In a March 18 article, LiveScience Staff Writer Tia Ghose reports on a study published today in the periodical Current Biology, suggesting that birds are evolving shorter wings to avoid becoming road kill. The study is by Charles R. Brown of the University of Tulsa and Mary Bomberger Brown of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The study of cliff swallows, species Petrochelidon pyrrhonota, was done over a period of thirty years in southwestern Nebraska (Brown and Brown, page R233). The authors found that, even as the population enlarged, the frequency of road-killed swallows diminished. Rather than changes in animal scavengers or vehicles, the Browns hypothesize that the decline in road-killed birds has been caused by a decrease in average wing length. Cliff swallows often nest by roads. The authors cite evidence that shorter, rounder wings enable a better vertical takeoff (R234).
In a March 17 article, Asian News International (ANI) reports that the company Ecovative Design, in Green Island, New York, is using fungi to manufacture biodegradable alternatives to packing materials such as polystyrene foam (such as Styrofoam). The process involves mixing sterile plant products with nutrients, adding fungal mycelia, growing the fungus in a frame, and heating and drying the resulting structure. A mycelium (plural form: mycelia) is a web of tubular cells that makes up a mold, a filamentous fungus. The article says that the resulting structure is hypoallergenic, nontoxic, water-resistant, and “won't emit volatile organic compounds.”
Another article by ANI, published today, describes research by scientists Adam C. Martiny et alia, whose findings are contrary to the Redfield ratio in marine science. The Redfield ratio is named after oceanographer Alfred Redfield. ANI states, “He concluded in 1934 that from the top of the world's oceans to their cool, dark depths, both plankton and the materials they excrete contain the same ratio (106:16:1) of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous.” Martiny et al found that the theory could be false:
What matters more than depth, they concluded, is latitude. In particular, the researchers detected far higher levels of carbon in warm, nutrient-starved areas (195:28:1) near the equator than in cold, nutrient-rich polar zones (78:13:1).
The study is important because it shows that marine plankton may absorb much more carbon than commonly theorized. The article about the study was published online on March 17 in the periodical Nature Geoscience.
Author: Charles R. Brown, Mary Bomberger Brown. Article: Where has all the road kill gone? Periodical: Current Biology. Volume: 23. Issue: 6. Date: March 18, 2013. Pages: R233-R234.