Animals

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.

The point is, porcupines inspired improved surgical tape

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 10, 2012   View Article

Porcupine quills penetrate the mouths of their would-be attackers with ease and prove extremely difficult to remove. Those qualities are inspiration for a futuristic tape that could help surgeons work faster and ease their patients’ post-operation pain.

“We like to turn to nature for inspiration because evolution is really the best problem solver,” Jeffrey Karp, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who led the adhesive’s development told NBC News.

Scientists control rat dreams with technique that could enhance memory

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 6, 2012   View Article

Scientists can sway the dreams of sleeping rats, a breakthrough that could lead to new behavioral and learning therapies in humans that enhance selected memories and block undesired ones, according to a new study.

Going into the study, scientists had already shown that rats dream about what they experience in the hours before drifting off to sleep.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach