New species of plant buries its own seeds
A botanist has discovered a new species of plant in eastern Brazil whose branches bend down upon bearing fruit and deposit seeds on the ground, often burying them in a covering of soft soil or moss. This trick is an example of geocarpy, a rare adaptation to survival in harsh or short-lived environments with small favorable patches. The adaptation ensures seedlings germinate near their parents, helping them stay within the choice spots or microclimates in which they thrive. One well-known practitioner of geocarpy is the peanut, which also buries its fruit in the soil. […]
The team dubbed it Spigelia genuflexa, named after the act of genuflection, or kneeling to the ground.
High speed footage reveals how hummingbirds hum
A Yale University zoologist has used a laser vibrometer and high speed videos from a wind tunnel to work out how the hummingbird makes its famous hum, and found that the males of each species have their own signature sound.
The male hummingbird produces a high-pitched fluttering sound during its elaborate courtship ritual. The bird will fly five to 40 meters into the air, before quickly dive-bombing past a perched female. At the lowest point, he rapidly spreads and closes his tail feathers to produce the hum.
Check out the video here.
The Battle at Kruger
If you only watch one video of a water buffalo getting attacked simultaneously by lions and crocodiles on this balmy Sunday morning, make it this one.
(Hint: it takes a bit to get rolling, but it’s worth a watch.)
This Day in Science History: the extinction of the Thylacine
It’s not often that humans can know the exact moment when a species went extinct. Zookeepers at the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania, Australia have the unfortunate distinction of being able to announce just that - the day, exactly 75 years ago, when the thylacine went extinct.
Though the thylacine looks very much similar to modern dogs, it is actually a marsupial. It’s only distantly related to modern canines, though the evolutionary convergence is striking. Thylacines died off on the Australian mainland two millenia ago due to hunting and competition, but they survived on the island of Tasmania into the 1930’s. Today, there are only a half dozen movie clips left documenting the existence of the marsupial, though fossil evolution places the rise of the modern Thylacine at 4 million years ago. The last captive thylacine was named Benjamin, even though film footage appears to show that she is a female - the sex has never been confirmed. Read more at the Thylacine Museum.
RIP, Thylacines - 4MYA - September 7th, 1963
(Technically, it was yesterday. So I’m one day behind - forgive me?)
Elephants can use insight to solve problems
Highly social and clever and cooperative with tools, elephants are often near the top of the brainiest creatures list. Now, scientists have added a new talent to elephants’ mental repertoire: The ability to solve a problem using insight—that aha! moment when your internal light bulb switches on and you figure out the solution to a puzzle. Previously, only a limited number of species, including certain primates, crows, and parrots were known to have this ability.
A black widow spider
The Australian Peacock Spider. Its mating rituals are just as bizarre as its appearance.