Baby Ants Provide a Floatation Platform for Rafts During Floods

Ants, like humans, are social organisms that work collectively in the face of adversity to protect themselves and their brethren. Floodplain-dwelling ants adeptly link themselves together and pile up forming structures resembling rafts to avoid drowning during floods. But researchers previously observed that they don’t do so randomly. Each member of the ant colony has a specific place in the raft according to their function and social position. The queen, not surprisingly, goes in middle of the raft, surrounded by the workers at the sides and the top, and the brood (larvae and pupae, the youngest members) strangely occupy what appears to be the most precarious—and potentially deadly—position in the raft: the base.

Raft during self-assembly Image: Purcell et al. 2014

Raft during self-assembly
Image: Purcell et al. 2014

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Tropical Rainforest Conservation: How to Identify Priority Areas

Tropical rain forests exhibit an enormous concentration of species diversity: Occupying only 6 percent of the earth’s surface, they are home to almost two-thirds of all species on earth, many of which are endemic or found only in the forests. In addition to providing food and absorbing carbon dioxide, they house many undiscovered life-saving medicinal compounds. And with the alarming rate of deforestation, they may tragically disappear in a hundred yearsObviously, preserving tropical rain forests has become paramount. But conservation management officials are faced with numerous challenges in decision making: Which areas of a tropical forest to conserve? Which parts contain the highest species diversity? And which areas should receive priority in conservation?

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Asian Babies Face Higher Risk of Cleft Palate with Maternal Tobacco Smoke Exposure

Scientists have known that cleft palate—a birth defect where the baby’s roof of the mouth does not form properly—is caused by certain genes and environmental factors. Maternal smoking during pregnancy has been implicated with cleft palate in babies. Recently, Wu and colleagues discovered two genes from chromosome 4 among Asians—predominantly East Asians—result in a higher risk of nonsyndromic cleft palate when mothers were exposed to tobacco smoke three months prior to pregnancy until the first trimester.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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5 Rare Asian Mammals That Could Be Extinct in Your Lifetime

We’ve all heard that tigers, elephants, chimpanzees, bats, and many other mammals are at risk of dying out, but there are many other species that you’ve likely never even heard of let alone seen, and probably never will because they are so rare to begin with – and threatened with habitat destruction.

Asia’s rapid growth fueled by our increasingly insatiable consumption-based lifestyles is widely seen as economic progress, but unfettered urbanization and economic growth come with serious costs to the environment: air pollution, deforestation, and the decline of wildlife are just a few.

We have seen the how China’s population is coming to grips with its choking smog; children in Beijing have to wear masks, or better still, stay indoors. With global population levels expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, sustainable growth is paramount to the well-being of the people, and unless drastic reforms are implemented, the situation will only get worse; embracing renewable energy and reducing waste generation – both industrial and domestic – will be a start. After all, what’s the benefit of economic growth to a country if its people are unhealthy?

The loss of wildlife is an issue of least concern, probably because the role of wildlife in maintaining the ecosystem is seriously underestimated; our well-being is inextricably tied to biodiversity. Scientists have long thought that the tropics have the highest biodiversity on our planet. They are still discovering new species in areas like Borneo, which are home to hundreds of unique species. In fact, a recent study published in PLOS provides evidence that new species are emerging at a high rate in the tropics compared with higher latitudes. But vast swathes of lush forests thriving with a myriad of creatures, from bugs and birds, to amphibians and mammals, are chopped down in Sumatra and Borneo alone, primarily for palm oil plantations and pulpwood. With fast-disappearing habitats, rare mammals might be gone soon. Just imagine: what would the world be like without mammals?

Here are some amazingly rare and unusual-looking mammals from Asia that may silently disappear from the planet without you realizing.

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