Getting to Know the Groundhog

Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil and his handler. (Photo credit: Corbis)

On February 2nd, all eyes turn to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, home of the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. Local lore has it that this groundhog can predict the following six weeks of weather. If he sees his shadow, then six more weeks of winter are in order. If he does not see his shadow, then an early spring is on the way.

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A Squirrel With A Sweet Tooth

red squirrel

Red squirrels have a penchant for maple syrup. (Photo credit: Nancy Rose/Flickr/Getty Images)

The maple syrup you use to pour on your pancakes probably comes from a bottle, but one resourceful rodent goes straight to the source when it wants a taste of something sweet.

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How Do Trees Survive the Long, Dark Winter?

winter trees

Like other living organisms that inhabit cold climates, the main issue a tree must contend with in cold conditions is the prevention ice crystal formation within its cells. (Photo credit: Corbis)

Leafless tree branches set against a snowy backdrop set a rather bleak scene. However, while it may appear lifeless, deciduous trees have several strategies to survive the cold and dark conditions of winter. [Read more…]

What’s That Smell?

corpse flower

The corpse flower can sure raise a stink. (Photo credit: Isabelle OHara/Shutterstock)

Its aroma is likened to that of decaying flesh or rotting meat. All who have gotten a whiff firsthand agree it’s a scent you won’t soon forget.  [Read more…]

A Long Winter’s Nap No More

hibernating bear

Many bears hibernate during the long, cold, and dark winter months. (Photo credit: Ralph A. Clevenger/Corbis)

When temperatures get colder and the days get shorter, many mammals settle into a period of hibernation. But what effect will climate change — and the associated changes in weather patterns — have on this annual behavior? [Read more…]

Convinced Your Dog is Smart? You Might Be Right

guide dog

Humans have long recognized the alertness, trainability, and friendly temperament of many dog breeds and pressed them into service for such very personal tasks as serving as trusted guides for the visually impaired. New research out of Hungary shows that dogs may possess an even more beautiful mind the previously thought.(Photo credit: bobbymn/iStockphoto.com)

If you have a dog, you probably think yours is the smartest dog in the world. New research from Hungary just may prove you’re correct. [Read more…]

Bringing Heritage Turkeys Back to the Thanksgiving Table

turkey_crop

Turkey is a common sight on Thanksgiving. (Photo credit: Photodisc/Getty Images)

The centerpiece of many Thanksgiving dinners in the United States is a roasted turkey. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it is expected that over 243 million broad-breasted white turkeys–the standard turkey found in your local supermarket–will be raised in the United States. [Read more…]

I Am Mouse, Hear Me Roar

mouse

Mice and many other rodents make ultrasonic sounds that they use to attract mates and defend territories. (Photo credit: Digital Zoo/Getty Images)

Stammering speech, or stuttering, has traditionally been thought to be an indication of anxiety or stress. A large amount of evidence, however, has long supported the idea that it must have some genetic component. For instance, identical twins often both stutter, as do other family members. In 2008, scientists at the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders identified that those who stuttered often had a mutation in the gene Gnptab. The discovery was particularly interesting, because, previously, the gene had only been believed to be related to “general housekeeping” of the body, such as digestion. How could a gene that affects every cell of the body cause something so mechanical as stuttering? [Read more…]

Measles Declared Eradicated in the Region of the Americas

measles virus

The measles virus is highly contagious and can cause serious health complications. (Art credit: Mehau Kulyk/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recently declared that the Region of the Americas (which includes 48 member countries and territories in North, Central, and South America) is the first in the world to completely eliminate the measles virus. The eradication of the measles virus was the culmination of a 22-year effort focused on vaccinating populations against measles, mumps, and rubella. [Read more…]

A “Sixth Sense”? It May Be in Your Genes

blind-folded woman

Scientists have discovered proteins responsible for proprioception. (Photo credit: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock)

As senses go, touch might be the least understood. While touch-associated maladies do exist, we don’t often read about sufferers from them. A team of researchers at the Scripps Research Institute spent decades looking into how organisms perceive changes in temperature and pressure. [Read more…]