Science Links of the Week » Explorersweb

A passion for the natural world drives many of our adventures. And when we’re not out and about, we love discovering discoveries about the places we live and travel. Here are some of the best natural history links we found this week.

Hope for Galapagos penguins: More than ten years ago, biologist P. Dee Boersma drilled holes in lava in the Galapagos Islands. Boersma was trying to encourage Galapagos penguins to use small sediments as nests.

More and more endangered penguins used the lava pit to breed and raise their young. Conservationists now estimate that a quarter of endangered animals are juveniles. Nests and abundant fish allowed the species to flourish.

“I was pleasantly surprised because this is the best breeding we’ve seen in 12 years,” Boersma said.

Arctic evolution

Learning about the first animals on Earth: The fossil record indicates that the earliest animal life appeared 602 million years ago. Molecular studies place the date as much earlier, 850 million years ago. This discrepancy creates great uncertainties about how and where animals first evolved.

But regardless of time, it’s clear that animals have survived multiple global ice ages. Conditions were similar to marine habitats in present-day Antarctica and the Arctic. Researchers study these habitats to better understand how life evolved in these conditions.

“This work highlights how incredibly well-adapted some polar animals are to life in and around ice, and how much it can teach us about the evolution and survival of life in the past or even on other planets,” said Huw Griffiths. British Antarctic Survey explained.

Mass beaching of pilot whales on Chatham Island. Photo: Tamzin Henderson/Washington Post

Hundreds of whales wash up on the shores of New Zealand: In New Zealand, two mass incidents occurred within a few days.

On October 7, 230 pilot whales were stranded on Chatham Island. Just four days later, another 245 washed up on Pitt Island. Many had already died, but authorities had to euthanize others when they were unable to return them to the ocean.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. Two weeks ago, 200 whales washed ashore on the Australian island of Tasmania. No one knows why such things happen. However, pilot whales are incredibly social and their instincts lead them to stay with their pods. They are known to follow the distress calls of stranded whales and in turn keep themselves stranded.

Endangered eels

The secret of eel migration has been revealed: Every year, eels make a mass migration from European rivers to the North Atlantic. They reproduce once and then die. Scientists have long suspected that they went to the Sargasso Sea, but have never been able to find conclusive evidence.

Now scientists have confirmed that this is the end point of the migration. They fitted several eels with satellite tags and tracked the final stages of their journey.

Researchers hope this information will help conservation efforts for these endangered snakes. Previously, they followed eels to the Azores, but then they disappeared. This time, scientists tagged eels in the Azores so they could chart the last leg of their migration.

Goldfish have good memories: Having a salmon memory might not be so bad after all. New research debunks the long-held belief that goldfish have short memories.

A group of scientists trained goldfish to travel 70 cm to get food and return. After traveling a certain distance, the researchers gave the fish an external cue, telling them to turn around and return to the start. Eight of the fish remembered exactly where to turn without using cues. Fish use the number of contrast changes they experience to successfully judge distances.

Two goldfish swim in a tank

That seven second memory? This seems to be a myth. Image: Shutterstock

More bad climate news

Chemical dissolution can cause pollution: Agricultural chemical residues in the United States usually freeze in the winter. Covered by snow and ice, it melts in the spring. At this point, plants can absorb nutrients and stop them from flowing into waterways.

But as the climate warms, the chemicals will dissolve before plants can absorb them. In this scenario, they will flow into nearby streams, rivers and lakes. Researchers believe this could happen in 40 states. If so, it could lead to massive algal blooms and mass fish kills across the country.

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