This Week On Earth: February 25 - March 4


Barbra Streisand cloned her dog

In a recent interview with Variety, Barbra Streisand revealed that her two out of three Coton de Tulear dogs were clones.

The two dogs, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett had been clones from cells taken from Streisand’s other dog, Samantha who died at age 14 last year. The cells were taken from Samantha’s mouth and stomach.

In 2005, South Korean researchers announced they cloned a dog for the first time. The researchers worked for almost three years before finally creating a cloned male Afghan hound with help from a yellow Labrador Retriever, the surrogate mother.

ViaGen Pets in Texas charges $50,000 for cloning pets or just $1,600 to preserve their genes. The cloning process usually takes 60 days, as long as a dog’s pregnancy.

It is not yet clear how similar these clones are to their donor animals; but Sooam Biotech, a lab in South Korea, claims that the environment does interact with genetics to impact traits like personality and behavior.

Sooam also stated that the cloning process only works about 33 to 40 percent of the time, so there is a large chance of miscarriages.


Spring is arriving earlier in the Arctic than in Chicago

A study published in the online journal, Scientific Reports, found that for every 10 degrees north from the equator, spring arrives four days earlier than it did a decade ago.

At southern to mid latitudes, the study suggests that spring will arrive only one day earlier. Areas at greater latitudes, like Chicago, might be experiencing spring 4 days earlier. In the Arctic, spring might be arriving even 16 days earlier.

Birds migrating, the emergence of leaves, and flowers blooming are all signs of springtime advance with higher latitudes.

The arrival of spring provides many important biological cues for both plant and animal species, and an early spring may result in unexpected changes for species such as trees and amphibians. The impacts to migratory birds are a particular concern, given that the springtime cues these birds are relying on may not be reliable predictors of food availability.

As of now, it is not yet certain exactly how plant and animal species will specifically be affected by an advanced spring.


Large penguin colony seen from space

A group of more than 1.5 million Adélie penguins were first spotted by big patches of their feces, or guano, came up in photos taken from space.

According to BBC, the penguins are gathered on a rocky archipelago on the north point of the Antarctic Peninsula called the Danger Islands, which are known for their difficulty to access. Even during the summer, the ocean surrounding the islands is filled with thick sea-ice that ships try to avoid.

The Danger Islands host the third and fourth largest Adélie colonies. This is significant since the archipelago somehow avoided the recent Adélie declines observed elsewhere on the Antarctic Peninsula.A reason for the flourishing populations could be that the ice near and around the Danger Islands is still intact, which provides an important habitat for krill, a key part of the penguin diet. The reduction of ice, mainly caused by climate change, in other areas is a main cause for declining populations of Adélie penguins.