I am hiking across acres of Southwest Colorado with my fabulous best friend, a Black Mouth Cur that I named, appropriately, “Blessing” on our morning “walk” through the fields and woods of the farm where we now live. It is out … Continue reading
Mysterious underwater circles created by 5-inch fish seeking love
Oct. 3, 2013 at 11:48 AM ET
In 1995, divers noticed a beautiful, strange circular pattern on the seafloor off Japan, and soon after, more circles were discovered nearby. Some likened these formations to “underwater crop circles.” The geometric formations mysteriously came and went, and for more than a decade, nobody knew what made them.
Finally, the creator of these remarkable formations was found: a newly discovered species of pufferfish. Further study showed these small pufferfish make the ornate circles to attract mates. Males laboriously flap their fins as they swim along the seafloor, resulting in disrupted sediment and amazing circular patterns. Although the fish are only about 12 centimeters (5 inches) long, the formations they make measure about 2 meters (7 feet) in diameter.
When the circles are finished, females come to inspect them. If they like what they see, they reproduce with the males, said Hiroshi Kawase, the curator of the Coastal Branch of Natural History Museum and Institute in Chiba, Japan. But nobody knows exactly what the females are looking for in these circles or what traits they find desirable, Kawase told LiveScience. [See Video of Pufferfish Making Seafloor Circles]
Pufferfish mating involves females laying eggs in the fine sediments in the center of the circles, and then the males fertilizing them externally. Then, the females vanish, and the males stay for another six days, perhaps to guard the eggs, the study noted.
Males of some species of cichlids (a type of fish) are known to construct crater-shaped mounds that females visit to have their eggs fertilized, Kawase said. For example, male featherfin cichlids in Africa’s Lake Tanganyika build small bowls out of the sand, and display them to females before mating there, said Alex Jordan, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin who wasn’t involved in this study.
But this new pufferfish’s geometric patterns have three features never seen before. First, they involve radially aligned ridges and valleys outside the nest site. Second, the male decorates these ridges with fragments of shells. Third, the male gathers fine sediments to give the resulting formation a distinctive look and coloring, Kawase said. [Photos: Pufferfish Make Seafloor Circles to Mate]
Strangely enough, the male “gathers” the fine sediments using the circular pattern itself, Kawase said. A fluid dynamics test using a half-size model of one of these circles found that the upstream portion of the circle funnels water and fine sediments toward the center. Then, the downstream peaks and valleys funnel the water outward. The speed of water was slowed by nearly 25 percent in the center, where the eggs are laid, the study noted.
Bowerbirds of the sea?
It takes about seven to nine days for the pufferfish to build the circles. The male pufferfish don’t maintain these formations, and underwater currents wash them away relatively quickly. Kawase said they likely give up their old formations because the circles exhaust the fine sediment in the area, and thus must be built anew in areas with fresh sediment.
When Jordan first heard about the circles, he guessed a much bigger fish would have made them. The fact that such a small animal makes such a large formation is “pretty cool, and suggests some underlying biological reason for the size, like poor visibility at depth, or distance between individuals that means males have to make large nests to be found by females,” he told LiveScience.
Research describing the pufferfish formations was published in July in the journal Scientific Reports. “It’s a nice clean study because it provides a definite answer to the question — something that is very rare in biology,” Jordan said.
The formations are very similar to so-called “bowers” — display sites built by various animals like bowerbirds in which to strut their stuff before mating. In this case, the formations may serve solely to gather fine sediments, which females could use to choose their mate, Jordan said.
But until this idea is tested, nobody will know. “The one caveat I have is that there is no evidence that females care about anything more than the fine sand, and even that’s a stretch,” Jordan said. “The beautiful lines and structure could serve only to channel those particles to the center, and have no aesthetic purpose.”
Although Jordan said he doesn’t think that’s the case, the idea that the fine sediments are important to females would be “biologically interesting, because it would suggest that function is more important than appearance,” he said.
Do NOT eat tuna. Period. ALL the bluefin tuna is radioactive. ALL. A year ago they told us they were surprised to find the fish contaminated after limited exposure to radioactive water. As this article points out, all of the bluefin tuna being caught now have spent their entire lives exposed to radioactive water. If you didn’t hear the warning a year ago, please hear it now.
Every bluefin tuna tested in the waters off California has shown to be contaminated with radiation that originated in Fukushima. Every single one.
Over a year ago, in May of 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported on a Stanford University study. Daniel Madigan, a marine ecologist who led the study, was quoted as saying, “The tuna packaged it up (the radiation) and brought it across the world’s largest ocean. We were definitely surprised to see it at all and even more surprised to see it in every one we measured.”
Another member of the study group, Marine biologist Nicholas Fisher at Stony Brook University in New York State reported, “We found that absolutely every one of them had comparable concentrations of cesium 134 and cesium 137.”
That was over a year ago. The fish that were tested had relatively little exposure to the radioactive waste being dumped into the ocean following the nuclear melt-through that occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March of 2011. Since that time, the flow of radioactive contaminants dumping into the ocean has continued unabated. Fish arriving at this juncture have been swimming in contaminants for all of their lives.
Radioactive cesium doesn’t sink to the sea floor, so fish swim through it and ingest it through their gills or by eating organisms that have already ingested it. It is a compound that does occur naturally in nature, however, the levels of cesium found in the tuna in 2012 had levels 3 percent higher than is usual. Measurements for this year haven’t been made available, or at least none that I have been able to find. I went looking for the effects of ingesting cesium. This is what I found:
When contact with radioactive cesium occurs, which is highly unlikely, a person can experience cell damage due to radiation of the cesium particles. Due to this, effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding may occur. When the exposure lasts a long time, people may even lose consciousness. Coma or even death may then follow. How serious the effects are depends upon the resistance of individual persons and the duration of exposure and the concentration a person is exposed to.
The administration is increasingly citing global warming to justify expansion of the endangered species habitat, pushing development and recreation away from over 26 million acres, the latest to save the Canada Lynx.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week proposed slightly expanded “critical habitat” for the endangered lynx in part because the administration claims warmer winters from Maine to Washington State have reduced the area of “fluffy snow” the 25-pound cat likes to hunt snowshoe rabbits in.
“Climate change is likely to be a significant issue of concern for the future conservation of the lynx,” said the agency in a 187-page proposed rule that will now collect public comments. “Climate change is expected to substantially reduce the amount and quality of lynx habitat in the contiguous United States, with patches of high-quality habitat becoming smaller, more fragmented, and more isolated,” said the agency.
An agency official said that climate change was “not a factor” in the lynx decision, however.
Under the proposed rule, development and recreational activities would be limited or barred in 26 million acres — about the size of Virginia — along Canada’s border in six states. The rule is revised from an earlier one that was challenged by environmental groups for not including enough habitat for the lynx. That 2009 decision had set aside the bulk of the 26 million acres. The new rule would add about 400,000 acres.
“Canada lynx need quiet places free of disturbance from snowmobiles and other human activities to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
President Obama has said repeatedly that he will use his executive powers to institute climate change policy opposed by Republicans in Congress, and the endangered species list is one of those tools.
The government recently cited global warming in proposing to protect the wolverine and 66 coral species.
The lynx move was assailed by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “While the administration cannot even define how many lynx there are or what the number of decline has been, they are pressing ahead to reissue a habitat designation that will significantly affect portions of six states, and reduce access for a host of activities. It’s concerning that the massive proposal does not include an accurate or updated economic impact analyses, and will create potential regulatory uncertainty for those areas affected,” he said.
A rare death match between a golden eagle and a young deer was inadvertently captured by a camera trap set up to snap pictures of Russia’s endangered Siberian tigers.
The sika deer (Cervus nippon) was found dead in December 2011 by a researcher tending to the camera trap, which was being used to monitor the habits and movements of tigers in Lazovsky State Nature Reserve in Russia’s Far East.
Conservationist Linda Kerley, of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), recalled that something felt immediately wrong as she approached the carcass.
“There were no large carnivore tracks in the snow, and it looked like the deer had been running and then just stopped and died,” Kerley, who runs the ZSL’s camera trap project, said in a statement. “It was only after we got back to camp that I checked the images from the camera and pieced everything together. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
The camera trap footage only captured two seconds of the attack in three photos, but it showed quite clearly an adult golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) clinging to the young deer’s back. [Camera Trapped: Elusive Wildlife Caught in Photos]
“I’ve been assessing deer causes of death in Russia for 18 years,” Kerley said in a statement. “This is the first time I’ve seen anything like this.”
An adult golden eagle can weigh more than 12 pounds (5.4 kilograms) and have a wingspan of about 7.5 feet (2.3 meters). Though they do not regularly prey on deer, the raptors are known for ambitious attacks on large animals, the researchers said. The birds, however, have not been known to attack people, despite what the “golden eagle” hoax video would have viewers believe.
“The scientific literature is full of references to golden eagle attacks on different animals from around the world, from things as small as rabbits — their regular prey — to coyote and deer, and even one record in 2004 of an eagle taking a brown bear cub,” Jonathan Slaght, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a statement. (ZSL and WCS have been partnering on tiger monitoring in the region.)
“In this case I think Linda just got really lucky and was able to document a very rare, opportunistic predation event,” Slaght added.
Kerley and Slaght described the strange case in this month’s issue of the Journal of Raptor Research.
Don’t call them snakes! 4 legless lizard species discovered in California
Four previously unknown species of snakelike creatures have been found in California — but don’t call them snakes; they’re legless lizards. Prior to the discovery of the new species, there was only one known legless lizard species in the state: the California legless lizard.
Surprisingly, the newfound legless lizards were discovered at a series of sites that weren’t exactly pristine: They include a dune bordering a runway at Los Angeles International Airport; an empty lot in downtown Bakersfield, Calif.; a field littered with oil derricks; and the margins of the Mojave Desert.
“This shows that there is a lot of undocumented biodiversity within California,” Theodore Papenfuss, a herpetologist at the University of California Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, said in a statement from the school.
The lizards live their entire lives underground or near the surface, and often don’t…
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Scientists are assessing the damage from a massive wildfire burning around Yosemite National Park, laying plans to protect habitat and waterways as the fall rainy season approaches.
Members of the federal Burned Area Emergency Response team were hiking the rugged Sierra Nevada terrain Saturday even as thousands of firefighters still were battling the four-week-old blaze, now the third-largest wildfire in modern California history.
Federal officials have amassed a team of 50 scientists, more than twice what is usually deployed to assess wildfire damage. With so many people assigned to the job, they hope to have a preliminary report ready in two weeks so remediation can start before the first storms, Alex Janicki, the Stanislaus National Forest BAER response coordinator, said.
Team members are working to identify areas at the highest risk for erosion into streams, the Tuolumne River and the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, San Francisco’s famously pure water supply.
The wildfire started in the Stanislaus National Forest on Aug. 17 when a hunter’s illegal fire swept out of control and has burned 394 square miles of timber, meadows and sensitive wildlife habitat.
It has cost more than $89 million to fight, and officials say it will cost tens of millions of dollars more to repair the environmental damage alone.
About 5 square miles of the burned area is in the watershed of the municipal reservoir serving 2.8 million people – the only one in a national park.
“That’s 5 square miles of watershed with very steep slopes,” Janicki said “We are going to need some engineering to protect them.”
So far the water remains clear despite falling ash, and the city water utility has a six month supply in reservoirs closer to the Bay Area.
The BAER team will be made up of hydrologists, botanists, archeologists, biologists, geologists and soil scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, Yosemite National Park, the Natural Resource Conservation and the U.S. Geological Survey.
The team also will look at potential for erosion and mudslides across the burn area, assess what’s in the path and determine what most needs protecting.
“We’re looking to evaluate what the potential is for flooding across the burned area,” said Alan Gallegos, a team member and geologist with the Sierra National Forest. “We evaluate the potential for hazard and look at what’s at risk — life, property, cultural resources, species habitat. Then we come up with a list of treatments.”
In key areas with a high potential for erosion ecologists can dig ditches to divert water, plant native trees and grasses, and spray costly hydro-mulch across steep canyon walls in the most critical places.
Fire officials still have not released the name of the hunter responsible for starting the blaze. On Friday Kent Delbon, the lead investigator, would not characterize what kind of fire the hunter had set or how they had identified the suspect.
“I can say some really good detective work out there made this thing happen,” he told the Associated Press.
Delbon said the Forest Service announced the cause of the fire before being able to release details in order to end rumors started by a local fire chief that the blaze ignited in an illegal marijuana garden.
The monstrous California wildfire that has scorched an area nearly the size of New York City doesn’t just loom over hundreds of homes — it’s also threatening one of the cornerstones of the regional economy: cattle.
Many of the thousands of grass-fed cows who have grazed on lush land in the Stanislaus National Forest — where the massive fire sparked Aug. 17 — are now feared displaced, wounded or dead, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
As local ranch hands deal with their potentially decimated stock — and with the future of grazing in the forest area unclear — the regional cattle industry may take a big hit, according to the newspaper.
“They go out every day, gathering the cows they can find, the ones that have made it into the green areas,” Susan Forbes, a national forest staffer, told the Chronicle. “They’re finding pockets of livestock and concentrating on removing them as fast as they can.”
Forbes told the newspaper that 12 of 36 grazing grounds in the park were devastated by the blaze. Herds of cattle are now scattered over thousands of acres — making evacuation efforts a huge challenge.
The Golden state accounts for 7.4 percent of the U.S. national revenue for livestock and livestock products. It’s also the number one state in cash farm receipts, making up 11.6 percent of the U.S. total, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Cattle and calves were California’s fifth leading commodity two years ago, and remain a chief state resource, according to CDFA data.
Meanwhile, crews battling the so-called Rim Fire made significant gains overnight, officials said.
The fire was 60 percent contained Monday morning, a jump from 45 percent Sunday night, said Dan Bastion, a spokesman for the multiagency fire management team.
Cooler temperatures and higher humidity allowed crews to get an advantage on the fire overnight, according to Bastion.
“The fire is a little less active today,” Bastion said early Monday.
And yet the so-called Rim Fire grew slightly late Sunday, and now spans over 357 square miles, or 228,670 acres, making it the fourth-largest blaze in modern California history, he said. It surpasses a 1932 fire in Ventura County, according to officials.
The fire threatens some 4,500 homes, although many of those structures are “not in imminent danger,” Bastion said. Some 11 residences have already burned down, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Mandatory evacuations still stand for some people south of Highway 120. Tioga Road west of Yosemite Creek Picnic Area remains shuttered, according to The Associated Press.
Crews will continue building fire lines and scorching away the fire’s potential fuel sources Monday, according to the wire service.
Authorities are investigating the cause of the blaze, but the possibility that it was started by an illegal marijuana growing operation was recently raised by a fire chief in Tuolomne County.
Todd McNeal, fire chief in the town of Twain Harte, west of Yosemite, said at an Aug. 23 community meeting that officials “know it’s human caused, there’s no lightning in the area. … (We) highly suspect that it might be some sort of illicit grove, marijuana grow-type thing.”
His comments surfaced in a YouTube video of the meeting.
However, Rim Fire spokesman Brian Haines told NBC Bay Area that at this juncture, the marijuana theory is merely “an opinion.”
In June, 15,000 marijuana plants were pulled out the forest to the south and four miles of irrigation pipe were removed, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
The newspaper said a 40-acre wildfire the month earlier in the same area was blamed on marijuana growers tied to Mexican drug cartels.