The Week: Most Recent Nature recent posts.en-usMon, 24 Jun 2013 15:25:00 -0400http://theweek.com Recent Nature from THE WEEKMon, 24 Jun 2013 15:25:00 -0400Rusty the red panda and 9 other escaped zoo animals [Updated]<img src="" /></P><p>On Monday morning, officials from the National Zoo in Washington D.C. announced a missing animal: Rusty, a male red panda. Zoo spokesperson Pamela Baker-Masson initially said that the red panda &mdash; a raccoon-sized cousin of the giant panda &mdash; was probably hiding on zoo grounds, although she didn't rule out the possibility that he had been stolen. Later, Rusty was spotted running around the city's Adams Morgan neighborhood and was eventually recovered by zoo officials:</p><center><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>Rusty the red panda has been recovered, crated &amp; is headed safely back to the National Zoo!</p>&mdash; National...</blockquote></center> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffMon, 24 Jun 2013 15:25:00 -0400The 12 weirdest animal penises on Earth [Updated]<img src="" /></P><p>Procreating is serious business in the animal kingdom, and Mother Nature has gone out of her way to cleverly ensure the survival of her many, many denizens. From sex organs with multiple heads to prodigious shafts exceeding an animal's own body length, here are 12 of the weirdest (and often scariest) animal penises on the planet:</p><p><strong>1. The sea slug's disposable, regenerating penis</strong><br />The&nbsp;<em>Chromodoris&nbsp;reticulata&nbsp;</em>sea slug has the peculiar ability to discard its penis after copulation. But what makes this soft-bodied marine mollusk particularly different is its ability to grow a new penis...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/chris-gayomali" ><span class="byline">Chris Gayomali</span></a>Wed, 13 Feb 2013 12:30:00 -0500Man's common ancestor with other mammals: A rat?<img src="" /></P><p>What do humans, elephants, bats, dogs, cats, and whales all have in common? Apparently, this little thing.</p><p>Yep. Scientists have zeroed in on a tiny, rat-sized animal that they believe to be the common ancestor of many of today's modern mammals &mdash; including us. This furry little critter lived 66 million years ago, scurrying under the feet of big 'ol dinosaurs and subsisting primarily on a diet of insects.</p><p>For a long time, scientists have been hunting for "a common genealogical link" between man and beast, and the&nbsp;<em>Protungulatum</em> <em>donna </em>is it, according to <em>The New York Times</em>. The Cretaceous...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/chris-gayomali" ><span class="byline">Chris Gayomali</span></a>Fri, 08 Feb 2013 12:53:00 -0500How dung beetles use stars to find their way home<img src="" /></P><p>Long before GPS and radio, seafarers relied on the stars to guide them to their destinations. In the animal kingdom, birds and seals have demonstrated a similar capacity for celestial navigation. And now there's one more living creature we can add to the list: The humble dung beetle.</p><p class="p1">Yes, the feces-eating bug joins more exalted company thanks to new research from Lund University in Sweden. In order to feed themselves and their offspring, male beetles seek out fresh piles of guano, roll some of it into a ball, and quickly push it home with their hindlegs before a competitor can snatch their prize...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/chris-gayomali" ><span class="byline">Chris Gayomali</span></a>Thu, 24 Jan 2013 16:19:00 -0500Yes, you can have a pet fox<img src="" /></P><p>In the age of the internet, a simple YouTube search calls up tons of videos featuring "tame" versions of just about any relatively small animal, says Dan Nosowitz at <em>Popular Science</em>. "When the internet sees a video of a red panda, the internet wants a red panda. Even though a red panda is endangered and a wild animal," says Nosowitz. Humans have long sought to domesticate animals &mdash; it's one of the three traits (along with tool use and symbolic behavior such as art and rituals) most associated with our species. And lucky for those hell-bent on bringing an adorably fluffy fox into their living...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/samantha-rollins" ><span class="byline">Samantha Rollins</span></a>Thu, 24 Jan 2013 12:20:00 -0500The race to save a pod of killer whales trapped in arctic ice [Updated]<img src="" /></P><p><iframe width="660" height="397" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p><p class="p1">A pod of killer whales has been discovered trapped in arctic waters that are quickly freezing around them. (Watch a video above.) The dozen or so whales, which need to come up for air to survive, have seen their small hole in the Hudson Bay shrink since they were found earlier this week. If it closes, they will drown.&nbsp;</p><p class="p3"><span class="s1">The mayor of the small Inuit town of </span>Inukjuak has requested help from the Canadian government. Conceivably, icebreakers could help solve the problem, but <strong>the equipment may not get there in time &mdash; it's quite far away, and there are other missions the icebreakers are...</strong></p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/jessica-hullinger" ><span class="byline">Jessica Hullinger</span></a>Thu, 10 Jan 2013 10:10:00 -0500WATCH: The first-ever footage of the legendary giant squid in its natural habitat<img src="" /></P><p>Sailors' accounts of the fearsome kraken thrashing around the waters with its arch-nemesis, the sperm whale, have&nbsp;long been the stuff of legend. And the legend was only fueled by the incredible difficulty of glimpsing the multi-tentacled cephalopod alive in its natural deep-sea habitat, where oxygen and light are scarce and the water pressure is deadly.</p><p class="p2">That's why scientists are excited about new, first-time footage of the giant squid swimming around in the deep ocean. While the remains of monstrous specimens have been collected in museums around the world, it wasn't until 2005 when a team...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/chris-gayomali" ><span class="byline">Chris Gayomali</span></a>Mon, 07 Jan 2013 16:30:00 -0500The spider that builds its own lifelike decoys<img src="" /></P><p>Many people find spiders scary&nbsp;little things, and a seemingly new species in the <em>Cyclosa</em> genus takes the creepy factor to a whole new level. Trekking through the Peruvian Amazon, biologist and science educator Phil Torres spotted this eight-legged arachnid (which is just one-quarter-of-an-inch long) perched above an intricate, lifelike replica of itself constructed from leaves, dead bugs parts, and other scraps.<br /><br />Strangely, the fake was larger (roughly an inch long) than the original, but Torres was nonetheless dazzled by its makeshift complexity. Why would a spider go to the trouble of building...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/chris-gayomali" ><span class="byline">Chris Gayomali</span></a>Wed, 19 Dec 2012 12:32:00 -0500How porcupines are helping doctors design better needles<img src="" /></P><p>Need to build better tools? Look no further than Mother Nature. Sharkskin gave Speedo the inspiration to design a more-streamlined swimsuit. And squirmy, snake-like machines are helping surgeons make fewer incisions when operating on patients. Now, to design a better needle, a team of bioengineers at the Center for Regenerative Therapeutics at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston are drawing inspiration from a somewhat unlikely, prickly critter: The North American porcupine. Here's what you should know about the project:&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"><strong>Why the porcupine?<br /></strong>The large rodents are covered in 30,000 pointy...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/chris-gayomali" ><span class="byline">Chris Gayomali</span></a>Tue, 11 Dec 2012 12:47:00 -05009 animal species named after famous people [Updated]<img src="" /></P><p>What do Dick Cheney, Lady Gaga, President Obama, and Hugh Hefner all have in common? They've all been lucky enough to have a newly discovered species named after them. From colorful fish to rabbits to innocuous wasps, here's a small sample of the animal kingdom's celebrity-dubbed denizens.</p><p><em>This article &mdash; originally published on Jul. 12, 2012 &mdash; was last updated on Dec. 11, 2012.</em></p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffTue, 11 Dec 2012 10:40:00 -0500WATCH: How catfish taught themselves to snag pigeons for lunch<img src="" /></P><p><iframe width="660" height="397" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p><p>European catfish typically trawl the bottom of freshwater lakes and rivers for food, opening their flat mouths to consume crustaceans, worms, small fish, and even the occasional frog. But along one stretch of island in the Southwestern region of France, the invasive species seems to have taught itself <strong>how to hunt unsuspecting pigeons</strong>. (Check out the video above.)</p><p>French biologists from the University of Toulouse wanted to observe this adaptation firsthand, and set up shop on a bridge overlooking the Tarn River, where the birds gather to bathe.&nbsp;They discovered that the catfish are squirming...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/chris-gayomali" ><span class="byline">Chris Gayomali</span></a>Thu, 06 Dec 2012 17:00:00 -0500How to calculate a lobster's age<img src="" /></P><p>Lobsters are as mysterious as they are delicious. Nobody knows exactly how old they can get, though some experts estimate that an undisturbed shellfish can crawl around the ocean floor <strong>for upwards of a century</strong>. For fisherman, calculating a lobster's age has largely been a game of guesswork.</p><p class="p2">Now a study from the University of New Brunswick is helping to demystify the process by applying a technique used to assess the age of trees: <strong>Counting its rings</strong>. Clarke Canfield at <em>The Associated Press</em> explains:</p><p >Before now, scientists deduced a lobster's age judging by size and other variables. But it's now...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/chris-gayomali" ><span class="byline">Chris Gayomali</span></a>Fri, 30 Nov 2012 12:28:00 -0500Do chimps go through midlife crises too?<img src="" /></P><p><strong>The question:</strong>&nbsp;Because of a phenomenon widely known as the midlife crisis, men of a certain vintage, for reasons still not entirely understood, sometimes feel compelled to blow their life savings on things like a Porsche. Evidence of the often wallet-breaking condition has been found "in many datasets across human cultures," Alex Weiss, a psychologist at Edinburgh University, tells <em>The Guardian</em>. While the existential burden may help finance the sports car industry, its exact origin still remains a mystery. To get a better understanding of the origins of the midlife crisis, an international...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffTue, 20 Nov 2012 13:08:00 -0500Brazil's bizarre plan to clone endangered wolves, jaguars, and monkeys<img src="" /></P><p>Cloning a dinosaur might be a doomed pursuit (much to the dismay of a generation raised on <em>Jurassic Park</em> fantasies), but biologists at Brazil's Brasilia Zoo want to use genetic information from endangered animals to shore up dwindling populations. Next month, zoo researchers plan to begin cloning eight "at-risk" species before they disappear from the planet for good. Here's what you need to know about the bizarre project:</p><p class="p2"><strong>What animals are they cloning?</strong><br /><span class="s1">"The idea is to start with an animal that is endangered, or where species numbers have gone down sharply, such as the jaguar, the maned wolf or...</span></p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffThu, 15 Nov 2012 16:34:00 -0500WATCH: Video of the rare millipede with a record-breaking 750 legs<img src="" /></P><p><strong>The video:</strong> The world's leggiest creature has long been an enigma thought to be extinct. But now, scientists at the University of Arizona have released the first video of the millipede <em>illacme</em><em>&nbsp;plenipes</em>, a tiny yet "strikingly complex" bug with a record-breaking 750 legs. This rare millipede, which lives exclusively under a particular type of sandstone boulder on the outskirts of Silicon Valley, has a translucent exoskeleton that produces its very own "clothing" in the form of silk body hairs. And thanks to its hundreds of legs, the inch-long bug can slither around in the dirt and burrow underground...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffThu, 15 Nov 2012 15:20:00 -0500Sauroniops: The Tyrannosaurus-sized dinosaur named after the Lord of the Rings villain<img src="" /></P><p>Some 95 million years ago, a two-legged dinosaur even larger than the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex skulked the deltas of North Africa looking for its next meal. The newly categorized and christened <strong><em>Sauroniops&nbsp;</em><em>pachytholus &mdash;</em> or "Eye of Sauron" in Greek</strong> &mdash; gets its name from the omniscient demon who stared knowingly over Middle Earth in the<em> Lord of the Rings</em> films.</p><p class="p2">So how exactly did Sauroniops earn its name? The only fossil unearthed of the flesh-eater so far is a tiny upper-skull fragment that's part of the dino's massive eye socket. "<strong>The idea of a predator that is physically known...</strong></p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffThu, 08 Nov 2012 15:13:00 -0500