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Wed, 03 Mar 2021
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Earth Changes

Cloud Lightning

Britain Has 'Underestimated' Flood Threats

For the last 50 years we have been concreting over our countryside, neglecting our drainage systems and busily building on flood plains.

In other words; living as if flooding is a problem that happens elsewhere.

©Sky News


Federal Polar Bear Research Critically Flawed, Forecasting Expert Asserts

Research done by the U.S. Department of the Interior to determine if global warming threatens the polar bear population is so flawed that it cannot be used to justify listing the polar bear as an endangered species, according to a study being published later this year in Interfaces, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

polar bear on ice float
©iStockphoto/Jan Will
Research done by the U.S. Department of the Interior to determine if global warming threatens the polar bear population is so flawed that it cannot be used to justify listing the polar bear as an endangered species, according to a new study.

On April 30, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ordered the Interior Department to decide by May 15 whether polar bears should be listed under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act.

Professor J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School says, "To list a species that is currently in good health as an endangered species requires valid forecasts that its population would decline to levels that threaten its viability. In fact, the polar bear populations have been increasing rapidly in recent decades due to hunting restrictions. Assuming these restrictions remain, the most appropriate forecast is to assume that the upward trend would continue for a few years, then level off.


Platypus at the peak of weird science

Scientists have cracked the genetic code of the platypus and the results are as weird as the animal itself.

Not only does the little mammal look like it was cobbled together from bits of birds, mammals and reptiles, but so does its genome -- its genetic blueprint.

Jenny Graves, a geneticist with the Australian National University and director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Kangaroo Genomics, said: "We expected the platypus genome to be a weird amalgam of features and indeed it is. For instance, it has egg yolk proteins (large molecules) like a bird, though not as many as a bird, but all the milk proteins of a cow."

©Rod Scott

Better Earth

Koalas Under Threat From Climate Change

New research shows increased temperatures and carbon dioxide levels are a threat to the Australian national icon, the koala.

Professor Ian Hume, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and his students from the University of Sydney have been researching the effects of CO2 increases and temperature rises on eucalypts.

©iStockphoto/Sawayasu Tsuji
Koalas are fussy about the species of eucalypts that they eat as different species contain different ratios of nutrients to anti-nutrients.

Professor Hume's group have shown in the laboratory that increases in CO2 affect the level of nutrients and 'anti-nutrients' (things that are either toxic or interfere with the digestion of nutrients) in eucalypt leaves. Anti-nutrients in eucalypts are built from carbon and an increase in carbon dioxide levels will favour the production of anti-nutrients over nutrients.

Black Cat

Cat Urine Makes Mice Macho

Tom and Jerry may never get along, but cats could help mice get lucky in love.

Cat odor is known scare mice away, but it also seems to act like an aphrodisiac for the rodents, a new study shows.

The smell makes male mice more macho, helping lure in females, researchers said.


When Bears Steal Human Food, Mom's Not To Blame

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) found that the black bears that become habituated to human food and garbage may not be learning these behaviors exclusively from their mothers, as widely assumed. Bears that steal human food sources are just as likely to form these habits on their own or pick them up from unrelated, "bad influence" bears.

black bears
©Jon Beckmann/Wildlife Conservation Society
According to a study by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, black bears that become habituated on human food and garbage do not necessarily learn these behaviors from their mother as previously assumed.

The study, which examines the role of genetic relatedness in black bear behavior that leads to conflict with humans, appears in the latest edition of the Journal of Mammalogy.

"Understanding how bears acquire behavior is important in conservation biology and devising strategies to minimize potential human-wildlife conflicts," says Dr. Jon Beckmann, a co-author of the study. "According to our findings, bears that feed on human food and garbage are not always learning these habits from their mothers."

Better Earth

Ivory Coast seeks $1 mln for three-headed coconut tree

ABIDJAN - Researchers in Ivory Coast are asking $1 million for a three-headed hybrid coconut tree they believe could substantially boost the tropical nut's yield.

Scientists at Ivory Coast's National Agronomic Research Centre (NARC) discovered the tree after mixing different strains of coconut palm in an effort to build disease resistance.

"We still don't have a buyer, but we are hopeful because we remain in talks with certain partners to buy this hybrid," said Jean Louis Konan, head of NARC's coconut research program.

Researchers decided last year to sell the hybrid to support the research centre, whose 800 hectares (1,980 acres) of coconut trees contain 99 varieties from across the world.


Utah bee population hit by deadly disease, crops could be affected

The mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, which has led to the loss of millions of bees and in a worst-case scenario could be a threat to the food chain that humans depend on for life, has made its way to Utah.

Gary Dutson is being confronted by the malady firsthand. He has had to sell off 500 acres of farmland that's been in his family for two generations - largely because he's lost so many of his honeybees.

Dutson, who lives outside Delta in eastern Utah, had built up his bee operation to 4,000 hives by last fall when colonies began dying off for no apparent reason. Within months, he lost half his bees in an inexplicable disaster not seen since his father began beekeeping more than 70 years ago.

Until recently, Utah beekeepers seemed to be dodging the mysterious ailment, which has been killing off honeybees in other parts of the nation for the past two years. In 2007 alone, beekeepers lost 30 percent of the 2.5 million managed colonies to diseases, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cloud Lightning

Tornado knocks vehicles around in N. Carolina, kills 1

Authorities began combing through the wreckage Friday caused by a reported tornado that killed one person and injured three others in central North Carolina.

Bizarro Earth

Chile gives volcano holdouts ultimatum to flee

PUERTO MONTT/FUTALEUFU - Chile on Thursday ordered holdout residents to flee from an erupting volcano in the remote region of Patagonia and vowed to force them out if they refuse to obey.

The military evacuated a small contingent of troops and journalists from near Chaiten volcano in southern Chile before dawn on Thursday after it spat out fiery material.

Chaiten volcano
©REUTERS/Jorge Cortizo
Jose Marciano, wearing a face mask to protect himself from volcanic ash, walks in Futaleufu, near the Chaiten volcano, located some 1,450 km (900 miles) south of Santiago, May 8, 2008.

But some civilians refused to leave two villages near the volcano that began erupting last week for the first time in thousands of years. It has spewed ash that has reached the Atlantic seaboard and the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.