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The City of Miami Just Banned Glyphosate

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The City of Miami Just Banned Glyphosate
Gilles Messian / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

There are growing concerns about both the safety and proliferation of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller.


Those concerns are part of the reason that the city of Miami passed a unanimous resolution last Thursday banning the spraying of glyphosate by city departments or contractors, environmental group Miami Waterkeeper reported.

"Banning the use of glyphosate is a great first step to take in improving water quality," the group said, according to The Miami New Times. "It is also beneficial to public health, as citizens of the city of Miami won't be exposed to harmful chemicals."

Miami officials are specifically concerned that runoff containing glyphosate might have contributed to the recent blue-green algae bloom and red tide that impacted the state last year.

This is the reason that Miami Commissioner Ken Russell began to look into the city's use of herbicides. He spoke to Miami Director of Resiliency and Public Works Alan Dodd, who told him that the city had been using 4,800 gallons of glyphosate a year to kill weeds on Miami's streets and sidewalks. Dodd stopped this particular use of the herbicide, but Russell decided to sponsor a ban so that other departments would also stop using the controversial weedkiller..

"Water quality issues are so important to the city of Miami, and we can be one of the worst polluters as a municipality," Russell told The Miami New Times. "We ask for residents to make a change in their habits and that they be conscious of what they put in their gardens, but when I realized the totality of what the city uses at any given time, we had to change our habits."

The resolution went into effective immediately after its passage, The Miami New Times reported, and was co-sponsored by Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez, according to Miami Waterkeeper.

Waterkeeper Waterkeeper explained further why herbicides were harmful to waterways and marine environments:

Herbicides and fertilizers are often applied in excess to lawns and landscapes and can be lost to the environment in stormwater runoff and can degrade the water quality of streams, rivers, canals, lakes, and coastal waters. They can also contribute to the creation of harmful algal blooms and the destruction of critically important habitats like sea grass beds and coral reefs.

The cities of Miami Beach and Stuart have also banned glyphosate.

Miami's decision came three days after a study found glyphosate in 19 of 20 popular U.S. beers and wines tested and the same month that another study found that those frequently exposed to glyphosate were 41 percent more likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that glyphosate does not cause cancer in humans, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer ruled it was a probable human carcinogen in 2015.

The first U.S. federal trial claiming Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer also began in February.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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