Pay attention!

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  • user warning: Table './species/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p><br /><br />\n<h3 class=\"post-title\"><span style=\"font-size: x-small\">Source: <a rel=\"nofollow\" href=\"\">Here</a><br /><a rel=\"nofollow\" href=\"\" title=\"external link\"></a></span> </h3>\n<h3 class=\"post-title\">Earthworm Hunter </h3>\n</p><p> <span style=\"font-family: arial\">Continuing with the worm theme, Joe sent me this lovely little creature. Say hello to the land planarian. Though I don\'t know the specific species of this colorful land planarian, it\'s guaranteed to dine on earthworms.</span></p>\n<p><a rel=\"nofollow\" href=\"\"><span style=\"font-size: 85%; font-family: arial\">Photo</span></a><span style=\"font-size: 85%; font-family: arial\"> source: </span><a rel=\"nofollow\" href=\"\"><span style=\"font-size: 85%; font-family: arial\">The Peripatetic Pedaller</span></a><a rel=\"nofollow\" href=\"\"><span style=\"font-family: arial\"><img src=\"\" style=\"margin: 0pt 10px 10px 0pt; float: left\" alt=\"Land+Planarian.jpg\" border=\"0\" /></span></a><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span></p>\n<p>Most creatures have the decency of hunting, then eating, then digesting. Not so with the land planarian. No, this creature hunts, then digests, <i>then eats</i>. As the Peripatetic Pedaller describes: &quot;They digest their prey outside their bodies, by secreting enzymes that will melt an earthworm into a digestible slurry. Yum.&quot;</p>\n<p><a rel=\"nofollow\" href=\"\"><span style=\"font-family: arial\"><img src=\"\" style=\"margin: 0pt 10px 10px 0pt; float: left\" alt=\"Land+Planarian+eating+worm.jpg\" border=\"0\" /></span></a><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span></p>\n<p><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\"></span><br /><span style=\"font-family: arial\">To add insult to injury, the planarian\'s mouth is also its anus (I imagine they don\'t kiss very often). <i>And</i>, they travel on a slime trail like snails and slugs. But they can also use this slime to create a thread to dangle itself down to otherwise unreachable sections of the forest floor.</span></p>\n<p>Who knew such a basic creature could provide us with so many I-just-threw-up-a-little-in-my-mouth moments?<br /><br /><br /><small><i>-- Edited by Jollyjo at 21:11, 2008-08-18</i></small><br /><br /></p>\n', created = 1397635459, expire = 1397721859, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:1606458d084f12c038c7acaf2076709f' in /var/www/ on line 112.
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  • user warning: Table './species/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p class=\"p1\"><img style=\"padding: 5px; border: 0px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Wooly Mammoth\" title=\"Wooly Mammoth\" width=\"450\" height=\"300\" /></p>\n<p class=\"p1\">&ldquo;Humans have made a huge hole in nature in the last 10,000 years. [With de-extinction,] we have the ability now, and maybe the moral obligation, to repair some of the damage.&rdquo; (Steward Brand, The Long Now Foundation)</p>\n<p class=\"p6\">For some time now, scientists have been trying their skills on a craft quite controversial: reviving the dead, or, to apply the term of the day, de-extinction. The prospect of bringing extinct species back to life has naturally inspired the fantasies of the public observing, giving rise to speculations about the resurrection of mammoths and sabertooths and, at its wildest, a collective childhood dream finally manifesting in the twentyfirst century: the comeback of the dinosaurs. Will it soon be possible, we wonder, not only to encounter dodos on a beach walk and hear the reassuring drumming of ivory-billed wood peckers once again in North American woodlands but also to smilingly photo pose on the back of a longneck and walk your very own pack of velociraptors on a leash through your neighborhood? And then ultimately the question: what for? And will such meddling with biological givens be a good thing in the long run? &nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p6\">Frozen zoos have been established over the past decades for exactly that purpose: the storage of genetic material, first and foremost the DNA of endangered species or species on the brink of extinction with the expectation that one day, science will be ready to call back those who have been forced from the face of the planet, prematurely and often violently, as a consequence of humanity\'s tendency towards destruction. With the number of species going extinct reaching at least 10 000 a year according to the WWF, the urgency of projects such as the San Diego Frozen Zoo or The Long Now Foundation\'s \"revive and restore\" seems obvious. On the other hand, conservationists fear that the implementation of this latest trick of genetic engineering could also give a dangerous twist to an already existing attitude of recklessness and indifference towards our natural environment, the exploitation of which continues to go on at breathtaking pace. After all, if we can easily bring them back again, what\'s the damage done in the first place? Once politically instrumentalized, such powerful technology, however benevolent the initial intentions of its originators, could easily backfire, many argue.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p6\"><img style=\"padding: 5px; border: 0px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Frozen Zoo, San Diego\" title=\"Frozen Zoo, San Diego\" width=\"470\" height=\"236\" /></p>\n<p class=\"p6\">False hopes would be stirred if people came to think of genetic engineering and cloning as smooth ways to reconstruct organisms or even whole ecosystems when in fact there is no such thing as a \"reset\" button in this planet\'s ecology. Set aside the great financial costs and technical challenges of any such endeavor, many more arguments against de-extinction remain, some of the best of which are subsumed by David Ehrenfeld of <span class=\"s1\">Rutgers University, New Jersey,</span> in his contribution to a TEDx event organized by National Geographic and revive&amp;restore.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p6\">Though we might successfully implant DNA of one extinct species into the egg cell of its next living relative, he argues, it can hardly be taken for granted that the, say, young passenger pigeon born and raised by a band-tailed pigeon mother really stands any comparison to its extinct ancestors. First of all, Ehrenfeld says, \"It is the internal and external environments of the egg cell that tell the cell how to use the DNA to make an organism\" which means that the real outcome of any such experiment is \"to anybody\'s guess\". Secondly, the behavior of hosting mothers will always differ from the behavior of the extinct species; \"lost trades [hence pose] a problem worth rethinking\". The passenger pigeon for instance, one poster-child of the de-extinction movement, could easily be called <span class=\"s1\">\"the most social bird in </span>[American] <span class=\"s1\">history\"</span>. Mating would be stimulated by hundreds of other birds around any individual pair. What happens when we then put this fact critically in relation to the prospect of artificially recreating new passenger pigeons of which we could bring back ten, maybe fifty individuals, at great cost, raised by mothers with totally different behavioral traits, brought up in zoo cages or laboratories?</p>\n<p class=\"p3\">There are scientists out there who are risking their lives, Ehrenfeld continues,&nbsp; in an effort to save wild African elephants from heavily armed poachers, and here we are, in a save auditorium, talking about bringing back the wooly mammoth. Okay, let\'s pause here for a second and let the argument settle in.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p3\">Traditional conservation strategies finally seem to develop dynamics reaching out successfully to and slowly changing public consciousness, and now we are about to divert skills, attention and money away from methods that do work to what Ehrenfeld has dubbed \"recreational conservationism\". Many also wonder where we would put them, the wooly mammoth, the giant elephant birds, the European Aurochs or the Bali tiger, all species that were forced to go because their natural habitats were rapidly disappearing due to humans\' rapacious expansion on the planet. If zoos are the answer, maybe we should reconsider our ethics concerning such comebacks, many find. Wouldn\'t it make much more sense to try and conserve the species and natural environments respectively that are critically threatened by extinction right now, right here, the hundred thousands of plant and animal species living in the Amazon and Congo rain forests, Australia\'s Great Barrier and Hawaii\'s coral reef systems, the Mountain Gorilla, the Northern Right Whale, the Siberian Tiger, the Leatherback Sea Turtle, the Hawaiian Monk Seal?</p>\n<p class=\"p3\"><span class=\"s2\">T</span>he most valuable contribution of de-extinction, suggests Ehrenfeld, lies probably with reintroducing genetic variation to the comparably depleted gene pools of still existing species, thereby fortifying their DNA and enhancing the endangered species\' prospects of future survival.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p3\">This is also the key argument for Oliver Ryder, distinguished geneticist <span class=\"s3\">and </span>head of the Frozen Zoo program at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. \"Small populations are more vulnerable to extinction\", Ryder says. Inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity lead to a decline in fitness and the reduction from \"gene pools to puddles\", a phenomenon known as the Extinction Vortex. This condition is thought to be reversed by the introduction of new genetic material to still existing though depleted breeding populations of those species which are most in need of genetic rescue like the Hawaiian Crow or the Northern White Rhinoceros. Of the latter, only seven individuals still exist world-wide, and all of them are related to each other. The frozen banks at San Diego Zoo, according to Ryder the \"most extensive, best characterized, most utilized collection of its kind\" possibly holds the answer to the Northern White Rhino\'s problem, in form of seven additional cryptonized DNA samples which could just about be enough variety to help the great mammals jump the gap and once more escape what Steward Brand calls the biggest death of all, namely that of irreversible extinction.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p3\"><img style=\"padding: 5px; border: 0px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Northern White Rhino\" title=\"Northern White Rhino\" width=\"480\" /></p>\n<p class=\"p3\">Steward Brand, one of the initiators and heads of \"revive&amp;restore\" naturally has a different take on the topic of de-extinction than, say, David Ehrenfeld. For him, the application of new techniques such as IPS (Induced Pluripotent Stemcell) technology, cryo-preserving and cloning in fact constitute a real moral obligation in the face of humanity\'s long history of environmental destruction and species annihilation.</p>\n<p class=\"p3\">The argument that we humans should not interfere with Nature\'s laws by putting various genetic engineering techniques to use, Steward Brand seemingly finds bewildering. We have intervened for the past ten thousand years, he says and suggests to expand the notion of \"now\" in accordance with evolution\'s time scales to not only the closer future but really the past and upcoming ten thousand years, a trick that admittedly provides for quite a different perspective on the matter. The project \"revive&amp;restore\" Brand leads together with his wife Ryan Phelan has a clear goal: the maintenance of biodiversity. It also appears to take the numerous pros and cons of de-extinction under careful consideration. Top of the list of candidate species the Long Now Foundation aims to revive are such that have gone extinct only recently, and, sure enough, who wouldn\'t want to see them back, the Xerces Blue Butterfly, the Spanish Bucardo, the Chinese River Dolphin, or the Carolina Parakeet who was the only parrot native to the Eastern United States, abundant in the continent\'s old forests until its disappearance at the beginning of the 20th century, when, within only a couple of decades, it found its habitats all but destroyed or altered and itself, avidly hunted for its beautiful feathers, at the brink of extinction?&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p3\">As it were, the prospects of de-extinction appear as promising as the challenges attributed to it seem daunting. Not everybody manages to be as confident about this newest advancement in Natural Science as Steward Brand seems to be. There is a Red List, but there now exists also a Green List of species we managed to rescue; de-extinction, Brand argues, might look like a moral challenge to some, but it could considerably contribute to the expansion of the latter.</p>\n<p class=\"p7\">&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p7\">&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p3\">Further information:&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p3\"><a href=\"\" target=\"_blank\"></a></p>\n<p class=\"p3\"><a href=\"\" target=\"_blank\"></a></p>\n', created = 1397635460, expire = 1397721860, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:cad6006fe97cf5baf607f51eae9e5f42' in /var/www/ on line 112.
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  • user warning: Table './species/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p class=\"p1\"><img style=\"padding: 5px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Magic mushrooms\" title=\"Magic mushrooms\" width=\"480\" height=\"288\" />When investment banker and hobby mycologist Gordon Wasson embarked on his first psychedelic shroom journey with the Mixatec shaman Maria Sabina, 1947 in <span class=\"s1\">Huautla de Jimenez</span>, Oaxaca, he could hardly have fathomed that this very incident was not only to open \"the doors of perception\" (as Huxley so aptly described the psychedelic experience in his famous book of 1954) for him, accompanying fotographer Allan Richardson and Wasson\'s wife Valentina but, in the years and decades to come, hundred thousands of others, God-seekers, fun-lovers, hippies, mycophiles and celebrities like John Lennon, Mick Jagger or Bob Dylan. <img style=\"float: left; padding: 5px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Maria Sabina handing over teonanacatl to Wasson at a velada\" title=\"Maria Sabina handing over teonanacatl to Wasson at a velada\" width=\"300\" height=\"206\" />They all would, as events and time proceeded, first flood the small Mexican village and its immediate surroundings in search of the proclaimed magicians of the soil and soon after reap the very flesh of the gods from the ancient grounds, export its mycelium to the US and Canada, to Australia and Europe, grow it, smoke it, drink it, sell it, dip it into chocolate or honey to better its taste, soak it in rum, down it with tequila, process it into lollypops, smoothies, cookies or banana bread and so desecrate it, at least in the opinion of the Mexican natives and Maria Sabina herself, for ever. The flesh of the gods.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">The talk is of p. caerulescens var. macatecorum of the genus psilocybe which houses most of the over 200 classyfied species of psilocybin mushrooms worldwide. Other prominent species include psilocybe azurescens, p. cyanescens, p.cubensis and p.aztecorum which all look back on a long history of ritualistic and medicinal use most notably in Latin and North America, but also Russia, old Europe and Africa. Once ingested, the mushrooms\' most defining chemical compound psilocybin is converted into psilocin, an alkaloid that profoundly impacts serotonin levels in the human body. The effects are states of hallucination and euphoria, similar to those reported after an intake of LSD or mescaline, and very often the experiences undergone by people who have taken the drug are ascribed a spiritual/ transcendental nature.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">No wonder then that various psilocybe species have been consumed for thousands of years as part of religious and healing rites. Ceremonial mushroom intake in Mesoamerica, for example, is documented since pre-Columbian times and verifiably co-defined Aztec and Mayan culture. Many artifacts such as the Mayan mushrooms stones found in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize or scenes from the Mexican tlacuilolli, the classic pre-columbian pictorials, give credit to the important role of psychedelic mushrooms in these societies. The name given to the sacred drug in pre-hispanic Mexico was teonanacatl, which translates to \"flesh of the gods\"; teonanacatl was not exclusively used in shamanic/religious contexts but, taken in sub-psychedelic dosages, also served as a powerful medicine against fever and articular gout, stomach and head aches, epileptic seizures and depression.</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">Though certain mushrooms were also known and traditionally consumed for their entheogenic properties in the west (see, for instance, the use of amanita muscaria by Russian shamans or the wide-spread consumption of psilocybe semilanceata, the \"little dwarfs hats\" or Traumpilze, German for \"dream mushrooms\", in the alpine regions of central Europe) the magic potential of psilocybe cubensis and its Mexican varieties was unknown to Westerners until Wasson\'s investigations in the late 50s, primarily, researchers have suggested, because the fear of inquisitors in the early days of the Conquista had driven the Mesoamerican mushroom cult underground.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">A 1957 account of Wasson\'s experiences in Oaxaca published as part of Life magazine\'s adventure series was then to lift the \"Golden Ones\" from the shadows and reveal their glimmering secret to the North American public. It didn\'t take long until scientists, New Agers and psychonauts like Timothy Leary or Terrence Mc Kenna&nbsp; picked up on the topic, and at the beginning of the 60s, the psychedelic revolution was well underway.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\"><img style=\"float: left; padding: 5px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"flyer advertising a South African psychedelic trance party\" title=\"flyer advertising a South African psychedelic trance party\" width=\"250\" height=\"398\" />More than half a century later, the popular entheogen has anything but lost its appeal. After decades of legal and social discrimination -morally driven prohibition struck strongly at the beginning of the 70s, with the result that psilocybin, just like its synthetic counterpart LSD, is illegal in most countries of the world today- the Divine Children have repeatedly popped up in the media last year.<span class=\"s1\"> \"</span>Psychedelic drugs can unlock mysteries of brain\", Alok Jha, science correspondent with the Guardian, wrote in March, and the Economist heartily advised to \"Cheer up and eat your mushrooms..\" in response to a new report about the therapeutic potential of psilocybe that was co-authored by the controversial British ex-government adviser and star psychiatrist David Nutt. In it, Nutt once again claimed that the vilified psilocybin, as he had already suggested in the past for other mind-altering substances like MDMA, might in fact be rather helpful in alleviating depression and could provide important insides into the nature of the human brain and its pathologies, specifically schizophrenia. The New York Times had already listed the mushrooms\' benefits in a lengthy report about \"How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death\" earlier in 2012, giving voice to a number of leading researchers in the field including Charles Grob, <span class=\"s2\">a psychiatrist and researcher at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center, Stephen Ross from New York University\'s medical school and Roland Griffiths from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center who all administer psilocybin to terminally-ill</span> cancer patients in an effort to clarify the substance\'s potential as a viable treatment against anxiety and depression.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">However, governments seem far from willing to decriminalize, let alone legalize psilocybin and comparable substances that, according to David Nutt and his research team\'s findings, are far less dangerous than other socially more acceptable drugs like nicotine and alcohol. And so, what was once revered as a godly gift given to mankind for the purpose of healing and spiritual insight, must, for the foreseeable future at least, be left to other fields of exploration, namely that of the entertainment industry. Your kids love to hang out at Goa parties? Maybe you need not worry too much about them. After all, a quite famous dude once said that LSD was one of the two or three most important things he did in his life. Remember his name? It was Steve Jobs.</p>\n', created = 1397635460, expire = 1397721860, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:c0089a5865ef12af142480aa14ac0fb3' in /var/www/ on line 112.
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  • user warning: Table './species/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p class=\"p1\"><img style=\"padding: 5px; border: 0px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Beetle\" title=\"Beetle\" width=\"480\" height=\"360\" />Eight hundred species of dung beetles in South Africa, two thousand on the African continent, six thousand in the whole world: ponder the numbers and you might change your attitude towards poo or at least concede that for some, it\'s quite something. For the so-called flightless dung beetle, Circellium bacchus, and his cousin <em>Scarabaeus zambesianus</em>, among other South African species of the superfamily Scarabaeoidea, it\'s the most delicious thing one can come about on an excruciatingly hot day in the South African bushland. The dung balls around which the beetles\' lives revolve are often not only their one and only food source and the place where they put their larvae, thus constituting womb and cradle of the dung beetle\'s early childhood universe, but also an important cooling agent in areas of Africa where soil temperatures can rise up to sixty degrees centigrade around noon time.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">Of all dung beetles worldwide, around ten percent roll dung into small balls or pellets which often weigh up to ten times the beetles\' own body weight. Ontophagus taurus, an Australian dung beetle, even got crowned strongest insect in the world by Dr Rob Knell from Queen Mary, University of London, and Professor Leigh Simmons from the University of Western Australia who were investigating animals\' wildly differing athletic virtues in a broad-based study published in 2010. The herculic beetle, as it turned out, can pull 1,141 times its own body weight, equaling a 70 kg person lifting six double-decker buses packed with people from the ground (such force, however, is usually not employed to transport food but rather fight rivals).&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\"><img style=\"padding: 5px; float: left; border: 0px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Marcus Byrne, dung beetle authority at work\" title=\"Marcus Byrne, dung beetle authority at work\" />The precious cargo is either moved with the beetle clinging to the ball with its elongated hind legs running backwards on its two forelegs in a straight line or else it is simply dragged along, held with the insect\'s hind legs. Every once in a while the beetles climb on top of the ball, as another research team led by Marcus Byrne, Wits University, have found out, not only to reorientate but also, in the case of those living in hot environments, in order to cool themselves.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">To prove the point, the scientists equipped a group of South African dung beetles with tiny boots made of a dental component and had them and a bare-footed (beetle) control group run the baking hot soils of their South African desert habitat. As expected, the members of the control group climbed their balls far more often than the booted beetles from the test group, performing a little dance on the cool ball and wiping their faces, a thermal behavior that is also called stilting.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">Scarabaeus sacer, Ontophagus taurus\' mediterranean brother and arguably the most prominent of the whole family, has even achieved sacred status due to this peculiar rolling behavior, namely in ancient Egypt: The Egyptians likened the beetle and its doings to the god Kephri who in their mythology also rolls the sun like a ball across the sky.</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">Recent investigations into the navigation behavior of South African dung beetles led by Eric Warrant and Marie Dacke of Lund University in Sweden and co-authored by Byrne have now revealed yet another link to the celestial: Certain species of dung beetle can obviously orientate themselves not only according to sun- and moonlight but also to the milky way, something, for all we know, only a handful of other animals are capable of (some birds, seals, and, clearly, we humans).</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">What seems most intriguing about the dung beetle to us, however, is its rather less obvious role as an important ecological agent: the many species belonging to the order occur on all of Earth\'s continents except Antarctica; they have co-evolved alongside the mammalians living in these habitats and are chiefly responsible for recycling their excrements. Dung is the breeding source of various pestilent species and intestinal parasites and thus, by removing it from the land surface and bringing it back into the soils, the beetles significantly contribute to landscape conservation, nutrient recycling and pest control. Estimations hold that the beetle\'s activities are worth several hundred million dollars a year in the US alone.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">One early example of the successful employment of copris beetles in holistic management which also set standards for similar projects in the decades to come was the Australian Dung Beetle Project of 1965-1985, initialized and led by <span class=\"s1\">Dr. George Bornemissza of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).</span></p>\n<p class=\"p2\"><img style=\"float: right; padding: 5px; border: 0px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"dung beetles at work in Namibia\" title=\"dung beetles at work in Namibia\" width=\"300\" height=\"199\" />The comparably recent introduction of various bovine species to the Australian ecology had led to a general degeneration of soil quality. Native dung beetle species turned out to be ill-adapted for the processing of the new dung type and stayed away, but without their powerful recycling capacities, the dung patches would take months and sometimes years to fully decompose. Since cattle don\'t feed from the immediate area surrounding a dung pad, rangers were experiencing a worrying reduction of grazing land each year. So the entomologist Bornemissza set out to recruit new copris candidates for the task and found them in South Africa. The country provided an ideal testing and recruitment ground for the project not only because of its species abundance but also due to its political stability and environmental similarity to the Australian regions affected. In the course of two decades, twenty-three species of dung beetles were successfully established on the Australian mainland and Tanzania (<span class=\"s2\">Penny Edwards of Landcare Australia, 2007).</span> Not only has the agricultural situation ameliorated greatly since the introduction of&nbsp; <span class=\"s2\"><em>Onthophagus gazella</em> and other species such as <em>Euoniticellus intermedius</em>, <em>Onthophagus binodis</em> and <em>Lissotes militaris</em>; the country has also experienced a considerable reduction in flies which, the story goes, in turn helped create a sort of caf&eacute; culture in many places in Australia where consuming food and drink outside netted areas previously had been virtually impossible because of the overabundant presence of bush flies (<em>Musca vetustissima</em>).</span></p>\n<p class=\"p3\">&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">So might it ever happen that you, exploring nature\'s bounty, accidentally step into some sheep or cow poo, don\'t get angry but try to view it from a different angle, if possible that of Marcus Byrne: Dung is dead cool, or so he once said. At least, one might add, from the scarab\'s perspective.</p>\n', created = 1397635460, expire = 1397721860, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:66c6cfbeb11a32eb16b620f61ad649c4' in /var/www/ on line 112.
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  • user warning: Table './species/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p class=\"p1\"><strong><img style=\"padding: 5px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Pinapple plantation, Oahu, Hawaii\" title=\"Pinapple plantation, Oahu, Hawaii\" width=\"480\" height=\"321\" />Hawaii\'s Silent Invaders</strong></p>\n<p class=\"p2\">\"Paradise found is paradise lost\" E.O.Wilson</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">The Hawaiian islands, many will agree, still rank among the most beautiful places on this planet: lush forests and exhilarating waterfalls and pools, luxurious vegetation, snow-white and lava-black beaches, exuberant underwater life, geographic diversity and a generally gentle environment account for much of the islands\' appeal and attracted as many as 7.3 million visitors in 2011 who in the same year spent a total of 12.58 billion dollars on their island vacation, according to the Los Angeles Times, the second-highest total in state history.</p>\n<!-- pagebreak --><!-- pagebreak -->\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">But the Hawaiian beauty is deceptive in many ways. The massive waves of tourists rolling over the remotest and most recent of the 50 U.S. states&nbsp; naturally take their toll on the fragile and in part seriously damaged ecosystems of the area. One of our previous articles already treated the tremendous amounts of trash washing ashore on Hawaiian beaches, and, as anywhere else, the presence of humans has dislodged much of the local flora and fauna, at least on the four most heavily frequented islands Hawai\'i, O\'ahu, Maui and Kauai. On Lanai, cattle ranching was already well established and a detrimental force long before the small island was transformed into one huge pineapple plantation by James Dole in 1922.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">Though eco tourism is a flourishing branch of income on the islands and thousands of acres of land were put under protection as national parks and nature preserves or bought up by conservation land trusts, many species are still endangered or populating the IUCN Red List; approximately 30% of all plants and birds on the U.S. Endangered Species List are from Hawaii.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">According to the \"area-species principle\", the size of protected areas is substantial and biodiversity degrades in direct proportion to the shrinking of habitats. The Nature Conservancy, for example, is one of the key players worldwide when it comes to buy or help buy up extensive stretches of land to build wildlife refugees and corridors and has helped to protect over 200 000 acres of land on and around the Hawaiian islands alone. Despite such commitments, however, the larger part of Hawaii\'s endemic species have already gone extinct and many more are kept in existence only due to the vigorous efforts of various NGOs and government programs that made the restoration and conservation of the Hawaiian flora and fauna their foremost goal.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">What many visitors and even inhabitants do not know about Hawaiian wildlife is that it is highly synthetic: Approximately half of all plant species on the island do not originate on Hawaii but were introduced over the centuries by seafaring invaders. The imported species proved as fatal to the local ecosystems and the unique biota that once thrived in them as the humans that brought them along and contributed severely to the rapid alteration and, in fact, degradation of the Hawaiian fauna and flora everywhere but in the most remote corners of the islands.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">The onslaught started as early as 200 A.D. - 500 A.D., when the first Polynesian voyagers settled on Hawaii. They not only hunted various birds such as the presumably tame, flightless <em>moa nalo</em> that had been filling the ecological niche of a ground-dwelling herbivore on the islands to extinction and transformed large parts of the fertile lowlands in the volcanic foothills into sugarcane and taro plantations, but also brought along the first domestic pigs, with, as history has shown, dramatic consequences for the endemic floral and faunal community.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">Hawaii\'s feral pigs (<em>Sus scrofera</em>), the progeny of domestic animals that escaped or were deliberately released by the Polynesians and Europeans that soon followed in the footsteps of James Cook, introducing their own, European strand of domestic pig to the islands, remain a major challenge to Hawaiian wild life conservation today. Numbering about 100 000 specimen these days, they have, over the centuries, changed native soils quite impressively by eating away on small trees and ferns which resulted in heightened sun light exposure and consequent dry-out of the soil systems below. Also, the water that collects in the wallows the animals dig are ideal breeding grounds for avian malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Endemic Hawaiian bird life, almost entirely gone today, has suffered significant losses due to avian malaria and other diseases brought about by alien invaders.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">With the first Western voyagers also came the ants, most destructive of all the African big-headed ant (<em>Pheidole megacephala)</em> and the Argentine ant (<em>Linepithema humile</em>). Before the first Polynesian voyagers settled on Hawaii, the islands probably came very close to what some might choose to call edenic: temperate weather, beautiful birdlife, a lavish abundance of flowering plants and fruit-bearing trees but no ants, stinging bees, wasps, or poisonous snakes, to cut it short: the perfect garden.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">That garden\'s fragile equilibrium was soon to change when the first <em>pheidole</em> queen touched ground and numerous scouting units swamped the new territory. A considerable part of Hawaiian endemic species, insects and plants, fell prey to or were quickly displaced by the new coming top predators that, most brilliantly adapted and virtually unconquerable, have earned quite a name globally and are considered one of the World\'s Worst Invaders. Important pollinators disappeared and along with them, further up the food chain, various species of birds that saw the base of their diets dwindle dramatically soon after the Europeans\' arrival.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">But pigs and ants, however destructive a force, were by far not the only ones responsible for the proceeding decline of many Hawaiian species: Rats and mice, rabbit, deer, goats, feral cats and other imported domestic animals have ever since battled the grounds of the islands that previously had known only two mammals, the native hoary bat and the hawaiian monk seal, rocking and finally unsettling the native, in evolutionary terms completely unprepared ecosystems.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\"><img style=\"float: left; padding: 5px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Hawaiian banded tree snail\" title=\"Hawaiian banded tree snail\" width=\"320\" height=\"212\" />There are three more cases of infamous invaders to the Hawaiian fauna and botany that shall be presented here: The giant African land snail <em>Achatina fulica</em>, the predatory rosy wolf snail,<em> Euglandina rosea</em>, and a notorious flowering plant, <em>Miconia calvescens</em>, also called the Velvet Tree. The first and the latter were introduced as elements of decoration to Hawaiian homes and botanical gardens but soon turned into pests with unforeseen consequences. The second was really meant as a biological pest control agent but then went completely out of hand, just like the other two.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\"><em>Achatina fulica</em>, an omnivorous land snail native to East Africa, was on record as a pest at least since the early 19th century when it was brought to India, Cylon, Mauritius, and Malaysia. Japan, ignorant of the fact, used to promote the large mollusk as a medicinal food source, especially during Second World War, and this is also the way it presumably entered Maui in 1936. Control efforts started as early as 1938, when the Hawaii Board of Agriculture and Forestry took notice of the Maui importation and another one to Honolulu; at that time, however, offspring of the snails had already escaped confinement and were, apparently, happily reproducing in the wild. It soon became clear that the African snail was not plainly a nuisance to the locals but posed a serious threat to taro and other agricultural crops, endemic snails and Hawaiian botany.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p3\">Thus, in the 1950s, another snail was introduced to the affected islands, in the hope it would attack the large African invaders and diminish their populations to nothingness within short time. Instead, <em>Euglandina rosea</em>, the rosy wolf native to the Southeastern United States, soon to be dubbed\"cannibal snail\", hunted half of the beautiful banded tree snail species of Hawaii and all eight existing endemic<em> Partulid</em> tree snail species to extinction. Today, up to 75% of all Hawaiian snail species are extinct (at least in the wild) due to this ill-advised attempt in pest control, the collective effort of shell collectors and the voracious appetite of other introduced aliens, predominantly rats and feral cats.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\"><img style=\"padding: 5px; float: right;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Miconia Calvescens\" title=\"Miconia Calvescens\" width=\"320\" height=\"453\" />In the 1960s, <em>Miconia calvescens</em>, a flowering plant native to Central and South America with attractive green and purple foliage shot through with white veins, a feature that already had made it a star in 1850s European greenhouses, was introduced to various Hawaiian botanical gardens and consequently cultivated on private properties from where it quickly spread to the wild and started an infestation unchallenged in the history of Hawaiian botany. The larger trees can grow up to 15 meters tall, thus shading out all competing life beneath it; they produce purple berries, up to three millions seedlings per plant, multiple times a year. The sweet-tasting fruits are a major attractant to birds that spread the seeds over large areas, making the confinement of detected <em>miconia</em> populations virtually impossible.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p3\">It can easily be said that <em>miconia calvescens</em> is the worst plant invader the Pacific Islands have ever faced up to: On Hawaii, the \"Purple Plague\", as locals call it, is a major threat to native eco-systems, with the words of Dr. Ray Fosberg of the Smithsonian Institution, \"the one plant that could really destroy the Hawaiian forrest.\" On Tahiti, it is mainly referred to as\"Green Cancer\". At least 25% of all all native species on Tahiti are threatened with extinction by densely growing <em>miconia </em>populations that happen to cover 65% of the island\'s surface, with 25% of it being quasi monocultural since the trees starve the rest of the flora for nutrients and light and lastingly change soil systems.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p3\">At last it shall be stressed that the Hawaiian Islands\' silent invasion is but one example of the very often unintended impact we humans exert upon our environment. Following Wilson, the noble savage such as postulated and romantically envisioned by Rousseau, never existed. Wherever humans set foot on new land, so the renown biologist, he subsequently turned nature into a slaughterhouse. In some cases such as the Hawaiian <em>moa nalo</em> or the dodos of Mauritius, that were slaughtered by the thousands and thus driven to extinction, this impact is obvious; in others like the above described introductions of alien species and subsequent attempts to correct human failures and restore natural balances, the real effects of human action did not appear instantaneously but rather unfolded over time. Whatever the time frame, however, the leading argument evolving from such case studies is clear: relations within eco-systems are intricate and vulnerable and repercussions following the action of any external impactor will ultimately evade human control. Our interactions with our environment should therefore be guided by greatest care and consideration.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p3\">Think twice, and if you know better, act for the better. Thus, a future at its finest, namely a living future, might stay viable not only for us but numerous generations yet to come.</p>\n', created = 1397635460, expire = 1397721860, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:a22307a25084473d2c92a7553bf183cd' in /var/www/ on line 112.
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  • user warning: Table './species/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p class=\"p1\"><img style=\"padding: 5px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Curiosity on Mars\" title=\"Curiosity on Mars\" width=\"480\" height=\"277\" />On Monday August 5, after \"seven terrifying knuckle-in-teeth minutes\", the Mars rover <em>Curiosity</em> successfully landed on Martian grounds, causing excessive shoulder patting among NASA engineers and U.S. government officials. In the months to come the spacecraft will investigate Gale Crater, the terrain surrounding its landing site Aeolis Palus, to explore Martian climate and geology and trace back the history of liquid water on the planet.</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">The landing certainly is a major achievement not only for NASA (the agency has seen much less fortunate historic moments such as the <em>Challenger</em> and <em>Collumbia</em> disasters of 1986 and 2003), but mankind as a whole; according to project scientists J.P. Grotzinger and Ashwin Vasvada (Scientific American, July 2012), <em>Curiosity</em> is the largest space craft that has ever entered a planet\'s atmosphere, the first to use sky crane technology upon landing, \"the most sophisticated automated chemical lab ever sent to another planet\", and will probably settle the debate over whether Mars is principally habitable or at least was so in the past. The 2.5 billion dollars spent appear more than justified, especially when compared to other government spendings such as war expenditures, and even more so when set in context with the U.S. space program\'s role as initiator of many ground-breaking technologies that have surfaced over the past decades and entered our daily lives in the form of computers and cell phones, memory foam, solar panels, water purification and food safety systems, dry-freezing, innovative water-, fire-, scratch-resistant and isolating materials, robots, artificial limbs and new baby food formulas, inventions some of which have dramatically transformed the way we go about our daily business and think about ourselves as individuals and society.</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">Public and scientific excitement thus seem comprehensible. What we should also ponder on these days, however, is the question whether we as a species are really ready to expand our sphere of influence and interest to yet another planet when we obviously fall short of beneficially managing this one; time, money and research should in the first place go out to the conservation and exploration of our home planet much of whose richness we, if not radically changing our trajectories, will have destroyed by the end of this century without even having had the chance to get to know and comprehend what thence will be lost forever: as we chop down the Amazonian rainforest, destroy our miraculous coral reefs and poison this world\'s rivers, lakes, and seas, numerous yet undiscovered life forms are dismissed to sink into the death beds of time, destined to smolder away in oblivion.</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">In the past centuries, too many species have been eradicated from the face of the earth without hope of resurrection already: only a small part of those gone have been acknowledged by science such as the moas of New Zealand (large, ground-dwelling herbivorous birds hunted to extinction by the Maori); the rich megafauna of Madagaskar (which included pygmy hippos, giant sloths, many species of lemurs like the legendary arboreal <em>tratratratra</em> and also large, flightless birds far surpassing todays ostriches in size such as the <em>Aepyornis maximus</em>, a ten foot high ground-dweller that weighed half a ton and is very likely the source of the mythological elephant-carrying <em>rukh</em> birds of The Thousand and One Nights: they all had vanished by the 13th century after extensive agriculture and cattle-herding had been introduced to the island); or the dodos of Mauritius, their name tauntingly derived from the Portuguese word for \"fool\" because they showed no fear of the humans that first arrived in larger numbers in the mid 17th century and hence fell victim to their cruel mass slaughters, leading to the hapless birds\' disappearance within only fifty years\' time. The vast majority of species lost, though, will remain faceless, inaccessible in numbers, blank pages to the history book of life.</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">Enthusiasts might stress that, provided with the modern technique of cryopreservation, where living cells and whole tissues are frozen down to -196&deg;C and conserved in liquid nitrogen, theoretically allowing for indefinite storage and a later \"resurrection\" of species or even individuals through artificial semination, in vitro fertilization and cloning, no limits are set to the future creation of artificial utopias on this or any other planet: we could set up banks of species for conservation purposes and later recombine them in whichever way we like, in ecosystems known from the past or entirely new ones, conceived of by human minds exclusively. After all, we have reached the era of bioprinting and IPSCs, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells: People like Anthony Atala from Wake Forrest University or Organovo and Invetech, firms based in San Diego and Melbourne, Australia, respectively, are busy printing human and other animal organs, and the above mentioned IPSC technology has allowed for Chinese scientists to create whole live mice out of skin cells already in 2009.</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">Reality, however, looks somewhat different when it comes to recreate entire biomes, as scientists working on such projects (see <em>Ecotron</em> or the failed <em>Biosphere 2</em> projects of the Nineties) are painstakingly aware of: Terrestrial ecosystems and the biological actors therein have co-evolved over millennia; the body of living knowledge created is so vast that all our attempts to fully encompass this natural database have entirely failed so far. As famed entomologist E.O. Wilson has put it: \"Each species, when examined closely, offers an endless bounty of knowledge and aesthetic pleasure. It is a living library.\" And: \"Measured in bits of pure information, the genome of a cell is comparable to all editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica published since its interception in 1768\".&nbsp; (The Future of Life, 2001)&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">The more diverse the system, the more productive and stable it is. The macro parts of it, the animal and plant inhabitants, say, of a lake system, are easily captured by the human eye but constitute only \"the tip of the iceberg\", a pyramid largely hidden from view, based on and, to the much greater part, composed of microscopically minute interactors that play vital roles in the functioning of the whole system. Essentially, microbes and bacteria are the true protagonists of life on this planet.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">What adds to the difficulty of synthetically erecting even the simplest biome that could compare to an analogue system in the wild is the fact that so many of nature\'s interactions and actors are still unknown to scientists at present. We have found only recently, for example, that phytoplankton influences cloud formation, the number of bacterial cells in our bodies exceeds human cells by a factor of 10 to 1, certain fungi can break down plastics while others transform radioactive waste into energy or that marine ecosystems provide such ample sources for drugs of all kinds. Every day brings in new data on these subjects, but while we try to grasp the complexity of life and record with awe ever new insights into the intricacies of the world around us, timeframes are contracting at a breathtaking pace: the very tissue we are so keenly investigating is melting before our eyes, aided by timber traders in the Congo and Brazil, oil drillers in the Arctic and Southern Seas, mining operations in Asia and Africa, the wartime technology of gigantic fishing fleets, our obsession with mass consumption and self-indulgence and our relentless hunger for ever new goods and ways of entertainment.</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">To colonize other planets, a prospect that heavenly frees us of our earthly worries and obligations, in this context seems frivolous if not criminal. Certainly, the outlook of encountering or developing new life-forms and -spheres, man-made utopias somewhere out there in space seems compelling. Research on so-called extremophiles, organisms that have been found to live under unlikely conditions on Earth such as very low or&nbsp; high temperatures, acute acidity or hypergravity created in the lab, has shown that life is much more versatile than previously assumed. Some archaea and bacteria like certain cyanos or, probably most famous, <em>Deinococcus radiodurans</em>, can digest heavy metals and are completely radioresistant up to a dose of 5000Gy (5 Gy can kill a human, 200-800 Gy annihilates the tough<em> E.Coli</em>); strains of the latter have been genetically modified to break down mercury and toluene in radioactive wastes. The organisms around the deep ocean hydrothermal vents thrive under high hydrostatic pressure and at average temperatures of 60&deg;C and 80&deg;C, with <em>Methanopyros Kandleri</em> holding the record still growing at 122&deg;C, and lichens subjected to Mars-like conditions (six millibars of air pressure, high infrared and ultraviolet solar radiation spectra and wildly fluctuating temperatures) still carry on with photosynthesis, as recent experiments conducted by planetary researchers at the German Aerospace Center DLR&nbsp; have shown.</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">Such findings suggest we might also run across life hidden in niches and crevasses of Mars\' surface soils. We could probably introduce atmosphere-transforming organisms to the planet, part of a process visionaries have labeled terraforming. As we explore and usurp new territories we should always keep in mind, however, the warnings of people like Wilson who caution us to refrain from light-heartedly giving up not only on natures bounty but the very matrix that supports our lives: \"The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct, \" so Wilson,&nbsp; \"is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us. \"</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">\"Heaven is under our feet as well as above our heads\", once wisely said Thoreau, another early prophet of environmentalism ; let us mind his words and do the best we can to save what\'s left of it.</p>\n', created = 1397635460, expire = 1397721860, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:9ede4bbdaadc54200ba265c3ba1a63d4' in /var/www/ on line 112.
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  • user warning: Table './species/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p class=\"p1\"><img style=\"padding: 5px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Whales wars\" title=\"Whales wars\" width=\"480\" height=\"321\" />Minor uproar was caused earlier this year at the annual conference of the <strong>American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS</strong>) in Vancouver when speakers<strong> Lori Marino</strong> of Emory University, <strong>Thomas White</strong>, Loyola Merymount University, and <strong>Chris Butler-Stroud, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society</strong>, once again called for a declaration of persona rights for cetaceans legally consolidated on an international level.</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">Evidence has been piling up that whales and dolphins are not only highly intelligent animals with brains respectable to body size approximately as big as those of humans and complexly structured social behavior but also a sense of self-awareness that most not long ago considered a human privilege and, as it were, a carte blanche to reign over and light-heartedly dispose of, abuse and slaughter the rest of biological life on this planet.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">When animal rights advocates and founders of the <strong>Great Ape Project</strong> <strong>Paola Cavalieri</strong> and <strong>Peter Singer</strong> with support of scientist celebrities like <strong>Jane Goodall, Desmond Morris or Richard Dawkins</strong> first proposed persona rights for chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang utans in the 1990s, the project was generally downplayed and ridiculed, while for a minority of others, such as <strong>Gary Francione</strong>, an outright abolitionist who for decades has been advocating the same rights for all sentient beings, Singer\'s and Cavalieri\'s approach simply did not reach far enough. Nonetheless, the advance has sparked ongoing debates about whether and to which extent animals should be granted the same rights as humans, and growing media coverage of the topic, whether in support or not, indicates that the issue of ethics expanded beyond the human realm is finally if ever so slowly reaching public consciousness. In 2008, Spain as the first country in the world approved a resolution that entitles great apes to three of the basic human rights, namely the right to life, liberty and freedom from physical and psychological torture. Though, sadly, little action has followed the resolution, it can still be seen as a milestone in the animal rights movement. &nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">Now, Lori Marino and fellow campaigners are pushing the agenda on behalf of the long suffering great mammals of the sea, nobly and luckily so. Whales and dolphins, just like great apes and elephants, can recognize themselves in a mirror; they love to play, form family and group structures similar to our own and use highly sophisticated ways of communication: in terms of complexness, the humpback whale \"song\", for instance, stands unrivaled in the animal kingdom. Research shows that a specific type of brain cells previously thought unique to humans and great apes are also found in cetacean brains: the so-called spindel cells account for higher cognitive abilities, social complexity and communication skills in humans. Amazingly, some whales seem to have thrice as many spindel cells as average human brains do; in addition, this very trait seems to have evolved at least twice as long ago in their brains as in the ones of homo sapiens and other humanoids.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">Scientists have dispelled all doubt about cetaceans being highly intelligent, extremely social individuals with a keen sense of self-awareness, a concept of past, present, and future and the capability of feeling joy, grieve, concern for others, anxiety and terror, just like we humans do. Chris Butler-Stroud of the <strong>Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society</strong> stated that \"Whilst it is inevitable that we must consider the implications of recognizing cetacean personhood within the context of human political and legal frameworks, we must be careful not to fall into the trap of using humans as the benchmark for intelligence and evolutionary success and in so doing misguidedly sustain the notion of the dominion of humankind. Instead, we should move towards a philosophy of cohabitation with these other &lsquo;people&rsquo; \". To hold them in captivity, that is to enslave them in amusement parks and zoos to satisfy our keenness on cheap entertainment, and to kill them in the wild for commercial use or under the pretense of scientific research is barbaric and appalling and must be forbidden worldwide (or as said filmmaker <strong>Louie Psihoyos, \"The Cove\"</strong>: When wild intelligent and sentient animals are captured and forced to tricks for our casual amusement &ndash; it says more about our intelligence than theirs.\" )</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">&nbsp;In 1986, when it had become clear that most cetacean species where either on the verge of extinction or in danger of entering an analogue status, the<strong> International Whaling Commission</strong> IWC (A \"toothless organization\", as <strong>Paul Watson</strong> of the <strong>Sea Shepherds</strong> puts it, but the only organization that is officially recognized by the UN) mandated an instant stop of whaling worldwide, exempting only a handful of aboriginal groups such as the Inuit or the people of Lamalera, Southern Indonesia, who look back on a long history of subsistence whaling. For the time being, these groups are still allowed to catch a strictly regulated number of certain whale species that are contributing to their traditional diets. The moratorium was agreed upon by the vast majority of member countries but explicitly condemned and consequently neglected by three, namely Norway, Iceland, and Japan who have kept to their cruel practices of killing thousands of mink, fin and humpback whales, not to speak of smaller cetaceans, each year (Japan captures and slaughters thousands of dolphins annually. The captured individuals are shipped by air to amusement parks all over the world at prices reaching up to 150 000 dollars per individual sold; the meat, poisoned with high doses of mercury, is sold in local supermarkets. The horror of the massacres is most vividly depicted in the award-winning movie <strong>\"The Cove\" by Louie Psihoyos</strong>; it caused worldwide outcries when it was first shown at the Sundance Festival in 2009) Australia, supported to some extend but not joined in the cause by New Zealand, is the only country in the commission with a firm stance against the extensive Japanese whaling programs in the Southern Sea and has initiated legal action against Japan in spite of the fact that the country is an important trading partner.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">The Faroe Islands, a Danish protectorate with a population numbering a little over 49 000, is furthermore responsible for an annual massacre of hundreds of pilot whales and other small cetaceans that pass by the islands each year on their migration routes to the nutrient-rich waters of the Svalbard and the Arctic. The Faroese people\'s annual slaughter festivals are called<strong> the grind, </strong>or<strong> </strong><em>grindadr&aacute;p</em>: as the season arrives, pods of pilot whales and other dolphins are driven towards low-lying shores where they are welcomed by hundreds of Faroese equipped with knives and hooks; as the dolphins reach the beaches, the hunters jump into the water, drive the hooks into the dolphins\' blowholes and stab them to death. A 2011 documentation produced by the <strong>Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS</strong>) and aired on<strong> Animal Planet</strong> as part of a greater series called <em>Whale Wars</em> first introduced the gruesome Faroese practices to a wider public. Other episodes narrate the story of the activists tracking down illegal Japanese whalers in the Antarctic Ocean.</p>\n<p class=\"p1\"><img style=\"float: left; padding: 5px;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Captain Paul Watson\" title=\"Captain Paul Watson\" width=\"300\" height=\"225\" />In fact, the <strong>Sea Shepherd Conservation Society</strong> are the foremost, perhaps only organization effectively fighting the battle against illegal activities like whaling, seal hunts, etc. in the world\'s oceans directly in the field. Founded in 1977 by <strong>Green Peace</strong> cofounder <strong>Captain Paul Watson</strong>, the internationally operating marine&nbsp; non-profit conservation society has managed to raise considerable amounts of money in charities that have in the past enabled them to successfully conduct multiple hazardous direct-action operations and much needed information campaigns. Rewarded with a four star rating by the U.S. evaluator Charity Navigator, the <strong>Sea Shepherds</strong> have proven to be one of the most effective and reliable charity organizations not only in the U.S. but worldwide and deserve our gratitude as executors of international law against illegal hunting in the world\'s oceans and active protectors of world heritage.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">In this context, the latest news about <strong>Paul Watson\'s arrest in Germany</strong> on the grounds of a ridiculous warrant issued by the government of Costa Rica was shocking (In 2002, Watson got falsely accused of threatening the crew members of an illegal finning ship from Costa Rica; the Sea Shepherds had encountered the finners in Guatemalan waters while filming the later awarded documentary \"<em>Shark Waters</em>\"); that the German government has furthermore subjected the Captain to a possible extradition to Japan, the very country that has in the past decades lost many millions of dollars due to the Sea Shepherds\' successful obstructions to their -illegal- whaling efforts and is clearly out there on revenge, is a great shame and should be condemned by the international community. On July 22 Captain Paul Watson skipped bail and successfully made his way out of Germany. After all, his clientele are the whales, dolphins, seals and other inhabitants of the oceans and he, in his own words commenting his flight, could surely serve his clients better at sea than in a Japanese jail cell and intended to do just that.</p>\n<p class=\"p1\">In a letter to supporters he disclosed his disappointment with Germany, which is all on our side, and declared that, far from abandoning the Whale Wars, he\'d be back in time to inaugurate the Japanese whaling season commencing early in December this year with <strong>Operation Zero Tolerance</strong>, the ninth campaign against illegal Japanese whaling in the Southern Sea Sanctuary.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">Good luck, Captain Paul Watson! Our hearts go out to you, your amazing crews and the people of the sea who\'s case you are so heroically defending.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">For further information and donations please visit: <strong><a href=\"\"></a></strong></p>\n', created = 1397635460, expire = 1397721860, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:a98f48aa4a826fd4c103c52a5eded7db' in /var/www/ on line 112.
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  • user warning: Table './species/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p class=\"p1\"><img style=\"padding: 5px; vertical-align: bottom;\" src=\"\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Bear on the melting ice\" title=\"Bear on the melting ice\" width=\"480\" height=\"314\" /><span style=\"font-size: 10px;\"><em>photo taken by renown wildlife photographer and conservationalist Paul Nicklen</em></span><br /> The newest figures regarding the ongoing Arctic meltdown are out and all but reassuring. This comes hardly as a surprise to those who have been observing the worrying developments in the area over the past years or decades. According to a special report in the <em>Economist,</em> the Arctic has warmed up twice as much as the global average since the 1950\'s. The rapid decrease of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, found at a record low in 2007, and the melting of the Greenland ice sheet that is predicted to soon pass a point of no return have developed into a solid, downward spiral trend, and whereas previous predictions suggested that the northern polar cap could be ice-free in summer by 2030 (eg Mark Serreze, NSIDC), more recent calculations now deem possible an even earlier date for the event.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">The Arctic is warming up faster than any other region in the world, for a number of reasons: Firstly, it is particularly exposed to the snowballing effects of global warming due to its geographic locality: heat always shifts from the tropics towards the poles, transported by the atmosphere and ocean currents ( see also \"thermohaline circulation\"). Whereas, however, the much colder Antarctic (average annual temperature: -57 degrees Celsius) is completely surrounded by the Southern Ocean and mainly impacted by its dominant current, the ACC (Arctic Circumpolar Current) that has kept warmer ocean currents in that area largely at bay so far, the Arctic is surrounded by land bodies that prevent the Arctic Ocean from circulating freely; hence, increasing atmospheric and ocean temperatures are set to hit the Arctic more profoundly than, by comparison, Antarctica (It should be mentioned, however, that specifically West Antarctica, too, has experienced unexpected ice loss lately due to warming ocean currents, a result of changing wind and weather patterns, induced by global warming). Secondly, the warming of the Arctic, as much as any other locale in the world, is primarily caused by increasing amounts of heat-trapping gases released into the atmosphere mainly by burning fossil fuels. The predicted two degrees Celsius rise in global temperature spells an average warming of three to six degrees Celsius in the Arctic (and severely changing climate conditions in Antarctica as well); since the polar regions act as a sort of planetary air conditioning system, such a powerful climatological shift will have unpredictable but certainly far-reaching consequences not only for, say, polar bears and emperor penguins, species many might feel indifferent about, but rather for every single one of us, whether we live in Dhaka, Murmansk, Paris or New York. &nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">Thirdly, a phenomenon called the albedo effect makes for much of the regional surface warming in the Arctic that has been recorded so far: the polar snow-white land and ocean icescapes are highly reflective, but as the melting ice gives way to dark water or land, an increasing amount of solar radiation is absorbed; temperatures rise and further speed up the melting process. Soot, carried by winds from Europe and Asia to the North, clads the polar ice or snow, thus changing its albedo.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">And then there is yet another strong positive feedback loop influencing local temperatures in the Arctic Circle: the thawing of permafrost soils that are expected to release massive amounts of heat-trapping gases to the lower atmosphere in the years to come, primarily the extremely potent greenhouse-gas methane (methane is twenty to twenty-five times as effective in trapping heat as is carbon dioxide): As unexpected amounts of hitherto ice-packed organic material start to surface and decay, huge quantities of carbon dioxide and methane will enter the earth\'s atmosphere (Supposedly, the world\'s permafrost soils hold twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere).</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">All these trends taken together spell rather bad news for climatic and environmental developments in the future; it can\'t be stressed often enough that the impact will be a worldwide one: changing ocean currents and weather patterns, a slowing of the so-called ocean conveyor belt, part of the planetary heat-shifting system, that would very likely bring about much harsher winters in most of Europe, drying tropics, the disappearance of food fish in ocean waters around the globe due to large-scale nutrient depletion in Pacific and Atlantic waters, rising sea levels and, as a result, the disappearance of islands, flooding of low-lying land and numerous megacities around the world, displacement of hundreds of millions, etc are only some of the possible consequences that could ensue the partial melting of the polar caps.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">The Arctic ecosystems, for that matter, are already undergoing dramatic changes, in particular the micro and macro worlds of the Arctic Ocean, harbor of a plethora of well-adapted and highly specialized species such as the polar bear (<em>ursus maritimus</em>), sea leopard (<em>hydrurga leptonyx</em>), the walrus (<em>odobenus rosmarus</em>), the ringed seal (<em>pusa hispida</em>), and the <em>notothenioidei</em> or arctic icefish whose bodies contain specialized glycoproteins that keep their blood from freezing at icy water temperatures of -2 degrees Celsius.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">At first sight an environment seemingly hostile to life, the sea ice, as E.O. Wilson has nicely pictured it in his most readable book <em>The Future of Life</em>, is really the gardens and soil of the arctic landscapes. Microscopic ice algae thrive in intercrystal channels; feeding on nutrients that rise from the ocean floor year-round they are the main dish of the tiny crustacean c.glacialis, a copepod rich in lipoids, abundant on the ice\'s edge and the very base of many arctic food chains. krill and various types of fish graze on the underside of the large ice chunks upside down, eating away on the copepods and other sympagic organisms; small seals and minke whales feed on krill, and polar bears and sea leopards feed on small seals. The described decrease in sea ice and the accompanying shrinkage of sympagic food sources thus puts many participants along the chain but particularly the large top of the food chain arctic predator mammals at risk of extinction. Naturally, the melting North will open up new frontiers for countless lifeforms previously restricted to environments further down south: coniferous forests will push into formerly inhospitable Arctic regions, parts of Greenland ice will give way to tundra growth. The one animal that will definitely thrive in an environment of thawing permafrost and a generally warming Arctic is, as always, <em>homo sapiens</em>, who will eventually be able to use the emerging ice-free land for growing crops.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">Still, the definite outcome of such large-scale ecologic alterations is impossible to predict. Climate changes of a comparable or even greater order have, of course, ocured before in Earth history, but probably never as rapidly as has been suggested for the centuries to come. Many species will encounter great difficulties in adjusting to the new environmental conditions or fail entirely.&nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">The recent discovery of hitherto unknown massive phytoplankton blooms beneath huge shelves of sea ice by the NASA <em>icescape</em> mission in the Chukchi sea, north of Alaska, has thrown up a row of questions such as to which extent species that habitually accord their mating and breeding cycles precisely to the annual algal blooming, will be affected by the event: the copepods for instance, that hibernate in the deep water and rise to feed on algae in spring might either benefit from prolonged blooms or, if they arrive too late to the party, lose out and die in the cold. &nbsp;</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">The finding of the 100km phytoplankton stretch also indicates that multiyear ice usually so thick no ray of sun light will pass through is melting at alarming rates. Algal growth has been found to be even more abundant under the ice than in the open ocean, much to the surprise of the scientific community. Growth rates under the ice are exceeding all calculations for phytoplanctonic growth in the Arctic Ocean previously made, knows the missions leader Kevin Arrigo, Professor at the Department of Environmental Earth System Science (EESS), Stanford University, California. Cell division that would normally take three days suddenly happen once or twice a day.</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">Whatever the implications, there is one fact about the <em>icescape</em> mission\'s discovery that can hardly be denied: it provides</p>\n<p class=\"p2\">further and disturbing evidence for the rapid change of Arctic ecosystems currently under way; we can read the finding as yet another harbinger of a great wave of global warming induced changes to our biosphere that is going to hit much sooner than we would have guessed a decade or two ago.</p>\n', created = 1397635460, expire = 1397721860, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:8d6e77b67b8b848740520ad25db803e9' in /var/www/ on line 112.
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Joined: 07/21/2008

Source: Here

Earthworm Hunter

Continuing with the worm theme, Joe sent me this lovely little creature. Say hello to the land planarian. Though I don't know the specific species of this colorful land planarian, it's guaranteed to dine on earthworms.

Photo source: The Peripatetic PedallerLand+Planarian.jpg

Most creatures have the decency of hunting, then eating, then digesting. Not so with the land planarian. No, this creature hunts, then digests, then eats. As the Peripatetic Pedaller describes: "They digest their prey outside their bodies, by secreting enzymes that will melt an earthworm into a digestible slurry. Yum."


To add insult to injury, the planarian's mouth is also its anus (I imagine they don't kiss very often). And, they travel on a slime trail like snails and slugs. But they can also use this slime to create a thread to dangle itself down to otherwise unreachable sections of the forest floor.

Who knew such a basic creature could provide us with so many I-just-threw-up-a-little-in-my-mouth moments?

-- Edited by Jollyjo at 21:11, 2008-08-18