Surprising Animals Old and New

first_img(Visited 55 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 Moving creatures, whether extant or extinct, never cease to hold fascination for human observers.How small can a frog get?  “Absurdly tiny frogs” have been found in Brazil, Live Science reports. Smaller than a thumbnail, some are brightly-colored, while others are camouflaged; “they come in a jellybeanlike array of bright colors,” Jeanna Brynner writes. They live deep in the remote, misty rainforest where other species likely remain to be discovered.Silver ants deflect heat:  How can ants in the Sahara desert, where surface temperatures can soar to 158° F, survive? Science Daily says that “they must keep their body temperature below their critical thermal maximum of 53.6°C (128.48°F) most of the time.” Their secret is with silvery hairs that cover their bodies. Triangular in cross-section, these tiny hairs deflect heat over a wide spectrum into the infrared range, allowing them to shed heat and keep their cool even as they scurry at 0.7 meters per second across the sand, looking like little drops of mercury racing across a smooth surface. The heat-shedding properties of these hairs could give architects ideas. “Such biologically inspired cooling surfaces will have high reflectivity in the solar spectrum and high radiative efficiency in the thermal radiation spectrum,” Yanfang Yu [Columbia U] explains. “So this may generate useful applications such as a cooling surface for vehicles, buildings, instruments, and even clothing.” See also New Scientist and Science Magazine.Shark buoyancy:  Sharks don’t have air bladders like bony fish do, so how do they keep from sinking? “Unlike other fish, which inflate air bladders to adjust their buoyancy on the fly, sharks rely on a skeleton of cartilage and a liver filled with lighter-than-water oil to help beat gravity’s pull,” Science Magazine explains. This should normally allow them to park without rising or falling. Two deep-sea sharks have been discovered with a slight negative buoyancy, researchers have found. They were observed to spontaneously rise without beating their fins. “This propensity to rise could be an adaptation that allows the sharks to sneak up on prey from below, the team writes, or merely a way to allow muscles to relax after a day spent hunting for meals in colder, deeper water.”Jellyfish repair:  Certain jellyfish called moon jellies can rearrange themselves within a few days if they lose an arm, restoring their original symmetry. They do this using a mechanically-driven reorganization process, a team of international researchers reported in PNAS. “This unique strategy of self-repair, which we call symmetrization, requires mechanical forces generated by the muscle-based propulsion machinery,” they say with an engineer’s gleam in their eye: “Beyond biology, this finding may inspire a mechanically driven, self-organizing machinery that recovers essential geometry without regenerating precise forms.” National Geographic added some emotion to “the surprising way jellyfish put themselves back together,” quoting a Caltech biologist yelling to his colleagues, “You won’t believe this, you’ve got to come here and see what’s happening.”  Science Daily shows pictures of the restored symmetry. NG includes a video clip of the graceful swimmers you can watch to de-stress.Starfish repair:  Speaking of repair, starfish have “a surprising talent for squeezing foreign bodies out through the skin,” Science Daily reports from research at the University of Southern Denmark. “Two biology students have revealed that starfish are able to squeeze foreign bodies along the length of their body cavities and out through their arm tips,” the article says. “This newly discovered talent gives insight into how certain animals are able to quickly heal themselves.” See? There are new discoveries students can make. Wouldn’t be nice if humans could regenerate lost arms or livers? “Previous research has documented that starfish are able to regenerate whole limbs and organs, but this trick of ejecting deeply embeded [sic] foreign bodies has never before been demonstrated in any organism.”Bat focus:  PhysOrg printed another article on bat sonar, “How bats fly to find their prey.” One fact that stands out is that bats have noise filters. To echolocate in their noisy environment, they have to be able to tune out other bats, wind, weather, and even the sounds of their own wings. (And yes, they can use their eyes to see in daytime, when they tend to fly straight.) “Bats are able to filter out the ambient noise around them using low-pass filtering. Useless sounds are cleared out, which makes conditions more transparent,” Nadav Bar explains. “The bat also has a highly developed sensorimotor system, which controls the mammal’s movements. These characteristics enable the bat to move quickly and with incredible precision.” Incidentally, another species of fossil bat was found in New Zealand. It appears to have used its wings for walking on the ground part of the time, Science Daily reports. In all other respects, it was just as good a flying echolocator as extant members of its genus. And a new paper in PNAS describes how certain bats are able to widen their sonar beams by emitting high-intensity clicks. “Thus, beam broadening is not a general property of echolocation, but we hypothesize that maintaining a broad acoustic field of view is crucial for all echolocators hunting moving prey.”Butterfly poetry: A BBC News Magazine article waxes philosophical, asking, “Do butterflies hold the answer to life’s mysteries?” The article reviews some of the ways artists, poets and theologians have been inspired by the winged beauties, and how scientists are uncovering the secrets of their life habits. The anonymous author found a way to apply the subject to the politics of climate change.Extinct WondersPlant-eating theropod dinosaur: Nature reported “An enigmatic plant-eating theropod from the Late Jurassic period of Chile.” If you thought all theropods are carnivores, think again: this is the third known species of theropod that switched from carnivory to herbivory, the discoverers believe. “The bizarre anatomy of Chilesaurus raises interesting questions about its phylogenetic relationships,” the authors say as they begin to puzzle over where to put it. “For a basal tetanuran, Chilesaurus possesses a number of surprisingly plesiomorphic traits [convergences] on the hindlimbs, especially in the ankle and foot, which resemble basal sauropodomorphs.” Sauropods like Brontosaurus were very different from theropods.Museum of the bizarre: Charlotte Stephenson [U of Hull] posted a list of “Five amazing extinct creatures that aren’t dinosaurs” on The Conversation, along with artist renderings, including the “which-way-is up?” Hallucigenia from the Cambrian explosion, a two-foot scorpion from Scotland, a tiny horse from Germany, and a spiral-lipped Permian shark. Artistic license should always be questioned, such as in the rendering of Tiktaalik and its description as a “part fish, part four-legged animal.” Stephenson glosses over Darwin’s Doubt by saying the Cambrian was a time “when complex lifeforms started to rapidly evolve.” Why that statement cannot stand up to the evidence is explained in Illustra’s film about the Cambrian fossil record, Darwin’s Dilemma.Illustra’s new film on marine biology, Living Waters, is going to pose severe challenges to evolutionary theory on several fronts. It also puts up on the big screen some of the most beautiful shots of marine animals anywhere, including some mentioned in these articles (e.g., jellyfish, sharks and bony fish). It will be a film to shut the mouths of the Darwin defenders who speak recklessly about what mutation and selection can achieve. It’s just now being replicated to DVD; Blu-ray editions will be available soon. Plan to get a copy and look for ways to get it shown to reasonable people; it could be a game-changer.last_img read more

Young South Africa: ‘Make NDP yours’

first_imgSouth Africa’s youth have to make the National Development Plan work for them.MEDIA CONTACTS • Brand South Africa+27 11 483 0122RELATED ARTICLES• Gordhan: we can do better• Entrepreneurship key for jobless youth• National development plan unveiled• Taking youth empowerment abroad• Keep our youth drug-freeYoung South Africans were urged to engage with and take ownership of the country’s National Development Plan (NDP) at a youth dialogue session hosted by Brand South Africa.The NDP is about the future and the youth, so our young people must look at the document and find out how they can make it work and how it can actually enhance their opportunities in skills development, in training, in improving the quality of life for all,” KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize told the large gathering at Durban’s Hilton Hotel.The NDP is a policy blueprint for eliminating poverty and reducing inequality in South Africa by 2030. Among other things, it identifies the key constraints to faster growth and presents a roadmap to a more inclusive economy that will address the country’s socio-economic imbalances.Monday’s event was one of a number set to take place around the country to encourage young South Africans to help define and carry out the plan. Citizen buy-in neededThe key message all speakers were keen to get out is that for the NDP to work, buy-in from all citizens is required.“We should all take responsibility and play our part,” Khulekani Mathe, the acting director-general of the National Planning Commission, told on the sidelines of the event.“Talking about 2030, it’s not about the older guys, it’s about the youth. These guys are going to inherit a messed up world unless we get them involved in making this a better country.”As one, the speakers stressed that education was key to meeting the goals of the NDP, the three most important of which are, according to President Jacob Zuma in a recent address: “Raising employment, improving the quality of education, and building a capable developmental state.” Education as force for change“The only thing that I know that changes the fortunes of someone who comes from a small village like me is education,” said Mathe. “I don’t know of anything else; but, of course, it requires hard work.”During his speech, Mathe warned: “If we continue along the same trajectory, things will implode. A new growth path needs to be found. Economic growth is absolutely critical. If things are left as they are, we are in trouble. Labour unrest suggests that the situation is dire and a solution is needed. It is everybody’s problem. A new path must be found.”Leading the way for the youth was the evening’s MC, Lynette Ntuli, the head of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper Durban Hub.WEF Global Shaper, Ntuli explained, is about the youth playing a part in the direction the world is taking. The youth are tomorrow’s leaders, thus plans for 2030, could be discussed without the youth, she said. Ignite South AfricaWith Monday’s session falling on 24 June, the opening day of Wimbledon 2013, it was something of a surprise to see former Wimbledon runner-up Kevin Curren in attendance.Curren is involved with Brand South Africa, helping to create exposure for the brand on different platforms in South Africa and Africa, including through Ignite South Africa, which aims to bring young people together to help build South Africa’s future.Ignite South Africa has already had “some amazing success stories,” Curren told SAinfo. “Part of what we do with television is that we are going to tell those success stories and how they have made a difference in their communities, and that can work together with what the person next to you is doing.”Brand South Africa’s Leo Makgamathe said he was thrilled with Monday’s turnout and active response from the young people of KwaZulu-Natal.Further NDP Youth Dialogue Sessions are planned for Johannesburg on 26 June, for the UCT Graduate School of Business in September, along with other events in Limpopo, the Free State and the Northern Cape.last_img read more