Sometime between July 10 and 12, a massive iceberg, the size of the US state of Delaware broke free from Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf. The crack that led to the separation was visible in the first images of the ice shelf captured by NASA satellites in 1963. However, the rift remained dormant for decades before suddenly spreading northwards and widening by 18 miles between 2011 and 2015 and then an additional 13 miles in 2016. As of last month, the iceberg, named A-68 by the US National Ice Center, was hanging by a thread and experts knew it was just a matter of time before it broke free.
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Worms are not the first thing that come to mind when one thinks of space travelers. However, that is exactly what the researchers from Tufts University decided to send to the International Space Station (ISS) on January 10, 2015. Some were left whole, others had their head or tail sliced off, while a few poor souls went to space with neither head nor tail! The group of planarian flatworms (Dugesia japonica) selected for their ability to regenerate any body part, were in varying states. Some were left whole, others had their head or tail sliced off, while a select few were shipped with neither head nor tail!
To say that California’s redwoods are amazing is an understatement. The majestic trees that have been around for millions of years have a lifespan of up to 2,000 years and can reach heights of over 300 feet, so tall that the tops are often invisible. Over the years, researchers have been able to discover a lot about these sturdy survivors that are resistant to pests, fire, and rot, grow three to ten feet a year, and capture more human-generated carbon dioxide (CO2) than any other tree on Earth.
Pods of crafty orcas in Alaska’s Bering Sea have figured out an easy way to get fed. Instead of seeking out the fish themselves, the clever whales chase down fishing boats and steal the entire day’s catch, as much as 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of halibut and black cod, in a single swoop.
Henderson Island in the south Pacific Ocean has always been known for its remarkable biological diversity and untouched ecology. Now, the remote UNESCO World Heritage site that lies 3,100 miles (5,000 km) from the closest human settlement, can also lay claim to being one of the most polluted places on Earth.
Every ocean lover knows the perils of getting caught in a rip current. Experienced swimmers know it is relatively easy to escape the narrow channel of fast moving water by floating and allowing it to drag you further into the ocean or by swimming alongside the shore. However, novice beachgoers often panic, and try to swim to land, placing themselves at risk of drowning due to fatigue. According to the US National Ocean Service, the currents kill about 100 Americans each year and account for 80% of all lifeguard rescues. These scary statistics may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to Clever GIRL (Global Intelligent Rip Locator), a smart buoy that alerts swimmers of the presence of deadly rip currents.
Some fortunate visitors to the Chicago Botanic Garden recently witnessed the rare opening of not one, but two, titan arums. Better known as corpse flowers due to their pungent odor that resembles decaying flesh, the massive plants bloom once every ten years, and that too, for only a few hours. However, that may be a good thing given that when the petals unfurl, the stench emanated is so foul that it has earned the titan arum the title of the “world's smelliest flower.”
Every winter, hundreds of humpback whales migrate long distances from their high latitude feeding grounds in the Arctic and Antarctic to warmer tropical regions to breed and give birth. The newborn calves, which consume over 52 gallons of milk on a daily basis, have only a few months to pack on the body fat needed to survive the long trek back to cooler waters in summer. How the babies signal hunger and avoid predators during these formative months has always been a mystery to scientists.