One of the weirdest places in Antarctica is Blood Falls, a five-story cascade of blood-red liquid pouring from Taylor Glacier. Researchers finally traced its source: a saltwater lake millions of years old trapped under the glacier.
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Wyman Meinzer describes his journey from outdoorsman to renowned photographer in this inspiring profile. Below are a couple of examples of his wonderful photography: Read the rest
Advances in Atmospheric Sciences reports that flying is going to get more and more turbulent, even at cruising altitudes, because of climate change:
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One of the most striking sights in some Australian cities is the white ibis, an exotic-looking large bird that has adapted to city life as a scavenger. Here's a hilarious spoof of nature documentaries. Read the rest
According to the guy who shot this with a Brazilian potato-cam, the boa constrictor attacked a porcupine, which managed to escape after leaving a few hundred spines in its attacker. Read the rest
Tardigrades, the tiny creatures also known as water bears, are a house favorite at Boing Boing. Able to survive in the most extreme conditions, from alcohol immersion to empty space, their resilience poses difficult scientific questions. Scientists believe they've found the answer, and have published their findings in Molecular Cell.
Wired's Matt Simon writes:
...researchers claim they’ve found an exclusively tardigradean protein that the creature produces, forming it into a glass bead. It’s in this state that the water bear can pull off such extreme feats of survival—which might be very convenient for human medicine one day.
The problem with the [earlier] trehalose theory, as it turned out, was that while many other organisms like nematode worms and brine shrimp use it to survive desiccation, not all water bear species produce the sugar under stress. Some of those other organisms produce enough trehalose to make up 20 percent of their body weight. The water bear? Only about 2 percent.
This doesn't explain why tardigrade plushies thrive on my couch. Read the rest
South American polka dot tree frogs are pretty cool, but Julián Faivovich and Carlos Taboada found out they are even cooler when an ultraviolet flashlight is trained on them. They fluoresce.
Many animals can see beyond the spectrum visible to humans, and these frogs adapted with this trait. From the abstract:
Fluorescence, the absorption of short-wavelength electromagnetic radiation reemitted at longer wavelengths, has been suggested to play several biological roles in metazoans. This phenomenon is uncommon in tetrapods, being restricted mostly to parrots and marine turtles. We report fluorescence in amphibians, in the tree frog Hypsiboas punctatus, showing that fluorescence in living frogs is produced by a combination of lymph and glandular emission, with pigmentary cell filtering in the skin. The chemical origin of fluorescence was traced to a class of fluorescent compounds derived from, here named hyloins. We show that fluorescence contributes 18−29% of the total emerging light under twilight and nocturnal scenarios, largely enhancing brightness of the individuals and matching the sensitivity of night vision in amphibians. These results introduce an unprecedented source of pigmentation in amphibians and highlight the potential relevance of fluorescence in visual perception in terrestrial environments.
I'd make a Wikipedia article about dihydroisoquinolinone, but it would probably be an annoying and demoralizing fight.
• Naturally occurring fluorescence in frogs (via Nature) Read the rest
True's beaked whales spend much of their time deep underwater, so much of what we know about the mysterious species comes from stranded corpses. That's why a live sighting of a pod including underwater footage is so remarkable. Read the rest
German photographer Florian W. Mueller has created an interesting series of images about REM sleep
. Set in a mossy forest, they feature one out-of-place piece of the forest. Read the rest
If you're going to fly a drone over a Siberian Tiger habitat, you'd better have quick reflexes. Meant to help them get more exercise, the drone was no match for their hunting skills. Read the rest
What happens when a whale dies? It sinks to the ocean floor, creating a whale fall, which becomes a fantastical garden of biodiversity. EVNautilus stumbled on a naturally-occurring whale fall during a live feed, an exceedingly rare find. Read the rest
Frog tongue mechanism has been well-documented, but only recently have scientists started looking at the remarkable combo of tongue softness and frog spit's chemical makeup. Read the rest
Makes me wonder what I looked like this morning attacking that chocolate donut.
(BBC Earth Unplugged via Neatorama)
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Lake Silvaplana has breathtaking views year-round, but in the winter there's another delightful experience to be had: walking on transparent ice that allows visitors to see all the way to the lakebed. Read the rest
YouTuber KittyPouncer created this terrific timelapse video of curly icicles extruding from pipes. Here's how it happens: Read the rest
If you're feeling demoralized by the assault on our environment under the current administration, you might find inspiration in the PBS profile of environmentalist Rachel Carson
. Read the rest