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Earth Changes


Ecuador's First Large-scale Jaguar Census

© Santiago Espinosa
A jaguar recently captured in a camera trap in Ecuador.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has released photos from the first large-scale census of jaguars in the Amazon region of Ecuador - one of the most biologically rich regions on the planet.

The ongoing census, which began in 2007, is working to establish baseline population numbers as oil exploration and subsequent development puts growing pressure on wildlife in Ecuador's Yasuni National Park and adjacent Waorani Ethnic Reserve. Together, these two protected areas make up some 6,500 square miles (16,800 square kilometers) of wilderness.

The research is being carried out by a team led by WCS research fellow Santiago Espinosa. Espinosa's team, which includes several members of the Waorani indigenous group, set up a complex system of "camera traps," that photograph animals remotely when they trip a sensor that detects body heat. His work is being funded by WCS, WWF, and the University of Florida.

So far the team has taken 75 pictures of jaguars, which can be individually identified through their unique pattern of spots. Other images show jaguar prey species, such as white-lipped peccaries, and other rarely seen species, including two pictures of a short-eared dog, a relative of foxes and wolves.


Tigers 'Took The Silk Road' To Russia

Caspian tigers
© Wikimedia Commons
Illustration of two Caspian tigers. New research shows that the Caspian tiger from Central Asia, which became extinct in 1970, was almost identical to the living Siberian, or Amur, tigers found in the Russian Far East today.

DNA from an extinct sub-species of tiger has revealed that the ancestors of modern tigers migrated through the heart of China - along what would later become known as 'the Silk Road' - a team of scientists from Oxford University and the NCI Laboratory of Genomic Diversity in the USA report.

In a study recently published in PLoS One the team show that the Caspian tiger from Central Asia, which became extinct in 1970, was almost identical to the living Siberian, or Amur, tigers found in the Russian Far East today.

The discovery not only sheds new light on how the animals reached Central Asia and Russia but also opens up the intriguing possibility that conservationists might repopulate tiger-less Central Asia with Siberian tigers from Russia or China.

Bizarro Earth

Magnitude 5.5 - Near Coast of Central Peru

coast of peru earthquake

Monday, February 02, 2009 at 17:53:23 UTC

Monday, February 02, 2009 at 12:53:23 PM at epicenter

Location 13.502°S, 76.508°W

Depth 25 km (15.5 miles) set by location program

Distances 40 km (25 miles) W of Chincha Alta, Peru

95 km (60 miles) NW of Ica, Peru

165 km (105 miles) SSE of LIMA, Peru

210 km (130 miles) SW of Huancayo, Peru


Heavy snow in Britain means travel chaos

london snow
© AP Photo/Akira Suemori
People walk in the snow on as they cross Westminster Bridge, backed dropped by the Houses of Parliament's St Stephens Tower, in central London, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009.
London - The British capital ground to a halt on Monday after the worst snowstorm in 18 years caused hundreds of flight cancellations and virtually halted public transportation.

Shops, schools and courts shut down and long trails of commuters trudged through the streets looking for scarce taxis or ways to work after more than four inches (10 centimeters) of snow fell overnight.

"We're not in Russia here," said Guy Pitt, a Transport for London spokesman. "We don't have an infrastructure built for constant snow."

Heavy snow continued Monday afternoon, with more forecast for the evening along with rain and sleet overnight, which could lead to hazardous icy conditions Tuesday morning.


Riddle of Liberian insect plague

A devastating plague of caterpillars ravaging part of West Africa is not armyworms, as previously believed, but an unidentified species, experts say.

A UN emergency co-ordinator told the BBC the insects in Liberia and Guinea were very different from armyworms.

He said experts had noted the insect has distinct feeding patterns, life cycle, habits, movement and appearance.

Specialists are studying the pest to find a way of controlling the swarm, which has affected 400,000 residents.

Bizarro Earth

Australia: Heat kills 30, fires destroy homes

More than 30 Victorians have died in the record heatwave while 29 homes have been destroyed by bushfires that are still threatening. The deaths of more than 30 Victorians will be investigated as authorities count the toll from last week's record-breaking heatwave.

A shell-shocked Premier John Brumby toured bushfire-ravaged Gippsland yesterday and admitted the scorching heat had taken its toll on the state. "I know it has not been a perfect week," he said.

The State Coroner will today start investigating the deaths from the heatwave when the mercury soared past 43C for three days in a row in Melbourne. Police said at least 30 people died but the toll could be much higher.

Cloud Lightning

Heaviest snow in 20 years brings large parts of Britain to a halt

The heaviest snowfall in 20 years has closed thousands of schools and caused transport chaos up the eastern side of Britain, with London and the surrounding areas the hardest hit.
snow, london, weather
© Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty
A man crosses The Mall on his skis near Buckingham Palace on his way to work in London

Bizarro Earth

Earthquakes Pose Threat to Mississippi

When you think of earthquakes, west coast states like California usually come to mind. So should folks here in Mississippi be concerned?

The truth is that several Mississippi counties are at risk for a severe earthquake in the future. That's why governor Haley Barbour made January 26th through 30th, Mississippi's Earthquake Awareness Week.

There are only illustrations of perhaps the worst series of earthquakes to hit the New Madrid seismic zone back in 1811 and 1812. That zone consists of a series of faults that cross the Mississippi and Ohio rivers; stretching 40 miles wide and 200 miles long.

Bizarro Earth

Japanese Volcano Erupts, Mt. Redoubt Groans

Town covered in fine ash dust after eruption.

A geologist said it looks like Alaska's Mount Redoubt wants to erupt.

In fact, she said odds are higher that it will than it won't. Groans and steam continue to come from the mountain, prompting officials at Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage to move five C-17 cargo planes to McChord Air Force Base in Washington.

For Japan's Mount Asama, it's a different story. That volcano did erupt early Monday morning, sending fine, powdery ash on to Tokyo, which is about 90 miles away.

Bizarro Earth

At least 12 killed by floods, waves in Indonesia

Three Indonesians died after huge waves washed them away on a beach on Java island, while nine people were killed in floods and landslides in other parts of Java and Sulawesi, officials said on Sunday.

The bodies of three high-school students had been found on Parangtritis beach south of the city of Yogyakarta, a rescue official said, while two people were still missing after they were swept away on Saturday while waiting to watch the sunrise.

The beach is a popular tourist area but known for its dangerous currents and big waves.