Archive for October, 2003

From Looters, Ancient Maya Altar Rescued

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 30, 2003   View Article

An elaborate, 600-pound (270-kilogram) stone altar stolen from an ancient Maya ball court in Guatemala has been recovered, the National Geographic Society and Vanderbilt University announced Thursday.

Professional archaeologists, Guatemalan undercover agents, and local Maya villagers collaborated to recover the altar from a ring of looters and drug runners attempting to sell it in the lucrative antiquities market.

Deciphering the Origin, Travels of “Iceman”

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 30, 2003   View Article

A 46-year-old man entombed by a glacier about 5,200 years ago high in the mountains that border Austria and Italy probably spent his entire life within a 37-mile (60-kilometer) range south of where he came to his final rest, according to a new study.

Two German hikers found the “Iceman,” also known as Ötzi, in the Ötzal Alps on September 19, 1991. He is heralded as the world’s oldest and best preserved mummy. Since the Iceman discovery, scientists have labored to piece together his life history.

Dino-Age Flyers Were Sharp-Eyed, Nimble, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 29, 2003   View Article

Chances were good that prey snared in the sight of a soaring pterodactyl was as good as dead as soon as it was spotted, according to scientists who used sophisticated scanners and computer graphics to digitally reconstruct the brains of the extinct flying reptiles.

“It gives us a window into the behavior of these animals in a way we never thought possible,” said Lawrence Witmer, an evolutionary biologist at Ohio University in Athens.

High Lakes May Yield Clues to Life on Mars

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 27, 2003   View Article

Next month Nathalie Cabrol and colleagues hope to slip into drysuits, don masks, and dive, without the aid of an oxygen tank, into a lake tucked into the crater of a 19,734-foot (6,014-meter) tall volcano on the border between Chile and Bolivia.

If they succeed, they will tie a world record for the highest “free dive.”

Bats Follow Ultraviolet Light to Nectar, Study Suggests

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 27, 2003   View Article

Halloween decorators take note: Reflected ultraviolet light lures bats to succulent treats. Fortunately, these bats live in the rain forests of Central and South America.

According to a team of German and Guatemalan researchers, rain forest flowers that reflect ultraviolet light may help guide the color-blind bat Glossophaga soricina to their nectar like a harbor beacon guides a ship to shore at night.

Andes’ Height Due to Climate, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 22, 2003   View Article

Not all mountain ranges are created equally. Consider the central Andes of South America: A pair of Earth scientists reports today that the second highest mountains in the world reached their lofty height thanks to frigid ocean waters and parched soils.

Only the Himalaya are taller, which have formed as the Indian and Asian landmasses have slowly plowed into each other over the last 50 million years. The Andes, by contrast, have formed as the floor of the Pacific Ocean slips uneasily beneath South America, ruffling the land along the west coast of the continent.

Frog Discovery is “Once in a Century”

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 15, 2003   View Article

A frog species whose ancestors evolved in the shadow of dinosaurs has been discovered burrowing into the remote mountains of southern India, a pair of biologists report in the October 16 issue of Nature.

The blackish-purple living fossil looks like a bloated doughnut with stubby legs and a pointy snout. Its closest relatives hang out in the Seychelles, a group of islands 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) away.

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