My patrol with armed guards to protect Burmese star tortoises

My patrol with armed guards to protect Burmese star tortoises

My patrol with armed guards to protect Burmese star tortoises

I am in the Minsontaung Wildlife Sanctuary in central Myanmar, where an ambitious project is under way to return captive-bred, critically endangered Burmese star tortoises (Geochelone platynota) to their native habitat.

The unique creature came close to extinction in the wild in the early 2000s, because of illegal trading on the global exotic pet market.

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Parasite turns wasp into zombie then drills through its head

Parasite turns wasp into zombie then drills through its head

Parasite turns wasp into zombie then drills through its head

Species: Euderus set wasp
Habitat: evergreen oak trees of southeastern US

The crypt gall wasp (Bassettia pallida) is a master manipulator. It parasitises the sand live oak tree, encouraging it to form hollow galls – or “crypts” – in its woody stems. Young wasps develop inside the crypts through the second half of the year, chewing their way out to emerge as adults the following spring.

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How did the zebra get its stripes?

How did the zebra get its stripes?

How did the zebra get its stripes?

ACCORDING to Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, the zebra got its stripes by standing half in the shade and half out, “with the slippery-slidy shadows of the trees” falling on its body. In Zebra Stripes, Tim Caro, a professor of wildlife biology at the University of California, Davis, sets out to test all the hypotheses explaining this most mysterious yet obvious phenomenon.

A bit of thought reveals the scale of the challenge: if having stripes is such a good thing, why do no other animals living on the African savannah, or non-zebra members of the horse family, Equidae, have stripes? Something, or some things, very specific to zebra ecology must have driven the evolution of this apparent adaptation, and will explain its absence in closely related species, and in species that share its niche.

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Bees are first insects shown to understand the concept of zero

Bees are first insects shown to understand the concept of zero

Bees are first insects shown to understand the concept of zero

Bees seem to understand the idea of zero – the first invertebrate shown to do so. When the insects were encouraged to fly towards a platform carrying fewer shapes than another one, they apparently recognised “no shapes” as a smaller value than “some shapes”.

Zero is not an easy concept to comprehend, even for us. Young children learn the number zero later than other numbers, and often have trouble identifying whether it is less than or more than 1.

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Bees are first insects shown to understand the concept of zero

Bees are first insects shown to understand the concept of zero

Bees are first insects shown to understand the concept of zero

Bees seem to understand the idea of zero – the first invertebrate shown to do so. When the insects were encouraged to fly towards a platform carrying fewer shapes than another one, they apparently recognised “no shapes” as a smaller value than “some shapes”.

Zero is not an easy concept to comprehend, even for us. Young children learn the number zero later than other numbers, and often have trouble identifying whether it is less than or more than 1.

Read More

See inside the 580-million-year-old creature no one understands

See inside the 580-million-year-old creature no one understands

See inside the 580-million-year-old creature no one understands

Were the Ediacarans animals or plants? Or neither? CT scans of a unique 3D fossil offers the first look inside one of these strange creatures from before the dawn of true animals. But the jury on their identity is still out

The Ediacarans were pleated soft-bodied life formssome up to 2 metres tall – that lived between 580 and 540 million years ago. They disappeared when true animals evolved – probably because they were eaten to extinction.

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See inside the 580-million-year-old creature no one understands

See inside the 580-million-year-old creature no one understands

See inside the 580-million-year-old creature no one understands

Were the Ediacarans animals or plants? Or neither? CT scans of a unique 3D fossil offers the first look inside one of these strange creatures from before the dawn of true animals. But the jury on their identity is still out

The Ediacarans were pleated soft-bodied life formssome up to 2 metres tall – that lived between 580 and 540 million years ago. They disappeared when true animals evolved – probably because they were eaten to extinction.

Read More

See inside the 580-million-year-old creature no one understands

See inside the 580-million-year-old creature no one understands

See inside the 580-million-year-old creature no one understands

Were the Ediacarans animals or plants? Or neither? CT scans of a unique 3D fossil offers the first look inside one of these strange creatures from before the dawn of true animals. But the jury on their identity is still out

The Ediacarans were pleated soft-bodied life formssome up to 2 metres tall – that lived between 580 and 540 million years ago. They disappeared when true animals evolved – probably because they were eaten to extinction.

Read More