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Sat, 23 Feb 2019
The World for People who Think



Endangered whale strands itself on Masonboro Island, North Carolina

Endangered whale strands

Endangered whale strands
A team with the UNCW Marine Mammal Stranding Program were called to Masonboro Island Sunday after reports of a stranded whale.

Upon arrival, the team encountered a young Sei Whale, which is a type of Baleen Whale.

"It very rarely strands in North Carolina. It's a very poorly understood Baleen whale, we don't know much about it. It's very rare to strand in North Carolina," said Ann Pabst, a member of the Marine Mammal Stranding Program and Professor of Marine Biology at UNCW.

Pabst could only recall one other Sei Whale stranding in North Carolina dating back to the 1990s.


Swarms of locusts devastate crops in Mexico

locusts mexico
After thousands of locusts arrived at the beaches of Progreso and Sisal three days ago, the swarm has now moved all the way to Merida.
The Yucatecan capital witnessed hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of these insects who covered the sky like a cloud, blacking out the sun at some points.

Many social network users reported the event through their accounts.

The plague of locusts was detected in several neighbourhoods of the city and the cybernauts shared images and videos of the arrival mentioning @climaYucatan.

One of the main characteristics of these insects is their great ability to migrate from one place to another and, in certain circumstances, reproduce very quickly, forming devastating pests that can destroy entire crops, which is why these insects are considered extremely harmful for agriculture.

Comment: Below are some other swarms reported in the last few years:


First phase liquid transition found in biology

zebrafish embryo
A zebrafish embryo. Somewhere in there, there is liquid.

For the first time, researchers have documented a living organism passing through a liquid phase during its development.

In a study in the journal Nature Cell Biology, a group of scientists led by Carl-Philipp Heisenberg of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria show that cells within embryonic zebrafish (Danio rerio) turn temporarily into a liquid as the embryo grows.

"Such a fluidity transition was predicted to happen by theory and models, but here we show for the first time that it happens in a real, living organism," says lead author Nicoletta Petridou.

The yolk of zebrafish eggs is covered with a blastoderm, a thin layer of tissue. As the egg develops, the blastoderm forms a dome. By testing the tissue throughout the development of the embryo, the team finds that during "doming," the tissue at its centre suddenly becomes a fluid.

The researchers explain that the fluidity occurs when cells divide rapidly. Cells are normally connected to their neighbours, but during this phase of massive change, they effectively become free-floating.


13,000 people stung in a week by jelly fish invasion in Queensland, Australia

Bluebottle Queensland

Bluebottle invasion sees thousands of Queensland beachgoers stung in a day
A bluebottle jellyfish invasion has seen thousands of beachgoers stung by the creatures in southeast Queensland over the weekend.

More than 2630 people, including children, have been treated for stings since Saturday on the Gold and Sunshine coasts in the state's southeast, as the jellyfish swarm beaches in record numbers.

Almost 1000 people were hurt in a matter of hours on Sunday afternoon, with 476 bluebottle stings treated on the Gold Coast and 461 on the Sunshine Coast. Several of those stung suffered anaphylactic shock.

On Saturday, 1323 people were stung on the Gold Coast alone. And some 13,000 stings have been treated by paramedics in the region over the past week.

Surf Life Saving duty officer Jeremy Sturges said it was an "epidemic".

"I have never seen anything like this - ever," Mr Sturges said.

Comment: Over 3,000 people have been stung by jellyfish on Florida beaches in the past two weeks

Black Cat

Unusual animal behaviour: 5 dogs attacked by lynx in Inuvik, Canada since late November

A local wildlife official says the lynx attacks
© David Zalubowski/Associated Press
A local wildlife official says the lynx attacks in Inuvik are surprising.
'I have never seen a lynx do this,' says renewable resources officer

Lynx have attacked five dogs in Inuvik since late November, a trend the local wildlife official says is surprising.

"I've been in Inuvik for 10 years and I've been a wildlife officer for 17, and I have never seen a lynx do this," said Toby Halle, a renewable resources officer in Inuvik.

Halle said a local trapped a lynx on Tuesday. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources received a call about another lynx altercation with a dog on Wednesday morning.


Loud death threats bring Aussie cops to investigate!

© Shutterstock
Arachnophobia - that is, the unreasonable fear of spiders - isn't illegal, but it could still bring the police to your door if you scream loud enough.

An Australian man learned that the hard way this morning when, according to reports by the BBC, a passerby heard him shouting, "Why don't you die?" inside his suburban Perth home. The passerby also heard a toddler wailing. Justifiably, the passerby called the police.

Multiple officers presently arrived at the scene and learned that the man - and the toddler - were screaming at a spider. The screaming man was deathly afraid of spiders, he told the police, and he had gotten a bit carried away while trying to kill an unidentified arachnid in his home. The man apologized for the inconvenience, according to police logs tweeted (and subsequently deleted) by the local Wanneroo Police Department. Whether or not the spider was escorted from the domicile in four pairs of tiny handcuffs remains open to speculation.


Dozens of dead birds found on road in Amarillo, Texas

dead birds
Dozens of birds are found dead near at the corner of 45th and Coulter.

Amarillo Animal Management and Welfare said they have picked up birds at that location.

The City of Amarillo said the birds might have flown into power lines or cables near the electrical station at the intersection.

Xcel Energy Spokesperson Wes Reeves said they do not have any evidence of birds impacting their facilities at that intersection, and there have been no service interruptions related to animal contact in that area in recent weeks.


Four Maryland Chincoteague Ponies euthanized after months-long battle with mysterious 'swamp cancer'

swamp cancer Chincoteague pony

The Chincoteague Pony, also known as the Assateague horse, is a breed of horse that developed and lives in a feral condition on Assateague Island in Virginia and Maryland. A mysterious disease known as swamp cancer killed three ponies and sickened four others.
The remaining four Chincoteague ponies afflicted with swamp cancer, the mysterious disease that killed three other ponies this year, were euthanized, officials announced Friday.

The announcement marked the end of a months-long battle with a fungus-like disease that leaves ponies with lesions on their bodies and can be very painful.

Denise Bowden, spokesperson for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which manages the ponies, announced in a Facebook post that although the ponies "received the very best care money could buy," the decision was ultimately made to put them down.

The four remaining ponies euthanized were Shadow, Lightning, Calceti'n and Elusive Star, Bowden said. Their ages and ownership are not known at this time.

"They had surgeries, more medicine than you can imagine, round-the-clock care and lots and lots of love and attention," Bowden wrote. "They just couldn't fight this off and before we let them suffer any more than they have been, we feel the right decision was made."

Comment: Recently, there seems to be an ominous trend of 'mysterious diseases' affecting both wildlife and humans: Might there be a connection to the increasing frequency of 'cosmic visitors' bringing unknown pathogens?

Wine n Glass

Pathway to alcohol addiction discovered

Oktoberfest beer festival
© Christof Stache, AFP
A waitress serves beer mugs during the opening of the Oktoberfest beer festival at the Theresienwiese in Munich, southern Germany, on September 21, 2013
Researchers have been looking at the biochemical processes involved with alcohol addiction and they have succeeded in identifying the pathway involved. This could assist with the treatment of alcohol related addiction.

The new study, from Brown University (U.S.), has been conducted on the brains of fruit flies (which serve as the deal model for studying many processes in all organisms, including humans). The research reveals the pathway affected by alcohol. This pathway is the one that establishes rewarding memories and cravings.

Rewarding memories

The basis of the research was to help to understand how certain drugs, be that narcotics or alcohol, create rewarding memories in people, notwithstanding their neurotoxic effects. It was also helped that the research would help to provide an insight into addiction and treating the effects of alcohol abuse. A big challenge in treating addiction is the possibility of relapse. This can occur even after a period of abstinence. This is due to the 'reward memory' that is retained.


'Brainless' amoeba solves college level math problem

Brainless Amoeba
© Royal Society Open Science
Unless you've studied math to a pretty high level, you probably haven't heard of the Traveling Salesman Problem. That's a shame because it's one of the finest examples available to the question we've all asked at some point - "when will I ever need math in the real world?"

The Traveling Salesman Problem goes like this: Given a list of cities you have to visit, what is the shortest possible route you can take that gets you to every city and back home again?

Students who are assigned the problem in school or college often receive a simple version, planning a journey between, say, four cities. That's not too hard; there are only three possible routes you can take.
The Traveling Salesman Problem
© IFL Science
Can you find all possible routes? If you think there are six, take them backwards to check for duplicates.
But if we double that number to eight cities, there are over 2,500 possible routes we can take - and all of them need to be checked if we want to be sure we've got the shortest one. It's an NP-hard problem, which means that as we add cities to the list, the amount of time - and pain inflicted on students who are assigned the problem - increases exponentially.

Well, now those students get to feel even worse. It turns out the problem is so easy, a single amoeba can do it.