Biodiversity

Microbe could make biofuels hot

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: July 5, 2011   View Article

A record-breaking microbe that thrives while munching plant material at near boiling temperatures has been discovered in a Nevada hot spring, researchers announced in a study published today.

Scientists are eyeing the microbe’s enzyme responsible for breaking down cellulose — called a cellulase — as a potential workhouse in the production of biofuels and other industrial processes.

Science explodes at African lake

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 28, 2011   View Article

The depths of Africa’s Lake Kivu harbor untold quantities of carbon dioxide and methane gases that could provide abundant electricity to millions of Rwandans and Congolese settling along its shores. But those gases could suddenly release, killing everything in and around the lake.

“Understanding whether you can find scenarios that would lead to something like that, a catastrophic release of gas, is of course important,” Anthony Vodacek, a remote sensing scientist at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, told me on Monday.

Captive male frog coughs up babies

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 3, 2011   View Article

A captive male Darwin’s frog coughed up ten babies Thursday at a zoo in Santiago, Chile, a milestone in a project to save the amphibians from extinction.

The vulnerable species is one of two members of the only genus on Earth that rears its young inside of its vocal sac, a job taken on by the males.

Fish poop boosts distant forests

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 24, 2011   View Article

The Amazon’s big fish poop seeds far from where they eat fruit, helping to maintain the genetic diversity of the tropical forest, according to new research that shines light on a little-studied mechanism of seed dispersal.

The seed excretions occur during the six- to eight-month-long flood season, when the characid fish Colossoma macropomum swim from lakes and rivers into vast floodplains where they gobble up fruit dropped by trees and shrubs.

Froggy finds raise hope for Haiti

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 12, 2011   View Article

Conservationists have rediscovered six species of frogs in Haiti, offering a ray of hope for the country on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that left it in shambles.

“I am very wary of highlighting frogs at this time in Haiti. Obviously the country has very pressing needs, but I think ultimately they are a symbol of something more hopeful,” said Robin Moore, an amphibian expert with Conservation International who helped lead the expedition that found the frogs.

Birds in trouble? Yes … here’s why

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 7, 2011   View Article

Birds are indeed in trouble. But this trouble has nothing to do with freakish events such as the thousands of blackbirds that fell from the sky in Arkansas on New Year’s Eve. Rather, experts say birds are falling prey to a laundry list of long-term threats ranging from pollution and habitat loss to climate change.

Devonian die-off teaches grim lesson

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: December 30, 2010   View Article

A long, long time ago — between 378 million and 375 million years ago — about half of all species on the planet vanished. The trigger for this mass extinction, one of five known in Earth’s history, was a lethal combination of sea level rise and invasive species, according to a new study.

“The basic processes that normally result in new species forming were blocked,” study author Alycia Stigall, a paleobiologist at Ohio University, told me today.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach