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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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.