Science Links of the Week » Explorersweb
A passion for the natural world drives many of our adventures. When I’m not outside, I love digging into discoveries about the places we live and travel to. Here are some of the best natural history links I found this week.
Requires Mega Sanctuary
Protecting gray wolves and beavers: A group of researchers proposed a sanctuary for the American gray wolf and other keystone species. The Western Rewilding Network project has sketched a protected area of 496,000 square kilometers across his 11 western states.
They argue that species such as gray wolves and beavers are vital to ecosystem health. Wolves control ungulate populations and help regrow many plant species. Proposed areas within the megasanctuary include Yellowstone National Park, the Northern and Southern Rockies, and the Mogollon Plateau.
‘Goat Mummies’ Found in Melting Glacier: Glaciologist Andrea Fischer discovered a chamois mummy in Austria. The chamois is a relative of goats and antelopes and is native to the mountainous regions of Europe. The mummified remains belong to a young female child, about 500 years old.
Fisher and her team came across a frozen body while studying ice. “It’s unbelievable that she was sitting right where we were doing the research, and she walked by when she came out of the ice,” Fisher says.
“As the glacier melts, we should see more of these discoveries. Perhaps other humans will also appear in the ice. In fact, it’s quite possible,” said Yulac Research’s Mummy Research Institute director. Albert Zink says.
mouse and albatross
Another invasive species goes on a rampage. Gough Island is an important breeding ground for albatrosses. Two hundred years ago, sealers brought rats to a small island in the South Atlantic between Argentina and South Africa. Invasive species have reduced the island’s seed and insect supplies and have begun feeding on seabird eggs and chicks. Some even attacked adult birds.
Last year, conservationists dropped poisoned rat bait all over the island in an attempt to kill the rats and protect the seabirds. But despite their efforts, the mice still continue to proliferate.
The numbers of breeding albatross breeding pairs on the island are actually relatively stable, but their chicks are not resistant to rodent attack. As established breeding pairs age, few new pairs replace them.
Rat venom has increased breeding success this year, but more needs to be done to eradicate rats.
Mysterious dance of cricket embryos: Embryos have long intrigued geneticist Cassandra Extavour. Specifically, we want to know how embryonic cells know what to do and where to go. To find out more about this, Extavour has been studying crickets.
In humans, single cells begin to divide into other cells. In crickets, only the nucleus of the cell divides. These nuclei later migrate in a mysterious but nonrandom way through the shared cytoplasm to form the plasma membrane.
After watching hours of embryo footage looking for patterns, the team called in mathematician Christopher Rycroft. With his help, they discovered that geometry controlled the movement of these cells, not chemical or other signals.
Gorillas learn new sounds to attract attention
Gorillas in captivity can learn to make new sounds: Gorillas can make sounds somewhere between coughing and sneezing. Biological anthropologist Roberta Salmi noticed a new sound when visiting the zoo. The gorilla only made this sound when the keeper was nearby with food.
Salumi studied behavior in 20 zoos in the United States and Canada. Gorillas in zoos use “snuff” noises to get the attention of their keepers. Researchers have never actually heard this vocalization. This suggests that captive apes have learned to make this sound in the present unnatural environment. This ability is extremely rare among animals.
Calling occurred only when the keeper was holding food. Gorillas may have discovered that sounds prompted their responses. They never aimed this sound at other apes, only at humans.
Heat wave shrinks UK rivers
Wildlife stressed by shrinking rivers due to drought: Across the UK, temperatures are soaring. A long drought is beginning to have serious effects on wildlife.
Chalk Stream is home to many species, including salmon, otters and kingfishers. There are only 200 chalk streams in the world, 85% of which are in southern and eastern England.
“This is our barrier reef or Amazon rainforest,” explained Christine Colvin of Rivers Trust.
The water levels in many of these rivers are dropping rapidly, and some smaller rivers are completely dry. Low river flows not only affect food sources for fish and invertebrates, but also affect animals further up the food chain.
Water companies are imposing hosepipe bans in an attempt to remedy the situation. But businesses may need to completely rethink how they use water. “We hope that the government and water companies will respond in concert,” he says Colvin.