A devestating fire

Any regular reader of this blog will know I love collections.

Which is one of the many MANY reasons I’m devastated about the fire at the National Museum of Brazilian.

In summary: the fire burned for six hours and left behind ashes where there had been dinosaur fossils (including the reconstructed Maxakalisaurus topai), the oldest human remains in the Americas, Luiza, and the audio recording and documents of indigenous languages that are otherwise extinct.

We will never be able to replace these items and the knowledge they contain is irreplaceable. Our collective knowledge is worse off as a result.

And with the devastated feeling of the incalculable loss, we’re starting to take stock of how this could have been prevented.

Funding for one (read about how the museum was underfunded for decades). And another is digitalizing the collection.

But for now, I will remain in morning for the knowledge that has gone up in flames.

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After thousands of years, the Giant African baobab trees are suddenly dying

Baobab trees, some of the oldest and biggest trees in Africa, are abruptly dying. 9 of the 13 oldest individuals, aged between 1,100 and 2,500 years have died in the last decade.

This is unprecedented, and scientist speculate that it’s due to climate change.

Want to know more about these trees, and what might be leading to their demise? Read about it here!

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CRISPR-Cas9 for an RNA world

CRISPR has the revolutionary potential to alter gene expression by cutting DNA.

Now NmeCas9 is a protein that cuts not just DNA, but RNA.

This has scary potential for viruses (made from RNA), but having read very little (and I don’t think very much is known yet), but I am interested to see how this progresses.

Read about it here, and keep checking on NiB. I see myself writing more about this in the future.

 

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What Eats What: A Landlubber’s Guide to Deep Sea Dining

You’ll never go to dinner in the deep sea. It’s dark, vast and weird down there. If the pressure alone didn’t destroy your land-bound body, some hungry sea creature would probably try to eat you.

Fortunately for you, something else has spent a lot of time down there, helping to prepare this guide to deep sea dining.

For nearly three decades, robots with cameras deployed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have glided through the ocean off the coast of central California at depths as deep as two and half miles below.

Want to know who eats who, before you ask them to dinner? Read about it here!

Going to a really macabre candy store-except instead of sweets there are tapeworms

If you’re not reading everything that Ed Young writes, you’re missing out.

And he’s once again hit it out of the park with this great post about America’s Largest Collection of Parasites (although when my coauthor Kim Lackey and I cleaned our the parasitology lab a few years ago, it could have been in the running).

These jars of wonder/parasites are kept in my favorite of the Smithsonians, the Natural History Museum. Read all about Ed’s exploration of this TREASURE trove of awesome here.

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If it Swims Like a Duck and Quacks Like a Duck Could Be a Hybrid of Two Duck Species

A duck is a duck, right? Well, yes, but when one duck mates with a duck of another species, there’s the risk that one of the original species could cease to exist. And then that duck is a duck no more.

This is not philosophical, as much as it is based on very real study that assesses the rate at which mallard and Mottled Ducks are combining into a hybrid species in the US. And whether or not this is a bad thing?

Read more here!

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Why Ecology Needs Natural History

The two fields’ intertwined histories show that most theoretical breakthroughs are preceded by the kind of deep observational work that has fallen out of vogue in the past half century.

Want to know more about collaboration and a call for research associated with this partnership? Read about it 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?

All the trees will die, and so will you

The title of this post is not my own, but it kind of has a point. Not “everything dies” but rather, a lot more apocalyptic.

A brown-black beetle (the polyphagous shot hole borer) breeds inside trees. It drills networks of tunnels, which then get infected by a fungus it carries to feed it’s young. Eventually the tree dies, the beetle moves on and the whole cycle starts again.

This would be a cute horror story, if the beetle wasn’t on track to kill 26.8 million trees across Southern California. Which is going to directly link to the death of humans. Interested? Find out why here.

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