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Mon, 11 Dec 2023
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Earth Changes


Some 1,600 pigs culled in south Russia swine fever outbreak

Almost 1,600 pigs have been culled in Russia's North Caucasus Republic of North Ossetia, following an outbreak of the African swine fever virus (ASFV), the emergencies ministry said on Monday.

A total of 369 pigs have died from the virus so far in the province, including four on Sunday.

"Settlements where the disease has been registered... have a total of 9,000 pigs, all of which will have to be culled," the spokesman said.


Do birds have a good sense of smell?

Sight and hearing are the most important senses for birds - this is at least the received wisdom. By studying bird DNA, however, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, along with a colleague at the Cawthron Institute in New Zealand, have now provided genetic evidence that many bird species have a well-developed sense of smell (Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 16.07.2008).

The sense of smell might indeed be as important to birds as it is to fish or even mammals. This is the main conclusion of a study by Silke Steiger (Max Planck Institute for Ornithology) and her colleagues. The sense of smell in birds was, until quite recently, thought to be poorly developed. Recent behavioural studies have shown that some bird species use their sense of smell to navigate, forage or even to distinguish individuals. Silke Steiger and her colleagues chose a genetic approach for their study. Their research focused on the olfactory receptor (OR) genes, which are expressed in sensory neurons within the olfactory epithelium, and constitute the molecular basis of the sense of smell. The total number of OR genes in a genome may reflect how many different scents an animal can detect or distinguish. In birds such genetic studies were previously restricted to the chicken, hitherto the only bird for which the full genomic sequence is known.

©Don Merton
The nocturnal Kakapo, one of the nine bird species in the study, probably recognises fruit according to their aroma. The same applies to the brown kiwi of New Zealand.

Light Sabers

Latvian emergency workers catch alligator in public pond

Latvian firemen and veterinary workers have caught an alligator in a small pond in the suburbs of the capital, local emergency services said on Monday.

The five-foot-long reptile gave residents a fright in a small community near Riga, who immediately called the emergency services.

Evil Rays

Magnitude 6.1 offshore quake shakes northern Japan; no danger of tsunami

Japan's weather agency says a strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.1 struck off the northern Japanese coast.

The Meteorological Agency says there was no danger of a tsunami, or seismic waves, from the 8:30 p.m. (1130 GMT) quake, which occurred about 20 miles (30 kilometers) below the ocean's surface off the coast of Fukushima.


Georgia, US: House in Buford fire blamed on lightning strike

Rain and thunderstorms that passed through metro Atlanta early Sunday were blamed for a fire that severely damaged a Gwinnett County home.

Gwinnett fire officials believe a lightning strike ignited the roof of a two-story home on Aberrone Place in Buford, said Capt. Thomas Rutledge, a department spokesman.

The lightning was part of a system that moved through the metro area before dawn, said Griffith.


Chile plans to spend US$31M to build volcano monitoring centers

SANTIAGO: Chile plans to spend US$31 million to build three new centers to monitor volcanic activity.

Bizarro Earth

Okmok volcano ash plume builds

Okmok Volcano
©Anchorage Daily News
Okmok Volcano, seen erupting July 13, 2008, spat water, gas and debris nearly 5 miles into the air July 19.

The Aleutian Islands' Okmok Volcano stepped up its rumbling and puffing Saturday, spitting massive geysers of water, gas and debris 25,000 feet into the air, according to Jennifer Aldeman, a geologist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Cloud Lightning

US: Firefighters keep wary eye on California thunderstorms

Junction City, CA - Scattered showers forecast for California's northern mountains Sunday are unlikely to extinguish wildfires that still threaten homes and could bring more lightning to the charred region, fire officials said.

The weather system is not expected to bring enough rain to have any effect on several huge blazes that have burned for nearly a month, said Pete Munoa, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

A bigger concern is thunderstorms predicted to accompany the system.

But fire officials said cooler temperatures mean lightning strikes don't pose as much of a threat as they did a month ago, when storms sparked nearly 2,100 fires that have burned almost 1 million acres.

"The weather pattern, if it holds the way it is now, we should be able to get a foothold around these fires," Munoa said.

In the rural town of Junction City, residents were under mandatory evacuation orders for a third day Sunday as flames crept across the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The month-old fire had spread to nearly 87 square miles by Sunday and was 49 percent contained.


The mystery of Rio: Why have more than 400 dead penguins been washed up on Brazilian city's beaches?

Hundreds of baby penguins swept from the icy shores of Antarctica and Patagonia are washing up dead on Rio de Janeiro's tropical beaches. More than 400 of the birds have been found dead on the area's beaches in the past two months, and more are being found in a distressed or sickly condition.


US: Conjoined barn swallows cause stir

Little Rock, AR - It's an Arkansas bird story that at first might be hard to swallow. A pair of conjoined barn swallows, attached at the hip by skin and possibly muscle tissue, will be sent to the Smithsonian Institution for study and examination, Arkansas wildlife officials said Friday. If confirmed, officials say it could prove to be an incredibly rare find - a set of conjoined twins among birds.

conjoined barn swallows
©AP Photo/Daily Citizen, Samuel Peebles
Two baby conjoined barn swallows rest after a fall from their nest Thursday morning, July 17, 2008 in Searcy, Arkansas.

"I can't even say it's one in a million - it's probably more than that," said Karen Rowe, an ornithologist with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. "There's just very little to no records of such a thing."