If you have felt the skies above you seem increasingly empty of chirping birds, you are not alone. A 2018 study by BirdLife International revealed that 40 percent of the world’s 11,000 bird species are in decline, and one in eight bird species is threatened with global extinction. Now, some scientists are using cutting-edge technology to revive the critically-endangered kākāpō; if successful, the techniques used may help save other bird species as well.
Though bushfires are a common occurrence in Australia during the summer, they have never been as devastating or as widespread as the ones currently burning across the country. Since September 2019, the blazes, fueled by dry foliage and strong winds, have scorched over 15.6 million acres (24,000 square miles) — an area larger than the state of West Virginia. Even worse, officials warn that Australia's wildfire season — which generally lasts through March — is nowhere near its end.
With no brains or nerve cells, single-cellular microorganisms are often regarded to be simple, primitive beings with few capabilities. However, a new Harvard University study suggests that protozoans, like Stentor roeselii, have the smarts to make "complex" decisions when confronted with unpleasant situations.
It is often said that "a picture is worth a thousand words." That is certainly true of the mesmerizing images of fleeting moments of nature submitted by international ecologists and students for the British Ecological Society's (BES) annual photography competition. Here are a few of 2019's winning entries, announced on November 28, 2019.
Endemic to the forests of south and southeast Asia, the silver-backed chevrotain, or Vietnamese mouse-deer, is one of the world's most elusive animals. The rabbit-sized critter is only known to science through five specimens, four of which were recorded by researchers in 1910. The fifth was killed by a hunter and donated to scientists in 1990. Since then, there have been no recorded sightings of the animals, leading many to fear they had gone extinct. Now, thanks to the efforts and persistence of a team led by biologist Andrew Tilker, the species has not only been rediscovered but also photographed in the wild for the first time!
Most male birds try to attract mates with elegant gestures. Seabirds bob their heads and flutter their wings, while peacocks fan out their beautiful feathers. However, the white bellbird, endemic to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, dispenses with the pleasantries and cut to the chase by shrieking in its prospective "date's" face at a deafening 125 decibels (Db)— the loudest bird call ever recorded. To put it in perspective, that is 40 Db higher than the safe hearing range for humans! Prior to this, the honor belonged to another Amazon-dweller — the aptly-named screaming piha — which has a peak recorded "song" volume of 116 Db.
Humpback whales spend summers feeding in the cold Arctic and Antarctic waters and then migrate to tropical waters during the winters to breed and give birth. Since they don't eat at all during this time, the mammals have to ensure they have enough fat reserves to feed their calves and to sustain themselves. To optimize their prey consumption, humpback whales often create circular "nets" with bubbles exhaled from their blowholes. Now, for the first time, researchers have captured detailed footage of the so-called bubble-net fishing technique from the whale’s point of view along with, an aerial video.
In 1893, Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen deliberately lodged his wooden ship in the sea ice north of Siberia, hoping that its natural drift would take him to the North Pole. Though the Norwegian scientist failed to reach his desired destination, his three-year-long, 2,000-kilometer journey into the North Atlantic Ocean revealed important data about the then-mysterious Arctic Ocean. Now, an international team of researchers have embarked on a similar journey for a groundbreaking climate change study of the Arctic.