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.

Birders tally ‘huge’ numbers in global count

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 21, 2013   View Article

Birdwatchers counted more than 25.5 million birds during the largest worldwide bird count ever conducted, according to preliminary results streaming in from the four-day event held earlier this month.

The global Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) builds on the success of the program run for 15 years in the U.S. and Canada. More than 120,000 checklists have been reported, accounting for 3,144 species. That’s a third of the world’s birds, and results will flow in until March 1.

Mini microscopes see inside the brains of mice

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 20, 2013   View Article

Mini microscopes embedded into the brains of genetically engineered mice are providing researchers a window onto the inner workings of the mammalian mind.

The tool provides an unprecedentedly wide field of view on the mouse brain – in one mouse, for example, the team recorded the firing of more than 1,000 individual neurons – and it can record for weeks on end, allowing scientists to study how brain activity evolves over time.

Turtles, snakes and lizards head toward extinction

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 15, 2013   View Article

Nearly one fifth of all reptiles — turtles, snakes, lizards and crocodiles — are on a slippery slope toward extinction due to loss of habitat, overharvesting and other factors, a new report says.

The study is the first of its kind to summarize the global conservation status of reptiles. More than 1,500 species were selected at random from around the world for conservation assessments in an effort to gain a representative sample.

Polar bears are doomed without plans to save them, report says

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 6, 2013   View Article

Regularly flown-in loads of seal meat could feed hungry polar bears and prevent them from wandering into coastal villages in search of food when they are suddenly unable to find it elsewhere due to global warming, according to the world’s top polar bear scientists.

Currently, however, no such plan exists in any of the five nations with jurisdiction over the globally threatened species, the researchers warn in a new paper. And that’s a problem, given that just one exceptionally early breakup of sea ice could leave a large number of bears starving.

Climate warming? Snakes are cool with that

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

Several snake species appear to have enough flexibility in what time of day they hunt in order to survive — and perhaps thrive — on a warming planet, according to a recent study.

The result is “contrary to what I had anticipated,” Patrick Weatherhead, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Illinois, told NBC News.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach