Animals

Covert satellite cams may catch animal poachers in the crosshairs

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

High-tech cameras are being deployed behind bushes and tall grasses in Africa in an effort to curtail the illegal slaughter of rhinos, which are sought for their horns to decorate daggers and treat everything from hangovers to cancer.

The motion of an animal or poacher approaching the camera is enough to trigger a clandestine snapshot, which is then relayed to local game wardens and wildlife enthusiasts around the world via a satellite communications network.

Saving most of Earth’s plants may take just a bit of land

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 5, 2013   View Article

Nearly two thirds of the world’s plant species — and the creatures and critters that depend on them for survival — can be saved by protecting patches of land, from the cloud forests of South America to islands in the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, according to a new study.

The finding is based on analysis of data on the distribution of more than 110,000 plant species, and is an effort to determine if internationally agreed conservation targets of protecting 17 percent of the Earth’s land area and 60 percent of its plants by 2020 are achievable.

Old whooping cranes keep the young ones on course, study shows

Publication:   Date: NBC News   View Article

When endangered whooping cranes fly their routes to summer breeding grounds, the old birds play a crucial role in showing the young birds where to go.

“This learning takes place over many years,” Thomas Mueller, an expert on animal migration at the University of Maryland and lead author of a study on the cranes’ migration habits, told NBC News. “It is a long-term process.”

Will fences save Africa’s lion king?

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 30, 2013   View Article

The world’s remaining lions are in trouble. There are simply too many humans hungry for the same land the majestic cats roam. The more the human population grows, the more the lion population plummets. Only fences can keep one species from killing the other, according to a leading lion researcher.

In fenced reserves such as South Africa’s Kruger National Park, which is as large as the state of New Jersey, “the population of lions is doing just fine,” Craig Packer, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota, told NBC News from his research site in Tanzania.

“However, that is just a small proportion of the total African population of lions. The vast majority of lions live in unfenced reserves and … the trends are pretty disturbing,” he added.

Snail’s love dart works like a syringe – a first, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 30, 2013   View Article

When certain hermaphrodite snails — that is they are male and female at the same time — mate, they stab each other with so-called love darts. Now, for the first time, scientists have discovered a snail species with a love dart that works like an injection needle.

The syringe-like dart delivers a “gland product” to the partner snail “via channels within the dart and comes out through the holes that are present on the side of the dart,” Joris Koene, an ecologist at Vrije University in Amsterdam, explained to NBC News in an email.

Frogs in high mountains are contaminated with farm chemicals, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 26, 2013   View Article

What gets sprayed on the farm doesn’t stay on the farm, suggests a new study that finds frogs living in mountains far away from agricultural fields are contaminated with a range of pesticides, particularly fungicides, used to protect crops from bugs, weeds and molds.

“These fungicides have not been reported in the amphibians to date,” study leader Kelly Smalling, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told NBC News.

As ice melts, life abounds in Antarctic

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 11, 2013   View Article

The collapse of a giant ice shelf in Antarctica has proven a bounty for the sea creatures eking out an existence in the once-dark waters, according to new research that highlights just how quickly some marine life can adapt to a warming world.

The Larsen A ice shelf broke up and collapsed in 1995, exposing the permanently dark seafloor to the fruits of sunlight, which fuels the growth of plankton and sea-ice algae at the surface. The plankton and algae drift to the seafloor when they die.

“This unprecedented source of food appears to be triggering important changes in the seabed biota,” Claudio Richter, a marine scientist with the Alfred Wegner Institute in Germany, told NBC News in an email.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach