Top 10 new species of 2012
A human-faced monkey, a glow-in-the-dark cockroach an tiny frog and more. They’re a strange, varied bunch, these newly-honored creatures, but what they all have in common is a shared place on International Institute for Species Exploration’s top 10 new species list.
The list, released annually by Arizona State University and culled from a list of 140 nominees discovered last year, is part of a larger effort to identify more of the estimated 8.7 million species on Earth - with just 1.2-2 million officially identified.
Said Quentin Wheeler, an entomologist at ASU:
“Knowing that millions of species may not survive the 21st century, it is time to pick up the pace.”
Photos: Maurice Emetshu, Peter Vrsansky & Dusan Chorvat, Christopher C. Austin, Sevastian Lotzkat / ASU
Invasion of the 17-year cicada brood
What’s red-eyed, over-sized, loud, horrifying and 17 years in the making? The soon-to-be-emerging cicada brood, described by one expert as a “huge tsunami.”
The bugs, which have been hibernating for nearly two decades before emerging, molting, mating and passing away in droves, are a swarming terror to some, and for others, they’re an under-appreciated delicacy.
But rest assured, West Coast readers, the imminent cicada invasion is entirely an East Coast problem.
And for anyone skeptical as to how creepy cicadas can be, click here at your own peril.
Photo: Chris Simon / University of Connecticut, Associated Press
Let’s discuss talking monkeys
University of Michigan researcher Thore Bergman thinks he may have stumbled upon the linguistic missing link between monkeys and humans while researching wild Gelada baboons (pictured above).
“I would find myself frequently looking over my shoulder to see who was talking to me, but it was just the geladas,” said Bergman. “It was unnerving to have primate vocalizations sound so much like human voices.”
Bergman thinks that communicative lip-smacking by the baboons, in alignment with rhythmic facial expressions, could represent the bridge between animal sounds and human speech.
Read more on Bergman’s study via Science Now, or check out his report in Current Biology. Or just listen to Ricky Gervais’ perfect lead-in for any and all primate news.
Photos: Associated Press
The crisis facing California sea lions
State officials have declared an “unusual mortality event” for California sea lions, after an unusually high number of pups barely clinging to life have recently washed ashore.
For a sense of the sheer number of pups who have reportedly been found washed up:
In Los Angeles County, nearly 400 pups have been stranded since the beginning of the year. Last year, 36 were reported during that stretch.
As of March 24, officials said, 214 sea lions were reported stranded in San Diego County, 189 in Orange County, 108 in Santa Barbara County and 42 in Ventura County.
Read more from reporter Rick Rojas here.
Photos: Allen J. Schaben, Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times
Life on Mars…Maybe
A sample pulled from Mars just last month has been thoroughly examined by the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, and earlier today scientists declared that they have finally found solid evidence that Mars could have once sustained life.
From mission lead scientist John Grotzinger of Caltech:
“We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and is so supportive of life that probably if this water was around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it.”
Read more via Science Now.
Polar bears remain a threatened species
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to keep polar bears protected by broad federal measures Friday,
The court rejected the argument that the 25,000 remaining polar bears, most of which live in relatively stable populations, were perfectly fine without “threatened species” status. But many scientists worry that the effects of climate change on the Arctic climate could prove dangerous for the remaining bears.
And it looks like polar bears may remain on that list for the foreseeable future, according to Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity.
“So for practical purposes, the listing of the polar bear is final, and really no longer under any serious threat from these challenges.”
Read more about the court’s decision here, via Nation Now.
Photos: Jeon Heon-Kyun, Koen Van Weel / EPA, Sven Hoppe / Associated Press
“Honeybees aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.”
Wild bees may be just the solution that farmers are looking for as they struggle to come with the continued die-offs among domestic reserves.
In fact, farmers may have been completely wrong about bees for years. Said Rachael Winfree, a pollination ecologist at Rutgers University:
“At 90% of farms studied in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, native wild bees are fully pollinating the watermelon crop. But farmers don’t realize this. “They’re thinking they need them but they don’t.”
Read more about the possible bee fix, and why honeybees may be totally overrated, here.
Photo: Rufus Isaacs
What Do Fish Thoughts Look Like?
Like us, zebrafish get hungry. But unlike us they have to engage full-on hunting mode instead of just walking to the fridge to get a snack. By observing a fish brain while it hunts for dinner, Japanese scientists have seen exactly what thoughts look like on the scale of single neurons.
Zebrafish, a common model organism used in biology labs around the world, were held in place while a paramecium snack swam in front of their eye. The scientists were able to genetically engineer the fish’s neurons to glow green when activated, and because the fish are nearly transparent, they could use sophisticated microscopes to map which neurons were firing.
What you’re looking at is the thought pattern of a zebrafish tracking its prey! This is the “thought” that represents “yum yum dinner”. It’s super-important to know that no single neuron holds a thought. Anything that we think or feel exists as a network of neurons firing (or not firing) in a very particular pattern. Understanding that pattern can help us map how an abstract thought is written in “meatspace” so to speak.
The only catch is taking the pattern you see and making it understandable. That fish thought above? That’s the thought, but we have no clue what it means yet. Like following a road map without labels, this trip through the brain is still a confusing one.
A question we never quite realized we desperately wanted answered.
test reblogged from jtotheizzoe