Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Behold: 1,200 new species discovered in the Amazon

From bald parrots to translucent frogs—the Amazon is getting even more exotic. The World Wildlife Federation recently released a report revealing that a new species was discovered every three days from 1999-2009.

Joining the jungle are 637 plants, 257 fish, 216 amphibians, 55 reptiles, 16 birds and 39 mammals. One of the most visually bizarre is the so called “Glass Frog,” with skin so thin and delicate that you can see its heart beat. The phrase “blind as a bat,” is so last century; a new species of blind ants have been discovered dating back 120 million years. And taking flower power to a whole new level (literally), tiny predatory flowers were discovered that lure insects to their death with a murderous fragrance. Spider haters beware; the WWF report also introduces a new species of brightly colored tarantulas that can propel excrement at enemies up to one meter away.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Endangered butterfly spreads its wings in England

A butterfly that is endangered in Britain has recently made some unexpected gains, conservationists said. The wet and cold British weather means the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly normally reproduces once a year and is confined to the country's southern coast.

But conservationists have found evidence that the brown-and-orange butterfly has reproduced twice this year. Matthew Oates, a conservation adviser with the National Trust, said a second brood of the declining species has only been recorded three times since 1893. Oates said warmer temperatures in Britain—closer to those found in southern Europe, where the Duke of Burgundy is also found—have allowed the butterfly to flourish. The butterfly has been spotted in the county of Gloucestershire, much farther north than its usual habitat.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Astronomers discover the granddaddy of all galaxy clusters

The most massive conglomeration of galaxies ever spotted in the early universe has been found, astronomers say. This behemoth galaxy cluster contains about 800 trillion suns packed inside hundreds of galaxies.

And it's not even finished growing. The newfound cluster, called SPT-CL J0546-5345, is about 7 billion light-years from Earth, meaning that its light has taken that long to reach us. Thus, astronomers are seeing this clump as it was 7 billion years ago. By now, it likely will have quadrupled in size, researchers said. The galaxy cluster was spotted by a new, huge 33-foot telescope at the South Pole, where the observatory benefits from an exceptionally clear, dry and stable atmosphere that enables extremely crisp high-resolution photos.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Microscopic wonders from a "Small World"

Can you imagine anything trickier than cutting the heart out of a mosquito? How about making an award-winning picture of that heart? A graduate student from Vanderbilt University has managed to pull off both of those tricks.

The image of the mosquito's tublar heart, supported by thin webs of muscles, was judged the first-place winner in this year's Nikon Small World photomicrophay competition--one of the world's most prestigious contests for aesthetically pleasing pictures of microscopic subjects. "We weren't really sure how well it was going to work," said photographer Jonas King, who worked on the project with his professor. "We were both just amazed at how cool it looked."

Friday, October 8, 2010

New planet discovered: Could humans live there?

Scientists have discovered an earth-like planet found in a region where temperatures could sustain life. If confirmed, the exoplanet, named Gliese 581g, would be the first Earth-like world residing in a star's habitable zone. Found in the “Goldilocks zone”—not too hot, not too cold to sustain life—researchers said it is highly probable that life exists on the planet. “My own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent," said Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "I have almost no doubt about it." Reaching the planet, however, would be no easy task. Gliese 581g is 20 light-years from Earth—that’s about 120 trillion miles away!

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