In 1969, half a century ago, astronauts first landed on Earth’s sole moon. The first successful robotic landers touched down on the much more distant Venus and Mars in 1970 and 1976, respectively, and in the same decade spacecraft flybys provided the first, fleeting close-ups of Jupiter and Saturn. It was not until two decades […]
Earlier this month, we explored the world of rabbits and facts to enhance our knowledge of the ubiquitous mammal. Now on international rabbit day, we are focusing on the eastern cottontail rabbit, the most common species in North America. What makes it different from other rabbit species? What commonalities can be found across species?
With over 10 million active researchers, more than 2 million scientific articles published each year, and an uncontrolled spread of bibliometric indicators, contemporary science is undergoing a profound change that is modifying consolidated procedures, ethical principles that were deemed inalienable and traditional mechanisms for the validation of scientific outputs that have worked successfully for the last century.
Popular as pets, considered lucky by some, and widely recognised as agricultural nuisances, rabbits are commonplace all over the world. Their cute, fluffy exterior hides the more ingenious characteristics of this burrowing herbivore, including specially-adapted hind legs, extra incisors, and prolific breeding capabilities. Whilst rabbits thrive in most areas, certain species face the common struggle of their specialist habitats being destroyed, and myxomatosis has devastated rabbit populations in the past, at one point destroying 99% of the rabbit population of the United Kingdom.
Most practicing scientists scarcely harbor any doubts that science makes progress. For, what they see is that despite the many false alleys into which science has strayed across the centuries, despite the waxing and waning of theories and beliefs, the history of science, at least since the ‘early modern period’ (the 16th and 17th centuries) is one of steady accumulation of scientific knowledge. For most scientists this growth of knowledge is progress. Indeed, to deny either the possibility or actuality of progress in science is to deny its raison d’être.
Pride is one of the most widely-recognised animal collectives in the world. We often picture lions among their family unit, whether they be standing proudly together or hunting down a doomed antelope. These famous social groups are usually formed of between three and ten adult females, two or three males, and the pride’s latest litters of cubs, and they live together (most of the time) across Africa and in the Gir Forest Sanctuary.
One of the more satisfying aspects of science is that an often fairly technical or obscure idea from one field can later turn out to be a key guiding principle in another, rather distant, field. One such example is a historical result from the theory of animal breeding that now provides critical insight into the way evolution structures genomes.
Lions have enchanted humans since early Antiquity, and were even represented in European cave paintings from 35,000 years ago. They are regularly the main characters in folklore and allegory, appearing everywhere from African folktales to the Bible. It is not hard to see why lions are so ubiquitously revered. Their fearsome yet stunning appearance, combined with their endearing hunting tactics and formidable roar, answers any questions as to why early societies named the lion ‘King of the Beasts’, and indeed explains why this name is still used today.
In 2014, PLOS Biology published an article about a cousin of ours, a member of the Sono Community of wild chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest in northwestern Uganda. In a video shared in relation to the study, an alpha male, NK, gathers moss from a tree trunk just within his reach, a prize he will use to lap up water in a nearby pool.
“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince (1943). The 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish revolutionized the way the world has since focused on orcas. Yet orca captivity in the United States and Canada predates the documentary by almost five decades. So who was behind the plight of these orcas? Using Jason M. Colby’s Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the World’s Greatest Predator, we compiled a list of figures behind the half century of orca captivity beyond Blackfish.
With their huge, sharp teeth and menacing demeanor, it’s no wonder this ocean predator has long struck fear into the hearts of many. Thanks to films like Jaws and Sharknado, sharks have gained a reputation for killing and eating humans, yet there are under 100 unprovoked shark attacks each year, and even fewer fatalities—you’re more likely to be killed by lightning or a bee sting than you are by a shark!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.