Quick Hits: Queen of the Mole-rats + Hurricane-Climate Change

After a bloody fight, mole-rats at D.C’s National Zoo have selected a new queen

For the last several months, mole-rats living in the Small Mammal House at the Smithsonian National Zoo have been engaging in a battle for supremacy. The mole-rats are just one of two mammalian species that live like colonies of bees or ants, where one queen reigns and challengers must fight or kill her in order to take her spot at the top.

Only the queen is allowed to reproduce, and her subjects are assigned roles as the queen sees fit. Back in October, zoo officials were fairly sure who the queen of the Smithsonian National Zoo would be. One female mole-rat was larger than the others and asserting dominance without much push-back from the other mole-rats.

But officials could not be sure until the mole-rat gave birth. Last week, just hours after the latest challenger to the queen was found dead, the large mole-rat gave birth to tiny mole-rat babies, at last verifying her position as queen. Zookeepers say that the queen has settled into motherhood well.

Thousands of UK students skip school for climate change

Last Friday, thousands of students in the UK went on strike to demand action on climate change. The organizer, Youth Strike for Climate, said that more than 60 towns and cities, and 15,000 students, were taking part. The protest was a part of a wider global movement called Schools 4 Climate Action.

The group has four key demands: the government should declare a climate emergency, it should inform the public about the seriousness of the situation, the national curriculum should be changed to include “the ecological crisis,” and the age of voting should be lowered to 16 so younger people can be involved in decision making around climate issues.

“We’re demanding the government listen to us and we will continue to make noise until they do so,” one of the protestors, Scarlett, told the BBC. “It can’t be about behavior change anymore; it has to be about system change.”

A new startling study says that hurricanes are strengthening faster in the Atlantic due to climate change

A group of top hurricane experts, including several federal researchers at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, recently published a striking new study in Nature Communications suggesting hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean have grown considerably worse partially due to climate change.

The study focused on rapid intensification, where weak tropical storms grow to a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane in a short period of time. The study found that the Atlantic has found “highly unusual” changes in rapid hurricane intensification compared to what models would predict as a natural swing in climate, leading researchers to believe climate change plays a significant role.

The findings come in the wake of two of the most damaging years for hurricanes. In 2017, Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma caused $306 billion in damages. In 2018, Hurricanes Florence and Michael caused $91 billion in damages. Each of these storms went through rapid intensification.

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