Cloud of Birds Startled by Earthquake Shows up on the National Weather Service Radar

KTLX Birds Taking Flight, 19 Nov 2015 EarthquakeNot only did the earthquake overnight near Cherokee wake up people, it shook the birds from their roosts!

Posted by US National Weather Service Norman Oklahoma on Thursday, November 19, 2015

Early Thursday morning, an especially strong quake rocked the earth near Cherokee, Oklahoma. The magnitude 4.7 earthquake wasn’t intense enough to cause any serious damage, but it did startle enough birds for a flock of them to appear on the National Weather Service’s Doppler Radar.

The technology is primarily used for tracking storms, but large clouds of birds and insects have been detected by such systems in the past. This instance was especially remarkable in that it was the direct result of a seismic event. 

Earthquakes have been occurring in Oklahoma with increasing frequency and intensity in the past few years. In 2014, the state saw 585 magnitude 3.0 or higher quakes compared to the 109 recorded in 2013. This month, Oklahoma has experienced more magnitude 4.0 or greater earthquakes than any other month on record in the state, and Thursday’s event was the strongest seen since 2011. 

A study published earlier this year in the journal Science [PDF] suggests that many of these earthquakes have been the result of increased oil and gas drilling in Oklahoma. Another study from the Oklahoma Geological Survey [PDF] found that earthquakes are occurring at about 600 times the normal frequency that’s expected in the state. At that rate, Oklahoma's bird population may not be as surprised by the next one.

[h/t: Mashable]

Watch How a Bioluminescence Expert Catches a Giant Squid

Giant squid have been the object of fascination for millennia; they may have even provided the origin for the legendary Nordic sea monsters known as the Kraken. But no one had captured them in their natural environment on video until 2012, when marine biologist and bioluminescence expert Edith Widder snagged the first-ever images off Japan's Ogasawara Islands [PDF]. Widder figured out that previous dives—which tended to bring down a ton of gear and bright lights—were scaring all the creatures away. (Slate compares it to "the equivalent of coming into a darkened theater and shining a spotlight at the audience.")

In this clip from BBC Earth Unplugged, Widder explains how the innovative camera-and-lure combo she devised, known as the Eye-in-the-Sea, finally accomplished the job by using red lights (which most deep-sea creatures can't see) and an electronic jellyfish (called the e-jelly) with a flashy light show just right to lure in predators like Architeuthis dux. "I've tried a bunch of different things over the years to try to be able to talk to the animals," Widder says in the video, "and with the e-jelly, I feel like I'm finally making some progress."

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

Big Questions
Why Are There No Snakes in Ireland?

Legend tells of St. Patrick using the power of his faith to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea. It’s an impressive image, but there’s no way it could have happened.

There never were any snakes in Ireland, partly for the same reason that there are no snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica: the Emerald Isle is, well, an island.

Eightofnine via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Once upon a time, Ireland was connected to a larger landmass. But that time was an ice age that kept the land far too chilly for cold-blooded reptiles. As the ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers melted, pouring even more cold water into the now-impassable expanse between Ireland and its neighbors.

Other animals, like wild boars, lynx, and brown bears, managed to make it across—as did a single reptile: the common lizard. Snakes, however, missed their chance.

The country’s serpent-free reputation has, somewhat perversely, turned snake ownership into a status symbol. There have been numerous reports of large pet snakes escaping or being released. As of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild—a small miracle in itself.

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