The Wasatch Grotto is a chapter of the National Speleological Society, a national organization with over 12,000 members that encourages the study, exploration, and conservation of cave and karst resources. The NSS and member Grottos work to protect access to caves, encourage responsible cave management, and promote responsible caving.

Everyone is welcome to our meetings and to come cave with us!

Upcoming Grotto meeting:

Date: June 13th, Monday.
Time: 6:30pm-8:45pm
Location: Bountiful Library, @ 725 S Main St, Bountiful, UT 84010 | # (801) 295-8732.

Bat Wings Inspire New Drone Development

This release has made waves in the news: bat wings influencing the creation of new drones:

A team of researchers led by Professor Bharathram Ganapathisubramani at the University of Southampton, in England, have been experimenting with adjustable bat-inspired membrane wings that also vibrate as air passes over them. They’ve mounted these wings onto a micro air vehicle that uses them (along with ground effect) to zip across water fast and efficiently.

These membrane wings aren’t just flexible, they’re also controllable. They incorporate electroactive polymers that respond to voltage by changing the wing’s stiffness, allowing you to dynamically adjust the wing shape and “dramatically” altering their performance.

Read the full article at Creative Planet Network. Be warned, I am using Safari and had a lot of trouble getting the article to scroll correctly.

Genetics help fish thrive in toxic environments, collaborative study finds

Atlantic Molly, extremophile.

In my underground wanderings I have on one occasion stumbled upon what we believed to be hydrosulfuric acid.  It is pretty nasty stuff. The room, deep in a mine, was eerily decorated with odd formations and crystalline growths, and had pools of blood red liquid on the floor. We discovered several dead bats and decided to get out of there, though our gas detector was not reading anything out of the ordinary.

A 10 year study has just discovered some answers about how organisms can live in these harsh conditions. For example, the Atlantic Molly.

The tiny Atlantic molly can live in small puddles of toxic or nontoxic water. Using genomic tools, the researchers compared gene expression of the mollies living in toxic hydrogen sulfide environments with those mollies living in nontoxic environments just a few yards away.

They found that the fish have a two-pronged approach to survival: They become inert to the toxins that enter the body and they are able to detoxify hydrogen sulfide more efficiently.

Hydrogen sulfide shuts down energy production in cells by interfering with specific proteins. The fish combat this challenge by using anaerobic metabolism, which is an alternative — although much less efficient — way to produce energy and does not involve oxygen.

The scientists found that about 170 of the fish’s 35,000 or so genes were turned on, or upregulated, to detoxify and remove the hydrogen sulfide. The poison invades the fishes’ bodies, but their changed proteins help the fish break down the hydrogen sulfide into nontoxic forms and excrete it.

Want to learn more? Head on over to Kansas State University’s website. Pretty interesting findings.

Sterkfontein Caves produce two new hominin fossils

Bones found in the Sterkfontein Caves. Photo by Witts University.
Bones found in the Sterkfontein Caves. Photo by Witts University.

From Wits University:

Two new hominin fossils have been found in a previously uninvestigated chamber in the Sterkfontein Caves, just North West of Johannesburg in South Africa.

The two new specimens, a finger bone and a molar, are part of a set of four specimens, which seem to be from early hominins that can be associated with early stone tool-bearing sediments that entered the cave more than two million years ago.

“The specimens are exciting not only because they are associated with early stone tools, but also because they possess a mixture of intriguing features that raise many more questions than they give answers,” says lead researcher Dr Dominic Stratford, a lecturer at the Wits School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental studies, and research coordinator at the Sterkfontein Caves.

– See more at: http://www.wits.ac.za/news/latest-news/research-news/2016/2016-02/sterkfontein-caves-produce-two-new-hominin-fossils.html#sthash.dNY2KWcH.dpuf

How Bats Recognize Their Own “Bat Signals”

(Photo aftau.org)

Bats use sonar to navigate. Just like humans they have unique ‘voices.’ But just like humans, they can only distinguish a certain amount of sounds at once. Think about it, you recognize your voice and the voice of family members and close friends. But have you ever tried to pick out someone’s voice in a crowded auditorium full of excited people talking?

How do bats recognize their own echoing voice clicks when they are surrounded by hundreds of fellow clicking bats?

Tel Aviv University has an interesting article on this and the ramifications of the findings:

A new Tel Aviv University study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciencesidentifies the mechanism that allows individual bats to stand out from the crowd. The research, by Dr. Yossi Yovel of TAU’s Department of Zoology, finds that individual bats manage to avoid noise overlap by increasing the volume, duration and repetition rate of their signals.

According to Dr. Yovel, unlocking the mystery of bat echo recognition may offer a valuable insight into military and civilian radar systems, which are vulnerable to electronic interference.

Read the full findings at AFTAU.org

Kayaking in a Cave

Drones, kayaks, and caves. A great combo in this recently released video by Ryan Deboodt. He says:

Shot during a two day kayaking trip, this film takes you on a journey through Tham Khoun Xe on the Xe Bang Fai River.

Tham Khoun Xe is a river cave carved by the mighty Xe Bang Fai River and is located in Hin Nam No National Protected Area in central Laos. At 7 km long and with an average width and height of 76m and 56m respectively, it is considered one of the largest active river caves in the world.

From the Adventure Journal:

The cave is more than four miles long and averages about 250 feet wide and 120 feet tall. Locals have fished near its entrance for centuries and climbed the walls to gather eggs from bird’s nests. Paddling it isn’t new, either—the first Europeans came in 1904 and the first raft journey came just a year later. Tham Khoun Xe was then closed to outsiders for nearly a century, until opening to kayaking 10 years ago.

Tham Khoun Xe from Ryan Deboodt on Vimeo.

Uptick in New Causes of Bat Mortality

USGS News Release:

Reports of bat deaths worldwide due to human causes largely unique to the 21st century are markedly rising, according to a new USGS-led analysis published in Mammal Review.

Collisions with wind turbines worldwide and the disease white-nose syndrome in North America lead the reported causes of mass death in bats since the onset of the 21st century. These new threats now surpass all prior known causes of bat mortality, natural or attributed to humans.

A comprehensive study reveals trends in the occurrence and causes of multiple mortality events in bats as reported globally for the past 200 years, shedding new light on the possible factors underlying population declines.

Cause of death graphed by year.

Read the full release at USGS.com.

Read the complete study at Mammal Review.

Oil in old caves – new challenges

Uni Research CIPR is one of small number of Norwegian research institutions who have worked on this type of reservoirs for a long time through field studies in Texas, Wyoming and Billefjorden on Svalbard. Image shows collapsed cave close to the mountain formation Fortet, Billefjorden. (Photo: Jan Tveranger)

Caves and oil. An interesting mix. Uni Research reports on the latest finding of oil deposits in Karst formations in Norway.

In 2013 and 2014 Lundin Petroleum discovered significant amounts of oil and gas in the prospects Gohta and Alta on Loppa high, north of the Snøhvit field.

The reservoir type encountered represent something new on the Norwegian shelf: carbonate and gypsum formations with evidence of pervasive dissolution and cave formation (commonly known as “karst”) followed by infilling and collapse during subsequent burial.

Similar reservoirs are known from the Middle East, China and the US.

Read the full article at Uni Research.com

No Wasatch Grotto Meeting on Feb 9 — Combined Grotto Feb 9

Reminder – February is a combined Grotto Meeting month.  There will not be a Wasatch Grotto Meeting on Feb 9.  The next Wasatch meeting will be March 14.

The February Combined Grotto meeting will be hosted By the Timp Grotto on Tue, Feb 9 at:

Midvale Library — Ruth Vine Tyler Library
Address: 8041 Wood St, Midvale, UT 84047
Phone:(801) 943-4636

Time 7:00 — 8:30

Items for discussion should be sent to Timp Chairman Mike Leavitt.
Program;   pending
Jim
Wasatch Grotto Secretary

Longitudinal Survey of Bat Deaths

(C) Attic Pest Authority

News Release from Wiley

Many of the 1,300 species of bat are considered to be threatened and declining. A new analysis reveals trends and causes of death in bats around the world, shedding new light on the possible factors underlying population declines.

In the analysis, 1180 mortality events, each involving more than 10 bats, were represented in a detailed canvassing of the literature dating from 1790 to 2015, and could be divided into 9 categories.

Read the full report.

Arms race between Ebola virus and bats, waged for millions of years

From the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Interesting new twist in Ebola research. The AECM states:

“We knew from our previous research that Ebola virus infects host cells by attaching its surface glycoprotein to a host cell receptor called NPC1,” said study co-leader Kartik Chandran, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology & immunology and the Harold and Muriel Block Faculty Scholar in Virology at Einstein. “Here, we show how bats have evolved to resist Ebola infection and how, in turn, the virus could have evolved to overcome that resistance.” The other study co-leaders are Sara Sawyer, Ph.D., an associate professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at CU-Boulder, and John Dye, Ph.D., Viral Immunology Branch Chief at USAMRIID.

Read the full article at AECM.com.