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Living world news archive: July-September 2007

newly-found Vietnamese orchid
Eleven new species found in Vietnam's Green Corridor
(Sep 26, 2007)

Eleven new species, including a snake and two butterflies, have been discovered in a remote region of Vietnam known as the Green Corridor, the WWF reveals today. Five orchids and three other plants make up the rest of the haul of species new to science. They all appear to be unique to Vietnam's Annamites mountain range.

Read more. Source: Guardian

chimps sharing papaya
Chimps 'raid' fruit to lure mates
(Sep 12, 2007)

Experts studying the evolution of human behaviour have discovered chimpanzees will raid fruit to attract a mate. The study found that males will abscond with fruits like papaya from nearby orchards and give it to females. The University of Stirling research was carried out with a small chimp community in the Republic of Guinea in West Africa.

Read more. Source: BBC

E7 - the recod-breaking godwit
Godwit makes huge Pacific flight
(Sep 12, 2007)

It's official – the godwit makes the longest non-stop migratory flight in the world. A bird has been tracked from its Southern Hemisphere summertime home in New Zealand to its breeding ground in Alaska – and back again. The bar-tailed godwit, a female known as E7, landed in New Zealand this past weekend after taking a week to fly 11,500km from Alaska to New Zealand. Unlike seabirds, which feed and rest on long journeys, godwits just keep going.

Read more. Source: BBC

moray eel pharyngeal jaws
Eels imitate Alien
(Sep 6, 2007)

Researchers studying one species of moray eels have uncovered a deadly secret that helps the snake-like fish to swallow their prey. Like the fearsome extraterrestrial from the sci-fi horror classic Alien, these real-life beasts have a second, extendable pair of jaws – encrusted with sharp teeth – that thrusts forward to ensnare hapless fish and shrimp.

Read more. Source: Nature

New Caledonian crow
Cleverest crows opt for two tools
(Aug 16, 2007)

Crows have shown that two tools are better than one when it comes to problem solving, scientists say. A University of Auckland study has revealed that New Caledonian crows can use separate tools in quick succession to retrieve an out-of-reach snack. The birds were using reasoning that was more commonly seen in great apes and humans, the New Zealand team reported in the journal Current Biology.

Read more. Source: BBC

ancient bacteria-like cells
Ancient microbes 'revived' in lab
(Aug 8, 2007)

Microbes locked in Antarctic ice for as much as eight million years have been "resuscitated" in a laboratory. Researchers melted five samples of ice from the debris-covered glaciers of Antarctica which range in age from 100,000 years to eight million years. When given nutrients and warmth, the microbes resumed their activity – although younger microorganisms grew more successfully than the older ones.

Read more. Source: BBC

bat feeding
Sugar-rushes keep bats airborne
(Aug 6, 2007)

Nectar-feeding bats burn up sugar faster than any other mammals on Earth, scientists believe. The UK-German team found that the creatures began to metabolise nectar within minutes of drinking it. The researchers said the animals needed to extract as much energy as possible from their food because their hovering flight used up so much fuel.

Read more. Source: BBC

Orangutans use 'charades' to talk
(Aug 2, 2007)

Orangutan communication resembles a game of charades, a study suggests. Researchers from St Andrews University have shown that the animals intentionally modify or repeat their signals to get their messages across. The scientists said they believed all great apes could have this capability, suggesting that the skill may have evolved millions of years ago.

Read more. Source: BBC

double helix molecules
Countdown to a synthetic lifeform
(Jul 11, 2007)

Synthetic life could be just around the corner – depending on what you mean by "synthetic". Last week, genomics pioneer Craig Venter announced that his team has passed an important milestone in its efforts to create a bacterial cell whose genome is entirely synthetic. Venter claims this goal could be achieved within months. But while Venter's synthetic genome will be housed within an existing bacterial cell, other scientists are aiming for the even more ambitious target of building an entire living cell from the basic chemical ingredients.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

When fish get emotional
(Jul 9, 2007)

Who ever heard of a fish being in two minds about something? Yet it seems that like humans, fish process information – and perhaps emotions – on different sides of the brain. Fish growing up in the wild among predators use their left eye to look at novel objects, while their offspring raised in captivity use the right eye.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Piranha 'less deadly than feared'
(Jul 2, 2007)

The piranha's reputation as a fearsome predator may not be fully deserved, scientists in the UK have announced. Found in the Amazon, piranha fish have been portrayed as killer carnivores who work together to overwhelm their prey and strip its flesh. But experts from St Andrews University say that piranhas are omnivores who mainly eat fish, plants and insects.

Read more. Source: BBC


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