Category Archives: News

Shopping for Clothes, Caveman Style

Cave
Photo: Pedro Saura

New findings in Spain show that early man seems to have hunted cave lions for their pelts. And why not? Lion and leopard was still fashionable back then. These were considered some of the largest lions that may have ever lived. So their pelts were large allowing early man to do a lot with them.

The abstract:

Pleistocene skinning and exploitation of carnivore furs have been previously inferred from archaeological evidence. Nevertheless, the evidence of skinning and fur processing tends to be weak and the interpretations are not strongly sustained by the archaeological record. In the present paper, we analyze unique evidence of patterned anthropic modification and skeletal representation of fossil remains of cave lion (Panthera spelaea) from the Lower Gallery of La Garma (Cantabria, Spain). This site is one of the few that provides Pleistocene examples of lion exploitation by humans. Our archaeozoological study suggests that lion-specialized pelt exploitation and use might have been related to ritual activities during the Middle Magdalenian period (ca. 14800 cal BC). Moreover, the specimens also represent the southernmost European and the latest evidence of cave lion exploitation in Iberia. Therefore, the study seeks to provide alternative explanations for lion extinction in Eurasia and argues for a role of hunting as a factor to take into account.

Read it all, over at PLOS

Kill Them With Cuteness

Bat waggling head
Photo: Johns Hopkins University

Some people would argue that bats are anything but cute. But that is simply because they have never met a bat. Some bats are very adorable. A study in 2016 analyzed a strange and cute mannerism observed in many bats: head waggling. A waggle is when the bat turns its head side to side while looking at something.

“It’s an adorable behavior, and I was curious about the purpose,” said Melville J. Wohlgemuth, a postdoctoral fellow in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “I wanted to know when bats were doing this and why. It seemed to occur as bats were targeting prey, and that turns out to be the case.”

Read about the study in all its detail over at PLOS Biology.

New Very Leggy Millipede Found in California

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Getting a leg up on its competitors, a new millipede has been discovered in a cave in California. Researchers also found several other new insects.

“I never would have expected that a second species of the leggiest animal on the planet would be discovered in a cave 150 miles away,” says Paul Marek, Assistant Professor in the Entomology Department at Virginia Tech. It’s closest relative lives under giant sandstone boulders outside of San Juan Bautista, California.

In addition to the new millipede’s legginess, it also has bizarre-looking mouthparts of a mysterious function, four legs that are modified into penises, a body covered in long silk-secreting hairs, and paired nozzles on each of its over 100 segments that squirt a defense chemical of an unknown nature.

This is quite the millipede! Read the press release here.  And the full research article can be read over on Pensoft.net.

First Bats Successfully Treated for White Nose!

Perk up your ears, boys, girls, and bats because Cool Green Science posted an article about the first successful treatment of White Nose Syndrome.

An estimated 5.7 million bats have died, but finally a handful have been cured and returned to the wild successfully. This is big news in a battle that so far has been nothing but tragic.

Oddly enough, this small victory was brought to us by bananas.

Yep. Seriously.

Read the full report over at CTS.com.

They also posted this great video with another good article. Take a look!

White Nose Washington

Earlier this year White Nose was discovered for the first time in the Pacific North-west. This is disheartening news.

White Nose Syndrome
Generalized spatiotemporal spread of Pseudogymnoascus destructans across North America since the initial detection of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in New York in 2006. Map from http://msphere.asm.org.

The question begs: what can we do more to prevent this spread? Obviously we can stop visiting caves. But are there steps we can take before we reach that conclusion? What do you think?

From the article:

On 11 March 2016, a moribund little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) was found in King County, WA (United States), and submitted to a local wildlife rehabilitation center. The animal presented with dried and contracted areas of crusted skin on the wings and died 2 days later. Swab samples of the wings were positive for P. destructans by real-time PCR (8), and the bat was confirmed to have WNS in accordance with defined histopathologic criteria (9). An isolate of P. destructanswas obtained by culturing a portion of wing skin on Sabouraud dextrose agar containing chloramphenicol and gentamicin at 13°C.

In eastern North America, P. destructans appears to be spreading clonally, with all isolates exhibiting no genetic diversity at the markers examined (10). However, isolates of the fungus from Europe display significant genetic variation (11). To determine whether the isolate of P. destructans from Washington matched the clonal lineage from eastern North America, we conducted whole-genome sequencing using the Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine (PGM) on the Washington isolate (NWHC#27099-001), as well as on three additional isolates of P. destructans from eastern North America. These isolates originated from M. lucifugus bats collected in Albany County, NY, in 2008 (NWHC#20631-008) and in Iowa County, WI, in 2016 (NWHC#26994-002) and a tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) in Jackson County, AL, in 2015 (NWHC#44797-145).

Please read the full report at msphere.org, the online journal for the American Society of microbiology.

 

Pleistocene Beringian Wolf Migration

This summer research was being done in the Natural Trap Cave(NTC), that some of us here in Utah got to help out with. Earlier this year a study by Julia  A Meachen, Alexandria L. Brannick,  and Trent J. Fry on the Beringian Wolf, fossils found at NTC, was released. It is a fascinating read.

Abstract

Pleistocene diversity was much higher than today, for example there were three distinct wolf morphotypes (dire, gray, Beringian) in North America versus one today (gray). Previous fossil evidence suggested that these three groups overlapped ecologically, but split the landscape geographically. The Natural Trap Cave (NTC) fossil site in Wyoming, USA is an ideally placed late Pleistocene site to study the geographical movement of species from northern to middle North America before, during, and after the last glacial maximum. Until now, it has been unclear what type of wolf was present at NTC. We analyzed morphometrics of three wolf groups (dire, extant North American gray, Alaskan Beringian) to determine which wolves were present at NTC and what this indicates about wolf diversity and migration in Pleistocene North America. Results show NTC wolves group with Alaskan Beringian wolves. This provides the first morphological evidence for Beringian wolves in mid-continental North America. Their location at NTC and their radiocarbon ages suggest that they followed a temporary channel through the glaciers. Results suggest high levels of competition and diversity in Pleistocene North American wolves. The presence of mid-continental Beringian morphotypes adds important data for untangling the history of immigration and evolution of Canis in North America.

Read their complete and thorough study at Ecology and Evolution.com.

New Mexico: Carlsbad Cavern

Have you been down to the caves in New Mexico yet? Here is an awesome article about Carlsbad Caverns. This was published in New Zealand of all places. They did a great job capturing the majesty of the caves!

The Carlsbad caves were formed over millennia and need careful curation to balance care and access. Photo / 123RF
The Carlsbad caves were formed over millennia and need careful curation to balance care and access. Photo / 123RF

“Caves are like the unknown,” Joop says. “Since I can’t go to the moon and explore other planets, this is the last unknown realm on the planet. We’ve gone to the highest peaks and everything, but there’s so much yet to be found and explored here underground.”

More than 400,000 people visit the Carlsbad Caverns each year to get a glimpse of the monumental stalagmites and stalactites, delicate soda straws, translucent draperies and reflective pools that decorate the park’s main attraction, the Big Room. But few experience the more extreme tour through Lower Cave or a lantern-lit history lesson in Left Hand Tunnel.

Even fewer people get to crawl through the Hall of the White Giant and Spider Cave, which are the most difficult – and quickly booked – of the ranger-guided caving tours.

Read the full article at NZ Herald.

DETERMINING WHEN A CROLL ASCENDER IS WORN OUT

Early this year Petzl released a warning about worn out CROLL ascenders.

Possible consequences of using a worn out CROLL ascender

Under certain usage conditions related to environment and technique, using a CROLL ascender that is worn beyond the retirement criteria can result in a hole in the stainless steel wear plate. Once the hole starts to form, the opening enlarges to the edge of the stainless wear plate and creates a sharp edge that makes the CROLL unusable with a foot ascender: the sharp edge can catch on the rope, preventing the CROLL from sliding and possibly damaging the rope sheath.
The caver may then find it necessary to immediately stop using the CROLL, while he is still underground. Without a spare ascender, the only solution is to climb without a foot ascender, carefully, using only the footloop to avoid tensioning the rope in the CROLL.

Information spéciale : bien détecter la fin de vie d’un bloqueur CROLL en spéléologie © PETZL

Worn out ascender and rope damage resulting from its use.

Factors in determining when a CROLL ascender is worn out

In all cases the CROLL ascender must not be used and the product must be retired.

  • Cam is worn out

Indicated by significant wear of the teeth (see photos) or by ascender slippage.

Information spéciale : bien détecter la fin de vie d’un bloqueur CROLL en spéléologie © PETZL

Petzl offers more signs of wear and a complete safety overview of all their ascenders. Check it out and give it a look. It may save your life!