This video is a slow burn, but it’s mesmerizing. This stick insect, painstakingly extruding itself from its egg, is an individual from one of the most endangered insect species on Earth. Given how long it takes for this one to get free, you can get a sense of how devastating it was when rodents were introduced to its home island, Lord Howe Island in Australia. A insect this preoccupied with hatching can’t outrun a hungry rat.
The Lord Howe Island stick insect, as it’s called, was declared extinct in 1960. But a 2001 mission to a jagged, barren rock of an island nearby found the place was not quite as barren as scientists had thought. After they had climbed up hundreds of feet of sheer rock face, writes Becky Crew at Running Ponies, they saw something strange: Read More
The National Palace in Port-au-Prince
after the 2010 Haiti earthquake
What’s the News: To dampen structural vibrations from earthquakes, engineers often place a flexible layer of rubber bearings in between buildings and the soil. Now, scientists are learning that Mother Nature uses a similar technique. A research team has found that a buried layer of mangrove in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe absorbs earthquake energy, shielding the above ground from soil liquefaction. This discovery could be exploited to help protect new buildings in the Caribbean islands.
The city of Piraeus, in 2008
What’s the News: Chalk up another win for the ancient Greeks. The Greek historian and geographer Strabo wrote nearly 2,000 years ago that Piraeus, a small peninsula near Athens, had once been an island—and a new study in this month’s issue of Geology shows he was right.
So did the hobbits and the giant storks live in peaceful harmony, or did they try to kill each other?
On the island of Flores, the same place where controversial evidence of the tiny ancient hominid Homo floresiensis turned up in 2003, scientists found large leg bones in a cave. A new analysis of those bones published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society indicates that they belong to giant storks taller than any alive today, capable of towering over the Homo floresiensis “hobbits.”
“From the size of its bones, we initially were expecting a giant raptor, which are commonly found on islands, not a stork,” said Hanneke Meijer, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The carnivorous giant (Leptoptilos robustus) was a hitherto unknown species of marabou stork, among the largest birds alive on the planet. [MSNBC]
At about 6 feet in height, the great stork would have stood nearly twice the height of H. floresiensis individuals, who reached just about three and a half feet tall. And like many other over-sized birds, the stork likely wasn’t the flying type. Says Meijer:
“Fly? Not very well, I think. They wouldn’t have gone very far if they could even get off the ground. But I don’t think they needed to fly. They were the top predator of that ecosystem.” [Toronto Star]
The tiny islands of the Pacific Ocean appear to be the very the picture of climate change vulnerability—some rise such a short distance above current sea level that it seems like any rise would swallow them up. The Earth’s climate system, though, is a great deal more complex than the simplistic rhetoric that fills the political echo chamber. That’s demonstrated again in a new study that argues some the Pacific’s low-lying islands are actually increasing slightly in land area rather than decreasing. It’s good news, yes—but not without caveats.
First, the specifics. Arthur Webb and Paul Kench published their work, based on decades of aerial and satellite photos, in the journal Global and Planetary Change. During the years spanned by those images, the sea level in the area has been rising by about 2 millimeters per year. Nevertheless, they say that 23 of the 27 Pacific islands they studies either held firm in land area or saw a slight increase. How could this be?
Unlike the sandbars of the eastern US coast, low-lying Pacific islands are made of coral debris. This is eroded from the reefs that typically circle the islands and pushed up onto the islands by winds, waves and currents. Because the corals are alive, they provide a continuous supply of material. “Atolls are composed of once-living material,” says Webb, “so you have a continual growth.” Causeways and other structures linking islands can boost growth by trapping sediment that would otherwise get lost to the ocean [New Scientist].
Remember that time you and your sibling couldn’t stop fighting over a toy, so your mom wouldn’t let either one of you have it? It seems the same thing happens to unhappy neighboring countries and Mother Nature.
The island in the Bay of Bengal that Bangladesh called South Talpatti and India called New Moore or Purbasha appeared after a devastating cyclone, and it appeared right near the territorial boundary between the two. Decades of fighting over the uninhabited speck of land led to no political resolution. But now there’s a perfectly clear geographical resolution: The sea has reclaimed the island, scientists say.
According to oceanographer Sugata Hazra, the island was never very big, peaking at around 1.3 miles by 1.1 miles. The island began shrinking in the 1990s, part of an 81-square-mile decline in land mass in the Bay of Bengal’s Sunderbans mudflats over the last 40 years, Hazra said. And 27 square miles more has been lost to erosion. In the 1990s, the island was only 2 meters above sea level [Los Angeles Times]. Some experts say that in addition to erosion, rising sea levels caused by global warming are also to blame. Oceanographer Sugata Hazra, who discovered the island’s disappearance while looking at satellite photos, argues that sea-level rise caused by climate change was ”surely” a factor in the island’s inundation…. ‘The rate of sea-level rise in this part of the northern Bay of Bengal is definitely attributable to climate change,” he said [Sydney Morning Herald].