Flotillas of fire ants add new layer of horror to post-Harvey flood havoc

What kind of fresh new horror is this? Fire ants, who’s bite is painful and itchy, don’t die when flooded. They form a flotilla using the body of dead ants. That’s right, the dead ones create a raft for the live ones to float away.

Want to have nightmares of ants crawling all over you while you are drowning in flood waters? Read more about it here!

And don’t touch the flotillas of fire ants. Kill it with fire (I’ve been told detergent is better. Less satisfying but better).

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Those are all floating fire ants. All of them.

Should you go to graduate school?

I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been doing this academia thing for long enough that younger scientists have started asking for my advice (“starting” is the wrong word, this has been going on for awhile…).

And while I’m by no means wildly successful, I have been around long enough that I have advice to offer.

So I’m going to start a weekly series called “When I grow up” going through the different stages of the academic ladder and how to approach them/succeed.

I’m going to start with undergraduate research, but until next week (Stay tuned) I’m going to leave this article here.

More soon.

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Invasive Lionfish May Beuperfish Hybrids

It’s been more than 20 years since one of the most destructive invasive species in history was released off the coast of Florida. Originally from the Indian and Pacific Oceans, predatory lionfish have invaded the western Atlantic Ocean, spreading from the American east coast through the Caribbean to southern Brazil, devastating coastal ecosystems with their voracious appetites. Now, new research has revealed that invasive lionfish are not quite what they seem.

“Marine invasions … are a scourge,” says Brian Bowen, a geneticist at the University of Hawai‘i. “But this is an invasion of what could be a superfish.”

But a new study, recently published in the Journal of Heredity, flips the whole situation on its head.

Want to know more? Read about it here!

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Record-shattering 2.7-million-year-old ice core reveals start of the ice ages

Is anyone else tired of hearing climate deniers say “this isn’t the first ice-age, this is all part of a cycle”. No. That’s wrong.

But now we have science to prove it! Scientists announced today that a core drilled in Antarctica has yielded 2.7-million-year-old ice, an astonishing find 1.7 million years older than the previous record-holder. Bubbles in the ice contain greenhouse gases from Earth’s atmosphere at a time when the planet’s cycles of glacial advance and retreat were just beginning, potentially offering clues to what triggered the ice ages.

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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Africa’s next top animal intelligence model

Spotted hyenas are found in just about every habitat in sub-Saharan Africa including human-disturbed areas and fully urbanized ones (i.e., cities) (Yirga Abay, Bauer, Gebrihiwot, & Deckers, 2010). While most large carnivores in Africa are decreasing in number, spotted hyenas are thriving. One reason for this inconsistency may be their high degree of behavioral flexibility; they’re dietary generalists eating everything and anything from termites to elephants (Holekamp & Dloniak, 2010).

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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A new monkey flower in Shetland

Scientists have discovered a brand new flower in Shetland, it is being referred to as “Shetland’s monkeyflower”, because it is larger and its flowers are more open than previous monkeyflowers.

The flower was discovered by a team from Stirling’s department of biological and environmental sciences led by post-doctoral researcher Dr Violeta Simon-Porcar, working with associate professor Dr Mario Vallejo-Marin at Stirling and Dr James Higgins at Leicester University.

It is a beauty. Read about it here!

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The biggest dinosaur… debatable

It would have weighed more than 10 African elephants put together and had a thighbone taller than the man who helped dig it up. A team of researchers finally decided what to call this new species of prehistoric colossus: Patagotitan mayorum. The name roughly translates to the “giant from Patagonia” — with a nod to the Mayo family, which own the farm where the fossils were found.

Researchers say the size of the femur (from the thigh) and humerus (from the upper arm) suggests the species’ mass outpaces other massive sauropods that have had those two bones preserved. And because Patagotitan‘s skeleton was so complete when recovered, they were able to arrive at separate estimates — through three-dimensional modeling — that “represent approximately twice (or more) the body mass inferred by the same volumetric methods for other sauropods.”

Yet some paleontologists remain unconvinced the find represents an undisputed record. Rather, given the margin of error surrounding such size estimates — especially estimates of other massive (but far less complete) sauropod skeletons — paleontologist Mathew Wedel argues the competition for World’s Largest Dinosaur™ is closer to a “three-way tie” between Patagotitan and two other titanosaurs, Argentinosaurus and Puertasaurus.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m about to start googling the above three dinosaurs so I can have an informed opinion about which one is the largest. Goodbye productivity for today… hello massive dinosaurs.

Read about it here, read the original paper here.

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In Africa that conservation is a “white thing”

It is the height of arrogance for industrialized countries to demand that developing countries conserve nature, while they plowed down natural resources (and often still do) to gain economic supremacy.

And that sentiment is reflected in a recent piece about the 18th anniversary of the death of Michael Werikhe, the enigmatic African conservationist.

Moreover, some of these points were emphasized in an interesting stream over on twitter.

The first step is recognizing the problem. But how do we solve said problem?

Where bacteria hides

It’s fascinating how terrible we are at long term combating human pathogens. It’s kind of like wack-a-mole, when one route is eliminated another springs right up.

On one hand, this is obviously a plug that we need more money dedicated to scientific research.

But on the other, it’s really just interesting! Take Gonorrhea for example. Or better yet, read about where Gonorrhea is hiding these days

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