This Mutant Crayfish is All Female and Clones Itself


Click to enlarge

❝ Over the past five years, Dr. Frank Lyko and his colleagues have sequenced the genomes of marbled crayfish. In a study published on Monday, the researchers demonstrate that the marble crayfish, while common, is one of the most remarkable species known to science.

❝ Before about 25 years ago, the species simply did not exist. A single drastic mutation in a single crayfish produced the marbled crayfish in an instant.

The mutation made it possible for the creature to clone itself, and now it has spread across much of Europe and gained a toehold on other continents. In Madagascar, where it arrived about 2007, it now numbers in the millions and threatens native crayfish…

❝ In 2003, scientists confirmed that the marbled crayfish were indeed making clones of themselves. They sequenced small bits of DNA from the animals, which bore a striking similarity to a group of crayfish species called Procambarus, native to North America and Central America.

❝ Thanks to the young age of the species, marbled crayfish could shed light on one of the big mysteries about the animal kingdom: why so many animals have sex…Since they don’t!

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Firehawks


Black Kite

Australia is no stranger to fire: The hardy landscape is adapted to blazes, enduring many thanks to humans and lightning. But Australia’s Aboriginal peoples have long identified a third cause: birds.

❝ In interviews, observations, and ceremonies dating back more than a century, the indigenous peoples of Australia’s Northern Territory maintain that a collective group of birds they call “firehawks” can control fire by carrying burning sticks to new locations in their beaks or talons.

The idea is that these birds of prey use fires to help find food—making easy meals out of insects and other small animals trying to flee the blaze…

❝ The anecdotes, compiled in a recent study published in the Journal of Ethnobiology, may lead some to rethink how fires spread through tropical savannas like those in northern Australia.

Terrific article. Especially including the natural history recorded by onlookers for generations.

Reversal: EPA withdrawing planned giveaway to mining interests in large salmon habitat

❝ In a surprise reversal, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it is withdrawing its plan to suspend environmental protections for an area of Alaska that is home to the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery.

❝ The EPA proposed last year to “reverse clean water safeguards” for the Bristol Bay watershed, paving the way for a massive gold and copper mine to be built in the region.

The controversial proposal would have canceled an EPA protection put in place during the Obama administration. After years of study, the EPA found in 2014 that a mine “would result in complete loss of fish habitat” in some areas of the bay, and that “all of these losses would be irreversible. The Bristol Bay watershed is one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world, supplying about half of the world’s sockeye salmon.

❝ A CNN investigation last fall found that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt ordered his staff to reverse the environmental protection within hours after meeting with the CEO of the mining company, Pebble Limited Partnership.

You really don’t needs reams of study to learn the EPA has become a criminal enterprise – now owned by even sleazier creeps than the last Bush administration.

China selling off oil it no longer needs

The pace at which China exports the fuel it doesn’t want is set to jump by more than four times in 2018, according to the nation’s biggest energy producer.

That’s a harbinger of bad news for processors in the rest of Asia — from South Korea to Japan and India — who now have to contend with higher crude prices as well as the threat of the flood dragging down refining margins. Government-issued quotas to sell oil products abroad may also expand this year in order to ease a large supply glut in the domestic market, an analyst at China National Petroleum Corp. said on Tuesday.

China’s net oil-product exports — a measure that strips out imports — may climb about 31 percent to 46.8 million metric tons this year, CNPC said in its annual report released in Beijing. Shipments rose about 7 percent in 2017.

In particular, exports of diesel — also known as gasoil — are expected to soar 47 percent to 23.8 million tons in 2018 from a year earlier, according to the CNPC report.

Yup. Countries smart enough to walk away from fossil fuels, pollution, economists and politicians with fossilized brains – end up with “problems” like selling off the excess crap they no longer need or want. One of the early results from switching to renewables like wind and solar-generated electricity.

Extinct cave lion cub in perfect condition found in Siberia

❝ The pre-historic animal was found in permafrost on the bank of Tirekhtykh River of the Abyisky district of Yakutia by a local resident Boris Berezhnov.

Excited scientists unveiled the discovery – its facial features clearly visible – in Yakutsk…

❝ The animal was aged around one and a half to two months old when it perished. It is not yet clear whether the cub was male or female.

Expert Dr Albert Protopopov said: ‘It is a perfectly preserved lion cub, all the limbs have survived. There are no traces of external injuries on the skin.’

❝ The preservation is so good that it raises hopes of cloning the species back to life, he said.

RTFA. Terrific photographs. The concept appears to be realistic – but, only research and investigation will tell.

Aaaargh! The Polar vortex is coming, the polar vortex is coming!

Well, it’s coming to where I was born, where I lived [off and on] for decades. Not anymore, man [cue Frank Zappa]

❝ Unforgiving cold has punished the eastern United States for the past 10 days. But the most severe winter weather yet will assault the area Wednesday night into the weekend.

First, a monster ocean storm is taking shape, which pasted parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina with rare ice and snow early Wednesday. By Thursday, the exploding storm will, in many ways, resemble a winter hurricane, battering easternmost New England with potentially damaging winds in addition to blinding snow. Blizzard warnings have been issued for the Virginia Tidewater region up the coast to eastern Maine, including Ocean City, Atlantic City, eastern Long Island, Boston and Portland…

❝ Specific amounts up and down the coast will depend on the exact storm track. If the storm tracks closer to the coast, snow amounts and peak wind gusts will be higher and extend farther west. But if the storm wobbles east, snow amounts as well as peak winds will decrease.

Not much of the Northeast has buried power cables. Expect outages for a spell.

Pretty much anyplace I owned or rented in New England only appealed to me if it had a fireplace. I had sufficient camping gear – including propane-fired lights, etc. – to get me through several days. I could always stay warm and comfy in front of the fireplace.

Old King Coal doesn’t stand a chance

❝ Despite plummeting wholesale electricity prices in some areas of the US as well as essentially flat electricity demand in recent years, natural gas and renewable capacity is still being built…

❝ In 2016, the Energy Information Agency notes, natural gas-fired electric generation in the US increased by 3.4 percent; non-hydroelectric renewables like wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal increased by 15.7 percent; and conventional hydroelectric power grew by 7.5 percent. Coal electric generation, on the other hand, fell by 8.4 percent in 2016.

RTFA for details. Still, unless you believe the rant of fools like Trump, you shouldn’t be surprised.

Ready for the Jellyfish Apocalypse?

❝ The most common Irukandji, Carukia barnesi, are the size of a chickpea, and because they’re colorless, in the ocean they’re more or less invisible. The smaller ones might appear to you as the residue of a sneeze. The Irukandji’s translucent bell, shaped like a tiny boxing glove, trails four tentacles, delicate as cotton thread and about three feet long. The jellyfish’s sting doesn’t hurt overmuch. The pain is perhaps equivalent to a mild static zap from a metal doorknob—hardly even enough to make you want to suck your finger. The C. barnesi does not leave red welts, as other jellyfish do. You might miss the prick of its microscopic, stinging darts. You might think it’s just the start of sunburn.

Worst-case scenario: You’re dead by the following sunset.

RTFA. There are several little quirks like this that add a level of adventure and excitement to ordinary life in Australia I wouldn’t seek out.

French Turn Their Backs on a Century of Oil


I doubt anyone wants drill rigs added to this view

❝ France’s ban on oil drilling could keep 5 billion barrels in the ground. For a country that already imports 99 percent of its oil, France’s decision to end all new oil development and phase out existing projects by 2040 may not seem all that meaningful. The Guardian called it a “largely symbolic gesture.”

But actually, as geoscientist Erik Klemetti noted, France is committing to keeping a massive oil reservoir in the ground. The Paris Basin, a region in northern France, may contain nearly as much underground petroleum as the huge Bakken Formation in North Dakota. Extracting that oil and gas would require extensive fracking.

Klemetti calculates that France could extract 100 years worth of oil for the country by fully exploring the Paris Basin

❝ Instead, France decided to say au revoir to oil and gas altogether.

More power to you. Sun power, wind power, tidal power…and continued good sense guiding the provision of power to your nation.

Climate change a major issue for forestry planning


Ho/The Canadian Press

❝ Canada loses 20 times more forested land to fires and invasive bugs each year than it does to harvesting wood for industry — and Canada’s lumber association says climate change is making it worse.

❝ Derek Nighbor, president of the Forest Products Association of Canada, says he believes developing plans to address the impacts a warming planet is having on Canada’s forests needs to be a priority.

“We spend a lot of time looking back at history and trends but we (have) got to be looking forward and doing some modelling in terms of the warming climate and how do we stay ahead of this so we can ensure healthy forests for the future,”…

❝ Nighbor said Canadians have to take time to figure out what the forest looks like in the future.

How can we ensure a healthy forest, one that balances ecological imperatives, social imperatives, economic opportunities for the country…”

Or they could follow the American model and put a government in charge that couldn’t care less about environmental causes and effects. Especially if that consideration negatively affected profits – short-term – for corporate owners.