Archive for May, 2004

Heat-Loving Microbes Offer Clues to Life’s Origins

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 26, 2004   View Article

Over the past 20 years scientists have warmed up to the idea that the majority of life on our planet lives not on Earth’s surface but beneath its crust. The theory has spurred new ideas about life’s origins on Earth and where to look for life on other planets.

Earth’s crust gets warmer the closer it is to the molten iron-nickel believed to be at our planet’s core. One question that scientists who study life beneath Earth’s crust face is, at what temperature is it too hot for life to survive?

For Dung Beetles, Monkey Business Is Serious Stuff

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 26, 2004   View Article

Monkey see, monkey eat, monkey doo.

So the seeds of the Amazon’s much-lauded biodiversity are spread around the rain forest, in many cases. And where there’s monkey business, so too are dung beetles, according to Kevina Vulinec, an assistant professor of wildlife ecology at Delaware State University in Dover.

Antique Nests Give Storks Room at the Top in Europe

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 25, 2004   View Article

From September through March throughout central and eastern Europe, thousands of bulky nests of branches, twigs, dirt, rags, and other debris sit empty on rooftops, church spires, telephone poles, and just about anything else that’s tall and has a decent view.

What an eyesore, eh? Not at all, say many Europeans. The nests belong to their beloved white storks (Ciconia ciconia), wading birds that grow three feet (one meter) tall, have long bare legs, and a pointed bill.

Cicada Swarm Proves a Feast for Predators

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 24, 2004   View Article

A female thumb-size wasp known as a cicada killer might sound like the perfect predator to combat the billions of periodical cicadas swarming much of the eastern U.S. this May and June.

The wasp (Sphecius speciosus) paralyzes a cicada with her sting, carries it back to a chamber in her underground burrow, lays an egg on it, and seals the chamber. A few days later the egg hatches and the wasp larva eats the cicada alive.

Hottest Life Form Found: Microbe Thrives When Boiling

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 21, 2004   View Article

Some can take the heat better than others. Scientists have discovered a deep-sea microbe that continues to grow and reproduce inside a high-pressure oven heated to 121 degrees Celsius (250 degrees Fahrenheit). Now they’re wondering just how much heat the hardiest life-forms can take.

The microbe, known unofficially as Strain 121, is found where most such heat-loving microbes are found—several miles beneath the ocean surface, snuggled up in the walls of hydrothermal vents that spew mineral-enriched, scalding water.

Blue Whales Sing at Same Pitch, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 17, 2004   View Article

Luciano Pavarotti they’re not, but if blue whales ever build up a repertoire they could give the Italian opera singer a run for his money. The cetaceans have perfect pitch. So perfect, in fact, that it’s impossible to tell individuals apart from their calls.

“You might think that a big whale makes a lower sound than a small whale—they come in all different sizes—but they all make the same pitch,” said Roger Bland, a physicist at San Francisco State University in California.

T. Rex Found in Montana – Dig Goes Interactive

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 14, 2004   View Article

Dinosaur hunters often regale the world with news of their exotic discoveries after the fact—bones of ancient giants pulled from a hillside in Madagascar, chipped from the ice in Antarctica, dug from the pampas of Patagonia.

Now the world is invited along as a team of paleontologists excavate a Tyrannosaurus rex from the siltstone at a ranch in eastern Montana. All they need to do is log on to Unearthing T. rex.

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