Plants and animals continue to amaze us with their Olympic-level abilities. New observations promote some to the award stand.
Diving: For the first time, scientists succeeded in mounting a small video camera to the back of an imperial cormorant on the coast of Argentina, allowing humans to ride along and get a true bird’s eye view of its feeding behavior. The BBC News and Live Science posted the video, saying that the bird dives down 150 feet to the bottom in 40 seconds, spends a minute hunting, finds a fish, then comes up for air and lunch. National Geographic said the video shocked researchers who didn’t know the birds dove so deep. This is a rare opportunity to see a bird’s everyday athletics from its own perspective.
Weight lifting: PhysOrg posted an article about how male animals grow large structures like horns on beetles and antlers on elk. Because the structures are linked to insulin usage, though, Olympic judges might disqualify them for doping.
Moving plants: We mustn’t discriminate against plants. Even though most are anchored to the soil, they perform some remarkable feats in the track & field competition. The BBC News posted a gallery called “Olympians of the botanical world.” Did you know the bunchberry dogwood wins the shot put, explosively ejecting its spores at 800 G’s? The fruits of the sandbox tree explode with the sound of a cannon. Tumbleweeds win the marathon; they conquered the entire western US in under a decade. And coast redwoods vault up to almost 380 feet above the forest floor.
War games: Thank goodness there is not an Olympic competition for terror, but if there were, some termites would qualify for suicide bombing, an article on New Scientist suggests. Fortunately, the termites are altruistic; they only use their backpack explosives to save their fellow hivemates when the hive is under attack, and the aged termites are the ones who sacrifice themselves. “The chemical warfare employed by N. taracua is ‘one of the most sophisticated examples of exploding we have seen’, says Hanus. ‘We were very surprised to see it but there are many phenomena in nature that are not yet in the textbooks.’”….
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