Animals, Discoveries

World’s rarest whale, thought to be extinct, beached on New Zealand

Spade Toothed Whale Morphology

The first recollection of the spade-toothed whale came in 1872, but no actual proof of its existence has been found ever since. Recently, biologists were dumbstruck when they heard not one, but two specimens of the highly elusive whale species beached on the shores of New Zealand. Unfortunately the two whales, mother and cub, died however scientists have learned a great deal about this beautiful whale. Like I said, no one previously has ever seen a live specimen of the spade-toothed whale, and if they had they probably mistook it for some other species.  A partial skull found in New Zealand in the 1950′s and one in Chile in 1986 provided…

Climate, Environmental Issues, Research

Trigger for Earth’s last ‘big freeze’ located by geoscientists

A new model of flood waters from melting of the Laurentide Ice Sheet and large glacial lakes along its edge that covered much of North America from the Arctic south to New England over 13,000 years ago, shows the meltwater flowed northwest into the Arctic first. This weakened deep ocean circulation and led to Earth’s last major cold period.The direction of meltwater drainage is shown by the yellow arrows. The approximate position of the ice sheet is shown (in white) just before the onset of the Younger Dryas. The ocean colors are surface salinity from the control integration with warm (cold) surface currents shown in red (blue). (c) Alan Condron, UMass Amhers

Some 12,900 years ago, a massive flood of melted freshwater in the Arctic caused a 1,200-year-long chill nicknamed the “Big Freeze.” During this time much of the Northern Hemisphere was engulfed by centuries of cold, which caused the extinction of most great mammals, like mammoths, as well as the Clovis people. For decades, scientists have been debating from where and how did the freshwater flood flow. Now, a team of scientists may have finally reached a conclusion after they devised a computer model. Technically known as the Younger Dryas, this specific period wasn’t a glacial period or what’s commonly referred to as an “ice age”, since it was a cold…

Animals, Biology

How animals hold elections – democracy isn’t an exclusive human social trait

queenbees-honeybees

Elections in the States are currently topping headlines all over the world, as people debate over their favorite candidate and the direction this country is heading towards. Still, as always, elections seemed to be plagued by scandals, lies or manipulation. Yes, democracy is far from being perfect, the alternatives aren’t any better either. I don’t mean to stir into politics, especially on a science blog, however progress, one of the main aims of science along with absolute truth, is directly dependent on social structure. So, how can we improve democracy? It’s never a bad idea to return to the roots of things and see what we can pick up. No,…

Animals, Environment

Researchers find contamination in Canadian oilsands operation, but aren’t allowed to talk about it

fish tumour

Researchers from Environment Canada (EC) and the University of Alberta have published a study in which they showed contaminants accumulated in the snow near oilsands operations, despite what oil companies are claiming. They also discovered contaminants in precipitation from testing in the region.   Perhaps even more disturbing is that fact that researchers were discouraged to talk about their results, according to an internal federal document. This was first obvious at a November 2011 conference in Boston, where the results were first published. “EC’s research conducted during winter 2010-11 confirms results already published by the University of Alberta that show contaminants in snow in the oilsands area,” said a background…

Nanotechnology, Renewable Energy

First all-carbon solar cell promises to lower industry cost

This shows the new all-carbon solar cell consists of a photoactive layer, which absorbs sunlight, sandwiched between two electrodes. Credit: Mark Shwartz / Stanford University

Scientists at Stanford University have successfully devised the world’s first solar cell made entirely out of carbon. This alternative to typical silicon solar panels is not only a lot cheaper to produce, but also a lot less simpler to use. Such carbon cells can be coated on any surface and turn it into a solar panel, be it windows, roof tops and so on. “Carbon has the potential to deliver high performance at a low cost,” said study senior author Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a working solar cell that has all of the…

Animals, Offbeat

Half-black, half-orange lobster discovered and on display, just in time for Halloween

This image released by the New England Aquarium shows a one-pound female lobster, known as a "split," that was caught by a Massachusetts fisherman last week and arrived at the aquarium in Boston, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. Officials say such rare Halloween coloration is estimated to occur once in every 50 million lobsters. (AP Photo/New England Aquarium, Emily Bauernseind)

I swear this isn’t some practical joke for Halloween. Massachusetts fisherman recently caught a highly peculiar lobster with a genetic anomaly which caused it to have one half colored in black, and the other in orange. According to the New England Aquarium, this kind of  coloring isn’t entirely unheard of, but it happens once in every 50 million lobsters. Splits, which are lobsters with colors split down the middle, have been caught in Maine, Rhode Island and Nova Scotia over the last decade. Scientists believe this is the result of a complete cellular split when a lobster egg is fertilised. Whatever’s the case, the female lobster just had human curiosity for oddity to…

Environment, Renewable Energy

Coal energy slowly becoming more expensive than wind

wind-turbine-2

I recently came across a great article written in the Washington Post which really gives some insight about the economics behind wind power and coal power. If you happen to listen to the more politicized or economic discussions, you’ll probably notice that the ball is thrown into the field of natural gas: many believe that low fortune of coal companies is caused by the low costs of natural gas, which convinced many industries to opt for them, but that’s not entirely true: the cost of mining coal has been going up. Why is this happening? I mean, the US are often regarded as the Saudi Arabia of coal, with resources…

Animals

‘Penis worm’ pokes holes in 100 year-old theory

The largest branch of animals in the tree of lifes are the protostomes – historically defined by the order in which they develop a mouth and an anus as embryos. But new gene-expression data conducted on “penis worms” suggests otherwise. The mouth and the anus Biologists will have to rename and rethink the protostomes, explains Andreas Hejnol, an evolutionary developmental biologist at the University of Bergen in Norway and lead author on the report: “we need to rethink how our earliest ancestors developed”, he explains. Even the tiniest differences in embryonic evolution can lead to monumental changes in adults; the best example is when an embryonic ball of cells formed…

Climate, Space

Aging satellite fleet could leave weather forecast in the dark

Weather satellite

In the wake of the Sandy hurricane, which is currently still sweeping through North America’s east coast, weather forecasting has suddenly become a subject of major interest. It shouldn’t take natural disasters, which are getting more and more frequent unfortunately, to spark interest in this matter of grave importance. Despite this, funding for space geosciences, mainly responsible for launching and operating weather satellites, has been drastically cut down in the past decade. The effects are starting to show now as NASA’s weather satellite fleet aged. Experts warn that some weather observations could be become at best incomplete in the coming years if the current trend is maintained. GOES-East, short for Geostationary Operational…

Animals

9 colorful, tree dwelling, extremely small tarantulas found in Brazil

tree tarantulas

Biologists working in Brazil have discovered nine new species of orange, purple and pink tarantulas lurking around in the trees. The haul of new spider species came from a lengthy study conducted in the Amazon by tarantula specialist Dr Rogerio Bertani of the Instituto Butantan in Sao Paulo. He described these new findings in the ZooKeys magazine. “These are the smallest arboreal tarantulas in the world, and their analysis suggests the genus to be very old, so they can be considered relicts of a formerly more widely distributed taxon.”, he said. “Instead of the seven species formerly known in the region, we now have 16,” Bertani added. Read more: http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2012/10/30/New-tree-dwelling-tarantulas-described/UPI-90391351640008/#ixzz2AtzTCKl3…