City moths evolve to avoid light pollution


Ermine moth, Yponomeuta cagnagella

The globally increasing light pollution has negative effects on organisms and entire ecosystems. The consequences are especially hard on nocturnal insects, since their attraction to artificial light sources generally ends fatal. A new study by Swiss zoologists from the Universities of Basel and Zurich now shows that urban moths have learned to avoid light…

Some insects are attracted by light while others shy away from it. Proverbial is the attraction light has on moths. Street lamps and other artificial light sources often become death traps for nocturnal insects such as moths. Either they die through direct burning or through increased exposure to predators. Mortality of urban insects can thus be 40- to 100- fold higher than in rural populations.

Artificial light affects the ecosystem of insects by interfering with their natural day-night cycle and influencing behavior patterns such as feeding and reproduction. Swiss Zoologists have now studied whether moths in the Basel region have already evolutionary adapted to the changed light conditions.

Under the assumption that natural selection would favor moths with less propensity to fly to light in urban areas, the researchers examined the small ermine moth Yponomeuta cagnagella. For the experiment they collected larvae in the Basel region in areas with low light pollution such as the village Kleinlützel and in areas which have been exposed to heavy light pollution, such as Allschwil or Basel City.

The researchers then analyzed the flight-to-light behavior of almost 1050 adult moths in the lab. The results show: moths from populations that have been exposed to heavy light pollution over generations have a significantly lower propensity to move towards light sources than individuals from areas with low light pollution. Furthermore the study shows that in both types of populations the female moths were attracted to light significantly less then their male counterparts.

The study results suggest that natural selection has changed the animals’ behavior. Flight-to-light propensity is disadvantageous for moths in light polluted areas. Adapted moths avoid the light and thus have a survival advantage.

Of course, moths haven’t any politicians, pundits or priests telling them it’s OK to fly into the light because…”my invisible god says we must!”

British University testing drones to hunt for landmines


Landmine-hunting drone

Landmines never stop waiting. The simple machines are explosives with triggers, set in the ground primed and ready for someone to set them off. For landmines, the war never ends. For humans, war does, and the landmines that once marked the front line between warring factions can change instead to deadly artifacts, a lethal trap for anyone who wanders unknowingly into danger. Getting rid of landmines is a humanitarian concern. To solve it, scientists from the University of Bristol are enlisting the help of drones.

One of the major dangers with landmines is that, while they’re waiting in the ground to blow up, the vegetation around them isn’t, and after a few seasons, plants can grow over the bombs, hiding them from human eyes. But there are other ways to detect them, says John Day of Bristol’s School of Physics:

Living plants have a very distinctive reflection in the near infrared spectrum, just beyond human vision, which makes it possible to tell how healthy they are. Chemicals in landmines leak out and are often absorbed by plants, causing abnormalities. Looking for these changes might be a way of discovering the whereabouts of mines…

The project is sponsored by Find A Better Way, a British charity dedicated to finding, well, a better way to get rid of landmines.

Nice to see drones used for something on behalf of humanity.

Quakes from Japan to Ecuador may signal a Mega-Quake coming


Boulder believed carried half-mile inland by prehistoric mega-tsunami

Geological experts from the United States and elsewhere noted Saturday that the earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador occurred along the Ring of Fire, which is a long chain of volcanoes and other tectonically active structures surrounding the Pacific.

This inevitably means that the two powerful earthquakes that rattled both Japan on Friday and Ecuador on Saturday are connected…

According to Roger Bilham, it’s not over yet. He insists the quakes in Ecuador and Japan are only an omen of bigger earthquakes to come. Also, quakes were reported this last week in the Philippines, Vanuatu and Myanmar. All countries hit by the recent quakes are on the Ring of Fire.

Bilham, a seismologist at the University of Colorado, told The Daily Express, “The current conditions might trigger at least four earthquakes greater than 8.0 in magnitude.”…

Bilham referenced the series of powerful earthquakes which struck Asia and South America in the past week and he said these will likely be followed by what he called a “mega” earthquake in the near future. He fell short of predicting when.

But he did say that if the mega quakes continue to be delayed, “the strain accumulated during the centuries provokes more catastrophic ‘mega’ earthquakes.”

The U.S. Geological Survey said “’mega’ earthquakes are rare, but not impossible.” The institute added that the Ring of Fire is an area where shifting plates that make up the earth’s crusts meet and is capable of generating a magnitude 10 earthquake, which would be tremendously devastating.

Oral history records – and geologic and archaeological evidence verifies trans-pacific tsunamis from mega events. Enormous tidal waves several stories high that swept across the Pacific affecting coastlines for miles inland. Except that in those prehistoric epochs there weren’t dozens of cities grown and clustered along those coastlines feeding the commerce of North and South America, Asia and the Pacific Islands. And tens of millions of people.