Scientific links of the week »Explorersweb

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A passion for the natural world drives many of our adventures. And when we’re not really outdoors, we love to immerse ourselves in the discoveries of the places we live and travel. Here are some of the best natural history links we’ve found this week.

Rain to replace snow in the Arctic: Snow has long been the most common form of precipitation in the Arctic. Researchers believe that by 2060, rain will become the most common. The previous estimate was 2090, but new climate models have advanced the date. The implications of this rapid warming will be profound. “You might think the Arctic is far from your daily life, but in fact the temperatures have warmed up so much that it will impact further south,” said lead researcher Michelle McCrystall. These arctic changes are increasing extreme weather events in Europe, Asia and North America.

Each tentacle has its own mind

Scientists amazed by the octopus brain: Octopuses are one of the smartest animals on the planet, but the anatomy that allows it is quite unique. Their spirit spreads throughout their body. The eight tentacles contain neurons sensitive to touch, smell and taste. Each tentacle seems to have a spirit of its own. Scientists have studied the brains of several species of octopus to try to understand how their intelligence developed. They do this in a way similar to vertebrates: by the need to adapt to their environment. The number of folds in the brains of octopuses surprised scientists. Their evolved brains can process large amounts of information. This allows the animals to remember landmarks and even come out of their housing tanks. “It’s a nightmare for most octopus researchers,” said Dr Wen-Sung Chung of the Queensland Brain Institute.

A common octopus. Photo: Shutterstock

 

Reading records of healthy oceans helps restore marine ecosystems: Back-to-back cyclones in 2014 and 2015 destroyed huge sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. In 2017, scientists used coral rubble to build new mini-reefs in hopes of restoring the area. They placed two loudspeakers near these mini-reefs and played recordings of the noises made when the reefs were healthy. Double the number of young fish installed on the reefs near the enclosures. This suggests that sound could help rebuild marine ecosystems. “The acoustic underwater world is essential to the survival of most animals,” said Stephan Simpson of the University of Bristol.

Strangely Positioned Mummy

1,200-year-old mummy unearthed in Peru: Archaeologists have discovered an 800 to 1,200 year old mummy in Cajamarquilla, 24 km east of Lima. The body is that of a man between 18 and 22 years old. He lay in a burial chamber 1.4 meters wide and three meters long. The discovery is very special because the rope binds the body and the hands cover the face. The tomb also contained the skeletons of a guinea pig and a dog as well as traces of corn and vegetables.

The mummy discovered at the archaeological site of Cajamarquilla in Peru. Photo: Cris Bouroncle / AFP

 

Houses suffocate the elephant sanctuary

Endangered Ethiopian elephants: Between 2006 and 2017, the number of houses in the Babile Elephant Sanctuary in Ethiopia increased from 18,000 to over 50,000. The elephant roaming area straddles 32,000 of the houses. The sanctuary is home to one of the six recognized populations of African savanna elephants in Ethiopia. The growing human population has caused land shortages and a huge demand for natural resources in the region. Unless the poverty issues in the region are addressed, the elephant population will decline and the sanctuary will disappear.

Microbial mats and the origins of oxygen

Is Lake Huron the Key to the Origin of Life? : Oxygen is essential for all life on earth, but why oxygen levels began to rise 2.4 billion years ago is a mystery. Scientists are now exploring deep sinkholes in Lake Huron in an attempt to solve the riddle. The sinkholes are home to microbial mats of cyanobacteria. These only exist in a few places on earth, under oxygen-free conditions. “These microbial mats… are representative of the types of organisms that would have lived billions of years ago and played a very important role in oxygenating the Earth,” said scientist Gregory Dick. Billions of years ago, carpets started producing oxygen, but no one knows why. Researchers monitor microbial mats with microsensors and cameras to determine when oxygen production begins. This will hopefully give clues as to what triggered the appearance of oxygen on Earth.

Lake Huron. Photo: Shutterstock

 

Fossil remains of a herd of 11 dinosaurs discovered in Italy: Paleontologists have discovered the fossils of 11 dinosaurs at Villaggio del Pescatore, an ancient limestone quarry in Italy. The find includes the largest and most complete dinosaur fossil ever found in the country. All 11 dinosaurs belong to the species Tethyshadros insularis, who lived 80 million years ago. They also found remains of fish, shrimp, crocodiles and flying reptiles. “It’s super cool because we can understand the type of environment that dinosaurs lived and died in,” said Federico Fanti from the University of Bologna.

About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a UK-based freelance writer and science teacher.

She is a frequent traveler and has had the good fortune to backpack Africa, South America and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything related to the oceans and aims to dive and swim in open water in as many seas as possible.

His areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.


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