Earth ChangesS


Octopuses had Antarctic ancestor: marine census

© REUTERS/M. Rauschert/Census of Marine Life handoutMegaleledone setebos, a shallow-water circum-Antarctic species endemic to the Southern Ocean is seen in this undated handout
Oslo - Many octopuses evolved from a common ancestor that lived off Antarctica more than 30 million years ago, according to a "Census of Marine Life" that is seeking to map the oceans from microbes to whales.

Researchers in 82 nations, whose 10-year study aims to help protect life in the seas, found a mysterious meeting place for white sharks in the eastern Pacific Ocean and algae thriving at -25 degrees Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit) in the Arctic.

"We are approaching a picture of the oceans ... from micrcobes to whales," said Ron O'Dor, co-senior scientist of the census of the 2007-08 findings by up to 2,000 scientists.

Cloud Lightning

Blizzard Blankets South Dakota

Howling Winds, Up To 4 Feet Of Snow Hit High Plains

As snow depth totals approached 4 feet in the higher Black Hills and winds gusting to 50-plus mph continued to howl, top-level state officials had a simple message for anyone thinking of trying to drive in western South Dakota's blizzard: Don't.

And they stressed the storm will keep causing problems as it spreads east through Friday.

"This is a dangerous storm," Gov. Mike Rounds told reporters in a telephone conference call early Thursday evening.

"Western South Dakota is basically under a no-travel advisory."

The storm already has dropped 45.7 inches of snow near Deadwood, in the northern Black Hills. Reports of 10 inches to 2 feet of snow were received from many West River counties. In some towns, residents reported drifts were blocking their doorways.

In Shannon County, in the southwestern corner of the state, 20-foot snowdrifts were reported on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Cloud Lightning

Hurricane Season: Caribbean-Atlantic storms

Atlantic storms
© Reuters
A series of ferocious storms in the 2008 hurricane season battered coastal regions from the Caribbean islands up to the southeastern United States.

Fulfilling forecasters' predictions for a high number of strong hurricanes, one storm after another in August and September hit the Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, the British Turks and Caicos Islands, and the southeastern United States. Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike followed within weeks of each other.

Haiti - the poorest country in the Americas - is ill prepared to prepare for storms or cope with their consequences, and suffered the highest number of deaths when it was hit in turn by all four. It's hard to pin down an exact toll from floods and mudslides caused by a series of storms in August and September 2008 - since many corpses were washed out to sea - but police and local authorities say it was around 700.


Earthquake Relief Pakistan

© Reuters
In consolation with other humanitarian agencies, PHF and NDMA/ PDMA, Malteser International decided to assist Earthquake badly affected communities in Kuch UC, Ziarat District in Baluchistan Province; as one of most affected areas in this humanitarian crisis, and with the minimal assistance received in the first weeks after the earthquake of 28-29 October 2008.

Distribution of assistance should take place between 8th and 24th November 2008, in 7-10 remote villages and hamlets/ kilies in Kuch UC (area of Gogi, Tungi, Chungi Ahmadoon and Ahmadoon), when planned assistance to 500 families should be provided to the all identified beneficiaries.

Comment: The United Nations Children's Fund has estimated that the earthquake left 70,000 people homeless and more than 300 people dead. You can read more about it here and here

Cloud Lightning

Update: Hurricane Paloma weakens as it lashes Cuba

© AFPA woman walks on the traditional malecon (seafront) in Havana, as Hurricane Paloma approaches Cuba
Camaguey, Cuba - Hurricane Paloma weakened as it passed over southeastern Cuba early Sunday, lashing the island with rain, gale-force winds and massive sea waves -- and forcing more than half a million people to leave their homes.

After making landfall on Cuba's southeast coast earlier in the day as a powerful Category Three storm, Paloma weakened to Category Two, displaying winds of 175 kilometers (108 miles) an hour, the national Institute of Meteorology said.

"It is now a Category Two storm," Jose Rubiera, the institute's director, said in a statement.

The US National Hurricane Center said Paloma packed winds measuring 155 kilometers (100 miles) an hour.

At 0600 GMT, the center of Paloma was about 45 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Camaguey, the Miami-based center said.

Cloud Lightning

Update: Powerful Hurricane Paloma slams into Cuba

Miami - Dangerous Hurricane Paloma made landfall near Santa Cruz del Sur in southeastern Cuba on Saturday as a Category 3 storm with 125 mile-per-hour (200-kph) winds, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
© REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa People carry their belongings on the back of a cart ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Paloma in Camaguey, Cuba November 8, 2008.


Overfishing Threatens European Bluefin Tuna

Bluefin tuna disappeared from Danish waters in the 1960s. Now the species could become depleted throughout the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean, according to analyses by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Aqua) and University of New Hampshire. The species is highly valued as sushi.

Bluefin tuna is a treasured delicacy. A kilo of its much sought after meat can bring in prices reaching 130 Euros at fish auctions. The species in the Mediterranean Sea and northeast Atlantic is caught by fishermen from many countries, particularly France, Spain and Italy.


Tale Of Two Snails Reveals Secrets About The Biochemistry Of Evolution

Researchers in Spain are reporting deep new insights into how evolution changes the biochemistry of living things, helping them to adapt to new environments. Their study, based on an analysis of proteins produced by two populations of marine snails, reveals chemical differences that give one population a survival-of-the fittest edge for life in its cold, wave-exposed environment.
study of two populations of marine snails
© American Chemical SocietyA study of two populations of marine snails provides new insights into how evolutionary changes works on the chemical level.

In the new study, Emilio Rolán-Alvarez and colleagues note that scientists long have known that animals of the same species can have different physical characteristics enabling them to survive in different habitats. One famous example is the different beak sizes and shapes that evolved in Darwin's finches, enabling the birds to live on different foods in different habitats on the Galapagos Islands. Until now, however, scientists knew little about the invisible biochemical changes behind such adaptations.


Sea Snakes Seek Out Freshwater To Slake Thirst

Sea snakes may slither in saltwater, but they sip the sweet stuff. So concludes a University of Florida zoologist in a paper appearing this month in the online edition of the November/December issue of the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.
sea snake
© Leslie Babonis/UF Department of ZoologyA sea snake rests on rocks near at the shore of Orchid Island, Taiwan.

Harvey Lillywhite says it has been the "long-standing dogma" that the roughly 60 species of venomous sea snakes worldwide satisfy their drinking needs by drinking seawater, with internal salt glands filtering and excreting the salt. Experiments with three species of captive sea kraits captured near Taiwan, however, found that the snakes refused to drink saltwater even if thirsty - and then would drink only freshwater or heavily diluted saltwater.

Cloud Lightning

Paloma becomes Category 4 storm, heads toward Cuba

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands - Paloma became an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane early Saturday, dumping wind and rain on the Cayman Islands and threatening to strike hurricane-ravaged Cuba as a major storm, forecasters said.