Species

‘Uncomfortable’ climates to devastate cities within a decade, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 9, 2013   View Article

The world is hurtling toward a stark future where the web of life unravels, human cultures are uprooted, and millions of species go extinct, according to a new study. This doomsday scenario isn’t far off, either: It may start within a decade in parts of Indonesia, and begin playing out over most of the world — including cities across the United States — by mid-century.

What’s more, even a serious effort to stabilize spiraling greenhouse gas emissions will only stave off these changes until around 2069, notes the study from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, published online Wednesday in the journal Nature. The authors warn that the time is now to prepare for a world where even the coldest of years will be warmer than the hottest years of the past century and a half.

Robots show randomness in evolution of language

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 4, 2012   View Article

Even if everything about different groups of animals is identical down to the level of their genes and physical surroundings, they can develop unique ways to communicate, according to an experiment done with robots that use flashing lights to “talk.”

The Swiss researchers used the robots to get handle on why there is such diversity in communication systems within and between species, something that is difficult to do in living animals.

Top ten species of 2009 named

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: July 15, 2010   View Article

This bomb-dropping worm, Swima bombiviridis, is among the top 10 species discovered in 2009, according to the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University. The annual roundup winnows down a list of about 20,000 species described each year to just a few mind-benders.

“It is a great way of getting the public involved in biodiversity,” says Mary Liz Jameson, a biodiversity scientist at Wichita State University and chair of this year’s selection committee. While the criteria for selection include scientific significance, Jameson admits that “the cool factor” also plays a part.

For example, the bomb-dropping worm found off the coast of California “has these green gills it can kind of throw off, and the predator will follow the gill instead of following the [worm], so it is tripping up the predator,” Jameson said. “It’s really cool.”

Check out the other cool species on the top-10 list.

Biodiversity’s winners and losers

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: August 17, 2009   View Article

There are winners and losers on the racetrack of speciation – the process of species splitting into new species, according to Michael Alfaro, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California Los Angeles. He and his colleagues analyzed DNA and fossils from 44 major lineages of jawed vertebrates to calculate which ones have exceptionally fast and slow rates of speciation.

Conservationists Name Nine New “Biodiversity Hotspots”

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 2, 2005   View Article

Today conservationists named nine new “biodiversity hotspots”—areas of mind-boggling species richness that are under constant assault from human activity. The label highlights the regions as priorities for the world’s conservation efforts.

One hotspot is a crucial stopover for migrating monarch butterflies. Another has the highest tree richness of any temperate region on the planet. And yet another is a mountain refuge for vultures, tigers, and wild water buffalo. All the newly named hotspots have lost at least 70 percent of their original natural habitat.

Handheld Scanners to ID Species Instantly?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 26, 2005   View Article

Imagine a muggy summer night—steak sizzling on the barbeque, cold drink in hand, and hundreds of insects mobbing the porch light. Suddenly a mosquito dive-bombs your bare arm. You flatten it with a smack but not before it sucks a drop of your blood. Did you just contract the West Nile virus?

If Paul Hebert gets his way, in about ten years all you’ll need to do is feed a fragment of the flattened bug into your handheld scanner for analysis. Moments later, the little machine will identify the species with a photo and description, allowing you to determine if you are at risk.

Bringing Order to the Fungus Among Us

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 25, 2004   View Article

For mycophiles—hunters of wild, edible mushrooms—autumn is high time to don rubber boots, grab a penknife, and head outdoors.

“People in certain parts of Europe just love to go out when the mushrooms are out. They are really comfortable doing that, and they have knowledge about which ones they can eat,” said Rytas Vilgalys, a biologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach