Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Animal of the Month: 5 facts you should know about misnomered orcas

For centuries, orcas have accrued a myriad of different names: Orcinus orca (which translates roughly as “demon from hell”), asesinas de ballena (whale killers), Delphinus orca, grampus, thrasher, blackfish, killer whale, to name a few. The names of these animals are overtly violent, but what do we actually know about the alleged “demons from hell”? This month, we want look at the facts about killer whales, and debunk the centuries-old mystery and fear surrounding orcas.

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Smoke from wildland fires and public health

Firefighters, forest managements, and residents are preparing for another fire season in the western part of the United States. Wildfires burn large expanses of forested lands in California, but it’s not just rural Californians who need to worry about effects of such fires. Residents in urban areas and neighboring states experience the through smoke from hundreds of miles away.

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Angling for less harmful algal blooms

Blooms bring to mind the emerging beauty of spring—flowers blossoming and trees regaining their splendor. These blooms, unlike spring flowers, are odorous, unpleasant, and potentially toxic. They deter families from engaging in water-related recreational activities such as going to the shore. They discourage anglers from going fishing, which, in turn, affects those who depend on the local fishing economy.

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An interactive view of the giraffe

Giraffes are some of the best-known, well-loved animals of the African safari. But today, many variations of these long-necked herbivores are listed as vulnerable or endangered due to habitat depletion and poaching.

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Bridging partisan divides over scientific issues

The current era in the Western hemisphere is marked by growing public distrust of “intellectual elites.” The present U.S. administration openly disregards, or even suppresses, relevant scientific input to policy formulation.

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Gulls on film: roadkill scavenging by wildlife in urban areas

The impact of roads on wildlife (both directly through wildlife-vehicle collisions, and indirectly due to factors such as habitat fragmentation) has likely increased over time due to expansion of the road network and increased use and number of vehicles. In the UK, for example, there were only 4.2 million vehicles on the roads in 1951, compared to 37.3 million by the end of 2016.

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Orangutans as forest engineers

Orangutans quite literally are “persons of the forest,” at least according to their Malay name (orang means “person” and hutan is “forest”). But this is more than just a name. As well as their distinctively “human” qualities, these large charismatic fruit-eaters are also gardeners, forest engineers responsible for spreading and maintaining a wide array of tree species.

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Top 10 facts about the giraffe

This June, people around the globe are marking World Giraffe Day, an annual event to recognise the bovine dwellers of the African continent. While these long-necked herbivores remain a firm favourite of the safari, there remains much about the giraffe which is relatively unknown. In order to celebrate our Animal of the Month, we bring you 10 amazing facts about the giraffe.

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History books for Dads [reading list]

In recent years, consumer surveys have shown an upward trend in Father’s Day gift-giving. According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. Father’s Day spending in 2017 hit record highs: reaching an estimated $15.5 billion. This change could be related to nature of modern fatherhood: today’s dads report spending an average of seven hours per week on child care (nearly triple what fathers reported 50 years ago). To celebrate Father’s Day, we put together a video collection of books we think dads will love. More details about each book can be found in the list below. If you have any reading suggestions for Father’s Day, please share in the comments section!

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What you need to know about plastic pollution

“There’s a great future in plastics,” Mr. McGuire said to recent-grad Benjamin Braddock at his graduation party in one of the most iconic films of the twentieth century, the Graduate. This scene captures more than just the mere parting words of some career advice the older generation tends to give young people at their graduation parties, it signals something more cultural—indeed, more industrial—that had been so prevailing at the time, and so worrisome now.

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Can environmental DNA help save endangered crayfish?

Most people have a passing familiarity with crayfish: as an occasional food item, or as animals routinely caught by children wading in streams and ditches in the summer. Yet few people likely realize how astoundingly diverse crayfish are globally. Our planet is home to approximately 600 species of crayfish, which use habitats ranging from caves to streams and lakes to terrestrial burrows.

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Animal of the Month: 8 things threatening koalas [slideshow]

Despite being found only on one continent in the world, many of us appreciate everything koalas have to offer. We celebrated this endearing marsupial earlier this month on Wild Koala Day and have continued the revelries by providing interesting facts throughout the month. Highlighting this iconic Australian mammal is of continued importance as the wild population continues to decrease. According to some estimates, the koala population in Queensland between 1996 and 2016 decreased by as much as 80%. Here, we present some of the leading threats Phascolarctos cinereus face in their bid to survive in the modern world.

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Organic farming genetics and the future of food

What does the drug insulin have in common with cheese, Hawaiian papaya and a vegan burger? All were developed using genetic engineering, an approach established more than 40 years ago. In the early 1970s, researchers in the San Francisco Bay Area demonstrated that it was possible to genetically engineer bacteria with a new trait. They showed that genes from different species could be cut and spliced together and that the new genes could be reproduced and expressed in the bacteria.

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Animal of the Month: 11 facts about koalas

Koalas: the adorable fluffy mascots of Australia who seem to cuddle everything in sight. It’s no wonder that tourists flock to visit them, photograph them, and feed them the leaves of their all-time favourite food, eucalyptus. Apart from their tree-hugging habits and rigid diet though, how much do you actually know about them? The koala is part of the marsupial family, which is around 80 million years old.

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Medical mycology: an introduction

The spectrum of fungal disease has evolved exponentially over the past four decades, and so has the emergence of fungal diseases as an increasingly important problem in global healthcare systems. If a medical mycologist who had retired in the 1970s returned to the discipline today, they would inevitably find it irrevocably changed—almost unrecognisable.

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How do male hummingbird dance moves alter their appearance?

Many animals use colorful ornaments and exaggerated dances or displays to attract mates, such as birds of paradise. Some animals go even further and have colors that can change as they dance, such as in peacocks or morpho butterflies. This special type of color is called iridescence, and its appearance changes based on the angles of observation and illumination.

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