Letters to the Editor

Letters from the May 29, 2004, issue of Science News

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6:07pm, May 24, 2004
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Judging by science

"Forensics on Trial" (SN: 3/27/04, p. 202: Forensics on Trial) was an eye-opener. Our courts may be accepting many analytical techniques that haven't been adequately validated. We should be careful, especially where the death penalty is involved, not to be guilty of hubris in the application of scientific knowledge.

Bob Sauer
Princeton, Mass.

Dumb like a wolf?

In "Wolf vs. Raven? Thieving birds may drive canines to form big packs" (SN: 3/27/04, p. 197: Wolf vs. Raven? Thieving birds may drive canines to form big packs), the thesis is that wolves hunt in packs because they lose less of a carcass to ravens (37 percent loss per pair versus 17 percent loss per pack). Yet the article also states that it's more energy efficient for wolves to hunt in pairs and that a pack is not needed to kill a moose. So a pair of wolves hunts more efficiently and gets 31 percent of a carcass each, but a pack hunts less efficiently and gets only 14 percent of a carcass each. Doesn't sound like a good survival strategy to me.

Greg Smith
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Hunting in pairs is not always more efficient. Researcher Tom Waite says that the cost of increased food sharing with other wolves in a larger pack is offset by the benefits of reduced losses to ravens and increased rates of predation on moose.—S. Milius

Going coastal

Wait a minute. "Coastal Surge: Ecosystems likely to suffer as more people move to the shores" (SN: 3/27/04, p. 197: Coastal Surge: Ecosystems likely to suffer as more people move to the shores) first indicates a 15.6 percent rise in the U.S. population between 1990 and 2002 but then goes on to claim an increase at "faster rates" in coastal counties: 13.3 percent.

Richard Laatsch
Oxford, Ohio

The 13.3 percent rise in population is only for the 330 counties that touch the coastline. The other 343, generally suburban counties deemed coastal because of their drainage patterns are growing much faster.—S. Perkins

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