Animal Sound Accents.
What does a lion sound like in Chinese? For a little fun, Global Animal presents the way the sounds of various animals are heard in a variety of countries.
Australian Fires Blamed on Eucalyptus Trees.
The Eucalyptus tree is native to Australia, but it has been exported around the world, most notably to California where it is quite common. The recent spate of fires in Australian forests has put a spotlight on the eucalyptus tree. The tree is actually resistant to forest fires,which actually serve to propagate new plants since the seed pods open up during fires. By coming back quickly after a fire, the eucalyptus outcompetes other plants and trees. However, when it does burn it spreads the fire quickly because its oils are flammable and its leaves disintegrate quickly, creating burning embers that fly through the air and spark new fires. The thousands of eucalyptus trees in California are also responsible for that area’s susceptibility to extensive forest fires. Once again, with little forethought, humans have spread a dangerous invasive species and now must suffer the consequences.
Herpes Simplex, Our Constant Companion.
You might not be pleased about getting a cold sore and you may already know that it is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). What you may not know is that the virus has been with us since humanity emerged from Africa and expanded into Europe and Asia 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. Recently, scientists have genetically sequenced strains of HSV-1 from samples take from around the world. They were stunned to realize that the genetic changes in HSV-1 match the anthropological theory of how our ancestors populated the world “out of Africa.” Indeed, the tale told by the genetic fingerprints of HSV-1 matches the expected genetic mutations of the various world populations if they had emerged from Africa in that time frame.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation.
For a high school student named Kevin Terris, the 2009 school field trip to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah was indeed a memorable one. Hiking along some stone outcroppings in the park, Kevin spotted what looked like a piece of bone in the rocks. He studied it more closely and eventually realized that he was looking at an ancient skull. In fact, Kevin has discovered what turned out to be the most complete fossilized skeleton of a baby duck-billed dinosaur. The dinosaur, Parasaurolophus, lived in what is now Utah some 75 million years ago. Scientists have since made 3-D digital scans of the find. The specimen, nicknamed “Joe,” can be seen in person at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, California.
New Human Ancestor Fossil May Be Game Changer.
The world of physical anthropology was abuzz this week with the publication of findings based on fossils recovered from Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia. A total of five skull fossils of early hominids were discovered there in 2005. One of the skulls was the most complete ever found. The skulls date back to 1.8 million years ago, a time when the genus Homo, had penetrated into Europe and Asia. But the most startling part of the new analysis is that the differences between the five skulls has supported a theory of the human family tree which is much simpler and more straightforward than others. Rather than the existence of several species of the genus Homo in that time frame, the new analysis suggests a single genus and species with individual differences that over the years have been mistaken for different species.
Oarfish and Earthquakes.
The giant oarfish that washed up on the beaches of California last week were remarkable because of their size. Normally, these fish live in the deep waters and are rarely seen. But an ancient Japanese myth says that the beaching of oarfish portends an earthquake. Sometimes ancient myths have a basis in scientific reality and it is possible according to scientists that oarfish are sensitive to and detect seismic disturbances before an earthquake. For now, without scientific inquiry, the myth remains a myth.
Outsmarting Bird Flu.
As concerning as the bird flu (H7N9) has been to the medical community, what really keeps these professionals up at night is the next possible mutation of the virus that could make it even more transmissible and lethal. That is why scientists from the Netherlands have teamed up to deliberately induce H7N9 to mutate under strictly controlled laboratory conditions. The research is being conducted in a highly isolated area of Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam and the expectation is that when new mutations of H7N9 are created there, scientists will at the same time learn what vaccines will likely counter its lethality. The work is not without criticism. Some scientists point to the highly risky nature of the work and the possibility of accidental release, while others are concerned that the research could fall into the hands of terrorists.
New Finds in the Amazon.
The jungles of the amazon continue to supply scientists with bevies of new species. Have a look at a new “purring” monkey as well as a new piranha species that is actually vegetarian. In all, 10% of the world’s species can be found in the Amazon.
The Audubon Biography.
Smithsonian.com salutes the memory of John James Audubon. As an amateur bird enthusiast, Audubon almost single-handedly romanticized the study and appreciation of birds in nature. From his early 19th century childhood, this brief autobiography traces how Audubon’s obsession with birds led to the publication of one of the most beautiful and influential books on the natural world.
Chimps Use Long Term Memory for Foraging.
You’re not likely to forget the location of your favorite restaurant even if you haven’t visited it for some time. It turns out that chimpanzees, our closest relative, have a similar long term memory tool. Researchers watching female chimps forage over a period of several weeks realized that some of the trees they visited were not based upon present sensory cues, but instead were based upon their memory of the tree having been a good source of food in the past. The researchers concluded that chimps, “remember feeding experiences long after trees have been emptied.”
“The Dirt: This Week in Nature” curated and written by Robert Raciti.