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Living world news archive: January-March 2008

Amazon river dolphin courting
Dolphin woos with wood and grass
(Mar 30, 2008)

A South American river dolphin uses branches, weeds and lumps of clay to woo the opposite sex and frighten off rivals, scientists have discovered. Researchers observed adult male botos carrying these objects while surrounded by females, and thrashing them on the water surface aggressively. Writing in the journal Biology Letters, they say such behaviour has never before been seen in any marine mammal.

Read more. Source: BBC

new type of sengi
'Bizarre' new mammal discovered
(Feb 1, 2008)

A new species of mammal has been discovered in the mountains of Tanzania, scientists report. The bizarre-looking creature, dubbed Rhynochocyon udzungwensis, is a type of giant elephant shrew, or sengi. The cat-sized animal, which is reported in the Journal of Zoology, looks like a cross between a miniature antelope and a small ant eater.

Read more. Source: BBC

Chameleons' colourful flashes are social signals
(Jan 28, 2008)

Chameleons are famed for changing colour to blend in with their surroundings and hide from predators – but new research on chameleons in their native habitat shows some of their colour changes evolved for exactly the opposite purpose – attracting attention.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Mycoplasma genitalium
Synthetic life 'advance' reported
(Jan 25, 2008)

An important step has been taken in the quest to create a synthetic lifeform. A US team reports in Science magazine how it replicated the entire DNA code from a common bacterium in the laboratory. The group hopes eventually to use engineered genomes to make organisms that can produce clean fuels and take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Read more. Source: BBC

giant palm
Giant palm tree puzzles botanists
(Jan 17, 2008)

Botanists have discovered a new species of giant self-destructing palm in Madagascar which is so large that it can be seen in satellite photos. The plant, which only exists in the remote north-west of the island, is unlike anything else ever found on the island before. Although villagers had known about it for many years none had seen it flower.

Read more. Source: BBC

young orang-utan
'Laughs' not exclusive to humans
(Jan 4, 2008)

The basis for laughter may have originated in an ancient primate ancestral to both humans and modern apes, a study suggests. Scientists found that orang-utans had a sense of empathy and mimicry which forms an essential part of laughter. Facial expressions, such as the open, gaping mouth resembling laughter, were picked up and copied by orang-utans.

Read more. Source: BBC


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