Animals

Sea Slime Killing U.S. Seabirds

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 30, 2009   View Article

Hundreds of birds are washing up on the shores of the U.S. Pacific Northwest coated with a foamy sea slime, scientists say.

The slime, which comes from algae blooms in the ocean, saps the waterproofing ability of the birds’ feathers, experts say.

Radioactive Rabbit Droppings Help Spur Nuclear Cleanup

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 21, 2009   View Article

Putting a new spin on the term “nuclear waste dump,” radioactive droppings from Cold War-era critters have spurred a high-tech cleanup funded by the current U.S. government economic stimulus program.

Government contractors this September flew a helicopter equipped with radiation detectors and GPS equipment over scrubland in eastern Washington State near the vast Hanford Site, a 1950s plutonium-production complex.

Swine Flu in Swine: Flu Could Worsen; Industry at Risk

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 14, 2009   View Article

The United States pork industry has already been battered by the false perception that pork can transmit swine flu. And now farmers are bracing for the first reported transmission of the virus to a U.S. pig, which at this point seems inevitable, experts say.

Beyond the economic impact, experts warn that, if transmitted to pigs, swine flu could quickly mutate into a more dangerous strain, given the crowded conditions at many industrial hog farms.

Dogs First Tamed in China – To Be Food?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 4, 2009   View Article

Wolves were domesticated no more than 16,300 years ago in southern China, a new genetic analysis suggests—and it’s possible the canines were tamed to be livestock, not pets, the study author speculates.

“In this region, even today, eating dog is a big cultural thing,” noted study co-author Peter Savolainen, a biologist at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

First Proof: Ancient Birds Had Iridescent Feathers

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 26, 2009   View Article

Just like modern-day starlings, some ancient birds had glossy black feathers with a metallic, glimmering sheen, scientists report in a new study.

The discovery is based on 40-million-year-old fossils of an unidentified bird species that were stored at the Senckenburg Museum in Frankfurt, Germany for up to 30 years. The fossils represent the first evidence of ancient iridescence in feathers.

U.S. Wolf Hunts May Kill Hundreds – Spurs Demand, Ire

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 24, 2009   View Article

Starting today, hunters can walk into any license vendor in Idaho and buy a tag to kill a gray wolf.

Vendors such as Daniel Stephenson, owner of River of No Return Taxidermy in Salmon, Idaho, expect robust demand.

“In our area, there’re lots of [wolves] and they’re not a real popular thing for deer and elk hunters,” Stephenson said. “So everybody wants a chance to go get one.”

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission approved a plan August 17 to allow up to 220 wolves to be killed by the public this coming fall and winter. Licensed hunters will be allowed to kill wolves starting September 1. Most hunting will be finished by December 31.

“Walking Wetlands” Help Declining Birds, Boost Crops

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 18, 2009   View Article

The request struck Dave Hedlin, a farmer in Washington’s fertile Skagit Valley, as particularly odd: Conservationists wanted him to voluntarily flood his fields.

“Most of us have spent our entire lifetimes trying to keep water off the land,” said Hedlin, whose farmlands are nestled among inlets, bays, and estuaries in the shadow of the snowcapped Mount Baker volcano.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach