A Different Color

The mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus japonicas) is an odd creature, brightly coloured as a 1970s psychedelic pantsuit, that sees the world in a different way from all other creatures. Its two satellite-like eyes, which can move independently of one another, have twelve colour receptors, far more than the human eye. One might assume that it sees a far…

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The Hot Koala

Last week, the image of a heat-struck koala in parched Australia inspired a tweet: And @Curt_Ames noted that ‘hot koala’ sounded like a good name for a cocktail. I agree. So I made a Hot Koala. My first version, without the Tabasco sauce or fresh mint, suffered from both a lack of heat and cool.…

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Paper Parks

A team of researchers spent six years tracking populations of West African lions (Panthera leo), a breed genetically distinct from other lions on the continent. Twenty-one parks exist for their protection, but according to a study out in PLOS ONE, lions were actually found in only four of these parks. Lions are protected throughout Africa,…

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Mud Pie

There was an encouraging study released in early January that describes how denuded reefs off the coast of Sydney Australia have been partially restored through seaweed transplants. Crayweed (Phyllospora comosa) is an ecosystem cornerstone in some reef system, providing a habitat for fish and crustaceans. In 2008, researchers found it had disappeared from a 70…

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Winter Buds

We had a bitterly cold December, but according to local lore, the polar vortex over North America has given us a balmy January. Temperatures that barely count as winter, low levels of rain and snow only on much higher ground, disappointed skiers and confused garden plants. I put in bulbs in a tiny patch of…

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Leaping Forward

The diminutive planthopper (Issus coleoptratus) is the only creature we know of besides ourselves that uses intermeshed gears for heavy, synchronized lifting. The gears, which look like a comic book model of miniature technology, form the ratchet joint between the planthopper’s back legs. They create a smooth response where the insect’s developing system is still incapable…

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Nest Egg Protection

It’s been fifty years since a watershed report was released in the United States, the 1964 U.S. Surgeon General’s report on the effect of tobacco and smoking on health. A recent study estimated that as a result of this 1964 report, 50 million lives were saved worldwide that would have otherwise been lost to tobacco-related…

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Heroes and Villains

Update below. You know a cause has achieved cult status when it makes it into the comic books. Marvel Comics has come out with a double pack of comic books featuring the popular character of Wolverine and the issue of the illegal trade in endangered animal parts. Written and illustrated by the great Phil Jimenez,…

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The Real Thing

Scotch whisky will soon have something else in common with Champagne besides being one of my favorite beverages: It will have protected geographical status. Like many other coveted products, Scotch whisky is often counterfeited. Fake Scotch whisky is estimated to cost the industry £500 million annually, approximately ten percent of  overall sales. A new Spirit…

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Social Climbers

The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is big, as birds go, and as graceful underwater as it is ungainly on land. Its native habitat is Antarctica, and until recently, the bird has been considered ‘sea-ice obligate’, meaning it breeds and forages from sea-ice platforms. The species hasn’t been considered under threat for time being, but given…

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