From Why Evolution is True:
This is one of those times when scientists discover a structure whose function is absolutely mysterious. Piotr (Peter) Naskrecki, an entomologist, photographer and author working the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, is currently in Mozambique, documenting his adventures at a website called The Smaller Majority. Piotr is one of the best animal photographers ever, and his Mozambique entries are not disappointing. His latest entry, “Mozambique Diary: Alipes“, recounts his finding a bizarre centipede, pictured below. It’s so new, in fact, that I don’t think it yet has a species name: it’s simply called Alipes (the genus) “sp.” (species).
Have a look at this baby, and realize that those appendages are not in the front, but are the modified rear legs of this arthropod. And their function is completely unknown.
3-D Scans Reveal Caterpillars Turning Into Butterflies
For a long time, scientists wishing to observe the stages of a caterpillars metamorphosis into a butterfly had to dissect the insects pupae. While this provided valuable insights, the dissections only acted a snapshots of the process. Now, scientists have taken 3-D scans of the same caterpillars as they undergo holometaboly inside their cocoons. This provides a more complete, linear tale.
A polydactyl cat is a cat with a congenital physical anomaly called polydactyly (or polydactylism, also known as hyperdactyly), a type of cat body type genetic mutation that causes the cat to be born with more than the usual number of toes on one or more of its paws.
Polydactyl cats have been extremely popular as ship’s cats. Although there is some controversy over whether the most common variant of the trait originated as a mutation in New England or was brought there from Britain, there seems to be agreement that it spread widely as a result of cats carried on ships originating in Boston, Massachusetts, and the prevalence of polydactyly among the cat population of various ports correlates with the dates when they first established trade with Boston. Contributing to the spread of polydactyl cats by this means, sailors were long known to value polydactyl cats especially for their extraordinary climbing and hunting abilities as an aid in controlling shipboard rodents. Some sailors also considered them to be extremely good luck when at sea.
*The fat footed cutie above belongs to my guy, which means we’re best friends.
My aunt and uncle recently redid their bathroom. This is the wallpaper they found hidden underneath. I might have stared at it for far too long. It’s ridiculously cool, right?!?
Mountain wave clouds form downwind of an obstacle in the path of a strong air current. Since air cools as it rises and warms as it falls, it is at the peak of a standing wave where moisture condenses and clouds form.
In the depths of the dark clouds of dust and molecular gas known as the Omega Nebula, stars continue to form. The image at left is from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. It shows the star-forming region in exquisite detail. The dark dust filaments that lace the center of Omega Nebula were created in the atmospheres of cool giant stars and in the debris from supernova explosions. The red and blue hues arise from glowing gas heated by the radiation of massive nearby stars. The points of light are the young stars themselves, some brighter than 100 Suns. Dark globules mark even younger systems, clouds of gas and dust just now condensing to form stars and planets. The Omega Nebula lies about 5000 light years away toward the constellation of Sagittarius. The region shown spans about 3000 times the diameter of our solar system.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a bunch of bird cams for the ornithology enthusiast to check out. Also, there are babies. So, it’s really for everyone.
Watch them here!
There are more than three dozen species in the family Paradisaeidae, more commonly known as the birds of paradise. Most are distinguished by striking colors and bright plumage of yellow, blue, scarlet, and green. These colors distinguish them as some of the world’s most dramatic and attractive birds. Males often sport vibrant feathered ruffs or amazingly elongated feathers, which are known as wires or streamers. Some species have enormous head plumes or other distinctive ornaments, such as breast shields or head fans.
Males put their bright colors and unusual ornaments to good use when they display for females. Their elaborate dances, poses, and other rituals accentuate their appearance and put on a phenomenal show for both female birds and any humans lucky enough to be in the vicinity. Such displays can last for hours, and in many species they consume a significant part of the male’s time.
From Pierre Belon’s L’Histoire de la nature des oyseaux (The History of the Nature of Birds) first published in 1555.
A comparison of the skeletons of birds and humans.
A Brief Introduction
Ornithology is a branch of biological science dedicated to the study of birds.
While early ornithology was principally concerned with descriptions and distributions of species, ornithologists today seek answers to very specific questions, often using birds as models to test hypotheses or predictions based on theories. Most modern biological theories apply across taxonomic groups and the number of professional scientists who identify themselves as “ornithologists” has therefore declined. A wide range of tools and techniques are used in ornithology, both inside the laboratory and out in the field, and innovations are constantly made.