State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Critter Corner: News Roundup on Biodiversity – Week of 9/5

This Week in the Critter Corner:

Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome in Greeley Mine, Vermont, March 26, 2009. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Helping Bats Hold On, Science News, Sept. 10
The history, pervasiveness, and ramifications of white-nose syndrome is summarized is this featured article. Deemed by scientists as one of the most disastrous wildlife diseases in history, bats afflicted with white-nose syndrome have cells that are replaced by fungal ones, leading to a disruption of hibernation, emaciation, thirst, and ultimately death.

Hens Evolve Secret Sex Strategy, BBC News, Sept. 6
Researchers discover that female chickens have the ability to eject the sperm of mates that they deem socially inferior.

Rooster. Photo by FoekeNoppert

Though the evolutionary ideas concerning sperm ejection are largely nebulous, it is believed that the hens use this ability to increase their overall fitness, only copulating with a male that is perceived to be a suitable mate. Under evolutionary pressure and selection, roosters have developed large ejaculates to increase reproductive success.

Circadian Clocks in Blind Fish , ScienceDaily , Sept. 6
A new study explores circadian rhythm in a blind species of cavefish, Phreatichthys andruzzii, providing enlightening insight into how evolution operates in darkness and clocks respond to a changing environment.

Astyanax mexicanus, Characidae, Blind Cave Tetra; Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, Germany. Photo by H. Zell

By comparing the circadian clock of the blind cavefish with that of the visually equipped zebrafish, the authors concluded that the cavefish’s clock can be regulated by feeding behavior, but not by light.

Ancient Woolly Rhino Points to Himalayas, NY Times, Sept. 6
A new uncovered woolly rhinoceros in the Zanda Basin, dated to be approximately 3.6 million years old, suggests to researchers that the species, and other giant ice age mammals, may have originated in the Himalayas. Though previous studies have suggested that the massive animals of the ice age originated in the Arctic 2.8 million years ago, the skull, neck, and limb bones of the woolly rhinoceros indicate that they had already evolved cold-weather adaptations.

A woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) in a late Pleistocene landscape in northern Spain. Photo by Mauricio Antón

New Shark Species Found in Food Market, National Geographic, Sept. 1
Upon collecting samples and making comparisons of fish at a market in Taiwan, researchers discovered a new species of shark, Squalus formosus. The three-foot-long short-nosed dogfish lives in the waters around Taiwan and Japan. It is largely distinguished from its evolutionary cousins by several unique morphological traits, including a strong spine, back-fin, and short-rounded head.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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