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Editor's Note
Audubon View
Letters
Field Notes
Audubon in Action
Audubon Family
Green Guru
Incite
Earth Almanac
Birds
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One Picture
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Briefs
Ta-da!
Bunny Hope
Fish and Computer Chips
Night Light
Numbers Game: Let It Snow
Waste Not

News Articles
Brown pelicans make the de-list; libations at risk; Q&A with a garbage man; “green” chemistry; more.

Ta-da!
Memo to magicians who saw ladies in half, revealing dancing feet: You’ve been upstaged by a leopard gecko. Like many other lizards, this species surrenders its tail when threatened. A recent study published in Biology Letters has found that the gecko’s sacrificed stub can wiggle for up to 30 minutes, performing a series of rhythmic, waglike swings interspersed with complex acrobatics involving flips, jumps, and lunges. At least one neuron network (and possibly more) in the leopard gecko’s spinal cord, called a central pattern generator, probably causes the movements, which could be a survival strategy for the species. Leopard geckos live in wide-open deserts with few places to hide; their complicated tail gymnastics “might increase the distraction for a predator,” says Timothy Higham, the study’s lead author, thereby enabling the gecko’s grand finale—a disappearing act. (For a video of a leopard gecko’s flipping tail, click here. —Julie Leibach

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Edwin Fotheringham

Bunny Hope
They may not have quite the come-hither appeal of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy bunnies, but these rabbits are still turning a lot of heads. In 1984 researchers, funded by a grant from Playboy Enterprises, discovered that the tiny brown Lower Keys marsh rabbit is a subspecies of the mainland cottontail, and they named it Sylvilagus palustris hefneri. Six years later the government declared it endangered. Now Rosanna Tursi, a biologist at the University of Central Florida, is conducting tests on the 300 remaining bunnies to find groups with enough genetic diversity to re-populate the species. “Our goal is to see what’s the best strategy to maintain the [rabbits] over the long term,” she says. Although the Playboy grant expired, the group continues to monitor the rabbit’s status. “Playboy employees have a tradition of supporting animal rights, conservation, and the environment,” says Playboy’s Matthew Pakula. “And since the rabbit is Playboy’s international symbol for friskiness and playfulness, Playboy particularly cherishes and appreciates rabbits of all types.”—Susan Cosier
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Edwin Fotheringham

Fish and Computer Chips
There’s something fishy about the carp swimming in a tank at Essex University: They’re prototypes for five, 5-foot-long robots British scientists plan to let loose in Spain’s Gijon port by 2012. The gadgets, which move like real fish, use chemical sensors to detect pollutants leaking from ships or pipelines, enabling authorities to track contaminants in real time. Unlike their remote-controlled predecessors, the bots move independently, communicating with one another through ultrasonics and relaying information to scientists via WiFi from a battery-charging hub. If all goes swimmingly, the team hopes to use the fish in waterways across the globe.—Alisa Opar
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Night Light
During migration season, offshore gas rig workers in Europe’s North Sea see a sorry sight: dead birds littering the platforms. As they journey through the region, larks, waders, and other birds encounter two to 10 brightly lit rigs. The lights lure six million birds off course annually, sending them crashing into—or exhausted from circling—the enormous structures. So scientists found a simple solution: replacing white lights with green ones. “The red fraction in white light causes disorientation among migrating birds,” says George Wintermans of Shell, which installed bird-friendly lights on its rig. Removing the red wavelength makes the light look blue-green, a less alluring color to birds. After switching to green lights, the number of birds affected dropped by at least half. If all North Sea rigs made the change, the number harmed could shrink to 600,000.—Susan Cosier

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Numbers Game
Let It Snow

3 Number of North American bird species that molt into white plumage each winter to blend in with snow

30 Temperature, in degrees Celsius, colder that an Arctic bird’s feet may be than the rest of its body, to prevent heat loss

2 Estimated maximum length, in inches, of a snowflake

3.4 Average speed, in miles per hour, of a falling snowflake

514 Number of avalanches reported in 15 U.S. states, from 1950 to 1997

300,000 Cubic yards of snow a large avalanche can potentially release

1,140 Inches of snowfall on Washington’s Mount Baker in 1998, the world record for a year’s snow accumulation

181 Ski resorts that endorse Sustainable Slopes, thereby committing to make their operations more eco-friendly
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Waste Not
Emperor penguins are among the largest birds on the planet, but their black-and-white markings make them nearly impossible to see in satellite images. Now scientists are tracking the birds by their poo. Splotches of reddish-brown excrement can be several hundred yards in diameter, making them excellent markers of breeding colonies. Mapping expert Peter Fretwell and British Antarctic Survey colleagues came across “curious stains on the ice” while combing through Halley Bay research station photographs. After scouring satellite images they mapped 38 breeding colonies, 10 previously undiscovered. Fretwell is hopeful the guano maps will help spur new projects. “We’re planning to do more work to find out the true population of the species, which is a vital component of understanding how the species will, or is, being affected by climate change.”—Katherine Bagley
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Video: Gecko Acrobatics
Watch a leopard gecko’s tail flip—sans body.