Posts about nature

Friday Fun: Octopus Walks on Land

Just a fun video for your Friday. Octopuses are really very cool. Not quite as cool as cats but way up there in the realm of cool animals. Octopuses, octopi and octopodes are all acceptable words for plural of octopus?

A few year ago (2008) I posted about another very cool octopus, who liked to juggling fellow aquarium occupants.

I think I will devote more time to learning about octopuses and posting more about them.

Related: Hydromedusae, Siphonophora, Cnidarians, CtenophoresCritter Cam: Sea Lion versus OctopusRed octopus at a brine lake beneath the sea

Nature Uses Stem Cells from Fetus to Repair Health of Mother

Science shows us so many amazing things. Scientists have learned mice use stem cells from the fetus to repair damage to the mother in the event of things like heart attacks. And there is evidence people do the same thing. Very cool. Nature beat us to the idea of using stem cells to treat health problems.

Helpful Mouse Fetuses Naturally Send Stem Cells to Mom to Fix Her Damaged Heart

When the scientists examined the female mice’s heart tissue two weeks after the heart attacks, they found lots of glowing green tissue—cells that came from the fetus—in the mom’s heart. Mice who had heart attacks had eight times as many cells from the fetus in their hearts as mice who hadn’t had a heart attack did, meaning the high volume of fetal cells was a response to the heart attack.

What’s more, the embryo’s stem cells had differentiated into various types of heart tissue, including cardiomyocytes, the rhythmically contracting muscle cells that produce a heartbeat.

The hearts of two women who suffered from severe heart weakness were later found to contain cells derived from the cells of a male fetus years after they gave birth to their sons.

The same thing seems to hold true for other organs. When pregnant women have damage in other organs, including the brain, lung, and liver, earlier studies have shown, fetal cells show up there, too.

It makes sense for a fetus to try and aid the mother but it is amazing the evolution found such solutions. Given how many challenges the fetus creates for the mother giving some benefits can help increase the odds of a health birth.

Related: Researchers Explain How Rotifers Thrive Despite Forgoing SexMaking Embryonic Stem CellsStructure and Function of RibosomeWhy People Often Get Sicker When They’re Stressed

Backyard Wildlife: Bears

Here is a video of some bears wandering around in a backyard. This was the first time the owner saw bears in their backyard. The bears found a great source of food in the apple tree. It is exciting to see nature in our own backyards. Though admittedly most people could would rather have nature be limited to animals that cannot harm them or their family.

photo of a black bear in an apple tree

Black bear in an apple tree in a Ashville, North Carolina yard.

Related: The Cat and a Black BearFriday Fun: Mother Bear Rescues Cub From a TreeBackyard Wildlife: FoxBear Defeats Combination Bear Lock

Large Crabs Invading Antarctic as Waters Warm

photo of giant red king crab

Giant red king crabs

Large crabs are invading the Antarctic environment and due to their numbers and practices could cause havoc. They look yummy though. And eating them would be doing nature a favor unlike the overfishing of the oceans. Abstract of the open access article, A large population of king crabs in Palmer Deep on the west Antarctic Peninsula shelf and potential invasive impacts:

Lithodid crabs (and other skeleton-crushing predators) may have been excluded from cold Antarctic continental shelf waters for more than 14 Myr [million years]. The west Antarctic Peninsula shelf is warming rapidly and has been hypothesized to be soon invaded by lithodids. A remotely operated vehicle survey in Palmer Deep, a basin 120 km onto the Antarctic shelf, revealed a large, reproductive population of lithodids, providing the first evidence that king crabs have crossed the Antarctic shelf. DNA sequencing and morphology indicate the lithodid is Neolithodes yaldwyni Ahyong & Dawson, previously reported only from Ross Sea waters. We estimate a N. yaldwyni population density of 10 600 km−2 and a population size of 1.55 × 106 in Palmer Deep, a density similar to lithodid populations of commercial interest around Alaska and South Georgia. The lithodid occurred at depths of more than 850 m and temperatures of more than 1.4°C in Palmer Deep, and was not found in extensive surveys of the colder shelf at depths of 430–725 m. Where N. yaldwyni occurred, crab traces were abundant, megafaunal diversity reduced and echinoderms absent, suggesting that the crabs have major ecological impacts. Antarctic Peninsula shelf waters are warming at approximately 0.01°C yr−1; if N. yaldwyni is currently limited by cold temperatures, it could spread up onto the shelf (400–600 m depths) within 1–2 decades. The Palmer Deep N. yaldwyni population provides an important model for the potential invasive impacts of crushing predators on vulnerable Antarctic shelf ecosystems.

Related: Giant Star Fish and More in Antarctica2,000 Species New to Science (600 of them crabs) from One IslandAntarctic Fish “Hibernate” in Winter

Fun Webcast from WWF: Astonish Me

Made in celebration of the World Wildlife Fund‘s 50th anniversary.

Related: Macropinna Microstoma: Fish with a Transparent Head1,000 Species Discovered in Greater Mekong in Last Decade2,000 Species New to Science from One Remote IslandWorld’s Smallest Snake Found in Barbados

Evolution in New York City Wildlife

Evolution Right Under Our Noses by Carl Zimmer

White-footed mice, stranded on isolated urban islands, are evolving to adapt to urban stress. Fish in the Hudson have evolved to cope with poisons in the water. Native ants find refuge in the median strips on Broadway. And more familiar urban organisms, like bedbugs, rats and bacteria, also mutate and change in response to the pressures of the metropolis. In short, the process of evolution is responding to New York and other cities the way it has responded to countless environmental changes over the past few billion years. Life adapts.

Dr. Wirgin and his colleagues were intrigued to discover that the Hudson’s population of tomcod, a bottom-dwelling fish, turned out to be resistant to PCBs. “There was no effect on them at all,” Dr. Wirgin said, “and we wanted to know why.”

In March, he and his colleagues reported that almost all the tomcod in the Hudson share the same mutation in a gene called AHR2. PCBs must first bind to the protein encoded by AHR2 to cause damage. The Hudson River mutation makes it difficult for PCBs to grab onto the receptor, shielding the fish from the chemical’s harm.

The AHR2 mutation is entirely missing from tomcod that live in northern New England and Canada. A small percentage of tomcod in Long Island and Connecticut carry the mutation. Dr. Wirgin and his colleagues concluded that once PCBs entered the Hudson, the mutant gene spread quickly.

Carl Zimmer again does a good job of explaining science in an engaging way. It is interesting to learn about science and evolution in urban environments. Lots of life manages to survive the challenges of urban life and it is interesting to learn what scientists are finding about that life.

Related: Trying to Find Pest Solutions While Hoping Evolution Doesn’t Exist Doesn’t WorkMicrocosm by Carl ZimmerNew Yorkers Help Robot Find Its Way in the Big CityParasite RexBackyard Wildlife: Great Spreadwing Damselfly

Hydromedusae, Siphonophora, Cnidarians, Ctenophores

Jellyfish is a common name for gelatinous water dwelling animals. The diversity of these invertebrates is amazing. And what actually counts as a jellyfish is not easy to determine. Watch this great video to learn about Cnidarians, Urochordata, Polychaetes and Ctenophores.

Related: Darwin’s JellyfishesOcean LifeCritter Cam: Sea Lion versus OctopusImage of Map Showing Concentration of Life in Oceans

Image of Map Showing Concentration of Life in Oceans

Image showing regions of life in the oceans

This image shows the abundance of life in the sea, measured by the SeaWiFS instrument aboard the Seastar satellite. Dark blue represents warmer areas where there is little life due to lack of nutrients, and greens and reds represent cooler nutrient-rich areas.

The nutrient-rich areas include coastal regions where cold water rises from the sea floor bringing nutrients along and areas at the mouths of rivers where the rivers have brought nutrients into the ocean from the land. NASA has posted a large gallery of great images for Earth Day.

Related: Altered Oceans: the Crisis at SeaMicrobes Beneath the Sea FloorA single Liter of Seawater Can Hold More Than One Billion Microorganisms

Backyard Wildlife: Robins Attack Holly Tree

photo of robin in a holly tree

Robins like to attack my holly tree and feed on the berries. Getting photos of them is hard but there are lots of them flying around all excited (I did manage to catch one of them in the photo on the left). This tree was actually here when I moved in but I also do try to nurture and add plants that feed wildlife. I like just planting things that will feed and shelter birds (and others) rather than filling bird feeders myself. There is information on how to use your backyard to promote wildlife.

Related: Backyard Wildlife: CrowsBackyard Wildlife: HawkBackyard Wildlife: Fox

Backyard Wildlife: Walking Leaf

photo of insect that looks like a leaf

See some more great photos of the hike on Penang Island in Malaysia, from the Capturing Penang blog.

Related: Backyard Wildlife: FoxBackyard Wildlife: Great Spreadwing DamselflyBackyard Wildlife: Turtle










Volleyball Sized Hail

photo of volleyball sized hail

On July 23, 2010, a severe thunderstorm struck Vivian, South Dakota, USA, a quiet rural community of less than 200. While there was nothing unusual about a violent summer storm, the softball (and larger)-sized hail that accompanied it was extraordinary. In fact, it led to the discovery of the largest hailstone ever recorded in the United States.

Once the thunderstorm passed, Vivian resident Les Scott ventured outside to see if there was any damage as a result of the storm. He was surprised to see a tremendous number of large hailstones on the ground, including one about the size of a volleyball. Scott gathered up that stone, along with a few smaller ones, and placed them in his freezer.

How does hail form?

  • Inside of a thunderstorm are strong updrafts of warm air and downdrafts of cold air.
  • If a water droplet is picked up by the updrafts…it can be carried well into colder zones and the water droplet freezes.
  • As the frozen droplet begins to fall, carried by cold downdrafts, it may partially thaw as it moves into warmer air toward the bottom of the thunderstorm
  • But, if the little half-frozen droplet get picked up again by another updraft and is carried back into very cold air it will re-freeze. With each trip above and below the freezing level our frozen droplet adds another layer of ice.
  • Finally, the frozen hail, with many layers of ice, much like the rings in a tree falls to the ground.

According to NOAA, the Kansas City hail storm on April 10, 2001 was the costliest hail storm in the U.S. which caused damages of an estimated $2 billion.

Image from NOAA

Related: 500 Year FloodsClouds Alive With BacteriaRare “Rainbow” Over IdahoWhy is it Colder at Higher Elevations?

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