Tag: zoology

The miracle that can be if humans cut meat consumption by a mere 10%

"A reduction of meat consumption by only 10% would result in about 12 million more tons of grain for human consumption. This additional grain could feed all of the humans across the world who starve to death each year- about 60 million people!”
Marc Bekoff

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Lloyd Pye Delivers a Lecture on the Four Types of Hominoids ~ Bigfoot, Yeti, Alam & Agogwe ~ Video

Lloyd Pye discusses the four different kinds of hominoids that still live among us.(1) Bigfoot/Sasquatch are by far the most famous at 7 to 10 feet tall, weighing 700 to 1000 pounds. They live in the deep, dense montane forests that surround the ear...

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Scientists are recording the sound of the whole planet

Researchers are listening to everything from airplanes to bat calls in order to learn more about the state of the environment

By Josh Dzieza

In a few weeks, sensors in Indiana will go online that will record, in the words of Bryan Pijanowski, every sound the Earth makes. The array of microphones, geophones, and barometric gauges will run for a year, taping everything from the songs of birds arriving in the spring to the vibrations of the continent as ocean waves pound the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They will measure earthquakes on the other side of the world and the stomping of cattle nearby, the ultrasonic whistles of bats and the barometric drop of cold fronts. “I joke to my physicist friends that if I had a microphone small enough, I could record the Higgs boson,” Pijanowski says.

Day Australia spectrogram
A color-coded spectrogram of 24 hours of noise in the Australian bush, by Michael Towsey of the Queensland University of Technology. The morning chorus starts at 4:30AM and the evening cicada chorus around 6:00PM.

Pijanowski is a soundscape ecologist, a term he coined three years ago to describe a new approach to studying sound. Rather than look at how, for example, a single species of frog calls for a mate, soundscape ecologists study how all the sounds in a space interact, from frog calls to car traffic to thunder. "There are what I call rhythms of nature, there are periodicities like the dawn chorus and certain crescendos during the seasons," Pijanowski says, referring to the way birds burst into song at sunrise. He believes listening to these patterns can tell us important things about the state of the natural world.

Though still small, the field is growing, thanks in no small measure to Pijanowski’s tireless efforts (and those of his grad students). For the last several years he’s been circling the globe, depositing microphones in Costa Rica, Borneo, Tippecanoe, the Sonoran desert, Alabama, the wildfire-ravaged Chiricahuas, and urban parks in Chicago, often giving talks along the way. You get the sense he’s slightly reserved except when talking about sound, at which point he gestures expansively and uses words like "marvelous," "magnificent," and "glorious."
"There are what I call rhythms of nature."
Earlier this year, Pijanowski launched the Global Soundscape Project, which is building a map of the world's sounds using an app that turns phones into recorders. Occasionally he has an IMAX crew in tow, part of a soundscape education program he’s filming. And every few months he convenes soundscape researchers for workshops, part of a grant from the National Science Foundation. He invites people from outside the sciences to participate. "When you look at arrangements of sound, working with musicians helps you to think about the orchestration of an ecosystem," he explains.
The idea that animal sounds follow a complex order goes back to Bernie Krause, a musician who in the 1960s and ’70s made a living doing sound work for the film industry, frequently taping things like jungle noises and whale songs. He became enamored of nature sounds and started accompanying researchers into the field to make recordings, eventually becoming the preeminent wildlife acoustician. In 1985, he was called on to lure a confused humpback whale, Humphrey, out of the Sacramento river using a feeding song.

Pijanowski's recording of cicadas in Borneo

Costa Rica soundscape
Pijanowski's recording of an hour in the La Selva rainforest in Costa Rica. The top spectrogram is the full hour and the three bottom ones are zoomed-in images of the 26 seconds following each of the three red markers. The audio corresponds to the zoomed in images.

As he sat in jungles and deserts around the world, Krause noticed that the sounds he heard could be surprisingly orderly. Different species seemed to occupy their own place in the sonic spectrum. Insects in Borneo might stridulate loudly at a middle frequency, alternating so as not to drown each other out. Birds rise above it by calling at a higher pitch, and birds with shorter calls fit in-between the calls of birds with longer ones. Frogs puncture the droning insect noise with short, loud bursts, and mammals take the bottom frequencies. Organisms, Krause hypothesized, evolved to partition acoustic bandwidth, calling out at different frequencies and at different intervals to be heard over one another. Animals would also have to evolve to be heard over sounds like thunder, wind, and rushing rivers — sounds that Krause, working with ecologist Stuart Gage, called geophony. And in more recent history, animals must also adjust to anthrophony: the sounds of human civilization.
Krause called his idea the acoustic niche hypothesis, and it had a corollary. If organisms evolved to share the acoustic spectrum, maybe disruptions from pollution, development, invasive species, and other threats would result in gaps in the arrangement of sounds. In 1989, Krause found what he believes is evidence of such audible damage. The year before, he had taken a recording of a forest in the Sierra Nevadas. He returned after it had been selectively logged and found the soundscape almost silent.

The idea that you can hear environmental damage is evocative — Rachel Carson knew that when she chose the title Silent Spring — but as powerful as Krause’s Sierra Nevada recording is, there are other potential explanations. It could have been a La Nina year, Pijanowski says, causing the birds showed up later. There could have been landscape changes elsewhere on their migratory route. There was no control group, no uncut forest in the same area to measure against.
In the last several years, researchers armed with microphones and data-sifting algorithms have been trying to explore and build on Krause’s ideas. They’re using microphones to monitor biodiversity in Costa Rica and Australia, and a similar network is being established in Germany. Other researchers have diagnosed dying coral reefs by the sound, as various fish and crustaceans go silent.
Pijanowski believes he’ll be able to hear shifts in the soundscape as the climate changes. Insects, whose life cycles are driven by temperature changes, will emerge earlier, while birds and mammals, whose behavior is driven primarily by the length of the day, will remain the same. Amphibians are driven by both factors, so it’s unclear how they’ll respond. New species will invade warming regions, potentially adding their own calls or silencing those of native animals. "We will start to hear a reassembly of the soundscape as summer comes earlier," Pijanowski says.

Amandine Gasc and Matt Harris retrieve a Songmeter recorder and two cameras

Pijanowski is responsible for much of the field’s recent growth, both by giving a name to what disparate researchers were doing, and by convening many of those researchers in workshops. The last one was held in Maine — fittingly, near the Rachel Carson Wildlife Preserve — and drew a group of ecologists, biologists, musicians, engineers, artists, and philosophers.
"It’s still in its renaissance period," explained Tom Seager, an ecologist from Arizona attending the workshop. "Where both technologists and artists can contribute."
As a fledgling field, there was a lot of debate over terms and concepts, discussions that frequently ended up in philosophical territory. One such debate was over what to call noises that humans make.

"I no longer like the term anthrophony," Stuart Gage said as he walked through the forest listening to birds. A gray-bearded, soft-spoken former entomologist-turned-soundscape ecologist, Gage has a measured way of speaking and a saintly determination to neither use insect repellent nor to swat the swarms of mosquitoes battening onto him. If Krause is the godfather of soundscape ecology and Pijanowski its current evangelist, Gage is the bridge. He helped Krause come up with the taxonomy of sound in the early 2000s and advised Pijanowski on his thesis. "I’ve argued with Bernie a number of times that we ought to use the term technophony to distinguish sounds humans make from technological sounds — because humans are critters too, we communicate in the same way, with our voices. But we also make things."
Jeff Migliozzi, a teacher at the Perkins School for the Blind, agreed. "You’re essentially redefining man, saying instead of being a biological creature, we’re creators of technology, and the rattle and the hum."
"Maybe that’s true," said Gage.
A model of different forms of sound and silence by Tim Mullett, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
A model of different forms of sound and silence in the Kenai Wildlife Refuge by Tim Mullett, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Out on the estuary, Pijanowski was checking a recorder he’d set up in May. It had captured the pounding surf, shrieking gulls, sparrows, crickets, and hawks. The tides set the rhythm: high tide was silent and low tide cacophonous, as the birds swooped down to devour animals trapped in the tide pools. There was a rhythm to the technophony too, a dawn chorus of diesel engines as fishermen moved up and down the coast, weekly influxes of jets and speedboats, heavier on the weekends and increasing into summer.
The issue of mechanical noise was a major theme of the workshop, and of soundscape ecology in general. Falk Huettmann from the University of Alaska Fairbanks projected a noise map of the Kenai Wildlife Refuge made by his graduate student Tim Mullett. Mullett had traveled deep into the glacial refuge to set up microphones, going high into the mountains dozens of miles from the nearest road. He still found mechanical noise everywhere, mostly from airplanes and snowmobiles.
Speaking grimly in a German accent, Huettmann declared, "We need to abandon the idea of wilderness. It doesn’t exist."

Mechanical noise impacts different animals in different ways. In some cases — sonar and marine mammals, to name one — it’s disorienting and damaging. In others, animals adapt in ways we’re just beginning to understand. Grasshoppers that live near roads evolve to call at a higher pitch, to be heard over traffic noise. Even when taken to a silent room in a lab, they stridulate at a higher frequency than more rural grasshoppers, which makes sense — only grasshoppers that can be heard above the cars would find a mate.
"We need to abandon the idea of wilderness. It doesn’t exist."
There seems to be variation in how birds respond to noise. In 2003, researchers found that great tits (a bird) living in loud parts of the Dutch city of Leiden called at a higher pitch than tits in quiet parts. Urban robbins, meanwhile, appear to call at night not because they’re confused by city lights, as previously thought, but because they want to avoid the noisy day. Another researcher found that responses to noise varied depending on the species: one bird, the gray flycatcher, fled areas where gas drillers were using noisy air compressors, while ash-throated flycatchers simply called at a higher frequency. Sharon Gill, a biologist at Western Michigan University who was at the workshop, is studying how individual chipping sparrows respond to noise. Her initial findings indicate that there’s great variation in how individuals react, with sparrows with deeper calls raising their pitch more drastically to be heard over the sound of traffic.
"I’m really interested in the persistence of species in a changing world," Gill says. "This isn’t the environment these animals evolved in, with these high levels of noise."

False color spectrogram Australia
The sound of nine months in the Australian bush, modeled by Michael Towsey of the Queensland University of Technology. The white lines represent dawn and dusk.

Soundscape ecology’s current challenge is finding a way to sort through the vast amounts of data being collected. In just a few years, Pijanowski’s lab has accrued tens of thousands of hours of audio.
There’s no way anyone could listen to all this audio, so algorithms need to sort through it. Current methods are somewhat crude. Gage’s index takes everything at a frequency below 2 kilohertz and labels it human, then quantifies the acoustic energy in the ranges above that. It’s roughly accurate, but certain animals, like the loon, call at a low frequency. Another method sorts sound by its shape on a spectrogram. Animal sounds are generally short and sharply peaking, whereas machines tend to drone at a constant level. Again, though, it’s not always true — think of crickets in the summer, or the aquatic bang of the air guns used in undersea oil and gas exploration. Machine learning could help correct these issues, though that research is just beginning.
Computer scientist Michael Towsey in Brisbane, Australia, is taking a visual approach, using multiple indices to create color-coded images of soundscapes. The idea is that a trained ecologist could look at the charts of sound over the course of a day, month, or year and identify changes, like an acoustic weather map.
The hope is that an algorithm with the right index will parse the audio ecologists are collecting, turning low-cost microphones into a powerful network of sensors. With a way to quickly digest audio, researchers would have a vast array of data on what species are where and when, data that over time could provide a valuable glimpse into the way the environment is changing.
"I looked for most of my scientific career for an instrument that would measure the environment," Gage says. "I use the analogy of a stethoscope. A doctor can use a stethoscope to tell 10 different things about your heart. We’re holding a stethoscope up to nature. We’re listening to the heartbeat of the environment, whether it’s the heartbeat of a city or the heartbeat of a forest, it’s the heartbeat of the biosphere."

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How many people have ever lived on earth?


Assuming that we start counting from about 50,000 B.C., the time when modern Homo sapiens appeared on the earth (and not from 700,000 B.C. when the ancestors of Homo sapiens appeared, or several million years ago when hominids were present), taking into account that all population data are a rough estimate, and assuming a constant growth rate applied to each period up to modern times, it has been estimated that a total of approximately 106 billion people have been born since the dawn of the human race, making the population currently alive roughly 6% of all people who have ever lived on planet Earth. Others have estimated the number of human beings who have ever lived to be anywhere from 45 billion to 125 billion, with most estimates falling into the range of 90 to 110 billion humans.

50,000 B.C.2
8000 B.C.5,000,000
1 A.D.300,000,000
Number who have ever been born106,456,367,669
World population in mid-20026,215,000,000
Percent of those ever born who are living in 20025.8
The above estimate shows  that about 5.8 percent of all people ever born are alive today.  
That’s actually a fairly large percentage when you think about it. Source: Population 
Reference Bureau estimates.

Number of people who have ever lived

Estimates of  “the total number of people who have ever lived” published in the first decade of the 21st century range approximately from 100 to 115 billion.

An estimate of the total number of people who have ever lived was prepared by Carl Haub of the Population Reference Bureau in 1995 and subsequently updated in 2002; the updated figure was approximately 106 billion. Haub characterized this figure as an estimate that required “selecting population sizes for different points from antiquity to the present and applying assumed birth rates to each period”. Given an estimated global population of 6.2 billion in 2002, it could be inferred that about 6% of all people who had ever existed were alive in 2002.
In the 1970s it was a popular belief that 75% of all the people who had ever lived were alive in the 1970s, which would have put the total number of people who ever lived as of the 1970s as less than the number of people alive today. This view was eventually debunked.
The number is difficult to estimate for the following reasons:
* The set of specific characteristics that define a human is a matter of definition, and it is open to debate which members of early Homo sapiens and earlier or related species of Homo to include. See in this regard also Sorites paradox. Even if the scientific community reached wide consensus regarding which characteristics distinguished human beings, it would be nearly impossible to pinpoint the time of their first appearance to even the nearest millennium because the fossil record is simply too sparse. However, the limited size of population in early times compared to its recent size makes this source of uncertainty of limited importance.
* Robust statistical data only exist for the last two or three centuries. Until the late 18th century, few governments had ever performed an accurate census. In many early attempts, such as Ancient Egypt and in the Persian Empire the focus was on counting merely a subset of the people for purposes of taxation or military service.[108] All claims of population sizes preceding the 18th century are estimates, and thus the margin of error for the total number of humans who have ever lived should be in the billions, or even tens of billions of people.
* A critical item for the estimation is life expectancy. Using a figure of twenty years and the population estimates above, one can compute about fifty-eight billion. Using a figure of forty yields half of that. Life expectancy varies greatly when taking into account children who died within the first year of birth, a number very difficult to estimate for earlier times. Haub states that “life expectancy at birth probably averaged only about ten years for most of human history”[106] His estimates for infant mortality suggest that around 40% of those who have ever lived did not survive beyond one year. [ Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population ]

Estimated world population at various dates (in millions)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population

YearWorld(in millions)
70,000 BC< 0.015
10,000 BC1
9000 BC3
8000 BC5
7000 BC7
6000 BC10
5000 BC15
4000 BC20
3000 BC25
2000 BC35
1000 BC50
500 BC100
AD 1200
AD 1000310
AD 1750791
AD 1800978
AD 18501,262
AD 19001,650
AD 19502,519
AD 19552,756
AD 19602,982
AD 19653,335
AD 19703,692
AD 19754,068
AD 19804,435
AD 19854,831
AD 19905,263
AD 19955,674
AD 20006,070
AD 20056,454
Jul. 1, 20086,707

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Several Paleolithic Cultures Flourished In North Africa before Sumer

(Courtesy The British Museum)

OXFORD, ENGLAND—A new study of Paleolithic stone tools from 17 sites in North Africa shows that between 130,000 and 75,000 years ago, there were at least four separate populations in the region, each with its own distinctive cultural traits, reports phys.org. Researchers led by University of Oxford visiting scholar Eleanor Scerii made 300,000 measurements on stone tools and combined the data with enviromental reconstuctions of prehistoric North Africa to analyze how modern human populations dispersed across the Sahara using ancient rivers and streams that no longer exist. "This is the first time that scientists have identified that early modern humans at the cusp of dispersal out of Africa were grouped in separate, isolated and local populations," says Scerii. "Our picture of modern human demography around 100,000 years ago is that there were a number of populations, varying in size and degree of genetic contact, distributed over a wide geographical area." According to Scerii, the team's work supports the theory that modern humans left Africa before 60,000-50,000 years ago.

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Ancestor of Humans Lived With Dinosaurs

An artist's rendering shows the first placental mammal

An ancestor of humans -- albeit one that is at the root of our family tree -- shared the planet with dinosaurs, a new study concludes. 

This ancestor, the first placental mammal, lived between 88.3 to 91.6 million years ago, according to the study, published in the latest issue of Biology Letters. Placental mammals today include humans and all other mammals except those that lay eggs or have pouches (marsupials).

The study counters prior research, based solely on fossil evidence, which theorized this “mother of all placental mammals” arose after the dinosaurs died out. The researchers instead believe that it preceded the non-avian dino die off and that we wouldn’t even be here if the dinosaurs were still around.

“When dinosaurs died out, many ecological niches became vacant, and placental mammals took over,” lead author Mario dos Reis told Discovery News. “The placental ancestor diversified and evolved into the modern mammals we see today, such as rodents, deer, whales, horses, bats, carnivores, monkeys and ultimately humans.”

“If dinosaurs had not died out, then placental mammals may not have had the opportunity to diversify the way they did, and our own species would not have evolved!” added dos Reis, a research associate in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London.

He and colleagues Philip Donoghue and Ziheng Yang analyzed 36 complete mammal genomes together with information from the mammal fossil record. The results determined placental mammals originated in the Cretaceous.

Dos Reis explained that the DNA of organisms accumulates changes, called mutations, at a constant rate in time. This is referred to as the “molecular clock.” For example, certain DNA in humans and other apes mutates at a pace of about 1 percent every 10 million years.

The molecular clock is not perfect, however, and it runs a bit fast in some species and a little slow in others.

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First Contact Imminent

First Contact Imminent It was February 13, 2001 sometime around midnight in Phoenix, Arizona. I’d just gotten horizontal after an evening of chatting with folks on SpiritWeb about the Ashtar Command and what the ‘contactee’ experience was like for me. It had been going on for decades, since childhood, with no sense of malevolence whatsoever. I […]

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