Stensioella heintzi was an enigmatic placoderm fish of arcane affinity. It is only known from the Lower DevonianHunsrück slates of Germany, where the only specimens have been found.
In life, it was a blocky-looking fish that resembled either a squat, pug-nosed combination chimaera-stargazer, or an uncompressed Gemuendina (Gemuendina also happened to be its contemporary in Hunsrück), with broad, wing-like pectoral fins. Like Gemuendina, it had armor made up of a complex mosaic of tubercles.
It is tentatively placed within Placodermi as being among the most primitive of all placoderms, as from what can be discerned from the few whole specimens found, the shoulder joints of its armor appear to be very similar to other placoderms…
(read more: Wikipedia) (illustration by Apokryltaros)
Melting Glaciers Cause 1/3 of the World’s Sea Level Rise
by Stephanie Pappas
The world’s glaciers lost 260 gigatons of water each year between 2003 and 2009, making these rivers of ice responsible for almost a third of sea-level rise in that time, new research finds.
The study, to appear tomorrow (May 17) in the journal Science, used multiple methods to pin down estimates of how much ice is lost from glaciers. The results suggest that on-the-ground measurements yield estimates that are too extreme, but some satellite methods don’t go far enough…
Cats on the Brink - Endangered Felids: Iberian Lynx
by Jaymi Heimbuch
The Iberian Lynx is critically endangered, and is the world’s most threatened species of cat with only about 309 living in the wild as of 2013. That is actually up from the roughly 100 individuals estimated to be alive in 2005. Native to the Iberian Peninsula, the Iberian lynx is an expert rabbit hunter — unfortunately it has specialized on only rabbits and the loss of prey due to disease outbreaks as well as habitat has all but wiped it out. Though it is now illegal to hunt them and their habitat is protected, the lynx still falls victim to cars along roads, feral dogs and poaching by humans.
Nipped fingers and handfuls of guano will be the order of the day for wildlife rangers on the Farne Islands as they embark on an epic census on Friday to discover whether puffin numbers have plummeted after a year of extreme weather.
The 10 National Trust rangers living on the islands must dangle their bare fingers down 60,000 puffin burrows in the next two months to determine whether breeding pairs have fallen after the worst puffin “wreck” for 66 years.
The wreck in March, which saw 3,500 birds wash up dead along the north-east coast of Britain, was caused by icy easterly winds. It followed a summer when the puffins on the archipelago off Northumberland were flooded out of their underground homes, with more than 40% failing to breed…
Spain’s wolf population is estimated at 2,000 and growing. Wolves are considered a game species, though they are protected in the southern regions of the country. Compensation is paid for livestock damage, though this varies according to regional laws.
The threespine stickleback,Gasterosteus aculeatus, is native to northern Europe, northern Asia, and North America. Most populations are anadromous (they live in seawater but breed in freshwater or brackish water), but there are also freshwater populations confined to landlocked lakes
This species has contributed much to the study of species formation and it is a research organism for evolutionary biologists and geneticists studying adaptation to new environments.
Report on the conservation status and threats for wolf (Canis lupus) in Europe
The wolf is the most controversial predator in Europe, as it occupies conflicting places in people’s imaginations, being simultaneously loved and hated. On one hand it is held up as symbol of wilderness and the return of nature, while for others wolves symbolise waste, destruction and negative changes. As a result wolf conservation is almost always controversial.
Historically wolves have been heavily persecuted in Europe for millennia, and were exterminated from most of northern and western Europe in the last two centuries, probably reaching their minimum in the 1940’s to 1960’s. Since then, many populations have begun to recover and expand their range, for example in Spain and Italy. Furthermore, in the last twenty years, the species has been recovering naturally and reappearing in areas from which they had become extinct, for example in France, northern Italy, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany and Switzerland. In 2005 a wolf was even sighted in Austria (Styria region).
However, the present distribution of wolves in Europe is extremely uneven and densities vary greatly from country to country. This recovery has revealed their extreme ecological adaptability, enabling them to survive in extremely diverse environments…
Gastornis parisiensis measured on average 1.75 metres (5.7 ft) tall, but large individuals grew up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) tall. The Gastornis had a remarkably huge beak with a slightly hooked top, which was taken as evidence suggesting that it was carnivorous. Gastornis had large powerful legs, with large, taloned feet, which also were considered in support of the theory that it was a predator…
… was a giant of its time, one of the largest animals of the Eocene at two metres tall. It is thought to have been a predator, because its huge beak would have been far too powerful for simply crushing nuts and other vegetation, and it also had impressive talons on its toes. Its size and heavy build show that it can’t have been a fast runner, so it probably ambushed prey.
Gastornis was formerly known as diatryma, as fossils found in the USA had been given that name before they were identified as being the same species. Gastornis fossils are common at the site of Geiseltal, Germany and in the USA.
(via: BBC Nature) (illustration by Jaime Chirinos)
A vertical forest is expected to be completed this year in Milan. There are two tower apartment complexes which contain a total of 400 residential units. The facade of the buildings will be covered with 730 trees, 5,000 shrubs, and 11,000 perennial plants. It is expected to have the same ecological impact as 10,000 square meters of forest.
Aside from fighting smog and producing oxygen, the foliage is expected to provide insulation to the residential units.
… is a widespread fungus recognizable for its foul odor and its phallic shape when mature, the latter feature giving rise to several names in 17th-century England. It is a common mushroom in Europe and western North America, where it occurs in habitats rich in wood debris such as forests and mulched gardens. It appears from summer to late autumn.
The fruiting structure is tall and white with a slimy, dark olive colored conical head. Known as the gleba, this material contains the spores, and is transported by insects which are attracted by the odor—described as resembling carrion. Despite its foul smell, it is not poisonous and the young mushroom is consumed in parts of France and Germany…
A flock of vultures devoured the body of a woman just minutes after she fell to her death while hiking in the Pyrenees Mountains in France.
The woman, 52, had been hiking with two friends when she fell about 1,000 feet (300 meters) down the side of a steep mountain. Police believed she died from injuries sustained during the fall, the Daily Mail reports.