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Scientists probe mysterious wave of antelope deaths

 Scientists probe mysterious wave of antelope deaths

By Rory Galloway
BBC Science writer

Around 120,000 Saiga antelope have died so far

Around half of the world’s critically endangered Saiga antelope have died suddenly in Kazakhstan since 10 May.

An unknown environmental trigger is thought to have caused two types of normally benign bacteria found in the antelopes’ gut to turn deadly.

The animals die within hours of showing symptoms, which include depression, diarrhoea and frothing at the mouth.

Because it is calving season, entire herds of female antelope and their new-born calves have been wiped out.

“They get into respiratory problems, they can’t breathe easily. They stop eating and are extremely depressed; the mothers die and then the calves are very distressed and then they die maybe one or two days later,” said Richard Kock from the Royal Veterinary College in London.

Prof Kock spoke to the BBC’s Science in Action programme after joining an international team in Kazakhstan studying the causes of the die-off.

Conservation setback

The Saiga antelope is a species adapted to cope with the extremes of temperature found on the central Asian steppes of Kazakhstan. They are about the size of a large sheep and once roamed in their millions from Great Britain to northern China.

Populations have fallen repeatedly due to hunting, reaching a low of around 50,000 individuals after the fall of the Soviet Union. This rendered the species critically endangered.

Hunting brought Saiga numbers to a low of 50,000 in the 1990s

Conservationists have made great progress with Saiga in recent years, due to international efforts to reduce poaching and monitor their populations.

This die-off is a severe setback to the conservation effort because it has wiped out four of the six calving herds in the largest remaining – and best protected – “Betpak-dala” population, in central Kazakhstan.

Steffen Zuther, head of the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK), was monitoring calving in one of the herds containing thousands of affected animals.

“Over two days [in the herd I was studying] 80% of the calving population died,” he told the BBC.

The whole herd then died within two weeks.

Steffen Zuther has been monitoring herds of antelope in Kazakhstan

About 120,000 individual antelope have died, from a global population of approximately 250,000. Fortunately, mortality rates are now dropping, although the deaths continue in some populations.

“What we’re seeing is sort of a perfect storm of different factors,” Prof Kock explained.
Two different bacteria, pasteurelosis and clostridia, have been found in every dead animal studied. These bacteria are naturally found in the animals’ respiratory and gut systems, so something must have reduced the immunity of the animals.

One possible trigger is climatic. This year a very cold winter was followed by a wet spring, and this may have affected the immune competence of the animals, making them more vulnerable to the bacteria.

This, or some other trigger, pushed the animals past a threshold at which the bacteria overcame Saiga immune defences and became deadly enough to transmit to their calves.
dead antelope and calf

Because of its timing, the wave of deaths has claimed mothers and calves
“There’s no infectious disease that can work like this,” said Prof Kock. He added that the wave of Saiga deaths was not unprecedented. “[This] die-off syndrome has occurred on a number of occasions.”

In 1984, 2010 and 2012 there were massive die-offs, but none of these claimed such a massive proportion of the population. ‘Doesn’t make sense’

Despite these huge losses, Saiga antelope are surprisingly well adapted to recover quickly from population crashes.

“Its strategy for survival is based on a high reproductive rate, so [the Saiga] produce triplets and have the highest foetal biomass of any mammal. It’s built, in a sense, to recover from collapse,” Prof Kock said.

The Saiga’s natural habitat has dramatic temperature fluctuations. “In a very severe winter… you could lose 90% of the population.”

But losing 100% percent of some populations within two weeks “doesn’t make any sense” from a biological or evolutionary perspective, Prof Kock said.

There are five main populations of Saiga remaining in central Asia

Saiga antelope have been a conservation success story after recovering from their critical low in the 1990s. The animals now exist in five locations across central Asia, but all individuals affected by the sudden die-off are from the largest remaining Betpak-dala population in Kazakhstan.

This population consists of six major herds, of which four have been completely wiped out.

Steffen Zuther is going back into the field to investigate more remote populations. He hopes to identify what triggered this population collapse, so he can work to stop it happening again.


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What Do Tree Rings Sound Like When Played Like A Record?

 

What Do Tree Rings Sound Like When Played Like A Record?

Playing tree rings

In the Dr Seusse books it’s the Lorax speaks for the trees, but what do they sound like when they speak for themselves?

Rings on a tree can give information about the age of the tree, as well as indicate environmental conditions such as rain levels, disease, and even forest fire. Light colored rings indicate quick growth, while darker rings indicate times when the tree did not grow as quickly. Slices of trees are not uniform, and they all tell a story about the tree’s history.

Bartholomäus Traubeck created equipment that would translate tree rings into music by playing them on a turntable. Rather than use a needle like a record, sensors gather information about the wood’s color and texture and use an algorithm that translates variations into piano notes. The breadth of variation between individual trees results in a individualized tune. The album, appropriately titled “Years,” features spruce, ash, oak, maple, alder, walnut, and beech trees. It is available to download now, though it will be available to purchase on vinyl in August. The end product of these arbor “records” is haunting and beautiful and you need to check it out.

 

 


Mysterious sea creature stuns onlookers

 

 

 

Mysterious creature stuns onlookers

The sea is big, scary and full of things that want to eat you.

If you ever find yourself in doubt as to whether or not to go in the water, it can be helpful to remember the sheer number of giant teeth, suckers and appendages-yet-unknown-to-science that live in it.

A spine-chilling, luminous, snakelike creature was recently captured in Taiwan by a man who was out fishing at a port in Penghu.

The fisherman, Wei Cheng Jian, caught the strange creature and posted a video of his find on Facebook in hopes of getting a few answers.

However, Jian, who seemed more than a bit nervous in the video, removed the clip from his Facebook page shortly afterwards – but not before the footage was copied, shared, and incited a little internet confusion.

In the video, the three-foot-long bright-green creature is seen slithering slowly across the dock’s concrete floor and shooting out a long pink tongue as if searching for a prey.

The seemingly alien-like critter sparked a huge debate online with persons from science fiction backgrounds to an expertise in the natural world throwing in their two-cents about the creature’s origin.

And though an exact answer has not yet been determined, the stringy green mass is strongly believed to be a ribbon worm (or, Nemertea) – a carnivorous worm that comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Some species live on land or reside in freshwater — but many of them choose to stay in the sea and live burrowed in the sand. They can also grow to be as long as 60 meters.

 

 


Best view yet of Ceres’ ‘alien’ spots

Best view yet of Ceres’ ‘alien’ spots

Ceres

The fascinating bright spots on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres have come into sharper view.

What were initially thought to be just a couple of brilliant, closely spaced features at one location now turn out to be a clutch of many smaller dots.

The latest pictures were acquired by the US space agency’s Dawn spacecraft on its first full science orbit since arriving at Ceres on 6 March.

The spots were seen from a distance of 13,600km.

Researchers on the mission concede they still have much to learn about the dots’ true nature, but the new data is hardening their ideas.

“Dawn scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface, possibly ice,” said Chris Russell, who is the principal investigator on the mission.

With a diameter of 950km, Ceres is the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Dawn will spend the coming months studying its geology and surface chemistry with a suite of cameras and remote-sensing instruments.

The intention is to get some insights into the processes that have sculpted the dwarf since its formation with the rest of the Solar System some 4.5 billion years year ago.

Having completed its first science orbit, Dawn is now heading downwards to get even closer to the body.
This second mapping campaign, which will commence on 6 June, will see Dawn moving just 4,400km from the surface.

Here are some strange sounds from outer space.

The noise is caused by electromagnetic vibrations. The sounds have been recorded by various NASA space craft using Plasma Wave antenna to record the vibrations.



Russia Orders Obama: TELL THE WORLD ABOUT ALIENS

 


Russia Orders Obama: TELL THE WORLD ABOUT ALIENS, Or We Will.

From Disclose.tv

Alien Chupacabra

February 11, 2015 – A stunning Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) report on Prime Minister Medvedev’s agenda at the World Economic Forum (WEF) this week states that Russia will warn President Obama that the “time has come” for the world to know the truth about aliens, and if the United States won’t participate in the announcement, the Kremlin will do so on its own.

The WEF (The Forum) is a Swiss non-profit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva and describes itself as an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

The Forum is best known for its annual meeting in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland. The meeting brings together some 2,500 top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world, including health and the environment.

Medvedev is scheduled to open this years Forum where as many as 50 heads of government, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Britain’s David Cameron, will attend the five-day meeting that begins on 23 January.

Critical to note about this years Forum is that the WEF, in their 2013 Executive Summary, scheduled for debate and discussion a number of items under their X Factors from Nature category, and which includes the “discovery of alien life” of which they state: “Proof of life elsewhere in the universe could have profound psychological implications for human belief systems.”

Equally critical to note is that Medvedev, after completing a 7 December 2012 on-camera interview with reporters in Moscow, continued to respond to reporters and made some off-air comments without realizing that his microphone was still on. He was then asked by one reporter if “the president is handed secret files on aliens when he receives the briefcase needed to activate Russia’s nuclear arsenal,” Medvedev responded:

“Along with the briefcase with nuclear codes, the president of the country is given a special ‘top secret’ folder. This folder in its entirety contains information about aliens who visited our planet… Along with this, you are given a report of the absolutely secret special service that exercises control over aliens on the territory of our country… More detailed information on this topic you can get from a well-known movie called Men In Black… I will not tell you how many of them are among us because it may cause panic.”

Western news sources reporting on Medvedev’s shocking reply about aliens stated that he was “joking” as he mentioned the movie Men In Black, which they wrongly assumed was a reference to the 1997 American sci-fi adventure comedy about two top secret agents battling aliens in the US.

Medvedev, however, wasn’t referring to the American movie but was, instead, talking about the famous Russian movie documentary Men In Black which details many UFO and alien anomalies.

Where Western news sources quoted Medvedev as saying “More detailed information on this topic you can get from a well-known movie called ‘Men In Black,’” his actual answer was, “You can receive more detailed information having watched the documentary film of the same name.”

The reason(s) for Western propaganda news outlets deliberately distorting Medvedev’s words become apparent after his shocking statement, and as evidenced in just one example of their so called reporting on this disclosure of alien life already being on our planet where the title of one such article was “Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev makes a crack about aliens, and conspiracists promptly lose their minds.”

If anyone is “losing their minds” about aliens, it must be pointed out, it is certainly not Russia, but the Vatican, which in November 2009 announced it was “preparing for extraterrestrial disclosure”.

Equally, and apparently, “losing their minds” are US government officials themselves, such as former Pentagon consultant Timothy Good, and author of Above Top Secret: The Worldwide U.F.O. Cover-Up, who in February 2012 stated that former President Dwight Eisenhower had three secret meetings with aliens who were ‘Nordic’ in appearance and wherein a ‘Pact’ was signed to keep their agenda on Earth secret.

With the recent discovery in the Russian city of Vladivostok of a 300-million-year-old UFO tooth-wheel, and scientists, astronauts and YouTube users reporting increasingly strange happenings on the moon, the European Space agency reporting their discovery of a 1,000 ancient river on Mars, and UK and Sri Lanka scientists saying they now have “rock solid proof of alien life” after finding fossilized algae inside meteorite, the only ones who seem to be truly “losing their minds” are the Western, especially American, propagandists who for decades have covered up one of the most important stories in all of human history that “we are not alone.”

To if Medvedev will be able to convince the Obama regime to tell the truth about UFO and aliens at the WEF this week it is not in our knowing. What is in our knowing, though, is that with or without the US, the Kremlin will surely begin the process of telling the truth about that which we already know to be true.

Here’s some interviews with people who claim to have been abducted by aliens.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5



Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek’s Mr Spock, dies at 83

 

 

Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek’s Mr Spock, dies at 83

Spock. Live Long and Prosper

US actor Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr Spock in the cult sci-fi series Star Trek, has died at the age of 83 in Los Angeles, his family has said.

His son, Adam, said he died of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on Friday morning.

Nimoy had a long career as both an actor and director.

However he was best known for his portrayal of the half-human, half-Vulcan character in both the TV franchise and series of films.

Last year, the actor revealed he was suffering chronic lung disease COPD, despite stopping smoking 30 years ago.

It was reported earlier this week he had been taken to hospital on 19 February after suffering from chest pains.

He later tweeted: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”

He signed off what was to be his final tweet with “LLAP” – a reference to his character’s famous catchphrase, “Live long and prosper”.

Spock’s Twitter

The same Twitter account was used by his granddaughter to confirm that he died at home on Friday in Bel-Air, California.

Dani Nimoy said her grandfather was an “extraordinary man, husband, grandfather, brother, actor, author – the list goes on – and friend.”

She added that special merchandise was being added to Nimoy’s website, with all proceeds going to the COPD foundation.

George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek and was a friend of Nimoy’s, paid tribute to the actor.

“The word extraordinary is often overused but I think it’s really appropriate for Leonard”, Mr Takei told US broadcaster MSNBC.

“He was an extraordinarily talented man but he was also a very decent human being.”

Among the torrent of tributes on Twitter was a message from Nasa crediting Nimoy and Star Trek as an inspiration.

NASA Tweet

Thousands took to Twitter to pay tribute after Nimoy’s death was announced, including Star Trek actors past and present.

William Shatner, who as Captain Kirk acted alongside Nimoy for years in Star Trek, said he loved the actor “like a brother”.

“We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love,” Mr Shatner said on Twitter.

Leonard Nimoy often gave Spock’s famous salute

Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation, said: “We stood on your shoulders, and wouldn’t have had a galaxy to explore if you hadn’t been there, first. Thank you, Leonard, Rest in peace.”

More than a Vulcan
It was Nimoy’s casting as Spock in 1966 that made him in a star and, in many ways, defined his acting career.

He played the character in all three of the original series of the programme and later in several big-screen spin offs.

Nimoy had an ambivalent relationship with Spock, seeming to both cherish and resent his close association with the role.

His two volumes of autobiography – “I Am Not Spock” in 1975 and “I Am Spock” two decades later – seemed to epitomise his mixed feelings.

Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015 83 when he died
1965 appeared in rejected Star Trek pilot The Cage
1966-69 played Spock in original Star Trek series
4 Emmy award nominations, 3 for his character Spock
2013 appeared in Star Trek Into Darkness – his last film

Nimoy did have success outside of his Spock costume, in both acting and directing, and he pursued music, painting, and photography.

After the end of Star Trek’s initial run, he played master of disguise Paris in the hit adventure series Mission Impossible.

Later he directed two of the Star Trek films, The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, and in 1987 helmed the hit comedy Three Men and a Baby, one of the highest-grossing films of that year.

Nimoy announced that he was suffering from COPD last year, writing: “I quit smoking 30 years ago. Not soon enough. Grandpa says, quit now!!”

COPD is an umbrella term for several lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and some forms of bronchiectasis.

Sufferers experience increasing breathlessness during the advanced stages of the disease but it can be symptomless for a long time as it develops.

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