Natural History
 Oregon Magazine

Below, you will find some basic links and dated articles.  Until further notice, this interior page will become an archive instead of a source of current news. 

 Early life thrived in lava flows

Geologists discover tiny burrows where some of Earth's earliest life forms tunnelled into volcanic glass 3.5 billion years ago.

Headline links to article.

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New Evidence Suggests Early Oceans Bereft Of Oxygen For Eons

As two rovers scour Mars for signs of water and the precursors of life, geochemists have uncovered evidence that Earth's ancient oceans were much different from today's.

Headline links to article

Hurricanes boost Nature's chances

 Many birds and marine species benefit from the effects of hurricanes, US researchers say.

Headline links to article

New Ethiopian Fossils Are From 6-million-year-old  Hominid Living Just After Split From Chimpanzees

  BERKELEY – Paleoanthropologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History have found more fossils of a nearly  6-million-year-old human ancestor first reported three years ago, cementing its importance as the earliest hominid to appear after the human line diverged from the line leading to modern chimpanzees.

Headline links to article

Ants avoid traffic jams   Foraging workers push and shove to steer others around bottlenecks.

Headline links to article

Plan to melt through Europa's ice

Researchers are testing technology that could allow a lander to melt through the ice crust of Jupiter's moon Europa to reach the water ocean beneath.  Space scientists want to send a craft to the Jovian moon because its ocean might, in theory, harbour life. 

Once through the 10-30km ice sheet, the probe could take a sample of water, to analyse it for  microbial life. 

OMED: Our money is zero results.  On Earth there are two power sources for life -- the sun and, deep down in the oceans, volcanic vents.  Europa has neither, at present.  Of course there is the milion amp current between it and Jupiter, but we know of no theory which suggests life can draw sustenance from that type of EMR.  But, then, there are cockroaches, and several life forms in highschool in the Fifties ...

Headline links to article


What are the odds there is life out there?

According to Hugh Ross, PhD (Astronomy), there are 200 factors involved.  (Specific physical conditons which must exist at a given location to create an environment for living things to be there.)  Below, his estimate of the situation in the cosmos.

Probability for occurrence of all 200 parameters? 10 to the minus 237 power
Maximum possible number of planets in universe? 10 to the 22 power

Thus, less than 1 chance in 10 to the 215 power (one hundred billion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion  trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion) exists that even one such  planet would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles.

Headline links to source

'No cosmic ray climate effects'


The principal cause of recent climate change is not cosmic rays but human activities, a group of scientists says.  They say an article last year linking cosmic rays and changes in temperature was "scientifically ill-founded".  They say the authors' methods were open to doubt and their conclusions wrong, surprising experts with their claims. 

In Eos, the journal of the American Geophysical Union, the 11 Earth and space scientists insist that greenhouse gases remain  the chief climate suspect. 

OMED: Greenhouse gases are the chief climate suspect because that is where all the big research grants are being awarded.  There is little doubt that we are in a warm period because there used to be wooly mammoths in Oregon.  The coastal  Indians hunted them to extinction. They ate the last of them on an island beach off the coast of Alaska. The fires they used to cook them probably contributed to global  warming.

Headline links to article

December 28, 2003
Endangered Species Act turns 30

By Rachel Odell for The Bend Bulletin

For three decades, the Endangered Species Act has been a referee between the wild and humans, used to strike a balance between protecting the natural world and allowing for human development and growth.

The legislation was passed 30 years ago today. In its lifetime, the act has become an indispensable tool for environmentalists and others who challenge the legality of actions on public and private lands that might harm species there.

But to industry and others, the Endangered Species Act has become a powerful monster that stifles their ability to do what they want in some areas.

The act — representing a national commitment to protect species headed toward extinction — was signed into law on Dec. 28, 1973 by President Nixon.

Headline links to article.

No fiery extinction for dinosaurs

It is unlikely the dinosaurs perished in a global firestorm triggered by the asteroid strike on Earth 65 million years ago, scientists have claimed.  A popular theory suggests the impact, which was centred on Chicxulub in Mexico, generated enough energy to set off a raging worldwide inferno.

Headline links to article.

Oregon's Spherical Echinoderms 200 Years Old

The red sea urchin found in the shallow waters of the Pacific Ocean is one of the Earth's  longest-living animals. 

The small, spiny creature can last for more than 200 years with few signs of age-related disease, a  US research team from Oregon and California has found. 

The animal, which grows to more than 15 cm across, grazes on marine plants and uses its spines to deter predators. 

"No animal lives forever, but these red sea urchins appear to be practically immortal," said Dr Thomas Ebert. 

Headline links to article

Photosynthesis puzzle solved

A complete molecular-scale picture of photosynthesis - how plants convert sunlight to chemical energy - has been obtained, offering new insights into animal metabolism as well.

 Headline links to article.

Melting glaciers threaten Peru

Thousands of people in the Andes mountains of Peru are having their lives affected in both a practical and cultural way by global warming, which is causing the region's glaciers to melt.  This is already having a major impact of some aspects of life for  the people who live in the mountains - and the government of the country is worried that the situation could get much worse.   In the last three decades Peruvian glaciers have lost almost a quarter of their area. 

Headline links to article.

OMED: The link is to a BBC piece. This is a political problem before it is a natural history problem.  Even if you believe the long-term global warming idea, which is far from universally accepted in scientific circles, there is no reliable evidence that mankind is the cause.

To put this in perspective, the normal state of the Earth's climate over the past few million years has been frozen solid.  That condition usually lasts for such a long time that animals evolve to deal with it.  Wooly Mammoths are an example.  The last of those were killed and eaten by Indians on an island in the North Pacific.  Geologically speaking, that happened last week.

What we are in now is a "glacial interstice," or an anomalous warm period between ice ages.  From the standpoint of civilization, global warming is the greatest thing that ever happened to our species.  Without it, we would be stuck between 45 degrees north and south lattitudes, the seas would be a fraction of their present size and so damned salty that most of the species in it now could not exist.

Most of the world's resources would be locked up beneath glaciers a mile thick.

There is no doubt that the Earth is a much nicer place than that, these days. So natural global warming is an absolute, undeniable fact.  It happened.  It is also undeniable that the human race had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

Unless new evidence emerges to the contrary, the idea that things have changed, that we now control the planetary climate, is arrogance of astronomical proportions.  Those who say we do have political reasons for doing so.  All of those political reasons have to do with limiting your possibilities as a human being by controlling your life. 

The best example of this is the Kyoto Protocol, which is a kind of proposed  treaty based on the false human-caused global warming postulate, and that uses this premise as the driving force for a planetary redistribution of wealth scheme.  Pure socialism.

Russian economist  calls Kyoto a "recipe for poverty."


Oil and wildlife 'can co-exist'
An international oil company deserves credit for protecting wild  creatures while exploiting one of its African oilfields, scientists say. 'Oil drilling can protect forests'

Headline links to article

Willow tree plan to clean up Dounreay

Tests are being carried out at the Dounreay nuclear plant on willow trees in the hope could they help remove radioactivity from soil around the site.  The three-year trial is part a £4bn (about $8 billion U.S.)  clean-up of the Caithness plant,  which is expected to take about 50 years to complete.   Willow has already been grown in other countries to help remove contamination, including radioactivity, from soil.

Headline links to article

New species uncovered in Venezuela

Scientists working in the jungles of Venezuela have discovered 10 new species of fish and a previously unknown species of shrimp. 

 Among the new discoveries, revealed by US-based Conservation International, was an armoured catfish whose spiky head earned him the nickname "punk" and a piranha that eats fruit as well as flesh. 

OMED: They found a catfish with spikey hair, and named it the "punk."

Headline links to article

 Ozone layer 'healing'

The ozone layer is gradually being restored thanks to the success of an international ban on damaging chemicals, US researchers say. 

Headline links to article

Tough guy T. rex goes on trial   London's Natural History Museum presents the case for the fearsome dinosaur actually being a freeloading scavenger.

Headline links to article

Satellite shows dramatic Aral loss

Two images from space show how unsustainable water use in Central Asia has caused a dramatic retreat in the Aral  Sea. 

In the 18 years which separate the images, the sea has virtually split in two and a great white expanse of salty desert has claimed the seabed revealed by  the contracting waters. 

Headline links to article

When humans looked over the edge

A genetic study reveals that at one time there may have been as few as 2,000 human individuals on the planet.  Tanzania, Ethiopia origin for humans 

Related stories:
Oldest human footprints found

Oldest sculpture' found in Morocco  400,000-year-old object.

Georgian skull's link to our past  The BBC's Robert Parsons reports from Dmanisi where discoveries are challenging our theories about the origin of humans.

Citrus smell attracts seabirds

You smell a group of crested auklets before you see them, says Julie Hagelin. "It's like 
someone is peeling a tangerine next to you," she says. The citrus-scented seabirds are the first found to communicate using odour. The birds seem to use perfume to make themselves attractive, Hagelin's team has discovered..

Headline links to article.

Bird groups hatch a rivalry
By Ben Jacklet of the Portland Tribune

Emergence of a second Audubon office creates territorial tension 

There are now officially two Audubon Society organizations in Portland, and the  director of one Audubon used to run the other.  Confused? You’re not alone. But it’s a situation that Portland’s bird enthusiasts  know all too well.

  The National Audubon Society has been wrestling with its largest and richest  chapter, the Audubon Society of Portland, for years. Now the national group has embarked on exactly the plan the local chapter feared: It is opening a new state office, in Portland.

Headline links to article.

Top scientists back nuclear power   The UK will be unable to cut greenhouse gas emissions without new nuclear power stations, the country's top scientific body warns.

Headline links to article.

Wave devastated Seattle area   Around 1,100 years ago, a tsunami devastated the northwestern coast of North America where the city of Seattle now stands, computer modelling has revealed.
 The research could help planners reduce damage and loss of life in the event of a future giant wave.

Headline links to article.

4.5 Billion year old rock.
(Click on photo)

And now, one half that old:
Ancient rock points 
to life's origin   The only known example of mantle rock from beneath an ocean that existed over two billion years ago has been found.

Headline links to story 


Head-to-head: Feelings of fish

Researchers have found evidence which suggests that fish feel pain. The scientists from the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh found sites in the heads of rainbow trout that responded to damaging stimuli.  They also found the fish showed marked reactions when exposed to harmful substances. 

The National Angling Alliance's scientific adviser Dr Bruno Broughton disputes the research but animal welfare charity Peta's director of campaigns Sean Gifford says it reinforces its belief that fish do feel pain. 

Headline links to article.

   Recent Articles
     (External links may be out of date.)

Life in the Cosmos   OMED: a BBC primer that goes from DNA to the stars.

New type of ocean wave detected
Antarctic lake's secret water
New theory for origin of life
Cells' magnets bared
Buried lake could test life's limits
Daffodils do the twist
Half the Earth still wild
Fossil forgery's front half revealed
Fresh debate over human origins
Life reached land a billion years ago

'Astonishing' skull unearthed in Africa  |  Skull find sparks controversy Nature Magazine story on this subject

Fossil was 'first walker'
Coral reefs start slow recovery
More bugs in garden than ocean
Rhinos buddy up
Frog sings like a bird
Spotted: After 70 years

'Oldest' hard-shelled fossil  Scientists discover the fossilised remains of a marine animal - perhaps a sponge or coral - which they say lived nearly 550 million years ago

How to take care of an
Orphaned Squirrel
Will dying penguins sink the Falklands? Biologists search for impacts on wildlife
Ranger investigates springs mystery
Smart chimps
Nature Conservancy Has the Right Idea
Lightning forks illuminated
Arrowheads point to property dilemma
Saving Aspens 
Ants make web
EPA sends half-million bucks
Skeptics denounce climate science 'lie'

Klamath Basin Dispute
Panel’s report challenged

Click here
   Birds of the West

Nature’s Supercurious Brutality  by Stephen Shunk of Paradise Birding

A long day got longer as we headed north on the Point Reyes Peninsula. We all suffered from “scope-eye,” that strange affliction known to birders and photographers who spend inordinate amounts of time staring with one eye through a spotting scope or viewfinder. Afternoon birding can be slow, but we hoped a visit to Teal Pond would perk things up a bit. Maybe we would see Blue-winged Teal loafing at the water’s edge or Wilson’s Snipe probing the muddy shoreline
Headline links to full column.


Birding in the New Year
The Birds of Christmas Present
The Colors of Fall Migration
Cascades offer nearly 200 bird hotspots
Not just another gull
Return of the Song
Storm Birding!
The quest for the best!
Calling all bird watchers!
Oregon's awesome autumn birding
Oregon birds take center stage
Hummingbird Magic
Getting high on birds
One Baby Season in Birdland
The Magic of Malheur
The quest for spring birdsong
The Redpolls are Coming! 
Christmas Bird Count

Study limits maximum tree height

The tallest any tree could grow would be about 130m (426ft), say US scientists.   George Koch and colleagues climbed five of the eight tallest trees in the world - including the biggest at 112.7m - and examined their physiology in detail.  The researchers found these massive Californian redwoods pushed the limits to which water could be raised from the ground to support further growth.

Forestry officials admit killing biggest tree

Australian forestry officials have admitted to killing the nation's largest tree, by mistake.  The tree, a eucalyptus known as El Grande, was damaged earlier this year when a burning operation designed to regenerate surrounding woodland got out of control.

Headline links to article.

Early human marks are 'symbols'

A series of parallel lines engraved in an animal bone between 1.4 and 1.2 million  years ago may be the earliest example of human symbolic behaviour.   University of Bordeaux experts say no practical process, such as butchering a carcass, can explain the markings. 

Headline links to article

Pacific turtles 'gone in decade'

The steep decline of the Pacific Ocean leatherback turtle has gone so far the species could be extinct within no more than a decade, conservationists fear. 

OMED: Environmentalists say that the sea turtle (there are a numer of varieties) is to the oceans what the canary is to a mine -- a disaster predictor.  That is not likely, but one expects such rhetoric from the whackos.  What is true is that turtles need beaches to lay their eggs, and some of their favorite strands have been taken from them by human beings.  After all, most of the human race lives in coastal areas.  So some action to protect them is warranted. 

Of equal importance is mortality to the animals resulting from fishing methods.  We've had to shut down fishing off our NE coast to save the cod for the same reason.  50 mile long fishing lines with a ton of hooks hanging from each is one practice that may have to be banned.

Headline links to article.

Florida Leads World in Shark Attacks

 GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The number of shark attacks worldwide   has dropped 30 percent over the past three years, which is good   news for surfers but possibly bad news for sharks. George Burgess, director of the  International Shark Attack File at UF's Museum of Natural History, said the decline in shark attacks is caused by a worldwide decline in their number.  The number of attacks dropped for the third year in a row, with 55 unprovoked attacks reported last year. There were 79 reported attacks in 2000, 68 in 2001 and 63 reported attacks in 2002.

Headline links to article. Link may not last.

Inter-world life transport argued

Two new studies claim life could spread quickly throughout space, from one solar system to another.

Headline links to article.

Rabies ravages rare wolves 

An outbreak of rabies threatens  the survival of the highly endangered Ethiopian wolves. 

Headline links to article

Purple frog delights scientists

It has to be one of the strangest looking frogs ever discovered. The chubby, seven-centimetre-long, purple amphibian with a pointy snout was found hopping around in the Western Ghats, a range of hills in western India. 

Headline links to article

Sheep farmer finds oldest fossil 

An Australian farmer discovers a  fossil of the world's oldest animal with a backbone. 

Headline links to article

New road reveals Stone Age site

Archaeologists believe they may have stumbled upon a major Stone Age site in the UK - on the route of a new bypass. 

The site dates back between 250,000 and 300,000 years and may even provide evidence of one of the earliest uses of fire. Archaeologists discovered a range of items at the location in Harnham, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, including 44 "very rare" flint hand axes - the earliest form  of tool used by man.

Headline links to article

Sonar 'may cause whale deaths'

Many unexplained strandings and deaths of marine mammals could be caused by soundwaves from underwater military sonar equipment, zoologists believe. They think the sonar signals may cause bubbles in the animals' tissue, in much the same way as divers can suffer decompression sickness known as "the bends".

US Navy agrees sonar limit

The United States Navy has agreed to cut its use of a controversial low-frequency sonar system, which could be harming marine mammals, especially whales and dolphins, an environmental group has said. 

Headline links to article

Worms hold 'eternal 
life' secret 

A tiny round worm can live a human equivalent of 500 years if certain genes and hormones are manipulated, scientists say.  'No limit' to human life span 

Headline links to article

Capsule reveals cream of Roman society    A Roman pot unearthed at an archaeological dig in London has been opened to reveal  cream which is nearly 2,000  years old. 

The sealed pot full of ointment,  complete with finger marks, was discovered at a Roman temple complex in Southwark, south  London. 

Headline links to article

Tree of the Month

Engelmann spruce 
(Picea engelmannii)

Needles: 1" long; sharp; blue-green; tend to point forward; are usuallysquare in cross-section and therefore roll between the fingers; stink when crushed. Fruit: Woody cones about 2" long; hang down; very thin scales with jagged edges. Twigs: Covered with distinct, square, raised pegs.

Distribution: Grow in the high elevations of the Cascades and RockyMountains. Northern populations occur from 3200-8700 ft. (1000-2600 m) elevation.

Source: Trees of the Pacific Northwest  by  Betsy Littlefield and Ed Jensen; College of Forestry, Oregon State University  (Photos by Ed Jensen)

  OSU's Tree of the Month Page

Second mass extinction linked to impact   About 380 million years ago, a rock from space smashed into the Earth, say geologists. They believe that the impact wiped out a large fraction of life.

OMED: Most people have heard about the space rock impact believed by some to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago.  This piece in Nature is about the discovery of a layer of impact-generated material that coincides with an extinction event long before that.

Of special interest are the comments at the end of this piece.  Here you will find the suggestion that mass extinctions don't even happen -- at least in a manner commonly understood by the public.

Headline links to article.

Hearty sage no match for dominating juniper 

Pity the sagebrush that stands in the way of a budding juniper tree. The small, sweet-smelling sage stands little chance against the gnarled, twisted juniper. The latter will muscle its way in, spread its roots around those of the sagebrush and zap all of the nutrients out of the soil. Eventually, the sagebrush will die while the juniper will flourish. 

"I have never seen one tree kill another tree as I have seen a juniper kill a sagebrush," said Tim Deboodt, Crook County extension agent. "It's not a strangulation (of the root system). It's that the juniper sends a lot of roots to the site and actively begins growth so the sagebrush can't." 

Source: Trees of the Pacific Northwest  by  Betsy Littlefield and Ed Jensen; College of Forestry, Oregon State University  (Photos by Ed Jensen)

Tree of the Month Archive

Headline links to article

  Life in the Oregon Sea

(Prepared by Oregon Coast Aquarium Animal Husbandry Staff & Volunteers)

Giant green anemone
Black oystercatcher  |  Sea Otter
China  Rockfish  | Pigeon Guillemot
Pharaoh Cuttlefish  | Leafy Sea Dragon
Pacific spiny lumpsucker
Tufted puffin  | Red Octopus
"Jellies: Jewels of the Sea"
Post-Keiko, Newport Lives!


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Dangerous levels of toxins miscalculated   Potential pollutants and poisons may be beneficial in low doses.

Risk assessments and regulations on safe limits for these substances in medicine and the environment may have to be rethought, they warn.

Headline links to article.


'Mummy's organ' removed from jar   UK scientists have opened a jar thought to contain a preserved internal organ of an Egyptian mummy more than 3,000 years old. 

Archaeologists at Birmingham University retrieved tough, leathery material, which looked like dried meat, from the container and sent it to a nearby hospital for analysis. 

Experts say hieroglyphics on the Canopic jar - a type of covered urn - suggest the remains were from somebody called Puia, who died during the New Kingdom period around 1,400 BC. 

Headline links to article.

University chimp amazes scientists with own 'words'
By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent
(Filed: 02/01/2003) 

A chimpanzee has challenged the widely held view that animals do not have language by making up its own words from scratch.

Kanzi, an adult bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee kept at Georgia State University, Atlanta, has come up with four distinct sounds for the things closest to his heart - banana, juice, grapes and yes.

Headline links to article, which is a British daily newspaper. We have no idea how long the link will last.

Flap over dino flight origins

Flight may have evolved in dinosaurs which flapped their feathered fore-limbs to climb slopes, says a US scientist.

Prehistoric 'sea dragon' found

The bones of a plesiosaur dating back 130 million years are found on the east coast of Yorkshire.

Headline links to article

A remembrance of spring:
Beauty on the Backroads
by Doug Tankersley

Some flowers, like the Fairyslipper, are so delicate that to pick them is to kill them.  Others, tough and resilient, like the Fireweed, seem to thrive in the chaos of a clearcut or aftermath of a forest fire.  Oregon is a wonderland of flowers that are just waiting to be discovered in their forest and meadow sanctuaries.  Fairyslipper Orchid, Tiger and Fawn Lilies, Wake-Robin, and Fairy Lantern are examples of some of the exotic sounding, yet common kinds.

Headline links to article

Internet helps write the book of life  Listing every species on Earth should be possible by 2028 thanks to the internet, scientists say.

Headline links to article.

1 October 2003
Schrödinger's cat comes closer   Object big enough to see with microscope could be in two places at once. 

The physicist Erwin Schrödinger famously said  that quantum theory would allow the existence of a cat that was simultaneously living and dead. 

Now a team of physicists has published the recipe for making a large object - not cat-sized, but certainly bacterium-sized - in such a quantum quandary1. A tiny  mirror, they propose, can be in two places at once.

Headline links to article

Maps for the Natural History fan (and others)
National U.S. Atlas
Wavecrest(S. Coast Nat.Hist.)
Oregon Bird Sighting Report
Daily U.S. Streamflow Map 

The Hubble and the Universe: Magic Science

The Hubble page


Wire Service Keyword Search
Type in a single word, a multiple word list connected by + signs or go for an exact match by putting your keywords inside quotes.  Then hit the search button.

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