Archive for June, 2003

Internal Clock Leads Monarch Butterflies to Mexico

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 10, 2003   View Article

For every fourth or fifth generation of monarch butterflies that summer in the U.S. east of the Continental Divide, the pull of high-altitude Oyamel fir forests in central Mexico is irresistible.

By the millions each fall they point south and flutter up to 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) to reach the forests on a few small mountain peaks in an approximately 60-square-mile (155-square-kilometer) area in the volcanic highlands that serve as the butterflies’ winter retreat.

Cousteau to Explore Remote Pacific Islands

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 7, 2003   View Article

Jean-Michel Cousteau embarked Sunday on a voyage along a 1,200-mile (2,000- kilometer) chain of remote islands and coral reefs in the tropical Pacific Ocean to document the marine life that thrives there and the traces of humankind that linger.

The atolls stretch out towards Asia from the main Hawaiian Islands and are known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The islands serve as nesting grounds for green sea turtles (Chelonia brongniart), home to millions of seabirds, and a refuge for rare monk seals (Monachus fleming). The surrounding reefs swarm with life. But their remoteness has kept them out of the public eye and out of reach of even the most intrepid ocean explorers.

Climate Change Upped Earth’s Vegetation, Study Finds

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 5, 2003   View Article

For most of the world’s plant life, the effect of the pace of climate change over the past two decades has been productive, according to an analysis of climate and satellite data collected between 1982 and 1999.

The research, reported in the June 6 issue of Science, addresses the question of how global vegetation has responded to changes in precipitation, temperature, and cloud cover patterns. Such climate factors determine how vegetation grows.

No Nemo: Anemones, Not Parents, Protect Clownfish

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 5, 2003   View Article

In the hit movie Finding Nemo an overprotective clownfish named Marlin searches for his son Nemo who is swiped from the Great Barrier Reef and plopped into a fish tank at a dentist’s office in Sydney, Australia.

The true protectors of clownfish in the ocean, however, are not parents but rather prickly, stinging sea anemones that live on reefs.

Will “Gecko Tape” Let Humans Climb Walls?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 2, 2003   View Article

Humans may someday be able to scuttle up walls, scamper across ceilings, and scurry out windows with the agility of a startled gecko in the tropical night—thanks to a new adhesive tape that mimics the lizard’s sticky feet.

“Geckoman is less than science fiction these days,” said Andre Geim, a physicist at the University of Manchester, England, who is part of a team that overcame considerable engineering challenges to produce the first synthetic “gecko tape.”

Dung Beetles Navigate by the Moon, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 2, 2003   View Article

Out on the African savanna, a fresh and moist pile of fine-grained antelope dung is a nutritious treasure aggressively fought over by a melee of critters. The spoils go to those with the craftiest strategies to snatch and stash a piece of the pie.

To gain an edge in this battle for the poop, the African dung beetle Scarabaeus zambesianus orients itself by the polarized light pattern cast by the moon to make a straight, nighttime escape with its morsel, according to Marie Dacke, a biologist at the University of Lund in Sweden.

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