The Odd Couple.
What do you do with an orphaned 3-week old cheetah which, by nature, requires companionship? Find him a friend. At Busch Gardens in Tampa Florida, officials found an almost perfect companion. They located a playful 6-week old Labrador puppy in a local shelter and adopted it. The cheetah and the Labrador were raised together and now, one year later, they are best friends.
More at Global Animal.
Gecko Walks Like A Gecko, Looks Like a Bumblebee.
A new species of gecko has been identified in New Guinea. Well known to locals, it is surprising it had not been spotted by scientists before because its distinctive yellow stripes on a dark body resemble the coloration of a bumblebee and set it apart from most other geckos. It is suspected that the species only lives on Papua Island in New Guinea, but it is not certain how many bumblebee geckos exist or if they are endangered.
More at News Daily.
Birds Help Long-time Neighbors But Not Newcomers.
Ada Grabowska-Zhang, a graduate student at the University of Oxford, has been studying the neighborliness of a type of bird called great tits. Over time, the birds form alliances with their long-time neighbors for mutual defense against predators. In an experiment to see whether this cooperation also extended to newcomer birds that became neighbors, Grabowska-Zhang pretended to be a predator and observed the conduct of the birds as they dive-bombed her in anger. The experiment showed that long-term neighbors of the subject birds came to the rescue and joined the fight against the predator. No such cooperation was extended to birds that were new to the neighborhood.
More at Live Science.
Fossilized Mystery Organism Not Yet Identified.
Some 450 million years ago, where Cincinnati now stands, there used to be shallow seas. Enter Ron Fine, an amateur paleontologist from Dayton, Ohio. Fine found an interesting fossil while digging in the area. It seems to belong to a creature that was huge: about seven foot long. Just what kind of creature it was, however, remains a mystery. Beyond the fact that it was once a sea creature, it has not yet been identified and has professional paleontologists guessing. What scientist do know, however, is that it is the largest fossil ever recovered from this area.
More at Discovery.
For Smalleye Pygmy Sharks It’s Glow or Be Eaten.
When one thinks of sharks, it is unlikely that the 22 cm Smalleye Pygmy shark ever comes to mind. Indeed, this tiny shark is often prey to larger predators who swim below it. In order to avoid being a silhouette against the bright sky above the water, this species has evolved a bio-chemical trick. Its belly is permanently bioluminescent — bright enough so that it blends in with the bright light above the surface when seen from below.
Read more at Science Daily.
First Camera Trap Photograph of an Amur Leopard.
The Amur Leopard exists only in Central Russia and to a lesser extent over the border in China. Estimates are that there are only 30-40 animals still in the wild. Camera traps placed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, in conjunction with other organizations and government agencies, have captured the first camera trap photograph of the elusive Amur Leopard. The photograph was taken in the Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve in Jilin Province, and shows that at least some of the animals are now in China.
More at Red Orbit.
Urban Science Center Gets A New Home In Brooklyn.
A mostly vacant 60-year-old building in Brooklyn will be leased to New York University for $1 a year. In exchange, NYU will convert this eyesore of a building into a modern urban research laboratory that will employ scores of professional scientists and graduate level students to study urban science issues. The idea is a win-win: New York City replaces an eyesore with a vibrant job-creating science center and a university gets a rent-free first class research facility in a major metropolitan area.
More from Nature.
One Farmer’s Salvation Is Another Farmer’s Curse.
The world of bio-genetically engineered crops has always been fraught with controversy. In a New York Times article, the author explores the Hobson’s choice that is involved in the pending approval of a new type of corn that has been genetically engineered to be resistant to a particular pesticide: 2,4-D. While this new kind of corn will allow corn farmers to use 2,4-D to kill a proliferation of pesticide-resistant weeds that are choking corn production, the chemical is poisonous to other non-corn crops and is suspected as a carcinogen. Thus, the newly bio-engineered corn, while not itself considered harmful, will be an incentive for vastly increased 2,4-D use to the detriment of non-corn growing farmers.
Aesthetics and Fund Raising.
It comes as no surprise that humans find some animals cute and cuddly and regard others as ugly and repulsive. But when it comes to fund raising to save endangered, the subjective distinction humans draw is unfortunate. Raising money for “cute” animals such as polar bears, seals and pandas is much more successful than fund raising for “ugly” species, such as snakes, frogs and toads. Unfortunately, these and other amphibians are the most endangered of all species. All of this poses an interesting question: are people self-selecting for “cute” species and will this have an impact on the animals and plants that future generations inherit?
More at Global Animal.
Bats as Viral Reservoirs.
Scientific analysis of bats has uncovered what is a virtual reservoir of new viruses that affect humans. About 66 new species of viruses have been identified thus far. They belong to a group known as paramyxoviruses, which are the viruses responsible for human diseases such as measles and mumps. Among wild animals bats seem to be the original hosts to a large variety of viruses, and in cattle they support viruses that can be transmitted to people, such as the Hendra and Nipah viruses. To make matters worse, loss of habitat is causing bats to live in urban areas where their droppings, laden with paramyxoviruses, come into direct contact with people.
More at National Post.
“The Dirt: This Week in Nature” curated and written by Robert Raciti.