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Showing posts from 2011

Holy frijole.. H5N1

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We all remember the H1N1 virus from a few years ago right?  Well there's a new virus in town, H5N1, that top virologists have been studying.  H5N1 is a strain of influenza that's deadly in birds.

H5N1 has been coaxed by researcher Ron Fouchier from Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands and his team to leap between species, from birds to ferrets.  This research was completed in state of the art facilitates with rigorous bio safety controls --people in anti-contaminate space suits etc.  That's good to know.. but while the risk of being infected in this controlled setting is less than 1%, it is not zero.. 
This research having been completed is controversial, scientists mutated strains of a deadly influenza that are transmissible between mammals-- we're mammals.  The research specifically demonstrated that with the induced mutations H5N1 was not only transmissible between mammals in close contact, but was also an airborne infectious agent.  That's f*cking scary. I…

Pigeons Are Brilliant in Math - Discovery News

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http://news.discovery.com/animals/pigeons-math-animals-111222.htmlPigeons Are Brilliant in MathDecember 22, 2011 12:00:00 PM Jennifer ViegasPigeons may be ubiquitous, but they're also brainy, according to a new study that found these birds are on par with primates when it comes to numerical competence.The study, published in the latest issue of the journal Science, discovered that pigeons can discriminate against different amounts of number-like objects, order pairs, and learn abstract mathematical rules. Aside from humans, only rhesus monkeys have exhibited equivalent skills.NEWS: Chimps Have Better Sex Than HumansCould pigeons then be the Einsteins of the bird world?"It would be fair to say that, even among birds, pigeons are not thought to be the sharpest crayon in the box," lead author Damian Scarf told Discovery News. "I think that this ability may be widespread among birds. There is already clear evidence that it is widespread among primates."Scarf, a pos…

Camera Trap Images Tell Anti-Poaching Success Story - Discovery News

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http://news.discovery.com/animals/camera-trap-images-111221.htmlCamera Trap Images Tell Anti-Poaching Success StoryDecember 21, 2011 12:56:28 PM Jennifer ViegasPhoto: A tigress drinks with her cubs from a watering hole inside Thailand's Western Forest Complex; Credit for all images: DNP-Government of Thailand/WCS Thailand ProgramCamera trap photo stills and video footage suggest that anti-poaching efforts in the forests of Thailand are paying off, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.NEWS: Elephants Outwit Humans During Intelligence TestThe cameras, set up at several locations across Thailand's Western Forest Complex over the last year, have captured tigers, Asian elephants, gaurs, sun bears, and many other species in off guard moments. Video footage shows a tigress and her cubs feeding on an animal carcass, leopards marking their territory with scent, wild pigs nursing their young, and even Asian elephants mating."The video represents a huge payoff for …

SEX and proliferation

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Sexis a very intriguing subject. Sex has become an advantageous means of procreation; combining two genomes so that the offspring has the best possible combination of alleles that will be beneficial for their survival and reproduction. Darwin introduced descent with modification, and modern science has revealed DNA to be the physical means of heredity. Armed with this knowledge, one might suspect sex to be the shiznit of strategies, and I believe it is one of the best certainly. But species have existed and remain in existence today who do not participate in this activity.. how is that possible?

A-sexual species produce genetically identical copies of themselves, clones, and if they have all the alleles in their DNA that they need to perform physical processes they're set. Archaea bacteria are a great example, the little guys survive in 150 degree + hot springs and chug along doing what there doing like they have for millions of years.

Hermaphrodites have the abi…

Florida Reef Restoration Successful - Discovery News

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Florida Reef Restoration Successful
December 16, 2011 2:36:06 PM Tim Wall
Nine years after a boat mangled a coral reef near Key West, Florida, the reef is back and thriving thanks to efforts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA).The 35-foot long boat Lagniappe II plowed into a reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in August 2002. The boat's owner paid $56,671.27 in a negotiated settlement to partially cover the costs he had incurred for the American public. The money partly covered the restoration of the 376 square-feet of living coral he damaged.NOAA went to work reattaching 473 corals, then monitored the reef's progress as it regained its health. NOAA researchers used photos and a specialized computer program to study the numbers and types of coral in the damaged area.By 2009, the reattached coral looked just like a nearby area used as a reference. Another year later, and the damaged reef had more coral that the reference area."…

Russian Icebreaker On Race to Rescue Whales - Discovery News

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Save the beluga!!!! Russian Icebreaker On Race to Rescue Whales
December 15, 2011 10:25:58 AM Kieran Mulvaney
The Arctic can be an unforgiving realm, and even its most adept inhabitants at times struggle with the potentially fatal obstacles it places in front of them.

The beluga is a case in point. Like other toothed whales, it uses echolocation, or sonar, to help find its way around; the echolocation of a beluga, however, seems to be particularly finely tuned and adept at finding even the narrowest of cracks and leads in the ice that forms on the sea surface.
Sometimes, however, even that ability is outmatched by the challenges of an Arctic winter. On occasion, ice cover may be so extensive that all the belugas in the area are forced to use the nearest available patch of open water, known as a polynya; as a result, that patch of water can seem positively inundated with bobbing white heads and the exhalation of whale breath. In such cases, the best scenario for the belugas is that othe…

Buy a Real Tree For a Green Christmas - Discovery News

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Buy a Real Tree For a Green Christmas
December 13, 2011 7:35:00 AM Tim WallReal trees are the Earth and economy-friendly buy, compared to re-used artificials, say forestry officials. The benefits start on the farm."First of all, any conifer makes great cover in the winter, which is what ground birds like quail are looking for," Jill Sidebottom, Forestry Specialist at North Carolina State University, told Discovery News."Secondly, it's the ground covers that provide the seed, flowers, and habitat for insects that bring in the wildlife.""The young trees are great because it provides an early successional forest -- habitat along the edges of woods. Talk to any wildlife person and they will tell you that this is what they try to maintain for wildlife, and that's exactly what a Christmas tree farm is," said Sidebottom.Tree farms use relatively small amounts of agricultural chemicals compared to other crops. Many farmers use herbicides at low concentrat…

Feeling rather small?

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Take this guy, Tornatellides boeningi. They are consumed by white eye birds in Japan, but they survivedigestion. Then they get pooped out all over Japan and continue to enjoy their snail days peacefully. Passage through the gut may actually be beneficial to the snail, so I think we could all take a lesson from this little guy. 

Cheers to staying humble Tornatellides boeningi, 

Beluga Christmas Boogy

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Beluga whales are interesting and mysterious to me, but when I found a video of one dancing while being serenaded by a mariachi band.. I had to do some googling.

I've seen belugas in documentaries, but I've never really thought about them before. They inhabit Arctic and sub-Arctic seas near the coasts of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia, and primarily eat fish, squid, octopus and crustaceans. Yeah, cool, so whats so interesting?

Beluga whales are an incredibly friendly and social bunch! Also known as a "sea canary" they squeak, chirp, whistle and click to communicate with each other. They congregate in groups of two to twenty five, but pods of belugas aggregate in estuaries and can reach up to 10,000. Mother and calf form very close life long bonds, and often will remain in the same pod and migrate to estuaries together. Humans have interacted with belugas since ye old whaling days, taking advantage of their sweet mild manner to capture them and of coarse, hu…

Case of the Panda Ant

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A panda ant? I just had to find out more about this insect.

Surprisingly this charismatic "ant" was difficult to find, and involved translating a lot of spanish text. Alas I discovered this "ant" is actually a wingless wasp from Chile. The specimens collected and cataloged in the Virtual Biodiversity Insectarium were hermaphrodites about 8mm in length from a near coastal region in central Chile.



Pretty cute for a wasp.. but its interesting how similar it looks to this Thistledown Velvet Ant, Dasymutilla gloriosa found in Mexico, California, Texas, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.


Freaky.