It was a difficult year for Homo sapiens. The coronovirus epidemic exposed our vulnerabilities in the natural world that is constantly changing. Many were inspired to find new levels of determination and creativity to survive.
While humans quarantined birds, insects, fish, and mammals put their ingenuity into the display. The year was 2020 when assassination horns appeared in the United States, with scientists presenting us as cute as an octopus as emojis and researchers found platypuses shining under a black light.
Following are some articles about animals – and humans who study them – that surprise or delight Times readers the most.
Longest year, longest animal
In many ways, 2020 has felt like the longest year. It is also the scientist of the year who discovered potentially the tallest organism in the ocean: a 150-foot-tall cyanophore, seen in the deep sea off Western Australia.
“It sounded like an incredible UFO,” Dr. Said Nerida Wilson, a senior research scientist at the Western Australian Museum.
Each cyphonophore is a colony of individual zoids, a group of cells that clone themselves thousands of times to produce an expanded, rigid body. While some of his colleagues compared Cyphonophore to a silly string, Drs. Wilson said that the organism is much more organized than this.
With the world at a standstill, salamanders own the road
This year, amphibian migrants in the northeastern United States coincided with the coronovirus epidemic. Vehicular traffic declined due to social disturbances and shelter-in-place orders, which turned into an unexpected, large-scale experiment this spring.
“It’s not often that we get this opportunity to explore the true effects that road-borne amphibians have on amphibians,” said Greg LeClair, a graduate student at the University of Maine, who helps the salamander move safely Coordinates a project to help. .
She was a stick, she was a leaf; The two made history together
It was a centuries-old leaf insect mystery: what happened to the Nunophyllium female?
In the spring of 2018 at the Montreal Insectarium, Stephen Le Tirant found a group of 13 eggs that he hoped would turn into leaves. The eggs were not oval, but rather prisms, brown paper lanterns much larger than chia seeds.
They were housed by a wild-caught female Phelium ascension, belonging to a leaf in Papua New Guinea, belonging to a group called frondosum, known only from female specimens.
After hatching, the two became thin and sticky and a pair of wings also grew. They grew bored of a curious resemblance to the release of pests in Nenophyllium, a completely different genus whose six species were described only from male specimens. The conclusion was clear: in fact the two species were one and the same, and were given a new name, Nanophyllium assicense.
New York University graduate student Royce Cumming said, “Since 1906, we have found only men.” “And now we have our final, concrete proof.”
An emoji as cute as an octopus
What is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea? The region was mostly unexplored and unknown until a recent expedition discovered its dark waters, exposing an abundance of life, strange geological features and spectacular deep corals.
An expedition conducted by the Schmidt Ocean Institute mapped remote seabeds with beams of sound and deployed tethers and autonomous robots to capture images of Tuki’s depth.
His work captured videos of the Dumbo Octopus – which bears a stunning resemblance to the Octopus Emoji – and the thriving population of the Chambery Natilli region. The team also found the deepest living hard corals in eastern Australian waters and identified 10 new species of fish, snails and sponges.
Time to hibernate like a bird
The energy needed to live in 2020 can feel similar to that used by hummingbirds. Famous organisms have the fastest metabolism among vertebrates, and to fuel their zippy lifestyle, they sometimes drink their body weight in nectar each day.
To maintain their energy, sparrows in the Andes Mountains of South America have been found to go exceptionally deep, a physiological state similar to hibernation in which their body temperature drops to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. is.
As the year ends, it can be an opportunity for us to learn from these little birds and slow it down.
Shining like plateaus
When we last checked on the platypus, it was accepting our expectations of mammals with their netting legs, duck-like burrows and laying eggs. More than that, it was producing venom.
Now it is revealed that its tattered coat has also been hidden a secret: when you turn on the black lights, it starts glowing.
Shining an ultraviolet light on a platypus fluoresces the animal’s fur with a greenish-blue tint. The platypus is one of the few mammals that exhibit this characteristic. And we are still in the dark as to why they do this – if there is a reason. Scientists are also discovering that they cannot be alone in mammals with latent glow.
Bats are the primary source of coronavirus.
An international team of scientists, including a leading researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, analyzed all known coronaviruses in Chinese bats and used horseshoe bats to explore the possible origin of novel coronaviruses using genetic analysis.
Researchers, mostly Chinese and American, made an exhaustive search for coronaviruses in bats and with an eye to identify hot spots in humans for potential spillovers of these viruses, and the resulting disease outbreak.
The genetic evidence produced in bats was already overwhelming. Horseshoe bats, in particular, were considered potential hosts because other spillover diseases, such as the SARS outbreak in 2003, came from viruses originating in these bats.
No bat virus is close to the novel coronavirus, suggesting that it made a direct leap from bats to humans. The immediate ancestor of the new virus has not been found, and may be present in bats or any other animal.
It has the worst outbreak in Kenya in 70 years
“It was as if an umbrella covered the sky,” said Joseph Katon Leprole, who lives in Wemba, Kenya, a rustic hamlet for his 68 years.
A swarm of fast-growing desert locusts cut the course of devastation through Kenya in June. The sheer size of the herd shocked the villagers. They thought it was initially a cloud that was filled with cold rain.
Highly mobile organisms can travel 80 miles in a day. Their swarms, which can contain up to 80 million locust adults per square kilometer, feed like daily about 35,000 people.
While spraying chemicals may be effective in controlling pests, locals are concerned that the chemicals will affect both drinking and washing, as well as the water supply used for water crops.
Climate change is expected to cause grasshopper outbreaks to become increasingly more severe.
Millions of minks killed to curb coronovirus outbreaks
The Danish government slaughtered millions of mink in more than 1,000 farms earlier this year, citing concerns that a mutation in the novel coronavirus that infected mink could possibly interfere with the effectiveness of a vaccine for humans is.
Scientists say there are reasons beyond this particular mutated virus to function in Denmark. Mink farms have been shown to be hotbeds for coronoviruses, and mink is able to transmit the virus to humans. They are the only animals known so far.
This set of mutations may not be harmful to humans, but the virus will undoubtedly continue to mutate into mink as it does in people, and the congestion of mink farms can put evolutionary pressure on the virus from those in the human population. Is different. The virus can also jump from mink to other animals.
Murder Hornet is here for your honeybees
The arrival of “Murder Hornets” in the United States certainly managed to grab the world’s attention this spring.
The Asian giant hornet is known for its ability to wipe its tavern hive in a matter of hours, rotting bees and flying with the thoracic of victims. For larger targets, the Hornet’s powerful venom and sting – enough to puncture a beekeeping suit – make for a fascinating combination that compares victims to hot metal driving across their skin.
This fall, after several sightings in the Pacific Northwest, Washington state officials reported that they had discovered and eliminated the first known killing horned nest in the country. The nest of invasive horns was removed simply because they were about to enter their “slaughter phase”.
Even if no other horns are to be found in the area in the future, officials will continue to use the trap for at least three more years to ensure that the area is free of horns.