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NASA debuts fire-tracking Web site

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	     NASA debuts fire-tracking Web site

The U.S. space agency Tuesday unveiled a Web site that provides 
information about the impact of fires and smoke on Earth's 
climate and ecosystems. The NASA "Fire and Smoke" Web site, 
www.nasa.gov/fires, includes regular updates of NASA images 
of fires and their associated smoke plumes in the United States 
and around the world, the agency said in a news release. It 
also has articles on the research results and multimedia 
resources from throughout NASA's agencies. The National 
Aeronautics and Space Administration said the site is updated 
regularly with new images from NASA's Earth-observing satellites 
and airborne observatories, including the unmanned aircraft that 
pinpointed wildfire hot spots across California.

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	    Ants go marching using vector navigation

Ants traveling in the desert's relentlessly featureless terrain 
use vector navigation to plot their course, researchers at the 
University of Zurich found. The strategy allows desert ants to 
integrate direction, distance and incline as they travel, the 
scientists said in an article published in Frontiers in Zoology.
In their study of desert ant locomotion performed on differently 
slanted surfaces, the researchers said they wanted to examine what
mechanisms ants used to estimate step length and inclination. In 
a related experiment with ants foraging on slippery surfaces, 
researchers said they were able to separate the relationship 
between stepping frequency and step length to examine the ants' 
ability to gauge distances covered those adverse conditions.
Once they removed the effect of speed, the researchers said they 
demonstrated slope had only a "marginal influence" on their 
travels. The researchers said they think sensing mechanisms on 
the ant's legs could provide the correlation in monitoring 
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	    Milkweed's defenses evolve to repairs

The milkweed adheres to the adage "Know your enemy" by using 
fast repair work when its defenses are damaged by hungry 
caterpillars, U.S. researchers said. Cornell University 
researchers examined the way milkweed evolved to the monarch 
butterfly caterpillar's changing attempts to disarm the plant, 
the Ithaca, N.Y., university said in a news release. They 
found the plant may be evolving away from its defenses against 
certain caterpillars toward repairing themselves faster than 
caterpillars can eat them. "Some plants seem to have shifted 
away from resisting (plant-eating animals) and have taken that 
same energy and used it to repair themselves," said Anurag 
Agrawal, Cornell associate professor of ecology and evolutionary 
biology and lead author of a paper in the current issue of the 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Agrawal and 
Mark Fishbein, a Portland State University biologist, found 
evolutionary declines in milkweed's three main resistance 
traits -- hairs, cardenolides and latex -- and an escalation 
in the plant's ability to regrow. One reason, Agrawal said, 
could be because as its predators have become so specialized, 
the plant was better off choosing a new defensive tactic "to 
tolerate the herbivory (plant-eating) damage instead of 
resisting it."


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