The trees are dying

In Hawaii trees are dying at an alarming rate due to an unknown and uncharacterised disease.

Since 2010 66 million trees have been killed in the Sierra Nevadas due to an invasive pathogen called Sudden Oak Death.

In Montana Bark beetles and mountain pine beetles are killing trees at a rate 10 times higher than normal.

These are a few but not exhaustive examples. Want a better summary of the trials facing our american forests? Read about it over at the Guardian.

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Snails are going extinct

Given that I studied an abundant snail during my PhD (actually, Potamopyrgus antipodarum is invasive throughout most of the world), this headline was alarming to me.

But like many uncharismatic microfauna, snails are declining in record number across a number of different habitats.

Read about it over at Scientific America, and save the snails!

The endangered Powelliphanta augusta snail of New Zealand Credit: Alan Liefting

The endangered Powelliphanta augusta snail of New Zealand Credit: Alan Liefting

Beware of the snail

Have you recently flown into the US from abroad? On the landing card it asks if you’ve been in contact with things should not be brought into the US.

Have you encountered agriculture or been on a farm?

Have you been exposed to people coughing ebola?

And then one slightly odd question that gets overlooked:

Are you carrying snails? (paraphrasing here)

This is because snails are actuallly really deadly. Or more specifically they are a vector for some really deadly parasites. Read about it, and how to control the snail/parasite spread over at Science FridayLymnea-snail.

Discovering a new species of whale

We discover new species of insects often. We’re discovering new bacteria at such an alarming rate, it’s getting difficult to count and name them all.

But it’s odd when we find new charismatic megafauna. And yet, researchers think they have identified a new species of whale.

You don’t get much more megafaunal or charismatic than that.

Read about it over at National Geographic!

New species of whale, making a splash!

New species of whale, making a splash!

New Zealand takes a stand against feral predators

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Have you seen a kiwi? Not the fruit, or the person (people from New Zealand call themselves kiwis) but the ground dwelling bird. They are horribly impractical. Their eggs take up a third of their body. They fly, they don’t run particularly fast, they aren’t clever, but they are adorable, and they have spent a long time living on this planet.

And they are rapidly going extinct in the wild due to introduced feral predators.

But New Zealand has gone nuclear on these pests, and recently vowed to eliminate all invasive predators by 2050.

Read about how they are going to accomplish this ambitious task over at the New York Times.

The kiwi egg before laying. That's how much of its body cavity is taken up by egg.

The kiwi egg before laying. That’s how much of its body cavity is taken up by egg.

Pokemon GO- bad for evolution education?

There are many reasons Pokemon GO is great. People are getting outside, exercising more, and generally becoming more engaged with their communities.

But it’s not great for the public’s understanding of evolutionary biology.

Why you might ask? Read about it over at Forbes.

And if you want a studio that is working on making a game that’s good at teaching evolution, check out Polymorphic Games. It’s a collaborative effort to develop games that teach evolution, but are as fun as Grand Theft Auto.

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Corpse flowers UNITE!

I don’t know if you have noticed, but there are a lot of corpse flowers in bloom right now. Given that these plants (Amorphophallus titanum) flower rarely, this is a particularly interesting feat. At the moment there are 10 foot tall corpse flowers open (and stinking ) in Washington, D.C., Bloomington, Indiana, and Sarasota, Florida.

That’s in addition to blooms earlier this year in Chicago, Charleston, Illinois, and Winter Park, Florida.

Given that there are only there have only been 157 Amorphophallus titanum that have been recorded in bloom between 1889 and 2008, that’s a lot of corpse flowers blooming in just one country over just one year.

WTF?

Read about possible reasons why over at Atlas Obscura!

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