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Scientists Warn Plummeting Insect Numbers Threaten Catastrophic ‘Collapse of Nature’

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Insect Numbers
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A new study has found that insect species are facing a critical decline in numbers, potentially spelling doom for the entire animal kingdom.

The research, first reported by the Guardian, reveals that a staggering 40 percent of all insect species are facing a dangerously steep decline while a third are endangered.

In a new review of scientific literature from the last 40 years published in Biological Conservation, the authors note the “dreadful” degradation of biodiversity, noting:

“The pace of modern insect extinctions surpasses that of vertebrates by a large margin.

Continuing, the study adds:

“We estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline … to be twice as high as that of vertebrates, and the pace of local species extinction … eight times higher … It is evident that we are witnessing the largest extinction event on Earth since the late Permian and Cretaceous periods.”

The decline of insects – which has been eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles – has been holding steady at a startling 2.5 percent per year.

Researcher Francisco Sanchez-Bayo from the University of Sydney, Australia, told the newspaper that the “shocking” rate means that within the century we could see global insect populations simply vanish. Sanchez-Bayo went on to explain:

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“It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none.”

Insects remain, by far, the most numerous and varied animals on the planet, with numbers estimated to outweigh all of humankind by at least 17 times. Likewise, they outnumber all sea creatures as well as land mammals. As such, the nearly 30 million species of insects form the backbone our ecosystems, playing an essential role as pollinators, nutrient recyclers, and base members of the food chain.

The implications of the loss of insects will be felt, first and foremost, by creatures whose diets are directly reliant on insects such as amphibians, birds, fish, and reptiles.“If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death,” Sanchez-Bayo said. Such was the case in Puerto Rico, where the ground insect population has fallen by 98 percent in just over 35 years.

Butterflies, bees, and moths have been among the worst-impacted insects.

While previous studies were largely restricted to certain regions – including a 2017 study from Germany noting a 75 percent decline in flying insects over the course of 30 years – the latest study shows that the decline in bug populations isn’t isolated to individual ecosystems alone, but encompasses the entire Earth-system.

Sanchez-Bayo pinned much of the blame on industrialized and capital-intensive agriculture, explaining:

“The main cause of the decline is agricultural intensification … That means the elimination of all trees and shrubs that normally surround the fields, so there are plain, bare fields that are treated with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.”

The researcher believes that newer classes of insecticides, such as neonicotinoids and fipronil, are likely culprits due to their routine use and lingering effects, noting that “they sterilize the soil, killing all the grubs.”

The study urges authorities to rethink the manner in which the food industry is run:

“A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices, is urgently needed to slow or reverse current trends, allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide.”

The study largely draws from research in North America and Europe, with tropical regions remaining largely unaccounted-for.

Yet the study shows that the impact on insect biodiversity has impacted a wide variety of insects, including both “generalist” insects that can adapt to other environments or food sources and “specialist” insects that rely on a tiny niche in the ecosystem, such as moths who rely on one particular plant to survive.

Mincing no words, the researchers stressed the gravity of the trends laid out in their paper:

“The [insect] trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting [on] life forms on our planet.

“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades … The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”

It is imperative that humans re-think our agricultural processes. While there has been a recent increase in desire for organic produce, to prevent reaching a tipping point that we cannot return from, factory farming and capital-intensive agriculture should heed this warning and adjust accordingly. Organic and less harmful insecticides and pesticides are available but typically with a higher cost and insecticide producers like Bayer (formerly Monsanto), continue to make it far easier and cheaper for farmers and corporations to use their products than more environmentally friendly options.

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Animals

Scientists Catch a Glimpse of a Ultra-Rare Giant Phantom Jelly, With Bizarre Ribbon-Like Arms

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Researchers have seen a large deep-sea jellyfish with the assistance of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) named Doc Ricketts off the coast of California, in an extremely rare sighting. The footage revealed the creature’s unique and exquisite features.

The uncommon encounter was documented in November this year, 990 meters (3,200 ft) deep in Monterey Bay, according to a report issued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).

Youtube Screenshot

The enigmatic phantom jellyfish was initially discovered in 1899, but scientists did not recognize it as a distinct species until 1960. Scientists still know very little about this creature.

The specimen of the huge phantom jelly has only been seen 110 times in 110 years across the world. According to the MBARI research, despite thousands of dives, their ROVs have only observed this amazing species nine times.

The huge phantom jellyfish has the following characteristics:

The bell of this deep-sea denizen is more than one meter (3.3 feet) broad, with four ribbon-like oral (or mouth) arms that can grow to be more than 10 meters (33 feet) long, according to an MBARI report.

Youtube Screenshot

The species is said to inhabit anywhere between the surface and 21,900 feet in depth. It does, however, remain in the twilight zone, which is just beyond the reach of sunlight.

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The organism, formally known as ‘Stygiomedusa gigantea’, is found all across the planet except in the Arctic Ocean, according to the experts.

Youtube Screenshot

It’s worth noting that, in the past, scientists depended on trawl-nets to examine deep-sea species; but, the jellies, which transform into a viscous goo in trawl nets, were difficult to research using this outdated method. Fish, crabs, and squids are among the only creatures that can be effectively studied from nets.

Researchers may now examine these creatures in their native habitat with high-definition footage thanks to the robot cams. I, personally, prefer this “no-touch” approach.

Watch the mesmerizing video here:

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

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Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Animals

Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

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The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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