A few articles and blog posts that caught my attention this week - some good stuff I hope you'll like:

- Rachel Nuwer - Irish horn gangs, “shaving alive technology,” and unanswered questions: Rhino conservationists are worried:

Conservationists were left feeling unsettled about the future of rhinos after the CITES’ (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) meeting in Geneva last week. During a special panel on rhinoceros, the CITES Secretariat failed to produce any tangible recommendations, despite the rhino situation being described as “almost out of control” by one delegation. China, assumed to be the main culprit for illegal rhino horn trafficking used in traditional medicine, evaded questions and provided only vague answers—as usual. Conservationists struggled to piece together answers while strategizing to save the world’s quickly declining rhino populations...

- Hannah Waters - An Unlichenly Pair: A young botanist pays tribute to his mentor by naming a newly discovered, rare species in his honor.:

One October morning in 2009, James Lendemer left New York City early to avoid traffic and take a leisurely drive to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental organization headquartered in Pittsburgh. He had a loose plan about how to break up his long trip through the Keystone State. About halfway to Pittsburgh, the now twenty-six-year old graduate student at the City University of New York and research fellow at the New York Botanical Garden pulled his car off the highway and into Bald Eagle State Forest in Union County to search the area for lichens, his favorite organism and his thesis topic. Bushwhacking around the woods, Lendemer spied something out of the corner of his eye: a series of tiny cups clinging to a mossy boulder. It stopped him in his tracks. “Immediately when I saw it, I knew it was something interesting,” he says....

- Casey Rentz - Genetic Study Complicates a Classic Case of Mimicry :

It's hard to believe that these 3 Heliconius butterflies are completely different species. They have very similar wing shape, color, and patterns, and are all perched on passion flower vines, their food source and a cozy place to lay their eggs. Heliconius have a good reason for resembling each other: predators know that bright butterflies make a really foul-tasting meal (the good-tasting ones just mimic the bad-tasting ones so they won't get eaten.)...

- Mary Beth Griggs - Forest for the trees? How pathogens are threatening the health of American trees and forests:

The pathogen came from overseas. It swept through the vulnerable native population, leaving behind a few disfigured survivors, and many more mortal remains. This wasn’t the 1918 flu, or the plague. Instead the pathogen was Dutch elm disease, and its victim was the American elm tree.

Globalization means that human diseases like H1N1, AIDS, and others can travel swiftly around the globe, invading new human populations. But the quick passage of people and goods around the globe affects many more species than just our own. Trees in particular are vulnerable. Unable to move to escape introduced pathogens, and with limited reproductive capabilities, they can’t adapt quickly to the lethal organisms that hunt them down. As the speed at which we exchange goods has accelerated over the past century, more and more pathogens have been afforded the opportunity to travel, placing tree populations around the globe at increased risk....

- Danielle Venton - Tarantula MRI Reveals Strange Double Heartbeat:

Spider hearts may contract in a unique double beat. By placing tarantulas in a magnetic resonance imaging scanner, biologists from Edinburgh University made a video of a living spider’s beating heart.

“In the videos you can see the blood flowing through the heart and tantalizingly it looks as though there might be ‘double beating’ occurring; a distinct type of contraction which has never been considered before,” said Gavin Merrifield in a press release. Merrifield presented the research at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference in Glasgow last month....

- Anders Aufderhorst-Roberts - Butterflies Prevent Forgery?:

The iridescence seen in butterflies and other animals is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful optical natural phenomena. Being able to effectively mimic it has a whole host of applications, particularly in the printing industry where many believe that these complex optical effects could be incorporated into banknotes and credit cards, making them more difficult to forge. ...

- Taylor Burns - Riot redux: Stephen Reicher Q&A:

So, last week, I wrote a little piece for Scientific American on the abuse of psychology (often by psychologists) to 'explain' the London riots. I've had great feedback from a number of people, and it seems the post has been well received. One recurring question, however, was, what can we actually say about the riots? What can psychology tell us?

I informally talked to a few psychologists prior to writing the article, and formally included Stephen Reicher's comments. The nature of journalism - particularly in the 24-hour blogosphere - is such that brevity reigns supreme. We discussed a host of topics, but I only included those portions of the interview which spoke to the miscommunication of psychology....

Enjoy...