Environment

Future storms will likely permanently alter tropical forests

Hurricane Maria wiped out more trees than any known storm, taking out mostly older trees that were thought to be resistant to storms. According to the study authors, the damage may be a warning of similar events to come.  The researchers determined that Maria killed twice as many trees and broke more than three times as many trunks compared to previous storms. The species that suffered the worst from Maria, with breakage rates up to 12 times those of the other hurricanes, were valuable hardwoods that had a history of being the most resilient to major storms. These giant trees offer specialized habitats for many birds and other animals that smaller trees do not provide. Read More
Environment

Neanderthal tooth offers clues to ancient paleo diet

Thanks to a Neanderthal tooth, anthropologists now know a lot more about what humans’ ancient cousins ate. And they definitely weren’t vegetarians, the tooth revealed. “These new compound-specific isotope measurements confirm earlier interpretations of Neanderthal diets as being composed of mainly large herbivores, although of course they also consumed other foods such as plants.” Read More
Environment

Where did all of these stink bugs come from?

I visited the uninhabited attic room in my childhood home and the floors were carpeted with dead stink bugs that had failed to make their way outdoors after their hibernations in previous years. They weren’t always botanical pillagers. They once lived in relative harmony with their fellow creatures. In their native Asia, where they range through China, Korea, and Japan, they are kept in check by parasitic wasps. While they are pests there, their depredations are not nearly so severe. It was when they voyaged across the Atlantic and settled in North America that their rapacious tendencies really blossomed. Up to 90% of stink bug eggs are parasitized where the wasp’s range overlaps with that of the stink bug in their native habitat. Agricultural Research (ARS) scientists discovered the miniature wasp, hardly bigger than a period, in the stink bug’s native Asian range. Predaceous insects native to or already well-established in North America may be having an effect as well. Praying mantises—originally from the BSMB’s native China—have been observed eating them and so have some spiders. Some birds, too, have been seen gobbling up them up. This may explain the fact that populations are declining in some of their East Coast strongholds. Cold winters, too, may have taken out some of the insect mercenaries. Read More