Archive for May, 2010

Pyramid Tomb Found: Signs of Civilization’s Birth?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 18, 2010   View Article

After sheltering jeweled royals for centuries, the oldest known tomb in Mesoamerica—ancient Central America and Mexico, roughly speaking—has been uncovered, archaeologists announced Tuesday.

Apparently caught between two cultures, the 2,700-year-old pyramid in Chiapa de Corzo (map), Mexico, may help settle a debate as to when and how the mysterious Zoque civilization arose, according to excavation leader Bruce Bachand.

Tibetans Evolved to Survive Highlife, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 13, 2010   View Article

Most Tibetans are genetically adapted to life on the “roof of the world,” according to a new study.

The Tibetan Plateau rises more than 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level. At such heights, most people are susceptible to hypoxia, in which too little oxygen reaches body tissues, potentially leading to fatal lung or brain inflammation.

To survive the high life, many Tibetans carry unique versions of two genes associated with low blood hemoglobin levels, the researchers found.

Bioluminescence lights up the oceans

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: May 11, 2010   View Article

The definition of bioluminescence “is easier than the pronunciation and spelling of the word: It is just visible light made by living animals,” says Edith Widder, president of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association in Fort Pierce, Fla.

The word may be easy to define, but the chemical process is still poorly understood. Bioluminescence has apparently evolved independently at least 40 times in species belonging to bioluminescence remains a poorly understood chemical process that appears to have evolved at least 40 times in species belonging to more than 700 genera. Widder notes in the journal Science that about 80 percent of those genera are found in the open ocean.

Flying Dogs and Amorous Anteaters

Publication: MSN/SwitchYard Media   Date: May 11, 2010   View Article

It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.” — Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

Is a speedy caterpillar that can accurately forecast the winter weather lacking in smarts? Is a dog that surfs stupid?< ?p>

The protagonist in Mark Twain’s 1906 essay “What is Man” might be pleased to know that thousands of Americans routinely sharpen their perceptions at shows and festivals around the country that showcase the beauty, intellect, and physical prowess that abounds in nature.

Reefer Madness: The race to save corals

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: May 10, 2010   View Article

Climate change, coastal development and overfishing have effectively wiped out nearly a fifth of the world’s coral reefs, and by the end of this century they “are unlikely to look much like the reefs that we are familiar with today,” said Peter Mumby, a marine biologist at the University of Queensland in Australia, who envisions smaller and weaker reefs that harbor fewer fish.

“But there will still be reefs and they will still be very important,” he said. “And so what we really have to do is take all the steps we can locally to

Check out seven ways scientists and conservationists are pushing to preserve reefs for future generations.

Pictures: Rare Bees Make Flower-Mud “Sandwiches”

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 10, 2010   View Article

What appears to be part of a spring wedding bouquet is actually a nest for a rare species of solitary bee, a new study says.

Called a “flower sandwich,” the three-tiered arrangement consists of a thin layer of petals on the outside, then a layer of mud, and finally another layer of petals lining the inside of the chamber, according to study leader Jerome Rozen, a curator of invertebrate zoology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

At the core of the sandwich is the bee’s larva, which feasts on nectar and pollen deposited inside the chamber by its parent before the egg is laid and the nest is sealed.

Mystery Space Object May Be Ejected Black Hole

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 7, 2010   View Article

A mystery object in a galaxy far, far away could be a supermassive black hole that got booted from its home galaxy’s center, according to a new study.

Then again, the strange body could be a rare type of supernova or an oddball “midsize” black hole—more massive than black holes born when single stars explode but “lighter” than the supermassive ones at the centers of galaxies.

“All three of those [options] are exotic and have something peculiar to them,” said study co-author Peter Jonker, an astronomer with the Netherlands Institute for Space Research in Utrecht.

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