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Ocean plastic a 'planetary crisis' – UN

Ocean plastic a 'planetary crisis' – UN

Science
Life in the seas risks irreparable damage from a rising tide of plastic waste, the UN oceans chief has warned.Lisa Svensson said governments, firms and individual people must act far more quickly to halt plastic pollution."This is a planetary crisis," she said. "In a few short decades since we discovered the convenience of plastics, we are ruining the ecosystem of the ocean." She was speaking to BBC News ahead of a UN environment summit in Nairobi.Delegates at the meeting want tougher action against plastic litter.Ms Svensson had just been saddened by a Kenyan turtle hospital which treats animals that have ingested waste plastic.She saw a juvenile turtle named Kai, brought in by fishermen a month ago because she was floating on the sea surface.Plastic waste was immediately suspected, becau...
Gorillas can learn to clean food on their own, without social cues

Gorillas can learn to clean food on their own, without social cues

Science
Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Gorillas don't need to witnesses others cleaning their food to adopt the behavior. They can learn it on their own -- spontaneously.Many of the gorilla's abilities are thought to be socially acquired, including food cleaning behavior. But during a series of tests, researchers found gorillas cleaned sand from a dirty apple 75 percent of the time."In four of our five gorillas, at least one of the techniques for cleaning was similar to that observed in the wild," Damien Neadle, a researcher at the University of Birmingham, said in a news release. "Given that these two groups are culturally unconnected, it suggests that social learning is not required for this behavior to emerge."Scientists suggest their findings -- published this week in the journal PLoS One -- don't diminish t...
Warm rock rising deep beneath New England, seismic study reveals

Warm rock rising deep beneath New England, seismic study reveals

Science
Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Deep beneath New England, a giant mass of warm rock is slowly but steadily rising toward the surface. The revelation undermines some of what scientists thought they understand about plate tectonics and the geology of the mantle."The upwelling we detected is like a hot air balloon, and we infer that something is rising up through the deeper part of our planet under New England," researcher Vadim Levin, a geophysicist and professor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said in a news release.The mass of rock is not on the scale of Yellowstone. It measures a couple hundred miles across, and though it may one day form a new volcanic system, it is unlikely to yield an eruption for millions of years.Scientists were first alerted to something peculiar after noticing a temperature a...
Fishing nets pose grave threat to New Zealand's yellow-eyed penguin

Fishing nets pose grave threat to New Zealand's yellow-eyed penguin

Science
Dec. 1 (UPI) -- New research details the threat posed to New Zealand's hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguin, by fishing nets. Scientists at the University of Otago argue the problem warrants immediate government action.Researchers conducted a review of the human threats facing the iconic penguin species. They found set nets, or gillnets, kill the most yellow-eyed penguins each year.Some 330 commercial fishing boats deploy the walls of thin, nylon nets in the waters surrounding New Zealand."Diving birds like penguins are unable to see the fine mesh underwater, and become entangled and drown," Dr. Ursula Ellenberg said in a news release.During the last two decades, the hoiho population has declined 76 percent. Only 246 breeding pairs remain on New Zealand's South Island.On land, local groups have w...
Mosquitoes transmit dengue virus more frequently when temperatures rise

Mosquitoes transmit dengue virus more frequently when temperatures rise

Science
Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Mosquitoes are more likely to transmit dengue virus on warmer days, according to new research published Friday in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.The findings suggest health officials should consider weather forecasts when working to prevent and respond to outbreaks of the mosquito-borne disease."If the outdoor temperature is high for a sustained period, dengue prevention strategies should be a priority," Xiao-Guang Chen, a scientist at the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, said in a news release.In the summer of 2014, Guangzhou experienced a significant outbreak of dengue fever. The outbreak coincided with several months of hot weather, with an average high of 86 degrees Fahrenheit.Scientists suspected the weather might have something to do with the ou...