Haeckel’s new old collection

It’s no small feat to become “both one of the best-loved and one of the most hated men” of an age. But Ernst Haeckel, a German naturalist and scientific illustrator who lived from 1834 to 1919, earned this mantle from his contemporaries, according toThe Art and Science of Ernst Haeckela new art collection just out from TASCHEN.

The collection compiles 450 of Haeckel’s most consequential prints of flora and fauna, alongside trilingual commentary by zoologist Rainier Willman and art historian Julia Voss.

Read about it here!

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Raccoons Pass Famous Intelligence Test—By Upending It

Fun fact: one test of intelligence is based on Aesop’s Fable. It measures if animals can discern cause and effect by displacing water to access food. It’s based on the story in which a thirst crow can’t drink from a pitcher at a low level of water. By dropping in stones, the bird raises the water level and is able to drink (Related: “Watch Clever Birds Solve a Challenge From Aesop’s Fables.”)

In a new study,  researchers presented put raccoons to the test. Eight captive raccoons were presented with a cylinder containing a floating marshmallow that was too low to grab. Next, they showed the raccoons how dropping stones in the water would raise the marshmallow.

Two of the eight raccoons successfully repeated the behavior, dropping the stones to get the marshmallow. A third took matters into her own hands: She climbed onto the cylinder and rocked it until it tipped over, giving her access to the sweet treat.

Want to know more? Read about these pesky bandits here!

 

A raccoon reaches into a cylinder to get marshmallows during a recent experiment.
PHOTOGRAPH BY LAUREN STANTON

How the first trees grew so tall with hollow cores

Imagine a world without trees, and then try to think about the changes that would need to happen for these trees to evolve from the small primitive plants that came before them.

When paleobotanist think about this possibility, it usually results in a really weird looking fossil (paleontologists spend a lot of time thinking about fossils…). It has a tapering truck, at least up to eight meters high, with distinctive short branches attached around the top to form a crown. From a distance, the trees would have looked like palms, with bases up to a meter in diameter. There were no leaves as such, just branched twig-like appendages which presumably had a photosynthetic function in the carbon dioxide rich atmosphere.

Most trees today have a solid trunk, which gets bigger through the formation of a new ring of woody tissues – made up of xylem cells – under the bark each year.

However, this primitive older tree, cladoxylopsids, the xylem grew in a ring of individual parallel strands around the outside of the trunk. Inside this zone, more xylem strands formed a complex network with many interconnections both to each other and to the outer parallel strands. The majority of the inside of the trunk was completely hollow.

But if they are hollow, then how did they grow so big? Read more here!

An epilogue to a mutant snail

Let’s all bow our heads in silence for Jeremy, the brown garden snail. Jeremy was a special snail, and known worldwide for his shell. You see, it coiled left instead of right (not a political metaphor). Because of this , he had trouble mating.

 Jeremy comes from humble beginnings, and was discovered in a compost heap in South West London by a retired scientist from The Natural History Museum. He recognized Jeremy was special and notified Angus Davison, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Nottingham in Britain who studies snails.Jeremy won international fame for a mutation that caused his shell to coil left instead of right.

Dr. Davison wanted to know if Jeremy’s left-coiled shell was inherited or just a strange developmental mishap, and for that he needed offspring. He took Jeremy into his care and appealed to the public to find him a mate with the hashtag #leftysnail. The media followed with #snaillove, and Jeremy became a star. He even inspired a love song.

Hence, there was a worldwide search for Jeremy’s soulmate/any mate will do really. And indeed! Two mates were found:Lefty of Ipswich, England and Tomeu of Majorca, Spain. But alas, they were more interested in each other than Jeremy.

For years, people searched for another lefty snail with which he could mate. Shortly before his death, she was found. His legacy will continue in the genetic knowledge gained from the lefty snail offspring they produced together. However, just days before his death, Tomeu produced more than four dozen offspring, some of which Jeremy likely fathered. He didn’t get a chance to meet them, but “on a scientific note, he wouldn’t have recognized them”.

Jeremy was found dead Wednesday in a refrigerator in a British research lab, and likely died of old age. He will be missed.

Read the whole story here!

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If it Swims Like a Duck and Quacks Like a Duck Could Be a Hybrid of Two Duck Species

A duck is a duck, right? Well, yes, but when one duck mates with a duck of another species, there’s the risk that one of the original species could cease to exist. And then that duck is a duck no more.

This is not philosophical, as much as it is based on very real study that assesses the rate at which mallard and Mottled Ducks are combining into a hybrid species in the US. And whether or not this is a bad thing?

Read more here!

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If This Wasp Stings You, ‘Just Lie Down and Start Screaming’

No kidding, the quote in this title is in a peer reviewed published paper. The tarantula wasp lives in the US, and apparently it’s sting is so painful it will end your happiness for the near future.

“There are some vivid descriptions of people getting stung by these things,” says invertebrate biologist Ben Hutchins of Texas Parks and Wildlife, “and their recommendation—and this was actually in a peer-reviewed journal—was to just lie down and start screaming, because few if any people could maintain verbal and physical coordination after getting stung by one of these things. You’re likely to just run off and hurt yourself. So just lie down and start yelling.”

Want to know more about these interesting critters, including that they are on the rise in the Souther US? Read about their increase here.

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That looks like a tall glass of NOPE!

Your butt is glowing: the most beautiful deathtrap of the glow worm

Glowworms (found primarily in New Zealand and Australia) live on the ceilings of caves and spin threads of silk covered with a sticky mucus. They cause these strings to glow, but triggering a chemical reaction with their butts. Which is kind of awesome.
After 6 to 12 months of eating whatever they can ensnare, the larvae transform into adults, which lack mouths and never eat. Their only job, in the final few days of their lives, is to mate and create the next generation of glowing-bottomed, trap making juveniles.Finally:

“And if you give them good vibrations, they’ll, er, get the excitations. There are some tours in New Zealand, Merritt tells me, where guides will deliberately hit the water or cave walls with an inflated inner tube; in response, the field of living stars will double in brightness. Merritt can achieve the same effect in his lab by pressing a vibrating cellphone against the aquarium where his captive glowworms live. “They really brighten up intensively if they detect vibration,” he says. “I’m not sure of the function.””

Want to know more? Read about it here!

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