News That Matters

Science

Even hefty shark pups struggle on degraded reefs

Even hefty shark pups struggle on degraded reefs

Science
Sept. 17 (UPI) -- It's better to be born small and grow up around healthy coral reefs than born big and be relegated to degraded reefs. According to a new study, bigger, heavier shark pups that live near struggling reefs fare worse than their smaller peers living near healthy reefs. In the battle of genes versus nature, the influence of nature wins out. For the study, researchers followed the growth patterns of two populations of newborn reef sharks: one living near St. Joseph atoll in the Seychelles and the other living near Moorea, a French Polynesian island northwest of Tahiti. "We found that although shark pups are born larger, heavier and better conditioned in Moorea, they soon lost their physical advantage over the pups in St. Joseph," Jodie Rummer, a scientist with the ARC Center ...
World’s biggest amphibian ‘discovered’ in museum

World’s biggest amphibian ‘discovered’ in museum

Science
A newly-identified amphibian is possibly the largest on the planet, according to DNA from museum specimens.Reaching nearly two metres in length, the South China giant salamander is critically endangered in the wild.Scientists say renewed conservation efforts are needed if the animal is to be saved from extinction.Harvesting for the luxury food trade has led to a collapse in numbers across China.Previously considered a single species, analysis of specimens, living and dead, suggests there are in fact three species found in different parts of China.The South China salamander is the largest of the three, which researchers suspect it is the largest amphibian alive today.Prof Samuel Turvey of ZSL (Zoological Society of London) said th...
Climate signature detected in Earth’s rivers

Climate signature detected in Earth’s rivers

Science
Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Scientists have found a climate signature in the planet's rivers. Climate dictates many of Earth's geologic and hydrological systems, but scientists have struggled to pinpoint the influence of climate on the formation of rivers. Now, researchers have uncovered evidence suggesting climate controls the elevational profile of rivers across the globe. An elevational profile, or long profile, is formed by tracing a river from its headwaters to its mouth. Most rivers fall steeply from the uplands before flattening in the lowlands. The pattern produces a concave up shape. Less common is a straight long profile, which if formed by a river that descends evenly in elevation, like a ramp from mountain to sea. The latest analysis suggests the long profiles of rivers in humid region...
Faster pace of climate change is ‘scary’, former chief scientist says

Faster pace of climate change is ‘scary’, former chief scientist says

Science
Extreme events linked to climate change, such as the heatwave in Europe this year, are occurring sooner than expected, an ex-chief scientist says.Prof Sir David King says he's been scared by the number of extreme events, and he called for the UK to advance its climate targets by 10 years.But the UN's weather chief said using words like “scared” could make young people depressed and anxious.Campaigners argue that people won't act unless they feel fearful.Speaking to the BBC, Prof King, a former chief scientific adviser to the government, said: “It’s appropriate to be scared. We predicted temperatures would rise, but we didn’t foresee these sorts of extreme events we’re getting so soon.”Several other scientists contacted by the BBC
Wasps: If you can’t love them, at least admire them

Wasps: If you can’t love them, at least admire them

Science
Want to know the best way to kill a cockroach?Well, first inject some powerful neurotoxins directly into its brain. This will make the bug compliant; it won't try to fly away and will bend to your will.Second, slice off one of its antennae and drink the goo that comes out. For snack purposes, you understand.And then lead it off to your lair by the stump, like a dog on a leash. You're going to bury this zombie in a hole in the ground.But just before you close up the tomb, lay an egg on the bug. Your progeny can have the joy of eating it alive.Dr Gavin Broad relishes these stories about how wasps will parasitise other critters. He's the principal curator in charge of insect collections at London's...