The Solomon Islands -- a nation comprised of nearly one thousand islands located northeast of Australia, between Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea -- is an impressive corner of the globe. Dense, lush rainforest blankets the majority of the islands, and the country's coral reef biodiversity is among the richest in the world. Many of the plants and animals in the Solomon Islands have evolved in splendid isolation, and now, one of these animals has emerged from its idyllic surroundings, revealing itself to science for the first time: the vika (Uromys vika), a big-arse rat four times the size of even the heftiest of the familiar, city-slicker variety.
Tagged With animals
If you've ever seen a jellyfish in the wild, at an aquarium, or in one of those 11-minute-long relaxation videos on YouTube, you've probably wondered: What are jellyfish trying to do? What is their goal? The answer is not entirely obvious, as these barely sentient blobs seem to senselessly ferry themselves from one place to another just because they can. Now, new research gives overthinkers yet another reason to envy jellyfish. Apparently, some of these animals without brains might sleep pretty peacefully.
The life of a hermit crab is one of repetition. Find an abandoned snail shell. Live in it. Nom on some flecks of detritus. Grow bigger. Find a slightly bigger shell. Repeat all steps for the rest of your crustacean life. The most onerous part is continually upgrading the shell, a process that can get pretty intensely competitive with other crabs around. However, a newly-discovered species of hermit crab avoids the shell renting game altogether, opting to reside in a living coral, one that grows alongside the crab, meaning no more relocating once the square footage gets a bit tight.
Adulthood is kind of like the Olympics where the main event is trying not to fall apart under the weight of your own ennui. Sometimes, you've just got to let that internal tension out by screaming into the open air. Or a pillow. Or the frozen foods section at Whole Foods. But honestly, no creature shouts into the void better than the aptly-named Screaming Hairy Armadillo.
When it comes to fantasy, mythical creatures are a given. Specifically, dragons are a given. Sometimes, a unicorn or two will pop up, but fantasy has a real thing for dragons. And while giant flying lizards are great and all, the focus on dragons has meant we have not given other creatures their proper pop culture due.
It's no secret that the electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) is a species not to be messed with. Capable of generating an electric discharge of more than 800 volts, the enigmatic tropical fish can easily stun prey and would-be predators alike. Land-lubbing assailants aren't safe either; the eels can breach out of the water like high-voltage snakes, landing on attackers and dispensing a Taser-like jolt. Now, new research described in a paper published this week in Current Biology has revealed key details of how the eels execute this electric lunge, and just how bad the jolt can be -- discoveries that relied on one scientist's bravery... and his right arm.
You probably think you know how giraffe necks evolved. Maybe the ancestors of giraffes ate leaves from trees, and the ones who could reach the most leaves were the fittest, and therefore passed that trait down to the silly-looking long-necked animals we see today. But scientists don't know that -- in fact, there are at least six hypotheses as to how and why giraffes got their long necks.
Over the past week, Irma has redefined our expectations of how powerful a hurricane can be and left devastation in its wake: The once-Category 5 cyclone roared through the Caribbean, leaving one million people in Puerto Rico without power, and caused significant flooding in Miami, Naples and many other parts of Florida. It was difficult enough for seasoned hurricane veterans to hunker down for the storm, and adding the thousands of animals from Florida's zoos and theme parks into the equation made preparations even more difficult. But damn did Floridians pull it off.
Poison dart frogs have an ominous and well-deserved reputation as a lot of death stuffed into a teeny, neon package, and none is more dangerous than Colombia's golden poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis). With skin slaked with enough of the potently neurotoxic batrachotoxin (BTX) to kill a staggering 20,000 mice, the golden poison frog somehow doesn't poison itself. A team of scientists have now pinpointed how the frogs survive their lethal secretions: a single genetic mutation that results in full immunity to BTX.
All cats are amateur physicists. We know this because they insist on constantly knocking things over to make sure gravity still exists. But just because cats are interested in science doesn't make them great candidates for space travel. Of course, that didn't stop the Air Force from putting that to the test.
Burying beetles (Nicrophorus) are hard to miss. The insects aren't big, but most species are painted with vibrant, orange blotches on a glossy black background. According to new research, walking around dressed in their Halloween best may have an important function. The coloration may be "aposematic," bright and conspicuous to sternly warn other animals of the wearer's unsuitability as a meal. So, what is it about the burying beetle that makes it noxious to would-be predators?
Anal secretions. That's right, butt juice.
During the 65 million years following the extinction of the dinosaurs, the success story of the mammals has been more than a little imbalanced. Eutherians (placental mammals like dogs, horses, you and I) had an evolutionary rager, exploding in diversity and filling vacant ecological roles across the Northern Hemisphere. Metatherians (including marsupials like kangaroos and koalas) only got a modest foothold in the smaller, southern continents of South America and Australia. For tens of millions of years, everything north of the equator seemed to be a land of total placental mammal dominance -- but the fossilised remains of a cat-sized metatherian carnivore in Turkey are now challenging that story.
Sea snakes are a striking sight on the sun-dappled Pacific and Indian Ocean coral reefs they call home. They swim with deliberate, yet graceful winding movements above the reef, and they are often conspicuously-coloured, with many species sporting patterns flush with yellows, oranges and blues, broken up by stripes, blotches and spots. This scaly skin, delicately painted by evolution, is part of what makes encounters with them so memorable. However, one species of sea snake -- the turtle-headed sea snake (Emydocephalus annulatus) -- is losing its captivating stripes. The culprit behind this robbery? Pollution.
Earth's ancient oceans were rife with nightmare creatures, from many-limbed worms to 2m-long crab-ancestors. This week, scientists are taking the prehistoric freak show to another level, with a new paper introducing Capinatator praetermissus, the 500-million year old bristled-jawed worm monster pictured above.
Nature isn't always sunshine and kitties. This proved itself yet again recently, when researchers at the Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro published a study on a pair of conjoined bat twins discovered in southeastern Brazil back in 2001. The animals were dead when they were discovered, which is almost always the case with animals born with a rare condition that results in two heads on a single body.