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Funky, Green-Haired Turtle Is in Trouble

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You’d think its punk-rock hair would be enough to bring an Australian turtle fans, even before they learn of its ability to breathe through its genitals. But if overlooked now, researchers hope the Mary River Turtle’s spot on a list of unique, endangered reptiles will bring necessary attention before it’s too late. Found only in the Mary River of Queensland, the docile turtle that spouts green algae resembling spiky hair is in the 29th spot on the Zoological Society of London’s Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) list, which identifies 572 reptiles in all. Its cousin, the Madagascan big-headed turtle, takes the top spot, with a score denoting it as more at risk than any other amphibian, bird, or mammal in the world, per the Press Association.

“Just as with tigers, rhinos, and elephants, it is vital we do our utmost to save these unique and too often overlooked animals,“ says an EDGE coordinator, noting many endangered reptiles “are the sole survivors of ancient lineages” that “stretch back to the age of the dinosaurs.“ In the case of the Mary River Turtle—which uses gill-like organs to breathe when underwater—“you have to go back about 50 million years to find a closely related species,“ a researcher tells Reuters. Though the Mary River Turtle’s total population isn’t known, numbers plummeted beginning in the 1960s, when nest sites were pillaged and the reptiles sold as pets. Advocates hope the new listing will help in the push for better protection of its habitat.

‘Friendly’ African Warthog Captured in Florida

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African warthogs, not surprisingly, are not native to Florida so state wildlife officials are investigating how one wound up loose in a suburban neighborhood. Per the AP, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation officials told TCPalm.com that it captured the tusky animal last month after a five-day search about 50 miles north of West Palm Beach. That included failed attempts to capture it with traps and a rope snare before a wildlife officer spotted it and tackled it. The newspaper reports the officer got some cuts on his legs in the process. Under state law, owning a warthog requires a permit but no one in that area had one. Officials said the beast is tame and is friendly when offered food.

Report Raises Safety Questions About Allegiant Air

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In the summer of 2015, Allegiant Air had a number of in-flight breakdowns—on one day in particular, there were five such problems. Between the beginning of 2016 and the end of October 2017, a 60 Minutes investigation uncovered more than 100 serious mechanical incidents the airline experienced: from hydraulic leaks and air pressure loss in the cabin to rapid descents, aborted takeoffs, and more—including 60 unscheduled landings. The airline has just 99 planes, yet experienced 25 engine failures or malfunctions in two years, and its planes are three and a half times more likely than those of other carriers to experience “serious in-flight mechanical failures,“ per the report. But Allegiant Air, a budget carrier based in Las Vegas, is one of the most profitable airlines in the US, even if most customers are unaware of those problems.

A former member of the National Transportation Safety Board says he won’t fly the airline and encourages his family and friends not to fly it, either. The aviation experts 60 Minutes spoke to during its 7-month investigation believe the problems stem from Allegiant’s ultra-low-cost fares; in order to keep them so affordable, the airline must keep its own costs down—and keep its planes flying as long as possible. Almost 30% of its planes are McDonnell-Douglas MD-80s, which are old and difficult to find parts for. Those planes, nearly all of which were bought secondhand from foreign airlines, are responsible for most of the problems the investigation uncovered. Some also fault the FAA for being too lax in its oversight of the airline. Allegiant is calling the story a “false narrative,“ while the AP reports shares of its parent company were down in early trading. See CBS News for more.

Dying Gulf Stream May Trigger Global Nightmare

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Scientists are raising alarm bells after two studies found that the Gulf Stream—an ocean current key to regulating Earth’s climate—is the weakest it’s been in 1,600 years, the Guardian reports. The culprit is apparently melting sea ice and glaciers, which inject fresh water into the North Atlantic and weaken the stream. “Fiddling with [the Gulf Stream] is very dangerous, because you may well trigger some surprises,“ says climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf. “I wish I knew where this critical tipping point is, but that is unfortunately just what we don’t know.“ If the stream dies, scientists say, its equatorial heat would stop reaching the North Atlantic—plunging Europe into bone-numbing winters and affecting weather worldwide. Even subtler changes “could wreak havoc” on the Atlantic Ocean’s “delicate ecosystems,“ the Smithsonian reports.

The studies differ in approach and timeline but both say the Gulf Stream has diminished by about 15%, Nature reports. One study spotted it by measuring sediment on the ocean floor, and says the problem began when the Little Ice Age subsided around 1850. The other, which analyzed sea surface temperatures combined with advanced climate simulations, says the decline started around 50 years ago. But both see human-influenced climate change as a cause, Nature says. And with Greenland’s huge ice cap melting at a historic rate, some say the Paris climate agreement is our only hope. “If we can keep the temperature rise to well below 2C as agreed in the Paris agreement, I think we run a small risk of crossing this collapse tipping point,“ says Rahmstorf.

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