To most people, giraffes are merely adorable, long-necked animals that rank near the top of a zoo visit or a photo-safari bucket list. But to a cardiovascular physiologist, there’s even more to love. Giraffes, it turns out, have solved a problem that kills millions of people every year: high blood pressure. Their solutions, only partly understood by scientists so far, involve pressurized organs, altered heart rhythms, blood storage — and the biological equivalent of support stockings.
EVERY YEAR, GREAT white sharks travel over 12,000 miles from South Africa to Australia, charting a nearly perfect straight line across the ocean. And every year, they turn around and travel back. There are no street signs to guide them and, for much of the journey, no stable landmarks by which they can set their course. Currents and water temperatures change. The sun sets at night, the stars disappear during the day. But the sharks carry on.
I’m writing this on a Tuesday, at 2:26 p.m. Minutes ago, it was 9 a.m., or so it feels; back then, I was enjoying the delusion, refreshed each morning, that I’d accomplish what I needed to do today. I still might—there are hours left in the workday—but I’m wiser than I was when I woke up five hours ago: it’ll be 7pm soon, the day definitively in tatters. Another of Time’s routine beatdowns.
One advantage of being a cat, or a stingray, is not having to think about time this way (and, by extension, death). But are they entirely free from the temporal plane? Do they perceive it in any way? Do some species perceive it more acutely than others? For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of experts to find out.
Woolly mammoths were icons of the Ice Age. Starting 700,000 years ago to just 4,000 years ago, they trundled across the chilly steppe of Eurasia and North America. As ancient glaciers expanded across the Northern Hemisphere, these beasts survived the rapidly cooling temperatures with cold-resistant traits, a characteristic they came by not through evolution, as earlier thought. Woolly mammoths, a new Nature study finds, inherited the traits that made them so successful from a mammoth species closer to a million years old.
The riches of the natural world are not spread evenly across the globe. Some places, such as the tropical Andes in South America, are simply stacked with unique species of plants and animals, many found no place else on Earth. So-called biodiversity “hotspots” are thought to cover just 2.3 percent of the planet’s surface, mostly in the tropics, yet they account for half of all known plant species and 77 percent of land vertebrates.
SCIENTISTS ARE CONTINUING to tease out the mechanisms by which the Venus flytrap can tell when it has captured a tasty insect as prey as opposed to an inedible object (or just a false alarm). There is evidence that the carnivorous plant has something akin to a short-term “memory,” and a team of Japanese scientists has found evidence that the mechanism for this memory lies in changes in calcium concentrations in its leaves, according to a recent paperpublished in the journal Nature Plants.