Archive for January, 2004

Deciphering Cowbirds’ Complex Song and Dance

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 22, 2004   View Article

In the bird world, male brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) perform a choreographed song and dance routine that would be the envy of any American Idol contestant.

Using sophisticated monitoring devices and high-speed video cameras, two biologists have revealed just how complex a routine it is. Their research is part of a broad effort to understand how the birds’ song and dance works as a communication tool and how songbirds communicate in general.

Second Rover to Join Spirit on Mars This Weekend

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 20, 2004   View Article

The golf cart-size Spirit rover is off and rolling around Mars trying to figure out if it landed in a sort of ancient water hazard. Its twin, Opportunity, is on course to plop down Saturday on the opposite side of the planet and do the same. Mission scientists are so giddy you’d think they just shot a hole-in-one.

But the Mars Exploration Rovers Mission, or MER as some call it, has nothing to do with golf. The mission team is excited because they finally get to take a shot at what they’ve practiced for years: science on the red planet.

Whale-Worn Camera Sees Precision in Feeding Frenzy

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 16, 2004   View Article

When the normally placid waters of Alaska’s Chatham Straight begin to bubble in a violent boil, marine biologist Fred Sharpe slips up to the cauldron’s edge for a front row seat. He knows a coordinated feeding frenzy of epic proportions has just begun.

The bubbles are blown by a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) circling about 45 feet (14 meters) below the ocean surface as several of the whale’s mates scream and wave their pectoral flippers in an effort to ensnare herring (Clupea pallasi) in the net of bubbles.

Camera Worn by Lion May Aid African Conservation

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 16, 2004   View Article

At more than 300 pounds (135 kilograms) of muscle and bone, a full-grown female lion can kill her prey with a single, stealthy pounce and clamp of her powerful jaws. The trick in central Kenya’s Laikipia District is to make sure the lioness’ prey is wildlife, not livestock.

“There are no formally government protected areas in Laikipia,” said Laurence Frank, a wildlife biologist at the University of California at Berkeley. “All of it is privately owned in one form or another.”

Unique Bolivia Park Begun by Indigenous People

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 13, 2004   View Article

The parched, southeastern corner of Bolivia is the unlikely home to a park that houses Latin America’s highest diversity of large mammals, and is the stage for an unusual story of protected-area creation and operation.

“The park remains the only national protected area in the Americas created as the result of an initiative by an indigenous organization,” said Michael Painter, Bolivia program director for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which has helped manage the park since its creation in 1995.

Bejeweled Beetle May Inspire Synthetic Gem

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 12, 2004   View Article

The study of a weevil with an opal-like shell from the dimly-lit tropical forests of northeastern Queensland, Australia, may enable humans to more easily manufacture synthetic versions of the gem.

Understanding how the beetle manufactures the tiny structures in its scales may benefit jewelers seeking a less expensive opal and the computer and telecommunications industries seeking to manufacture tiny electronics.

Squid’s Built-In Light to Inspire New Gadgets?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 8, 2004   View Article

A nocturnal squid that cruises the ocean around Hawaii for prey and mates uses a built-in flashlight to hide its shadow from predatory fish on the seafloor.

The unique light organ found in the Hawaiian bobtail squid (Euprymma scolopes) is composed of stacks of silvery reflector plates called reflectins that surround colonies of luminescent, symbiotic bacteria.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach