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