Earth ChangesS


New Ant Species Discovered In The Amazon Likely Represents Oldest Living Lineage Of Ants

A new species of blind, subterranean, predatory ant discovered in the Amazon rainforest by University of Texas at Austin evolutionary biologist Christian Rabeling is likely a descendant of the very first ants to evolve.

©Christian Rabeling, the University of Texas at Austin
This new species of blind, subterranean, predatory ant, Martialis heureka, was discovered in the Amazon by Christian Rabeling at the University of Texas at Austin. It belongs to the first new subfamily of living ants discovered since 1923, and is a descendant of one of the first ant lineages to evolve over 120 million years ago.

The new ant is named Martialis heureka, which translates roughly to "ant from Mars," because the ant has a combination of characteristics never before recorded. It is adapted for dwelling in the soil, is two to three millimeters long, pale, and has no eyes and large mandibles, which Rabeling and colleagues suspect it uses to capture prey.

The ant also belongs to its own new subfamily, one of 21 subfamilies in ants. This is the first time that a new subfamily of ants with living species has been discovered since 1923 (other new subfamilies have been discovered from fossil ants).

Rabeling says his discovery will help biologists better understand the biodiversity and evolution of ants, which are abundant and ecologically important insects.


Earthquake measured 5.4 Richter shakes Ceram Sea, Indonesia

There was an earthquake at Ceram Sea, Indonesia with the magnitude of 5.4. The quake occured on tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 01:12:53 UTC (-Coordinated Universal Time ) and at 08:12:53 AM local time reported by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Arrow Down

Man-eating tigers stalk fishermen in Indian jungle

The fishermen were hauling in the first net of the morning when the tiger pounced.

Kumaresh Mondal managed to run a few steps before the 450-pound beast knocked him down with a leap, tore into his throat, and dragged his limp body into the dense mangrove forest.


How Corals Adapt To Day And Night

Researchers have uncovered a gene in corals that responds to day/night cycles, which provides some tantalizing clues into how symbiotic corals work together with their plankton partners.

coral Stylophora pistillata
©Didier Zoccola, Centre Scientifique de Monaco
Polyps of the symbiotic coral Stylophora pistillata.

Corals are fascinating animals that form the largest biological constructions in the world, sprawling coral reefs that cover less than 0.2 % of the seafloor yet provide habitats for more than 30% of marine life. In shallow waters that don't have abundant food, corals have developed a close relationship with small photosynthetic critters called dinoflagellates.

The dinoflagellates use sunlight to produce energy for the coral, which in turn use that energy to construct mineralized skeletons for protection. The mineral production, known as coral calcification, is closely tied with the day/night cycle, though the molecular mechanism behind this synchronization is mysterious.


Giant Honeybees Use Shimmering 'Mexican Waves' To Repel Predatory Wasps

The phenomenon of "shimmering" in giant honeybees, in which hundreds - or even thousands - of individual honeybees flip their abdomens upwards within a split-second to produce a Mexican Wave-like pattern across the bee nest, has received much interest but both its precise mode of action and its purpose have long remained a mystery.

giant honey bees
©Wikimedia Commons
A hive of Apis dorsata (giant honey bees).

In a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE this week, researchers at the University of Graz, Austria, and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK, report the finding that shimmering - a remarkable capacity of rapid communication in giant honeybees - acts as a defensive mechanism, which repels predatory hornets, forcing them to hunt free-flying bees, further afield, rather than foraging bees directly from the honeybee nest.

South-East Asian giant honeybees (Apis dorsata) occur in single-comb nests in the open, preferring traditional nest sites with aggregations of hundreds of colonies on trees, rocks or human buildings, which they may revisit over years. Honeybees manage the pool of worker bees in an elaborate trade-off between foraging and defense. The bees' main defensive goal is to make the nest site a shelter zone for colony members, as well as a place of danger for potential predators. In order to set the entry fee for predators as high as possible, and to efficiently safeguard the colony's resources (keeping losses and expenses to a minimum), a plethora of defensive tactics has evolved in giant honeybees, both "aggressive" and "docile" behaviors being employed.


6.2 earthquake in Timor Leste

An earthquake of magnitude 6.2 has struck the highly populated region of Timor Leste in Timor Leste.

Whether international humanitarian aid is needed must be decided by an expert. However, the following automatically calculated elements can help. This earthquake has potentially a low humanitarian impact and the affected region has medium vulnerability to natural disasters.

Monkey Wrench

Ike destroys a number of Gulf platforms

HOUSTON - Federal officials say it appears Hurricane Ike destroyed a number of production platforms and damaged some of the pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico.

Life Preserver

Nearly 2,000 saved post-Hurricane Ike

GALVESTON, Texas - Rescue crews canvassing neighborhoods with dump trucks, helicopters and airboats have saved nearly 2,000 residents who ignored evacuation orders and stayed to face Hurricane Ike, authorities said Sunday.


Old Growth Forests Are Valuable Carbon Sinks

Contrary to 40 years of conventional wisdom, a new analysis published in the journal Nature suggests that old growth forests are usually "carbon sinks" - they continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate climate change for centuries.

©iStockphoto/Robert Koopmans
A west coast British Columbia old-growth rainforest.

However, these old growth forests around the world are not protected by international treaties and have been considered of no significance in the national "carbon budgets" as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol. That perspective was largely based on findings of a single study from the late 1960s which had become accepted theory, and scientists now say it needs to be changed.

"Carbon accounting rules for forests should give credit for leaving old growth forest intact," researchers from Oregon State University and several other institutions concluded in their report. "Much of this carbon, even soil carbon, will move back to the atmosphere if these forests are disturbed."

Bizarro Earth

Heat and drought killing Cyprus' forests

The island's ongoing drought is killing trees, which are increasingly drying up, threatening serious ecological damages.

The Forestry Department is showing increased concerns about the large number of trees that are drying up. The best hope is that the weather conditions will soon change.