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“The more we nurture the planet, the better and more natural a life we'll have.”  Chris d'Lacey, Icefire
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Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot

It is sometimes said that scientists are unromantic, that their passion to figure out robs the world of beauty and mystery. But is it not stirring to understand how the world actually works — that white light is made of colors, that color is the way we perceive the wavelengths of light, that transparent air reflects light, that in so doing it discriminates among the waves, and that the sky is blue for the same reason that the sunset is red? It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it
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Scientists discover dolphins speech complexity is almost as high as in humans

Scientists discover dolphins speech complexity is almost as high as in humans | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it

Dolphins are capable of “highly developed spoken language” which closely resembles human communication, scientists have suggested.  While it has long been acknowledged dolphins are of high intelligence and can communicate within a larger pack, their ability to converse with each other individually has been less understood.

 

But researchers at the Karadag Nature Reserve, Feodosia, Crimea, believe the pulses, clicks and whistles – of up to five “words” – made by dolphins are listened to fully by another before a response is made. 

 
 

“Essentially, this exchange resembles a conversation between two people,” wrote lead researcher Dr Vyacheslav Ryabov in the study,published in the journal Mathematics and Physics. Dr Ryabov said each pulse produced by a dolphin “is different from another” in its time span and the frequencies it emits. 

 

“In this regard, we can assume that each pulse represents a phoneme or a word of the dolphin’s spoken language,” Dr Ryabov wrote. However: “The dolphin’s speech unfortunately lies beyond the time and frequency characteristics of the human hearing, and is thus unavailable to humans.”


Via Levin Chin, Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Wolves need space to roam to control expanding coyote populations

Wolves need space to roam to control expanding coyote populations | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Wolves and other top predators need large ranges to be able to control smaller predators whose populations have expanded to the detriment of a balanced ecosystem.

That's the main finding of a study appearing May 23 in Nature Communications that analyzed the relationship between top predators on three different continents and the next-in-line predators they eat and compete with. The results were similar across continents, showing that as top predators' ranges were cut back and fragmented, they were no longer able to control smaller predators.

"Our paper suggests it will require managing for top predator persistence across large landscapes, rather than just in protected areas, in order to restore natural predator-predator interactions," said co-author Aaron Wirsing, an associate professor at the University of Washington's School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

Gray wolves historically lived across vast swaths of North America, particularly in the western states and Canadian provinces. Coyotes, a smaller predator kept in check by wolves, appear to have been scarce in areas once dominated by wolves. As human development shrank territories for wolves, however, the wolf populations became fragmented and wolves no longer had the numbers or space to control coyotes, whose populations in turn grew.
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Racing to Find Answers in the Ice

Racing to Find Answers in the Ice | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Scientists are sprinting to understand what is happening in West Antarctica as the planet warms around it.
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Life in the Precambrian may have been much livelier than previously thought

Life in the Precambrian may have been much livelier than previously thought | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
The Garden of the Ediacaran was a period in the ancient past when Earth's shallow seas were populated with a bewildering variety of enigmatic, soft-bodied creatures. Scientists have pictured it as a tranquil, almost idyllic interlude that lasted from 635 to 540 million years ago. But a new interdisciplinary study suggests that the organisms living at the time may have been much more dynamic than experts have thought.

Scientists have found It extremely difficult to fit these Precambrian species into the tree of life. That is because they lived in a time before organisms developed the ability to make shells or bones. As a result, they didn't leave much fossil evidence of their existence behind, and even less evidence that they moved around. So, experts have generally concluded that virtually all of the Ediacarans—with the possible exception of a few organisms similar to jellyfish that floated about—were stationary and lived out their adult lives fixed in one place on the sea floor.

The new findings concern one of the most enigmatic of the Ediacaran genera, a penny-sized organism called Parvancorina, which ischaracterized by a series of ridges on its back that form the shape of a tiny anchor. By analyzing the way in which water flows around Parvancorina's body, an international team of researchers has concluded that these ancient creatures must have been mobile: specifically, they must have had the ability to orient themselves to face into the current flowing around them. That would make them the oldest species known to possess this capability, which scientists call rheotaxis.
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ESF lists Top 10 new species for 2017

ESF lists Top 10 new species for 2017 | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
A spider and an ant with names drawn from popular books, a pink katydid and an omnivorous rat made the College of Environmental Science and Forestry's list of the Top 10 New Species for 2017. Also listed: a freshwater stingray, a bush tomato that appears to 'bleed,' a devilish-looking orchid, a millipede with more than 400 legs, an amphibious centipede and a marine worm.
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A carnivorous plant's prized genetic treasures, unveiled

A carnivorous plant's prized genetic treasures, unveiled | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
The carnivorous humped bladderwort plant, Utricularia gibba, is a sophisticated predator. It uses vacuum pressure to suck prey into tiny traps at speeds less than a millisecond. A new genomic analysis shows that, over millions of years, it repeatedly retained and enhanced genetic material associated with its carnivorous nature. These include genes that facilitate the trapping of prey, the digestion of proteins, and the transport of small bits of protein from one cell to another.
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This Is the Best Dinosaur Fossil of Its Kind Ever Found

This Is the Best Dinosaur Fossil of Its Kind Ever Found | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
The 110 million-year-old fossil of a nodosaur preserves the animal’s armor, skin, and what may have been its final meal.
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Having trouble sleeping? Put these plants in your bedroom for a better night's sleep

Having trouble sleeping? Put these plants in your bedroom for a better night's sleep | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Some plants can help to relax your body as well as increase the amount of oxygen that enters your body. Here are some plants that will help you get a better night’s sleep:
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Antibiotic-resistant microbes date back to 450 million years ago, well before the age of dinosaurs

Antibiotic-resistant microbes date back to 450 million years ago, well before the age of dinosaurs | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it


Antibiotic resistance is now a leading public health concern worldwide. Some microbes, often referred to as "superbugs," are resistant to virtually all antibiotics. This is of special concern in hospitals, where about 5 percent of hospitalized patients will fight infections that arise during their stay. As researchers around the world are urgently seeking solutions for this problem, insight into the origin and evolution of antibiotic resistance will help inform their search.

"By analyzing the genomes and behaviors of today's enterococci, we were able to rewind the clock back to their earliest existence and piece together a picture of how these organisms were shaped into what they are today" said co-corresponding author Ashlee M. Earl, Ph.D., group leader for the Bacterial Genomics Group at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. "Understanding how the environment in which microbes live leads to new properties could help us to predict how microbes will adapt to the use of antibiotics, antimicrobial hand soaps, disinfectants and other products intended to control their spread."
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African lions under same threats as extinct sabre-toothed tigers faced

African lions under same threats as extinct sabre-toothed tigers faced | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
African lions are under the same threats extinct sabre-toothed tigers faced.
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Indigenous lands ‘critical’ to forest protection in Peru, biodiversity maps show

Indigenous lands ‘critical’ to forest protection in Peru, biodiversity maps show | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Maps detailing the diversity of tree communities in Peru show that, while some forest types are well-protected, others are not. In addition, indigenous lands outpace national, regional and local protections in the breadth of different forest types they defend.
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Scientists have worked out how dung beetles use the Milky Way to hold their course

Scientists have worked out how dung beetles use the Milky Way to hold their course | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Insects navigate in much the same way that ancient humans did: using the sky.
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Gynandromorphs: Half Male, Half Female Animals

Gynandromorphs: Half Male, Half Female Animals | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it

As they often do after a rainstorm, butterflies had gathered around puddles on Pigeon Mountain in northwest Georgia. Nets in hand, James Adams and his friend Irving Finkelstein watched the insects lapping up salts and proteins dissolved in the muddy water, their folded wings yawning apart now and then. There were silvery-blue Celastrinas and Skippers the color of cinnamon and ash. Largest of all were the Tiger Swallowtails—pastel lemon males with black dagger-like stripes and midnight-dark females with a dusting of evening cerulean.

 

Suddenly a very odd creature flitted past Adams and Finkelstein—a swallowtail unlike any they had ever seen. Its left half was yellow; its right, black. It was as though someone had sliced up two different insects and seamlessly sewn them back together. Finkelstein yelped and took a swipe at the bizarre beauty, missing by quite a bit. Suppressing his excitement, lest it misguide his hand, Adams chased the butterfly a few steps, swung, and netted it. He could see immediately that he had caught a gynandromorph—an animal that was half-male and half-female.

 

Butterfly collectors love gynandromorphs for their rarity as much as their peculiarity. They are unpredictable hiccups in nature’s symphony of symmetry. The creatures tantalize scientists, too, because they offer a unique opportunity: the chance to study typically male and female genes and anatomy in the same body.

 

For hundreds of years, naturalists have been documenting gynandromorphs among insects, spiders, lobsters, and birds. More recently, researchers—aided by increasingly sophisticated laboratory tools—have overturned reigning theories of sexual development by studying such hybrids. As has proven true time and again throughout the history of science, the creatures that seem strangest—those that are too odd, too asymmetrical to fit neatly into our presupposed categories—teach us the most about how all living things work. It turns out, for example, that the standard explanation of how a bird becomes male or female is wrong. Scientists came to this realization not by investigating scores of typical birds, but rather by examining a few gynandromorphs. It all started with an odd zebra finch.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Birds, bees and other critters have scruples, and for good reason

Birds, bees and other critters have scruples, and for good reason | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Humans are not the only species to show a strong work ethic and scruples. UC Berkeley researchers have found evidence of conscientiousness in insects, reptiles, birds, fish and other critters.
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3.3 million-year-old fossil reveals origins of the human spine

3.3 million-year-old fossil reveals origins of the human spine | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Analysis of a 3.3 million-year-old fossil skeleton reveals the most complete spinal column of any early human relative, including vertebrae, neck and rib cage. The findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicate that portions of the human spinal structure that enable efficient walking motions were established millions of years earlier than previously thought.

The fossil, known as "Selam," is a nearly complete skeleton of a 2½ year-old child discovered in Dikika, Ethiopia in 2000 by Zeresenay (Zeray) Alemseged, professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and senior author of the new study. Selam, which means "peace" in the Ethiopian Amharic language, was an early human relative from the species Australopithecus afarensis—the same species as the famous Lucy skeleton.

In the years since Alemseged discovered Selam, he and his lab assistant from Kenya, Christopher Kiarie, have been preparing the delicate fossil at the National Museum of Ethiopia. They slowly chipped away at the sandstone surrounding the skeleton and used advanced imaging tools to further analyze its structure.
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The World's Most Powerful Tidal Current: the Saltstraumen Maelstrom

Near Bodø in Norway, there's the strongest tidal current in the world: Saltstraumen Maelstrom, a constantly-changing rush of whirlpools, boils and vortices
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Herpetologists describe an elf frog from the elfin forests in southern Vietnam

Herpetologists describe an elf frog from the elfin forests in southern Vietnam | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Going under the common name of Elfin mountain toad, a new amphibian is recognized as one of the smallest representative of its group. The new species was identified from the highland wet forests of Langbian Plateau, Southern Vietnam. The discoverers gave it this name that derives from German and Celtic folklore because of the resemblance they found between the tiny delicate amphibians and elves - small magic creatures. Furthermore, their habitat is known as elfin forests.
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Antarctica 'greening' due to climate change

Antarctica 'greening' due to climate change | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Plant life on Antarctica is growing rapidly due to climate change, scientists have found.

Few plants live on the continent, but scientists studying moss have found a sharp increase in biological activity in the last 50 years.A team including scientists from the University of Exeter used moss bank cores—which are well preserved in Antarctica's cold conditions—from an area spanning about 400 miles.

They tested five cores from three sites and found major biological changes had occurred over the past 50 years right across the Antarctic Peninsula.

"Temperature increases over roughly the past half century on the Antarctic Peninsula have had a dramatic effect on moss banks growing in the region," said Dr Matt Amesbury, of the University of Exeter.

"If this continues, and with increasing amounts of ice-free land from continued glacier retreat, the Antarctic Peninsula will be a much greener place in the future."
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Lazarus species: Five cool animals we wrongly believed extinct

Lazarus species: Five cool animals we wrongly believed extinct | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
A mysterious elephant, a fungal-apocalypse-surviving frog and a plump, ground-dwelling, nocturnal budgie were all written off before coming back from the dead
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Researchers discover 'lost forests' using photo tool

Researchers discover 'lost forests' using photo tool | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Vast stretches of previously undocumented forest, covering an area equivalent to 60 per cent of Australia's landmass, are discovered using a new tool to analyse the Earth's surface, and could prompt a re-evaluation of the global carbon budget.
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Saying goodbye to glaciers

Saying goodbye to glaciers | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
The melting of glacial ice contributes to sea-level rise, which threatens to "displace millions of people within the lifetime of many of today's children," Moon writes. Glaciers also serve up fresh water to communities around the world, are integral to the planet's weather and climate systems, and they are "unique landscapes for contemplation or exploration."

And they're shrinking, fast, writes Moon, who returned to the National Snow and Ice Data Center this month after two years away. Her analysis, "Saying goodbye to glaciers," is published in the May 12 issue of Science.

Moon admits she was pretty giddy when an editor at Science reached out to her to write a perspective piece on the state of the world's glaciers, because of her research knowledge and extensive publication record. "There was some serious jumping up and down," Moon says. "I thought, 'I've made it!' Their invitation was an exciting recognition of my hard work and expertise."
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Story of silver birch from genomic big data

Story of silver birch from genomic big data | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Researchers at University of Helsinki, Finland and University at Buffalo, USA have analyzed the evolutionary history of silver birch using big data from the genomes of 150 birches.
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Science Makes Plant Discovery That Could Push Complex Life Back By 400 Million Years

Science Makes Plant Discovery That Could Push Complex Life Back By 400 Million Years | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Once you get past your own frame of reference, history seems impossibly vast. A century is a long time, but at least it's somewhat easy to get your head around. Now consider the fact that our planet has been around for more than 45 million centuries—that's 4.5 billion years—and it gets a bit mind-boggling. A team of Swedish researchers has just made a discovery with major implications for the history of life on Earth.
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Eight Geological sites in Asia, Europe and Latin America become UNESCO Global Geoparks

Eight Geological sites in Asia, Europe and Latin America become UNESCO Global Geoparks | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Paris, 05 May—Eight sites demonstrating the great diversity of our planet’s geology have received the UNESCO Global Geopark label on 5 May, when UNESCO’s Executive Board endorsed the decisions made by the UNESCO Global Geoparks Council during its first session in Torquay, UK, last September.
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New butterfly species discovered in Israel for the first time in 109 years

New butterfly species discovered in Israel for the first time in 109 years | Gaia Diary | Scoop.it
Little does a scientist expect to discover a new species of easy-to-see and well-studied animal, especially if it inhabits thoroughly explored areas. However, Vladimir Lukhtanov, a biologist at the Zoological Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, made a startling discovery: a new, beautiful butterfly named Acentria's fritillary, which was spotted as it flew over the slopes of the popular Mount Hermon ski resort in northern Israel. It is described in the open access journal Comparative Cytogenetics.
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