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.
Listen carefully on a quiet summer night and you might hear them. Even if you don’t see a bat’s frantically fluttering form, you might catch its high-pitched chirp as it searches the night for dinner. You’re probably hearing a little brown bat, a common insect-eater found throughout North America, but it is just one of more than a thousand species of bat ranging from the one-inch-long Kitti’s hog-nosed bat to the enormous, three-pound giant golden-crowned flying fox. Continue reading Why Bats Are One of Evolution’s Greatest Puzzles
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
A family of tourists in Canada’s Steveston Harbor recently got a treat when a friendly-looking sea lion sidled up to them in the water. The adorable animal came up to the edge of the wharf, and the family started feeding it. One young girl sat down to get a better look. That’s when the treat became a shock: the sea lion lunged upward and, in one fluid motion, grabbed a mouthful of the girl’s dress and yanked her down into the water.
Wild elephants can’t be bothered with sleep.
Who could blame them? They have good reasons to stay awake. African elephants need to gobble a few hundred pounds of food a day and stay vigilant of cunning predators. After fitting two elephant matriarchs—female elephants that lead their respective herds—with activity monitors, researchers tracked these elephants through the Chobe National Park, in northern Botswana, for just over a month. Their results, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, found that they slept around two hours a night. And on five nights, they didn’t sleep at all.
Years ago, Danny Abrams heard about a strange phenomenon: Deer skeletons were being found beside trees in the forests of the Midwest. These male deer had apparently gotten their massive, unwieldy antlers caught in the branches, where they’d found themselves trapped. Unable to find food or flee predators, they quickly met their demise.