The Problem with British Jelly Fish

A foray of jellyfish into a cooling water pond at a Scottish nuclear power plant kept its nuclear reactors offline last Wednesday, a phenomenon that could become more common in the future.

Two reactors at EDF Energy’s Torness nuclear plant on the Scottish east coast remained closed for one day after they were manually shut down due to masses of jellyfish blocking cooling water filters.

Power plants draw water from nearby rivers or seas to cool down their reactors, however, if the filters that keep out marine animals and seaweed are clogged up, the station shuts down to maintain its temperature and safety standards.

Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation said that power plants follow a pre-planned program when such situations occur.

The most recent plant availability data from network operator National Grid showed Torness reactor 1 would be returning to service on July 5 and reactor 2, July 6, although, operator EDF Energy was unable to give a restart date.

Operators often take the opportunity presented by an unplanned stoppage to carry out maintenance work.

A spokesman for Britain’s largest nuclear power operator, EDF Energy, said:

“We are working to clear the jellyfish from the waters near the power station. This work, as well as monitoring the area for more jellyfish, is ongoing.”


Scientists say jellyfish obstructing power plants is not a common occurrence in England, though it has happened more often in other countries like Japan.

Water temperatures off the east coast of Scotland are currently 13 degrees Celsius, that is one degree above average levels for this time of the year.

Increasing global warming and fishing activity are giving jellyfish populations a boost, potentially making jellyfish invasions at nuclear power plants located near the open sea increasingly common in the future.

Chinese Pandas

China is about to engage in a once-every-ten-year count of giant pandas living in the wild.

The official China Daily reported that upwards of sixty trackers are being trained at Wanglang National Reserve in the southwestern province of Sichuan – a province that is believed to have the largest number of wild pandas in China.

Here’s what they will do to take their census:

They will start by collecting droppings for a DNA analysis that will allow zoologists to track individual pandas and accurately estimate the population, Chen Youping, the director of the reserve’s administrative department, was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency.

Also, the census is expected to bring to light more on living conditions, age structure and changes of habitat of the endangered species.

The last census counted 1,596 wild pandas in China, 1,206 of which were living in Sichuan.

Wild pandas are threatened by a loss of habitat, poaching and that they are poor breeders. Females in the wild normally have a cub once every two or three years.

The trackers will begin a pilot survey at the nature reserve this week which is expected to end by the beginning of the month of July.

The Problem with Camels

Recently, the Australian government proposed that killing camels should be an officially recognized means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The country down under has the world’s largest wild camel population; an estimated 1.2 million – and they consider this to be a growing environmental problem.

Every camel belches an estimated 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of methane per year; that is equivalent to a metric ton (1.1 U.S. ton) of carbon dioxide in its impact on global warming. This is roughly one-sixth the amount of CO2 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says an average car produces per year.

A bill to create a carbon credit regime will go to a vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday and is expected to become law within weeks.

A government registry will be set up to determine what actions would qualify for carbon credits, and bureaucrats are expected to decide by the end of the year whether killing camels will be among them.

The government’s parliamentary secretary for climate change, Mark Dreyfus, said he hopes the proposal wipes out camels from the Australian wild.

“Potentially it has tremendous merit, because feral camels are a dreadful menace across the whole of arid Australia”.

Dreyfus said at an Associated Press meeting Thursday.

Wasp Game Ant Game

Scientists in New Zealand did an experiment with wild insects that studied the common wasp, an alien invader to the island country, competing for food with the native ant species Prolasius advenus.

Wasp Vespula Prolasius Ant DroppingWhen the wasp approached a mound of food swarming with ants, it would pluck an ant from the pile, fly a ways off, and drop the living insect from its jaws.

Common wasps (Vespula vulgaris) are native to North America but were introduced to New Zealand in the 1970s. The wasps eat nectar and other insects, capturing live prey or scavenging.

This led to the establishment of an experiment where wasps and ants were presented with samples of high-protein food: little chunks of tuna fish.

The samples were placed at 48 stations in a natural beach forest; cameras were set up near each one. Both ants and wasps visited 45 of the 48 stations, and the cameras recorded 1,295 interactions between the insects.

Most of the time, the ants and wasps avoided one another. Although, the researchers documented 341 cases when the ants were aggressive toward the wasps, charging, biting or spraying them with formic acid; a natural defense mechanism.

In only 90 encounters the wasps were the aggressors, including 62 cases of ant dropping. The researchers suspect the other 28 times were ant-dropping attempts which the wasps botched.

In the majority of the cases, the wasps’ ant-dropping behavior was unprovoked, ants being grabbed and flown away. Sometimes the ants were unruly before they were grappled and carried off.

The team argues that the acid defense may be why the wasps “ant drop” rather than just killing the smaller insects outright.

Old World and New World Monkeys

Feel insecure? You’re not alone. Monkeys too are inflected with uncertainty and self-doubt.

MacaqueProfessor Michael Beran and John David Smith trained macaques, the Old World group (native to Asia, Africa, and Europe), to play a computer game: if they answered correctly on a test question, they got a treat. Wrong answer, no treat. And third option: question mark. Select the question mark, the screen skips the present question that is considered too hard, and moves on.

The macaques answered in the very same way as humans. The monkeys skipped the tricky questions.

Dr. Smith told the BBC:

“Monkeys apparently appreciate when they are likely to make an error… They seem to know when they don’t know.”

Capuchins, which are New World monkeys (from Central and South America), however, failed to choose the question mark option.

Because macaques are Old World primates, their ability to recognize their own level of thinking may show us a step in human evolution. Dr. Smith thinks this level of cognition might have developed strictly in the line of Old World primates, leading to humans. To put it another way, don’t blame your teacher/mother/boss/first therapist for filling you up with self-doubt. In fact the blame lies with the Old World monkeys!

The Mystery of the Egyptian Jackal

Egyptian conservationists have discovered a new species of wolf sharing DNA with Himalayan and Indian cousins.

The “Egyptian jackal” however, despite the similarities, is actually not a jackal. The discovery of this new species may shed some light on how wolf species migrated through Europe and Africa, proving, thereby that grey wolves emerged on the African continent some 3 million years before spreading to the northern hemisphere.

JackalAs long ago as the late 19th century it was noticed that the Egyptian jackal looked suspiciously like the grey wolf. Studying skulls, biologists in the 20th century made a very similar claim. The creature, however, retained its name; now, the main difference has been made official.

David MacDonald of the journal PLOS One said:

“A wolf in Africa is not only important conservation news, but raises fascinating biological questions about how the new African wolf evolved and lived alongside the real golden jackals.”

Another journal contributor, Eli Rueness, said:

“We could hardly believe our own eyes when we found wolf DNA that did not match anything.”

The DNA of the new species’ is close to wolves found some 2,500 kilometers away in the highlands of Ethiopia, which has not been widely surveyed.

Professor Claudio Sillero, who has been at work on this project for more than two decades in Ethiopia said in a release:

“This discovery contributes to our understanding of the biogeography of Afroalpine fauna, an assemblage of species with African and Eurasian ancestry which evolved in the relative isolation of the highlands of the Horn of Africa. Rare Ethiopian wolves are themselves a recent immigrant to Africa, and split off from the grey wolf complex even earlier than the newly discovered African wolf.”

Two-Headed Cow

A farmer in northern Egypt claims that his cow has given birth to a two-headed calf. He calls this a “divine miracle.”

Sobhy el-Ganzoury said that it took two hours and a whole lot of pulling to deliver the rare calf; the difficult birth weakened the calf’s legs.

The calf is expected to survive and the Egyptian farmer says that he intends to keep the animal as a reminder that,

“God is able to do anything.”

The calf is still not able to stand up because of its weak legs and two heavy heads; and is being fed her mother’s milk with a baby bottle.

Allegations have in the past been made that Islamic slaughter is inhumane. However, not only is this not the case, but the story of an Egyptian farmer, Sobhy el-Ganzoury and his double-headed cow is further proof of the contrary.

“God calls for mercy in everything, so be merciful when you kill and when you slaughter, sharpen your blade to relieve its pain”

– The Koran

Bellyful of Chinook: Sea Lions on Death Row

sea lionWildlife officials have tried everything to keep sea lions from eating endangered salmon, dropping bombs that explode under water and firing rubber bullets and bean bags from shotguns and boats. Now it has come to issuing death sentences to chronic offenders.

A California sea lion last week became the first salmon predator to be euthanized this year under a program that has been denounced by those who say there are far greater dangers to salmon, like the series of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia.

The program has been administered for two years by wildlife officials in Oregon and Washington and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Last year, 11 sea lions were euthanized. Another four were transferred to zoos or aquariums.

The sea lions represent a massive headache each year as chinook salmon begin arriving at the Bonneville Dam east of Portland, congregating in large numbers on their return from the ocean. Sea lions have become aware that the dam is a great spot to feast on salmon, easy pickings for them as they wait to go up the dam’s fish ladders.

Officials are tracking 63 additional sea lions listed as repeat offenders. They are identified by scars or by numbers which were branded on them by researchers.

Sea lions have eaten salmon forever. But the numbers have soared recently, as has the number of sea lions cruising upriver to dine on the salmon at Bonneville Dam. Frustrations are peaking as well, especially among fishermen who have watched sea lions snatch salmon right out of their gill nets.

The sea lions are protected by a 1972 federal law, however an amendment leaves open the possibility that some can be captured or killed if the states request it. Oregon and Washington did in 2006 with the support of Indian tribes and sport and commercial fishing groups.

Two years ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service authorized Oregon and Washington officials to first attempt to catch the sea lions that arrive at the base of Bonneville Dam and hold them for 48 hours to see whether an aquarium, zoo or similar facility will take them in.

Supporters say the program is successful. The numbers of sea lions at the dam have dropped, although the 4,489 salmon they ate last year was the highest since tracking began in 2002.

The Humane Society says that fishermen catch three times as many salmon as sea lions eat.

The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission this year has begun tracking the sea lions’ movements with acoustic transmitters and cameras placed along the river. Instead of just reacting to the sea lions, the data might help authorities plan a more successful campaign.

The aggravation comes as experts predict the largest spring chinook run since 1938. Thanks to good ocean conditions for young salmon, a projected 470,000 fish will head up the Columbia River, compared to 169,300 in 2009.

Food Buffs on Your Honey Moon, This One’s for You

I found this list floating around that was just too…unique to pass up. Recommended foods to eat “just once before you die”, or in my words, to serve to your loved on as a once-in-a-lifetime gift. “Just once,” probably because they are unavailable in your local Winn Dixie, America’s supermarket every day, or whatever the slogan is these days. That, and these foods you can only find in places that don’t exactly attract much tourism or interest other than college students who want to go to whacked-out places and help out the destitute brutalized under an endless slew of dictators that keep launching coups every other week.

“Before you die,” maybe because these places aren’t so safe. Well, maybe I exaggerate. But the food’s great!

fried spiderThe first is fried spider. You can find these in a wonderful place called Cambodia, usually in the news for bad things, but spider season is out and you better go try some. The spiders are eaten in a town called Skuon, and they are as big as your hand. They’re bred in spider farms that consist of holes in the ground. Once they’re no longer alive, they are breaded with monosodium glutamate (MSG – you can find bags of this stuff in Chinatown, flavor enhancer that gives you headaches), sugar and salt. They’re then fried with garlic until the legs get crispy. Eat the head and the legs. Stay away from the abdomen. At least that’s what the locals say.

fuguThe next one is Fugu, which you can find in Japan. Granted, ever since World War II ended, Japan has been a pretty upstanding country. No dictators there. Just poisonous fish. The Fugu fish, what we know as a blow fish, is so poisonous it can kill 30 men with its liver and ovaries, where the poison, tetrodotoxin, is produced. I can’t kill anyone with my liver and ovaries, which makes me feel kind of left out. But anyway.

Eating fugu is only advisable in the absolute best restaurants of Tokyo, because it can only legally be prepared by a licensed chef, who we may remind you basically has your life in his hands as he cuts away blow fish livers and ovaries and DOES NOT EAT THEM. The best part of the experience of this daredevil delicacy is the sensation on the tongue given by small amounts of tetrodotoxin and won’t kill you.

Third, we have a Chinese Century Egg. China, not so good on the human rights or environment or democratic freedoms, but good on the Century Egg, which is basically an egg wrapped in clay, salt, and lime juice. It’s then wrapped in straw and aged for a few months. The yolk turns green and the white turns brown, which is similar to when you stick an egg in a crockpot for a day. Sam I Am would be proud of you for trying it.

Finally, El Salvadorian Iguana meat. Don’t know much about El Salvador, other than that its class gap is enormous and it gets hit by hurricanes every 20 minutes. They say iguana tastes like chicken but tougher. I wouldn’t know, but if I ever wanted to find out I can just pick one up from my backyard. That is if I can catch it.

Giant Rat Discovered in Papua New Guinea

Tambopata32.2 inches from nose to tail and weighing around three and a half pounds. That’s almost a yard long. 10 of those and you’ve almost got yourself a fist down.

The discovery was made by a team from the BBC Natural History Unit inside the crater of Mount Bosavi, which is an extinct volcano.

“This is one of the world’s largest rats. It’s a true rat, the same kind you find in the city sewers,” said Kristofer Helgen, a biologist from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. We at have a question, though. Is it a technical requirement to be able to live in a city sewer to be a rat?

Rat’s are not all that they found there, however. George McGavin, a Research Associate at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and The Department of Zoology of Oxford University, said about the area that “To find new species of insects in this region isn’t uncommon, but we found sixteen new frog species, one new bat species and at least three new fish, and this giant bloody rat — the size of a cat. Amazing!”

He continued, “The animals inside this crater were unafraid of humans, pretty much because they hadn’t seen them very much.” I’d be afraid if I were them. Once they discover you…it’s usually all downhill from there.
The crater is abandoned by humans because local inhabitants keep out of it. The climb in and out is too steep for their blood.

Summing up his trip, he gave some advice. “Humans can’t seem to agree on anything, but we should at least agree that forest habitats like this one should be conserved; not only because 80 percent of the world’s species live in forests, but if we are going to avoid the worst affects of global warming we’ve got to keep these forests,” McGavin said.