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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 32,743

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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Toon: Book Report

They'll find "My Pet Goat" and "The Fart Book"....

Wednesday Toon Roundup 3- The Rest









South Carolina


Wednesday Toon Roundup 2- Weapons

Wednesday Toon Roundup 1- Equality

Dinner’s Revenge: mealworms that survive in the stomach, then eat their way out of predators

By Mary Roach on Mon, Apr 1, 2013

Can the eaten eat back?

The darkling beetle, small and shy with an understated matte-black carapace, is better known as its adolescent self, the mealworm. Mealworms and their darkling cousins the superworms are popular “live feeders”—food for pet reptiles and amphibians that won’t eat prey that’s already dead. For years, a disconcerting rumor has bounced around the “herp” (as in, herpetofauna) community. Heed the words of Fishguy2727, posting on Aquaticcommunity.com: “I have talked to a number of people who have FIRST-HAND watched with their own eyes as the animal ate a mealworm ... and within ten to twenty seconds the mealworm is chewing out of the animal’s stomach.”

I heard about the phenomenon SECOND-HAND from wildlife biologist Tom Pitchford. The mealworm came to mind when I asked Tom whether he knew of any nonparasitic creature that could survive in a stomach for any length of time. He had heard that some online herp forums recommend crushing mealworms’ heads prior to serving. “While the insect is in its death throes, the lizard will come over and eat it.”

Mealworm ranchers scoff. “This is an old wives tale,” says Wormman.com. The owner of Bassetts Cricket (and mealworm) Ranch told me that a slice of carrot, for a mealworm, is a two-day project. “They can’t eat out,” he said. (Though obviously enough people worry about it that it has its own verb form.) But mealworm sellers have a financial stake in the matter. What do reptile and amphibian dealers say? Carlos Haslam, manager of the East Bay Vivarium, a reptile and amphibian store not far from my home, told me that in his forty years in the business, he has not seen the phenomenon nor heard a customer report it happening. He pointed out that lizards chew their food before swallowing. Frogs don’t, but lizards do. And most of the stories are about lizards. Fishguy2727 takes no comfort. “Just because 1,000 people have not had it happen to them does not mean it is impossible. There is no doubt that this can happen.”

As so often is the case with apocryphal tales like this, finding someone who knows someone who’s seen it is easy. Less easy is tracking down an actual eyewitness. One who claims to have seen is John Gray, the animal care technician at the Tracy Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno. His boss, Richard Tracy, is a physiological ecologist. He predicts hotspots of future extinction, with reptiles and amphibians as his focus. Eighteen lizards, forty toads, and fifty frogs are under John Gray’s care, but he has not seen it happen to any of them. It happened to a fence lizard he caught in his backyard as a twelve-year-old. He recalls feeding a superworm to his new pet in the evening, and finding the lizard dead the next morning with the superworm “hanging out of its side.”


13% of endangered tortoise species discovered in smuggler's bag at airport

Authorities in Thailand made two big seizures of attempted tortoise smuggling at an airport this week. Hundreds of threatened tortoises were discovered, and they are among the rarest in the world. Two smugglers were apprehended.

From TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network:

On Friday, authorities arrested a 38-year-old Thai man as he was attempting to collect a bag containing tortoises from Madagascar, from a luggage carousel, at the airport. The bag was registered to a 25-year-old woman who had flown from Madagascar to Bangkok via Nairobi the same day.

Royal Thai Customs officers and their counterparts in the CITES management authority found 54 Ploughshare Tortoises Astrochelys yniphora and 21 Radiated Tortoises Astrochelys radiata, both of which are assessed as being Critically Endangered.

Ploughshare and Radiated Tortoises are endemic to Madagascar, totally protected in the country and are both listed in CITES Appendix I. The wild population of Ploughshare Tortoises, considered among the rarest species in the world, is estimated to be as few as 400 individuals, and is declining fast.

So, the smugglers were attempting to smuggle 13.5% of the entire world population of Ploughshare Tortoises.

Both the Thai man and the Malagasy woman were arrested, and the man had been arrested earlier in 2013 on another wildlife smuggling charge.


China Estimated to Dramatically Underreport Its Overseas Fishing Catch

By Christopher Pala

It is a whopper of a catch, in more ways than one: China is under-reporting its overseas fishing catch by more than an order of magnitude, according to a study published on 23 March. The problem is particularly acute in the rich fisheries of West Africa, where a lack of transparency in reporting is threatening efforts to evaluate the ecological health of the waters.

“We can’t assess the state of the oceans without knowing what’s being taken out of them,” says Daniel Pauly, a fisheries scientist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, who led the study. The unreported catch is crippling the artisanal fisheries that help to feed West African populations, he says.

Fisheries experts have long suspected that the catches reported by China to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome are too low. From 2000 to 2011, the country reported an average overseas catch of 368,000 tons a year. Yet China claims to have the world’s biggest distant-water fishing fleet, implying a much larger haul, says the study, which was funded by the European Union (EU). Pauly and his colleagues estimate that the average catch for 2000–11 was in fact 4.6 million tons a year, more than 12 times the reported figure (see ‘A colossal catch’). Of that total, 2.9 million tons a year came from West Africa, one of the world’s most productive fishing grounds.

Liu Xiaobing, director of the division of international cooperation of China’s bureau of fisheries, put the yearly overseas catch at 1.15 million tons in a speech to the EU last June. Pauly says that figure would be accurate if it referred to the amount brought back to China, rather than the total catch. Liu did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment.


7 Misused Science Words

Hypothesis. Theory. Law. These scientific words get bandied about regularly, yet the general public usually gets their meaning wrong.

Now, one scientist is arguing that people should do away with these misunderstood words altogether and replace them with the word "model." But those aren't the only science words that cause trouble, and simply replacing the words with others will just lead to new, widely misunderstood terms, several other scientists said.

"A word like 'theory' is a technical scientific term," said Michael Fayer, a chemist at Stanford University. "The fact that many people understand its scientific meaning incorrectly does not mean we should stop using it. It means we need better scientific education."

From "theory" to "significant," here are seven scientific words that are often misused.

1. Hypothesis

The general public so widely misuses the words hypothesis, theory and law that scientists should stop using these terms, writes physicist Rhett Allain of Southeastern Louisiana University, in a blog post on Wired Science.

"I don't think at this point it's worth saving those words," Allain told LiveScience.


Luckovich Toon: Outrage dying away....

Is Colorado the Napa Valley of Weed?

Matt Brown and James Walker, two Denver-based entrepreneurs, recently launched the world’s first marijuana tourism company, My 420 Tours. A business like this—imagine a guided tour of the California wine country, but with bongs instead of wine bottles—wouldn’t have been possible without Amendment 64, which was passed by Colorado voters in November and essentially makes recreational marijuana use legal in the state.

The first vacation package offered by My 420 Tours will happen during World Cannabis Week in late April; prices range from $499 for a three-day trip to $849 for a VIP five-day tip. The company is offering a series of bus rides, seminars, concerts, and “cooking classes.” Attendees will stay at “cannabis friendly hotels.” If you haven’t booked your travel plans yet, you may be out of luck. We called Brown to get more details.

How long have you and your partner been planning My 420 Tours?

James and I have been buddies for years. In 2009 and 2010, I was the lobbyist who represented the medical marijuana industry. I wrote most of the regulations that we passed in 2010. James was a dispensary owner at the time, which he sold about a year ago. We’ve been in the industry for a while and we’ve definitely been watching it. After the election, we started talking about it. We had a big New Year’s Eve party and we were like, “Let’s put this together and see what happens.”

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