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Breathtaking Nature Footage ... Taken from a Drone

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By Chris Gayomali

Drones aren't always the rights-infringing death machines conjured up by news stories. Sometimes they do the world quite a bit of good. Take the above nature footage by Thomas Renck, a hobbyist whose camera-equipped tricopter captured a pack of wild coyotes sweeping across a hillside in Riverside, Calif. The vantage point makes the video look like something straight out of a Discovery Channel documentary.

Remote-controlled aerial cameras aren't exactly new. Anyone with $299 in their pocket and an Android or iPhone can order their own app-controlled Parrot AR Drone off Amazon right now. 

Or take the new DJI Phantom UAV that went on sale for $700 last month. It's designed to be used for photography and can be linked with a GoPro camera, which is a huge hit with the adventure sport set. Here's a sample of the Phantom in action:

Pretty stuff, right? Fast Company's Neal Ungerleider took one for a test spin and loved it. "Users can knock out professional-quality aerial photography in a matter of minutes," says Ungerleider. "Despite the Phantom's relatively limited battery life—about 15 minutes of flight time—that is more than enough time to film stunning aerial video."

Of course, the coming explosion of remote-control photography will undoubtedly freak out folks concerned about their privacy. That's 100 percent understandable. On the other hand, commercialized drones will open up new, creative kinds of photography and filmmaking once reserved for outlandish Hollywood budgets. I'll leave the last word to Brian Anderson at Vice'sMotherboard, who makes a great point:

When it comes to managing natural resources or tracking endangered creatures, advancing drone technology is forcing us, amid fierce debate and uncertainties about how drones are being used in the new theatre of war, to reaffirm the age-old notion that it's not the tool — it's how we use it. [Motherboard]

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Animals
This Octopus Species in Northern Australia Can Hunt on Dry Land
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Most octopuses live in the ocean—but in northern Australia, a small, shallow-water species takes to land in search of food. Abdopus aculeatus is the only octopus that’s specially adapted to walk on dry ground. Using its long, sucker-lined arms, the slimy sea creature pulls itself along the shoreline as it searches tide pools for crabs.

Witness Abdopus aculeatus in action by watching BBC Earth’s video below.

[h/t BBC Earth]

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Weather Watch
Rising Temperatures Are Killing Off African Wild Dogs
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Over the last few decades, images of fluffy white harp seals, polar bears, and penguins have become shorthand for climate change's creeping destruction of our planet. But the poles aren't the only ecosystems in danger. A new study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology finds that rising temperatures near the equator are making it much harder for African wild dogs to survive.

"When people think about climate change affecting wildlife, they mostly think about polar bears," lead researcher Rosie Woodroffe of the Zoological Society of London told The Guardian. "But wild dogs are adapted to the heat—surely they'd be fine."

To find out, Woodroffe and her colleagues analyzed data from packs of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in Kenya, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. The dog packs have been under scientist surveillance for years—some since the late 1980s—and at least one dog per pack is fitted with a radio collar.

The researchers overlaid information about local weather and temperature with data on the dogs' hunting habits, the size of each litter of pups, and how many pups from each litter survived.

These dogs are creatures of habit. Adults rise early and leave the den for a morning hunt. They range over their large territories, chasing antelopes. At midday, when the Sun is highest, they return to their pups with food. They may go out again in the evening as the temperature drops.

But like the polar bears' glaciers, the dogs' environment is gradually heating up. All three countries saw a temperature increase of about 1.8°F over the study period. This may not sound like much, but for the dogs, it was plenty. Between 1989 and 2012, the number of pups per litter in Botswana surviving to their first birthday dropped from 5.1 to 3.3. Dog packs in Zimbabwe saw a 14 percent decrease in pup survival; in Kenya, the rate declined by 31 percent.

"It's really scary," Woodroffe said.

"If you are an animal who makes your living by running around really fast, obviously you are going to get hot. But there are not enough hours in the day anymore that are cool enough to do that. It is possible that some of these big areas will become too hot for wild dogs to exist."

Woodroffe and her colleagues were not anticipating such clear-cut results. "It is shocking and surprising that even right on the equator these effects are being seen," she said. "It illustrates the global impact of climate change." 

[h/t The Guardian]

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