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Ecology / Conservation posts

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  • March 29, 2015
  • 02:43 PM
  • 21 views

Biofuel, good for the environment if you’re eating less

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

When the government first changed policy to require ethanol in gasoline, we were told it would reduce our carbon footprint. Then food prices rose significantly and corn in particular saw the largest price rise. This was because corn is a staple in production of almost any other food from eggs to beef, but the policy made environmental sense. Well it made sense, until you found out that the new government policy also took into account people eating less.... Read more »

Searchinger, T., Edwards, R., Mulligan, D., Heimlich, R., & Plevin, R. (2015) Do biofuel policies seek to cut emissions by cutting food?. Science, 347(6229), 1420-1422. DOI: 10.1126/science.1261221  

  • March 29, 2015
  • 10:42 AM
  • 20 views

Accelerated loss: western Antarctice ice shelf melting at faster pace within last decade

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

New satellite measurements have given unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution to Antarctice melting. The data indicates the Western shelf is melting faster than thought and the Eastern shelf is no longer gaining thickness. Important information to predict future sea level rises!... Read more »

  • March 26, 2015
  • 07:00 AM
  • 46 views

http://www.united-academics.org/magazine/health-medicine/coffees-dirty-secret-like-carcinogens-with-that/

by Elisabeth Buhl Thubron in United Academics

Furans are coffee’s dirty little secret. Although we can thank them for the pleasant aroma and delicious flavour of freshly brewed coffee, furans have been labelled as a possible human carcinogen (cause of cancer) in disguise by food safety agencies. How many are in there
depends on how you like your cup of Joe.... Read more »

  • March 25, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 50 views

This Nose Knows

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Evolution has given the sperm whale the most amazing head in the animal kingdom. They’ve got the biggest brain – all 18 lb.s of it. It has 1900 liters of sperm oil that almost caused in the extinction of the animal. It has one nostril that’s offset on its head, making the whale asymmetric. But most impressively, he can change the density of his head to help him dive or surface, and to do it he uses the same organ he uses for echolocation!... Read more »

  • March 24, 2015
  • 02:42 PM
  • 48 views

FDA struggles to define what “natural” means for food labels

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

After decades of debate there remains no generally accepted definition of a “natural” food product. Despite a gamut of products with the label prominently displayed, it has caused a headache in lawsuits for the government who have yet to define “natural”. According to new research, while regulatory agencies have refused to settle the issue, they may be under new pressure from those consumer lawsuits.... Read more »

  • March 24, 2015
  • 10:11 AM
  • 50 views

Global Warming Turns Rainforest Leaves into Junk Food

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



Like those breakfast cereals that look healthy on the box but have even more sugar inside than Cocoa Puffs, some rainforest trees engage in false advertising. It's not their fault—it's ours. Climate change has made their leaves less nutritious than they used to be. And the animals who live off of those trees don't exactly have another store to shop at.

Experiments in labs and greenhouses have given scientists mixed answers about what happens to plant tissues in a changing climate. So pr........ Read more »

Rothman, J., Chapman, C., Struhsaker, T., Raubenheimer, D., Twinomugisha, D., & Waterman, P. (2015) Long-term declines in nutritional quality of tropical leaves. Ecology, 96(3), 873-878. DOI: 10.1890/14-0391.1  

  • March 23, 2015
  • 10:34 AM
  • 61 views

Komodo Dragons: Their Bite is Worse than Their Bark

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

By Shelly Sonsalla Komodo Dragon. Image by Arturo de Frias Marques on Wikimedia. Komodo dragons are the world’s largest living lizard and can be found only on select islands in the Indonesian archipelago. These massive lizards can grow to be 10 feet in length and up to 150 pounds! Their natural prey includes wild boars, deer, and water buffalo—animals which may outweigh them by several hundred pounds. So how does a lizard, even such a large one, manage to take down prey so much larger tha........ Read more »

Fry, B., Wroe, S., Teeuwisse, W., van Osch, M., Moreno, K., Ingle, J., McHenry, C., Ferrara, T., Clausen, P., Scheib, H.... (2009) A central role for venom in predation by Varanus komodoensis (Komodo Dragon) and the extinct giant Varanus (Megalania) priscus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(22), 8969-8974. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0810883106  

Merchant, M., Henry, D., Falconi, R., Muscher, B., & Bryja, J. (2013) Antibacterial activities of serum from the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis). Microbiology Research, 4(1), 4. DOI: 10.4081/mr.2013.e4  

Montgomery JM, Gillespie D, Sastrawan P, Fredeking TM, & Stewart GL. (2002) Aerobic salivary bacteria in wild and captive Komodo dragons. Journal of wildlife diseases, 38(3), 545-51. PMID: 12238371  

  • March 22, 2015
  • 06:52 AM
  • 71 views

Can Neuroscience Teach Us About Winemaking?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Modern winemakers may have erred when they switched to producing high alcohol wines. According to a new paper, from Spanish neuroscientists Ram Frost and colleagues, a low alcohol content wine actually produces more brain activity in 'taste processing' areas than more alcoholic varieties do.



But what does the brain really have to say about Beaujolais? Can scanning help us pick a Sauvignon? Will neuroimaging reveal the secret to a good... er... Nero d'Avola?



In their paper, publishe... Read more »

  • March 21, 2015
  • 07:31 PM
  • 63 views

Squid prolifically edit RNA to enrich their DNA

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

DNA, it’s what makes us, well us! Not that long ago, before we sequenced human DNA we assumed we had one of the largest genomes around. Frankly it wasn’t a bad assumption, but of course we found out this was far from the case and to make ourselves feel better we said size doesn’t matter. But one of the surprising discoveries to emerge from comparative genomics is that drastically different organisms–humans, sea urchins, worms, flies –are endowed with a more or less common set of genes......... Read more »

  • March 20, 2015
  • 03:55 AM
  • 67 views

How chemistry affects the evolution of life

by GrrlScientist in Maniraptora

SUMMARY: In this fascinating video, Professor Ros Rickaby from Oxford chats with Professor Simon Conway-Morris at Cambridge about how Earth’s changing chemistry has affected evolution, and how this can sometimes lead to evolutionary convergence... Read more »

  • March 18, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 92 views

The Search For The Unicorn - Slightly Off Center

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

One of the most amazing animals is one of the least often seen. It has one tooth that grows into a tusk that’s off center. The tusk is basically inside out, with the inside of the tooth exposed to the world. This animal also has the world’s only spiraled tooth, for strength and because that’s what keeps it growing straight. Finally, this animal spends an amazing amount of time on its back. Why do we care about these animal…..because they are so awesome!... Read more »

Christen AG, & Christen JA. (2011) The unicorn and the narwhal: a tale of the tooth. Journal of the history of dentistry, 59(3), 135-42. PMID: 22372187  

Kingsley, M., & Ramsay, M. (1988) The Spiral in the Tusk of the Narwhal. ARCTIC, 41(3). DOI: 10.14430/arctic1723  

Nweeia, M., Eichmiller, F., Hauschka, P., Donahue, G., Orr, J., Ferguson, S., Watt, C., Mead, J., Potter, C., Dietz, R.... (2014) Sensory ability in the narwhal tooth organ system. The Anatomical Record, 297(4), 599-617. DOI: 10.1002/ar.22886  

Dietz, R., Shapiro, A., Bakhtiari, M., Orr, J., Tyack, P., Richard, P., Eskesen, I., & Marshall, G. (2007) Upside-down swimming behaviour of free-ranging narwhals. BMC Ecology, 7(1), 14. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6785-7-14  

  • March 17, 2015
  • 10:53 AM
  • 96 views

The Palm Tree That Waters and Fertilizes Itself

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



Even the most dismal gardener wouldn't mind taking charge of a plot of Lodoicea maldivica. This palm tree knows how to water itself. It even adds fertilizer. As a result, it rules the forest, turning a bad soil situation into seeds the size of a four-year-old human.

Lodoicea maldivica is commonly called the coco de mer palm. "Commonly" might be the wrong word, though, since the tree grows on exactly two islands in the world, in the Seychelles. It roots itself in soil made from weathered g........ Read more »

  • March 13, 2015
  • 03:32 AM
  • 19 views

Young fish mortality in question

by sceintists from the Marine group at CEES in Marine Science blog




Since Hjort’s ground-breaking work, it is admitted that the survival from the egg to the first reproduction is an essential factor affecting the dynamics of fish populations (
see post). Human activities around spawning ground may have an effect on the mortality of the younger age. One of such potentially risky activity is oil exploitation which is on the increase in the northern areas.

... Read more »

Hjermann, D.Ø., Melsom, A., Dingsør, G., Durant, J.M., Eikeset, A.E., Røed, L., Ottersen, G., Storvik, G., & Stenseth, N.C. (2007) Fish and oil in the Lofoten–Barents Sea system: synoptic review of the effect of oil spills on fish populations. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 283-299. DOI: 10.3354/meps339283  

Hidalgo, M., Gusdal, Y., Dingsor, G., Hjermann, D., Ottersen, G., Stige, L., Melsom, A., & Stenseth, N. (2011) A combination of hydrodynamical and statistical modelling reveals non-stationary climate effects on fish larvae distributions. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 279(1727), 275-283. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0750  

Ciannelli, L., Dingsør, G., Bogstad, B., Ottersen, G., Chan, K., Gjøsæter, H., Stiansen, J., & Stenseth, N. (2007) SPATIAL ANATOMY OF SPECIES SURVIVAL: EFFECTS OF PREDATION AND CLIMATE-DRIVEN ENVIRONMENTAL VARIABILITY. Ecology, 88(3), 635-646. DOI: 10.1890/05-2035  

  • March 13, 2015
  • 02:20 AM
  • 120 views

How photosynthesis is inspiring solar power research

by GrrlScientist in Maniraptora

SUMMARY: To meet humanity’s growing energy demands, scientists are taking lessons from plants, which perfected the process of capturing the sun’s rays and transforming that into starch. Might scientists be able to adapt the photosynthetic process pioneered by plants and adapt it to meet human demands? ... Read more »

Barber James. (2007) Biological solar energy. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 1007-1023. DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2006.1962  

Porter G. (1966) Studies of Triplet Chlorophyll by Microbeam Flash Photolysis. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 295(1440), 1-12. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1966.0222  

Porter G. (1978) The Bakerian Lecture, 1977: In Vitro Models for Photosynthesis. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 362(1710), 281-303. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1978.0134  

Cogdell R. J., P. I. Molina, & L. Cronin. (2013) The use and misuse of photosynthesis in the quest for novel methods to harness solar energy to make fuel. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 371(1996), 20110603-20110603. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2011.0603  

  • March 11, 2015
  • 10:14 AM
  • 97 views

Citizen science is making scientists of everyone

by GrrlScientist in Maniraptora

SUMMARY: Citizen science is getting a lot of attention these days, which might make you think it is a new social phenomenon. But in fact, nothing is further from the truth.... Read more »

Blackawton P. S., Airzee S. , Allen A., Baker S., Berrow A., Blair C., Churchill M., Coles J., Cumming R. F.-J., & Fraquelli L. (2011) Blackawton bees. Biology Letters, 168-172. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.1056  

Silvertown Jonathan. (2009) A new dawn for citizen science. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 24(9), 467-471. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2009.03.017  

  • March 11, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 80 views

The Eyes Have It

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

The Cyclops had one eye in the middle of his forehead, but can you think of real animal with only one eye? Two eyes (or more) seem to be very important in evolution. This is so true that when flatfish lie down on the ocean floor they move one eye to the other side of their head! Research is showing that it’s more than just their eye that changes and the alterations are important for their survival. And by the way – there is one kind of animal that only has one eye, it’s the &he........ Read more »

  • March 9, 2015
  • 11:25 AM
  • 72 views

Vole Pee: An Epiphany (A Guest Post)

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

By Nate Kueffer You’re driving down the road, looking out the window, and you see a large raptor hovering above a field. Have you ever wondered what exactly the raptor could see that you couldn’t? Well, it is thought that raptors may be able to sense ultraviolet light and use it to track voles through urine and feces trails. A hovering kestrel, possibly tracking a vole. Photo by Mark Likner at Flickr. Ultraviolet light is a non-detectable form of radiation by the human eye and is similar to ........ Read more »

Viitala, J., Korplmäki, E., Palokangas, P., & Koivula, M. (1995) Attraction of kestrels to vole scent marks visible in ultraviolet light. Nature, 373(6513), 425-427. DOI: 10.1038/373425a0  

  • March 8, 2015
  • 07:20 AM
  • 51 views

The genetics of monarch butterfly migration and warning colouration

by Lucas Marques Da Cunha in genome ecology evolution etc

The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has a large distribution worldwide. It occurs in North, Central, and South America, Caribbean, and it has recently dispersed to other locations, such as Oceania and Africa. Two traits of this butterfly are incredibly intriguing: … Continue reading →... Read more »

Zhan, S., Zhang, W., Niitepõld, K., Hsu, J., Haeger, J., Zalucki, M., Altizer, S., de Roode, J., Reppert, S., & Kronforst, M. (2014) The genetics of monarch butterfly migration and warning colouration. Nature, 514(7522), 317-321. DOI: 10.1038/nature13812  

  • March 2, 2015
  • 02:05 PM
  • 114 views

You are what you eat

by naturallyspeakingpodcast in Naturally Speaking Podcast

Ecologists have long tried to understand what animals get up to when they’re not being observed. GPS technologies have enabled unprecedented remote-tracking, but some behaviours – such as diet – are a little more tricky to track. In this post James Grecian (@JamesGrecian), a marine ecologist at the Institute, discusses a technique he uses to track the diet of marine seabirds across some of the world’s […]

... Read more »

  • February 28, 2015
  • 02:46 PM
  • 169 views

Life, NOT as we know it

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Life as we know it, when we peer deep into the vastness of space we look for someone — or something — that resembles ourselves. Carbon based, needs water lifeforms, but what if we’re being narrow-minded? A new type of methane-based, oxygen-free life form that can metabolize and reproduce similar to life on Earth has been modeled by a team of researchers suggests we are being too closed minded about life.... Read more »

James Stevenson,, Jonathan Lunine,, & Paulette Clancy. (2015) Membrane alternatives in worlds without oxygen: Creation of an azotosome. Science Advances. info:/http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1400067

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