It is often said that "a picture is worth a thousand words." That is certainly true of the mesmerizing images of fleeting moments of nature submitted by international ecologists and students for the British Ecological Society's (BES) annual photography competition. Here are a few of 2019's winning entries, announced on November 28, 2019.
Endemic to the forests of south and southeast Asia, the silver-backed chevrotain, or Vietnamese mouse-deer, is one of the world's most elusive animals. The rabbit-sized critter is only known to science through five specimens, four of which were recorded by researchers in 1910. The fifth was killed by a hunter and donated to scientists in 1990. Since then, there have been no recorded sightings of the animals, leading many to fear they had gone extinct. Now, thanks to the efforts and persistence of a team led by biologist Andrew Tilker, the species has not only been rediscovered but also photographed in the wild for the first time!
Most male birds try to attract mates with elegant gestures. Seabirds bob their heads and flutter their wings, while peacocks fan out their beautiful feathers. However, the white bellbird, endemic to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, dispenses with the pleasantries and cut to the chase by shrieking in its prospective "date's" face at a deafening 125 decibels (Db)— the loudest bird call ever recorded. To put it in perspective, that is 40 Db higher than the safe hearing range for humans! Prior to this, the honor belonged to another Amazon-dweller — the aptly-named screaming piha — which has a peak recorded "song" volume of 116 Db.
Humpback whales spend summers feeding in the cold Arctic and Antarctic waters and then migrate to tropical waters during the winters to breed and give birth. Since they don't eat at all during this time, the mammals have to ensure they have enough fat reserves to feed their calves and to sustain themselves. To optimize their prey consumption, humpback whales often create circular "nets" with bubbles exhaled from their blowholes. Now, for the first time, researchers have captured detailed footage of the so-called bubble-net fishing technique from the whale’s point of view along with, an aerial video.
In 1893, Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen deliberately lodged his wooden ship in the sea ice north of Siberia, hoping that its natural drift would take him to the North Pole. Though the Norwegian scientist failed to reach his desired destination, his three-year-long, 2,000-kilometer journey into the North Atlantic Ocean revealed important data about the then-mysterious Arctic Ocean. Now, an international team of researchers have embarked on a similar journey for a groundbreaking climate change study of the Arctic.
Boyan Slat has been dreaming of cleaning up the world's oceans ever since he was a teenager. On October 2, 2019, the now 25-year-old announced that System 001/B, an autonomous retrieval system developed by his non-profit Ocean Cleanup, had successfully trapped plastic debris floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Located between Hawaii and California, the approximately 617,763 square-mile mass of waste is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world.
The Masai Mara Reserve is one of Kenya's most popular tourist attractions. Every year, thousands of people flock to the national park to glimpse of a variety of wild animals, such as lions and cheetahs, or to witness the majestic annual migration of over 1.5 million wildebeests to and from neighboring Tanzania. However, this September's human "stampede" is due to an unexpected animal — a zebra foal with polka dots!
Shipworms, which munch through wood and help release essential nutrient stored within it, are incredibly beneficial for other marine animals. However, the saltwater bivalve mollusks have been known to sink boats and cause extensive damage to docks, piers, and other wooden structures. Now, researchers have uncovered a shipworm species of a different kind — one that has the potential to change the course of a river by gnawing through its limestone bedrock!