Courtesy USDA Forest ServiceWhile it's been a pretty good 16 years for Minnesota wolves and bald eagles, that's not been the case for moose. The behemoths will likely be moving on to the state's list of species with special concerns, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. In total, 67 animals and 114 plants are being proposed to be added to the lists while 15 plants and 14 animals – including wolves and bald eagles – have rebounded in numbers to be removed from the designations. Climate change is being credited as the big threat to Minnesota's moose population.
...And these beautiful close-up photos of human eyes by photographer Suren Manvelyan show it. The Smithsonian.com post also includes some of the science behind the human eye.
Courtesy Chris PederickSensory organs dotting the heads of members of the crocodilian family show evidence of being more sensitive to touch than even human finger tips. Some of the literally thousands of minute pigmented bumps, called Integumentary sensory organs ( ISOs) covering the reptiles' tough, armored skin are used to detect surface ripples or water movement for determining prey location. But many of the remaining receptors can detect the slightest touch from potential prey, and cause a croc's or gator's jaws to snap shut with lightning speed. The study was done by researcher Duncan Leitch and biologist Kenneth Catania, and appears in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Story at ScienceDaily.com.
Courtesy wintersixfourZombies are all the rage these days, and not just on cable TV shows or at pub crawls.
The impacted bees get their name for their changing behaviors once they host the parasitic flies that cause the trouble. While most bees spend their nights nestled snuggling in a comb, these "zombie bees" actually go out flying in very erratic patterns. Like many other night bugs, the zombie bees fly to light and usually die quite soon.
What's really at play is that the tiny parasitic flies plant eggs into the host bee. Those eggs grow into maggots that eat the inside of the host bee that ultimately cause its demise.
Evidence of zombie bees was first found in 2008 near Sacramento, Calif., and beekeepers around the west coast have seeing the spread of the problem in the years since.
Researchers are trying to figure out if this parasite problem is a factor in the bee population declines that have been going on nationwide. One researcher has set up a website – ZombeeWatch.org – to allow amateur beekeepers to share information about zombie bees they are finding around their hives. It is also looking for people who want to step forward to be "zombee hunters."
There has been one isolated report of zombie bees in South Dakota. So far, two investigations in Minnesota have turned up no evidence of zombie bees.
Courtesy Illustration by Cheung Chungtat via PLoS ONEThe stomach contents of two carnivorous dinosaur skeletons discovered in China show evidence of both bird and dinosaur remains, raising questions about the carnivores' behaviors in acquiring the meals. The two predators, both species of Sinocalliopteryx (and larger cousins of Compsognathus) came from the Early Cretaceous-aged Jianshangou Beds of the lower Yixian Formation in Liaoning province.
The holotype of Sinocalliopteryx gigas included the skull and skeleton, and also signs of “long filamentous integument”, i.e. feathery fuzz. Inside its gut researchers detected the remains of a dromeosaurid (Sinornithosaurus?). The abdomen of the second, recently discovered specimen contains the remains of not one but two primitive birds of the species Confuciusornis sanctus. It also contains the bones of a possible ornithischian dinosaur.
The researchers, led by paleontologist Lida Xing of the University of Alberta, can’t say for certain how the second Sinocallioptyryx acquired the two birds, but several hypotheses have been made. One is that S. gigas was a stealthy hunter with the prowess of a modern day cat, able to stalk and pounce on the unsuspecting early avians. Another possibility is that Sinocalliopteryx scavenged the Confuciusornis meals. But because the remains of the two primitive birds are in the same proximity in the Sinocallioptyryx gut, and show similar levels of being digested, this latter hypothesis opens the question of what would have been the possibility of two C. sanctus dying (or being killed by something else) in such close proximity to each other. The cat-like behavior seems more likely. It could also be possible that the two primitive birds were fledglings that fell out of their nest, or just weren’t as agile as modern birds are in taking flight to avoid predatory attacks.
The remarkable Sinocalliopteryx fossils have also revealed new information about how the digestive systems of some dinosaurs operated. The dinosaur bone found in S. gigas gut is degraded and heavily corroded by stomach acid. Whatever kind of dinosaur it was, it seems to have been consumed first, followed later by the two Confuciusornis. Similar corrosion isn’t evident in the two confuciusornines specimens suggesting S. gigas was still digesting the ornithischian meal when it caught and ate the two avians in fairly rapid succession. This also points to S. gigas having a high rate of metabolism, unlike most reptiles and more like that of modern birds.
Most modern birds egress (vomit) up bone material and don’t try to digest it, while alligators and some vultures living today are able to break down bone material with strong stomach acid in a foregut. A cold-blooded alligator would need about 13 days of digestion to reach the apparent level of bone corrosion seen in the gut of the S. gigas, while warm-blooded birds would need only about 12 hours.
So what kind of scenario does all this intestinal evidence present? Was Sinocalliopteryx gigas a catlike predator that actively hunted, killed, and consumed its own meals, or was it just an opportunistic scavenger of leftovers and road kill? I tend to favor the stalk and pounce method but further evidence would be necessary to say for certain. In the meantime, you can read all about this recent study online in the open access journal PloS ONE.
Courtesy Public domain via Wikipedia This cool evolution timeline is really fascinating and fun to mess around with. I'm guessing Charles Darwin would agree it's a vast improvement over the one that appeared in Punch Almanac in1882 when he was still alive (see image at right). This new one was created by John Kyrk, a biology-trained artist in San Francisco in collaboration with Dr. Uzay Sezen, a plant biologist from the University of Georgia. The timeline is available in several languages and would be very useful in a classroom setting when studying evolution and paleontology.
The site is interactive and follows the evolution of our universe from the Big Bang to the present. You start it by clicking and sliding the red pyramid on the right. As you scroll across the timeline, various events in the history of the Universe, Solar System and ultimately, the Earth show up on the screen. All along, links also appear that either explain concepts or show examples of them. In the upper left hand corner is a menu linking you to several corollary Flash animations by Kyrk explaining cell biology and how RNA, DNA, cells, water, and other basic elements of life (including viruses) operate. Kyrk thinks animated illustrations are very useful in teaching and remembering ideas and concepts.
All the phases of Earth’s formation and development are covered in the evolution timeline, including the Late Heavy Bombardment, Snowball Earth, Cambrian Explosion, stromatolites, photosynthesis and iron formation. Once life begins to rise up, your computer screen will run amok with Earth’s diverse species populations from the one-celled animals, trilobites and fish to amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs and mammals – the whole shooting match. All the major extinction events are shown, too.
The site also contains a link to this YouTube video version of someone else working the timeline so you can just sit back and watch how it happens, But I recommend working the interactive page yourself. A lot more happens and is available than the video allows you to see. Note that you’ll need Flash for it to run on your computer.
I wonder how Darwin would have reacted if he were able to see his theory illustrated in this way?
Courtesy Twin Cities NaturalistLilacs are blooming, ospreys are returning to nests, spring continues to delight. Check out this week's Monday Phenology: Nature's Week in Review where professional naturalist Kirk Mona of Twin Cities Naturalist discusses what new nature observations were seen around the Twin Cities area in the past week.
Phenology is the science of the seasons. It looks at how and when nature changes according to seasonal climatic conditions.
Courtesy Mark RyanI saw a posting on Facebook yesterday (tip of the hat to the Bell Museum) about a website called Project Noah. It’s a really cool site that allows anyone with a camera and a love of nature to upload pictures or video and help identify the plants and animals that populate our world, both locally and globally. And who doesn’t have a camera of some sort nowadays?
Anyway, according to their website Project Noah is:
"… A tool that nature lovers can use to explore and document wildlife and a technology platform research groups can use to harness the power of citizen scientists everywhere. The purpose of the project is to mobilize and inspire a new generation of nature lovers. It began as an experiment to see if we could build an app for people to share their nature sightings and has evolved into a powerful global movement for both amateurs and experts. The name “Noah” is an acronym that stands for networked organisms and habitats. “
That kind of sums it up. The site is easy to navigate and figure out. I uploaded a couple photos I’d taken recently and it wasn’t difficult at all. You can also join a “mission” dealing with a particular zoological or botanical subject you’re interested in. You can contribute to the mission’s knowledge base by adding your own photographs or some information such as the genus and species of an unknown specimen captured in someone else’s photograph. I like shooting photographs up around Lake Superior so I joined the “Great Lakes Monitoring” mission. It just took a click of a button to become a part of it.
You can even start your own mission. It could be a legitimate study you’ve devised like why "megapug" bees seek out sunflowers or something as simple as a call for the best wildlife photos of the year. Here at the Science Museum we could start a mission called Rotting Pigs. I wonder how many contributions that would garner?
As mentioned, there’s even a Project Noah app that you can download for the mobile device of your choice. I downloaded it for my iPod Touch but noticed the reviews for it seem to be mixed. It only got an average rating overall, but what the hey, it’s free so I’m giving it a shot anyway. You can do the same if you'd like. I already know the site works fine on my laptop.
I’m really excited about this. It’s a novel and cool way to intermingle our ever-changing networking technologies with the rest of the natural world, and contribute something to the science community at the same time.
If you have more questions you might find the answers on Project Noah’s FAQ page.
Courtesy JGordonThe human body is more or less the density of water: 1000 kg per cubic meter. (I tend to sink, so I'm probably a little denser, but I think we're close enough here.)
I weigh about 150 pounds, or 68 kg (2.2 pounds per kilogram).
1000kg / 1m^3 = 68kg / ?m^3
? = .068
So the volume of my body is about 0.068 cubic meters.
Each cubic meter equals about 35.3146667 cubic feet.
.068 x 35.315 = 2.401
So the volume of my body is about 2.401 cubic feet
My file drawer is 1 foot wide by 9 inches high (or .75 feet) by 2 feet and 2 inches deep (or 2.167 feet)
1 x .75 x 2.167 = 1.62525
So the volume of my desk drawer is 1.62525 cubic feet
1.62525 < 2.401
So the answer is NO. If you were to blend me up in a giant food processor, and then pour me into my file drawer, I would literally be overflowing.
That's sort of a relief.
Then again, it depends on how much denser I am than water. Maybe I would fit.