Lizard Extinction, Oil in the Deep Ocean, Neanderthals and Us
This week: We’re coming a day late to you this week. But as I promised you’ll hear some breaking news about how global warming is threatening lizard species. Also a scientist on board a research vessel tells us what he’s seeing around the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Elsa has news about evolution of humans and human civilizations. We have some revolutionary music for our Music in Science segment.
Global Warming Threatens Lizard Populations: In recent decades, scientists have documented serious threats to frog species across the globe. Frogs and other amphibians have vanished from many areas. The exact cause is in question. It might be an infectious disease, or pollution, or habitat destruction. A study published by the journal Science suggests the world’s lizards are also in peril, and what’s threatening lizards is climate change.
Report by: Yours Truly, Rhitu Chatterjee.
Website of study author Barry Sinervo.
Sceloporus lizards in the Encyclopedia of Life.
Spilled Oil in the Deep Ocean: At least 4 million gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico from the damaged Deepwater Horizon well, according to the Associated Press reports, and the desperate efforts to protect the gulf coast’s ecosystem from the slick continue. We hear from oceanographer Vernon Asper of the University of Southern Mississippi. Asper and a team of researchers are aboard a research vessel called the Pelican. They’re analyzing in real time the impact of the oil spill on marine organisms.
Guest: Vernon Asper
Oil spill coverage from Science magazine’s policy blog, ScienceInsider.
Fighting the spill with hair and hosiery–from The World’s Technology Podcast.
University of Southern Mississippi’s oil spill response team.
More oil spill photos from the Boston Globe.
Some of the spilled oil has started to sink into the ocean. Note the streaks of red just under the water’s surface.
Credit for above photos and video: Oceanographer Vernon Asper and his colleagues aboard the Pelican kindly shared the images and video with us.
Elsa’s Favorite Stories:
- Mixing with Neanderthals: The Neanderthal genome–newly sequenced from ancient bones–reveals that Neanderthals and early modern humans interbred in the Middle East.
The study and news coverage from Science magazine.
More on human evolution from the Smithsonian.
- Climate, Soil, and Economic Inequality: Why is wealth distributed unevenly around the world? It’s not all history and politics. Regional differences in climate and soil go a long way toward predicting whether humans will use land for agriculture or hunting-gathering. Land use, in turn, predicts population density and power.
Website of study author Jan Beck. (His lab usually studies how insects, not people, are distributed on the planet.)
A review of Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs and Steel.
- Mayan Water Pressure: Residents of the ancient Mayan city of Palenque might have enjoyed flush toilets and decorative fountains, thanks to a high-pressure spring-fed aqueduct. A constriction at the end of the aqueduct pressurized the water, which might have spouted up to six meters high. The aqueduct is the first evidence of engineered water pressure in the Americas before the Spanish arrived.
History and photos of Palenque.
Music in Science: When he was in graduate school, Alonso Córdoba’s research addressed the evolutionary relationships among animals. This meant amplifying and sequencing a lot of DNA using PCR (polymerase chain reaction). Find out which little-known Bob Marley song Alonso looped for hours on end in the lab. Alonso now teaches genetics and molecular biology at Ohio Northern University.
Song: Revolution, by Bob Marley
Album: Natty Dread