This is a rarely-seen "pink fairy" armadillo that lives in western central Argentina. Chlamyphorus truncatus, the tiniest armadillo species on the planet, spends almost all of its time underground, making it hard for researchers to determine whether it's endangered or just very elusive. Scientists at Mendoza, Argentina's CONICET research center recently had the opportunity to study one in captivity and discovered that the animal doesn't "swim" through sand as previously suspected but rather "digs and then it backs up and compacts the sand with its butt plate.” (Science News)
Last week, scientists described a new species of hammerhead shark, the Carolina hammerhead. Though slightly smaller than the scalloped hammerhead species it was previously thought to be a part of, the Carolina hammerhead was ID'd as something different with the help of DNA samples, not visual descriptions. This, courtesy shark blogger David Shiffman, is the Carolina hammerhead's head, in beautiful x-ray vision.
Photograph via National Geographic, by Graeme Shannon
A recent study investigated the impact of culling and relocation on elephant decision-making and cognition decades later. African elephants are highly intelligent and social creatures, and rely on their sophisticated communication skills to survive in the wild. How does the trauma of being separated from "loved ones" and their native terrain change how orphaned elephants think, and cope?
From a recent National Geographic article by Christy Ullrich Barcus:
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African black rhinoceros (CNN)
In an updated list of threatened species released
today in 2011 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, The Western Black Rhinoceros has been declared extinct. The black rhino subspecies was last seen in western Africa in 2006. From an article updated today at CNN.com, which is making the rounds anew:
The IUCN warns that other rhinos could follow saying Africa's northern white rhino is "teetering on the brink of extinction" while Asia's Javan rhino is "making its last stand" due to continued poaching and lack of conservation.
Dr Bjoern von Reumont:
"This is the first time we have seen venom being used in crustaceans and the study adds a new major animal group to the roster of known venomous animals. Venoms are especially common in three of the four major groups of arthropods, such as insects. Crustaceans, however, are a glaring exception to the rule." [BBC] — Rob
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a link to a research paper on crocodile genitalia, which included a really helpful diagram showing how the male crocs' penis works as part of an all-purpose mating/elimination hole called a cloaca. Now, with the help of reader Eirik Lande, you can see what those genitals look like in, er, action. The above photo is part of a series of shots Lande took of a 661-pound Nile crocodile named Samson (and an unnamed/weighed female partner) as they did what comes naturally in a tank at Bergen, Norway's, Akvariet zoo.
For clarification, that's the female on top in this shot, but they started out in a different position. In Lande's photos you can see the two crocodiles flip, with the help of a "death roll" style move near the end of their mating. That photo is a bit more explicit, but gives you a fairly clear view of what it looks like when Samson shoves his genitals out of his cloaca.
Photo: Peter Le
This weekend, puttering around in Brooklyn in the wake of New York Comic-Con, Heather and I saw the strangest thing: a sinister-looking truck loaded with stuffed, loudly-squeaking animal toys, tooling down the street. We went through the possibilities. PETA, perhaps? An advertising campaign? Turns out that it's Banksy!
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National Wildlife Federation naturalist David Mizejewski explains how nature would deal with a zombie outbreak: brutally, and without quarter.
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The rear end of Tinu and the head of Uno, two Eurasiers, are seen from behind a tree during the launch of the Crufts dog show in Green Park, central London, February 24, 2004. Photo: Natasha-Marie Brown
Jeros (Jellyfish Elimination RObotic Swarm) does what it says on the tin: sends robots out to kill the shit out of jellyfish. JWZ has rounded up some of the better videos showing the Jeros bots shredding jellies like crazy on a test in Masan Bay, South Korea.
This snail's shell is not green.
Instead, the shell is semi-transparent. It's the snail that's green.
Thanks, Nick Crumpton!
Science finally came up with solid evidence that animal behavior can be a predictor of weather events. But it's not exactly the behavior (or the animals) you might expect. Instead of dogs barking, think beetles f#*$ing
. Or, rather, beetles not copulating, as the drop in atmospheric pressure that precedes a storm seems to result in less sexual behavior among several species of insects. Particularly interesting were the curcurbit beetles, who might still mate in the face of an oncoming storm, but seem to dispense with all foreplay. — Maggie
From a National Geographic story by Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato, the quote of the week:
“I lift up the animal’s tail,” said Joanne Crawford, a wildlife ecologist at Southern Illinois University, “and I’m like, ‘Get down there, and stick your nose near its bum. People think I’m nuts,” she added. “I tell them, ‘Oh, but it’s beavers; it smells really good.’”
Crawford is talking about castoreum, a naturally occurring anal secretion found in beavers. The furry animals use it to mark their territory. We humans, however, have also found uses for castoreum. Most notably, as an ingredient in vanilla-flavored and vanilla-scented products.
Pictured: Hardened lumps of beaver anal secretions, as stored in the Deutsches Apothekenmuseum, Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Germany. Photo by H. Zell via CC
Perhaps you have recently heard about Tanzania's Lake Natron, a body of water that has become famous on the Internet over the last couple of days because of the work of artist Nick Brandt, who took some eerie, posed photos of the calcified corpses of birds that he found along the lake's shore.
Natron, the stuff for which the lake is named, should also sound a bit familiar to you. That's because it's the mineral salt the ancient Egyptians used as part of their mummification rituals. (In fact, they used to harvest it from dry lake beds — Lake Natron isn't the only lake in Africa that's home to large quantities of naturally occurring natron.) It's both a serious drying agent and anti-bacterial, so immersion in natron can suck all the moisture out of a dead body while simultaneously preserving it against the ravages of microorganisms. As far as I can tell, that's what you're seeing in Brandt's creepy photos — birds and bats that look like Tim Burton's garden statuary, but are actually just mummified (and then propped up for artistic purposes).
Which brings us back to the video above. If Lake Natron mummifies birds, how do the fish survive?
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Manatees would like to remind you that it's alright. You're a good person. You just need a hug.