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    Attack of the Murder Hornets is a nature doc shot through horror/sci-fi lens / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 23 February - 20:59 · 1 minute

"What are you looking at?" The Asian Giant Hornet, aka a "murder hornet," is not to be trifled with.

Enlarge / "What are you looking at?" The Asian Giant Hornet, aka a "murder hornet," is not to be trifled with. (credit: Gary Alpert )

In November 2019, a beekeeper in Blaine, Washington, named Ted McFall was horrified to discover thousands of tiny mutilated bodies littering the ground: an entire colony of his honeybees had been brutally decapitated. The culprit: the Asian giant hornet ( Vespa mandarinia ), a species native to southeast Asia and parts of the Russian far East. Somehow, these so-called "murder hornets" had found their way to the Pacific Northwest, where they posing a dire ecological threat to North American honeybee populations.

The story of the quest to track and eradicate the hornets before their numbers became overwhelming is the subject of a new documentary: Attack of the Murder Hornets , now streaming on Discovery+. Featuring genuine suspense, a colorful cast of characters crossing socioeconomic lines, and a tone that draws on classic horror and science fiction movies, it's one of the best nature documentaries you're likely to see this year.

Asian giant hornets are what's known as apex predators , sporting enormous mandibles, the better to rip the heads off their prey and remove the tasty thoraxes (which include muscles that power the bee's wings for flying and movement). A single hornet can decapitate 20 bees in one minute, and just a handful can wipe out 30,000 bees in 90 minutes. The hornet has a venomous, extremely painful sting—and its stinger is long enough to puncture traditional beekeeping suits. Conrad Berube, a beekeeper and entomologist who had the misfortune to be stung seven times while exterminating a murder hornet nest, told The New York Times , "It was like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh." And while Japanese honeybees, for example, have evolved defenses against the murder hornet, North American honeybees have not, as the slaughter of McFall's colony aptly demonstrated.

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    Caged heat: Mesquite bugs battle in a plastic cup—for science! / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 11 February - 21:50 · 1 minute

Scientists at the University of Arizona set up their own "Bug Fight Club" in the lab, staging wrestling matches between insects to learn more about defensive structures and the evolution of weapons in the animal kingdom. They outlined their findings in two separate papers, one published last fall in the journal Functional Ecology and the other published last month in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Intraspecies battle is commonly found in nature, usually over competition for limited resources (mates, food, or shelter), per the authors, and it's generally been assumed that whichever creature inflicts the most damage wins the fight. That's one possible explanation for why so many species have evolved various defensive structures to protect them from damage during a fight. For instance, goats have dermal shields , crocodiles sport dorsal osteoderms , and mantis shrimp boast armored telsons . But do these structures actually influence the outcomes of fights?

"Biologists have generally assumed that the individual who inflicts more damage on their opponent will be more likely to win a given fight," said co-author John J. Wiens of the University of Arizona while explaining the reasoning behind Bug Fight Club. "Surprisingly, this fundamental assumption had yet to be tested in an experimental study."

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    NatGeo’s Virus Hunters showcases scientists racing to stop next pandemic / ArsTechnica · Sunday, 1 November - 18:52 · 1 minute

Scientists around the world are working not just to stamp out the current COVID-19 pandemic, but are also racing to prevent an even worse outbreak in the future.

Enlarge / Scientists around the world are working not just to stamp out the current COVID-19 pandemic, but are also racing to prevent an even worse outbreak in the future.

As much damage as the current coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on the world at large—killing over 230,000 American citizens alone so far, and nearly 1.2 million people worldwide—scientists know there are other viruses lurking out there, one of which could be just as contagious as COVID-19, yet much more deadly.  And they know we need to be prepared for such an outbreak.

That's the central message of Virus Hunters , a new documentary special premiering tonight on the National Geographic channel. The documentary follows award-winning ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman and Harvard ecologist and epidemiologist Chris Golden as they travel to hot spots around the world: Liberia, Thailand, Turkey, and (yes) the United States. It's a companion piece to a special issue of National Geographic magazine devoted to COVID-19 released in mid-October.

A National Geographic fellow, Golden's interest in studying the ways in which environmental change affects human health dates back to childhood, when he used to go on nature walks with his mother. "I saw the way that she responded to nature, this connection between mental health and the outdoors, and I ended up pursuing this all throughout my educational experience," he told Ars. After earning an undergraduate degree from Harvard—creating his own major out of a mix of courses in ecology, medical anthropology, and development studies—he earned his PhD in epidemiology and ecology from the University of California, Berkeley.

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    Mantis shrimp SMASH! Size matters in fights over the perfect home / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 29 October - 22:09 · 1 minute

"Nice burrow you have there. I want it." Patrick Green of the University of Exeter filmed this fight between mantis shrimp. (video link)

Size matters to the small-but-mighty mantis shrimp, which show a marked preference for burrows in coral rubble with volumes that closely match their own body size or are just a bit larger—in other words, large enough to accommodate their body, but small enough that they can defend the entrance. But according to a new paper published in the journal Animal Behavior, sometimes a mantis shrimp will compromise. If a burrow is already occupied and is close to the ideal size, or a bit smaller , the mantis shrimp will fight longer and harder for that burrow—and be more likely to win the contest.

As we previously reported, mantis shrimp come in many different varieties: there are some 450 known species. But they can generally be grouped into two types: those that stab their prey with spear-like appendages ("spearers") and those that smash their prey ("smashers") with large, rounded, and hammer-like claws ("raptorial appendages"). Those strikes are so fast—as much as 23 meters per second, or 51mph—and powerful, they often produce cavitation bubbles in the water, creating a shock wave that can serve as a follow-up strike, stunning and sometimes killing the prey. Sometimes a strike can even produce sonoluminescence , whereby the cavitation bubbles produce a brief flash of light as they collapse.

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    Study confirms that painting eyes on cow butts helps ward off predators / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 18 August, 2020 - 12:43 · 1 minute

Eyes painted on cattle rumps trick lions into thinking they have lost the element of surprise, a new study suggests.

Enlarge / Eyes painted on cattle rumps trick lions into thinking they have lost the element of surprise, a new study suggests. (credit: Ben Yexley )

Cattle herds in the Okavango delta region in Botswana are plagued by attacks by lions and other predators, prompting farmers to retaliate by killing the predators. An alternative nonlethal technique involves painting eyes on the butts of cattle to trick ambush predators like lions into thinking they've been spotted by their intended prey. It's called the " Eye-Cow Project ," and a recent paper published in the journal Communications Biology provides some solid empirical evidence for the practice. There are now practical guides for using the "eye-cow" technique available in both English and Setswana, so farmers can try it out for themselves.

Neil Jordan, a conservation biologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, came up with the idea several years ago while he was doing field work in Botswana. Local farmers killed a pair of lionesses in retaliation for preying on their herds of cattle, and Jordan wanted to come up with a non-lethal alternative. The African lion population has dropped significantly from more than 100,000 in the 1990s to somewhere between 23,000 and 39,000 in 2016—much of it due to retaliation killings.

Jordan knew that butterfly wings sporting eye-like patterns are known to ward off preying birds, and are also found in certain fish, mollusks, amphibians and birds, although such patterns had not been observed in mammals. He also discovered that woodcutters in Indian forests have been known to wear masks on the backs of their heads to discourage any tigers hunting for prey. He had observed a lion stalking an impala, and noticed the predator gave up the chase when the prey spotted it. Lions are ambush hunters, Jordan reasoned, and decided to test his "detection hypothesis" that painting eyes on the butts of cows would discourage predatory behavior from the local lion population.

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    Review: Revisit the controversial Biosphere 2 project with Spaceship Earth / ArsTechnica · Monday, 25 May, 2020 - 22:53 · 1 minute

Official trailer for Spaceship Earth , a documentary about the controversial Biosphere 2 experiment in the early 1990s.

In September 1991, amid much media fanfare, eight people entered a closed experimental facility called Biosphere 2 for a two-year stint in total isolation. They endured hunger, a dangerous rise in CO2 levels, interpersonal squabbles, a media backlash, and sharp criticism from the scientific establishment. Today, most people might recall Biosphere 2 as a colossal failure. But the truth is much more nuanced than that, as we learn in Spaceship Earth , Director Matt Wolf's self-described "stranger than fiction" documentary about the controversial experiment. The film made a splash at Sundance earlier this year, and is now available for streaming on Hulu, Apple TV, and other select platforms.

Biosphere 2, a 3.14-acre facility located in Oracle, Arizona, has a long, colorful history tailor-made for the documentary treatment.  Built between 1987 and 1992, its original objective was to be an artificial, fully self-sustaining closed ecological system—a large-scale vivarium, if you will. (It was called Biosphere 2 because the Earth itself is the original biosphere.) There were seven distinct "biome" areas: a rainforest, an ocean with living coral reef, a savannah grassland, a fog desert, mangrove wetlands, an agricultural system (i.e., a small farm), and a human habitat.

Spaceship Earth delves deep into the roots of the project, going back to the 1960s, when John Allen and several cohorts (some would later deem them cultish followers) moved from San Francisco to New Mexico and founded a commune called Synerga Ranch. They were inspired by surrealist/spiritualist French novelist René Daumal, among others, as well as Buckminster Fulller's Spaceship Earth . They even built their own geodesic dome on the ranch, the better to hold communal gatherings and stage amateur theatrical productions. (They would later tour as the Theater of Possibilities.)

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    Rebellyons-nous, occupation du pont Wilson à #Lyon

    Timothée Jaussoin · Monday, 16 September, 2019 - 07:46 edit · 1 minute

Le dimanche 15 septembre 2019, sous un soleil de plomb nous avons bloqué avec succès le pont Wilson en plein centre de #Lyon.

Cet évènement coup de poing, non-violent et festif nous a permis de dénoncer la gravité de la situation face aux chamboulements écologiques et climatiques que nous vivons présentement et à venir très prochainement.

Cet évènement a été relayé dans la presse par Rue89 et a fait l'ouverture du journal du soir France3 Rhône-Alpes.

De nombreuses actions de désobéissance civiles non-violentes sont à prévoir prochainement. Plus d'informations sur le site officiel de XR France et sur le site international.

#ecology #climate #france #extinctionrebellion #xr #action #movement #bridge #pont

  • Extinction Rebellion

    Nous faisons face à une urgence mondiale sans précédent. Les gouvernements ont échoué à nous protéger malgré les solutions connues et préconisées. Il est don...

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