A weekly round-up of science news
Australia's only frog hospital is to close, due to a lack of funds. There are 200 species of frog in Australia and many of them are now suffering from changes in the environment. They are useful monitors for this, but now in Australia they will all face extinction, unless people realize they are as important as the fluffier koala and others.
The Harlequin Ladybird was first spotted in September last year, in the south-east of England. It is voracious feeder, competes with other species for food and is expected to start moving north this year. To keep an eye on its progress, we need to let people know where it is, so people have been asked to send sightings to
Harlequin Survey.org. If the Harlequin runs out of food it turns on the British ladybirds and other species. If you are lucky enough to see a normal ladybird then send that information to Ladybird Survey.org.
It's not been long since the Bald Eagle was removed from the endangered list (May 2004), prematurely in many peoples' opinions. In Vancouver alone, 50 Bald Eagles have been found dead in recent weeks. They are now protected but it seems the National Symbol of the US will have to be protected better.
The parrot in the Andes lives on the Wax palm. Only 540 individuals are thought to survive. Every year the palm leaves are cut down to be used in a Palm Sunday ceremony. The Catholic Church is hoping to save the bird by giving out seeds for another palm, so the birds home can be saved. The church is Columbia has a saying 'God pardons always, man pardons sometimes, but nature never does'.
Scientists wanted to understand how Vampire Bats moved, so they popped one on a treadmill (as you do!) and watched. As the treadmill speeded up, so the bat kept up, until it started to run. All other bats seem to shun the ground, so to see a species that can run is quite surprising.
The G8 group has committed themselves to working on ending illegal logging, as well as looking at how to protect Africa from climate change. The US is trying to block all mention of climate change from the agreements, though, and will also refuse to sign up to any plans to stop illegal logging. The US view is that free trade is more important than the environment or any other issues, including slavery.
The glaciers are melting in the Himalayas which will lead to drought after the initial floods. The floods will be caused by the largest store of water after the polar ice-caps, melting into the seven rivers they feed, which will affect Nepal, China and India. As the source of frozen water feeding the rivers recedes, then the river levels will decrease and draughts will follow. Meetings on climate change will be focusing on these issues.
The US Senate has voted to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They want to look for gas and oil. It isn't happening yet but this is another step closer. If drilling in the Arctic refuge goes ahead then it is also another step closer to drilling in the Rockies and other pristine landscapes which they have their eye on. They want to reduce their reliance on exported oil, but without developing alternative fuel sources.
So far mercury has been found in fish, but now it has been found in a bird. The Bicknell Thrush has high levels of mercury, showing that mercury is entering the ecosystem in the US in unexpected ways.
After the success of the ESA and NASA project – Cassini-Huygens, the next joint project is being planned to Europa. Independent projects were planned, but now NASA is being reined in by Bush to return to old haunts – the moon. The new joint project will give them a chance to keep exploring new areas such as one of Jupiter's moons, which is believed to be the most likely place in the solar system for life. Its surface is frozen but under the ice is a warm sea.
Cassini is still having successes. One of Saturns' moons, Enceladus, has had an atmosphere detected. It is weak and must be continually replenished as its gravity is too weak to hold on to it. The moon is also the most reflective body in the solar system, indicating ice.
Mars: Images from Mars Express indicate the past presence of water, active volcanism and glaciers on the planet.
Voyager I and II: The 2 probes are facing shut-down due to a lack of funding. They are heading for the boundary between the sun and interstellar space, but they may have to be left to travel without anyone listening in anymore. Launched in 1977, they are now respectively 11 and 14 billion km from earth.