Serendipitous Twist May Provide Solution for Colony Collapse Disorder.
An “absent minded professor” from San Francisco State University may have stumbled upon the cause of the calamitous colony collapse disorder that has threatened bee colonies in the United States and elsewhere. Biology professor John Hafernik had collected dead bees in a vial and intended to investigate their demise when he absent-mindedly left the vial on his desk for a period of time. When he finally got around to re-examining them, he saw that the bee bodies were covered with pupae from a parasitic fly. Apparently, the fly lays eggs on the bodies of bees, which turns the bees into fly nurseries, killing the host in the process. Now researchers have found evidence of this parasitic fly in almost 80% of the bees hives in California’s Bay area.
Teaching Whooping Cranes to Migrate.
Operation Migration is an effort by a private/governmental organization to reestablish a “flyway” for whooping cranes between Wisconsin and Florida. This migratory flyway has not been used by the cranes for since the 1800’s, when the population of cranes that used it died off. With only one other flock of cranes left (which use a different flyway) the operation is intended to ensure that at least one flock of the remaining Whooping Cranes will survive. Using the principle of imprinting, humans dressed as whooping cranes are the first thing young cranes see when hatch. The cranes then follow the human crane parents, who use a small plane that also resembles a crane. The birds then follow the plane along the intended flyway, thus teaching them a new route for migration. Unfortunately, the operation was temporarily suspended when it was revealed that the pilot lacked a commercial pilot’s license, which is necessary because he was paid by the group.
Read more at Global Animal.
New Species of Extremophiles Discovered in Much Hotter Than Boiling Water.
Several new species of marine creatures discovered miles beneath the sea in the Caribbean are stranger than easily imagined. The fact that the creatures thrive in temperatures that are multiples of the boiling point of water is difficult to explain or comprehend. However, this gallery of photos is guaranteed to impress.
More at Mongabay.
Permian Extinction May Have Been An Acid Soup.
Teams of scientists from MIT, Washington State University and the University of Iowa, have been exploring a theory that ties the Permian extinction event to volcanism in the Siberian Traps — a highly volcanic region of Siberia. The Permian extinction was earth’s most severe, wiping out some 90% of marine species and some 70% of terrestrial species. So far, the results indicate that huge amounts of sulfur, chlorine and fluorine (all capable of creating destructive acids) were released toward the end of the Permian extinction event. Whether this association will prove to be a causal factor in the extinctions awaits further research.
Read more at msnbc.
Subterranean Worm Eater – Rare Carnivorous Plant Species.
Anyone with a lawn knows that insects can eat plant roots. However, scientists in Brazil have found a plant, Philcoxia minensis, that gets its nutrients by attacking worms below the ground. In this case, most of the plant’s leaves grow beneath the surface where they attach themselves to small worms. Scientists were led to the plant’s unusual feeding technique when they questioned why evolution would favor subterranean leaves that could not conduct photosynthesis. They soon realized that the leaves had adapted to a different purpose – drawing nutrients from worms.
Read more at Red Orbit.
Extinct Or Just Hiding?
A species of tortoise, C. elephantopus, from the Galapagos Islands had been considered extinct since the 19th century. However, bones collected from tortoise remains and kept in museums were recently analyzed for DNA. The result has surprised scientists. The DNA of C. elephantopus has been found in the bones of these other tortoises. That means they are hybrids and must have bred with C. elephantopus over the past 15 years. Given the long lifespan of these tortoises, up to 100 years, there is hope that future expeditions can locate a surviving C. elephantopus individual.
Read more at Discovery.
Please Don’t Feed the Sharks.
Tourists enjoy close encounters with sharks, as long as they are not too close. In the Philippines, it has become common practice to throw food to whale sharks so that they come to the water’s surface and impress the tourists. In an article in Global Animal, the author explains why this practice may be far more threatening to the sharks than to the tourists. Among other reasons, habituating sharks to free meals makes them more likely to intentionally interact with large boats and the results can be deadly for the sharks.
Can Lizards Outsmart Global Warming?
The effect of rising temperatures on lizards has been a source of concern for some time. However, a recent study from scientists at the University of Sydney suggests that warmer incubation environments seem to result in smarter, more adaptable lizards. Compared with lizards raised in normal temperatures, the lizards which were raised in higher temperature environments had an enhanced ability to escape predators and to learn from experience. However, the scientists do not suggest that this enhanced cognitive functioning, derived from warmer incubation, can outpace the damage done to lizards from overall higher global temperatures.
Read more at Science.
Deer-Killing Disease Hits Montana.
A disease called epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, has killed an unusually large number of white-tailed deer this year in Montana. The disease is spread by biting insects – midges — and an animal can succumb to the resulting internal bleeding in just a few days. The outbreak is blamed on a warmer than average fall season, which caused the transmitting insects to thrive for longer than usual, and a harsh winter, which culled a large number of deer. While deer are losers, there are also winners. Cottonwood trees, long decimated by huge deer populations, now will most likely thrive with a greatly reduced deer population.
Read more at abc news.
Think Traffic Is Bad Now – You Should Have Seen the “Dinosaur Freeway.”
Around 100 million years ago, an area stretching from around Boulder, Colorado to central New Mexico formed a wet coastal plain ideal for dinosaurs and crocodiles. So many dinosaur footprint fossils have been recovered from this area, that it has been dubbed a dinosaur freeway. The dinosaurs using this route traveled in herds and were probably migrating to new food sources.
Read more at msnbc.