Catch up with the headlines on space exploration, unusual earthly phenomena,
animal discoveries and more, and enjoy beautiful images,
fascinating videos and mesmerizing live-cam footage.
Gini’s Nature News is off for 2 weeks on a research trip with The Wild Dolphin Project. But there’s plenty of Nature News to catch up on during the break.
In Space news, the planet Jupiter and solar-powered spacecraft Juno are making headlines this month. After traveling for 5 years at 130,000 m.p.h. — making it the fastest object humans have launched into space — Juno reached Jupiter on July 4 and began sending back images and video of our solar system’s largest planet.
Working with images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft last year, NASA has also produced a video that gives Earthlings a sense of what it would be like to land on Pluto.
NASA is more serious about sending a landing party to Mars some time in the not-so-distant future, and has just released a series of free, frame-worthy posters to recruit volunteers: NASA Wants You!
In nature news closer to home, researchers have learned that the same forces that cause the tides can trigger low-frequency quakes along the San Andreas Fault — it’s that unstable — and have figured out the sources of a mysterious low whistling sound deep in the Caribbean Sea and the strange crackling and hissing sounds made by auroras. (Who knew?)
On the Natural Resources front, China wants to dam the country’s last wild river, Montana’s Glacier National Park is losing its glaciers, the world is running out of sand and was running out of helium until stores were discovered in Tanzania’s Rift Valley, researchers have found opal in a meteorite in Antarctica, and the second-largest raw diamond ever mined didn’t sell in a Sothebys auction.
In the world of animal discoveries, scientists now know that a chameleon’s bug-catching tongue isn’t just super-long, it’s also super-sticky; have figured out part of how swordfish swim so fast (fish oil!); understand more about how frigate birds stay aloft for weeks at a time and hummingbirds stop and change direction on a dime; and are fairly sure now that most dinosaurs didn’t roar.
On the species recovery front, China has mastered the art of breeding pandas in captivity and is now tackling how to return them to the wild, loggerhead turtles are nesting on Georgia beaches in record numbers this year; and some researchers say the best way to control deer populations and reduce highway collisions is to bring back cougars and let them hunt their natural prey — because cougars eat a lot of deer.
Adding to the evidence that we humans aren’t as unique as we like to think, new findings indicate that Capuchin monkeys in Brazil have been using stone tools for more than 600 years, Barbary Macaques become pickier about their companions as they age, city birds are more aggressive than country birds, females of a certain endangered bird species will dump their mates for a chance to move to a better neighborhood, parakeets understand word order, ducklings grasp the concept of “same” and “different,” and even fruit flies need their sleep.
Researchers continue to learn new things about the human species, too. One study suggests that a healthy human eye may be able to detect a single photon of light, and another has produced the finest map yet of the human brain, including almost 100 distinct areas we didn’t know about before.
But do we use our brains when interacting with Nature? You be the judge. Exhibits 1, 2 and 3: the gross algae problem off Florida’s East Coast, the horrific bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef, and the border wall Donald Trump wants to build that would disrupt crucial animal and plant migration.
Exhibits 4, 5 and 6: the 2 men who fell to their deaths a day apart in Peru while posing for pictures too close to cliff edges, and the people so intent on photographing a mountain goat that had wandered down onto a rocky beach in Alaska that they crowded it into the water, where it drowned.
On the other hand, 4 hikers in Denali National Park did turn away an approaching bear by resisting the urge to run and doing as rangers across a river shouted at them to do: Stop! Group up! Lift your arms! Make noise! It worked, and another hiker on the safe side of the river got pictures.
More encouraging, a brilliant young Dutch inventor named Boyan Slat who had an idea in high school to let ocean currents funnel plastic trash for collection is now testing the idea in the North Sea. Go, Boyan!
Finally, because who doesn’t love looking at images of Nature’s astonishing variety and beauty, some photos, videos and live-cams to enjoy.
In the beautiful images category, photographer Paul McKenzie has captured breathtaking aerial images of the flamingo populations of East Africa’s soda lakes, the European Space Agency shared a stunning image of the Tibetan Plateau, EarthSky introduces us to Mammatus clouds (if you don’t know what they are, you’re in for a treat), London’s Natural History Museum picked its favorite wildlife photos of 2015, and National Geographic selected its favorite nature photo contest submissions.
In the video and live cam category, Katmai National Park’s live cam of bears catching salmon is back thanks to Explore.org, cameraman Lindsay McCrae captured amazing slow-motion footage of an osprey snagging and struggling to get airborne with its fish catch, and researchers with new microscope-cameras are getting footage of corals fighting, cooperating, breeding and just generally going about their teeny-tiny animal lives.