New spider species an homage to David Bowie

Here’s an interesting tidbit for your Friday. A new species of sparassid spider (pictured) from Malaysia has been named after David Bowie. Peter Jäger, an arachnologist at the Senckenberg research institute in Germany, says he named the spider –  Heteropoda davidbowie — after the English rock star in an effort to raise awareness about endangered spiders. Bowie’s 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust...

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Pandas: Let ‘em die?

A Reuters article yesterday proclaimed that BBC television naturalist and conservationist Chris Packham thinks that scientists are wasting their time on the conservation efforts devoted to giant pandas. Pandas have reached “an evolutionary cul-de-sac,” he says, and they’re destined to die out because of their own habits. It’s true that pandas have a highly specialized lifestyle: they need to eat about 25 pounds...

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National parks aren’t doing the trick in Kenya

Elephants have changed the ecology of Amboseli and other national parks in Kenya. Credit: David Western Research in PLoS ONE today shows that animals in Kenya’s national parks are declining at the same rate as the same species outside the parks.  This means, potentially, that the protection of animals in safe spaces may not lead to their recovery or success. David Western, the author and founder/director of the African...

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Eco-engineering sustainable seawalls

People love living on the coast, and one of the most destructive human infrastructure practices is replacing natural shorelines with human-made seawalls.  These walls are often tall, flat, and featureless, making them bad habitat for shore animals and plants. Biodiversity in these areas, of course, declines. In a paper published online today in Oecologia, Gee Chapman and D.J. Blockley did a simple and elegant experiment where they...

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Biomes: Old-school?

A biome has traditionally been defined (broadly and loosely, of course) as an area that has similar plant and animal communities and geologic and climatic structures.  In recent years, the term ecosystem has come to be virtually interchangeable. But Erle Ellis of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County believes that doing ecology by defining biomes is antiquated.  In this video by The Discovery Channel, he proposes instead the...

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