Posted by: Viktor Mar | 2011 February 10

Science and technology

Shark diet said wearing out whales’ teeth

NANAIMO, British Columbia (UPI) — Marine scientists say a mysterious population of killer whales off the British Columbia coast specializes in killing sharks — to the detriment of their teeth.
The offshore killer whales were first discovered in 1989, but their diet has remained largely a mystery due to their wide-ranging and distant movements, The Vancouver Sun reported Tuesday.
Resident killer whales, which stick to specific hunting ranges, depend on a diet of fish, while transient killer whales will eat marine mammals such as seals and sea lions, scientists say.
But a study of the offshore whales found DNA evidence showing they are preying on large Pacific sleeper sharks, whose skin is so abrasive it is believed to be wearing the whales’ teeth flat.
"It’s exciting. It’s been a detective hunt for so long," said John Ford, a senior research scientist with the federal Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Other potential prey of offshore killer whales include salmon shark, blue shark and spiny dogfish, as well as related species such as skates and rays, the researchers say.

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

 

Suit blames cancer on Marine base water

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (UPI) — A former Marine is suing the U.S. government, saying contaminated water at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune led to his suffering a rare form of cancer.
Joel Shriberg is seeking $16 million in damages, claiming "notorious and reckless contamination" at the military base led to his developing a rare form of breast cancer, the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer reported Sunday.
Shriberg of Pinehust, N.C., was a clerk with a howitzer battalion at Camp Lejeune from September 1957 to April 1959.
He was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 that has since spread to his lungs, the lawsuit says.
"The water contamination at Camp Lejeune has affected Marines and civilians alike," the suit says. "It has not discriminated in its poisoning of the former residents and personnel at Camp Lejeune during the relevant period, and continues to destroy both military and civilian families with its cancerous effects."
"From at least 1957 through 1987, Marines, their families and other personnel at Lejeune drank and bathed in water contaminated with more than 70 chemicals and toxins at levels 240 to 3,400 times permitted by safety standards," the complaint says.
Shriberg’s lawyer says at least 850 former Camp Lejeune residents have filed claims for nearly $4 billion.

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

 

Test could flag early Alzheimer’s onset

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario (UPI) — Canadian researchers say they’ve made a significant step towards a breakthrough in the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.
Ontario-based Amorfix Life Sciences Ltd. says it has developed a diagnostic test to measure clumped protein fragments called aggregated beta amyloid in human cerebral spinal fluid which may indicate the presence of Alzheimer’s disease and make it easier to accurately diagnose the disease, a company release said Monday.
Currently, the only definitive diagnosis for Alzheimer’s is a post-mortem examination of brain tissue to identify proteins that lead to plaque formation around neurons, believed to cause the symptoms of the disease.
The Amorfix test is conducted on the cerebral spinal fluid from living patients, offering the possibility of early detection.
"Our hope is to one day be able to use this test on patients showing early signs of dementia in order to predict which patients may progress rapidly into the disease and which may not," Amorfix President Dr. Robert Gundel said.

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

 

Polar bear tracked on epic 9-day swim

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Scientists say a female polar bear embarked on a swimming search for sea ice north of Alaska that lasted nine days and covered 426 miles.
Scientists studying the bears around the Beaufort Sea say this endurance swim could be a result of climate change, the BBC reported Tuesday.
Polar bears are known to embark on journeys between land and sea ice floes to hunt seals, but researchers say diminishing sea ice is forcing polar bears to swim greater distances, risking their own health and that of future generations.
Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey published the details of their study in the journal Polar Biology.
"This bear swam continuously for 232 hours and 687 kilometers (426 miles) and through waters that were 2-6 degrees C (35 to 42 degrees F)," research zoologist George M. Durner said.
"We are in awe that an animal that spends most of its time on the surface of sea ice could swim constantly for so long in water so cold. It is truly an amazing feat."
Researchers say the epic journey, tracked with a GPS collar placed on the bear, came at a high cost for the animal.
"This individual lost 22 percent of her body fat in two months and her yearling cub," Durner said.
"This dependency on sea ice potentially makes polar bears one of the most at-risk large mammals to climate change."

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

 

New images of martian moon released

PARIS (UPI) — The European Space Agency has released close-up portraits of Mars’s moon Phobos, taken as the ESA Mars Express spacecraft flew within 60 miles of it.
Showing a multitude of mysterious grooves etched into Phobos’ surface, the images were captured Jan. 9, an ESA release accompanying the images reported Monday.
"This was an exceptional flyby where for the first time we could cover a large part of the far side of Phobos’ Southern Hemisphere," Mars Express scientist Gerhard Neukum of the Free University of Berlin said.
Resolving features as small as 17 yards across, they show in detail the currently planned landing sites for the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission scheduled for launch later this year, the ESA said.
The Russian craft would be the first probe to land on Phobos, Alexander Basilevsky of the Phobos-Grunt team at the Vernadsky Institute in Moscow said.
Scientists can construct high-resolution topographic maps of the landing sites from the images to help help determine where Phobos-Grunt will ultimately touch down, the ESA said.

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

 

Labs top 2010 list of most popular dogs

NEW YORK (UPI) — The New York-based American Kennel Club said its registration statistics indicate Labrador retrievers remained the nation’s top dogs for another year.
The organization said its 2010 registration statistics found Labs were the most popular dogs, followed by German shepherds, Yorkshire terriers, beagles, golden retrievers, bulldogs, boxers, dachshunds, poodles and shih tzus.
The AKC said beagles and golden retrievers switched spots from the 2009 list, as did boxers and bulldogs.
The kennel club said three new breeds appeared on its registry in 2010 — the 33rd-ranked Leonberger, the Cane Corso at spot 51 and the Icelandic sheepdog in 82nd.

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

 

Settlement in Florida suit affects turtles

MIAMI (UPI) — Turtles nesting on Florida beaches will be protected by a settlement in a federal lawsuit but some landowners say they are unhappy about the agreement.
Two environmental groups, the National Wildlife Federation and Florida Wildlife Federation, had filed suit, claiming federal emergency managers have allowed insurance for coastal construction without considering the effect of such development on the nesting grounds of five threatened or endangered sea turtles, McClatchy Newspapers reported Friday.
A FWF spokesman said the National Flood Insurance Program amounted to a taxpayer-supported subsidy encouraging construction in dangerous locations on Florida beaches vulnerable to hurricanes.
"What we’re trying to do ultimately is reduce exposure of the public to this liability," FWF President Manley Fuller said. "We need to pull back a little further from the beaches."
The settlement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency doesn’t explicitly provide turtles any additional protections but does say FEMA, which oversees the flood insurance program, must ask the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries to scrutinize the flood insurance program.
The two agencies would then have 11 months to provide "biological assessment" of any impacts.
The environmental groups said they did not intend to eliminate flood insurance from heavily developed areas such as Miami Beach or Fort Lauderdale, but do want FEMA to stop issuing new policies in flood-prone areas.
They said they also want to end policy renewals for coastal development heavily damaged by storms or erosion, a step that could force landowners to rebuild at their own risk.

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

 

Team drills toward hidden Antarctic lake

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (UPI) — Russian scientists drilling into the Antarctic’s Lake Vostok, 13,000 feet beneath the continent’s ice sheet, say they are in a race against the weather.
With the Antarctic summer almost over, temperatures will soon drop and the scientists will have to depart by Feb. 6 while conditions are still mild enough for a plane to land at the remote Vostok base, the BBC reported Friday.
The researchers have been drilling non-stop for weeks, the BBC said.
"It’s like working on an alien planet where no one has been before," said Valery Lukin, deputy head of Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St. Petersburg, which oversees the project.
"We don’t know what awaits us down there," he said, noting that personnel at the station have been drilling 24 hours a day and have less than 160 feet to go.
The Russian team says they hope to find life forms that have never been seen before in the lake, sealed off from the rest of the world by its cover of ice for millions of years.
Scientists say conditions in Lake Vostok have probably remained unchanged for some 15 million years.

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

 

Mountain climber survives 1,000-foot fall

GLASGOW, Scotland (UPI) — A mountain climber in Scotland fell 1,000 feet and then stood up to await rescue, the British military said.
The unidentified 35-year-old man from Glasgow slipped and fell Saturday afternoon on the 3,600-foot mountain in west-central Scotland, Scotland on Sunday reported.
He was among a group of more than 20 climbers who made a distress call after he vanished, the report said.
By chance, a military helicopter with a medical crew aboard was airborne on a training exercise and reached the scene within 30 minutes. The crew expected to find a dead man, but was shocked to spot the climber standing up, reading a map, the report said.
Helicopter officer Lt. Tim Barker said it was a shock to see the man alive after falling the height of the Eiffel Tower.
"We honestly thought it couldn’t have been him, as he was on his feet reading a map," Barker said. "We were able to get in quite close to where he had landed and we winched our paramedic … down to the scene and it appeared that, beyond some superficial cuts and bruises and a minor chest injury, he was unscathed."

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

 

Coyotes seen, heard in Chicago

CHICAGO (UPI) — Residents in northwest Chicago say they’ve had multiple sighting of a coyote and report a chorus of coyotes howling in response to ambulance sirens.
Ohio State University researcher Stan Gehrt, who has conducted a decade-long study of coyotes’ movement into the Chicago area, says residents have little to fear, the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday.
"We have located them in Grant Park, in Lincoln Park, in the dog parks," Gehrt says. "People are probably walking within a few feet of them and not even noticing."
Gehrt estimates there are about 2,000 coyotes in the metropolitan area, with most of them enjoying longer life spans than their country cousins.
Peaceful coexistence reigns for the most part, although feeding coyotes or trying to befriend them will eventually make them bolder and dangerous to humans, Gehrt says.
"If you see a coyote, you can educate them. Yell at them. Throw something at them," he says.
There have been no reports in Chicago of coyotes attacking humans, and only about 70 documented attacks on pets, the Tribune reported.

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

 

U.N.: World fish stocks over-exploited

UNITED NATIONS (UPI) — Global consumption of fish is at a record high, a report says, leaving world fish stocks depleted from over-exploitation
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization says fish consumption reached an average of 37 pounds per person and fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 145 million tons in 2009. That amounts to about 16 percent of humanity’s animal protein intake, the BBC reported Tuesday.
Thirty-two percent of the fish stocks monitored by the FAO were depleted or in the process of recovering from over-exploitation, the U.N. report said.
Most stocks of the Top 10 commercial species, comprising almost a third of global catches, were fully exploited, the U.N. report said.
"That there has been no improvement in the status of stocks is a matter of great concern," Richard Grainger, an FAO senior fish expert, says.
"The percentage of over-exploitation needs to go down, although at least we seem to reaching a plateau."
Fish continued to be the most-traded food commodity, worth $102 billion in 2008, the U.N. report found.

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

 

Pilot falls asleep during passenger flight

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (UPI) — A pilot for an airline based in Sweden fell asleep during a flight from Denmark to Sweden while his co-pilot was using the lavatory.
The Scandinavian Airlines System Group pilot wrote in his report he fell asleep during the Copenhagen to Stockholm flight because he was "extremely tired" from having only slept four 4 the previous night, Swedish news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyra reported Thursday.
The pilot said he fell asleep while his co-pilot was using the toilet and the co-pilot had to buzz the door several times before he woke up and was able to open the cockpit.
The flight last year was kept on course by the plane’s autopilot.
An SAS manager said the airline is not planning any disciplinary action against the pilot.

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

 

Report warns of wireless radiation risks

BOULDER, Colo. (UPI) — A report in a U.S. journal says there are possible biological hazards and risks of genetic damage from unchecked proliferation of wireless technologies.
A panel of international scientists writing in the journal Reviews of Environmental Health is urging world governments to set greatly reduced exposure limits for electromagnetic radiation from power line and telecommunications technologies including cellphones, ElectromagneticHealth.org reported Wednesday.
In the United States, there have been calls in Congress for a U.S. cellphone research program, warning labels on cellphones and an update of antiquated radiation exposure standards, but no action has been taken yet, scientists say.
"Current United States and ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) standards for radiofrequency and microwave radiation from wireless technologies are entirely inadequate," panel chairman Olle Johansson of the Karolinska Institutet medical university in Stockholm said. "They never were intended to address the kind of exposures from wireless devices that now affect over 4 billion people."
The current accepted measure of radiation risk, the specific absorption rate or SAR, is inadequate, the panel said.
There is abundant evidence that biological effects are occurring at exposures "many orders of magnitude" below existing public safety standards, it said.
"We are already seeing increases in health problems such as cancer and neurobehavioral impairments, even though these wireless technologies are fairly new in the last decades or so for the general public," said panel member Elihu Richter, retired professor of occupational and environmental medicine at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Copyright 2011 by United Press International

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