Your inner fish

Who is ancestor of human? This is a question that had already bothered scientists for hundreds of years, starting before Darwin and continuing today.

A scientists, Neil Shubin had some great discovery of human’s ancestor. He found out that ancient fish is related to human in a lot of parts. It includes organs, bones, etc. For organs, especially in embryo form, fish and human look alike. Both have a body, head and a tail. There are some other organs, which fish and human both have,  but perform different function. Gill arches in fish grow into gill apparatus, while they grow into lower jaw in human body. Gonads grow toward heart in fish, but it falls outside of human body. This is because fish is a cold-blooded animal, while human is warm-blooded. So, gonad could not stand the temperature near heart.

The most spectacular finding is the bone. In human, our bones on arms and legs are grown in four section, two long bones, several short bones and digits (fingers). Every reptile and mammals also have this So if we are related to fish, there are definitely similar bone structure in fish. However, the fin of fish are different from our bone structure, so there must be an intermediate step between fish and reptile. Neil shubin found that intermediate species, called Tiktaalik. This species can swim in the river, but also have a bone structure similar to human, which allows it to move on land. This finding is incredible since it fulfills the gaps of evolution between fish and evolution. images.jpeg

Source: Book “Your inner fish”


Earthquakes everywhere. Are big ones close to United States?

The Ring of Fire around Pacific ocean is really active recently. On April 15th, 2016, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake stroke north of Kumamoto on the island of Kyushu. One day later, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake stroke the coast of Ecuador. Both earthquake caused a lot of damage to both countries, while killing several hundred people. Several hundred people does not seem to be a lot comparing to earthquake striking China 2008, killing nearly 70 thousand and earthquake striking Haiti in 2010, killing over 100 thousand. But it gives people a lot of fear that bigger earthquakes are coming.

United States’ west coast is on the Ring of Fire, which supposedly should have a huge earthquake in several hundred years. Now, scientists are starting to feat that an earthquake over 9.0 magnitude is going to strike the west coast. The large earthquake usually happens at an average of 240 years, while it has been 315 years that a massive quake has not happened. So, it is not exaggerate to say that we need to be prepare for the massive quake. White House is now also preparing for that. They developed a system called Shake Alert. It could provide a warning of a more than 8.0 quake 28 seconds before it strikes, while a tsunami will arrive 15 minutes later. This does not seem to be a lot of time, but the death total will change a lot because of this system. Earthquakes does not kill   as much as we think of, while tsunami will wipe out most of the population. The 15 minutes gap will allow people to move to the high ground. In 2004, an earthquake strikes the Indian ocean, which led to a huge tsunami. While the earthquakes did not kill a lot, the tsunami wiped out 280,000 people’s life. If there is a warning to give people 15 minutes to prepare, there will be much fewer death.

So, a big earthquake is coming in a short time. We need to get prepared, but we do not need to be feared.

Frogs? Are they in danger?

We can see frogs everywhere in our life, near the pond, river, lakes, swamps etc. But, are they as abundant as we see? No, recently, a newly developed fungus has become the biggest issue for frogs, even all amphibian creatures. Also, it is ranked one of the most serious environmental issues in the world.

The newly developed fungus is called Chytrid Fungus. It leads to a disease called Chytridiomycosis, which leads to massive amount of death in amphibian species, including frogs. This diseases has result in extinction of more than 100 amphibian species and infect 287 species around the world.

But how can a fungus kill an amphibian? Chytrid fungus will infect the cell in the outer skin layer that contain large amount of protein: Keratin. Keratin could make the outside skin resistant to injury, while also make hair, feather and claws. Chytrid fungus will infect keratin and make the outer skin layer really thick. This will cause devastating result in amphibians, since amphibian absorbs water and minerals through skins instead of mouth. Lacking these important minerals, heart will stop beating and lead to death. Also, some species use skin to breath. Therefore, the disease will cause suffocation, leading to death.

The other considerable problems with this disease is that there are species that are resistant to it, such as American bullfrog and African clawed frog. This causes concerns that they may be carriers of the disease and spread them throughout the forest without noticing.



10 Weird Environmental Issues With Serious Impacts On Wildlife

Is Chernobyl a Wild Kingdom or a Radioactive Den of Decay?

Chernobyl is the most catastrophic disaster in 20th century, which reactor 4 of Chernobyl nuclear power plants exploded. The whole region around the power plant was evacuated and now became a exclusion zone for humans. Though reactor 1, 2 and 3 remained functional and provided power until 2000, the region near Chernobyl never thrived again. But, humans could not live in that region, how about animals?

Since the start of 21st century, scientists started to find animals in the region of Chernobyl. This raised a lot of discussions. Why will these animals move in? How does high level of radiation affect theses animals? There are two sides, one believe that Chernobyl became a heaven for animals, since humans are not allowed. The other sides claims that the radiation influence the animals and cause mutations. Animals moves in only because there are no humans in the area.

The positive side shows a lot of pictures of animals in Chernobyl area, including some endangered species. They believe that Chernobyl has changed from a wasteland to an Eden. They even developed an idea of burying nuclear waste in the rainforest to keep human out, while thriving animals.

The negative side shows that there are still 300 times higher radiation level in Chernobyl region than normal level. Animals living their show symptoms of mutation and high risk of growing tumor. The population of animals is actually shrinking in the area. The only reason why animals seem to be thriving is because of immigration. Since, human occupy most of animal’s land, animals are forced to move into an area that no human is present, which is Chernobyl.

Both sides have their evidences of claiming their statements, while a lot of mysteries have not been revealed, since there are only limit number of visitors allowed in Chernobyl. ff_chernobyl4_f.jpg





Rising sea level slowed? How?

As global warming continue to affect the earth, more and more ice and glaciers melt, which let the earth soak up to an extra of 3.2 trillion tons of water in soil, lakes and underground storage. Although global warming is seriously affecting the sea level, land soaking water has temporarily slow the rate of rising sea level by 20%.

Hydrological cycle happens when great amounts of water evaporates from ocean, then falls to land as rain and snow, finally runoff through rivers back into ocean. Scientists know that small changes in Hydrological cycle will lead to global scale changes, but they do not have a tool to measure the change.

However, recently, NASA launches twin satellites which could quantifying the change by calculating the gravitational pull that results from water moving on its surface. So scientists could find the change of water storage on land. This cause some surprises. Before, scientists assume that because of reliability on ground water by human, there is a net transfer of water from land to ocean. However, actually, the land is not acting like a sponge that absorb water.

This finding is important to our future, as scientists could be able to study the possible effects of climate change because of the shift of water pattern and predict future ocean sea level.

The most important thing in our life, water

Water, as we all know, is the most important substances that support life of organisms. No single organisms could live with out, including us, human beings. However, as industry and technology develops quickly recently, it is vital for human beings to know how to manage water appropriately, so that humans could have enough water to use in the future. There are 2 ways of dealing with water problems.

Protecting clean water is important. According to researchers, dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk. It threaten quality and public health of human beings. For example, when water from rain fun off from roof, it will pick up toxic waste, chemical, dirt and trash. A lot of our water is lack of basic protection and leads to drinking water contamination.

Promoting water efficiency is a solution to solve water shortage. As increasing water scarcity is happening in some area, there are several solutions published to increase water use efficiency and decrease water waste:

1. Adopting sensible standards for efficient appliances, buildings, and irrigation;

2. Supporting cost-effective investments by utilities to help customers save water

3. Improving pricing structures to save both water and money.







January hurricane? Only Bad Luck or Big Climate Change?

Alex was the first named tropical storm of 2016 and made a land fall in Azores on January 15th at 9:15. Though Alex has been downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm by the time it hit land, it still shocked scientists that a tropical storm could be developed in January and developed into a hurricane with clear eye wall.

But how does this kind of weird environmental event happens? What is the cause of the unusual hurricane? There are no specific answers, as scientists start debating. Reasons are between two factors, El Nino and Climate change, or even both. However, officials in NOAA is stating that hurricane in January is unusual, but not unprecedented.

This is definitely true. Hurricanes out of season had happened in the past and it will continue to happen. For example, there is a hurricane during New Year’s Day in 1938, Hurricane Alice on December 30 in 1954 and Tropical Storm Zeta in December 2005, strengthening through January, 2006.

So this kind of event happened before, but what is the main cause of the hurricane? A cold front swept through southeastern America during the first week of January, making the air cold. The difference between the temperature of water and the air causes low pressure system to occur. Also, the water in the area that Alex appears is marginally able to support a hurricane system, so Hurricane Alex is formed.

As a result, Hurricane Alex is just an abnormal climate event in 2016, that will not influence the 2016 hurricane season, so citizens do not need to worry about this event. Scientists will not be able to give any predictions about the 2016 hurricane season until May.

Citation:  “Why Is There A Hurricane In January?” Popular Science. Web. 18 Jan. 2016.