Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

Flashback The Giant Ottershrew: An Electrogenic Mammal?

There are three known kinds of electric - more correctly called electrogenic - animals:

(1) the one species, Electrophorus electricus, of South American electric eel (really a knifefish),

(2) the 19 species of African electric catfish in the genera Malapterurus and Paradoxoglanis, and

(3) the 69 species of electric rays (order Torpediniformes) found around the world.

The first two fish both demonstrate the ability to shock prey with electricity as an effective strategy for a piscivore (an animal that eats fish). They produce high levels of voltage, e.g. electric eel (600 volts) and the electric catfish (350 volts). Electric rays can produce an electric discharge used to stun or kill prey, from as little as 8 volts to up to 220 volts depending on the species.

Could there be an electrogenic mammal?

©Don Meighan


Flashback Truly amazing: Elephantnose fish 'see' with their chin

Originating in Central Africa, Peters' elephantnose fish (Gnathonemus petersii), finds its bearings by means of weak electrical fields. Scientists from the University of Bonn have now been able to show how well this works. In complete darkness the animals can even distinguish the material of objects at a distance or dead organisms from living ones. The results have now been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Elephantnose fish
©G. von der Emde
Despite having a long nose, the Peters' elephantnose fish uses its chin to emit a weak electrical current to help it navigate. Zoologists from the University of Bonn have found the fish has more than 500 electric sensors and behaves "like treasure hunters... on the beach with their metal detectors".

Cowboy Hat

Alaskan oil drilling proposed inside rare whale habitat

North Pacific right whale
©Bob Pitman / NOAA via AP
The North Pacific right whale, with a population estimated at between 50-100, relies on habitat off Alaska that could be opened to oil exploration.

Activists concerned about impact on right whales and Bristol Bay salmon

The Bush administration has proposed allowing oil and gas drilling in an area of the Bering Sea considered important for the recovery of the world's most endangered whale.


The Spiny Genitals and Rock-Chewing Habits of Crested Porcupines

Here's that cute porcupine photo I mentioned (I think). It shows a group of Crested porcupines Hystrix cristata photographed at Marwell Zoological Park.... awww, look at the little baby. Many other blogs would stop there. But ooooh no, that's not how we do things round here. Here are some little known factoids about Old World porcupines, focusing mostly on the Crested porcupine*...

Cute porcupines
©Marwell Zoological Park


Pacific Ocean Plastic Mistaken for Plankton in a Vortex Bigger Than Australia Threatens Wildlife

Marine researchers Charles Moore and Marcus Eriksen surveyed the dark water of the Pacific Ocean aboard a catamaran about 700 miles (1,126 kilometers) north of Hawaii in January and found trash everywhere.

They were in the eye of the North Pacific subtropical gyre, where opposing ocean currents form a vortex bigger than Australia, trapping tons of floating debris in its circular flow.

Garbage in the sea

Bizarro Earth

Mount Ibu Spews Thick Smoke

Mount Ibu in the eastern Indonesian province of North Maluku spewed thick smoke up to 500 metres into the sky in the past few days.

The volcanic activity was still not dangerous so no local resident had evacuated, Indonesia's Antara news agency quoted Kali Rasyid, spokesman for the West Halmahera district administration, as saying on Friday.


Study: cosmic rays don't cause global warming

A new study finds no link between incoming cosmic rays, global cloud cover and global warming, dealing another setback to those who claim climate change is triggered by cosmic rays rather than manmade greenhouse gases.

Cow Skull

Climate change could lead to global food crisis, scientists warn

BUDAPEST, Hungary: Scientists warned Thursday that climate change in coming decades will cause more floods in the Northern Hemisphere and droughts in the south and in arid areas, which may lead to a global food crisis.

Bizarro Earth

Global Warming: Settled Science, or Dogged Dogma?

It's April Fools' Day as I'm writing this, so it seems fitting to contemplate human folly.
As I squint through frosted panes at 8 inches of new snow on my Missouri Heights deck, KAJX radio advises me that Aspen Highlands got another 19 inches overnight, and Snowmass' new total stands at 407 inches.

Bad Guys

Global Warming gets the Cold Freeze

The media and governmental hype over a danger from global warming that already is allegedly causing the polar icecaps to melt and threaten a global climate catastrophe, looks more and more like the political hype it is. This year to date, snow cover over North America and much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966.

According to the US National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) many American cities and towns have suffered record cold temperatures in January and early February. According to the NCDC, the average temperature in January "was - 0.3 F cooler than the 1901-2000 average."

China is surviving its most brutal winter in one hundred years. Temperatures in the normally mild south were low for so long that some middle-sized cities went weeks without electricity because once power lines had toppled it was too cold or too icy to repair them.

There have been so many snow and ice storms in Ontario and Quebec in the past two months that the real estate market has been hurt as home buyers have stayed home. In just the first two weeks of February, Toronto received 70 cm of snow, breaking the record of 66.6 cm for the entire month set back in 1950.