A chimpanzee’s life is far from simple: these highly social and intelligent creatures face any number of human and natural threats to their existence. From habitat loss and poaching to predation and Ebola, which has wiped out an estimated third of all chimpanzees, a host of perils lie in wait for these great apes, currently classified as endangered.
Their fragile status makes the findings of a recent CDC study all the more compelling and crushing: published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal in December, the study indicated the human cold virus was responsible for a deadly 2013 respiratory disease outbreak that killed five chimps in Uganda’s Kibale National Park.
Ever wonder what it would be like to float in orbit for years with not a peep from planet Earth? NASA’s IMAGE satellite doesn’t need to imagine: it spent the past twelve years lost in outer space.
But in a happy accident, hobbyist astronomer Scott Tilley recently detected a signal from the satellite, which was left for dead in December 2005. On January 30, NASA confirmed that a signal Tilley had picked up buried within Earth’s magnetosphere matched that of the long-lost machine.
The ancient, fragile bones of a buried child were all it took to discover what scientists now believe to be America’s first known settlers.
In 2010, archaeologists who came across an infant girl’s body in an approximately 11,500-year-old Alaskan burial pit had no idea what they’d stumbled upon. In a subsequent study of the child’s genomic structure, published recently in Nature, a team of international scientists reveals that she is descended from a previously unknown population they believe would have been among the first to migrate to the Americas.
Once wilderness is gone, it’s gone for good. A new study published by the University of Queensland finds that Earth’s wildernesses are disappearing at a rapid rate, and emphasizes that once degraded, there’s no evidence to suggest they can be fully restored.
Led by UQ professor James Watson, also a director of science with Wildlife Conservation Society, researchers mapped global wilderness areas lost since 1992. They concluded that 10 percent of all wilderness areas had vanished in that time. “If this rate continues, we will have lost all wilderness within the next 50 years,” concluded Watson.
Who knew the next generation of social media stars would consist of giant arachnids? Recently, biologists’ use of Facebook to gain insight on the baboon spider, a mammoth tarantula species native to southern Africa, has emerged as a case study demonstrating social media’s power to transform how scientists collect data and discover new creatures.
Baboon Spiders: A Study in Crowdsourcing Scientific Discovery
Seeking to learn more about baboon spiders, researchers created a tool to collate images of the elusive eight-legger: the aptly-named Baboon Spider Atlas. The atlas, which crawls Facebook and other social media platforms in search of relevant photos, takes advantage of the public’s proclivity to post photos of particularly strange or startling creatures online.
For perhaps the first time, patients suffering from Huntington’s disease have cause for hope. A recent trial conducted by researchers at University College London (UCL) indicates that an experimental drug may significantly suppress a mutated gene related to Huntington’s devastating degenerative effects.
It is estimated that about 30,000 people in the United States and 8,500 people in the UK currently suffer from Huntington's. The disease, which some patients describe as a mix of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS, is responsible for a dizzying array of symptoms. Patients first experience severe mood swings and depression, then face ever-worsening dementia and a gradual loss of motor control that ends in paralysis; the majority die about 10 to 20 years following its onset.
At a January 10 press conference, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced dual actions that will turn up the heat on oil titans. The mayor vowed to divest about $5 billion in citywide pension funds from companies that produce fossil fuels within the next five years. He also revealed a lawsuit against five massive oil companies––Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and Conoco Phillips––for billions of dollars worth of climate change-related damages the city has sustained.
The lawsuit charges these five major players with having produced 11% of all global warming-related gas emissions. Additionally, it alleges the companies obscured the devastating environmental impacts of fossil fuels for years.