Saturday, 12 January 2013

World's Smallest Snake...

The world's smallest snake—and perhaps the smallest possible snake—has been discovered on the Caribbean island of Barbados, a new study says.

At about ten centimeters long (less than four inches), the diminutive reptile might easily be mistaken for an earthworm, and could comfortably curl up on a U.S. quarter, researchers say.

A second new species, only slightly larger, was found on the neighboring island of St. Lucia.

Genetic tests and studies of the snakes' physical features identified the animals as new species, said biologist Blair Hedges of Penn State university, who led the study team.

Both new species belong to a little-known group of known as thread snakes—also called worm snakes and slender blind snakes. Short and slender, thread snakes burrow in the soil and live on a diet of insect larvae.

Death Valley's Rolling Stone...

This is Racetrack Playa in Death Valley California. This area has been the centre of scientific controversy for decades. Why? At this location an amazingly large number or rocks and boulders (some weighing up to half a tonne) have been regularly moving across the surface, without any human or animal interference, and they are not just moving a small distance; one travel path was recorded at 880.73 metres!

Some scientists have proposed that the movement is caused by strong winds accompanied by the development of surface ice when temperatures fall. It is hypothesised that the development of ice allows the wind to move the rocks with less difficultly. This hypothesis, however, is commonly refuted. The hypothesis cannot account for rocks starting side by side and moving at different rates and in disparate directions, and sliding rock trails vary in direction and length. Some rocks which start next to each other start out travelling parallel, but one may abruptly change direction to the left, right, or even back the direction it came from. Length also varies because two similarly size and shaped rocks could travel uniform, then one could burst ahead or stop dead in its tracks.

Another hypothesis proposed is that another force is present; electromagnetism. Air passing through the valley is positively-charged, since it has passed over the highest mountains in the Lower 48 to get into the valley, and since positive charge increases with altitude. The electric charge in the air induces an opposite charge in the Earth, creating an electrostatic potential between them. Dolomite, being composed of calcium, magnesium, and sometimes with traces of iron, is a good conductor. Being in contact with the surface, it will be negatively charged, and will therefore be attracted to the positive charge in the air above. Sticking up above the perfectly flat playa, the rocks will concentrate the lines of force on themselves, accentuating the effect. The electric force will then exert an uplifting force on the rock, reducing the friction caused by gravity, and allowing it to travel more easily.

This hypothesis is also widely discredited. A team of interns from NASA’s Lunar and Planetary Science Academy went to Racetrack Playa last year to investigate. They found that there are no electromagnetic or radiation anomalies that would account for the movement, and they also found no patterns in the mass, direction and orientation in the moving stones.

There are several other explanations offered by the scientific community, but as of yet, none are set in stone!! ;)


The Blue Dragon (Glaucus atlanticus) is one of the world’s rarest and most beautiful mollusks. The normal size of this species is up to about 3 cm, depending on the animal's age. It is silvery grey on its dorsal side and dark and pale blue ventrally. It has dark blue stripes on its face. It has a tapering body which is flattened and has six appendages which branch out into rayed cerata. Its radula bears serrated teeth on their blades.

The Blue Dragon is distributed throughout the world's oceans, in temperate and tropical waters. Regions where this slug is found include the East and South Coast of South Africa, European waters, the east coast of Australia and Mozambique. This species floats upside down on the surface tension of the ocean.

Atlanticus preys on other, larger pelagic organisms: the dangerously venomous Portuguese Man o' War Physalia physalis; the by-the-wind-sailor Velella velella; the blue button Porpita porpita; and the violet snail, Janthina janthina. Occasionally, individual Glaucus become cannibals given the opportunity.

Wrinkles On Wet Hands Help Us Grip Better..

Scientists have an answer to the pressing question of why hands and feet get wrinkled after too much time in the bath: Pruniness may have evolved to make it easier to handle wet objects.

The smooth skin of human hands and feet becomes furrowed after extended periods in water. Though often assumed to be a result of water passively seeping into the skin, the phenomenon is actually caused by the nervous system constricting blood vessels. As early as the 1930s, surgeons noticed that no wrinkling occurred if a finger nerve had been severed, so furrowing has been used as a medical indicator of nerve function. But what evolutionary purpose wrinkling serves, if any, remained a mystery.

In 2011, a team of researchers proposed that the grooves in wet fingers might function as “rain treads” that improve grip by channeling water away, much like car tires on a wet road do. Now, researchers at Newcastle University in England have tested that theory.

The researchers had 20 volunteers manipulate objects with smooth fingers or digits shriveled by immersion in warm water for 30 minutes. The experimenters measured how long it took people to transfer the objects between a water-filled container and a dry one, or between two dry ones, with wrinkled versus unwrinkled fingers. The objects were glass marbles and fishing weights of various sizes.

All the participants transferred the wet objects (but not the dry ones) faster when their hands were pruney. The results suggest furrowed fingertips make it easier to handle moist items more efficiently, the scientists report online January 8 in Biology Letters.
Join me on Facebook