Archive for November, 2006

Wasps Squirt “Pepper Spray” From Heads in Fights, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 28, 2006   View Article

When female bethylid wasps are losing a vicious fight, they squirt an insect version of pepper spray from their heads before beating a retreat, new research suggests.

The chemical release is undetectable to humans, but it could represent a crucial behavior that may help biologists use the parasitic wasps as natural pest controls.

Fruit Flies Aerial Stunts Inspire Brain Study

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 20, 2006   View Article

Budding engineers often take apart common devices, such as toasters, and put them back together again to learn how the parts make up a working system.

But budding biologists have a harder time using this approach—once a living organism is taken apart it usually can’t be made to function again.

Now, using modern genetic engineering techniques, researchers are able to turn biological components on and off, in effect removing parts to see how each one affects the whole system.

Orangutans Displaced, Killed by Indonesian Forest Fires

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 17, 2006   View Article

Intentionally lit forest fires on the island of Borneo are killing Southeast Asia’s endangered orangutans, conservationists warn.

The fires are lit annually to clear land for oil palm plantations and agricultural fields. Many of the blazes quickly rage out of control.

Unique Mosses Spur Conservation, Ecotourism in Chile

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 14, 2006   View Article

A biosphere reserve on the southern tip of South America owes its existence, in part, to the diversity of mosses found there.

The Cape Horn Archipelago, a chain of wind-battered islands in the southernmost reaches of Chile, contains only a few tree species but a bounty of rare and unique mosses, according to William Buck, the curator of bryophytes at the New York Botanical Garden.

Captured Dolphin With Four Fins Spotlights Controversial Hunt

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 14, 2006   View Article

The capture of an unusual dolphin with an extra set of fins is shedding light on a controversial hunting technique in Japan.

The bottlenose dolphin was captured alive on October 28 during Japan’s annual dolphin “drive hunt.”

During the hunt, fishers use boats and loud noises to herd hundreds of dolphins into shallow bays. There, many are corralled into nets and killed. Others are kept live and sold to aquariums, according to conservationists.

Scoop on Poop Dished Out by New Exhibition

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 10, 2006   View Article

A traveling museum exhibition currently on display in Miami, Florida, is all about poop.

Really.

“The subject is vast and fascinating,” said Chad Peeling, the operations manager at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland in Allenwood, Pennsylvania.

Baboons, Birds Remember Hundreds of Photos

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 7, 2006   View Article

Pigeons and baboons can remember hundreds of images and store them in their brains for at least a year, according to a new study.

Over a five-year period pigeons in the test were able to learn and recall between 800 and 1,200 photographs before maxing out their thumb-sized brains.

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