Monthly Archives: August 2020

California Wildfires Can Create Their Own Terrifying Weather

Sparked by freak thunderstorms, the blazes changed wind patterns and could potentially lead to fire tornadoes and pyrocumulonimbus clouds.

CALIFORNIA IS, ONCE again, burning. A freak summer thunderstorm last weekend swept through the northern part of the state, sparking nearly 400 wildfires, many of which have turned into conflagrations of stunning scale. As of Friday morning, two groups of wildfires, the SCU Lightning Complex near San Jose and the LNU Lightning Complex near Napa, have burned 230,000 acres and 220,000 acres, respectively—that’s 700 square miles total. Fire crews are stretched far too thin to deal with this many wildfires at once and have barely contained any of those blazes. In Santa Cruz, the CZU August Lightning Complex has burned an additional 50,000 acres and has led to mass evacuations. Five people have been killed.

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Praying mantis’s lethal strike highlights

How fast they attack depends on the speed of their prey

Though these strikes are completed in microseconds, the long-armed predators calibrate their attacks even more quickly than that, adjusting to prey’s speed and movements; praying mantises can even halt mistimed attacks mid-strike, scientists reported in a new study.

Related: Lunch on the wing: Mantises snack on birds (photos)

Mantises are ambush predators; rather than stalking or chasing their prey, they select a perch and then wait, motionless, their spike-studded arms folded and ready. When an unsuspecting victim wanders too close, the mantis lunges and grabs, holding tight to the prey’s wriggling body. The mantis then begins to feed on its living victim almost immediately.

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Insect apocalypse? Not so fast, at least in North America

Researchers have documented large population declines in beetles, including carabid
beetles, like the one shown here.
(Image: © OZGUR KEREM BULUR/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY via Getty Images)

In recent years, the notion of an insect apocalypse has become a hot topic in the conservation science community and has captured the public’s attention. Scientists who warn that this catastrophe is unfolding assert that arthropods — a large category of invertebrates that includes insects — are rapidly declining, perhaps signaling a general collapse of ecosystems across the world.

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Meet the ‘vampire’ parasite that masquerades as a living tongue