National Geographic launches the new series Great Migrations, New Scientist outlines the multiple benefits of living near parks and other green spaces, scientists explore the physics of cat lapping, Brandon Keim from Wired Science joins researchers in an abandoned mine to test bats for White Nose Syndrome and the United States Geological Survey seeks help from bird watchers to track a recent spike in beak deformities. Here is the latest research in ecological science.
Great migrations: National Geographic channel’s newest wildlife documentary series Great Migrations (see above trailer) premiered last week and prompted several reviews. As described on the blog Reconciliation Ecology, the series excels visually but lacks in scientific detail: “Even if the writers are afraid of losing the audience by putting in too much scientific detail, why can’t they trust the inherent drama of these tales of migration, enhanced by their own fantastic footage?” The Mental Floss blog, which provides several video clips from the series, describes the footage as the key element of the series: “Some of the most memorable shots are underwater, with the two standouts being a brief segment on bioluminescent plankton, and an extended segment about red crabs (which are land creatures, but spawn in the sea).” Read more at “Born to Move – a review of Great Migrations, part 1.”
Green spaces: In the magazine edition of New Scientist, Nora Schultz examined the different ways in which living near green spaces–such as parks–benefit public health. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine “…found that children living in greener areas had a lower BMI and gained weight more slowly over the study period. Sixteen-year-olds, for example, were roughly 6 kilograms lighter in the greenest compared to the most urban neighbourhoods.” Read more at “Country vs city: Green spaces are better for you.”
Physics of cat drinking: There have been several articles on a recent study that used physics to explore the mechanisms with which cats lap up liquids. Lacking the proper cheek formation—which would provide suction—cats pull their tongues back at just the right second to transfer fluids into their mouths. Ed Yong from Not Exactly Rocket Science explained the research and it’s connection to society: “If you look at the world through the eye of a scientist, even an unassuming sight like a cat drinking from a bowl can be a cool discovery just waiting to happen. Rather than killing cats, curiosity can thrive on them.” Read more at “How the cat that got the cream then drank it.”
Bat cave: Brandon Keim from Wired Science, along with biologists from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, visited an abandoned limestone mine where about 100,000 bats hibernated during the winter–that number has dropped over the years primarily due to White Nose Syndrome. According to Keim, “New York has lost more than 90 percent of its cave-dwelling, hibernating bats. So has Vermont. The disease has spread to 14 states and two Canadian provinces, and could go nationwide. Up to half of all bat species in the United States may be threatened.” Read more at “A Visit to a Site of the Batpocalypse.”
Beak deformities: Andrew Revkin interviewed Colleen Handel and Caroline Van Hemert, two United States Geological Survey wildlife biologists, on The New York Times’ blog DotEarth regarding a recent USGS push “to enlist bird watchers in the hunt for beak deformities.” According to USGS flyers and a press release, the condition, termed “avian keratin disorder,” has prompted the highest rate of beak abnormalities ever recorded in wild bird populations; USGS is asking citizen scientists in the northwest United States and Alaska to report any sightings. Read more at “Bird Sleuths Stymied by Deformed Beaks.”
Also, microorganisms and climate change, biodiversity in the hotter rain forests of South America 56 million years ago, an interview with Stuart Pimm from Duke University on The New York Times website, projections for corals after 40 more years of ocean acidification and ten all-natural, deadly plants, minerals and other substances.