Earth ChangesS

Alarm Clock

Beetle invasion threatens New England trees

WORCESTER, Mass. - A wood-devouring beetle has gained a foothold in New England, and authorities plan to cut down large numbers of infested trees and grind them up to stop the pest from spreading to the region's celebrated forests and ravaging the timber, tourism and maple-syrup industries.


Revealing The Evolutionary History Of Threatened Sea Turtles

It's confirmed: Even though flatback turtles dine on fish, shrimp, and mollusks, they are closely related to primarily herbivorous green sea turtles. New genetic research carried out by Eugenia Naro-Maciel, a Marine Biodiversity Scientist at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History, and colleagues clarifies our understanding of the evolutionary relationships among all seven sea turtle species.
Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas
© D. Brumbaugh, CBC-AMNHGreen sea turtle (Chelonia mydas).

Naro-Maciel and colleagues used five nuclear DNA markers and two mitochondrial markers to test the evolutionary relationships of all species of marine turtles - leatherback, flatback, green, hawksbill, loggerhead, Kemp's Ridley, and Olive Ridley - and four 'outgroups,' or more distantly related animals. The results formed a well-supported phylogenetic tree, or cladogram, that tells the story of sea turtle evolution and is reported in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.


Searching For Rare Ladybugs, With Unusual Spots

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and cooperators are seeking the public's help in surveying for once-common ladybug species that are now hard to find.
transverse ladybug
© Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, you spotted a transverse ladybug, one of the lost lady beetles ARS is seeking?

Researchers with ARS, Cornell University at Ithaca, N.Y., and South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings want people to photograph every ladybug possible, and to send the photos to Cornell so researchers can inventory the insects. In particular, the scientists are looking for rare species, such as the nine-spotted, two-spotted and transverse lady beetles.

These beetles were common 20 years ago, but have become harder to find in the past few decades. There are more than 400 ladybug species native to North America, but some have become extremely rare, displaced perhaps by development, pesticides, non-native species and other factors.

Bizarro Earth

Earth In Midst Of Sixth Mass Extinction: 50% Of All Species Disappearing

The Earth is in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of both plants and animals, with nearly 50 percent of all species disappearing, scientists say.
© iStockphoto/Mark GoddardButtercups. Losing the buttercup, where it occurs in grasslands, would have a much bigger impact on the system than losing a daisy or a sunflower, for example.

Because of the current crisis, biologists at UC Santa Barbara are working day and night to determine which species must be saved. Their international study of grassland ecosystems, with flowering plants, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The current extinction event is due to human activity, paving the planet, creating pollution, many of the things that we are doing today," said co-author Bradley J. Cardinale, assistant professor of ecology, evolution and marine biology (EEMB) at UC Santa Barbara. "The Earth might well lose half of its species in our lifetime. We want to know which ones deserve the highest priority for conservation."


Did Termites Help Katrina Destroy New Orleans Floodwalls?

Three years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, people still speculate over causes of the destruction of the city's floodwall system. A new article in the fall issue of American Entomologist suggests that Formosan subterranean termites played a large role.
© Photo courtesy AFPThe Formosan subterranean termite originates from China, where it has been known to damage levees since the 1950s. Besides eating at bagasse seams, the termites may have contributed to the destruction of the levees of New Orleans by digging networks of tunnels, which can cause "piping," sending water through the tunnels and undermining the levee system.


US: Billions of fish, fish eggs die in power plants

BUCHANAN, New York - For a newly hatched striped bass in the Hudson River, a clutch of trout eggs in Lake Michigan or a baby salmon in San Francisco Bay, drifting a little too close to a power plant can mean a quick and turbulent death.


Ship Strike Reduction Rule Aims To Protect North Atlantic Right Whales

NOAA officials have issued a regulation that will implement new measures to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales.
Right whale and calf
© NOAARight whale and calf.

The regulation will, for the first time, require large ships to reduce speeds to ten knots in areas where the whales feed and reproduce, as well as along migratory routes in between. The goal of the regulation is to reduce the risk of ship collisions with the whales.

"The ship strike rule, based on science, is a major addition to NOAA's arsenal of protections for this endangered species," said Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

Bizarro Earth

US: About 100 horses die from mystery illness

Ocala, Florida - State veterinary officials say a mystery illness has killed nearly 100 horses at one farm in central Florida.

As many as 100 horses have died in just over a week in Marion County, an area known for its hundreds of horse farms. The cause of the illness is unknown.

The owners of the farm think contaminated hay wreaked havoc on the animals' nervous systems.


Australia: Fish kill remains a mystery

Authorities are yet to establish the cause of a fish kill in the Swan River.

More than 70 fish were found floating in the river near the Barrack Street Jetty yesterday.

Lake Monger is being examined as a potential source, as well as waste water from Perth work sites.

Both discharge water into a drainage system which leads to the river outlet near Barrack Street Jetty where the fish were discovered yesterday.

Bizarro Earth

Perth seagull deaths remain a mystery

The mysterious deaths of 300 seagulls that dropped from the sky in July in two beachside suburbs south of Perth may never be explained.

The state's Department of Environment and Conservation confirmed yesterday that two months of exhaustive investigations, including dozens of autopsies, interstate forensic testing and pollution inspections at nearby businesses, had failed to identify a cause.

The deaths closed the popular Woodman Point beach for more than two weeks amid fears of a threat to human health.

Almost 150 seagulls were found dead on the beach on July 21. The death toll reached 230 after three days and 282 a week later. No other bird species were affected.