Category Archives: Life on Earth

Top 15 Largest Birds in the World

Birds (Aves) range in size and weight from the 5 cm (2 in) and 1.6-2 grams bee hummingbird to the 2.75 m (9 ft) and 104-156 kg (229-344 lbs) ostrich. Here are the top 15 largest bird species in the world (by body weight).

Birds form one of six basic animal groups, with the others being amphibians, fish, invertebrates, mammals and reptiles. They are endothermic vertebrates, characterized by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a lightweight but strong skeleton. They reproduce by laying of hard-shelled eggs (eggs fertilize inside the female). The fossil record indicates that birds are the last surviving group of dinosaurs. So, they are also termed avian dinosaurs.

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There are more microbial species on Earth than stars in the galaxy

For centuries, humans have endeavoured to discover and describe the sum of Earth’s biological diversity. Scientists and naturalists have catalogued species from all continents and oceans, from the depths of Earth’s crust to the highest mountains, and from the most remote jungles to our most populated cities. This grand effort sheds light on the forms and behaviours that evolution has made possible, while serving as the foundation for understanding the common descent of life. Until recently, our planet was thought to be inhabited by nearly 10 million species (107). Though no small number, this estimate is based almost solely on species that can be seen with the naked eye.

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Rainforests of the World (Infographic)

Rainforests are the oldest living ecosystems and without a shadow of a doubt, the most vital habitats on Earth. They cover only 6% of the Earth’s surface but yet they contain more than half of the world’s plant and animal species. According to the current estimates, around 40% to 75% of all biotic species are indigenous Notes 1 to the rainforests.

What’s more, there are probably millions of species of plants, insects, and microorganisms still undiscovered in tropical rainforests. They are responsible for 28% of the world’s oxygen turnover. More than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest only, that’s why it has been described as the “lungs of our planet”.

Unfortunately, rainforests are rapidly disappearing due to deforestation. The loss is huge, and probably hundreds or even thousands of undiscovered species going extinct every single day. We are losing them forever.

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A cosmonaut’s view, just after launching a tiny satellite into the orbit

On August 15, 2018, two Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station performed one of the longest spacewalks in the history of space exploration. During the spacewalk lasting 7 hours and 46 minutes, Expedition 56 Flight Engineers Sergey Prokopyev and Oleg Artemyev manually launched four small technology satellites and installed a German-led animal-tracking project named Icarus onto the Russian segment of the space station. Two of the satellites were only the size of tissue boxes.

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We have an ethical obligation to relieve individual animal suffering

Last winter, unforgettable video footage online showed a starving polar bear, struggling in its Arctic hunting grounds. Because of global warming, the ice was thin and the food supply was scarce. The video generated a wellspring of sympathy for the plight of this poor creature, and invigorated calls for stronger efforts to combat climate change – and rightly so.

Such advocacy on behalf of wildlife usually focuses on species and the effects of human-caused climate change on their survival and wellbeing as the ecosystems on which they depend undergo drastic changes. Thus, we should act to save the polar bear – that is, the polar bear species – by doing what we can to preserve its natural ecosystem. I am fully behind this kind of advocacy. Anybody who cares about the future of our planet and its occupants should be.

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Extinction is forever: de-extinction can’t save what we had

When I hike up into the hills around Salt Lake City, above the Bonneville Shoreline Trail where the sagebrush gives way to the shade of the forest, mastodons are on my mind. Immense bones pulled from a sinkhole on the nearby Wasatch Plateau placed Mammut americanum in the area about 7,500 years ago – practically yesterday from the perspective of Deep Time. It might sound strange to say that I miss creatures I wasn’t around to see in the first place. But still, I mourn their loss as I plod through the woods, imagining their low rumbles and the splintering crashes as they browsed among the trees.

A small but growing number of scientists say that they could reverse that loss through de-extinction – genetic resuscitation in the style of the sci-fi yarn Jurassic Park. The idea is also now being marketed as conservation’s great hope to forestall the loss of biodiversity caused by humans. Biological Xeroxing was held up as one of the possibilities for species resuscitation at a National Geographic TEDx event on de-extinction in 2013. That same year, the discovery of a particularly juicy mammoth carcass, dripping with what appeared to be blood, sparked a flurry of reports assuring readers that the return of the mammoth is nigh. For if there’s blood, there’s DNA, and if there’s DNA, then we can have the Ice Age beast back, right?

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We are missing our chance to stop the sixth mass extinction

The immense challenge of climate change has caused myopia among a lot of politicians, sending them into a self-destructive state of denial. More quietly, though, that immensity has triggered another kind of myopia, this one among conservationists. In focusing on the staggering planetary impacts of greenhouse emissions, they are losing sight of the other ways that human beings lay a heavy hand on the planet. In particular, they are paying too little attention to the true causes of (and potential solutions to) the loss of species around the world – a massive die-off often referred to as ‘the sixth extinction’.

Last summer, a team of biologists led by Paul R Ehrlich of Stanford University, the author of The Population Bomb (1968), published an article in the journal Science Advances, setting out the problem in stark terms. The average rate of vertebrate species loss over the past century has been up to 100 times higher than the average background rate of extinction, and roughly 60 percent of large animal species (most of them in the developing world) are threatened with extinction. Another recent major study, this one by the ecologist William Ripple of Oregon State University and his colleagues, comes to depressingly similar conclusions.

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The Lost Rainforest of Mount Mabu

One day back in 2005, Dr. Julian Bayliss was sitting at his laptop looking at Google Earth in 2005, to look for potential unknown wildlife hotspots in Africa. He was working an isolated mountain in Malawi, then he noticed that there were similar mountains over the border in Mozambique. There was nothing written about these mountains. As he zoomed in, he saw a dark green patch suddenly emerge, which looked like a rainforest. An expedition was scheduled, and it turned out to be just that: a rainforest, which was unknown to plant and animal scientists. Today, Mount Mabu forest is frequently referred to as the “Google Forest”.

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