Sloths’ reputation as lazy, slow and stupid creatures owes much to French naturalist Georges Buffon, who described the tree-dwelling mammal as the “lowest form of existence” back in 1749. Buffon’s assessment has endured for centuries, but much of the criticism directed at sloths is unwarranted. As zoologist Lucy Cooke explains for The Day, the sloth’s sluggish lifestyle is a deliberate survival strategy that has enabled it to maintain a place on Earth for nearly 64 million years. Continue reading Sloths Don’t Just Live in Slow-Mo, They Can Put Their Metabolism On Pause
An international consortium involving over 50 institutions has announced an ambitious project to assemble high-quality genome sequences of all 66,000 vertebrate species on Earth, including all mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. With an estimated total cost of $600 million dollars, it’s a project of biblical proportions. Continue reading Plan to Build a Genetic Noah’s Ark Includes a Staggering 66,000 Species
No other member of the animal kingdom can ace an algebra test or write an A+ essay. But that doesn’t mean other species aren’t highly intelligent. Several members of the animal kingdom have impress cognitive chops and cerebral skills.
The early 2000s were a great time to study amphibians in Panama. At night, dozens of species sang out in chorus while researchers measured and photographed frogafter frog, often hiking to remote sites hours from the nearest road. Jamie Voyles and Cori Richards-Zawacki were both graduate students at the time, just at the start of their scientific careers, and Panama’s amphibians offered a plethora of research possibilities. Continue reading Frog skin secretions offer the first ray of hope in a deadly fungal epidemic
Ever since the 19th century, when disease was first linked to sewage-contaminated water, humans have gone to great lengths to escape their own filth. Meanwhile, animals have gone on reveling in the stuff—eating it, strategically dropping it, flinging it around just to pass the time, etc. Same goes for mud, piss, vomit, blood and rotting carcasses of every make and vintage. Most creatures just don’t have our hang-ups. Continue reading What’s the Filthiest Animal?
There’s something about the blind Mexican cavefish that will make you quite jealous: To survive and thrive, they require just two hours of sleep each night; no more, no less. Imagine everything you could do with those extra six hours.
To be a giraffe among giraffes, or a pigeon among pigeons, is to live at all times in that scene from Being John Malkovich—a world in which everyone you know looks pretty much exactly like you. However wondrously varied the animal kingdom might be, on a species-level its residents tend to look more similar than not—at least, from a human perspective. I’m not saying that all squirrels look identical—just that being a squirrel, and trying to distinguish your squirrel-spouse from your squirrel dad from your squirrel-mailman, seems like it would be pretty hard work.