Archive for the 'Nature, red in tooth and claw' Category

At the lakeshore in the shadows of the mountains of madness

As I warned before, this Antarctic scientific expedition is not going to end well for humanity:

The more than 300 lakes discovered in the last couple of decades beneath the mighty Antarctic ice sheet have been sealed from the outside world for probably several million years. Today, a team of US Antarctic researchers proudly announced they have accessed one of the last unexplored frontiers on Earth.

At 05.00 a.m. local time, the WISSARD (Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling) field team hit the shallow waters of Lake Whillans, a small subglacial lake beneath 800 metre-thick ice at the margin of the West Antarctica’s Ice Sheet.

The historic breakthrough has been long in the making. The WISSARD project has been planned for more than a decade and required three and a half years of intense preparation.

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It shouldn’t take very long to find out. The water and sediment samples are now being processed and analysed for any form of organic carbon they may host.

Shoggoth or some long sleeping Elder Things that had retreated under the water? Let’s just be prepared to welcome our new (old?) alien overlords.

Sherlock the Otter?

I liked the British TV series Sherlock! with its updating of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in modern London. I thought it was faithful to the characters and excellent in showing how eccentric Holmes could be and why Watson put up with him.

Also I like otters.

So this is brilliant.

‘Worms from hell’ discovered

Washington Post:

“This is telling us something brand new,” said Onstott, whose pioneering work in South Africa over the past decade has revolutionized the understanding of microbial life known generally as extremophiles, which live in places long believed to be uninhabitable.

“For a relatively complex creature like a nematode to penetrate that deep is simply remarkable,” he said.

An article introducing the subterranean nematodes, one of which was formally named Halicephalobus mephisto after the “Lord of the Underworld,” appears in Wednesday’s edition of the journal Nature. H. mephisto was found in water flowing from a borehole about one mile below the surface in the Beatrix gold mine.

What other monstrosities will we unearth that were meant to remain locked underground?

Mind-controlling fungi create zombie ants

National Geographic:

The fungus species can infect an ant, take over its brain, and then kill the insect once it moves to a location ideal for the fungi to grow and spread their spores.

All four known fungi species live in Brazil’s Atlantic rain forest, which is rapidly changing due to climate change and deforestation, said study leader David Hughes, an entomologist at Penn State University.

We’re so doomed. You know those changes are never good. Soon the fungi aren’t going to use ants, they’re coming for people!

Vampire piranha

I wouldn’t want that set of fangs biting me.

Swamp monster claims 6th kill in latest Capital rampage

From our nation’s most trust worthy news source since the demise of the Weekly World News comes this:

WASHINGTON—The disappearance of a sixth Senate page in less than two months has renewed old fears in the legislative branch, leaving many to wonder if the legendary congressional swamp creature has returned.

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In response to the recent spate of attacks, Senate majority leader Harry Reid has implored legislators to set aside partisanship and pass a bill to end the swamp monster’s reign of terror. But despite the urgency of the situation, the proposal has been mired in political maneuvering and stalled in committee due to disagreements over the bill’s wording.

“We almost passed a funding allocation bill to purchase a flamethrower and burn the hideous half-man, half-salamander alive, until someone attached a $34 million rider for commercial logging in Montana,” Reid said while boarding up his office windows. “And now that…thing has got another one of ours. It’s time to take matters into our own hands and draft an immediate-action resolution with much stronger language.”

Added Reid, “Our only hope is that poor Molly has sated its appetite for long enough to pass this amendment to the Procedure and Administration section of Title 26, the Internal Revenue Code.”

This is not the first time legislators have found themselves living in terror of the scaly abomination. During Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, the 8th U.S. Congress lost nine senators and 21 representatives to the aquatic fiend before it was able to secure enough votes to pass H.R. 243, the Back From Whence It Came proposal. In 1954, Sens. Sam Ervin (D-NC) and Henry Dworshak (R-ID) thought they had finally destroyed the swamp creature for good, after repeatedly stabbing the beast, spraying it with DDT, and dumping its body in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. But after legislators discovered the gruesome remains of the Energy and Water Development subcommittee a few weeks later, Ervin admitted they had probably only aggravated the monster’s aquatic wrath.

There haven’t been this many Congressional staffers found dead since Joe Scarborough and Gary Condit were in office.

Terror from the sky

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Interesting:

WASHINGTON — The Jurassic version of jumbo jets _ huge flying creatures weighing hundreds of pounds _ is a mystery of dinosaur-era flight: How did something so big get off the ground? A Johns Hopkins University biologist thinks he has figured out the answer.

What people think of as “flying dinosaurs” but are technically giant reptiles didn’t launch into the air like birds. They leapt into the air off all four legs, said Mike Habib, of the university’s Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution. Only vampire bats do something like that.

It’s Halloween….

Do you know how your local bat colony is doing? Many across the country are dying from White Nose Syndrome and no one knows what to do.

A mold that gives hibernating bats fuzzy, white noses turns out to be a previously unknown form of cold-loving fungus. And it may be a cold-blooded killer too.

…White-nose syndrome, described only in the last two years, strikes its victims during their winter hibernation. Bats cuddled along the walls of caves or mines develop a white fuzz on their noses and wings, grow gaunt and then die.

…Hibernation sites struck by the syndrome lose 80 to 100 percent of their bats on average, Moore says. Northeastern bats hunt insects, including some pests, she says, so a sudden bat deficit “could be a huge problem.” – ScienceNews

Mystery of the Sound

Where are the Orcas? 7 members of the LPod in the Puget Sound area have gone missing and are feared dead…from starvation. Listen to their haunting songs…and wonder if it is their warning to us that our fate could soon mirror theirs.

Orca Song 2008

A Mysterious Tooth Washes Ashore

during Ike’s fury and delivered to a paleontologist’s doorstep…or rather, what was left of it.

A paleontologist whose beachfront home in Texas was destroyed during Hurricane Ike has found a mammoth’s tooth in the debris.

Scientists Dorothy Sisk and Jim Westgate discovered the football-sized fossil in Sisk’s front yard in Caplen on the devastated Bolivar Peninsula.

…The 6 lb (2.7 kg) tooth, which resembles a series of boot soles or slices of bread wedged together, is most probably that of the Columbian Mammoth, a species common to North America until around 10,000 years ago, Westgate said. – MailOnline

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