Growing pains: The oldest trees on Earth ripped themselves apart, fossils show. Scientists have discovered 374-million-year-old tree fossils from the dawn of Earth’s forests — and found that these strange plants literally had to rip themselves apart as they grew. The fossils, described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shed light on the nature of ancient forests and the evolution of the Earth’s climate. The Xinicaulis lignescens fossils, discovered in Xinjiang, China, are part of a group of species known as Cladoxylopsida — plants that have no known descendants but are thought to be related to the ancestors of today’s ferns and horsetails. They could grow about 10 to 12 meters tall and one meter wide at the base; their branches popped out of the top of the trunk, giving it a shape similar to today’s palms.
These branches sprouted further, tinier appendages that were not yet true leaves. Cladoxylopsida emerged in some of Earth’s earliest forests, during the Mid- to early Late Devonian period, around 393 million to 372 million years ago.
Nature Derived Technology and Medicine. Evolution. Illustrations. Environment. The Stunning Ways Driftwood Builds Landscapes. By Natalie Kramer Anderson I study driftwood in rivers. I have traveled to rivers and creeks in Canada, the United States, Colombia, Chile, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Italy, and Switzerland noting the abundance, or lack thereof, of streamside wood. For the past few years, partly funded by the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration, I have intensively studied the transport and impacts of large amounts of driftwood on big rivers and lakes in Northern Canada, and I just published a paper on what we found. When I speak to people about my research they always ask, “Why driftwood?” For many it seems an odd thing to study because driftwood (in rivers) isn’t something that most people notice. In fact, several perception studies have shown that throughout the world most people actually relate dead wood along stream channels with the need to restore or clean up the river channel.
In reality, driftwood is a very important component of all natural waterscapes.
A Sharp-Eyed Squirrel, Leaping Into the Darkness. Animals Animals/Earth ScenesThe flying squirrel does not actually fly — it glides. Few of us ever get a good view of a flying squirrel, but then again, not many of us know they truly exist. Not unlike its cartoon depiction, as the brainy, be-goggled sidekick of Bullwinkle the Moose, the Southern flying squirrel is an impressively well-adapted resident of New York City. With a preference for older beech and oak woods, these squirrels are primarily nocturnal.
An uncommon habitat and our very urban instinct to avoid late-night walks through obscure woodlands make finding one a deliberate effort. The flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) does not actually fly — it glides. When a squirrel leaps from its perch in a tall tree, it spreads its limbs, stretching out its two patagia (thick, furred membranes that extend from its wrists to its ankles).
Bees. Animal behavior. Patterns in music and the natural world: Creating stronger spider silk and other new materials. Intraspecies Virus a Possible Colony Collapse Culprit — NOVA Next. For the $14 billion agricultural industry, honeybees are a linchpin. But the insects have been under attack, their numbers decimated by the mysterious and devastating colony collapse disorder, or CCD. Scientists have focused on several possible causes in their search for what’s driving CCD, including deadly pathogens, neonicotinoid pesticides, and a lack of natural habitat. The latest suspect is something akin to an intraspecies plague. A plant virus might be contributing to colony collapse disorder in honeybees. Recently, the U.S. Geoffrey Mohan, reporting for the Los Angeles Times: [F]urther study revealed the RNA virus was replicating inside its Apis mellifera hosts and spreading to mites that travel from bee to bee, according to the study published online Tuesday in the journal mBio.The discovery is the first report of honeybees becoming infected by a pollen-born RNA virus that spread systematically through the bees and hives.
Space. Bayer is suing *Europe* for saving the bees. Wow. Bayer has just sued the European Commission to overturn a ban on the pesticides that are killing millions of bees around the world. A huge public push won this landmark ban only months ago -- and we can't sit back and let Big Pesticide overturn it while the bees vanish. Bayer and Syngenta, two of the world's largest chemical corporations, claim that the ban is "unjustified" and "disproportionate.
" But clear scientific evidence shows their products are behind the massive bee die-off that puts our entire food chain in peril. Just last month, 37 million bees were discovered dead on a single Canadian farm. Sign the petition to tell Bayer and Syngenta to drop their bee-killing lawsuits now. The dangerous chemical Bayer makes is a neonicotinoid, or neonic.
The EU banned these bee-killers this past May, after a massive public campaign and a clear scientific finding from the European Food Safety Authority that neonics pose huge risks to bee populations. ********** More information: In Canada's Alberta province, oil sands boom is a two-edged sword. FORT CHIPEWYAN, Canada — In the Cree language, the word "athabasca" means "a place where grass is everywhere. " Here in Alberta, the Athabasca River slices through forests of spruce and birch before spilling into a vast freshwater delta and Lake Athabasca. But 100 miles upstream, the boreal forest has been peeled back by enormous strip mines, where massive shovels pick up 100 tons of earth at a time and dump it into yellow trucks as big as houses. The tarry bitumen that is extracted is eventually shipped to refineries, many in the United States, to be processed into gasoline, diesel and other fuels.
But the leftover polluted slurry remains in miles-long impoundments, some high above the banks of the river. Air cannons sound periodically to keep migratory birds from landing on the toxic ponds. Oil sands production, as the procedure is called, is booming in northeastern Alberta. They also say they are taking full safety precautions to protect communities tucked into a vast wilderness. Beeing There: The Search for Pesticides’ Effect on Declining Bee Colonies Moves to the Fields.
A honeybee's brain is hardly bigger than the tip of a dog's whisker, yet you can train a bee just as Pavlov got his pups to drool on hearing their dinner bell. Using a sugar solution as a reward, you can teach the insect to extend its little mouthparts in response to different scents. Several Pavlovian lab studies of individual worker honeybees, however, found that those fed small amounts of pesticides—especially a class called neonicotinoids—do not learn which scents lead to a sweet reward as quickly as their pesticide-free peers do.
Yet, until recently, it wasn't clear what these and other lab studies meant for the health of entire bee colonies, which might have strategies to mitigate the overall impact of problems with particular hive members. "Just because you see the effect in the bee in the lab, strapped into this lab apparatus, [doesn’t mean you know] how does this translate into a colony in a field? " What do we know? What's next for research? OurAmazingPlanet. Letter from the Archive: John McPhee on the Control of Nature. This weekend, read John McPhee’s “Atchafalaya.” It was published in February, 1987, and it’s about the Herculean effort of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control the flow of the Mississippi River, the fourth-longest river in the world. “Atchafalaya” is the name of the “distributary waterscape” that threatens to capture and redirect the flow of the Mississippi.
If that happens, the cities and industrial centers of Southern Louisiana could find themselves sitting, uselessly, next to a “tidal creek,” and economic ruin would be the inevitable result. To prevent that, the Corps of Engineers embarks on a vast project to artificially freeze the naturally shifting landscape. McPhee meets the engineers and explores the structures they’ve built to “preserve 1950 … in perpetuity.” McPhee’s first story for The New Yorker was published more than fifty years ago; it was about In 1989, McPhee incorporated “Atchafalaya” into a book called “The Control of Nature.” Interactive Map Color-Codes Race of Every Single American. It sounds somewhat implausible, but a University of Virginia academic has designed an interactive map that color-codes the geographic distribution of every single American, drawing on the last census.
The Racial Dot Map uses 308,745,538 blue, green, red, and other colored dots to represent the race of every American in the place that person lives. In what some bloggers have called a work of demographic pointillism, the new map allows users to scroll across the United States and zoom in on any area to view its racial mix. Dustin Cable, the map's creator and a senior research associate at the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, says the graphic adds a level of engagement that's absent when scrolling through hundreds and hundreds of tables from the 2010 census.
"It puts complex data into context—you are a point on that map somewhere," he says. "You can look yourself up and look at yourself in the context of that neighborhood. " Purple Denotes Diversity. Sudden appearance of a large number of modern animal groups studied. Arctic sea ice delusions strike the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph | Dana Nuccitelli | Environment. When it comes to climate science reporting, the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph are only reliable in the sense that you can rely on them to usually get the science wrong. This weekend's Arctic sea ice articles from David Rose of the Mail and Hayley Dixon at the Telegraph unfortunately fit that pattern. Both articles claimed that Arctic sea ice extent grew 60 percent in August 2013 as compared to August 2012.
While this factoid may be technically true (though the 60 percent figure appears to be an exaggeration), it's also largely irrelevant. For one thing, the annual Arctic sea ice minimum occurs in September – we're not there yet. And while this year's minimum extent will certainly be higher than last year's, that's not the least bit surprising. "Around 80% of the ~100 scientists at the Bjerknes [Arctic climate science] conference thought that there would be MORE Arctic sea-ice in 2013, compared to 2012. " Regression toward the Mean When Will the Arctic be Ice-Free? Continuing Global Warming. University - Tropical forest carbon absorption may hinge on an odd couple. Posted September 15, 2013; 01:00 p.m. by Morgan Kelly, Office of Communications A unique housing arrangement between a specific group of tree species and a carbo-loading bacteria may determine how well tropical forests can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a Princeton University-based study.
The findings suggest that the role of tropical forests in offsetting the atmospheric buildup of carbon from fossil fuels depends on tree diversity, particularly in forests recovering from exploitation. Tropical forests thrive on natural nitrogen fertilizer pumped into the soil by trees in the legume family, a diverse group that includes beans and peas, the researchers report in the journal Nature. The researchers studied second-growth forests in Panama that had been used for agriculture five to 300 years ago. "Tropical forests are a huge carbon sink. "This study is showing that there is an important place for nitrogen fixation in these disturbed areas," Batterman said. Insect. Bee. Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila.
There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven to nine recognized families, though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants. The smallest bee is Trigona minima, a stingless bee whose workers are about 2.1 mm (5/64") long. The largest bee in the world is Megachile pluto, a leafcutter bee whose females can attain a length of 39 mm (1.5"). Members of the family Halictidae, or sweat bees, are the most common type of bee in the Northern Hemisphere, though they are small and often mistaken for wasps or flies. Evolution Bees, like ants, are a specialized form of wasp. Citizen Scientists Gather Data on Urban Bees.
Around the world, bees are dying in unprecedented numbers. While scientists hypothesize pesticides and habitat loss are to blame, the exact causes are still unclear. Gardeners and farmers are concerned about the fate of their bee-pollinated food and looking to the scientific community for information about how and why the bee populations are declining. Unfortunately, money is tight as scientists struggle to gain the funding and resources for extensive bee studies. Marie Clifford and Susan Waters, graduate researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle, have found a way to get around scarce research funding: citizen scientists. The Urban Pollination Project (UPP), co-founded in 2011, takes Seattle community gardeners and trains them to collect data on local bees.
Tapping into citizen scientist efforts, Clifford and Waters can gather data from 35 Seattle community gardens – a scale of research otherwise outside of their resources and funding capabilities. Related. Bumblebee. A bumblebee is any member of the bee genus Bombus, in the family Apidae. There are over 250 known species, existing primarily in the Northern Hemisphere although they also occur in South America. They have been introduced to New Zealand and the Australian state of Tasmania. Bumblebees are social insects that are characterised by black and yellow body hairs, often in bands. However, some species have orange or red on their bodies, or may be entirely black. Another obvious (but not unique) characteristic is the soft nature of the hair (long, branched setae), called pile, that covers their entire body, making them appear and feel fuzzy.
They are best distinguished from similarly large, fuzzy bees by the form of the female hind leg, which is modified to form a corbicula: a shiny concave surface that is bare, but surrounded by a fringe of hairs used to transport pollen (in similar bees, the hind leg is completely hairy, and pollen grains are wedged into the hairs for transport).  Short-haired bumblebee nests in Dungeness. 16 September 2013Last updated at 21:57 ET Further releases are now being planned to help build the population A species of bee reintroduced to the UK after becoming extinct has nested for the first time in a quarter of a century.
The short-haired bumblebee started dying out in Britain in the 1980s and officially became extinct in 2000. A reintroduction project saw queen bees brought over from Sweden. After two releases of queens at the RSPB's Dungeness reserve in Kent, offspring worker bees have been recorded there for the first time. Short-haired bumblebees were once widespread across the south of England but declined as their wildflower rich grasslands disappeared. Nikki Gammans, who leads the project, said: "This is a milestone for the project and a real victory for conservation. "We now have proof that this bumblebee has nested and hatched young and we hope it is on the way to become a self-supporting wild species in the UK. 'Fantastic reward'
Insect leg cogs a first in animal kingdom.