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News: Global warming pushing alpine species higher and higher

For every one-degree-Celsius increase in temperature, mountaintop species shift upslope 100 metres, shrinking their inhabited area and resulting in dramatic population declines, new research by University of British Columbia zoologists has found.

The study -- the first broad review of its kind -- analyzed shifts in elevation range in 975 populations of plants, insects and animals.

"Most mountaintop species we looked at are responding to warming temperatures by shifting upslope to live in cooler environments. As they move towards the mountaintop, the area they live within gets smaller and smaller. This supports predictions that global warming could eventually drive extinctions among species at the top," says Benjamin Freeman, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the UBC Biodiversity Research Centre.

Posted: 2018-09-12
 

News: The ‘me’ illusion: How your brain conjures up your sense of self

LOOK into a mirror and you may see pimples, wrinkles or unruly facial hair, but beneath the superficial lies something far more interesting. Every time you lock eyes with your reflection, you know exactly who is looking back at you. The sense of self is unmistakable. It is so much a part of being human that we often fail to notice it. Yet self-awareness is one of the biggest mysteries of the mind. How did it arise and what is it for?

Looking at other animals suggests we are not alone in being able to recognise ourselves in a mirror. Admittedly, it’s a short list of species that seem capable of this feat, but it hints at a possible explanation. Self-awareness may have evolved in only the brightest animals with the biggest brains. If so, it represents the peak of mental complexity – the highest form of consciousness.

However, some people have started to question this idea. Now, an extraordinary finding lends weight to their scepticism: one monkey species that was previously deemed unable to recognise itself in a mirror can easily learn to do so. This isn’t simply another name to add to the echelons of the self-aware. The discovery suggests we need to fundamentally rethink our ideas about mirrors and minds.

Posted: 2018-09-12
 

News: Volcanic eruption may have helped drive real-life hobbits extinct

About 50,000 years ago on the Indonesian island of Flores, all the large animals disappeared at once. The losses included dwarf elephants, carnivorous birds – and a species of diminutive hominin known as the “hobbit”, or Homofloresiensis.

It’s not clear why. A volcano erupted, and the climate was shifting. But there is also tentative evidence that there was a new threat on the island: modern humans.

Hobbits were first described in 2004, after bones were found in the Liang Bua …

Posted: 2018-09-12
 
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