Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Google Earth Leads Scientists to New Species in Mozambique

A British expedition of scientists to a mountainous forest called Mount Mabu in northern Mozambique has found that the area is home to hundreds of plant species, birds, butterflies and monkeys.

The 27-square-mile forest is being called a “Lost World” and a “hidden paradise,” filled to the brim with exotic plants, insects, and animals including three new species of Lepidoptera butterly and a new member of the poisonous Gaboon viper family of snakes.

A team of scientists led by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew also found in just a few weeks’ time that the lush forest was home to the blue duiker antelope, samango monkeys, elephant shrews, almost 200 different types of butterflies, and thousands of tropical plants, and say that at least a few additional new plant species and insects will probably be identified once all of the samples are analyzed.

“The phenomenal diversity is just mind-boggling: seeing how things are adapted to little niches, to me this is the incredible thing,” said Kew expedition leader Jonathan Timberlake, according to Mongabay. “Even today we cannot say we know all the world’s key areas for biodiversity—there are still new ones to discover.”

Kew scientist Julian Bayliss says that he found Mount Mabu, which had been previously unexplored due to unfriendly terrain and civil war, while researching possible conservation projects in the area using satellite imaging tool Google Earth, and unexpectedly noticed green, wooded areas in unexplored locales.

“Nobody knew about it,” Timberlake said to the Daily Mail. “The literature I’m aware of doesn’t mention the word Mabu anywhere. We have looked through the plant collections of Kew and elsewhere and we don’t see the name come up.”

Google Earth is not the only new technology that has recently become of use to scientists. Wired magazine reports that high-definition video is helping scientists study the forces that create volcanic eruptions.
A University of North Carolina seismologist Jonathan Lees and his colleagues found that examining high-definition video frame by frame and using seismic data let them view rapid movements of Guatemala’s Mt. Santiaguito’s dome that normally cannot be seen by the naked eye. “The dome is uplifting prior to the plume coming out,” said Lees. “We never knew this until we did this experiment.”

Scientists say that the new technique will aid them in their understanding of volcanic eruptions, which have been difficult to studying using only indirect measurements such as seismic recordings.

This is what a koala sounds like while mating

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Against the wind

Music to go with this video
Bob Seger - Against the Wind

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Punch Hole Clouds And Other Rarely Seen Cloud Formations

Punch Hole Clouds may appear as a circular or oval holes in a layer of supercooled clouds; sometimes they assume a form of a perfect circle and persist for quite a long time, drifting together with the cloud layer. One explanation seems to blame the air traffic (the jet contrail intersections) combined with a thermal inversion (a circular motion of a rising warm air).
It seems both rising and sinking air currents can create the same effect. Sometimes a very stable, uniform layer of high-altitude clouds can get "punched though" by a pocket of cold air, which sinks toward the ground - creating the circular hole formation.
NASA Terra satellite equipped with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) has captured these images over Acadiana area in southern Louisiana - a splattering of round holes actually stretched over several states: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Some were elongated, some appeared to have smaller clouds inside them.

"This strange phenomenon resulted from a combination of cold temperatures, air traffic, and perhaps unusual atmospheric stability. The cloud blanket on January 29 consisted of supercooled clouds. Supercooled clouds contain water droplets that remain liquid even though the temperature is well below freezing, and such clouds are not unusual. As aircraft from the Dallas-Fort Worth airport passed through these clouds, tiny particles in the exhaust came into contact with the supercooled water droplets, which froze instantly. The larger ice crystals fell out of the cloud deck, leaving behind the “holes,” while the tiniest ice particles in the center remained aloft." (source)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

When the lightning flashes, this is NOT what you want to see.

When the lightning flashes, this is NOT what you want to see.
This is a one-in-a-million photo..............

Taken Thursday night, April 3, 2008.
Lariat # 2
Sandridge Energy
South of Ft Stockton , TX

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A very lucky penguin


The penguin was going to be killer whale munchie had he not found the boat. The pod was hot on his trail. He must have been terrified, and chose what he hoped was the lesser of two evils.

When an old friend worked at Palmer Station years ago he said he watched killer whales bump small ice bergs to knock the penguins into the water so they could eat them It is a wonder they didn't do this to the Zodiac. Maybe they just knew there were bigger benevolent "penguins" in there, too.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Termites helped destroy New Orleans dikes?

Termites helped destroy New Orleans dikes?
NEW ORLEANS (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've discovered evidence termites might have been to blame for the failure of some New Orleans dikes during Hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana State University Professor Gregg Henderson says he discovered Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki) in the floodwall seams of some New Orleans dikes five years before Katrina struck.

After the dikes were breached in 2005, Henderson and colleague Alan Morgan inspected 100 seams for evidence of termites where major floodwall breaks had occurred. They said they discovered 70 percent of the seams in the city's London Avenue Canal, which experienced two major breaks during Katrina, showed evidence of insect attack, as did 27 percent of seams inspected in the walls of the 17th Street Canal.

Henderson said the termites might have contributed to the destruction of the levees in New Orleans by digging networks of tunnels, which can weaken the levee system.

"I believe the termites pose a continuing danger that requires immediate attention," Henderson wrote, suggesting New Orleans' 350 miles of levees and floodwalls should be surveyed for termite damage.

The researchers detail their findings in the fall issue of the journal American Entomologist.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Killer Bee Invasion

TAMPA, Fla. -- Florida residents are being warned to keep a watchful eye out for Africanized "killer" bees.

A growing number of hives have been reported in the Tampa Bay Area.

The Pinellas County Extension Service says its getting many calls from people plagued by bees, and most of them are the Africanized variety.

Publicity about recent attacks has prompted public awareness, but the county's horticulture expert says the colonies are growing.

"They abscond, which means that once it gets to a certain size, part of them will move to another place to establish another colony of bees, so it becomes kind of a mushrooming problem," explained agent Pam Brown.

Brown says the bees are agitated by vibrations and the african variety will travel quite far to defend their hive.

If you do get attacked by a swarm of bees, the Extension Service has some pretty basic rules that you need to follow.

"If you are being pursued by bees, cover, pull your shirt up, cover your face as much as possible, your mouth, your head, neck and run to the closest place that you can get inside," Brown said.

Experts say people should use an approved exterminator who will not only kill the bees but get rid of the hives as well.

Bees out foraging will return to the hive, or others will move in if its left in place.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

'Lizard Man' Nurtured Reptiles And Made Discoveries Along the Way

'Lizard Man' Nurtured Reptiles
And Made Discoveries Along the Way

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In hundreds of enclosures on his Alabama farm, Bert Langerwerf nurtured the beasts that earned him the moniker of "Lizard Man."

Mr. Langerwerf claimed that his Agama International Herpetocultural Institute Inc., named after a brilliantly colored sub-Saharan lizard, was the biggest lizard-breeding facility in the world.

"It's by far the biggest lizard-raising operation in the country," says Russ Gurley, director of the Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group.
[Bert Langerwerf] Agama International Herpetological Institute Inc.

A onetime physics teacher who was self-educated as a herpetologist, Mr. Langerwerf found that in many species, the sex of offspring is determined by the temperature at which the eggs are incubated -- a discovery often cited in scientific journals.

He also discovered that most lizards need to be exposed to direct sunlight to metabolize calcium for their eggs. The institute sells about 2,000 lizards annually to pet owners, says Mr. Langerwerf's son, Timo.

Mr. Langerwerf, who died Aug. 11 at age 64, boasted that he bred well over 100 lizard species. Most of his business came from three: Australian water dragons, jeweled lacertas and Argentinian tegus, forbidding red-striped monsters that grow to four feet.

Feeding thousands of lizards took lots of food. Mr. Langerwerf and his wife, Hester, collected stale bread and past-ripe vegetables from grocery stores. A local chicken farmer donated dead fowl, and Mr. Langerwerf collected other waste food by dumpster diving. "Thanksgiving time in the dumpsters was amazing," says Mr. Gurley.

He raised unconventional animal feed, including rats, giant African cockroaches and super mealworms, giant squirmy beetle larvae he claimed to have introduced to the U.S. in the late 1980s. Triple the size of a conventional mealworm, they are now commonly used for feeding exotic pet species and were also featured as hors d'oeuvres on the television program "Fear Factor."

* Notable deaths from the business world and entertainment industry from Tributes.com

Born in Holland, Mr. Langerwerf wrote of being ill-suited to schoolyard sports, preferring all his life to scout for bugs and lizards. He moved in 1988 to Alabama, saying the Southern climate was perfect for lizards. Nearly deaf in recent years, he was typically found caring for his lizards to the sounds of North African or other tribal music, blasting at top volume.

He urged owners to let the lizards be lizards.

"It's silly to give them names and play with them. You don't take aquarium fish out of the water to play, do you?" he told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2002. His affection shone through: "They're like a live painting, beautiful as flowers."

He is survived by his wife and two sons, and by a Moroccan land turtle Mr. Langerwerf adopted when he was a teenager.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

After the Flood: In Louisiana, Diehards Cling to a Vanishing Isle

ISLE DE JEAN CHARLES, La. -- A few days after Hurricane Gustav, Pierre Naquin returned to this fragile vein of marshy land to find part of his roof torn off, his family's furniture, appliances and clothes soaked by beating rains, and black mud oozing under the house. Days later, Hurricane Ike hit the island on its way to Texas.

But as Mr. Naquin, a 67-year-old former tugboat captain, prepared for another slow cleanup, one thing was certain: He won't move. No matter how many times this happens. "This is where I was born. I'm gonna die here," he said.
Gustav Floods Louisiana Wetlands

Jacob Walker, showing his self-made tattoo of Louisiana, carries Braden Naquin in Isle de Jean Charles after Gustav hit the island.

Emergency officials face a number of questions in helping communities like Isle de Jean Charles. Among them: What should be done in wetlands that are disintegrating, or in locations where man-made protections are unlikely ever to spare people from storm damage, yet where many residents refuse to consider moving elsewhere?

With every hurricane, prospects of viable life on this exposed sliver of land -- and others like it nearby -- fade. Built over thousands of years by sediment spread by the Mississippi River during yearly floods, Louisiana's wetlands have been sinking into the Gulf of Mexico ever since the great river was imprisoned in high levees starting in the late 1920s and oil and gas companies began cutting channels through the wetlands.

Without the Mississippi's nourishing sediment and fresh water that once poured onto the edges of the coast, saltwater from the Gulf is eating into the sunken soil, killing off miles of tough marsh grasses and trees that once dissipated the massive surges of water pushed ahead of hurricanes. The once-thick ridge that built up along a bayou and created the island is "all eat up," Mr. Naquin said. "We don't get protected here no more."

Evacuations and flooding are a way of life in Isle de Jean Charles, a poor community of wooden houses and dilapidated shacks in Terrebonne Parish accessed by a narrow causeway that waves lap at on both sides. Once a rural paradise where cattle and pigs roamed, vegetables grew, and inhabitants lived off the land, today it is a finger of land just three feet above sea level where many residents live in poverty or on some form of government assistance.
[Isle de Jean Charles residents survey the damage in a flooded house three days after the storm.] Andy Levin for The Wall Street Journal

Isle de Jean Charles residents survey the damage in a flooded house three days after the storm.

The 9 feet of water, more or less, delivered by Ike was the third major flood here in three years. Increasingly, it seems likely that any major ocean storm moving west in the Gulf of Mexico will flood or wreck Isle de Jean Charles.
Brother Against Brother

Mr. Naquin's determination to stay pits him against his own brother. His ancestors -- Indians intermarried with French settlers -- were among the first people living on this ridge, in the 1800s. His father was a fisherman who trolled the waters around the island for shrimp, oysters and crabs. He and many of the island's 175 or so inhabitants are members of Indian tribes.

Many here fear that giving up the island would mean forfeiting their identity -- and the chance of winning federal recognition and financial aid as an Indian tribe. The groups are recognized as tribes by the state of Louisiana. But the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has so far declined to award federal recognition.

Six years ago, a cost-benefit analysis by the Army Corps of Engineers found that including the tiny island inside a new levee system would cost about $100 million. Resettling the whole community on higher ground would cost about $8 million.

Relocated residents were to have been allowed to maintain ownership of their land on the island, along with modest monthly royalties they currently get from nearby oil drilling, according to state officials.

Island residents rejected the relocation out of hand. The Rev. Roch Naquin, Pierre's 75-year-old first cousin, left the island as a child because Indians were excluded from local schools in the upper grades. He returned to retire in 1997. He maintains local officials were planning to turn the land over to oil companies or high-paying developers.

"This is a good fishing area," Father Roch says. "Developers are just waiting to come and build waterfront lots and make a fortune."

Local officials deny any such plan. Isle de Jean Charles, about 80 miles southwest of New Orleans, shows no signs of attracting real-estate investors.
[Tribal leader Albert Naquin checks on the damage to a home.] Andy Levin for The Wall Street Journal

Tribal leader Albert Naquin checks on the damage to a home.

Albert Naquin, Pierre's brother and chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha Indians, says the real corps plan was to "to let us drown." In 2002, he wrote a letter to the corps likening the island's exclusion from the levee system to the 1838 "Trail of Tears," the forced march of the Cherokee Indians more than 1,000 miles from the Southeastern U.S. to present-day Oklahoma. He pleaded for the federal government to build its levees around the island. Officials ultimately refused on the grounds that it would cost too much money.
Par for the Course?

"History is being relived all over again for the Indian community of the Island," wrote Chief Naquin, who had moved off the island in 1975 to escape having to drive on the flooded causeway on his way to and from work at a natural-gas company. "Indians were always being relocated to reservations by the white man."

Hurricanes Gustav and Ike have been enough to make Chief Naquin reconsider his opposition to moving. With the battle for hurricane protection levees lost, he says he's "wore out." "People's got mud in their homes," he says. "Why make them suffer if they want to go?"

He wants to persuade state and federal officials to make a relocation offer of new homes, a church and community center. Those who are unemployed should be given a year's pay and help finding a job, he says.

Brenda Dardar Robichaux, principal chief of the tribe United Houma Nation, says, "We're not ready to concede that we can't rebuild our community. It's our heritage." But she adds that for those "who are tired of fighting" and want to move, "we're going to support them in that effort as well."

Carl Anderson, senior project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers' $968 million hurricane protection project from which the isle was excluded, says a relocation offer could be renewed.

But Chief Naquin knows that any offer of relocation will face fierce resistance. His brother Pierre, Father Roch and others remained determined to stay, even as the island was flooded again last week. People face dangers -- flooding, tornados, earthquakes -- no matter where they live, Father Roch says. Gustav bent back about a 3-foot piece of his tin roof, dousing treasured photos of his nieces and nephews. "I'm going to stay and keep fighting," he said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lyre Bird - Imitating Sounds - David Attenborough

In April 2006, to celebrate naturalist David Attenborough's 80th birthday, the public were asked to vote on their favourite of his television moments.

This clip of the lyrebird was voted number one.

A Lyrebird is either of two species of ground-dwelling Australian birds, most notable for their extraordinary ability to mimic natural and artificial sounds from their environment.

Human Shaped Fruit Grows from Nareepol Tree

Nareepol Tree
This is amazing tree named "Nareepol" in Thai.

NAREE means Woman or Girl & POL means Bush/Plant/Tree or "buah" in Malay.

It means women tree.

You can see the real tree at Petchaboon province about almost 500 kms away from Bangkok.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wonderful pictures of the Giant Pandas after the China earthquake

The earthquake was right in the area where giant pandas live.
Most pandas are protected well, especially those babies, even if they were scared a lot.

Right after earthquake, They rushed out and some stayed together.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How insects breathe underwater

MIT mathematicians have learned more about how insects breathe underwater by trapping a layer of air around their bodies. The scientists determined that insects can dive as deep as 30 meters without the bubbles bursting. (Seen here, a Notonecta covered with a respiratory bubble.) From MIT News Office:

Newsoffice 2008 Underwater-1-EnlargedThe air bubble's stability is maintained by hairs on the insects' abdomen, which help repel water from the surface. The hairs, along with a waxy surface coating, prevent water from flooding the spiracles--tiny breathing holes on the abdomen.

The spacing of these hairs is critically important: The closer together the hairs, the greater the mechanical stability and the more pressure the bubble can withstand before collapsing.

However, mechanical stability comes at a cost. If the hairs are too close together, there is not enough surface area through which to breathe....

"Because the bubble acts as an external lung, its surface area must be sufficiently large to facilitate the exchange of gases," said (study co-author Morris) Flynn, who is now an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Alberta. Other researchers have explored systems that could replicate the external lung on a larger scale, for possible use by diving humans. A team at Nottingham Trent University showed that a porous cavity surrounded by water-repellent material is supplied with oxygen by the thin air layer on its surface. The surface area required to support human respiration is impractically large, in excess of 100 square meters; however, other avenues for technological application exist. For example, such a device could supply the oxygen needed by fuel cells to power small autonomous underwater vehicles.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Tree Goats of Morocco

These Moroccan goats you see in the photos climb the Argan trees with incredible ease, in order to get to the delicious fruits that the locals use to make oil. Check out the bottom video.

The Incredible Trees of Socotra Islands, Yemen

Friday, July 4, 2008

Clawed Frog Carries a Concealed Weapon

In Cameroon no license is required, is the long and short of it.

Henry Fountain's June 17, 2008 New York Times Science section story featured the recent discovery of a heretofore little-remarked upon quirk of nature first noted over a century ago; the piece follows.

Frog Keeps Its Claws Hidden Until Needed

David C. Blackburn, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard who studies frogs, knew there was something different about the specimen he encountered one day while doing fieldwork in Cameroon. Not surprisingly, it kicked its hind legs wildly when he picked it up. But then Dr. Blackburn noticed that his arm had been clawed. “I got a real nasty scratch,” he said.

A frog with claws? Back at Harvard, Dr. Blackburn and colleagues consulted the literature, examined museum specimens and realized something even more unusual: the claws on the Cameroonian frog, and some related frogs from the same region, are normally contained inside the toes, but pop out through the skin when needed.

The odd bit of anatomy was mentioned in a paper more than a century earlier, but had been little commented on since. “We realized that this was something that was really strange and completely unappreciated,” Dr. Blackburn said.

Through dissection, the researchers discovered that the claw is the last bone of the toe — sharp, small and curved, and attached to an even smaller bony nodule that in turn is attached to a sheath of collagen. When the frog flexes a certain tendon, the bone pulls away from the nodule and pierces the skin. The anatomy is described in a paper in Biology Letters.

The researchers think that at some point the claw settles back inside the foot and the skin heals. “It really is a traumatic wound,” Dr. Blackburn said, and for that reason he thinks the frog doesn’t extend its claws frequently — probably only when threatened.

But so little is known about these frogs that the researchers aren’t even sure what threatens them — other than Cameroonians, who eat them and who know enough about the claws to have devised a special long spear to catch them without being scratched.


The abstract of the Biology Letters paper follows.

Concealed weapons: erectile claws in African frogs

Vertebrate claws are used in a variety of important behaviours and are typically composed of a keratinous sheath overlying the terminal phalanx of a digit. Keratinous claws, however, are rare in living amphibians; their microstructure and other features indicate that they probably originated independently from those in amniotes. Here we show that certain African frogs have a different type of claw, used in defence, that is unique in design among living vertebrates and lacks a keratinous covering. These frogs have sectorial terminal phalanges on their hind feet that become functional by cutting through the skin. In the resting state, the phalanx is subdermal and attached to a distal bony nodule, a neomorphic skeletal element, via collagen-rich connective tissue. When erected, the claw breaks free from the nodule and pierces the ventral skin. The nodule, suspended by a sheath attached to the terminal phalanx and supported by collagenous connections to the dermis, remains fixed in place. While superficially resembling the shape of claws in other tetrapods, these are the only vertebrate claws known to pierce their way to functionality.


Said Blackburn in a Harvard Science story about the frog (below), "It's surprising enough to find a frog with claws.... The fact that those claws work by cutting through the skin of the frogs' feet is even more astonishing. These are the only vertebrate claws known to pierce their way to functionality."

"Most vertebrates do a much better job of keeping their skeletons inside," he added.