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"Unusual" Armored Catfish

National Geopgraphic, Christine Dell'Amore

"A new species of suckermouth armored catfish has been found in Ecuador, a new study says.

DePaul University scientist Windsor Aguirre found five specimens of the odd-looking fish in 2008 in the Santa Rosa River (map) and sent them to Alabama's Auburn University for identification.

"When we first realized it was new, it wasn't particularly surprising--this family [of catfish] increases in number every year," said study leader Milton Tan, a Ph.D. student in biology at Auburn.

Instead, what interested Tan and colleagues is that the 2.8-inch-long (7-centimeter-long) species--unlike its relatives--lacks armored plates on the sides of its head."

Ants work together to battle a deadly fungus by diluting the infection across the colony
By Ferris Jabr | April 3, 2012, Scientific American

"When a deadly fungus infects an ant colony, the healthy insects do not necessarily ostracize their sick nest mates. Instead, they welcome the contagious with open arms--or, rather, open mouths--often licking their neighbors to remove the fungal spores before the pathogens sprout and grow. Apparently, such grooming dilutes the infection, spreading it thinly across the colony. Instead of leaving their infected peers to deal with the infection on their own and die, healthy ants share the burden, deliberately infecting everyone in the colony with a tiny dose of fungus that each individual's immune system can clear on its own. Such "social immunization" also primes the immune systems of healthy ants to battle the infection. These are the conclusions of a new study in the April 3 issue of PLoS Biology."

Bizarre "King of Wasps" Found in Indonesia

Dave Mosher
for National Geographic News
Published March 27, 2012

A new species of giant, venomous wasp has been found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, scientists say.

The two-inch-long (five-centimeter-long) black insects are shrouded in mystery--all of the wasp specimens caught so far have been dead.

"I'm not certain any researcher has ever seen one alive, but they are very bizarre-looking," said study co-author Lynn Kimsey, an entomologist at the University of California, Davis, who co-discovered the insect.

"It's the extreme version of the [larrine wasp] subfamily they belong to."

A new species of venomous sea snake mysteriously covered head to tail in spiny scales has been discovered in treacherous seas off northern Australia, a new study says.

Though some other sea snakes have spiky scales on their bellies, "no other [known] sea snake has this curious feature," study leader Kanishka Ukuwela, an ecologist at the University of Adelaide, said by email.

Normally snakes have smooth scales, but each of the newly named Hydrophis donaldi's scales has a spiny projection, he said.

Six-Legged Giant Finds Secret Hideaway, Hides for 80 Years

"They call it "Ball's Pyramid." It's what's left of an old volcano that emerged from the sea about 7 million years ago. A British naval officer named Ball was the first European to see it in 1788. It sits off Australia, in the South Pacific. It is extremely narrow, 1,844 feet high, and it sits alone.

What's more, for years this place had a secret. About half way up, at 225 feet above sea level, hanging on the rock surface, there is a small, spindly little bush and under that bush, a few years ago, two climbers, working in the dark, found something totally improbable hiding in the soil below. How it got there, we still don't know."

Miniature Chameleons Discovered: Fit on Match Tip

"Match-tip tiny, Brookesia micra is the smallest of four new chameleon species found on the African island country of Madagascar. With an average adult length of just over an inch (2.9 centimeters) from snout to tail, B. micra is among the tiniest reptiles in the world."

Russian scientists germinate ice-age seed

"Scientists in Russia have made a major breakthrough in permafrost research.

The team, whose work is based in Siberia, successfully germinated a flower from an ice-age seed which is about 32,000 years old."

Strange New Leaf-Nosed Bat Found in Vietnam

"A new species of bat whose face bristles with leaf-like protrusions has been discovered in Vietnam, a new study says."

Music Made With Bee Sounds!

Here's a link to a fun article plus a video showing how a composer made music by recording the sounds bees make in nature:

"Tomb Raider Composer Makes Buzzy Music With Honeybee Orchestra." By Hugh Hart.

bee by Ivan Plata.jpg
Photo: Ivan Plata

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