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Before the world knew him as Lord Voldemort, Tom Marvolo Riddle was quite a charmer. A tall, handsome youth with impeccable manners and perfect grades, Riddle was admired by his teachers and classmates. But Tom’s good boy persona was skin-deep. At heart, he was a psychopath and narcissist who used his looks and charisma to rope others into doing his dirty work.
Would you rather save a savage shark or an adorable panda? If you have watched Jaws or Piranha 3D, then you would probably pick the latter. Too often, the media over-sensationalizes animal appearances and behaviors for the sake of entertainment. While the cutesy birds and bunnies get to co-star with Disney princesses, the vicious and hideous critters are stuck playing the villain. These stereotypes stem from our tendency to reject what we perceive as dangerous, foreign or unsightly. In reality, these so-called monstrous creatures are important members of our ecosystems.
Don’t you just hate it when you hear the distinctive buzzing sound of a mosquito right as you’re about to fall asleep? As annoying as your situation seems, the climate change-related challenges that many species of animals have to deal with are far, far worse.
Imagine growing up without your father. Now imagine that you are a small primate living in the dense jungles of Madagascar. If you were to run into your dad 15 years later, would you be able to pick out his voice from the other sounds in the jungle?
For those who love fossils but lack the time or stamina to dig through the dirt, try checking out some medieval library books — and be careful not to breathe in all the dust! A recent study reported that white spots found in some of these old books are actually fossil records of European beetles. Each of them is actually a wormhole, the result of hatching beetles chewing through the woodblocks used to print arts and illustrations between the 1400s and 1800s. And you thought that bookworm infestations were scary!
Materializing weapons from a printer may sound like something from a computer game, but thanks to Defense Distributed’s “Wiki Weapon” project, this fantasy may soon turn into a reality. Defense Distributed aims to create a working gun comprised entirely of parts from a 3D printer.
Since the 1990s, Indian pachyderms have made the news for their supposedly drunken behaviors. In 1999, a herd of elephants rampaged through the village of Assam, killing four people and injuring six others. The causes, according to the papers, were habitat loss and a few casks of rice beer.
You may have heard of island gigantism, an interesting phenomenon in which small animals that migrate to islands tend to grow significantly larger. However, Cope’s Rule, which was proposed by an American paleontologist Edward Cope in the late 19th century, takes the “bigger is better” perspective a few steps further.
Sleeping, eating and having sex all day — who wouldn’t want to have that kind of life? Australian koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus), widely known as the biggest sleepers in the animal kingdom, are doing just that. In order to digest the high-tannin eucalyptus foliage that comprise the majority of their diets, these cuddly marsupials spend most of their day (a stunning 16 to 18 hours) motionless.
This week’s animal spotlight goes to Tyrannosaurus rex’s feathery cousin and Jurassic Park costar: the equally infamous Velociraptor.
You might already know that the mammals hold the world record in hairiness. What you might not know is that not all animals use their hairs to keep themselves warm. Weighing up to 12 tons and reaching heights up to 13 feet, elephants are the largest living land animals on this planet. In other words, they are massive!
While sharks and piranhas have a history of terrorizing the silver screen, their Testudines friends are adored by fans everywhere. The fame (or infamy) of characters like Bowser from the “Mario” series and protagonists of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” are signs that turtles have successfully invaded popular culture. Unfortunately, the reality of turtle life is a rather harsh one; many species, such as the loggerhead sea turtle, are struggling to stay off the extinct species list.
Why is childbirth in humans such an agonizing and difficult process? The answer, as you might expect, lies in our evolutionary history. David K. Jordan, professor of anthropology at the University of California San Diego, believes that the human pelvis, and mammalian pelvises in general, has been shaped by competing evolutionary forces.
Have you ever wondered why people tend to prefer certain colors of foods over others? The preference originates from the foraging adventures of our early human ancestors.
Just two days ago, conservation scientists released a list of the world’s 100 most endangered animals during a presentation at the World Conservation Congress in Jeju, South Korea. Compiled by more than 8,000 scientists affiliated with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), this list includes species that are very likely to go extinct if nothing is done to protect them.
Jason Trageser, the newest faculty addition to Hopkins’ prestigious Neuroscience Program, has a lot on his plate. As a prolific researcher, neuroscience lab co-instructor, and Hopkins’ one and only neuroeconomics professor, Trageser has a lot to say about Hopkins, neuroeconomics, and his passion for research.
My turtle-crazy roommate and Parry Gripp's educational video (dude, that's a tortoise!) about how to differentiate between a turtle and tortoise first introduced me to the world of these wonderful reptiles. Turtles are some of the most bada** animals to grace this earth - they outlasted the dinosaurs, braved the mosasaur-infested prehistoric seas and have even made it into fiction, with bubbly characters like Squirtle from Pokemon and Crush from Finding Nemo. Unfortunately, the survival of some species of turtles is seriously threatened, thanks to human activity. Loggerhead sea turtles, known for their large size and powerful jaws, are among these threatened species. Once hunted extensively for their meat and eggs, they are now under the protection of international conservation laws. While locals in some countries continue to use loggerback eggs as snacks and aphrodisiacs, the turtles are getting their revenge. Eating turtle eggs can cause serious illness due to toxic metals that build up through bioaccumulation, which occurs when toxins move up the food chain and increase in concentration with each trophic level. When loggerhead turtles are accidentally captured by humans, the shelled creatures undergo a recovery process according to the severity of their injuries. A team of scientists from Catalonia and the Balearic Islands recently investigated the re-adaptation of these turtles to the environment. According to their results, after a lengthy recovery in rehabilitation centers, the turtles display changes in behavior. In the study, the researchers placed satellite transmitters onto the shells of 12 healthy, wild loggerhead turtles of the species Caretta caretta, and 6 more on the shells of turtles that had spent a few months in a rehabilitation center in the Balearic Islands.Lluis Cardona, the principal author of the study and a researcher in the animal biology department in the University of Barcelona, said that the rehabilitating animals were seriously affected when they were captured and had a slow, complicated recovery process. After they were set free, three of the rehabilitated turtles exhibited changes in behavior. Cardona, who compared these turtles with the 12 controls, found that one turtle died and the other two had trouble swimming - they were very disorientated. The transmitters sent a signal each time the turtles surfaced to breathe, informing the researchers of the swimming speed and routes followed by the turtles. According to Cardona, the time a turtle spends at the water's surface is very informative about its health. Turtles need to surface regularly in order to breathe and thermoregulate. In addition, the time spent at the surface reflects the turtle's buoyancy control. While the study's small sample size limits the applicability of results, there is clearly a percentage of animals that do not recover fully after capture or injury. The study raises the question of when recuperating and treating a turtle is worthwhile.Cardona says that due to limited resources and for the good of the turtle, scientists and veterinarians need to work to establish protocols to determine when a turtle's condition warrants treatment. The six turtle patients were rehabilitated in the Balearic Islands by the Aspro-Natura Foundation between 2004 and 2007. All of them suffered from major injuries - two were hit by boats, two had stomach and throat injuries from fishing hooks and two sustained flipper injuries from fishing nets. Most of these animals are caught unintentionally by fishing hooks and trawler or trammel nets. A small percentage collides with boats or gets caught in abandoned nets or plastic. Fortunately, the number of turtles caught by fishing hooks has fallen, thanks to fishermen moving to deeper waters where fewer turtles reside. However, Cardona warns that the situation remains dire - 90 percent of turtles in the waters around the Balearic Islands hail from the USA. This means that the number of nesting female loggerheads in the country has dropped.
In the world of the dung beetle, eating and rolling in poop is fun. Dung beetles are classified according to how they interact with manure: rollers mold dung into balls for eating or brooding purposes, tunnelers bury their poop and dwellers make a home out of excrement. According to recent research on these insects, dung beetles are attracted to the smelliest poop they can find, which happens to be dung from omnivores like us.
It is well-known that birds engage in a vocal arms race with humans. To avoid being drowned out by the constant drone of traffic and industrial noise, songbirds have been increasingly pressured to make themselves heard in the urban jungle. Some birds, such as the great tit, can easily rise to the challenge ?- this adaptable species has been shown to sing faster and at higher pitches in urban environments. However, not all birds are flexible enough to succeed on man's turf: a cruel reality that is reflected in the decrease in biodiversity near man-made roads and cities. In the densely-packed woodlands, birds tend to sing slower and at lower pitches to prevent their songs from being blocked out by the foliage. On the other hand, the urban environment presents a novel set of challenges for chorusing birds ?- it is open, meaning that there are fewer surfaces to block sound transmission, and packed with low-pitched sounds. While males with deep voices are more successful in the woods, the opposite is true in the city. There are several theories for why birds become city-smart. One hypothesis proposes that young birds drop low songs from their repertoires due to their inability to hear them above the city noise. Another proposes that urban birds are forced to use higher-pitched songs because the low-pitched ones do not prompt the mating response. Either way, it is clear that birds face a number of challenges from living near an urban environment. Studies have shown that birds from noisy areas respond less strongly to birdsongs from quieter areas, implying that breeding opportunities, and even mate recognition, are impeded by noisy environments. To make things worse, many birds cannot significantly change their songs after the first year of life, limiting their ability to adapt to different environments. Each species of bird has their own way of overcoming man-made noise barriers. Nightingales cope by raising the intensity of their songs, blasting German cities with their 95-decibel ballads. Robins, on the other hand, reserve their singing for the night. To add to this wealth of information, a recent study at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Aberystwyth identified an additional factor influencing urban birdsong - the physical structure of cities. Co-author Torben Dabelsteen of the Section for Ecology and Evolution at the University of Copenhagen's Department of Biology argues that the need for birds to drown out competitors does not sufficiently explain why birds sing at lower pitches in the city. According to the researchers, birds cope with urban noise in one of two ways: directly, by raising their tones and staying away from noisy environments, or indirectly, by attempting to drown out anthropogenic noise. Through the use of controlled sound recordings, the team showed that higher frequency notes are transmitted across cities in the absence of noise from traffic. From this, Dabelsteen concludes that the physical structure of cities must contribute to the heightened song frequencies. Cities are complicated and birds must take into account how different structures will transmit or reflect their notes. While birds can easily spot each other in the urban jungle, they must also learn how to communicate effectively by reducing echoes from buildings and narrow streets. City life is hard work for these birds. Their country-dwelling cousins can attract females without having to sing at full force. In the woodlands, abundant trees and foliage distorts sounds and obscures birds from each other. Thus, country birds have learned to use these distortions to judge the distance to the nearest friend or potential mate. Unfortunately, human activity does not only affect bird communication. Humans are a powerful selective agent that can affect animal communication, predator-prey relationships, and even the survival of an entire species. Whales and dolphins fight to hear each other above the sound of ships, insects attracted to artificial light become easy pickings for bats, and pests such as cockroaches and rats find comfortable hiding places in human dwellings. In this time and age, survival of the fittest means, for many animals, adapting to humans.