Category Archives: SCIENCE AND NATURE

Turquoise-Tinted Tarantula Discovered in Sri Lanka.

 

Females of the species boast blue-hued legs, as well as an iridescent sheen on their outer shell and abdomen (Ranil Nanayakkara)
by Meilan Solly, smithsonian.com
Most members of the Chilobrachys spider genus have muted brown, black or grey coloring.
But Chilobrachys jonitriantisvansicklei—a newly described tarantula native to Sri Lanka—defies this trend. As a trio of researchers reports in the British Tarantula Society Journal, females of the species boast brilliant blue coloring on their legs and an iridescent sheen on their hard outer shells and abdomens.
“When we first spotted them I was in awe, lost for words,” lead author Ranil Nanayakkara of the University of Kelaniya tells National Geographic’s Nadia Drake.Nanayakkara and his colleagues discovered the unusually adorned arachnid in a section of Sri Lanka’s southwestern rainforest surrounded by tea and rubber plantations.
The spider, named after donor and conservationist Joni Triantis Van Sickle, measures around five inches long (Drake notes that it’s “big enough to comfortably hug a donut”) and is a speedy, aggressive predator that darts out from its underground burrow when hapless insects arrive on the scene.
Compared with their showier female counterparts, male members of the species are smaller and, according to Nanayakkara, “mossy brown in color.”
This the first new Chilobrachys species found in the South Asian country since the end of the 19th century.
Previously, Sri Lanka’s only Chilobrachys representative was a brown spider called C. nitelus. The researchers spent two years identifying physical differences between C. jonitriantisvansicklei and more than two dozen Chilobrachys species native to nearby India.
Based on this analysis, they determined that the turquoise-tinted tarantula was wholly unique.
Still, Robert Raven, principal curator of arachnids at Australia’s Queensland Museum, explains to Drake, “The possibility that the new one is [actually] one of the named Indian species will eventually need to be addressed,” likely through genetic sequencing aimed at confirming the spider’s singularity and gauging its population size.
Source: Turquoise-Tinted Tarantula Discovered in Sri Lanka | Smart News | Smithsonian

Man who ate Reaper Chilli Pepper ended up in hospital.

As you sow, so shall you reap … Carolina Reapers, formerly the world’s hottest chilli peppers. Eating one appears to have given a man reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome.
Image Credit: Photograph by Photograph: Alamy
A man who took part in a chilli pepper eating contest ended up with more than he bargained for when he took on the hottest pepper in the world.
After eating a Carolina Reaper pepper, the 34-year-old started dry heaving before developing a pain in his neck that turned into a series of thunderclap headaches: sudden and severe episodes of excruciating pain that peak within a minute.
The Carolina Reaper, which can top 2.2m on the Scoville heat scale, was the world’s hottest pepper at the time of the incident in 2016 – although new breeds called Pepper X and Dragon’s Breath have since reportedly surpassed it.
The details, published in the journal BMJ Case Reports, reveal the pain was so terrible the man went to the emergency room at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, a village in New York State.
“[A thunderclap headache] lasts for a few minutes and it might be associated with dry-heaving, nausea, vomiting – and then it gets better on its own.
But it keeps coming back,” said Dr Kulothungan Gunasekaran of the Henry Ford HealthSystem in Detroit, a co-author of the report, adding that thunderclap headaches can be caused by a number of problems including bleeding inside the brain or blood clots.
CT and MRI scans of the man’s brain were taken but showed nothing out of the ordinary. What’s more, the man did not report having any speech or vision problems.
Read on via Man eats world’s hottest chilli pepper – and ends up in hospital | Science | The Guardian

Henry McGill’s popular Stapler, 1879.

McGill_Staplerby Colin Bisset
A stapler is a very satisfying object, securely attaching paper with a pleasing crunch.
Small wonder that it is so often a child’s favourite stationery item. The emergence of the stapler reflects a rise in the use of paper within offices during the 19th century.
Previously, sheets of paper had been held together by pins or string or, in the case of legal documents, red tape. It is often reported that in the 18th century France’s King Louis XVI used the very first, suitably ornate stapler, but there is no evidence to support this.
Not everyone liked the idea of a metal fixing. In the early 1900s, several devices were invented which punched through and then wove the papers together in one action, but the idea never really took off.
The notion of creating a more secure fastening, however, was given a boost when Philadelphian Henry Heyl patented a stapling device in 1877 which could attach and fasten papers in one action.
Heyls’ invention was closely followed in 1879 by fellow American George McGill’s commercially available stapler, which drove a 12 millimetre length of wire through papers and then folded its ends when the top of the machine was thumped down with a single-stroke, rather like a test-your-strength game at a fairground.
This was simplicity itself; the key to any good stapler is the ability for one hand to hold the papers while the other operates the stapler.
It was first displayed in Philadelphia’s Centennial Exhibition of 1876 and is a heavy object that looks a little like a Singer sewing machine.
This eventually led to smaller and lighter staplers, and magazines that held up to 200 staples were commonplace by the 1920s.
Not everyone liked the idea of a metal fixing, however.
In the early 1900s, several devices were invented which punched through and then wove papers together in one action, but the idea never really took off.
READ ON via From offices to hospitals, the history of the stapler ABC Radio National

A Mesmerist Doctor takes Advantage of a Lady.

L0034922 A mesmeric physician taking advantage of his female patient

A mesmeric physician taking advantage of his female patient. Colour lithograph, 1852. Printed: British College of Health, London.
The word mesmerism  took its root from the name of Franz Anton Mesmer, who was a German physician and astrologist, who discovered what he called magnétisme animal  ( animal magnetism) and which others often called mesmerism.

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Franz Anton Mesmer (May 23, 1734 – March 5, 1815) was a German physician with an interest in astronomy, who theorised that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects that he called animal magnetism, sometimes later referred to as mesmerism.
The theory attracted a wide following between about 1780 and 1850, and continued to have some influence until the end of the century.
In 1843 the Scottish physician James Braid proposed the term hypnosis for a technique derived from animal magnetism; today this is the usual meaning of mesmerism.
L0034922 Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

The Pygmy Marmoset.

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The pygmy marmoset is a tiny primate that is native to rainforests of the western Amazon Basin in South America.
At just 100 grams, the pygmy marmoset is known to be the smallest known species of monkey in the world.
It averages at about 15cm in height with a 20cm long tail behind it.
The pygmy marmoset has sharp claws which make it excellent at climbing trees and the long tail of the pygmy marmoset gives this little monkey fantastic balance when jumping between tree branches.
The low weight of the pygmy marmoset allows the pygmy it to reach the canopy of tree tops, a place where many of the larger species of monkey cannot reach.
They are also able to turn their heads 180 degrees, an adaptation which allows them to scan the environment for predators while vertically clinging to a tree.
Read on via Amusing Planet – Amazing Places, Wonderful People, Weird Stuff.

‘Back from Extinction’ Gilbert’s Potoroo 216.

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Gilbert’s potoroo was only rediscovered in 1994. (Credit: Bill Hatcher)

She’s known simply as 216. But she’s unquestionably special, and as the small, black bag is peeled back to reveal her long snout and large dark eyes she’s greeted with a hushed ripple of reverential “oohs” and “aahs”.
This is the 216th Gilbert’s potoroo to be counted since the species was rediscovered in 1994 after a century on our list of extinct mammals.
One of just 100 that remain, this is arguably the world’s rarest marsupial: a rabbit-sized, wallaby-like, ball of soft fur that lives almost exclusively on native truffles.
We’re in a bush enclosure near Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, on the south coast of Western Australia.
And the small audience being given this rare viewing includes volunteers who’ve been labouring to maintain the 8.2km predator-proof fence surrounding a new 380ha reserve, where 216 will eventually be released.
“It’s such a privilege,” whispers Jonica Foss, of Perth, here to pull plants from around the fence to stop cats clambering over. “To think there are so few left and we’ve just seen one.”
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The man who’s headed the recovery program since it began in 1999 is Dr Tony Friend, a scientist with Western Australia’s Department of Environment and Conservation. When we last spoke to him about the potoroo’s plight (AG 88) there was little good news.
The only natural population, at Two Peoples Bay, had been secured but was at maximum capacity of about 30.
The species still hung on a knife edge with the real threat that one fire could wipe it out for good.
via Back from the dead: Gilbert’s potoroo – Australian Geographic.

Does Australia’s Kelpie have a dash of Dingo?

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Australian kelpies hard at work. Photo: The Australian kelpie is famed as a working dog. (ABC News)
by Tim Lee
The Australian kelpie is acclaimed as the best all-round stock dog in the world, but the breed’s origins have long been shrouded in mystery — now a new book claims to have found some vital answers to its ancestry, including proof of a dash of dingo in its DNA.
Key points: The New book points to dingo DNA from Fraser Island and the mainland in the Australian kelpie Author Bill Robertson said dingo genes came about in late 1870s, when one mated with a collie, the association is more than coincidental.
Renowned for its boundless energy, speed, tenacity and supreme ability to herd and move stock, Australia’s most famed working dog owes some of its qualities to Australia’s native dog.
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The kelpie, proclaimed an official dog breed in 1905, is widely acknowledged to derive from Scottish collies bred at Warrock Station near Casterton in western Victoria in the late 1870s.
Today the breed is found everywhere — from sheep country in the dusty outback to the frozen wastes of the Arctic where it is used to herd reindeer.
Some historians go as far as to say that without the kelpie, sheep flocks could never have inhabited vast tracts of Australia’s harsh inland and the nation’s ride to prosperity through wool might never have happened.
Former champion shearer Bill Robertson claims to have uncovered the real story behind the origins of the working dog.
It has long been rumoured that the original kelpies were developed by interbreeding Scottish collies with the dingo.
Now read on via The Australian kelpie: New book looks at mysterious origins of world-famous working dog – ABC News

Three Aussie Native Bubs.

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A baby Australian Wallaby.
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 The tiniest and strangest little baby you’ll ever see. The Platypus.
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Look of the size of this baby Koala.
Simply amazing.
via Buzzfeed Australia.

Monarch Butterflies travel by the Sun and Compass.

81092When monarch butterflies wing their way south to central Mexico each fall, they use the sun to ensure that they stay on course. But how they head in the right direction on cloudy days has been a mystery—until now.
It turns out they use Earth’s magnetic field as a kind of backup navigational system.
It’s not unusual for animals engaged in long-distance migrations, including sea turtles and birds, to use an internal magnetic compass to get to where they’re going. But whether monarch butterflies have a similar ability had previously been unclear:
Some studies had found weak evidence for a magnetic compass, while others found none at all.
A paper published in the journal Nature Communications finally puts the issue to rest: The famous black-and-orange butterflies do, in fact, pack a magnetic compass.
Light-sensitive molecules called cryptochromes can detect small changes in Earth’s magnetic field, says study co-author Steven Reppert, a neurobiologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.
And the cryptochromes in monarch butterflies need light on the UV-A side of the spectrum to operate.
Earth’s magnetic field lines radiate out from the South Pole, loop up around the Earth, and reenter the planet at the North Pole, Reppert says. That means there’s a gradient in the magnetic field from pole to equator.
When Reppert and colleagues put monarch butterflies in a flight simulator and manipulated the magnetic field and light levels, they found that the butterflies used changes in the magnetic field to orient themselves, rather than relying on the location of the North or South Pole.
“The dominant compass system [in monarch butterflies] is the sun compass,” says Reppert.
But their magnetic compass is a good backup system, since there are bound to be overcast skies on the way to their overwintering grounds.
Whether monarchs have a “magnetic map sense”—or the ability to know where they are in relation to their destination based on geomagnetic coordinates—remains to be seen.
“It’s a possibility which we’re about to explore,” Reppert says.
via Migrating Monarch Butterflies Use Magnetic Compass to Cut Through Clouds.

This Giant Weta Loves Carrots.

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The Giant Weta, photo by Mark Moffett/Corbis
You know that scene in the newish King Kong where those folks get eaten alive in a pit of giant insects? It’s a damn character assassination, through and through.
The huge cricket-like bugs among them are based on the giant weta, the heaviest reliably reported insect on Earth, at 2.5 ounces.
And really, the movie bugs could have been even bigger for all I care—it’s that their crummy attitude is all wrong. Giant weta, for their monstrous size, are actually quite sweet.
Not like cuddly sweet, though you’re welcome to try, but sweet nonetheless.
They demand an apology. Or else…they’ll…just kinda just sit there and eat carrots.
Weta are New Zealand’s most iconic bugs, around 70 known species that range from the big ones like the giant weta to other smaller varieties: the “tree,” “tusked,” “ground,” and “cave” weta, all equally excellent in their own unique ways.
They all differ in size and features, but all are products of the strange evolutionary history of New Zealand, an island that’s enjoyed relative isolation. That is, until humans arrived and started making a mess of things.
via Absurd Creature of the Week: This Bug Is Big as a Gerbil. Fortunately It Loves Carrots | WIRED.