Dragonfly migration longest in the world – 14,000+ km roundtrip

Photo by Yogesh Ghadigaonkar

Every year, millions of dragonflies fly thousands of kilometres across the sea from southern India to Africa. So says a biologist in the Maldives, who claims to have discovered the longest migration of any insect.

If confirmed, the mass exodus would be the first known insect migration across open ocean water.

It would also dwarf the famous trip taken each year by Monarch butterflies, which fly just half the distance across the Americas…

Each year, millions of dragonflies arrive on the Maldive Islands, an event which is well known to people living there.

“But no-one I have spoken to knew where they came from,” says Charles Anderson, an independent biologist who usually works with organisations such as the Maldivian Marine Research Centre to survey marine life around the islands…

Anderson noticed the dragonflies after he first arrived in the Maldives in 1983. He started keeping detailed records each year from 1996 and now collates data collected by local observers at other localities in the Maldives, in India and on vessels at sea.

When Anderson compared these observations with those made of dragonflies appearing in southern India, he found a clear progression of arrival dates from north to south, with dragonflies arriving first in southern India, then in the Republic of Maldives’ capital Male, and then on more southern atolls…

The dragonflies are clearly migrating from India across the open sea to the Maldives, says Anderson.

“That by itself is fairly amazing, as it involves a journey of 600 to 800km across the ocean,” he says.

“As there is no freshwater in Maldives for dragonflies, what are they doing here?” asks Anderson.

“I have also deduced that they are flying all the way across the western Indian Ocean to East Africa.”

Apparently…the dragonflies take advantage of the moving weather systems and monsoon rains to complete an epic migration from southern India to east and southern Africa, and then likely back again, a round trip of 14,000 to 18,000km.

“The species involved breeds in temporary rainwater pools. So it is following the rains, taking sequential advantage of the monsoon rains of India, the short rains of East Africa, the summer rains of southern Africa, the long rains of East Africa, and then back to India for the next monsoon,” says Anderson.

It may seem remarkable that such a massive migration has gone unnoticed until now. But this just illustrates how little we still know about the natural world.”

RTFA. I will look around for more detailed info – probably from Anderson. If you have more to add – please do.

Miserable, low-life, crooked scum of the week!

Urban recliner accessories

Willbert Weeks was 4 years old when he lost his legs as a result of severe burns.

Early this morning, the 66-year-old Englewood resident lost his legs a second time — at the hands of two thieves who broke in to his home, pistol-whipped him and stole his prosthetic legs.

“They hit me in the head with a pistol, snatched my legs and ran out,” he said.

The suspects got away. But Weeks’ legs were recovered, undamaged, in an alley near his house.

Chicago police say Weeks told them he was watching a Discovery Channel program on volcanoes when a male and female, between 15 and 18 years old and both around 5 feet tall and 110 pounds, entered his bedroom.

After hitting Weeks and grabbing his legs and identification card, the pair ran out the back door, police said.

A good reason to keep a gun near your favorite TV chair – apparently, if you live around Chicago.

If you’re not afraid of losing your temper and shooting the TV set.

Tossing the bride’s bouquet brings down plane!

Try something without an engine next time

The traditional throwing of a bride’s bouquet for luck ended in disaster at an Italian wedding when the flowers caused a plane to crash.

The bride and groom had hired a small plane to fly past and throw the bouquet to a line of women guests, Corriere della Sera reported. However, the flowers were sucked into the plane’s engine causing it to catch fire and explode.

The aircraft plunged into a hostel. One passenger on the plane was badly hurt.

But about 50 people who had been in the hostel escaped unscathed, as did the pilot…

A passenger on the aircraft, named as Isidoro Pensieri, 44, had the job of throwing the bouquet as pilot Luciano Nannelli flew past…

Ms Pensieri suffered multiple fractures and a head injury. She was taken to hospital in Grosseto by helicopter and then transferred to another in Pisa, Italian media reported.

No one tried to throw anything out of the helicopter. As far as we know.

iPhone App Store hits 1.5 billion downloads in first year

Apple marked the first birthday of its App Store and noted the following about what is becoming a business model moat in the wireless business:

* 1.5 billion apps downloaded;
* 65,000 apps;
* An army of 100,000 iPhone developers.

Jobs indirectly noted a laundry list of rivals—Research in Motion, Nokia, Android, Microsoft and Palm primarily—all trying to replicate the App Store. Jobs said:

“With 1.5 billion apps downloaded, it is going to be very hard for others to catch up.”

The App Store is one of the primary reasons that the iPhone has been a hit. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster on Tuesday said that Apple is likely to deliver better-than-expected iPhone sales for its June quarter…

The big picture here is that the App Store has rewritten the rules in the wireless business and Jobs knows it. Apple has first mover advantage and isn’t likely to ease up. As Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett noted Apple has been very disruptive to the wireless industry and the fun is just beginning.

The industry tug of war will revolve around devices and carriers as dumb pipes. Indeed, consumers are increasingly thinking of their smartphone as application delivery devices more than handheld for email and phone calls. The vendors that make apps easy will win. Wireless carriers see the shifts coming and some such as Verizon Wireless are already playing around with an application marketplace, according to GigaOm.

Simply put, carriers have no desire to be a dumb pipe to deliver access. Apple’s march could easily relegate carriers to dumb pipe status. It’s an interesting development that will take years to play out.

I suppose I can chuckle more than most over this. I’m completely outside this particular market since I moved to telecommuting before I trundled along into retiree status. Outside of the blogs and politics I’m involved with.

My cellphone use is minimal. Landline is gone. Skype provides basic communications. And I’ll never be a gamer.

But, the technology – hardware and software – is fascinating.

Exxon investing $600 million in making biofuel from algae

Need I repeat myself? Greentech will succeed when and where it’s profitable.

The oil giant Exxon Mobil, whose chief executive once mocked alternative energy by referring to ethanol as “moonshine,” is about to venture into biofuels.

On Tuesday, Exxon plans to announce an investment of $600 million in producing liquid transportation fuels from algae — organisms in water that range from pond scum to seaweed. The biofuel effort involves a partnership with Synthetic Genomics, a biotechnology company founded by the genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter.

Another venture founded in science and technology that papier-mache pundits lampooned as unrealistic and too far ahead of its time.

Despite the widely publicized “moonshine” remark a few years ago by Exxon’s chairman and chief executive, Rex W. Tillerson, the company has spent several years exploring various fuel alternatives, according to one of its top research officials.

“We literally looked at every option we could think of, with several key parameters in mind,” said Emil Jacobs, vice president for research and development at Exxon’s research and engineering unit. “Scale was the first. For transportation fuels, if you can’t see whether you can scale a technology up, then you have to question whether you need to be involved at all.”

He added, “I am not going to sugarcoat this — this is not going to be easy.” Any large-scale commercial plants to produce algae-based fuels are at least 5 to 10 years away, Dr. Jacobs said.

Continue reading

In Afghanistan, attacking from the air with a bit more care

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission


After taking repeated fire from Taliban fighters holed up in a building last week, a group of American Marines in southern Afghanistan called in airstrikes to wipe out the threat.

But the Navy F/A-18 fighter pilots who responded worried that bombing the militants could hurt civilians, and suggested a different solution to the ground troops. The airmen then roared in low and fast, without firing a shot, in a deafening pass that frightened the militants into silence.

“It used to be, where do you want the bomb?” said Capt. Thomas P. Lalor, the commander of the air wing on this aircraft carrier, which provides about one-third of the combat support flights for American ground forces in Afghanistan. “Now, it’s much more collaborative.”

The adjustment reflects orders last month by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the new United States commander in Afghanistan, that sharply limit the use of airstrikes to try to reduce the civilian deaths that he and other top officers said were eroding support for the American-led mission.

General McChrystal said the use of airstrikes during firefights would in most cases be limited to when American and other allied troops were in danger of being overrun…

“It makes our judgments more important,” said Cmdr. Art delaCruz, 41, the commander of another squadron, VFA-22, of the new caution. “There’s a saying that the most important bomb is the one you bring back.”

For the air wing aboard, the 125 combat missions flown over Afghanistan in its first week here have a familiar feel. The same carrier and its aircraft were on duty here for nearly four months starting in August and conducted 1,150 combat missions supporting troops in Afghanistan. The commanders said there had been no reports of civilian casualties from any of the missions.

RTFA. That last sentence in the last paragraph says a lot about the skill and talent of the pilots flying those missions.

It’s only a guess – and the Feds would croak if it was a good guess – but, I think I know at least one of the cowboys riding herd on this exercise and I have all the confidence in the world in his ability and judgment. We disagree all the time about politics and agree surprisingly often on how to run a war.

Hope he makes it home to his wife and kids, real soon.

FDA proposes limits for antibiotics in U.S. livestock


The Food and Drug Administration believes antibiotics should be used on livestock only to cure or prevent disease and not to promote growth, a common use.

Principal deputy FDA commissioner Joshua Sharfstein said restrictions on livestock use would reduce the opportunity for bacteria to develop resistance to drugs used by humans.

Critics of the heavy antibiotic use in livestock, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, estimate 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used on food animals, mostly in tiny doses that promote weight gain or more efficient feed consumption…

“Purposes other than for the advancement of animal or human health should not be considered judicious use” and not allowed, Sharfstein said in a statement for a House hearing. “Eliminating these uses will not compromise the safety of food.

“FDA also believes that the use of medications for prevention and control should be under the supervision of a veterinarian,” he said. This would mean no over-the-counter sales of antibiotics to farmers and ranchers.

Sharfstein told reporters afterward that his testimony was a statement of FDA principles. He said there was no administration or FDA position on a bill that would phase out nontherapeutic use in livestock of seven classes of antibiotics — penicillins, tetracyclines, macrolides, lincosamides, streptogramins, aminoglycosides, sulfonamides — and any other drug used to treat bacterial illness in people.

Identical phase-out bills were filed in the House and Senate on March 17 but have languished. The hearing on Monday by the House Rules Committee was the first in either chamber.

They’re still in the “my lobbyist said this” versus “your lobbyist said that” stage of considering legislation in Congress, of course.

Wouldn’t it be a pleasant switch if our Congress-critters considered our well-being to be as important as their after-Congress careers.