Animals

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.

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.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach