Animals

Wolves slated to lose protection under endangered species act

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 7, 2013   View Article

The gray wolf population has recovered to the point that it can be safely removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday in a proposal that environmental groups suggest is premature.

Under its proposed delisting plan, the wildlife service would return management of gray wolves to the states where they dwell. Federal protections for wolves have been in place since 1978.

In a second proposal, the service would maintain protections and expand recovery efforts for the Mexican gray wolf in the Southwest, where it remains endangered.

Genome of ancient-looking fish gives clues to first limbed landlubbers

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 17, 2013   View Article

The genome of the coelacanth, an ancient-looking lobed-finned fish, has been sequenced and is already providing insight to the evolutionary changes that allowed the first four-limbed animals, called tetrapods, to crawl out of the water and on to land.

The sequence and preliminary analysis, reported Thursday in the journal Nature by a team spanning 40 research institutions and 12 countries, is a “massive piece of work,” Xiaobo Xu, a paleontologist at Kean University who was not involved in the effort, told NBC News in an email.

Critters evolve rapidly to cope with environmental change

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 8, 2013   View Article

Critters can evolve over just a handful of generations to survive whatever environmental maladies humans toss their way, from climate change to over fishing, suggests a new study.

“That is the first take-home message, and it is a positive message,” Thomas Cameron, a biologist at Umea University in Sweden, told NBC News as he explained his new findings reported Tuesday in the journal Ecology Letters.

Aye aye! Sequence genomes to save species

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 25, 2013   View Article

A study of nocturnal lemurs in Madagascar known for their smarts, beaver-like teeth, and long, thin middle fingers may point to the future of endangered species conservation: cheap and fast genome analyses.

Researchers obtained and compared complete genomes from three separate populations of aye ayes and found that one is more distinct from the others than are humans of African and European descent, suggesting that the population warrants greater conservation attention.

Swallows evolve shorter wings to avoid cars, study suggests

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 18, 2013   View Article

Cars and trucks thundering down the road in southwestern Nebraska stand a much lower chance today of smacking a cliff swallow than they did in the 1980s, according to a new study that suggests the birds have evolved shorter wings to pivot away from oncoming traffic.

The adaptation is important for the birds’ survival given that they nest by the thousands under bridges and overpasses there, noted Charles Brown, a biologist at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma who regularly drives those same roads to and from a nearby research station.

Legal horn trade could save rhinos from cliff of extinction, experts argue

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 28, 2013   View Article

Surging demand for rhino horn to decorate daggers and treat everything from hangovers to cancer is driving the iconic animals to the brink of extinction. The only way to save them is to humanely harvest rhino horn and sell it legally, scientists argue in a controversial new paper.

Only 5,000 black rhinos and 20,000 white rhinos remain, mostly in South Africa and Namibia, the scientists note. The western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011.

The paper, published Thursday in the journal Science, is a bid to spark “serious discussions around establishing a legal trade” at an international conference on the trade in endangered species that starts Sunday in Bangkok, lead author Duan Biggs told NBC News.

Holy flight plan: Researchers build a robotic bat wing

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 22, 2013   View Article

A robotic bat wing flapping in a university lab is providing researchers with a new appreciation for the wonders of nature and hints at a new generation of mini flapping planes to be deployed on reconnaissance missions.

The robot is modeled after the lesser dog-faced fruit bat and flaps while attached to instruments that measure the forces generated by various joints, allowing the Brown University researchers to calculate the energy required to execute wing movements.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach