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Stories by John Platt

The Sciences

Struck out: Fatal fungus could kill off U.S. Northeast's little brown bats in 20 years

I recently came home from a two-week workshop in remote Vermont, where I was pleased to hear of my fellow students' encounters there with bats. Several of the animals kept sneaking into one of the local hotels, and one curled up in a classmate's hair for a few minutes' nap.Although most people (including the guy with the bat-attracting hair) are scared of these flying mammals, I saw the silver lining in these stories...

August 17, 2010 — John Platt
Evolution

Marmot meltdown averted: Vancouver Island species on the brink of extinction regaining social bonds

Biologists in Canada are encouraged that critically endangered Vancouver Island marmots ( Marmota vancouverensis ) are once again learning how to be marmots—a tough task since the species's population had crashed so far that the animals almost lost the knowledge of how to exist as a society.In a classic example of what is known as the Allee effect, the Vancouver Island marmots experienced a social meltdown when their numbers declined, which in turn made it harder for the species to stay alive...

July 9, 2010 — John Platt
The Sciences

Rights wronged: North Pacific right whale nearly extinct in Bering Sea

One of the world's only two populations of North Pacific right whale ( Eubalaena japonica ) has declined to the point where it will probably not survive.According to new research published online June 30 in Biology Letters , a journal of the Royal Society in London, the eastern population of North Pacific right whale has shrunk to approximately 30 members, only eight of which are female, possibly making it the world's smallest whale population.The eastern population of this whale species lives in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska...

July 7, 2010 — John Platt
Sustainability

Invasive Asian carp on verge of entering Great Lakes

Well that didn't take long: Just six months after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down requests to close the locks between Chicago area waterways and Lake Michigan to stop the spread of invasive Asian carp the giant, voracious fish has almost made its way to the Great Lakes.Last week, a one-meter-long, nine-kilogram bighead carp (pictured) was found in Lake Calumet, along the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS), just six miles from Lake Michigan...

June 30, 2010 — John Platt
Sustainability

Found Today, Gone Tomorrow?: Gulf oil spill could wipe out a newly discovered species

A newfound subspecies that hasn't even been properly named yet could be wiped out by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, its discoverer has now warned. The Louisiana pancake batfish, a previously unknown subspecies of pancake batfish ( Halieutichthys aculeatus ), was discovered six months ago by Prosanta Chakrabarty, assistant professor and curator of ichthyology at the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Sciences in Baton Rouge...

June 21, 2010 — John Platt
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