January 18, 2014 | David F. Coppedge

Amazing Animals

The capabilities of animals large and small continue to fascinate scientists and the public.  Here are some recent findings.

Elephant IQ:  National Geographic describes experiments that show elephants “think” with their noses.  Smell is an important part of their cognition and puzzle-solving ability.

Dolphin speed:  How dolphins swim so fast has been a mystery called Gray’s Paradox: physics seems to demand more power than they are capable of generating.  It’s been solved, National Geographic reported: their tail flukes are powerful and flexible enough to propel them against the predicted drag.

Fish light:  More fish glow in the dark than realized, Live Science reported – some 180 species of fish in 11 orders exhibit biofluorescence, some all over their bodies and even internally.  Biofluorescence is the process of absorbing light at one wavelength and emitting it at another, as opposed to bioluminescence, which is light produced through enzyme reactions.  The fish absorb the sun’s blue light and re-emit it as green, red, and orange.  It’s only visible when the blue light is filtered out.   The article (and another on Science Now) has pictures of different fluorescent fish species.  A 4-minute video explains how the researchers began their findings by accident.   “There’s a whole light show going on down there, and people never see it,” said a co-author of a paper in PLoS ONE, “The Covert World of Fish Biofluorescence – A Phylogenetically Widespread and Phenotypically Variable Phenomenon.”

Bee now my vision:  Honeybees “dance the light fantastic,” PhysOrg announced.  They convert invisible polarized light into information in their “waggle dances” to direct their hivemates to food sources they’ve discovered.

Spider electricityPhysOrg also reported findings about the static electricity in spider webs.  The static actually propels the web toward flying insects, so they get captured before they can sense the local electric field.  The static also makes spider webs efficient traps for pollutants in the air – an effect scientists are thinking of utilizing for environmental monitoring.

Ladybug aeronautics:  What can fly as high as 1100 meters at 60 km per hour?  A ladybug, or ladybird beetle.  Their “extraordinary flight paths” were discovered with radar, PhysOrg reported.

The world is filled with living marvels we barely understand.  What we do understand shows incredible design, all the way from the macro to the micro.  Take time to look at the animals around you and appreciate them for their feats that often exceed what man thought was possible.  Visit a zoo or aquarium, or look for tiny creatures around the yard.  Did such things originate by happenstance?  Who could ever believe such a thing?  Evolutionary theory was useless (if not absent altogether) in all these articles.  For instance, the authors of the glowing-fish paper said, “nearly nothing is known regarding the evolution or function of fluorescence in fishes.”  But while they know nothing about evolution, all of us know a lot about design, because we recognize it in our everyday experience.  If living things weren’t superbly designed, engineers wouldn’t be spending millions of dollars to reverse-engineer them.  Let’s give credit where it’s due.




(Visited 169 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply