Brachycephalus: miniaturized frogs


via Cool Critters — science-junkie: Brachycephalus: miniaturized….

Credit: Luiz Fernando Ribeiro, CC BY SA

Credit: Luiz Fernando Ribeiro, CC BY SA

Following nearly 5 years of exploration in mountainous areas of the southern Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest, a team of researchers has uncovered seven new species of a highly miniaturized, brightly colored frog genus known asBrachycephalus.

These frogs are among the smallest terrestrial vertebrates, with adult sizes often not exceeding 1 cm in length, leading to a variety of changes in their body structure, such as reduction in the number of toes and fingers. In addition, many species of Brachycephalus are brightly colored, possibly as a warning to the presence of a highly potent neurotoxin in their skin known as tetrodotoxin.

Read more  –  Full Article

 

– It’s Shark Week!


via – It’s Shark Week! That time of year where….

Sharks kill 10 people a year

There are roughly 475,000 murders every year.

Mosquitos are the deadliest animal, killing 725,000 per year.

Lets put things in perspective.

It’s Shark Week! That time of year where television networks pretend sharks are the most dangerous animal out there. Here we compare how many people are killed by sharks per year versus the two deadliest animals for humans – mosquitoes and other people. Want to learn more? Watch the video here where we highlight 15 of the deadliest animals out there.

 

Pembient, a biotech firm, has mass-produced rhino horns that are genetically identical to, and indiscernible from, the ones cut off of rhinos–but instead, are grown in a lab. Then they flooded the black market with the fake horns, driving down the price and making rhinos an unappealing target to poachers


via Republican Idiots – today in RL superheroes.

They’re looking into ivory next. [source]

 

an early wmd case…


via Science Junkie – wtfevolution: “That’s a cute little bug,….

wtfevolution:

wtfevolution:“That’s a cute little bug, evolution!”“Yes, thank you! It’s a beaded lacewing. I’m just finishing up the larval form’s feeding mechanism now.”“Oh yeah? What do the larvae eat?”“Termites.”“Hm. Those can be hard to catch, can’t they? Don’t you want to give the lacewing some stronger legs or giant trap-jaws or something?”“Nah, it’s fine. It’s going to paralyze the termites first.”“Paralyze them? How will it do that?”“With toxic gas.”“Come on, where does it get toxic gas?”“From its anus.”“… I’m sorry, what?”“It can release toxic gas from its anus.” “Okay, but…”“It sneaks up and farts on the termites’ heads until they pass out, and then it eats them. I don’t know what you’re not getting about this.”“I just… I don’t… um…”“It’s doing the termites a favor, really. That way they don’t have to feel it when the lacewing punctures their abdomen with its mouthparts and starts digesting them from the inside. Anyway, break for lunch?”“No thanks, I think I’m good.”Source: Flickr / cotinis / licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0Read more: Silent and Deadly: Fatal Farts Immobilize Prey by Gwen Pearson at WIRED

“That’s a cute little bug, evolution!”

“Yes, thank you! It’s a beaded lacewing. I’m just finishing up the larval form’s feeding mechanism now.”

“Oh yeah? What do the larvae eat?”

“Termites.”

“Hm. Those can be hard to catch, can’t they? Don’t you want to give the lacewing some stronger legs or giant trap-jaws or something?”

“Nah, it’s fine. It’s going to paralyze the termites first.”

“Paralyze them? How will it do that?”

“With toxic gas.”

“Come on, where does it get toxic gas?”

“From its anus.”

“… I’m sorry, what?”

“It can release toxic gas from its anus.”

“Okay, but…”

“It sneaks up and farts on the termites’ heads until they pass out, and then it eats them. I don’t know what you’re not getting about this.”

“I just… I don’t… um…”

“It’s doing the termites a favor, really. That way they don’t have to feel it when the lacewing punctures their abdomen with its mouthparts and starts digesting them from the inside. Anyway, break for lunch?”

“No thanks, I think I’m good.”

Source: Flickr / cotinis / licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Read more: Silent and Deadly: Fatal Farts Immobilize Prey by Gwen Pearson at WIRED

 

How A Historical Blunder Helped Create The Water Crisis In The West : NPR


via How A Historical Blunder Helped Create The Water Crisis In The West : NPR.

JUNE 25, 2015

A bathtub ring marks the high-water line on Nevada’s Lake Mead, which is on the Colorado River, in 2013.

Julie Jacobson/AP

In 1922, seven Western states — Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming and California — drew up an agreement on how to divide the waters of the Colorado River. But there was one big problem with the plan: They overestimated how much water the river could provide.

As a result, each state was promised more water than actually exists. This miscalculation — and the subsequent mismanagement of water resources in those states — has created a water crisis that now affects nearly 40 million Americans.

Environmental reporter Abrahm Lustgarten began investigating the water crisis a year and a half ago for the ProPublica series Killing the Colorado. He tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies that he initially thought the water crisis was the result of climate change or drought. Instead, Lustgarten says, “It’s the policy and the management that seem to be having a greater effect than the climate.”

Lustgarten says conservation and increased efficiency in farming could reintroduce enormous quantities of water back into the Colorado River system. By Lustgarten’s estimate, if Arizona farmers switched from growing cotton to growing wheat, it would save enough water to supply about 1.4 million people with water each year.

But, Lustgarten adds, “There’s nothing really more politically touchy in the West than water and the prospect of taking away people’s water rights. So what you have when you talk about increasing efficiency or reapportioning water is essentially an argument between those who have it, which are the farmers and the people who have been on that land for generations, and those who don’t, which are the cities who are relative newcomers to the area.”


Interview Highlights

On how, in the 1920s, seven Western states decided how they would divide up the waters of the Colorado River

The states came together and negotiated, actually, at the behest of Herbert Hoover, for how they would divide up that river. To do that, they calculated what they thought was the total flow of the river, thought they’d leave a little bit in the river for the health of the ecosystem, and divided up what they thought remained. It has turned out over the years that far less than that flows in the river. … What that means is from the very start the Colorado River has been over-allocated — not all of those states yet take the maximum amount they’re allowed to, but if they did, each of those states have been promised collectively more water than actually exists, and that’s the very premise of water use in the West. Before drought, before climate change, before expansion and population, they began with the premise of thinking they had more water than they actually had.

On why farmers grow such a “thirsty” crop as cotton in arid Arizona

Cotton is one of the most water-intensive crops that farmers can grow. It’s not the most — grasses, like alfalfa, which are also grown in abundance, use far more water. But [among] the long list of options, cotton uses about six times as much water as growing a crop of lettuce and about 60 percent more than growing wheat. Cotton has been a staple of Arizona’s agriculture economy for many years. It’s in decline. There’s much less of it today than there used to be, but there’s still more than 100,000 acres of cotton grown in Arizona.

Arizona is probably the worst off when it comes to water of the seven states in the Colorado River Basin, so that decision to continue to use its water to grow one of the thirstiest crops is something that caught our attention very early in our reporting. … When you look at cotton, it’s not actually a really good business. There’s a glut of cotton on the market, there’s not a lot of demand for it, and in recent years the price has been really low, so it wouldn’t appear to be a very good business decision for farmers. What we found is that under the U.S. farm bill, the federal government heavily subsidizes cotton, it subsidizes other crops but no crop in Arizona received more money than cotton through a variety of forms. The farmers that I spoke with basically said that this money helps them bridge the gap between good years and bad years and keeps them in the black. If they didn’t grow cotton, they wouldn’t be eligible for as much money. Their entire farming operations would likely suffer.

On how much water it takes to grow alfalfa, which is grown to feed cows

If you were to pick any one crop that uses the most water in the Colorado River Basin, it’s alfalfa. There’s a lot of surprising aspects to alfalfa usage, not just that it supports our meat and dairy industries but a lot of it is actually exported to support other countries’ meat and dairy industries. There’s large alfalfa farms in Southern California and southern Arizona for example that are owned by the United Arab Emirates, or other Middle Eastern countries. I calculated, based on the very high water intensity of say a steak, you can calculate that if Americans theoretically ate one less meal of meat each week it would save an amount of water that could be the equivalent of the entire annual flow of the Colorado River.

colorado river 001On one of the massive geo-engineering projects that were built to carry water from the river to the arid lands in the West

The Navajo Generating Station is a three-generator, coal-fired plant. It’s one of the largest in the country, and it sits in the northern edge of Arizona along the Colorado River, outside the town of Page as a phenomenally massive monument to industry. It sits in an otherwise plain and open wilderness landscape, red sandstone spires and desert buttes, and then all of a sudden is this enormous, thrumming, loud facility with three smokestacks that reach almost 800 feet into the air. It consumes about 22,000 tons of coal each year and powers a number of Southwestern cities, but mainly [it] provides the power to move water through the Central Arizona Project canal into the middle of Arizona. …

About 300 miles south of Page along the Colorado River, the river sits in a small reservoir called Lake Havasu, and from Lake Havasu there’s a couple of intake pipes that move the water out of the river, about 10 percent of the flow of the river, carry it up a total elevation gain of about 3,000 feet and across 336 miles through the cities of Phoenix and Tucson into the central part of the state of Arizona. Moving that much water up that much elevation gain requires an enormous amount of energy, and to acquire that energy the federal government basically built the Navajo Generating Station in the early 1970s.

On the pollution created to move the water from the river to farms and cities

The Navajo Generating Station is the nation’s third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, climate warming gases, of any power facility in the country. In addition to the carbon dioxide, it has historically emitted enormous amounts of nitrogen oxide, mercury, going back some years, sulfur dioxide and a slew of other pollutants that have essentially blanketed that part of the country in a fog of haze and smog. …

It was anticipated. The earliest environmental impact statements that I was able to find, dating back to 1972, warned that the Navajo plant and another that was being built at the time would cause an exponential rise in air pollution in the region. The Union of Concerned Scientists called that part of the country a “national sacrifice area” if the country proceeded with its plan to mine coal and burn it for power and those concerns have essentially manifested today.

On how government policies are contributing to the water shortage

What I hear repeatedly from some of the smartest thinkers in the West … is that there is plenty of water in the West, so the question is really about how do you use it better. … The changes that we talked about in terms of farming, prioritizing which crops are grown and increasing efficiency about how water is used in the cities, they believe would make the region self-sustaining for many, many, many decades into the future.

Bigfin Reef Squid Dazzle to Attract Mates – YouTube


via Bigfin Reef Squid Dazzle to Attract Mates – YouTube.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Published on 25 Jun 2015

Trying to attract a mate? It’s all about flashing the right colors and patterns for these bigfin reef squid, who are pairing up and laying eggs on exhibit right now! Each female lays 1,000-6,000 eggs, which take approximately three weeks to incubate. Learn more: http://mbayaq.co/1oLgXK8

 

If GMOs Are Safe, Why Not Label Them? (64 Other Countries Do)


via If GMOs Are Safe, Why Not Label Them? (64 Other Countries Do).

Rose Marcario, Patagonia | May 22, 2015

When Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, began writing about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the early 2000s, he started by asking a reasonable question: “What does a clothing company know about genetic engineering?”

patagoniagmo
Patagonia Provisions Wild Sockeye Salmon comes only from abundant, sustainable runs—we never use farmed or genetically engineered salmon—and our Tsampa Soup uses only organic, non-GMO ingredients. Photo credit: Amy Kumler

The answer, he said: “Not enough.” And neither does anyone else. In the proliferation of GMOs, Yvon saw a serious threat to wildness and biodiversity.

More than 10 years later, the prevalence of GMOs in everyday food products has risen sharply—but basic consumer awareness remains low.

An alarming bill before Congress aims to keep it that way. The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 (H.R. 4432) will remove any requirements for manufacturers to label foods containing GMOs. Even the misleading name of the bill suggests an intention to leave us in the dark.

We all have a right to know what’s in our food. The manufacturers of GMO seeds maintain that GMO corn and soy, found in many everyday food products, are safe. But if they are safe, why not label them?Currently, 64 countries around the world require labeling of foods containing GMOs. Most other developed countries—including 28 nations in the European Union, as well as Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia and China—require labeling.

 

Photo credit: Patagonia
Patagonia believes consumers have the right to know what’s in their food. Photo credit: Patagonia

Yet, in the U.S., various food companies joined together to sue the state of Vermont, the first state to pass legislation requiring labeling of GMO food. (Last month, a district judge ruled in favor of labeling GMO food).

Sometimes a new technology puts us up against an edge that’s hard to see, feel or even define. New technologies, like genetically engineered food, should be labeled, so you can decide whether you want to risk ingesting them.

That seems like common sense to us—so it’s not clear why there is so much resistance to labeling GMOs. Among other arguments, large corporations pushing against labeling say the cost of new labels will be great and passed along to the consumer. But an independent study has shown this is unlikely as manufacturers routinely update labels for marketing reasons.

Further, we have a good, time-tested alternative to GMOs on a global scale: organic farming. Modern organic farming can be highly productive—as good as conventional systems but safer and more sustainable. It can produce high yields from small acreage through the use of locally adapted plants, intercropping, improved nutrient recycling and new techniques to minimize leaching, soil erosion and water consumption.

Claims that genetically engineered seeds will provide significant increases in agricultural production worldwide are probably true—but only in the very short term. In a comparison of organic and conventional yields, Rodale Institute discovered that after an initial decline in yields during the first few years of transition, the organic system soon rebounded to match or surpass the conventional system.

Organic farming puts food on the table (and clothing on our backs) without poisoning the Earth.

Patagonia switched to organic cotton in 1996 because we found out how many pesticides are used in growing conventional cotton. In our new food line, Patagonia Provisions, we only useorganic ingredients.

Business is responding with positive steps forward: In the last six months, several food and restaurant businesses have announced plans to reformulate products to eliminate artificial ingredients, including GMOs.

But even if people don’t buy organic, a majority say they want to know what’s in the food they eat. We should be informed and make our own choices about what we feed our families and ourselves.

So, as a clothing company that recently got into the food business, we believe it would be irresponsible not to push hard for transparency and other imperatives that will shape our ability to keep the planet and all its inhabitants alive and healthy in the future.

I’m was proud to join with other business leaders on May 20 in Washington, DC, to talk to lawmakers about the critical need for transparency in food labeling. I encourage you to visit JustLabelIt.org to learn more about how to protect your right to know.

Originally published on Patagonia‘s blog, The Cleanest Line.

Why are saiga antelope dying in record numbers? | MNN – Mother Nature Network


via Why are saiga antelope dying in record numbers? | MNN – Mother Nature Network.

Scientists race to identify the cause of the mystery die-off, as half of the species’ population perishes within a matter of weeks.

By: Bryan Nelson – Tue, Jun 02, 2015

saiga antelope drinking

The saiga is perhaps most recognizable for its unique, elephant-like nose. (Photo: Saiga Conservation Alliance)

The saiga antelope, an ice age relic, once roamed alongside woolly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers. Today, the population of this ancient species is in collapse. In just a 15-year period, their numbers have dropped by 95 percent, which represents the sharpest collapse for a mammal species ever recorded. Poaching and habitat loss are historically the main culprits, but over the last several years a new scourge has arrived: a mysterious disease that has wiped out more than 120,000 saiga in a matter of weeks, nearly half of the remaining worldwide population, reports Nature.
It’s difficult to comprehend the loss that this species has suffered in such a short time. “Apocalyptic” is not too strong a word.
“I’m flustered looking for words here,” Joel Berger, a senior scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, told the New York Times. “To lose 120,000 animals in two or three weeks is a phenomenal thing.”
So what could cause such a mass die-off? Scientists still aren’t entirely sure, but there are some clues. Here’s what they do know: Autopsies of dead saigas have revealed that they were infected with two species of bacteria, Pasteurella and Clostridium, and that these infections contributed to their deaths. But this knowledge hardly solves the mystery because these bacteria are present in most healthy antelope too. In other words, it’s likely that some other unknown ailment is crippling their immune systems, allowing the bacterial infections to take hold.
Scientists are also considering whether the cause is from something other than viral or bacterial pathogens. For instance, Central Asia has experienced heavy chemical pollution over the decades from factories and farms. Climate change could also be at fault. Heavier than normal rainfall has led to lush plant growth in the region, and saigas are known to overeat, become bloated and get sick. But so far these are mere speculations.
Whatever this disease is, it strikes with alarming quickness. Animals typically die within hours of developing symptoms, which include depression, diarrhea and frothing at the mouth. The only good news is that the mass die-off appears to be over, as few new deaths have occurred since the initial collapse. But unless scientists can identify exactly what is killing the antelope, there could be no stopping another catastrophe.
One reason for optimism is that the saiga is a resilient animal, and the species has survived population collapses in the past. Though not as severe as the recent die-off, similar events also occurred in 1984, 2010 and 2012, and the species was able to recover. Part of the reason the saiga is so well-adapted to such population collapses is that the animals have a high reproductive rate. They regularly produce triplets and have the highest fetal biomass of any mammal.
Still, it’s a long uphill climb for a species that has been so utterly decimated in such a short period of time, and there are heavy hearts for the conservationists who have worked so diligently to protect this beautiful antelope.
The fossil record reveals that the prehistoric range of the saiga stretched from the United Kingdom to Alaska, though today their range is limited to pockets in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The species is most recognizable for unusual noses, which look roughly like rudimentary elephant trunks. Though the noses look goofy, they represent remarkable adaptations. They act as filters, protecting the animals from breathing in rising dust from the dry ground in summer, and warming the air during the cold of winter.
“It’s a remarkable structure, really,” said Dr. Kühl-Stenzel, a saiga expert, to the New York Times. “In the rutting season, the male’s nose swells even more, and then they shake their heads and it makes a squishy sound.”

Ophiothrix spiculata


via AsapSCIENCE — tentaclegarden: ….

tentaclegarden:

frumpytaco:trynottodrown:untitled | NirupamNigam

 

“Pom-pom Crabs aren’t the ocean’s cheerleaders…


via AsapSCIENCE — theoddcollection: “Pom-pom Crabs aren’t the….

theoddcollection:

“Pom-pom Crabs aren’t the ocean’s cheerleaders, they actually pick poisonous anemones and wave them to defend themselves from predators.” (Source)