Notes and shorts from around the world
Heatwaves bad for beetles
The fertility of male beetles is seriously impaired by sustained exposure to higher than average temperatures – which could help explain why insect populations around the world are plummeting. Researchers from the University of East Anglia exposed red flour beetles (a species that thrives at 35ºC in the wild) to laboratory heatwaves of five days of 40-42ºC. While the females were unaffected, the male beetles produced half as many offspring as the males in a control group – and intriguingly, their fertility appeared to be affected as well. The beetles mated less often in the heat, but it was also the case that they experienced a severe decline in sperm quantity. When the insects were exposed to two heatwaves, ten days apart, the results were even more dramatic. They produced 99% fewer offspring. “It almost wipes them out,” said the study co-leader, Professor Matt Gage. “We don’t know whether this explains the widely recognised collapse in insect biodiversity and abundance, but limits on your ability to reproduce certainly aren’t going to help.”
Warship comes off worse
A Norwegian warship worth $703 million has sunk after smashing into an oil tanker in Hjeltefjord, off the coast near Bergen. KNM Helge Ingstad – a 5,290 tonne, 134 metre frigate armed with missiles, torpedoes and depth charges, which was under Nato command at the time of the collision – was on an exercise when it hit a (much bigger) Maltese flagged oil tanker early on 8 November. A large hole was torn in the warship’s side, and the Norwegian navy beached the vessel in an attempt to save it. It finally sank five days later after the cables holding it in place snapped, bringing the rescue attempt to a dramatic end. It was one of only five ships in Norway’s navy.
Cuban doctors row
Cuba is to withdraw thousands of doctors from Brazil, in response to what its Health Ministry described as contemptuous remarks made by the country’s far right president, Jair Bolsonaro. About 11,420 Cuban doctors work in remote parts of Brazil as part of its “More Doctors” programme. This specifies that 75% of their earnings is paid directly to the Cuban government, however, Bolsonaro has said they can only stay if they are allowed to keep 100% of their wages and their families can join them. He also suggested they might have to apply for new licences in Brazil. Separately, Bolsonaro named as his Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo, a diplomat who has claimed climate change is a lie spread by cultural Marxists intent on stifling Western economies.
“There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder.” – Alfred Austin, British Poet Laureate
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