Stories tagged Diversity of Organisms

Feb
21
2005

One of the ongoing debates in science is: where the heck did birds come from? Bird bones are fragile and don't often become fossils, so there's not a lot of evidence. And when a new bird fossil is found, there's always a lot of debate over how it fits into the puzzle.

Feb
10
2005

Scientists have long wondered about the reason for the star nosed mole's unusual schnozz. There have been many theories. Some thought the star was a souped-up smell organ that helped the moles sniff their way around underground. Some thought it was an extra "hand" for grasping prey. And some thought it was an antenna to detect electric fields as moles swim through muddy marsh water. A 1995 study finally proved that the stars are super-sensitive touch organs. And a study just published in Nature advances a theory about why the stars are so big.

Fact, Pics, and Video of the Star Nosed MoleThe 22 "fingers" of the star have a surface area eight times greater than the nose of the mole's close cousin, the eastern mole. The fingers also allow the mole to quickly tap on objects it comes across—13 times a second, compared to the eastern mole's eight times a second. That means the star-nosed mole can find 14 times the number of food items than the eastern mole can in a given amount of time. The advantage really pays off where there are lots of small prey animals, as in the marshy homes of star-nosed moles.

  • It takes a driver about 650 milliseconds to hit the brake after seeing a traffic light ahead turn red.
  • In 650 milliseconds, in the dark, a star-nosed mole can detect a worm or insect larva, determine that it is edible, and eat it.
  • The human record for eating hard-boiled eggs is 65 eggs in 6 minutes and 40 seconds, or six seconds per egg.
  • But a star-nosed mole can eat 10 mouthful-sized chunks of earthworm, one at a time, in 2.3 seconds—0.23 seconds per chunk. That's more than 26 times as fast as the human record for eating hard-boiled eggs. In fact, it's the fastest eating ever measured in any mammal.

Be sure to check out the videos of the mole eating, in real time and slow motion, on the linked website. They're amazing!

Jan
14
2005

Scientists in China have discovered two fossil mammals from the age of dinosaurs. One still had in its stomach the remains of its last meal--a baby dinosaur. The other mammal, the size of a modern dog, is by far the largest mammal known from this period.

These fossils are cool for a bunch of reasons. Complete skeletons are rare, and skeletons with stomach contents preserved are extremely valuable: they tell us who ate who, and how animals related to each other and to their environment.

Nov
08
2004

Jacqueline M. Kozisek of the University of New Orleans has been studying the fossil record to understand the history of the tropical honeybee. A specific species of honeybee, Cretotrigona prisca, can be found frozen in amber in rocks dated before and after the impact at the Chixilub that is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs with a nuclear winter. If the climate changed dramatically enough to kill of the dinosaurs then how was this tropical honeybee able to survive through this time? Want to learn more?