The most important (transitional) fossil you’ve never heard of

I LOVE ME SOME TRANSITIONAL FOSSILS!

But this one is particularly interesting, as it fills a crucial hole in the fossil record and demonstrates how four-limbed creatures became established on land. Found on the Scottish border, it’s called (wait for it…) Tiny.

Read about it here! _95576018_fa89156d-5853-4015-88e4-1e18fea86279.jpg

 

Caves made from Giant Sloths

Local geologists in South America were investigating a series of caves that didn’t look anything like caves they had seen before. They didn’t look natural.
Well it turns out that they may be made by the long extinct giant sloths that used to roam the landscape. Or other megafauna that have long since gone extinct. Captivated? Read about it here. 
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The Woolly Mammoth’s Last Stand

Woolly mammoths once flourished from northern Europe to Siberia. As the last ice age drew to a close some 10,000 years ago, the mainland population perished, victims of climate change and human hunters.

However, a remote island population survived for 6000 years after the mainland had died off. And from a tooth of a male mammoth, geneticists have now deciphered the reason the population ultimately went extinct.

Read about it in the New York Times.

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Talking with whales

While captive in a Navy program, a beluga whale named Noc began to mimic human speech.

Since the early 1960s the United States had been deploying marine mammals, beginning with dolphins, for tasks including mine detection and recovery of test torpedoes. By the mid-1970s, the locus of the naval cold war had shifted to the Arctic, where the latest Soviet submarines were secreting themselves under the ice cap, an environment off-limits to animals including dolphins and sea lions used in the Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP). Experiments commenced on weaponry that could function in such extreme conditions. The Navy needed marine mammals with built-in sonar, capable of locating and retrieving sunken experimental torpedoes in the frigid waters and low visibility of the Arctic, and they landed on beluga whales.

Due to his close work with his trainers, Noc began to mimic human speech in an attempt to communicate, work that is presented in “Spontaneous Human Speech Mimicry by a Cetacean,” in the October 23, 2012, edition of the journal Current Biology. Or read about it over at the Smithsonian!

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What Do Insects Do in Winter?

“Whether it’s special proteins that act like the antifreeze in your car, body fluids spiked with alcohol instead of water or gearing up for long-distance travel to warmer climes, it seems that these hardy bugs have developed their own answers to the biological problems winter poses.

You’ve likely heard of one the most common ways insects make it through this darkest and coldest season: time travel. “Either they escape in space, which means they migrate, or they escape in time, which means they become dormant,” says Scott Hayward, an invertebrate biologist at the University of Birmingham. “The vast majority actually becomes dormant.””

Want to know more about how or small uncharismatic friends survive in during the colder months? Read about it over at Smithsonian Magazine! 

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Caterpillar Lab!

In a time where biodiversity is actively under threat, I’d like to take a moment to applaud organizations that highlight and promote organisms. And somehow I just stumbled across such a resource.

The Caterpillar Lab! Started by a kickstarter in 2013, it’s mission statement:

The Caterpillar Lab fosters greater appreciation and care for the complexity and beauty of our local natural history through live caterpillar educational programs, research initiatives, and photography and film projects. We believe that an increased awareness of one’s local environment is the foundation on which healthy and responsible attitudes towards the broader natural systems of this world is built.

Check them out here, or simply enjoy the video below (One of many that can be found on their website).

 

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