If I Could Talk To The Sycamore…

…just imagine it / chattin’ to an oak in oakenese…

Professor Suzanne Simard shows that all trees in a forest ecosystem are interconnected, with the largest, oldest, “mother trees” serving as hubs. The underground exchange of nutrients increases the survival of younger trees linked into the network of old trees.

I’m rubbish at this. The video explains with the aid of a fun guy… Cough… Sorry. [blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/g657gsm9dQI width=”620″ height=”400″]

Video from KarmaTube

Prof. Simard, The Tree Speaking Project


Painted Hula, Frog-Frog-A-Hula

A frog species native to Israel’s north which was declared extinct has been rediscovered and dubbed a “living fossil” — not only of its own species but of an entire genetic group, Jerusalem’s Hebrew University have announced.

Discovered in the Hula Valley in the 1940s, the Hula painted frog was thought to have disappeared following the drying up of the Hula Lake at the end of the 1950s, and was declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1996.

The frog — individuals of which were found in the Hula swamp area two years ago — turned out “to be a unique ‘living fossil,’ without close relatives among other living frogs,” the university said in a statement.

© Sarig Gafny

A team of Israeli, German and French researchers authored a report in the scientific journal Nature Communications which details the results of a a genetic study of the amphibian, finding that the rediscovered Hula is actually the only living species of its kind.

“The Hula frog differs strongly from its other living relatives, the painted frogs from northern and western Africa. Instead, the Hula frog is related to a genus of fossil frogs, Latonia, which were found over much of Europe dating back to prehistoric periods and has been considered extinct for about a million years,” Hebrew University said.

The team — led by Hebrew University’s Rebecca Biton, Tel Aviv University’s Professor Rebecca Biton, Prof. Sarig Gafny of the Ruppin Academic Center and Dr. Vlad Brumfeld of the Weizmann Institute of Science – conducted “genetic analyses of rediscovered individuals” as well as “morphologic analyses of extant and fossil bones,” according to the statement.

“The results imply that the Hula painted frog is not merely another rare species of frog, but is actually the sole representative of an ancient clade of frogs (a group with a single common ancestor),” the university said.

Source: Times of Israel

Pesty Pests!

A strain of cockroaches in Europe has evolved to outsmart the sugar traps used to eradicate them.

American scientists found that the mutant cockroaches had a “reorganised” sense of taste, making them perceive the glucose used to coat poisoned bait not as sweet but rather as bitter. A North Carolina State University team tested the theory by giving cockroaches a choice of jam or peanut butter. They then analysed the insects’ taste receptors, similar to our taste buds.

Researchers from the same team first noticed 20 years ago that some pest controllers were failing to eradicate cockroaches from properties because the insects were simply refusing to eat the bait. Dr Coby Schal explained in the journal Science that this new study had revealed the “neural mechanism” behind this refusal.

In the first part of the experiment, the researchers offered the hungry cockroaches a choice of two foods – peanut butter or glucose-rich jam. “The jelly contains lots of glucose and the peanut butter has a much smaller amount,” explained Dr. Schal. “You can see the mutant cockroaches taste the jelly and jump back – they’re repulsed and they swarm over the peanut butter.”

~ original article & video of eww! cockroaches! here ~

In the second part of the experiment, the team was able to find out exactly why the cockroaches were so repulsed. The scientists immobilised the cockroaches and used tiny electrodes to record the activity of taste receptors – cells that respond to flavour that are “housed” in microscopic hairs on the insects’ mouthparts.

“The cells that normally respond to bitter compounds were responding to glucose in these [mutant] cockroaches so they’re perceiving glucose to be a bitter compound,” Dr. Schal said. “The sweet-responding cell does also fire, but the bitter compound actually inhibits it – so the end result is that bitterness overrides sweetness.”

Highly magnified footage of these experiments clearly shows a glucose-averse cockroach reacting to a dose of the sugar. “It behaves like a baby that rejects spinach,” explained Dr Schal. “It shakes its head and refuses to imbibe that liquid, at the end, you can see the [glucose] on the side of the head of the cockroach that has refused it.”

“Peanut butter & jelly” – a meal so good only cockroaches enjoy / reject it!

Dr Elli Leadbeater from the Institute of Zoology in London said the work was exciting. “Usually, when natural selection changes taste abilities, it simply makes animals more or less sensitive to certain taste types. For example, bees that specialise on collecting nectar are less sensitive to sugar than other bees, which means that they only collect concentrated nectar. Evolution has made sugar taste less sweet to them, but they still like it. In the cockroach case, sugar actually tastes bitter – an effective way for natural selection to quickly produce cockroaches that won’t accept the sugar baits that hide poison.”

Dr Schal said this was another chapter in the evolutionary arms race between humans and cockroaches. “We keep throwing insecticides at them and they keep evolving mechanisms to avoid them,” he said. “I have always had incredible respect for cockroaches,” he added. “They depend on us, but they also take advantage of us.”

Respect? Respect, sure! On the bottom of my boot…! Bleurgh, horrible things!

Space Spots Somma-Vesuvius

This was the view out the International Space Station’s cupola on Jan. 1, 2013, around 09:37 UTC, looking nearly straight down the gullet of Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius.


The. World’s. Most. Dangerous. Volcano.

Vesuvius (“Vesuvio” in Italian) is probably not only the most famous, but also one, if not the most dangerous volcano on Earth. The first eyewitness account of a volcanic eruption that has been preserved has come to us from Vesuvius: In 79 AD, after a century-long slumber, the volcano woke up with terrifying power in an eruption that buried several Roman towns like Pompeii and Herculaneum under several meters of ash. Today, parts of these cities have been excavated and are among the most remarkable archaeological sites of the world, allowing us to have an excellent view on Roman life and culture, where time and life had been frozen in a moment.

Geologically, Mt. Vesuvius, or more correctly the Somma-Vesuvius complex, is about 400,000 years old, as dating of lava sampled drilled from over 1,300 m depth have shown. Present-day Vesuvius is a medium-sized typical stratovolcano volcano reaching a height of 1,281 m a.s.l. It comprises the older volcano, the Somma, whose summit collapsed (likely during the 79 AD eruption), creating a caldera, and the younger volcano, Vesuvius, which since then has re-grown inside this caldera and formed a new cone. Although in a dormant phase at present, Vesuvius is an extremely active volcano and particular for its unusually varied style of activity: it ranges from Hawaiian-style emission of very liquid lava, extreme lava fountains, lava lakes and lava flows, over Strombolian and Vulcanian eruptions to violently explosive, Plinian eruptions that produce large pyroclastic flows.

When one thinks about Vesuvius volcano today, one aspect is eminent: due to the dense population surrounding it, and ever climbing higher and higher up on its slopes, it is certainly among Earth’s most dangerous volcanoes. It is estimated that ore than 500,000 people live in the zone immediately threatened by a future eruption. When this happens is not known; it is possible that Vesuvius has entered into one of its typically century-long lasting phases of dormancy, but volcanoes can be unpredictable. The situation in the Gulf of Naples is further complicated by the presence of another highly active, and potentially as dangerous volcano: the Campi Flegrei, located immediately under a large part of the modern city of Naples.

Europe’s Ticking Time Bomb

Image: NASA via Cmdr Chris Hatfield