Hinterland Green

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Funnel-Web Spiders Plague Sydney, Australia, Invasion Caused by Unseasonable Rainfall, High Humidity & Lengthy Dry Period

Funnel-web spiders are invading Sydney, Australia and what's scary is that one bite from one of these spiders can kill you in the space of two hours. The funnel-web spider is considered one of the world's most aggressive and poisonous spiders. The males are reportedly deadlier than the females. According to The Independent, the invasion is due to a lengthy dry period, which was followed by unseasonable rainfalls and high humidity during the Christmas season.

Residents of Sydney and nearby areas are encouraged to drop off any captured spiders at a reptile park near the capital where researchers will milk the spiders of their venom to make antidotes. Residents are also being warned not to walk outside barefooted and to check their shoes.

Photo credit: Funnel-web spiders, Backpack Photography/Flickr

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Study: Fungus-Gardening Ant Has Given Up Sex Completely

ScienceDaily (2010-01-09) -- The complete asexuality of a widespread fungus-gardening ant, the only ant species in the world known to have dispensed with males entirely, has recently been confirmed. Most social insects—the wasps, ants and bees—are relatively used to daily life without males. Their colonies are well run by swarms of sterile sisters lorded over by an egg-laying queen. But, eventually, all social insect species have the ability to produce a crop of males who go forth in the world to fertilize new queens and propagate.

Queens of the ant Mycocepurus smithii reproduce without fertilization and males appear to be completely absent, report Christian Rabeling, Ulrich Mueller and their Brazilian colleagues in PLoS ONE this week."Animals that are completely asexual are relatively rare, which makes this is a very interesting ant," says Rabeling, an ecology, evolution and behavior graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin. "Asexual species don't mix their genes through recombination, so you expect harmful mutations to accumulate over time and for the species to go extinct more quickly than others. They don't generally persist for very long over evolutionary time."

Article continues http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090825203339.htm

Google Formally Incorporates Google Energy, Seeking Government Permission to Buy and Sell Electricity on Wholesale Market

Last month, Google formally incorporated Google Energy, which is a new subsidiary that is seeking permission from the government to buy and sell electricity on the wholesale market. Though the chances of you purchasing electricity from Google is unlikely, the company said the move will allow them to have more flexibility to buy renewable energy.

 Google, in 2007, committed to becoming carbon neutral and has been steadily pursuing their goal by buying high quality renewable energy energy credits. Google Energy will allow the company to get more renewable energy onto the grid and into the company's portfolio.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Polar Bears Changing Habits in Response to Sea Ice Conditions

 Credit: iStockphoto/Styve Reineck

ScienceDaily (2010-01-07) -- An analysis of 27 years of data shows that polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea region are occurring more frequently on land and in open water than on ice during the fall. Karyn Rode, a polar bear biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, Alaska and one of the study's authors, says data collected between 1979 and 2005 show that polar bears in the region are occurring more frequently on land and in open water and less frequently on ice during the fall. This means there are increased chances for human/bear interaction. The paper was published in the December issue of Arctic -- the journal of the Arctic Institute of North America.

Polar bears were observed over the 27-year period by U.S. government Minerals Management Services staff as part of the fall bowhead whale aerial survey conducted annually in the southern Beaufort Sea. Ice conditions were also recorded. Data showed that as ice conditions changed, bears were being found on different habitats. Between 1979 and 1987, 12% of bear sightings were associated with no ice. Between 1997 and 2005 however, 90% of bear sightings were associated with no ice.

Article continues: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100107151657.htm

Australia's Great Barrier Reef Being Choked by Seaweeds

Great Barrier Reef, Getty Images/Phil Walter

According to an interview held by the Agence France-Presse, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is overgrown in places by seaweed and that could be a worrying indication of the coral structure's health.  A lack of algae-eating fish is a big reason for this trend. Surveys have already shown that the reef is at risk from global warming and more than 40 percent of the areas closest to the shore are overgrown with seaweed. The Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies' Professor David Bellwood said the offshore reefs, those about 12.4 miles from the continent's eastern coast were largely untouched by the algae. He said the best defense for the reef would be clean water and the existence of herbivorous fish which could graze on the weeds.