State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Critter Corner: News Roundup on Biodiversity – Week of 9/12

Nile crocodile near the Kafue river close to Kitwe, Zambia – Photo by Hans Hillewaert.

Iconic Nile Crocodile is Actually Two Species, Nature, Sept. 14
By sequencing the genes of living Nile crocodiles and comparing them with museum specimens, some over 2,000 years old, researchers discovered that each actually comprises two distinct species. The large east African Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) and the discovery of its extinct West African neighbor (Crocodylus suchus) have important ramifications for the conservation and classification of crocodiles. Researchers believe that the ancient Egyptians knew the difference between the two species because only Crocodylus suchus was mummified for rituals and ceremonies.

Honeyguide Juvenile Fed by Host Parent – Photo by Alan Manson

African Greater Honeyguide Birds Kill Foster Siblings ScienceDaily, Sept. 9
Employing the evolutionary strategy of brood parasitism, honeyguides repeatedly grasp, bite and ultimately kill chicks of their host family (often bee-eaters). Though researchers had previously inferred the performance of the behavior, graphic video evidence by implanting infra-red video cameras within the hosts’ underground nests proves its existence. Host parents remain entirely unaware of the honeyguides’ intentions and actions, even trying to feed them while they attack their own offspring.

Romantic Vibrations of a Hummingbird NY Times, Sept. 9
Evidence suggests that male hummingbirds may use their tail feathers to produce alluring vibrations to their female counterparts. By placing hummingbird feathers in a wind tunnel and measuring the vibrations using a Doppler vibrometer, researchers discovered that different shapes and sizes and combinations of movement resulted in different frequencies and harmonic structures.

Hummingbird – Photo by EverafterImages.Com

Flying Snails Travel the World, Unraveling Isolation Science AAAS, Sept. 9
Though scientists believed it had been 3 million years ago since two species of horn snail last interacted with one another, DNA analysis suggests that they may have continued to exchange genes by traveling between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the stomach of a bird.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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