.ORG.

  8. Citizen Scientists Call Out Local Geckos.

    In Los Angeles, the natural history museum is extending its resources by enlisting the help of ordinary citizens in identifying new species. For example, the Mediterranean House Gecko was introduced into the LA area in 1910. But how many of these species are around today? Individuals with an interest in science are taking photos and calling in new species at a remarkable rate. Museum curator Greg Pauly says: “With these citizen science programs, we’re learning about these populations at a rapid rate. Every couple of weeks I get a new e-mail, a new observation. It’s shocking how often this is happening right now.” Anyone can play. If you live in the Los Angeles area and have an interesting find, here is the place to send your photos: RASCals (follow link).

    More at Southern California Public Radio.

  9. An Underwater World Just Off Manhattan’s Coastline.

    Live Science presents an OpEd video that depicts a vast and yet poorly understood underwater world just 100 miles off Manhattan’s coast. The beautiful videography in this commentary will introduce you to the plants and animals that inhabit the huge canyons and seamounts that remain hidden from our view. The film was produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which opposes gas and oil drilling.

    More at livescience.

  10. Last Home of the Neanderthals?

    Archeologists believe that a site on the British Isles called La Cotte de St Brelade cave, first investigated in 1910, may be one of the last refuges of the Neanderthals in Northwestern Europe. Using a process called Optically Stimulated Luminesce, teeth found at the site were found in sediment that was dated by the new process at around 47,000 years old, which is younger than previously measured. One of the researchers said: “In terms of the volume of sediment, archaeological richness and depth of time, there is nothing else like it known in the British Isles. Given that we thought these deposits had been removed entirely by previous researchers, finding that so much still remains is as exciting as discovering a new site.”
    More at ScienceDaily.

“The Dirt: This Week in Nature” curated and written by Robert Raciti.

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