Here's one of four Tasmanian devils that have just moved into new homes at the San Diego Zoo. They're the only Tasmanian devils in a U.S. zoo, and though they're in quarantine right now, they will soon be marquee attractions in the zoo's Australian Outback exhibit. Fortunately, Tasmanian devils don't actually spin like tornadoes and whirl through everything in sight.
It's fall in the northern hemisphere, the time when many bird species take wing and head for warmer climes. Which bird takes the longest non-stop flight of any in the avian world? This one does: the Alpine swift. Researchers at the Swiss Ornithological Institute and the Bern University of Applied Sciences in Burgdorf, Switzerland, have observed from collected data that Alpine swifts take little, if any, time off during their migration from Switzerland to their winter homes in Western Africa and back again the following year.
Meet the star-nosed mole. Its face won't launch a thousand ships, or even a dozen row boats, but it's the world's fastest eater and that puts it in the record books -- ahead of more comely creatures. If that weren't enough, its nose looks like a flower, allowing it to poke out of the ground, as though it were a plant. And the "flower" on its nose has the highest density of nerve endings known in any mammalian skin.
Alejandro Arteaga / Tropical Herping
Speaking of prominent proboscises, Pinocchio anoles were thought to have been extinct for about 50 years, but they have recently been rediscovered in the cloud forests of northwest Ecuador. They may have rejoined the world, but be careful believing anything they say.
Ever feel like you're being watched? Two owl butterflies drink from orange wedges, during a visit of the butterfly conservatory at the American Natural History Museum in New York.
It might not have spooky owl eyes, but the Atlas moth, another guest of the butterfly conservatory, is the largest moth in the world. We're gonna need a bigger light bulb.
Single file, everyone. Elephants and calves lumber across the plain on Oct. 8, 2013 at Amboseli National Park, approximately 137 miles (220 kilometers) southeast of Nairobi. The caravan of giants has no idea there might be a census taker overhead: The Kenyan and Tanzanian governments have begun a joint aerial count of elephants and other large mammals in the shared ecosystem of the Amboseli-West Kilimanjaro and Natron-Magadi landscapes.
Mike Kemp/In Pictures/Corbis
There are winners and losers in life, and this week the winner's column included Noodle, an 11-month-old female cocker spaniel/poodle cross breed (or "cockapoo," if you really want to rob the dog of its dignity) that won the Westminster Dog of the Year competition, a yearly match among Parliamentarians' pets. Here, Noodle enjoys the thrill of victory with Member of Parliament, and proud Noodle owner, Alan Duncan.
Noah, a baby yellow-footed rock wallaby, and not owned by a Parliamentarian, sits on a rock in the Tierpark Zoo in Berlin, Germany, on Oct. 11, 2013. About eight months old, the cub spent several months in its mother's pouch and has now decided it's time to emerge and meet the public. Yellow-footed rock wallabies are an endangered species, and the Tierpark Zoo, along with some other facilities, maintains a special breeding program for them.
Then Chih Wey/Xinhua Press/Corbis
Wildlife Reserves Singapore has been on a roll in 2013, its breeding program having produced more than 400 animal babies between January and August. This female orangutan in the Singapore Zoo is a prime example of the program, as she cradles her two babies on Oct. 3, 2013. The baby at left may or may not be busy sending a text message to someone. Kids these days ...
Bullfrogs like Rosie the Ribeter have astounded scientists with their jumping ability, and now a new study reveals how these star frogs kick amphibian butt in jumping contests.
It turns out that we have underestimated frog jumping ability, and also that jockeys — the enthusiastic people who enter the frogs in contests — employ some clever tricks. There’s even something akin to frog whispering.
Henry Astley, a researcher at Georgia Tech University, concluded that after spending time studying how prize-winning bullfrogs and other frogs jump.
“Several of the people mentioned to us that the frog knows the will of the jockey,” Astley said in a press release. “Their point was the frog senses whether you are a scientist hoping it’s going to jump well or a deadly reptilian-like predator who is going to eat it.”
Astley and his colleagues also found that jockeys capture a lot of frogs and isolate the best jumpers out of the bunch. They don’t train the frogs, but they do keep them warm — at around 84 degrees F — at the contests.
To spur their frogs into action, the jockey pros also often rub their frogs’ legs and drop them slightly to the ground at the start.
They may also lunge after them, head first, to get the frog’s “fight or flight” instincts going. I’m guessing that the poor frogs are pretty freaked out by the whole thing, but the contests are short. Hopefully the jumpers receive good treatment off the track.
Rosie the Ribeter entered the Guinness Book of World Records for jumping close to 7 feet in a single hop. Lengths like that puzzled Astley and other biologists, such as Thomas Roberts of Brown University. They knew that scientific studies had never documented bullfrogs jumping father than 4.2 feet.
“It was sort of shocking; we worried about it,” Roberts said. “Maybe we were missing something, but we also had a little bit of uncertainty and skepticism.”
For a study published in the latest Journal of Experimental Biology, Roberts, Astley and colleagues measured a bunch of frog jumps.
“We had to run out to the hardware store and grab all of their PVC pipes and joints,” explained Astley. “We were sitting there with a hacksaw in the parking lot.”
In all, 3,124 bullfrog jumps were recorded, with “professional” jockey frogs averaging nearly 5 feet. One frog that was videotaped even broke Rosie’s record by jumping 7.2 feet.
The researchers suspect 7.2 feet is about as long as a bullfrog can jump. It matches their theoretical predictions based on frog muscle force and energy, and jump velocity and angle.
But records are made to be broken! Time will tell if other frogs — at competitions like the famous Calaveras County Jumping Frog Jubilee – will continue to leap into the record books.
Image: Roberts Lab/Brown University