Thanks to the old school model mad outfit, Greenpeace, for bringing this to our attention in a fresh press release today, that adds urgency to earlier announcements starting last year on this rare and unexpected find:
Amapá state, Brazil, 28 January 2017 – Greenpeace Brazil has captured the first underwater images of the Amazon Reef, a 9500 km2 system of corals, sponges and rhodoliths located where the Amazon River meets the Atlantic Ocean – an area that the Brazilian government has opened for oil exploration.
A team of experts, including several oceanographers who announced the discovery of the reef last year, have joined the Greenpeace ship Esperanza on an expedition to document this new biome, which runs from French Guyana to the Brazilian state of Maranhão, an area larger than the cities of São Paulo or London. Oil companies Total and BP could start drilling in this area if they obtain authorization from the Brazilian government. Continue reading
Discover Magazine’s blog has a post by Anna Bitong, who offers a few clues to help us understand what is happening in the deep recesses of a cave in Spain:
…A sign at the entrance warns visitors not to enter. Continue reading
Mr. Preston shares an experience that is not familiar to many people, and perhaps only considered enviable by a select few. The team at Chan Chich Lodge meets visitors every day of the year who are looking for a distant cousin of this experience described below, and those guests come away invariably awed by the opportunity to have a safe, comfortable adventure deep in nature, exploring well protected remains of a Mayan civilization buried by time and jungle. For them, this is worth a read:
…The revelation of an ancient city in a valley in the Mosquitia mountains, of Honduras, one of the last scientifically unexplored regions on Earth, was a different story. This was the first time a large archaeological site had been discovered in a purely speculative search using a technology called lidar, or “light detection and ranging,” which can map terrain through the thickest jungle foliage, an event I chronicled in a story for the magazine in 2013. As a result, this discovery revealed something vanishingly rare: a city in an absolutely intact, undisturbed, pristine state, buried in a rain forest so remote and untouched that the animals there appeared never to have seen people before. Continue reading
A chemosynthetic clam living in sea grass. Researchers are not sure how lobsters dig them up. Credit Nicholas Higgs
Thanks to the Science section of the New York Times for this article, The Freaky Food Chain Behind Your Lobster Dinner, by Steph Yin:
If you’ve ever ordered a lobster tail from Red Lobster, there’s a good chance some of your meal can be traced back to swamp gas.
Let me explain.
Red Lobster is a major purchaser of Caribbean spiny lobster, a species that lives in coral reefs in the western Atlantic Ocean. In the 1980s, lobster fishers started constructing artificial reefs in sea grass beds throughout the Caribbean to attract these lobsters. Continue reading
Various species of ants engage in some kind of agriculture. Here, a leaf-cutter ant gathers food for its fungus farm. Mark Bowler/Science Source
Thanks to National Public Radio (USA):
Ants in Fiji farm plants and fertilize them with their poop. And they’ve been doing this for 3 million years, much longer than humans, who began experimenting with farming about 12,000 years ago. Continue reading
Image: Brigitta van Tussenbroek
We try to learn something new each day, and when we do, we pass it along here. Thanks to Conservation magazine for this one:
Even at this relatively late stage in Earth’s exploration, it’s still possible to discover phenomena that are widespread, ecologically important, and—frankly—beautiful. Continue reading
Divers and archaeologists excavating the 2,000 year old Antikythera shipwreck. Credit Brett Seymour/EUA-WHOI, via Argo
This story, about remains recently found under water in a region of the Greek islands where several of us at La Paz Group have very fond memories of, gives me pause. At the time the ship in this story wrecked, the Mayans in Belize were flourishing. The archeologists working at Chan Chich Lodge are still dating the structures there, but the sailor from the ship lost in Antikytheran waters would likely have found the Mayans quite advanced relative to his own culture.
Greece’s classical period was long over by the time this sailor lost his life, and Rome’s empire was still expanding, impressively. Lots of progress, civilization-wise, philosophy-wise, math-wise, geometry-wise in that Mediterranean zone; but also in what is now called Belize, and the wider Mesoamerican corridor. Reading this article, I appreciate the work of archeologists who advance our understanding of those who came before us:
Underwater archaeologists have found a 2,000-year-old skeleton belonging to a victim of the famed Antikythera shipwreck from ancient Roman times. Continue reading
Iconic limestone Tsingy rocks in Ankarana National Park in northern Madagascar where the ghost snake was discovered. Photo by Sarah Ruane, LSU
Last month it was Mexico, and this time it’s Madagascar – once again, a new snake species with a presumably localized distribution has been discovered in a little-explored area. The elusive and pale gray snake has likely evolved to camouflage against the rocks of the region, and was named Madagascarophis lolo (lolo meaning ghost in Malagasy) by researchers from the LSU Museum of Natural Science, the American Museum of Natural History and the Université de Mahajunga in Madagascar.
The ghost snake is part of a common group of snakes called Madagascarophis, or cat-eyed snakes, named for their vertical pupils, which is often found among snakes that are active in the evening or night. Many of the cat-eyed snakes are found in developed areas or degraded forests. However, the researchers found the ghost snake on the national park’s iconic pale grey limestone Tsingy rocks.
Credit: © yommy / Fotolia
A new study on plant water retention from the University of California, Irvine and the University of Washington might rescind some of our assumptions of climate change impacts on agriculture, water resources, wildfire risk, and plant growth. Their findings reveal that water conserved by plants under high CO2 conditions compensates for much of the effect of warmer temperatures, which means more water is retained on land than predicted in commonly used drought assessments. ScienceDaily reports:
The study compares current drought indices with ones that take into account changes in plant water use. Reduced precipitation will increase droughts across southern North America, southern Europe and northeastern South America. But the results show that in Central Africa and temperate Asia — including China, the Middle East, East Asia and most of Russia — water conservation by plants will largely counteract the parching due to climate change.
Tasman Lake, which is fed by melt water from the retreating Tasman Glacier. Photo by Trevor Chinn
The kiwis referred to here are cute, small, fluffy, brown birds, not to be confused with small fuzzy brown fruit nor with the people who live in New Zealand. These flightless and nocturnal birds used to be divided in three to five species, but new DNA evidence from extensive blood sampling conducted over the last couple decades in their island home is indicating that there is in fact much more genetic diversity – which is often separated geographically – than previously thought, perhaps even enough to declare new species, or at the very least certainly new subspecies. And this might affect conservation strategies for these birds, which are all either endangered or vulnerable to endangerment. Ed Yong reports:
Several million years ago, a small bird flew to New Zealand. Arriving there, it found few threats and plenty of opportunities. In the absence of mammals, its descendants gradually lost the ability to fly, as island birds are wont to do. They also evolved to fill those niches that mammals typically occupy, rootling around the leaf litter in search of worms and grubs. They transformed into that icon of New Zealand—the adorable, bumbling kiwi.
Or rather, they transformed into the kiwis.
Water lettuce and aquatic fern are misnomers for the type of task these plants might be used for in the near future. German researchers recently discovered that Salvinia molesta, an aquatic fern, and Pistia stratiotes, a type of water lettuce, have a specialized leaf anatomy that not only repels water and traps air, but also traps a lot of oil. The leaves of these plants are covered with tiny, hairlike structures called trichomes that allow the plant to float on the water surface and when dried, absorb more oil than two commercial oil absorbents used for oil spill cleanup, Duerex Pure and Öl-Ex.
[The] existing methods of dealing with oil spills all have significant drawbacks. Chemical dispersants and burning can spread toxins around, while environmentally friendly materials like sawdust and wheat straw absorb water in addition to oil, making cleanup messy and inefficient.
Certain species of trees can grow to be very old, and a group of scientists from Stockholm University discovered a Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii) that would certainly classify as ancient. The solitary Bosnian pine is growing in the highlands of northern Greece and has been dendrochronologically dated– that is, analyzed to see how old the tree is – to be more than 1075 years old, making it the oldest known living tree in Europe.
“It is quite remarkable that this large, complex and impressive organism has survived so long in such an inhospitable environment, in a land that has been civilized for over 3000 years” says Swedish dendrochronologist, Paul J. Krusic, leader of the expedition that found the tree. It is one of more than a dozen individuals of millennial age, living in a treeline forest high in the Pindos mountains.
A specimen of the new species, Geophis loranca, in life. Photo © Miguel Ángel de la Torre Loranca
Last time we mentioned a new species being discovered, it was also long, thin and reddish, but in the form of a toxic cave worm. The freshly-found reptile, which when translated from its scientific name would be called “Loranca’s earth snake,” is a red and black burrowing animal that is only found in a very localized region of east central Mexico, as the collaborative team of Mexican university researchers wrote in their academic journal article published in ZooKeys:
These burrowing reptiles are seldom encountered and, consequently, have been poorly studied. Furthermore, several species have restricted distribution, making them particularly vulnerable to extinction.
Northern Potoo perched on a fence post near the Windsor Research Station, Trelawny Parish, Jamaica. (photo by Justin Proctor)
This post is part of a series; visit Part 4 here.
Let’s move now from the diurnal species to a nocturnal favorite, the Northern Potoo (Nyctibius jamaicensis), which has been featured here before a couple times. These birds actively hunt for insects at night by sallying out from low-lying perches where they remain camouflaged and motionless until prey is spotted. If you’ve got a little bit of energy left in you after the sun goes down, and you also remembered to pack a decent headlamp or flashlight, I can’t encourage you enough to just go for a little walk down a quiet road nearby.