Fissures on ocean moons may be too rare to provide conditions for life

Fissures on ocean moons may be too rare to provide conditions for life


Europa, one of Jupiter's moons and Enceladus, one of Saturn's

Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons and Enceladus, one of Saturn’s

NASA

The seafloors of Europa and Enceladus may not be prone to fracturing. Such fissures are thought to be important for the prospect of life beneath these moons’ icy shells, so if there’s not enough stress to cause them, there might also be a shortage of the energy and chemicals that any potential living organisms would need.

We can’t observe the cores of these frigid worlds directly, so we know very little about them. If they fracture often, the …



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Tiger Population in Thai Wildlife Sanctuary Sees Increases for the First Time in 30 Years

Tiger Population in Thai Wildlife Sanctuary Sees Increases for the First Time in 30 Years


Some good news out of Kanchanaburi, Thailand has arrived. A wildlife sanctuary in Southeast Asia has seen its tiger population increase for the first time in three decades.

Staff working at the Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary were able to identify three Indochinese tigers by their distinctive stripe patterns. The three cats were observed in a nature reserve to the north, last year, noted the Bangkok Post.

Tiger Stripes

Each tiger’s stripe pattern is completely unique and as distinct as human fingerprints. Staff at the sanctuary are familiar with the patterns of the cats already living there.

The stripes of the three tigers in the trail cam footage couldn’t be identified, indicating that the animals represent an increase in tiger populations. The new felines on the prowl were a mother tiger and her two cubs.

The sanctuary has been working hard to increase tiger populations there for many years. Back in 2014, the park released 16 banteng cattle with the hope of attracting the endangered felines to protected areas. They’d like to lure more of the big cats to the region, so that they will mate.

PHOTO: PIXABAY/PARKINEER
PHOTO: PIXABAY/PARKINEER

Wildlife Sanctuaries

Established in 1965, Salak Phra is the first sanctuary in Thailand used for research and the study of wildlife. Lush with vegetation, it covers an area of about 8,000 acres and is located right next to Thung Na Mon.

In the last few years, the population of wild banteng has reportedly grown to include 43 animals. If the images are any indication, the tigers have indeed noticed the enticing new menu options and decided to stick around for better — and safer — eats.

PHOTO: PIXABAY/PFÜDERI
PHOTO: PIXABAY/PFÜDERI

World Wildlife Fund

According to the World Wildlife Fund, “After a century of decline, overall wild tiger numbers are starting to tick upward. Based on the best available information, tiger populations are stable or increasing in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Russia, and China.

About 4,500 tigers remain in the wild, but much more work is needed to protect this species if we are to secure its future in the wild. In some areas, including much of Southeast Asia, tigers are still in crisis and declining in number.”

This article by Rebecca West was first published by The Animal Rescue Site. Lead Image: PIXABAY/RAEWALLIS.


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DNA from Beethoven’s hair hints at what killed the composer

DNA from Beethoven’s hair hints at what killed the composer


DNA from strands of Beethoven’s hair is helping to uncover what may have caused his death, researchers say. 

The composer was plagued with health issues for most of his life. On March 26, 1827, he succumbed to what many historians suspect was liver failure while in his apartment in Vienna. Now, an analysis of several locks of hair passed down through families and gathered by collectors shows that Beethoven carried several genetic risk factors for liver disease, the scientists report March 22 in Current Biology.

This elevated risk — paired with a potential liver infection and the composer’s alleged drinking habits — may have hastened Beethoven’s premature death at the age of 56, says Tristan Begg, a biological anthropologist at the University of Cambridge.

It’s well-known that Beethoven’s storied career was cut short by progressive hearing loss that left the composer completely deaf by age 45. Beethoven also suffered from gastrointestinal issues and a deteriorating liver. That faulty organ is thought to be responsible for the composer’s skin reportedly turning yellow in the summer of 1821.  

The root cause of Beethoven’s plethora of health issues has been a source of fascination to many. But working out what ailed a man that lived nearly two centuries ago is no easy task. Researchers have had to rely on notes from the composer’s two autopsies, preformed after he was exhumed in 1863 and 1888, and other historical documents.

portrait of Beethoven
Beethoven reckoned with a series of chronic illnesses throughout his life. Genetic analyses are helping to uncover the source of some of his ailments.Beethoven-Haus Bonn

Clues, however, could hide in Beethoven’s DNA. Only a few historical figures — such as Richard III — have had their DNA analyzed (SN: 12/2/14). But these genetic treasure troves can provide information that “no anatomical examination, after two hundred years, could provide,” says Carles Lalueza-Fox, a paleogeneticist at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, who was not involved in the study.

In 2014, Begg and his colleagues decided to reconstruct Beethoven’s genetic instruction book, or genome. First, the team needed a piece of the composer himself. Luckily, around 30 separate locks of hair attributed to Beethoven had survived, in the possession of collectors and the descendants of people who first received the hair in the 19th century.

Begg partnered with Beethoven enthusiasts to ask the owners of these locks to part with a few strands. The team was able to gather samples from eight locks said to have been snipped from 1821 to 1827.

One lock didn’t yield enough DNA for analysis. Of the others, two locks could not have come from the composer; one belonged to a woman with an ancestry consistent with Ashkenazi Jews, the researchers found. But five of the locks, which came from various sources, clearly belong to a single individual with central European ancestry, which Beethoven would have had. The natural degradation of DNA over time in these locks was also consistent with the hair dating to the early 19th century.

Those common features — along with a clear record of who owned these separate locks of hair over the centuries — makes Begg “extremely confident” that these locks are Beethoven’s.

Lalueza-Fox agrees. “I think they provide compelling evidence of five samples being from the composer,” he says.

The researchers used some of the best-preserved locks to reconstruct the composer’s genome. This analysis didn’t uncover any genetic markers for deafness or intestinal issues. But the team did identify several risk factors for liver disease, including a variant of the gene PNPLA3 that would have tripled the composer’s risk of developing liver issues in his lifetime.

Those risk factors alone shouldn’t have doomed Beethoven. But the scientists also found traces of the hepatitis B virus, which damages livers, in one of the strands reportedly collected shortly after Beethoven’s death. The risk to the liver from a hepatitis B infection would have been further compounded by regular alcohol use, the researchers say. Some contemporaries claimed that the composer was drinking heavily by the end of his life.

While we don’t know exactly what combination of factors killed Beethoven, “this is a fascinating detective story,” says Ian Gilmore, a hepatologist at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital in England, who was not involved with the research.

A fascinating story with a new twist: The Y chromosome in the five hair samples doesn’t match those of five people who share a 14th century ancestor with Beethoven. (The composer never had any known children.) This could be a sign that the hair is inauthentic. Or, more likely, one of Beethoven’s direct ancestors on his father’s side had a child outside of marriage, possibly sometime between the 14th and 16th centuries, Begg says.



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‘Off-Earth’ asks how to build a better future in space

‘Off-Earth’ asks how to build a better future in space


The cover of Off-Earth.

Off-Earth
Erika Nesvold
MIT Press, $27.95

Astrophysicist Erika Nesvold once asked an executive of a company aiming to mine the moon how he planned to address risks that mining equipment might carry microbes from Earth and contaminate the moon (SN: 1/10/18). His response: “We’ll worry about that later.”

That’s a reckless mind-set when it comes to preparing for people to live and work in space, Nesvold argues in her new book, Off-Earth. It means making decisions with your eyes closed. History is full of cautionary tales of mutinies, exploitation, and humanitarian and ecological disasters that would be all too easy to reproduce in space.

“Space settlement advocates often advertise space as a blank slate where we can build utopian societies free from the crowded territory and bloodied history of our terrestrial home,” Nesvold writes. “But adopting a ‘worry about it later’ attitude toward human rights and ethics strikes me as a path to repeating the tragedies of that history through ignorance.”

Nesvold is a developer for the education software/video game Universe Sandbox. In the last several years, she has shifted her focus to how to build a fair and just future in space, cofounding the JustSpace Alliance, a nonprofit working to do just that. Off-Earth is an extension of her 2017 podcast, Making New Worlds, which asked ethical questions about space settlement. The book takes some of the same questions and expands on them. Each chapter title is a question: “Why are we going?” “Who gets to go?” “Who’s in charge?” “What if I get sick?” “Which way is Mecca?”

Most chapters start with three vignettes, usually from different time periods. A chapter outlining debates over whether to settle space at all starts by asking the reader to imagine being in the 1600s and deciding to uproot your family and head to the New World. A chapter on how land usage and ownership rights might work in space imagines a person recently freed from slavery in the U.S. South in 1865 and worrying that the new president will take back the land they finally own. A chapter on the ethical questions that will arise when people get sick in space conjures a hospital worker in 2020 making gut-wrenching triage decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The third vignette is usually set in the year 2100, on a space settlement.

Then Nesvold examines how various ethical scenarios related to the chapter’s theme might play out in space. She quotes experts in fields that don’t often come up in space science: ethics, philosophy, Indigenous history, law.

This approach is a departure from many books about the future of life on the final frontier, forcing readers to confront hard realities and possible points of friction. A lot of arguments for moving humankind off Earth assume space is a land of infinite resources. But at least at first, settlers will have much more limited resources than they did on Earth. And situations where humans are isolated with limited resources, like on ships or in colonial settlements, have often been recipes for disaster.

So how will space settlers share what little they have? How will they decide who lives and dies, and what quality of life and death they’ll have? Will living in the harsh conditions of an early space settlement nurture innovation and creative progress, or encourage humankind’s worst tendencies toward exploitation and tyranny?

Most of these questions don’t have clear answers. That’s partly because ethical questions rarely do. The book “has undoubtedly revealed much about my own political opinions and priorities, not to mention the influence of my personal background and the culture in which I was raised,” Nesvold writes. “In the same way, your position on these issues is likely deeply connected with your own values and beliefs.”

Finding answers is also challenging because it requires anticipating what our descendants, who will live in the space communities we are already creating, will want, need and believe. To have the best chance of avoiding disaster, the time to consider these questions is now, not later, even though space settlement may be decades or centuries away, Nesvold argues.

Off-Earth should be required reading for anyone who dreams about living in space. Space is not a blank slate, but imagining a better world there can help us build one — and can help make our earthbound civilizations better too.


Buy Off-Earth from Bookshop.org. Science News is a Bookshop.org affiliate and will earn a commission on purchases made from links in this article.



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Coquitlam Wildlife Removal: What to Do if you Find Squirrel Damage

Coquitlam Wildlife Removal: What to Do if you Find Squirrel Damage


Many calls to wildlife control services in Coquitlam are about squirrels. Squirrels may be small, and they may look cute and harmless, but they can be among the most destructive wild animals if they get into your home. The more quickly you have the squirrels removed, the less opportunity they have to cause costly property damage to your home.

How To Recognize Squirrel Damage to House and Garden

Your squirrel problem may start in your yard, especially if you have plants that provide food for squirrels. Nut trees are the most obvious, but squirrels also like fruits such as apples, plums, and figs. Furthermore, squirrels might nibble on vegetables in your garden, such as kale, spinach, and corn. If there is damage to your garden plants, it may be difficult to tell whether the culprit is a squirrel or another type of rodent. Squirrels are active during the day, while mice and rats forage at night. Therefore, if you keep a close watch on your g

arden, you may catch a squirrel in the act if it is responsible. Damage to fruit and nut trees is more likely to be caused by squirrels.

If you keep outdoor furniture on your porch, it may be susceptible to squirrel damage. Patio furniture made of hard materials, such as plastic, metal, or wood, provides squirrels with places to gnaw to keep their teeth worn down. You may notice tooth marks in the plastic or wood where the squirrels have been chewing. If you have cushions on your outdoor furniture, squirrels may use their teeth or claws to make holes in them. Then when the temperature drops at night, the squirrels can climb right inside to keep warm. 

From the garden or the yard, squirrels are just one step away from getting into your house. If squirrels do get inside, they will most likely end up in the attic, which satisfies their instinctual need to nest high above the ground to avoid predators. Squirrels not only need nest sites to raise their offspring, but they also need places to store food for winter. A large, unfinished attic with lots of nooks and crannies for food storage, insulation for nesting material, protection from predators, and things to chew on, such as roof joists and electrical wires, is paradise to a squirrel.

You should inspect the attic regularly for signs of squirrels, which also include urine and feces. Squirrel urine can soak through the drywall on the ceiling, resulting in discolouration. Also, check the roof for any damaged areas that could allow squirrels entry. Squirrels are able to chew through wood, plastic, and even aluminum. Look for marks from their large front teeth.

Squirrel Control Coquitlam

How To Keep Squirrels Away

If you have nut or fruit trees in your yard and you don’t want to remove them, be sure to clean up any fallen fruits and dispose of them. You can prevent squirrels from climbing trees by placing a metal collar around the trunk at a height between four and 10 feet. To keep squirrels out of your garden, construct a cage made of wire mesh. Make sure your roof is in good repair and trim back any branches that hang over or close to the roof. That way, it is harder for squirrels to make their way from the trees into your house.

What To Do if Squirrels Get Into Your House Anyway

Wild animals can be tenacious, and once they find a nesting site they like, it can be difficult to deter them from it. If you see signs of squirrels in the house, call Skedaddle. Our technicians are trained to find wild animals even when they are hiding and to remove them safely and effectively. Our process includes sealing entry points so the squirrels can’t get back in and cleaning up any areas that they have contaminated.







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Britain’s proposed ban on big game trophies is ‘arrogant’ and five African nations say the plan smacks of ‘colonialism’

Britain’s proposed ban on big game trophies is ‘arrogant’ and five African nations say the plan smacks of ‘colonialism’


African leaders and conservationists have accused the UK of endangering animals by trying to ban the import of big game trophies.

Nations that are home to most of the big game species on the continent say they need the profits from blood sports to pay for conservation projects.

They expressed exasperation at not being consulted and campaigners said the ‘arrogant’ ban smacked of colonialism and could push Africa into the arms of Russia and China.

MPs are set to debate and vote on the Government-backed Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill this Friday. It would stop British hunters bringing home souvenir pelts and heads.

Nations that are home to most of the big game species on the continent say they need the profits from blood sports to pay for conservation projects. Pictured: Wildlife ranger Salome Lemalasia strokes 5-year-old black rhino Loijipu in Sera Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya last year
Nations that are home to most of the big game species on the continent say they need the profits from blood sports to pay for conservation projects. Pictured: Wildlife ranger Salome Lemalasia strokes 5-year-old black rhino Loijipu in Sera Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya last year

Backed by celebrities including Joanna Lumley and Ed Sheeran, the ultimate aim of the legislation is to stop UK nationals from killing endangered animals in the first place. It brings Britain into line with countries including the United States, Australia and France.

But African leaders and grassroots groups are dismayed they have not been consulted by ministers on the bill put forward by Conservative MP Henry Smith.

Representatives from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa and Namibia, which have hunted species including lions and elephants, claimed it posed a huge risk to endangered animals.

The countries’ high commissioners in London wrote to Andrew Mitchell, the minister for development and Africa, expressing their concerns in a letter seen by The Times. They wrote: ‘This Bill has the likelihood of reversing and inhibiting long established and sustainable conservation efforts in many African nations.’

A total of 109 representatives of organisations in the Kavango-Zambezi conservation area also slammed MPs for not consulting them. In their letter to Mr Mitchell, they said the Bill felt like ‘another way of recolonising Africa’.

They urged ministers to visit Africa and consult with them ‘as opposed to listening to animal rights activists who have no knowledge and experience of living with wild animals’. Despite the outcry, Mr Mitchell maintained his support for the Bill last night and said the import ban was ‘strong’ and ‘well thought out’.

Signatories from the Kavango-Zambezi, which spans five international borders, said they had invested in conserving endangered wildlife on the land they inherited from their forefathers.

But pointing to the challenges on the ground, they highlighted how ‘conserving these natural resources is costly’. They wrote: ‘It involves heavy capital investments to cover the operational costs of our community-based organisations – such as training and employing conservancy personnel, educating our communities on the importance of conserving our wild animals, providing other benefits to communities living with wildlife, and monitoring and managing these CBOs.’

The conservationists argue that ethical trophy hunting is a key way to raise funds to protect wildlife. ‘To finance these operational costs, much of the income comes from trophy hunting, which is done ethically and is supported by scientific monitoring systems such as the Event Book system, fixed route patrols, and annual wetland and aerial game counts,’ they said. The signatories insisted they used ‘monitoring systems’ to allocate sustainable quotas of animals ‘to be culled’ by trophy hunters.

MPs are set to debate and vote on the Government-backed Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill this Friday. It would stop British hunters bringing home souvenir pelts and heads. Pictured: Laurie Marker, founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, holds a baby cheetah at a facility in Hargeisa, Somaliland, on September 17, 2021
MPs are set to debate and vote on the Government-backed Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill this Friday. It would stop British hunters bringing home souvenir pelts and heads. Pictured: Laurie Marker, founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, holds a baby cheetah at a facility in Hargeisa, Somaliland, on September 17, 2021
The ultimate aim of the legislation is to stop UK nationals from killing endangered animals in the first place. It brings Britain into line with countries including the United States, Australia and France. Pictured: File photo of three men during a trophy hunt in Africa
The ultimate aim of the legislation is to stop UK nationals from killing endangered animals in the first place. It brings Britain into line with countries including the United States, Australia and France. Pictured: File photo of three men during a trophy hunt in Africa

They added: ‘It should be emphasised that these activities take place on communal farmland, where we are farming with livestock, crops as well as wildlife, not national parks.

‘Because of the policy incentives in our countries, more wildlife is living outside national parks than in them.’

The conservationists listed a series of ‘ramifications’ from the proposed Bill. They said farmers encouraged to keep dangerous animals on their land, such as elephants and hippos, would have less incentive to do so with decreased profits from trophy hunting.

With less culling, there would be an ‘unsustainable local increase’ in these animals that would ‘have a destructive impact on vegetation and habitats’ and endanger other species. Signatories also argued it would increase poverty, drive an increase in illegal poaching because they wouldn’t be able to pay for patrols and encourage game lands to be sold for other activities that destroy habitats.

The Namibian Chamber of Environment, which represents 70 environmental groups, has also written to Mr Mitchell in favour of ethical trophy hunting.

It said that supporters of the Bill ‘do not live with difficult and dangerous megafauna’ and warned that such a ‘paternalistic, arrogant and misinformed’ approach risked driving African countries ‘to look eastwards’ for partnerships and markets with China and Russia. Some scientists have raised similar concerns, with the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Sustainable Use and the Livelihoods Specialist Group highlighting the benefits to conservation of well-managed hunting.

Amy Dickman, a conservation biologist at Oxford University’s department of zoology, has argued that habitat loss, poaching and conflict pose a far bigger danger to threatened species than hunting.

The row puts the conservation groups and national representatives on a collision course with Boris Johnson who pledged to end ‘this barbaric practice’ in 2019.

The ex-PM’s disdain for those who travel overseas to slaughter exotic animals is shared by huge swathes of animal-loving Britons.

American dentist Walter Palmer provoked fury after he uploaded a photo of himself having killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe in 2015.

If the Bill passes its third reading on Friday, it will go to the House of Lords for further scrutiny. Pictured: Activists gathered at Parliament Square in January 2022 to call for a ban on trophy hunting and trophy hunting imports
If the Bill passes its third reading on Friday, it will go to the House of Lords for further scrutiny. Pictured: Activists gathered at Parliament Square in January 2022 to call for a ban on trophy hunting and trophy hunting imports

Anti-hunting campaigner Eduardo Goncalves has published a book naming and shaming 100 UK hunters to focus minds in the run-up to the vote.

It includes London lawyer Abigail Day who has been voted the world’s top female trophy hunter and Gloucestershire businessman Malcolm King who has killed more than 650 animals, winning an award for shooting specimens of 125 different species. Mr Goncalves argues that while the Bill won’t outlaw hunting, it will stop them boasting about their kills by taking their trophies home – the main motivation for most hunters.

Mr Mitchell said: ‘Since the 1980s, an estimated 25,000 animals which have been slaughtered have been brought into the UK.

‘The Government has committed to a ban that is among the strongest in the world.’

If the Bill passes its third reading on Friday, it will go to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

This article by Andy Jehring was first published by The Daily Mail on 13 March 2023. Lead Image: African leaders and conservationists have accused the UK of endangering animals by trying to ban the import of big game trophies. Pictured: File photo issued by Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting of hunters who have killed a lion.


What you can do

Support ‘Fighting for Wildlife’ by donating as little as $1 – It only takes a minute. Thank you.


payment

Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.





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