Researchers show elephants really do have a sixth toe

(PhysOrg.com) -- Sometimes it seems, nature finds it must resort to some trickery to respond appropriately to changing conditions. Take the elephant, for example. Way back in time, say fifty million years ago, the hulking ...

Hippos, the animal silicon pumps

The excrement of hippos plays an important role in the ecosystem of African lakes and rivers. Because there are fewer and fewer hippos, this ecosystem is in danger. In the long term, this could lead to food shortages at Lake ...

Hippo waste causes fish kills in Africa's Mara River

Ecologists have long known that agricultural and sewage pollution can cause low oxygen conditions and fish kills in rivers. A study published today in Nature Communications reports that hippo waste can have a similar effect ...

Hippo teeth reveal environmental change

Loss of megaherbivores such as elephants and hippos can allow woody plants and non-grassy herbs and flowering plants to encroach on grasslands in African national parks, according to a new University of Utah study, published ...

Insect growth regulator wears a second hat: Infection fighter

During an animal's embryonic development, a chemical chain reaction known as Hippo directs organs to grow to just the right size and no larger. Now Johns Hopkins researchers working with laboratory flies report that this ...

Hippo 'crosstalk' may be vital to tumor suppression

Think of a waterfall, and you might see why cell-signaling pathways are important to cancer research. As water cascades, it impacts everything downstream. And everything upstream affects the waterfall.

Who's your daddy? Hippo ancestry unveiled

A great-great grandfather of the hippopotamus likely swam from Asia to Africa some 35 million years ago, long before the arrival of the lion, rhino, zebra and giraffe, researchers said Tuesday.

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Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions support fewer species.

Rapid environmental changes typically cause mass extinctions. One estimate is that less than 1% of the species that have existed on Earth are extant.

Since life began on Earth, five major mass extinctions and several minor events have led to large and sudden drops in biodiversity. The Phanerozoic eon (the last 540 million years) marked a rapid growth in biodiversity via the Cambrian explosion—a period during which nearly every phylum of multicellular organisms first appeared. The next 400 million years included repeated, massive biodiversity losses classified as mass extinction events. In the Carboniferous, rainforest collapse led to a great loss of plant and animal life. The Permian–Triassic extinction event, 251 million years ago, was the worst; vertebrate recovery took 30 million years. The most recent, the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, occurred 65 million years ago, and has often attracted more attention than others because it resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The period since the emergence of humans has displayed an ongoing biodiversity reduction and an accompanying loss of genetic diversity. Named the Holocene extinction, the reduction is caused primarily by human impacts, particularly habitat destruction. Conversely, biodiversity impacts human health in a number of ways, both positively and negatively.

The United Nations designated 2011-2020 as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity.

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