1 Tahrcountry Musings: February 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dolphins and Whales 3D

The secret world of bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, and 10 other cetacean species have been graphically described in the new IMAX film “Dolphins and Whales 3D”. Produced by Fran├žois Mantello. The film has some stunning underwater footage. Narrator Daryl Hannah does a terrific job. All the sequences were shot under water. None of the animals shown in the film were trained or captive. The wonderful film inspires people to take action to conserve the ocean.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Jack rabbits living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem disappear

A new study by Wildlife Conservation Society has found that jack rabbits living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have disappeared. According to the study's lead author, Dr. Joel Berger, a Wildlife Conservation Society conservationist, and professor at the University of Montana, no one knows what caused the rabbits to disappear. Dr. Berger believes that the absence of jack rabbits may be causing elevated predation by coyotes on juvenile elk, pronghorn and other ungulates. Dr Berger recommends reintroduction and believes reintroduction may result in the establishment of dynamic ecological processes that were intact before rabbits vanished from the ecosystem. The details of the study appears in the journal Oryx

Monday, February 11, 2008

Aerospace engineers look at birds, bats and insects for improved military aircrafts

University of Michigan engineers are studying birds, bats and insects as a step toward designing flapping-wing planes with small wingspans. Scientists say a Blackbird jet flying nearly 2,000 miles per hour covers 32 body lengths per second. But a common pigeon flying at 50 miles per hour covers 75. The roll rate of the aerobatic A-4 Skyhawk plane is about 720 degrees per second. The roll rate of a barn swallow exceeds 5,000 degrees per second. While military aircraft can withstand gravitational forces of 8-10 G, birds routinely experience positive G-forces up to 14 G. The birds also have outstanding capabilities to remain airborne through wind gusts, rain, and snow. Exciting prospects are in store for the future of military aviation.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

DNA barcoding developed for plants

Scientists have developed a barcode that can distinguish majority of the plant species. A small gene, gene matK located in the chloroplast of the plant, is the key to the bardode. DNA barcoding is already a well-established technique in animals. This may not work properly in hybrids as hybrids have their genome rearranged, which may confuse the information provided by matK. In future as sequencing technology gets faster and cheaper, hand held devices at ports and airports could check if illegal species are being transported. Currently, there are only a few experts that could accurately identity the plant composition of biodiversity hotspots in the world. This certainly would come as a big boost for conservation. This path breaking work is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Salmon Facts

An upcoming issue of Geophysical Research Letters has very interesting observations about Salmon. Led by geomorphologist Marwan Hassan of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver,Canada, the research opens up new info about various facets of Salmon migration unknown to us till now. The researchers found that the salmon account for up to 50% of the annual amount of sediment migration in a given stream. People have known for a long time that salmon dig up the stream bottoms. But it is the first time that details about how they do it are coming out. Sediment traps were used to track the movement of preplaced magnetized particles to study the effect of salmon digging up in four mountain streams in British Columbia. Oxygenation of the river is improved by this activity of Salmon. Multiplied by millions of salmon, and repeated year after year the shape of streambeds and the health of stream ecosystems are directly affected. The researchers feel that the fish could be shaping larger-scale valley features and even influencing landscape evolution.

The inputs for this post have come from ScienceNOW Daily News.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

World's second largest wetlands reserve formed in Congo

World’s second largest wetlands reserve has been declared in Congo. This declaration is in tune with Ramsar convention. Named Grand Affluents wetland reserve, it comprises an area of 6 million hectares. This will help secure water and livelihoods for millions of people. Wild animals like elephants, hippopotamuses buffalos and many species of migratory bird stands benefited by this. Convention on Wetlands was first signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea on 2 February 1971.