Carol: Hello there Hurst! I’m gonna start off this week’s discussion with a question for you. How many different families of flies are there?
Hurst: That is certainly an interesting question. I guess I have no idea.
Carol: Well, what do flies eat?
Hurst: I want to say trash, but I feel like that’s not polite.
Carol: I recently read a piece that highlighted just how little people know, much less care, about flies, even though they are fascinating and important animals. Many people think of flies just as the common housefly that buzzes around your living room, however, there are at least 150 families of flies and possibly even thousands of individual species. I even learned that without a certain species of fly, the Biting Midge, pollination in the cacao tree would be impossible, meaning we wouldn’t have chocolate. And obviously, chocolate is an important food group.
Hurst: I really had no idea flies were so diverse, and helpful! Our next story is is about finding your true love online.
Carol: Hmmm… you must be talking about a dating site.
Hurst: Well, kind of. I’m talking about Tinder. A very clever animal shelter in Columbus, Georgia in the U.S. created a profile for Henry, a 3-year old adventurous hound mix. So far, he’s had lots of right swipes.
Carol: Ok, so to break that down for people my age, when you swipe right on Tinder, that’s a good thing, right?
Hurst: Yep. Over twenty people have said that Henry is a perfect match for them but none have actually taken the next step to go to the shelter and meet Henry. But this story is getting lots of press and I have high hopes for this hound.
Carol: Me too. What a creative way to get the word out about an adoptable pooch.
Hurst: I might have to leave farmersonly.com and give Tinder a shot! The next story I think we should talk about was covered by Public Radio International and I’m afraid it is a big downer.
Carol: Lay it on me.
Hurst: Well, it seems that in addition to dwindling fish stocks, tons of cruise waste, and an abundance of plastic trash, we have another really major issue affecting our oceans.
Carol: Whatever it is and however depressing it is, I’m glad you are bringing it up. I think we tend to forget about all the life growing, living, and breathing below water.
Hurst: Yeah, I’m glad you brought up breathing. That’s the problem. The oceans as well as many coastal areas are becoming low oxygen zones – or more descriptively “dead zones” – where aquatic life just can’t survive. Dead zones have two main causes. The overall increasing temperature of the oceans due to global warming is triggering the decrease of oxygen in open waters. But off our coasts, it is excessive nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and organic matter, primarily from agriculture, sewage, and the combustion of fossil fuels that are depleting oxygen in the waters closest to land.
Carol: So, it sounds bad, but how bad is this news?
Hurst: It’s pretty bad. The number of dead zones have quadrupled since 1950. In warmer waters, the amount of oxygen that animals need actually increases, at the same time that the supply of oxygen decreases. Some marine life is avoiding coastal areas altogether such as Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Baltic Sea. The authors conclude their article abstract by saying “In the longer term, these conditions are unsustainable and may result in ecosystem collapses, which ultimately will cause societal and economic harm.”
Carol: Yikes! Can anything be done?
Hurst: Yes, fortunately, but it won’t be easy. We need robust policy changes to help curb global warming, and more efficient ways to make sure excesses of nitrogen and fertilizers aren’t dumped into our coasts from residential and commercial waste.
Carol: Well, let me pick up the tone with a happier ocean story…related to corals. We often hear sad news about the Great Barrier Reef, however, this photo piece from National Geographic describes the beautiful yearly spawning event.
Hurst: Exactly how is this spawning event beautiful?
Carol: The hermaphroditic corals release gametes, which are male and female reproductive cells. These float through the water, creating kind of an underwater snowstorm, until they eventually collect on the surface and are fertilized.
Hurst: Sounds like these corals don’t need any sort of dating site, they just put their stuff out there and hope for the best.
Carol: That is one way to put it, however this event is important because it is when conservationists collect these reproductive cells so that they can use them to grow corals artificially. Reintroduced lab-grown corals may be what it takes to save the Great Barrier Reef as much of it is being damaged by coral bleaching. However, spawning events like this one breath new life into the ecosystem and allow scientists to study how these unique organisms reproduce.
Hurst: And in even more ocean news, did you see the story about the Pacific Bluefin Tuna that sold for $323,111 at Tsukiji market in Tokyo?
Carol: I did. Last year, a Tuna sold for $1.8 million, which is shocking. However, this was not as shocking as when I found out that tuna populations are down to 2.6% of their estimated population prior to large scale fishing.
Hurst: Thankfully, many countries have come together to try to restore bluefin populations to 20 percent of their original population by 2034. Hopefully, this will not come to late for such a staple animal.
Carol: On a happier note, Mongabay reported this week that a new species of lemur was discovered! The Grove’s Dwarf lemur was found in two of Madagascar’s national parks. They are smaller than a squirrel, their fur is reddish-brown, and they have brownish-black rings around their really big adorable eyes. They are so cute, Fiona may have some serious competition.
Hurst: Wow, they must be, because I know you wouldn’t say that lightly.
Carol: Well, I’m getting a little hungry so I better get going. I’m off to meet some friends at TGI Fridays.
Hurst: That doesn’t sound like your typical go-to restaurant. Aren’t you more of a buy local, farm-to-table kind of foodie?
Carol: Mostly, but I want to support TGI Fridays in being one of the first major chain to embrace the Beyond Burger made by plant-based food company Beyond Meat. The Beyond Burger will be listed as a standalone menu item but also can be substituted in any the other eight existing burgers on the menu. It’s different from black bean burgers that are of course yummy and have been available for years; the Beyond Burger truly looks, feels, and tastes like meat from a cow.
Hurst: I’ll have to try one. I’m having a little get-together on January 21st for Squirrel Appreciation Day, so maybe we will go to TGI Fridays.
Carol: I didn’t know about Squirrel Appreciation Day, but I have been planning my celebration for Penguin Awareness Day the day before, on the 20th. Is this you extending me an invitation to your Squirrel Soiree?
Hurst: Of course, I’ll see you there! See you next week!