In Naming New Species Scientists Show Humor.
Who says scientists don’t have a sense of humor? A newly discovered acorn worm (sea creature) looked to scientists like the Star Wars’ Jedi master, Yoda. They promptly named the species, Yoda purpurata, which means “purple Yoda.” In the recent past, a horsefly has been named after Beyoncé. Apparently straying into the political, slime mold beetles also have been named after George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
More on Global Animal.
Roman Mosaic Help Marine Biologist.
An Italian marine biologist, Paolo Guidetti, is a specialist in the dusky grouper fish, which is native to the Mediterranean. Today, the fish is endangered and marine reserves are being used to protect the overfished species and try to help it recover. In order to discover the ancient size and habitat of the grouper, Guidetti decided to turn to Roman and Etruscan art. Among these, several ancient mosaics depicted the grouper and revealed that it was once a truly monstrous fish that inhabited surface-level Mediterranean waters, rather than the deep waters it now is confined to. Whether it is possible to restore the grouper’s past glory is questionable, but the exercise did underscore the potential value of ancient art as a source of scientific information.
More at Scientific American.
Can I Keep It, Ma … Can I?
While taking a walk along the Yenisei River in Northern Russia, 11-year-old Yevgeny Salinder smelled something odd. He investigated further and then saw what turned out to be the heels of a wooly mammoth sticking out of the ice. It turns out that the mammoth is the best preserved mammoth specimen found in over 100 years. The animal died some 30,000 years ago and is now in the care of scientists, all thanks to Yevgeny’s curiosity.
More at Discovery.
“Remembering” Without a Brain.
Yellow giant slime mold is a truly odd creature. It is a single-cell organism that can be as much as a square foot in area and contains millions of individual nuclei. What is even stranger is that even though the yellow slime mold has no neurons, let alone a brain, it is able to “remember” where it’s been. It leaves a coating of slime in its wake, which it then avoids if it encounters it again. Experimenters found that If the slime mold is free to encounter its wake of slime, it can find its way to a food source many times faster than if experimenters hide the slime. This, scientists believe, functions as a sort of brainless memory system for the organism and may have played a role when many more of these creatures slogged over the earth.
More at Live Science.
Mouse Egg Cells Created from Stem Cells.
To the growing list of cells that can be created from embryonic stem cells we can now add mouse egg cells. Scientists at Kyoto University’s School of Medicine took female embryonic mouse cells and coaxed them into becoming mature oocytes, or mouse egg cells. These cells were then fertilized in vitro and then reimplanted into normal female mice. The result was that the implanted embryos developed into healthy mouse offspring that are themselves fertile.
More at Scientific America.
Oak Tree Saved By City Residents.
It started out as a lowly acorn about 100 years ago, but today the Ghirardi Compton Oak tree in League City, Texas measures 56 feet tall, 135 inches in circumference and weighs over half a million pounds. A new highway project seemed to condemn the iconic tree to the fate of so many other urban trees in the way of development until local residences decided to save it. In a monumental blend of human perseverance and technological know how, the tree was carefully dug out and moved to a new location. The tree reportedly is doing very well and has “plenty of acorns.”
More at Treehugger.
Saving the Pakistani Snow Leopard Through Insurance.
Estimates are that fewer than 450 snow leopards still range in Pakistan’s mountainous north. The reason for their demise is that they are often killed by herders in retaliation for their predation upon herders’ goat and sheep herds. In response, Shafqat Hussain, founded the Snow Leopard Project, which looked at the problem from a different angle. Hussain’s approach is to reclassify the Snow Leopard as a domestic animal and set up an insurance system in which herders can be compensated for proven herd losses from the animals. The plan, while apparently successful, is controversial among conservationists who believe that separating the snow leopard from local herders is the only way to really protect the species.
More at National Geogprahic.
Rover Needs Breakfast Too.
Don’t think a good breakfast is only good for people. A new study shows that dogs, too, benefit from a healthy breakfast. Researchers at the University of Kentucky tested the searching ability of dogs with and without breakfast. They found that dogs who ate breakfast before the search had a 30% improved search accuracy. However, the advantage may be due to the increased carbohydrate diet of dog who are fed commercial dog chow. Wolves, which mostly meat, do not seem to benefit from a breakfast meal.
More at Discovery.
Move over songbirds, nature has a new singing star. Mice can sing “songs” at ultrahigh frequencies, well above the frequencies that humans can detect. Not only do they sing, but male mice copy pitch from one another to impress the ladies. Interestingly, Erich Jarvis, a neurobiologist at Duke University, was attempting to verify the long-held assumption that mouse brains did not have the necessary structures to learn and copy tunes. Instead, it now appears the opposite is true and that mice brains have an innate vocal modulating ability that even chimpanzees and monkeys do not possess.
More from Live Science.
Ancient Arthropods Had Complex Brains.
A study by the University of Arizona examines fossil evidence that suggests that even 520 million years ago, relatively complex brains had already evolved. The fossil specimen in this case was take from China and it shows what appears to be the outlines of a structured brain in a now extinct arthropod species. Arthropods include animals such as insects, spiders and crabs.
More from Red Orbit.
“The Dirt: This Week in Nature” curated and written by Robert Raciti.
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