Earth ChangesS


First Spider Known to Science That Feeds Mainly on Plant Food

© R. L. CurryAdult female Bagheera kiplingi eats Beltian body harvested from ant-acacia.
There are approximately 40,000 species of spiders in the world, all of which have been thought to be strict predators that feed on insects or other animals. Now, scientists have found that a small Central American jumping spider has a uniquely different diet: the species Bagheera kiplingi feeds predominantly on plant food.

The research, led by Christopher Meehan of Villanova University and Eric Olson of Brandeis University, has revealed the extraordinary ecology and behavior in Bagheera kiplingi, which lives throughout much of Central America and southern Mexico. There, the spider inhabits several species of acacia shrubs involved in a co-evolutionary mutualism with certain ants that has long been a staple of ecology textbooks: the ants fiercely guard the plants against most would-be herbivores, while the acacias provide both housing for the ants via swollen, hollow spines and food in the form of nectar (excreted from glands at the base of each leaf) and specialized leaf tips known as Beltian bodies. The Bagheera spiders are "cheaters" in the ant-acacia system, stealing and eating both nectar and - most remarkably - Beltian bodies without helping to defend the plant. The spiders get the job done through active avoidance of patrolling acacia-ants, relying on excellent eyesight, agility, and cognitive skills.

How do the spiders get around the ants that are supposed to be guarding the acacias and gobbling up the Beltian bodies themselves?

Bizarro Earth

China: 200 Tibetan Herdsmen Stranded by Snow Storm

More than 200 herdsmen and some 1,000 heads of livestock had been stranded by strong snowfall in Ali Prefecture, the local armed police said yesterday.

The week-long snowfall accumulated to about 30 centimeters on the ground in Pulan County of Ali, with some areas suffering from one-meter-thick snow, according to Xing Xiuyin, head of an armed police detachment stationed in the region.

Heavy snow cut off the roads connecting some townships in the county.


Sulfur Dioxide, Earthquakes Show Mayon Volcano More Restive

Sulfur dioxide emission and quakes showed clear signs that Mayon volcano continues to be on a heightened state of restiveness, said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on Monday.

A Phivolcs bulletin on Monday said the volcano released 853 tons of sulfur dioxide during the past 24 hours, a reading which was way above the 505 tons a day recorded on Sunday.

The sulfur dioxide disgorge from Mt. Mayon indicated a fluctuating trend ranging from 350 to 853 tons per day.

There were 505 tons per day recorded on Oct. 10; 761 tons on Oct.8; and 350 tons on Oct. 7.

Ed Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist, said that "350 tons per day to 853 tons per day during the past five days is an indication that magma is intruding into the volcano's vent."


If you can't convince the adults, scare the children: Ministers target climate change doubters in prime-time TV advert

Climate change sceptics are to be targeted in a hard-hitting government advertising campaign that will be the first to state unequivocally that Man is causing global warming and endangering life on Earth.

The £6 million campaign, which begins tonight in the prime ITV1 slot during Coronation Street, is a direct response to government research showing that more than half the population think that climate change will have no effect on them.

Ministers sanctioned the campaign because of concern that scepticism about climate change was making it harder to introduce carbon-reducing policies such as higher energy bills.

The advertisement attempts to make adults feel guilty about their legacy to their children. It features a father telling his daughter a bedtime story of "a very very strange" world with "horrible consequences" for today's children.Climate change sceptics are to be targeted in a hard-hitting government advertising campaign that will be the first to state unequivocally that Man is causing global warming and endangering life on Earth.

Cloud Lightning

California: Typhoon remnants threaten to bring Central Valley flooding, mudslides, weather service says

typhoon Melor weather map
© The Weather Channeltyphoon Melor
The remains of super typhoon Melor, which is barreling across the Pacific at high speed today, threaten to bring flooding to some areas of California's Central Valley and mud slides in recently fire-ravaged areas, the National Weather Service reports.

Up to 6 inches of rain could fall starting Tuesday in the foothills and mountains east of the Sacramento Valley in the season's first major storm for Northern California, meteorologist Felix Garcia of the National Weather Service said.

The valley could see up to 2 inches of rain during the entirety of the storm, he said.

The snow level will stay above 7,000 feet or 8,000 feet, meaning virtually all the precipitation will be in the form of rain, Garcia said.

Areas where fires occurred may suffer more.


Killer Earthquakes Shake Scientific Thought

© AP PhotoIndonesian soldiers crawl under a collapsed building during a rescue attempt in the Sumatran city of Padang on October 2 after a 7.6-magnitude quake toppled buildings in the area late on September 30. A sudden cluster of massive earthquakes which has shaken Asia-Pacific communities and likely left thousands dead has also jolted some scientists, who are starting to question conventional thought.
A sudden cluster of massive earthquakes which has shaken Asia-Pacific communities and likely left thousands dead has also jolted some scientists, who are starting to question conventional thought.

Experts who dismissed notions that far-away quakes could be linked are beginning to think again after huge tremors rocked Samoa and Indonesia on the same day, followed by another major convulsion in Vanuatu.

Some 184 people died in the terrifying tsunami which smashed Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga on September 30, while thousands are feared dead after parts of Indonesia's Padang city were reduced to rubble just hours later.

On Thursday, thousands of panicked people fled the coast as a rapid succession of large quakes off Vanuatu set off a tsunami warning for much of the South Pacific.

The "remarkable" sequence has prompted veteran earthquake-watcher Gary Gibson to tear up his theory it was all down to chance and search for a possible connection.

Better Earth

Al Gore Challenged at Environmental Conference

The director of Not Evil, Just Wrong, a documentary challenging Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, dares to ask a question at the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference. Apparently Mr. Gore only allows the 'right kind' of questions to be asked of him.

Bizarro Earth

6.4-magnitude quake hits South Pacific, no tsunami alert

A 6.4-magnitude quake hit the Santa Cruz islands in the South Pacific on Friday, seismologists said, a day after a series of huge quakes sparked a region-wide tsunami alert.

The quake struck at a depth of just 9.4 kilometres (six miles) about 315 kilometres northwest of the Luganville, part of the Vanuatu archipelago, at 8:16am (2116 GMT) but no tsunami warning was immediately issued.

The region has been pummelled by some 20 aftershocks after Thursday's triple tremors measuring 7.6, 7.8 and 7.3 sparked a tsunami warning for much of the South Pacific, sending thousands of residents fleeing from the coast.

Bizarro Earth

5.9 Earthquake Shakes Tonga

A moderate magnitude 5.9 earthquake shook the South Pacific near Tonga on Sunday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. No tsunami watch was issued.

The quake struck at 8:41 Sunday morning (1941 GMT Saturday) at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), the USGS said.

It was centered 65 kilometers (40 miles) east-northeast Hihifo, Tonga, and 645 kilometers (400 miles) north-northeast of the capital, Nuku'alofa, Tonga, the agency reported.

Sunday's quake was 260 kilometers (160 miles) southwest of Apia, Samoa, which was hit by a quake and a devastating tsunami on Sept. 29, with at least 183 people killed.


Temperatures of Sea Water Fringing South Pole were Tropical 50 million Years Ago

© Unknown
The temperature difference between equatorial and polar sea waters was minimal during the extremely warm 'Greenhouse world' 60 to 50 million years ago. This is the main conclusion drawn by a team of scientists from Utrecht University, the Netherlands, the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and the University of California, Santa Cruz. The team of scientists, headed by Peter Bijl, show that circum-Antarctic sea water exceeded 30ºC at that time. The results were published in Nature this week.

The conclusions are based on analyses on sediments retrieved from the ocean floor east of Tasmania. This area bordered to Antarctica during the early Paleogene (60-35 milion years ago). Much global warming research is focused on polar areas, because these are particularly sensitive to climate change.

Previously, scientists from Utrecht University and the Royal NIOZ presented in a suite of Nature and Science articles the manifestation of Greenhouse climates in the Arctic regions, with the invasion of tropical algae and sea surface temperatures of up to 24ºC. Meanwhile, temperatures of waters fringing the Antarctic continent during the Greenhouse climates were a great unknown to climate scientists. The multidisciplinary research, published in Nature, now reached a breakthrough.