Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Amazing Tufa Towers of Mono Lake

Mono Lake is one of the most beautiful natural resorts where you should go if you are visiting California. One of the most interesting and attractive things which can be seen in Mono Lake are tufa towers which became visible when the water level of the lake fell because of higher demand for water use amongst people who lived in neighbor.

Tufa towers are actually rocks which were formed of carbonate materials. When water level in Mono Lake fell, it left those beautiful towers visible. People who come and see them and don’t know the way how they are formed, will feel like they are in some alien-like environment because of pretty strange and logically impossible shapes of those rocks.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Fire Ant Sting Hurts as Much as a Shot

The Paraponera clavata is privileged to be the animal that causes most painful sting. Also called bullet ant because they say that their bite hurts so much as a shot. Another name that perfectly describe the ant 24 hours, and that is what does the pain of the bite.

The ant, found in Nicaragua and Paraguay, reach up to 25 mm and live on the bases of trees. It was first described by Joseph Charles Bequaert (1886-1982). It is said that pain causes 30 times that of a wasp. Those who have been described as "waves of burning pain and throbbing that does not stop within 24 hours" or "Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Similar to walk on hot coals with a seven inch needle stuck on your heel. "

Entomologist Justin Schmidt created a pain scale ranging from 1 to 4, where the first level classification would be the aforementioned wasp sting. While the fire ant and Africanized honey bees are a pain factor of 1.2 and 2, respectively, reached Paraponera factor 4.

The cause of this pain is a neurotoxin, the poneratoxina, the main active compound in the venom, as described in the early 1990s when investigating natural substances that could be used in insecticides. The impulses block poneratoxina central nervous system of insects and is an agonist that causes contractions of long duration in mammals. Some sources say it will take about 30 bites per kilogram to be fatal. Luckily only administered this poison when you feel uncomfortable or threatened, always on alert by emitting a musky-smelling substance.

Besides color, the bite has more consequences among which are a fever that may last three days or necrosis of the affected area. Other signs and symptoms include severe pain in the affected area, swelling, tremors, sweating, nausea, increased temperature and paralysis. A second bite may be able to cause a fatal anaphylactic shock, which does not seem concerned with the tribe of Sateré-Mawé. The Sateré-Mawé are a tribe from the jungles of the Amazon that has a peculiar rite of bravery. In the ritual, a young man must put your hand in a glove full of Paraponera. If it passes the test, the young will become a warrior. The drawback is that it should receive the not inconsiderable sum of 20 bites.

The Indians have used these ants as a treatment for rheumatism and related disorders for centuries. Curiously, the ant's jaws serve as suture, closing the wound, while the saliva inflamed skin and seal tightly.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Sea Turtles Followed Through Their Hidden Travels

Although he doesn't know it, a green turtle named "Bond" is bringing scientists along on his hidden travels in the Gulf of Mexico.

Last August, Bond was tagged with a satellite transmitter and other tracking devices. Now that he's back in the waters around Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles (113 kilometers) west of Key West, Fla., he's updating scientists by the day on his whereabouts. Marine biologists are following Bond and 27 other tagged sea turtles to learn how to protect these threatened and endangered species.

The sea turtles — green turtles, loggerheads and hawksbills — may spend the majority of their lives away from the federally-protected beaches of Dry Tortugas and away from the eyes of scientists. Tracking the turtles will reveal where they spend their days so that habitat managers can protect these areas.

"When they're on land we only get such a brief period with them, and then we don't get to see them for the rest of their lives," said research ecologist Kristen Hart of the U.S. Geological Survey. Hart said she and her colleagues are watching the sea turtles as if they were following their own children.


Following the turtles requires tagging them with monitors, but attaching a tag to a sea turtle is harder than it sounds. One page from the researchers' playbook is called the "rodeo-capture." Aboard the 22-foot- (7-meter-) long whaler boat Caretta caretta (the loggerhead's Latin name), researchers lean over the ship's edge, holding only a post for balance, and scout for turtles.

"You have to have your eyes on the water at all times," Hart said.

The ship will coast alongside the left side of a turtle, which may be swimming at 5 mph (8 kph). When the turtle comes up for air, two divers decked out in snorkels and gloves plunge into the water. They grab the turtle and point the head skyward.

Two of the stronger scientists on the boat then lift the turtle, which can weigh up to 400 pounds (181 kilograms), onto a foam pad on the boat's deck. The research team then takes measurements and blood samples, affixes tags and sends the creatures back on their way. [See how the scientists tag the turtles.]

To track it, a $1,350-dollar satellite transmitter is glued to the turtle's shell. The tags are no more than 5 percent of a turtle's body weight, so they don't know they are there.

How long the tags last varies depending on where the turtles go and what they do. Rubbing against reefs and rocks can dislodge a tag. Barnacles can grow on the antenna and disrupt data transmission.

However, one turtle named Bertha — the first turtle that Hart tagged on this project — has been transmitting data for 760 days thanks to new battery-saving technology. Typically the tags would fall off after a year as the battery dies.

Travel tracking

Researchers have mapped the turtles' movements to see where they spend their days between nesting seasons. Sea turtles may lollygag on land, but they are quite adventurous underwater.

The rambling sea turtle Bertha left East Key beach in the Dry Tortugas in May of 2008 and traveled all the way to the Bahamas, where she was last spotted in late June 2010. Hart tracked one turtle to Cuba, and saw evidence that it was harvested by fishermen, which often happens when sea turtles get snared in fishing lines.

If the research team can find an area that sea turtles hang out in, and also nest, then this place might be a real hot spot where human activity should be limited, Hart said.

"We're not trying to exclude fishermen but there are restrictions that make sense to afford them additional protection," Hart said.source

Dangers in the Deep: 10 Scariest Sea Creatures

10. Moray Eels

Snakelike body, protruding snout and wide jaws. These primitive creatures just look like death. They're fish, by the way, and they can be up to 8 feet long.

A bite from their razor-sharp teeth and powerful, locking jaws will produce ragged wounds that are prone to infection from the bacteria inside the eels' mouths, according to NOAA. The good news: If morays bite out of fear or by accident (especially when foraging for food), they will usually release their grip and let you go.

They tend to hide in crevices and holes during the day, then hunt at night. They'll eat any fish or other creature they can catch.

Some expert advice, from NOAA, on how to avoid being bitten by one: Keep your hands out of submerged, rocky holes and crevices. Oh, and avoid this common diver gaffe that leads to many moray eel bites: Don't feed them!

9.Sea Lions
Really? Sea lions? Yes, because they're very territorial.

They're considered cute, trainable and are major attractions at zoos, but have been known to bite people.

In California, a spate of vicious sea lion attacks reported at Manhattan beach, Newport beach and San Francisco back in 2006 led to growing concern among caretakers and scientists. Some researchers suspect the sea lions may have eaten fish contaminated by toxic algae, which may explain the uncharacteristic behavior.

The city of San Diego warns on its web site "Like all wild animals, seals and sea lions are unpredictable and can become aggressive quickly. They have sharp teeth and may bite, particularly if cornered or harassed."

8. Stingrays

Just the name practically qualifies these creatures for this list. And the death of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin by stringray in 2006 certainly solidified the reputation of these shark cousins as dangerous beasts.

The tail of of a stingray is capped with a roughly 8-inch spear made of the same stuff that makes up shark scales, known as dermal denticles. The spear, which stiffens when the stingray feels threatened, is serrated like a steak knife and packs a venom that can be deadly to predators.

"The venom itself is a largely protein-based toxin that causes great pain in mammals and may also alter heart rate and respiration," according to the Mote Marine Laboratory.

Stingrays don't typically attack humans, however.

7. Crocodiles

Saltwater crocs have earned a reputation as one of the wild kingdom's most ferocious predators.

They can grow more than 20 feet long and weigh 3,000 pounds, and they have been known to hunt a wide range of prey, including monkeys, kangaroos, buffalo and even sharks.

Relying on purely brute strength, they are capable of dragging down water buffaloes and have occasionally victimized humans. Using an attack method known as the "death roll," crocodiles kill their prey by latching on with their jaws and then taking down the dinner with a powerful, twisting roll. The technique is also employed to break apart large animals.

6. Lionfish

Popular in home aquariums, these docile fish sport a striking fan of venomous spines.

Although not fatal to humans, the spines deliver a painful sting that can cause headaches, vomiting, and respiratory distress, according to NOAA. The worst of the pain typically lasts only for about an hour, but some people report pain and tingling sensations for weeks.

Lionfish are not aggressive. So the fact is home aquarium owners are more likely to be stung by lionfish than divers or fishermen.

5. Sea Snake

The innate human fear of snakes propels these slithering swimmers to the list. However, the truth is that while sea snakes out-venom their terrestrial counterparts, they're highly reclusive and so not much of a threat.

Still, sea snakes are related to cobras, so when it comes to venom, they know what they're doing. Their bite paralyzes and kills prey in seconds. They rarely attack humans though, preferring to hunt eels, shellfish and shrimp.

4. Pufferfish

You don't even have to be near water for this creature to kill you. The pufferfish, also known as a blowfish, packs tetrodotoxin -- stronger than cyanide. Specially trained Japanese chefs prepare safe parts of the fish as a delicacy, but every now and then a diner dies.

The puffer, named for its ability to suck in water and swell to twice normal size, could end up saving people: a drug made from the puffer's toxin has been tested for treatment of withdrawal symptoms from drugs like heroin.

3. Stonefish

This one nearly tops the list for two reasons: It's the most venomous fish in the world, and it's a master of disguise, hiding in plain sight on the seafloor, looking like any other rock.

The stonefish doesn't attack, but you don't want to step on it. Its spines are used as defense against sharks and other predators. The venom can cause temporary paralysis and death if not treated.

2. Tiger Shark

Yeah, yeah, the great white shark gets all the attention. But reality is tiger sharks kill more people. And few things (other than snakes) automatically terrify people more than sharks.

Tiger sharks will eat anything: fish, seals, birds, squid, small sharks, dolphins, license plates and pieces of old tires, according to NOAA. They can grow more than 18 feet long and weigh a ton. Take that, Jaws!

Tiger sharks are found in many tropical and temperate waters, and they are especially common around islands in the central Pacific. For the record: Great whites do attack more people each year, on average.

Oh, and a little detail that explains why sharks aren't No. 1 on this list: The number of people attacked by sharks worldwide each year -- a few dozen -- is roughly equal to the number killedby lightning just in the United States. Only four people around the world died from shark attacks last year.

1. Box Jellyfish

These gelatinous creatures are flat-out deadly.

While no official tallies exist, anecdotal evidence suggest dozens of people and perhaps more than 100 or more die each year from the many species of box jellyfish that exist in all oceans.

Some 20 to 40 people die from stings by box jellyfish annually in the Philippines alone, according to the U.S. National Science Foundation. "But because death certificates are not required in many countries within the range of box jellyfish, worldwide fatalities from box jellyfish may be seriously underestimated," the NSF states.

One Australian box jellyfish can have dozens of tentacles, each up to 15 feet long, with enough toxin to kill 60 people. The sting of a Chironex fleckeri box jellyfish can kill a person in less than three minutes. Species of box jelly fish in Hawaii, Florida and other U.S. locations are known to induce heart failure.

Honorable mention goes to the Portuguese man-of-war, a jellyfish with a sting said to be as painful as a lightning strike -- though it's not clear how many people are actually able to make that comparison.

10 Most Beautiful Waterfalls of the World

1. Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls are waterfalls of the Iguazu River located on the border of the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine province of Misiones. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. With its brink spanning a distance of an incredible 2km in its average flow of 1.3 million liters per second, this fall is at the top of the list. The falls actually consists of some 275 individual waterfalls and cascades. Catwalks make it easy to get close-up and intimate views and the rainforest surroundings make the scenery feel right for a natural attraction such as this.

2. Victoria Falls

Victoria Fall located in southern Africa on the Zambezi River between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls are also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, which translates to “the smoke that thunders” in the language of the Kololo Tribe, which were present in the 1800s. David Livingstone, the first European to see the falls, named it in honor of Queen Victoria in 1855. So awestruck was he that he described the falls saying “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” It’s the largest singular waterfall in the world spanning a width of 1.7km, a height of 108m, and an average flow of 1 million liters per second.

3. Niagara Falls

The Niagara Falls are voluminous waterfalls on the Niagara River, straddling the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of York. Niagara Falls were formed when glaciers receded at the end of the Wisconsin glaciations (the last ice age), and water from the newly formed Great Lakes carved a path through the Niagara Escarpment en route to the Atlantic Ocean. While not exceptionally high, the Niagara Falls are very wide. More than 6 million cubic feet (168,000 m³) of water falls over the crest line every minute in high flow, and almost 4 million cubic feet (110,000 m³) on average. It is the most powerful waterfall in North America. The Niagara Falls are renowned both for their beauty and as a valuable source of hydroelectric power. Managing the balance between recreational, commercial, and industrial uses has been a challenge for the stewards of the falls since the 1800s.

4. Angel Falls

Angel Falls is the world’s highest waterfall, with a height of 1,054 m (3,458 ft) and a plunge of 807 m (2,648 ft). It’s the tallest waterfall in the world, drops nearly a kilometer (about 979m total drop with 807m freefall) from a table-top mountain known as Auyantepuy (or Auyantepui meaning “Mountain of the God of Evil” or “Devil’s Mountain”).The height of the fall is so great that before getting anywhere near the ground, much of the water is evaporated or carried away as a fine mist by the strong wind. Its existence seems like a paradox as it’s neither fed by conventional drainage sources such as snow/glacier melt, lakes, nor a major river system. Indeed, the abundance of water responsible for the falls is practically all rainfall from equatorial rainfall condensing onto the cloud forest above plateau of Auyantepui. It’s almost as if the clouds wring its water onto the tepui like a soaked rag.
Angel Falls is also called Salto Ángel or indigenously Kerepakupai-merú. This indigenous name derived from the Pemón natives means “falls from the deepest place”. Ironically, the more famous name of the falls has nothing to do with the connotation that water falls from the heavens. In fact, it just so happened to be the name of aviator Jimmy Angel who in 1937 landed his plane above Auyantepui near the falls in an effort to prove to the world of the existence of the falls (and to search for gold). Given the soggy terrain atop the tepuy, the plane was stuck so he, his wife, and two friends had no choice but to make the difficult trek down from the vertical cliffs of the tepui towards civilization (taking around 11 days). Only after successfully performing that feat did the falls become known to the rest of the world, and eventually the falls were named after him. Jimmy Angel’s plane has since been moved, restored, and on display at the airport in Ciudad Bolívar.

5. Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls is the iconic symbol of the grandeur and beauty of Yosemite National Park. Falling a total of 2425ft, it is amongst the highest waterfalls in the world. Couple that with the fact that it is one of the easiest waterfalls to access and you have a world class tourist attraction!The waterfall drops in three major stages. The first stage is the Upper Fall, which plunges 1430ft. The second stage is the Middle Cascades, which tumbles down a height of reportedly 625ft. The final stage is the Lower Fall, which drops 320ft. You can see some or all of the falls from various locations through the upper reaches of Yosemite Valley as well as the Valley itself.

6. Kaieteur Falls

Kaieteur Falls is a high-volume waterfall on the Potaro River in central Guyana, Potaro-Siparuni region. Kaieteur Falls is Guyana’s greatest scenic wonder. The Potaro River is said to drop some 221m with a width of nearly 100m (though rainy-season dimensions of 741ft high and 370ft wide are often quoted); so the falls has got world class dimensions. In fact, there are claims that this waterfall is the tallest single-drop waterfall in the world.

7. Gullfoss

Gullfoss (English: Golden Falls) is a waterfall located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland.Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. The wide Hvítá rushes southward. About a kilometer above the falls it turns sharply to the left and flows down into a wide curved three-step “staircase” and then abruptly plunges in two stages (11 m and 21 m) into a crevice 32 m (105 ft) deep. The crevice, about 20 m (60 ft) wide, and 2.5 km in length, is at right angles to the flow of the river. The average amount of water running over this waterfall is 140m³/s in the summertime and 80m³/s in the wintertime. The highest flood measured was 2000 m³/s.

8. Dettifoss

Dettifoss is a very powerful waterfall on the glacial river Jökulsá á Fjöllum nestled in Iceland’s version of the Grand Canyon – Jökulsárgljúfur. With a flow of about 500 cubic meters per second at high flow, this 44m tall 100m wide monster is quite possibly Europe’s most largest and most powerful waterfall. This milky-colored waterfall is fed by the meltwaters of the vast Vatnajökull glacier. Viewpoints are available on both sides of the falls.

9. Sutherland Falls

The 580 meter high Sutherland Falls is the most impressive of the numerous falls encountered on the Milford Track. It is actually about a 45 minute side hike from the main trail each way, but is worth it. You can walk right up to the base of the falls and feel the power of the wind rushing down, driving the mists outward around the base. It sounds like an airplane, almost, it is so loud.

10. Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River

The lower falls are 308 feet high, or almost twice as high as Niagara. The volume of water is in no way comparable to Niagara as the width of the Yellowstone River before it goes over the lower falls is 70 feet (22 m), whereas Niagara is a half mile (800 m).


Sunday, 13 June 2010

Maybe First Step in The Evolution of Alligators in Oceanic Waters

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- A South Florida photographer recently captured a rare sight on camera in the Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach.

Laz Ruda photographed an American alligator in a reef about a mile offshore.
Regularly found in freshwater lakes and rivers, alligators can tolerate salt water, but only for a short span of time. The salt glands on the American alligator are nonfunctional, unlike that of the American crocodile, according to Ruda's website,

Ruda said he was 60 feet below the ocean's surface when he saw the alligator.
"As I cruised along the sand, from the hazy distance I could see a dark shadow," Ruda writes. "Not being able to discern its shape too well, I thought to myself, 'Holy cow! That's a huge stingray.'"

Ruda said when he got closer, he couldn't believe his eyes.

"This creature was so out of place that I thought it was nothing more than a well-planned out hoax by my good friends," he said.

Ruda was able to switch between still shots to high-definition video.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was called out to investigate, but the alligator had swam away by then and could not be found.
Ruda said FWC officials told him that gators will sometimes make their way out to the ocean, but if they stay out too long, they will lose their sight due to the salt water and eventually starve to death.

Like most animals, it is this Gator's curiosity that allows me to capture these photographs as it approaches the strange camera contraption sitting in the water.

"There are no other Everglades in the world." - Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Lets do our part to protect and preserve this river of grass so our children and future generations can also dazzle at its natural beauty.

My experience with alligators in the past couple of months has followed the same track as that of sharks... My sense of fear has been replaced with adoration, respect and amazement. Now if only I can convince the rest of the world. :)

Sighting this beautiful baby alligator resting on a fallen tree stump was one of the highlights of our visit to Jonathan Dickinson State Park.

Who would have thought that just under that dangerous looking face the American Alligator sports such a pretty smile.

Like the sharks, the American Alligator's toothy grin instills a sense of ominous danger. Yet after numerous encounters with this one particular wild alligator, it appears to approach me more out of a sense of curiosity than of predacious behavior.

Like the sharks, the American Alligator's toothy grin instills a sense of ominous danger. Yet after numerous encounters with this one particular wild alligator, it appears to approach me more out of a sense of curiosity than of predacious behavior.

There is an untold elegance to these not so distance cousins of the dinosaurs. Brought close to extinction in the earlier 20th century due to hunting for their precious skin, remarkably through conservation this species has regained its strength in population. They are commonly seen throughout the Everglades and range throughout the southeastern United States.

With a denture like that it is easy to understand why most people fear these animals who can reach a maximum length of up to 16 feet. While they have been known to attack humans, in most instances if not fed by humans, they will normally retreat.

I truly love this shot because it shows the gentler side of these apex predators of the swamp land. The diet of most juvenile alligators consists of small invertebrates, fish and frogs. They are opportunistic feeders who feed on carrion if available and hungry enough. It is quite interesting to note that feeding activity is governed by water temperature where it ceases when temperatures drop below 73 degree Fahrenheit.

Masters of their domain in the Florida Everglades, the American Alligator's primaeval design is awe inspiring to observe.source


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