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Sat, 02 Dec 2023
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Earth Changes


90 Billion Tons Of Microbial Organisms Live In Deep Marine Subsurface: More Archaea Than Bacteria

Biogeoscientists show evidence of 90 billion tons of microbial organisms--expressed in terms of carbon mass--living in the deep biosphere, in a research article published online by Nature, July 20, 2008. This tonnage corresponds to about one-tenth of the amount of carbon stored globally in tropical rainforests.

Researcher Julius Lipp
©Albert Gerdes, MARUM/Bremen
Researcher Julius Lipp, Ph.D., of Bremen University, Germany, with some of his samples.

The authors: Kai-Uwe Hinrichs and Julius Lipp of the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM) at University of Bremen, Germany; and Fumio Inagaki and Yuki Morono of the Kochi Institute for Core Sample Research at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) concluded that about 87 percent of the deep biosphere consists of Archaea.

Cloud Lightning

Update: Storm Dolly to become hurricane, hit Texas

CANCUN - Tropical Storm Dolly churned toward southern Texas on Monday, and forecasters said they expected it to grow into a hurricane before hitting land near the Mexican border later this week.

The storm, with sustained winds of nearly 50 mph (85 kph), emerged from the Yucatan Peninsula over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane watch was issued for the southern Texas coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Tropical Storm Dolly
A satellite image of Tropical Storm Dolly, taken on July 21, 2008.

Dolly was 475 miles southeast of the border, where it was due to hit on Wednesday near Brownsville, well away from sensitive offshore drilling rigs and production platforms.

The United States has largely escaped the past two Atlantic hurricane seasons, with just one hurricane -- Humberto in November 2007 -- making landfall on its coasts.


Changes In Winds Could Have Been Cause Of Abrupt Glacial Climatic Change

Spanish and German researchers have carried out a collaborative study that shows how during the last glacial period, small variations in the surface winds could have induced significant changes in the oceanic currents of the North Atlantic, and could even have played a role in the abrupt climate change that occurred at the time.

North Atlantic circulation
©Andrew Ryzhkov
The North Atlantic circulation is part of thermohaline circulation that globally affects oceanic waters.

Scientists from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and the Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany have carried out a study which identifies small alterations in the superficial sea winds as the factors with a key role in the abrupt climatic change that occurred over the last glacial period whose origin is not yet fully understood.

This study, carried out by researchers Marisa Montoya and Anders Levermann, concluded that there is a precise point from which a small variation in the speed of sea winds corresponds to a dramatic change in the Atlantic circulation intensity. According to Marisa Montoya, "If the glacial climate had been in the vicinity of that point, small wind changes could have caused sudden and significant climatic changes during that period".


Cancer forces Tasmanian devils to breed earlier

The little devils just can't wait. Faced with an epidemic of cancer that cuts their lives short, Tasmanian devils have begun breeding at younger ages, according to researchers at the University of Tasmania in Australia.

"We could be seeing evolution occurring before our eyes. Watch this space!" says zoologist Menna Jones of the university.

Tasmanian devils live on the island of Tasmania, south of Australia. They weigh 20 to 30 pounds and were named devils by early European settlers because the furry black marsupials produce a fierce screech and can be bad-tempered.

Since 1996 a contagious form of cancer called devil facial tumor disease has been infecting these animals and is invariably fatal, causing death between the ages of 2 and 3.

In the past devils would live five to six years, breeding at ages two, three and four, but with the new disease, even females who breed at two may not live long enough to rear their first litter.


Bones of mysterious sea creature wash ashore

A mysterious skeleton found washed up on a Florida beach has scientists scratching their heads.

Eleven-year-old Rylee Robinson of McKinney, Texas found the bones on the shore of Longboat Key earlier this week while on vacation. Rylee told News First, "The skull was kind of scary, with humongous eye sockets, and spikes on its back." She said the skull still had flesh on it, and cartilage connecting the backbone to the skull.



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.