New Chameleon Species May Be World’s Smallest Reptile
The new chameleon, scientific name Brookesia nana, was found in the rainforest of Madagascar and written up in Scientific Reports in late January. The male of the species has a tip to tail length of only 21.6 millimeters, making him the smallest adult male bird, mammal or reptile ever recorded.
"I think what keeps stories like this front and center in our imagination is that every time something like this is discovered, it's like, 'Oh man, I guess [living creatures] can get a little smaller,'" evolutionary biologist Tony Gamble, who was not involved in the study, told National Geographic of the find.
Researchers first observed the chameleon in 2012 during an expedition to the Sorata massif — cool, wet, forested mountains in northern Madagascar. The creature is approximately the size of a sunflower seed.
"At the first glance, we realized that it was an important discovery," study coauthor and Malagasy herpetologist Andolalao Rakotoarison told National Geographic.
So far, researchers have only identified one male and one female of the species. The male has a body length of 13.5 millimeters and a total length (including the tail) of 21.6 millimeters, the study explained. The female is slightly larger, with a body length of 19.2 millimeters and a total length of 28.9 millimeters.
The Malagasy and German research team think that both of the animals are adults, according to a press release from the German research institute SNSB, which led the study. The male had fully developed genitals, known as hemipenes. To determine the age of the female, a scan was required.
"With the aid of micro-CT scans – essentially three-dimensional x-rays – we were able to identify two eggs in the female specimen, and so demonstrate that it is an adult," study co-author of the University of Potsdam Mark D. Scherz said in the press release.
However, what the researchers can't know is how common the pair's size is for their species, National Geographic pointed out. Its closest competitor for smallest reptile is Brookesia micra, another tiny chameleon that was also discovered in Madagascar.
"There are numerous extremely miniaturised vertebrates in Madagascar, including the smallest primates and some of the smallest frogs in the world, which have evolved independently," Rakotoarison, currently at the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar, said in the press release.
However, researchers don't know why this particular chameleon is so small. It was found on mainland Madagascar, which means the "island effect" that sees smaller animals evolve on smaller islands shouldn't apply.
What they do know is that the creature may already be at risk from extinction. It lives in an area under extreme threat from deforestation, National Geographic explained. Poverty in the region where the chameleon was found means that most people can't afford basic food staples. This has put pressure on the country to clear forest for agriculture; NASA figures show that 94 percent of Madagascar's formerly forested areas have been impacted by deforestation. Hope lies in the fact that the Sorata massif has recently been included in a conservation zone. However, Scherz said the chameleon's fate likely rested on the fate of Madagascar as a whole.
"It's all good and well to say, 'Oh, I really hope that people stop deforesting this forest,'" Scherz told National Geographic. "But until the economic future of Madagascar changes, there's no hope for any of its wildlife because the people have to eat."
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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