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Some wonders of Natural History

Some wonderful stuff I read about on Natural History magazine, I thought to share in my own simple ways. (Some don’t seem to have link references online, so I have cited them in red.)

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Recent research suggests that some groups of dinosaurs were already on the road to extinction before an asteroid impact — about 150 species of them.
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Did you know that the planet Uranus has its axis of rotation nearly parallel to its orbital plane? At one point it was pointing toward the sun! Secondly, its magnetic pole is some 60 degrees off its rotation axis! (Unlike earth where the magnetic north and rotation axis north are fairly close.)

The problem however is explaining the auroras near the magnetic poles of Uranus. It was believed that they could be explained by huge coronal mass ejections from the sun, but this seems in question. That’s an open question for anyone who wishes to research it.
Aurora Uranus, by Harvey Leifert, Natural History, May 2012, page 6.
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It may sound like a myth to read stories about people using pigeons to send messages in ancient times. But in fact pigeons have flight patterns that are based on their GPS sensing the earth’s magnetic field. There’s a part of the pigeon brain closely connected to their inner ears that interacts with the magnetic field, giving them this GPS ‘6th’ sense to navigate. Neuroscientists are still studying this interesting phenomenon.
“GPS: Global Pigeon System,” by Adam Hadhazy, Natural History, May 2012, page 8.
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The amazing ants are back! An ant leaves its colony and goes on an unknown journey. It gets infected with a fungus that is contagious. It returns to its colony. What do the ants in the colony do when it returns? Do they kill it? Ostracize it? Contain it? No. They welcome it back home and they come to its rescue, licking it clean of the infection; they share the infection; but because each gets a little of the infection they don’t get as affected as much and eventually get over it. All is well. They heal their friend and as a bonus they develop their immune system to make it stronger. No wonder I loved ants when I was a boy!! 🙂
“Ant-i-fungal,” by Judy Rice, Natural History, May 2012, page 8.

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