Animals, Biology, Feature Post, Science

The Iron Snail lives on volcanic vents, two miles under the sea, all thanks to its spectacular armor

Natural Sciences; Biodiversity

It’s hard to believe anything can be alive thousands of feet below the Indian Ocean where thermal vents effectively boil the water. Yet even in the most inhospitable conditions, life has a way of creeping in. Such is the case of chrysomallon squamiferum, a snail-like creature which may very well sport the best armor in the animal kingdom.

Animals, News

Virginia Wildlife Center will release two bald eagles back to the wild

The two bald eagles housed in the Wildlife Center of Virginiaa are scheduled to be released before the end  of August 2015. The population of bald eagles continues to rise as similar environmental agencies help to boost the species' health.
Image credits: Jim Bauer, via Flikr

North America boasted about half a million eagles before Europeans colonized the territory. They took the influx of Old World-ers quite harshly: the loss of habitat, the strains put on them by hunting activities and the spreading of pesticides among many others resulted in a steep decline of their population in the US. In 1997, the state of Virginia reported to have only about 50 bald eagle nests occupied by the avian predators. Thankfully, their numbers are slowly increasing at present, with more than 1,000 sightings of active nests throughout the Commonwealth.

Animals, Biology, News

One of the rarest animals in the world spotted after three decade long absence

Allonautilus2

Peter Ward might be the luckiest biologist ever. In 1984, he and colleague Bruce Saunders were among the first to identify a new nautilus species called Allonautilus scrobiculatus. Since then, the spiral shelled creature was only spotted once then disappeared for nearly three decades. This year, Ward returned to Papua New Guinea to survey nautilus populations and found the rare nautilus species once again!

Animals, Feature Post

2015 is the year of the Snow Leopard, but what do we know about this magnificent hunter?

Image source.

For millennia, they’ve been the uncontested kings of the mountains, killing things up to three times bigger than them. One Indian snow leopard, protected and observed in a national park, is reported to have consumed five blue sheep, nine Tibetan woolly hares, twenty-five marmots, five domestic goats, one domestic sheep, and fifteen birds – in a single year! For an animal that typically weighs under 50 kgs, that’s quite remarkable.

Animals, Environment, News

Fighting invasive mussels: Lake Havasu offers mussel decontamination for boats

The spread of quagga mussel in the US. Image via Wiki Commons.

The officials of Lake Havasu have taken a laudable measure: they’re offering free mussel decontamination for boats, in an attempt to stop the spread of a very dangerous species, the quagga mussel. The quagga mussel (Dreissena bugensis) is a species of freshwater mussel named after the quagga, an extinct subspecies of African zebra. A rather interesting creature in itself, the mussel is

Animals, Biology, News

Hummingbirds use their tongues as micropumps to sip nectar

Hummingbird

Possibly the most hyper animal, the hummingbird, feeds by darting its thin tongue 20 times per second inside the flower to extract the precious nectar. Previously, biologists thought the nectar was being collected through capillary motion. However, after analyzing 18 different hummingbird species while they fed using high frame rate cameras, a group at University of Connecticut found that the fast flapping birds use a totally different way to suck food: the tongue employed as a tiny pump.

Animals, Biology, News

This oddball octopus mates with its mouth and is actually social

Male and Female Larger Pacific Striped Octopus wrapped in a beak-to-beak dance. Image: PLOS ONE

Octopuses are like aliens and there are few creatures weirder than these eight legged critters. They survive freezing waters, perceive light through their skin, are masters of camouflage and can do many other things, some still oblivious to science. One uncanny feature of octopuses is their mating behavior or social order. Most octopus species mate at a distance, with the male using its reproductive arm to reach the female’s mantle. They have to do this to avoid being cannibalized by the female. Either way, once the job is done, the male dies while females only lives a little longer, just enough to lay the eggs. That’s the peak of both the octopus’ sex and social life. Besides a few instances, octopuses live their lives in isolation, alone in some shell or barren rock. However, there’s one octopus that seems to be totally different, even human-like: the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus.

Animals, News

Journalist Uses GPS Trackers and Fake Elephant Tusks to Reveal Smuggling Route

Image credits: Brent Stirton.

Every year, over 30,000 elephants are murdered, slaughtered for their tusks. Ivory is an extremely valuable commodity, and many people will stop at nothing to get it and sell it. With this in mind, investigative journalist Bryan Christy set out to see what the smuggling route is, so he commissioned a taxidermist to create two fake ivory tusks, which he embedded with

Animals, Biology, News

Ants can tell who’s who using their crazy sense of smell

ant smell

Maybe the most amazing of social insects, ants use complex cues of pheromones to determine to which cast in the colony each individual ant belongs to. A team at University of California at Riverside found ants do this by sniffing out hydrocarbon chemicals present on their cuticles (outer shell). These cues are extremely subtle, but the ants can sense them with great sensitivity due to the way they’re hardwired. It’s enough to notice that ants have more olfactory receptor proteins in their genome than we humans have. Amazing!

Animals, Biology, News

Drones are stressing bears and other wildlife

In this remarkable capture from above, we see a grizzly bear guarding a massive bison carcass. The photograph was taken by Doug Smith at Yellowstone National Park. Smith, who is the leader of Yellowstone’s Wolf Project, suspects that the bear happened upon the recently deceased bison and has now assumed ownership of the meal against other would be diners such as wolves [Source: BettPratt.com].

The buzzing racket of quadcopters and drones may be stressing wildlife, a new study shows. Drones have long ceased to be the provision of the military, and are now extensively been used for civilian purposes. Amazon, for instance, wants one day to deliver all its goods with unmanned aerial vehicles. In research, drones have proven to be particularly useful in observing wildlife. But these aren’t as unobtrusive as some might believe and future research should take into account that flying drones overhead should be done carefully so as to not disturb the wildlife.