Archive for 2001

Fear of Snakes, Spiders Rooted in Evolution, Study Finds

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 4, 2001   View Article

“Aaaaaaaahhhh!!!!!” The mere sight of a snake or spider strikes terror in the hearts of millions of people.

A new study suggests that such fear has been shaped by evolution, stretching back to a time when early mammals had to survive and breed in an environment dominated by reptiles, some of which were deadly.

Snapping Shrimp Stun Prey with Flashy Bang

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 3, 2001   View Article

Among the fascinating creatures of the deep is a finger-size shrimp with an oversize claw—resembling a boxing glove—that it uses to stun its prey by snapping the claw shut. The snapping produces a sharp cracking sound.

When colonies of the shrimp snap their claws, the cacophony is so intense that submarines can take advantage of it to hide from sonar.

Does Racking in Packs Offer an Unfair Advantage

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 1, 2001   View Article

In cycling, triathlons, and other races, the leader of the pack may not be out ahead in terms of innate talent.

The “bunching” that often occurs in such events gives some racers an advantage that masks their individual ability. As a result, the person who crosses the finish line first isn’t necessarily the most physically and mentally fit competitor in the race.

Meerkats Become Fat Cats in Large Cooperatives

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 1, 2001   View Article

The fat cats in meerkat society are the ones that thrive on the backs of others. Researchers have found that the larger their social cooperatives the more they are able to spread the duties of rearing their young and standing guard against predators—giving individuals greater opportunities to look for food.

The foot-long (30-centimeter) mongoose that dwells in the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa and dines on everything from scorpions and grasshoppers to small reptiles and birds lives by a philosophy of sharing and caring. And the hallmark of a well-organized group of meerkats is a marked increase in the weight of the individuals.

Oldest Asian Tools Show Early Human Tolerance of Variable Climate

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 26, 2001   View Article

When it’s cold outside, modern humans don a sweater to ward off the chill. But how and when early humans began to develop an ability to cope with different climates has been a great puzzle in the study of human evolution. The answer is important because it suggests when early humans were able to migrate out of tropical Africa and settle all corners of the globe.

Newfound Octopus Impersonates Fish, Snakes

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 21, 2001   View Article

Scientists have discovered what may be the ideal partner for a game of charades: A long-armed octopus that mimics poisonous creatures of the sea to avoid its predators.

The clever creature is a brown octopus about two feet (60 centimeters) long that slithers along the muddy bottom of shallow, tropical estuaries where rivers spill into the sea. It was discovered so recently that it still doesn’t have a scientific name, but scientists are intrigued by its uncanny ability to impersonate lion fish, soles, and banded sea snakes.

Octopus Arms Found to Have “Minds” of Their Own

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 7, 2001   View Article

An octopus may get some mileage out of the excuse “I can’t help it, my arm has a mind of its own,” as it goes for an extra sea morsel—at least more than can a human who reaches too often into the cookie jar. Neither, however, can lay full blame for their greed on their appendages.

For humans, the brain inside the human skull, the same brain that sees the cookie and wants to eat it, controls the reach into the cookie jar. Octopus arms, on the other hand, really do have a mind of their own, according to research reported in the September 7 issue of Science.

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