Tiny treadmills for turtle hatchlings help scientists evaluate their stamina

December 20, 2017 by  
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When baby sea turtles are born, within their first 24 hours they make the journey from nest to ocean . The trek which should take a few minutes sometimes lasts hours in urban settings where artificial light can disorient the hatchlings. Two Florida Atlantic University (FAU) scientists employed wee treadmills and little swimsuits to dig into the turtles’ swimming performance after crawling for so long – and they were surprised by what they found. Speed is crucial for turtle hatchlings, who face dangers on their way to the ocean. Their survival “depends heavily on their ability to swim,” according to FAU. But in urban settings, excess light from streets and buildings can draw the babies away from the ocean and towards land – where they might get run over by traffic, drown in a pool, or be eaten by a predator. Biological sciences associate professor Sarah Milton said in a statement, “What prompted our study was the desire to understand what happens to these hatchlings after they spend hours crawling on the beach because they are disoriented. We wanted to know if they would even be able to swim after crawling 500 meters or more, which could take them as long as seven hours to complete.” Related: Police Officer Saves Nearly 100 Baby Sea Turtles in Florida Milton and graduate student Karen Pankaew conducted what FAU described as the “first study on disorientation to examine the physiological effects of extended crawling and swimming performance.” They gathered 150 hatchlings from 27 loggerhead and 18 green turtle nests in Palm Beach County, Florida . The hatchlings walked on tiny treadmills before swimming in a tank in a specially designed swimsuit. The scientists measured oxygen consumption, lactate accumulation, and swimming breathing and stroke rates. Field studies supplemented laboratory observations. The hatchlings were placed into the ocean in their natural habitats shortly after collection. The study results completely surprised the researchers, according to Milton, who said, “We were expecting that the hatchlings would be really tired from the extended crawling and that they would not be able to swim well. It turned out not to be the case and that they are in fact crawling machines. They crawl and rest, crawl and rest and that’s why they weren’t too tired to swim.” She also said the study offers a scientific basis to back up lighting ordinances during hatching season. The Journal of Experimental Biology published the study in November. Via Florida Atlantic University Images via Pixabay and Jay Paredes

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Tiny treadmills for turtle hatchlings help scientists evaluate their stamina

"Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked"

December 20, 2017 by  
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Mussels might serve as a global “bioindicator of microplastic pollution ,” Chinese researchers suggested last year, as the creatures remain in the same area and reside on the seabed where plastic ends up. And a new study from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) uncovered plastic in 76.6 percent of individual blue mussels they tested. Reuters pointed to other surveys where researchers found microplastics in mussels near China, Belgium, Britain, Canada, and Chile. NIVA Researcher Amy Lusher told Reuters, “Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked.” The new NIVA research found on average 1.8 pieces of microplastic in mollusks near Norway, while and mussels living in waters thought to be pristine in the Arctic actually had the greatest amount of plastic among any of the creatures tested near the Norwegian coast. Lusher said ocean currents and winds from American and Europe may be sweeping plastic north, where it might then swirl in the Arctic Ocean. Related: Plankton Pundit video shows exact moment plastic enters the food chain Scientists aren’t quite sure how microplastics in marine life will impact humans that consume them, but think you’d have to eat a whole lot of shellfish to be at risk. Microplastics expert and Plymouth University professor Richard Thompson told Reuters of the global discoveries, “It’s a warning signal that we need to do something about reducing the input of plastic to the ocean. It’s a cause for concern at the moment rather than an alarm story for human consumption.” You can check out the NIVA report here . Via Reuters and Norwegian Institute for Water Research Images via Janne Kim Gitmark, NIVA and NIVA

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"Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked"

Carnivorous marsupial alive and well after being presumed extinct for 100 years

December 18, 2017 by  
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A carnivorous marsupial thought to be extinct for a century has been found alive in the Australian state of New South Wales. The crest-tailed mulgara, one of two mulgara species, is known to have endured in the arid region of Central Australia. Its discovery in Sturt National Park near the northwest corner of New South Wales is a surprise, considering that the crest-tailed mulgara’s presence in the region was previously limited to fossilized bone fragments. Documenting the crest-tailed mulgara’s population distribution was also complicated by the fact that until 2005, crest-tailed and bush-tailed mulgaras were considered to be the same species. The crest-tailed mulgara was one of Australia’s many native species that fell victim to invasive animals . “The crest-tailed mulgara was once widely distributed across sandy desert environments in inland Australia, but declined due to the effects of rabbits, cats and foxes,” said Rebecca West of the University of New South Wales . West’s team at the university’s Wild Desert project discovered the crest-tailed mulgara in New South Wales during a recent scientific monitoring trip. Mulgaras are nocturnal and do not need to drink water , instead gaining the moisture that they need through the insects, reptiles and small mammals that they eat. Related: Google Street View captures the migration of millions of crabs on Christmas Island The mulgara’s rediscovery comes at an opportune time for the team, which is preparing to implement a predator reintroduction and rabbit eradication effort. “The aim of this project is to return mammal species not seen in their natural habitat for over 90 years in Sturt National Park,” said Jaymie Norris, National Parks and Wildlife Service area manager.“Rabbits, cats and foxes will be eradicated from two 20-square-kilometre fenced exclosures in Sturt National Park, before locally extinct mammals are reintroduced.” Via ScienceAlert Images via Reece Pedler/UNSW and Depositphotos

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Carnivorous marsupial alive and well after being presumed extinct for 100 years

Millions of insect species will go extinct before we even discover them

December 14, 2017 by  
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Only 200 years ago did humans begin to systematically categorize the species, and within that relatively small stretch, we’ve recorded about 2 million species of plants, animals, fungi. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. By some estimates, we still have another 2 million to uncover, and by others, there are upwards of 100 million left to be classified. However, with deforestation, sprawl, and, above all, climate change putting the planet in jeopardy, scientists believe millions of species will die off before we will even encounter them. And the implications of this are far-reaching. For several decades, scientists have warned that we are headed into, or may even be experiencing, the sixth mass extinction . As The Guardian notes , there have been five other instances like this in the past, including the end-Cretaceous extinction, which led to the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. However, to know for certain if we’re amidst doom and gloom, scientists need to determine the rate at which species are disappearing, and when human activity is factored in, how by how much this rate increases. Related: Plummeting insect population signals potential “ecological Armageddon” Previous studies have deemed humans to indeed be major drivers, possibly causing animal species to go extinct “up to 100 times” faster because of human activity, as one  team of American and Mexican scientists  found. However, Terry Erwin, a world-renowned tropical entomologist, says that the data that has historically been used in these studies is wholly incomplete and “biased towards a very small portion of biodiversity.” Rather, if scientists want an accurate picture of existing conditions, they need to look beyond vertebrates to invertebrates like worms, snails, spiders, octopuses, and most importantly insects, which account for about 70 percent of the Earth’s living creatures. Indeed, only one in 200 of all known species is a mammal. With that said, to determine the true rate of extinction of species on Earth, you need to determine the scale of the insect kingdom—and this is the biggest challenge. While the scope of the insect population is still being explored, The Guardian does cite a “breakthrough” that’s offered some insight into what we’re dealing with. In 1982, Erwin headed to a rainforest in Panama with the goal of determining how many species of insect lived on average across one acre of forest. He chose one tree, which he draped in sheeting and used blasts of insecticide to fog the bugs out. Over several hours, as the insects evacuated the tree onto the sheeting, Erwin was able to collect 1,200 species of bugs, of which he later determined more than 100 of which were exclusive to that one tree. From those findings, he averaged that there are about 41,000 different species per hectare of rainforest, and in turn 30 million species worldwide. The estimates, however, he now deems conservative and suspects the number could actually be between 80 and 200 million, but adds that tens of thousands of them are probably disappearing annually without us even knowing. Of no surprise, climate change is being pinned as the fundamental driver of the great insect die off. Scientists have even noticed drops in the virgin forests of Ecuador and places where insecticides aren’t being used and humans have not cut down a single tree. As the Guardian writes, based on data collected, Erwin and his collaborators have found that the Amazon rainforest has been slowly dying out over the last 35 years. “[If the forest goes out] everything that lives in it will be affected,” he told the site. The disappearance of insect life on Earth would surely mean the end of all life on Earth. Insects are responsible for the planet’s course of evolution from flowering plants to food chains and are key to keeping those systems functioning. As EO Wilson, a celebrated Harvard entomologist, and inventor of sociobiology, tells The Guardian, humanity would last all of a few months without insects and other land-based arthropods. “After that, most of the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals would go, along with the flowering plants. The planet would become an immense compost heap, covered in shoals of carcasses and dead trees that refused to rot. Briefly, fungi would bloom in untold numbers. Then, they too would die off. The Earth would revert to what it was like in the Silurian period, 440m years ago, when life was just beginning to colonise the soil – a spongy, silent place, filled with mosses and liverworts, waiting for the first shrimp brave enough to try its luck on land.” Via The Guardian Images via MaxPixel and Wiki Commons

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Millions of insect species will go extinct before we even discover them

Alaskan city’s temperatures spiked so significantly NOAA algorithms thought they were wrong

December 13, 2017 by  
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Every month the NOAA puts together a climate report , documenting changes in average temperatures across the country. While the agency found in November that much of the U.S. had seen an “above average” or “much above average” climb—it was actually the seventh warmest November on record—nowhere was this upswing more apparent than in Barrow, Alaska, where temperatures jumped so remarkably that the NOAA’s algorithms deemed the collected data to be flawed and omitted it. As shared in the  NOAA’s report , “In early December 2017, due to a sharp, but real, increase in temperature during the 21st century at Barrow (Utqia?vik), NCEI’s quality assurance algorithms retroactively rejected the station’s monthly temperatures dating to late summer 2016.” Related: Video of starving polar bear ‘rips your heart out of your chest’ Indeed, temperatures had jumped so significantly this year that the NOAA’s system believed the data collected was a mistake. As the Denver Post writes, “this kind of quality-control algorithm is only good in ‘average’ situations with no outliers.” Deke Arndt, the chief of NOAA’s Climate Monitoring Branch, described the flub as “an ironic exclamation point to swift regional climate change in and near the Arctic.” As reported by NOAA, Barrow, which is the United States’ northernmost city, experienced its warmest November on record with a temperature of 17.2°F, 16.4°F above the 1981-2010 normal, and 1.9°F warmer than the previous record in 1950. The rise has been a result of melting sea ice, which has historically served to reflect sunlight and kept temperatures stable. “The current observed rate of sea ice decline and warming temperatures are higher than at any other time in the last 1,500 years, and likely longer than that,” the NOAA report said. Moreover, the region has seen large swaths of permafrost turn to mud (permafrost contains huge amounts of frozen greenhouse gases) and the spread of non-native plants common to warmer climates across the tundra. The Arctic region overall had its second-warmest year, just after 2016. And the above hasn’t caused you to sit up in alarm, the NOAA’s more exhaustive  Arctic Report Card , a peer-reviewed document that includes the work of 85 scientists across 12 countries, was given the title: “ Arctic shows no sign of returning to [the] reliably frozen region of recent past decades.” In other words, say hello to the “new normal.” Via Denver Post Image via Wiki Commons graphs and maps via NOAA

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Alaskan city’s temperatures spiked so significantly NOAA algorithms thought they were wrong

Turns out blood-sucking ticks really did plague the dinosaurs

December 13, 2017 by  
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Scientists have found the first solid evidence that prehistoric ticks consumed dinosaur blood. The discovery of a 99-million year old piece of amber in Myanmar offers a rare glimpse into the lives of Cretaceous animals, large and small. Trapped within the fossilized sap, the tick is seen grasping onto a feather presumed to be from a feathered dinosaur. Though Mezozoic-era blood-sucking insects encased in amber have become part of the public’s imagination thanks to the  Jurassic Park films, the fossil record previously lacked clear evidence that dinosaur blood was on the menu. “Ticks are infamous blood-sucking, parasitic organisms, having a tremendous impact on the health of humans, livestock, pets, and even wildlife,” study lead researcher Enrique Peñalver told EurekaAlert , “but until now clear evidence of their role in deep time has been lacking.” Although the tick in life did indeed drink dinosaur blood, it is not possible to extract DNA from an amber-enclosed insect, a la Jurassic Park , because of the short life of complex DNA molecules. Nonetheless, the fossil adds considerably to our understanding of ecology in the age of the dinosaurs. “The fossil record tells us that feathers like the one we have studied were already present on a wide range of theropod dinosaurs, a group which included ground-running forms without flying ability, as well as bird-like dinosaurs capable of powered flight,” said Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente, researcher at University of Oxford Museum of Natural History. Related: Scientists discover 52-million-year-old tomatillo fossil “So although we can’t be sure what kind of dinosaur the tick was feeding on,” continued Pérez-de la Fuente, “the mid-Cretaceous age of the Burmese amber confirms that the feather certainly did not belong to a modern bird , as these appeared much later in theropod evolution according to current fossil and molecular evidence.” In addition to the dino-centric discovery, researchers also identified a new species of tick, dubbed Deinocroton draculi or “Dracula’s terrible tick,”encased in a separate piece of amber. Via ScienceAlert Images via University of Oxford

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Turns out blood-sucking ticks really did plague the dinosaurs

Local Roots shipping container farms achieve cost parity with traditional farming

December 13, 2017 by  
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99 percent less water and 4,000 lettuce heads every 10 days: Los Angeles-based Local Roots achieves all that in their shipping container farms . And today they announced they’ve also reached cost parity with traditional farming . They plan to deploy over 100 farms in 2018. Inhabitat checked out their mobile TerraFarm in New York City and met with CEO Eric Ellestad and COO Matt Vail to hear more. We visited Local Roots’ TerraFarm in Manhattan a windy, chilly December day, but inside, green butterhead, red butterhead, green leaf, and red leaf lettuce was thriving. Vail and Ellestad started the company around four years ago on a mission to boost global health and seek sustainability in farming. A few statistics that fuel their mission? For one, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates agriculture is responsible for over 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions . And then, 52 percent of the food we do grow in America doesn’t even make it to the consumer, according to Ellestad. Related: 40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water Their indoor farms address those issues. They can deploy TerraFarms right at or near distribution centers. They design, build, deploy, and efficiently operate the vertical farms , and sell the food – which they think is even better than organic produce. “In outdoor farming, whether it’s organic or traditional, there’s a lot of variability. Even across a field, there’s not going to be uniform nutrient application or soil quality. In our environment we’re able to consistently create growing conditions that optimize for flavor and nutrient density,” Ellestad told Inhabitat. “We can select varietals that are naturally more nutritious, even ones that don’t make sense to grow outdoors or are really susceptible to weather or have a short shelf life or break down in transit. We can bring those to market at scale with price parity and do that for some of the largest buyers.” They also see an accelerated growth rate in their TerraFarms. Ellestad said crops will grow two or three times as fast as they would in a field since they can create perfect growing conditions for a plant. They can reuse or recycle all of the water – their biggest use of water is actually for cleaning the farms. And since they can control the environment, they can grow local food year-round. “Instead of being constrained to a growing season, you’re growing fall, winter, summer, spring; in Saudi Arabia in the summer, in New York in December,” he told Inhabitat. “We’re over 600 times more productive per square foot compared with an outdoor farm. So suddenly you can bring commercial-scale food production into urban areas and start to bring them closer to the point of consumption.” Solar panels lined the roof of the mobile TerraFarm in Manhattan. They could generate three kilowatts, enough to operate the farm in sunny California, according to Vail. The indoor farms can go off-grid with solar or wind and batteries. Local Roots tends to evaluate the local grid before deploying a farm to see if it’s clean or if they might want to add a source of renewable energy . Now as they’ve cracked the code for cost parity with traditional farming, Local Roots will be expanding in a big way in 2018. They’ll deploy their first projects outside of the Los Angeles area, and plan to hire around 150 people. Ellestad said they’re also launching their retail brand in a new way. They hope to be on the East Coast by the end of 2018. But they’re already looking ahead to bringing nutrition to people around the world. Vail told Inhabitat, “We’re here with a mission to improve global health, so that means more than just LA and New York. It means developing countries around the world. It means the two billion people who today don’t have access to the micronutrients they need to be healthy.” Local Roots is working with the World Food Program (WFP) to deploy and field test a few TerraFarms in 2018 in a developing nation to be determined. These farms will be off-grid, likely equipped with solar power, so they will be self-sustaining; locals will just need to bring in water. Vail told Inhabitat, “We’ll educate and train the community to operate the farms, and they’ll then have ownership so they can feed their community perpetually in a really sustainable way with food that’s healthy, delicious, and local.” Find out more about Local Roots on their website . + Local Roots Images via Lacy Cooke for Inhabitat and courtesy of Local Roots

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Local Roots shipping container farms achieve cost parity with traditional farming

Google Street View captures the migration of millions of crabs on Christmas Island

December 11, 2017 by  
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Google Street View Trekker is traveling to Christmas Island this week to capture the migration of millions of red crabs . In what naturalist David Attenborough has described as one of nature’s “most astonishing and wonderful sights,” huge numbers of the iconic, endemic red crabs annually travel from their inland forest homes to the ocean, where the crabs breed and lay their eggs. The red crabs have already begun their march to the sea and the peak number of crabs on the beaches is expected on December 13, 2017. Dr. Alasdair Grigg of Parks Australia is working with Google and wielding a Street View Trekker 360 camera to capture images from the event, which should be available in early 2018. The red crabs of Christmas Island, an Australian territory near the Indonesian island of Java, spend most of the year burrowed in the damp forest floor to preserve body moisture and protect themselves from the harsh equatorial sun. When conditions are right, 40 to 50 million crabs emerge from their dens to march towards the ocean. Parks Australia has set up walls and fencing to help protect and guide the crabs as they maneuver around manmade obstructions, such as roads. Related: Google maps the solar system for armchair space travelers Although few are able to actually travel to Christmas Island to observe the phenomenon, people around the world will be able to witness the migration thanks to Google and Dr. Alistair Grigg of Parks Australia. “Christmas Island is not on the radar of most travelers,” said Grigg in a statement. “We hope people can get a taste of the magnificent nature and the red crab migration through the eyes of the Google Trekker. We also hope they are inspired to appreciate the world-class conservation values of the Island.” This documentation of natural phenomenon follows similar efforts by Google, including virtual tours of all of South Africa’s national parks . Via Mashable Images via Google

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Google Street View captures the migration of millions of crabs on Christmas Island

VIDEO: Man saves rabbit from raging California fire

December 8, 2017 by  
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Fires continue to ravage Southern California . While the Thomas Fire rages in Ventura County, one man was captured on video rescuing a wild rabbit hopping near Highway 1 in La Conchita. As the animal jumped near the flames, the man followed until he was able to pick it up and carry it away. Local outlet KABC reported a news photographer captured the scene on video on Wednesday. A man pulled over and appeared to be panicking as a wild rabbit hopped near flames. The man managed to catch the animal and held it in his arms as the blaze burned close to the freeway. The man declined an interview, but KABC reported he risked his life to save the rabbit. Related: Out of control wildfires force thousands to flee their homes in Southern California The unnamed man has been hailed as a hero, but some people are questioning whether or not he made the right choice. California Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Peter Tira told SFGate , “Fire is something animals have to deal with constantly. If you encounter a wild animal in your neighborhood, leave it alone. Fire or no fire, just let the animals be.” Small animals are generally good at handling fires, according to Live Science . A rabbit that hasn’t fled a blaze might have a good reason for being there – like saving its young, according to researcher E.V. Komarek, who once observed a cotton rat run to the edge of the flames of a controlled burn to herd juveniles away. It doesn’t appear there are similar direct reports of rabbits behaving similarly, but researchers have noted cottontail rabbits are good at surviving wildfires with their young. Desert cottontail rabbits are common in Southern California, although we don’t know the species of the rabbit in the video. We also don’t know for sure why the rabbit was in the area. Live Science staff writer Rafi Letzter suggests “if you see a wild animal moving around near a fire, the best thing you can do is leave the creature to its business.” On Friday President Donald Trump declared an emergency and ordered federal aid following a request from Governor Jerry Brown. Via KABC , Live Science , SFGate , and The Washington Post Images via ABC7 on YouTube

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VIDEO: Man saves rabbit from raging California fire

18 fun and educational gifts for tots

December 8, 2017 by  
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This holiday season, delight the tots in your life with playful  eco-gifts  that educate and inspire creativity. From this Waldorf and Montessori-inspired game  to this ingenious easy weaver , all of the gifts in our gift guide for tots will be sure to bring joy to little ones, while encouraging cognitive and imaginative play. Check out all  18 awesome green gifts for little kids here . GIFTS FOR LITTLE KIDS >

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18 fun and educational gifts for tots

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