I’m a terrible front-pager these days, for lots of reasons. (Primarily–waaaaay late on a book MS, and so trying to force myself to write only that until the draft goes to the editors. But also emotional brittleness that has only ramped up through to today, if you know what I mean and I fear you do.) I have intentions, but I make no promises, certainly not til the aforementioned book (temporarily) leaves my desk.
But desperate times require desperate measures, so rather than just sit, relying on my emotional support Champ and Tikka, I thought I’d toss up a quick hit on a couple of fun stories that came across my science-news screen at different intervals.
Going back to 2019, here’s the abstract from one of my all time favorites:
Experimental and comparative studies suggest that the striped coats of zebras can prevent biting fly attacks. Biting flies are serious pests of livestock that cause economic losses in animal production. We hypothesized that cows painted with black and white stripes on their body could avoid biting fly attacks and show fewer fly-repelling behaviors. Six Japanese Black cows were assigned to treatments using a 3 × 3 Latin-square design. The treatments were black-and-white painted stripes, black painted stripes, and no stripes (all-black body surface). Recorded fly-repelling behaviors were head throw, ear beat, leg stamp, skin twitch, and tail flick. Photo images of the right side of each cow were taken using a commercial digital camera after every observation and biting flies on the body and each leg were counted from the photo images. Here we show that the numbers of biting flies on Japanese Black cows painted with black-and-white stripes were significantly lower than those on non-painted cows and cows painted only with black stripes. The frequencies of fly-repelling behaviors in cows painted with black-and-white stripes were also lower than those in the non-painted and black-striped cows. These results thus suggest that painting black-and-white stripes on livestock such as cattle can prevent biting fly attacks and provide an alternative method of defending livestock against biting flies without using pesticides in animal production, thereby proposing a solution for the problem of pesticide resistance in the environment.
Yup. You read that right. Putting cows in zebra suits helps fend off chomping bugs. Who says science is dry?
And then, from last week, an abstract with some sad history and fascinating observations:
Historic shipwrecks form an anthropogenic landmark in marine environment, yet their influence on the local geochemistry and microbiology remains largely unexplored. In this study, sediment and steel hull samples were taken around the V-1302 John Mahn, a World War II shipwreck, at increasing distance from the wreck, in different directions. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s), explosives, and heavy metal levels were determined and related to the microbial composition. Benz(a)anthracene and fluoranthene remain present at the mg kg-1 level, probably originating from the coal bunker. These PAH’s indicate that the wreck is still influencing the surrounding sediments however the effects are very dependent on which side of the wreck is being studied. Known PAH degrading taxa like Rhodobacteraceae and Chromatiaceae were more abundant in samples with high aromatic pollutant content. Moreover, sulphate reducing bacteria (such as Desulfobulbia), proven to be involved in steel corrosion, were found present in the biofilm. This study shows that even after 80 years, a historic shipwreck can still significantly steer the surrounding sediment chemistry and microbial ecology.
In a 2016 project, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln team studied the corrosion of the U.S.S. Arizona, which sank in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The researchers estimated that the battleshipheld hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil but could remain structurally stable because of a buildup of organisms on the vessel.
The consensus seems to be that military shipwrecks in particular present environmental risks because of the ordnance they carry, but that they do not create large-scale hazards. Still, it’s sobering to think that the sea floor itself retains a lasting memory of war.
Anyway: I’m in an anything but election doomscrolling mode, and I thought others might be as well–so enjoy!
The thread is open.
ETA: Annnnddd….Readership capture! This is for rikyrah: