Your smart phone is a triumph of miniaturization. The first computers were room-filling monstrosities; now, you can hold more computing power than a Univac in the palm of your hand. In the living world, we should’t despise small creatures. They can pack a lot of technology into a small space. Here are some record-setting examples of living miniatures reported recently.
Migratory mini-champ: You’re an aerospace engineer, and your job is to design an aircraft that can fly across the world. There’s a catch; the weight limit is one ounce. Odds are, you could never come up with a machine that could compete with the Northern Wheateater (Oenanthe oenanthe) – a humble little bird that flies 18,000 miles from the Arctic to Africa on its annual migration, though weighing less than two tablespoons of sugar (0.9 ounce). Scientists who tracked them with geolocators were stunned at their endurance. “They are incredible migratory journeys, particularly for a bird this size,” reported PhysOrg. “Scaled for body size, this is one of the longest round-trip migratory journey of any bird in the world and raises questions about how a bird of this size is able to successfully undertake such physically demanding journeys twice a year, particularly for inexperienced juveniles migrating on their own.”
Micro-frogs: Imagine having to sift through leaf litter to find out what’s making a high-pitched clicking noise. That’s what Chris Austin and team did in New Guinea (see video on Live Science) to discover the world’s tiniest vertebrate: a frog named Paedophryne amauensis. This little croaker makes a dime look like a large lilypad (photo on New Scientist).
Micro-chameleon: If a frog on a dime is amazing, imagine seeing a tiny chameleon, wandering eyes and all, perched on the tip of a matchstick. Look at National Geographic News and wonder. “The extreme miniaturization of these dwarf reptiles might be accompanied by numerous specializations of the body plan,” a German zoologist said….
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