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 Mouse That Sings

singing mouse

The deer mouse is just one type of mouse that is known to sing. (Photo credit: Thomas Kitchin and Victoria Hurst/Design Pics Inc./Alamy)

You are likely quite familiar with the sound of birds singing. You might have also heard the sounds of frogs singing a chorus around a pond or lake. But did you know that some mice sing too? What is the reason behind this unusual behavior? [Read more…]

Yes, We Have No Bananas – The Demise of the Cavendish

Whether sliced into a bowl of cereal, split in two and served with ice cream, or peeled and eaten, the banana is a common part of the American diet. Americans eat more bananas annually than oranges and apples combined. Bananas are an excellent source of vitamins, including B6 and C, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. While Americans typically view bananas as a snack food, in other parts of the world, they hold a much more important nutritional role. In some areas of Africa, where more than 200 species of the fruit are grown, bananas account for 80% of consumed calories. However, the banana that you know and love a variety called the Cavendish is in danger of being wiped out by a catastrophic disease currently spreading across the globe.

bananas

The Cavendish variety accounts for nearly 100% of the bananas imported around the world.(Photo credit: Muellek Josef/Shutterstock)

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Sunk On Purpose

Did you know that the coastlines of the United States have become a dumping ground for old ships, subway cars, and tanks, among other things? Sounds like a major source of ocean pollution, right? Well, think again. All of these items have been placed onto the bottom of the ocean on purpose as a way to build up marine habitat. [Read more…]

Hate Cilantro? Blame Your Genes

New research indicates that your love (or hate) for cilantro depends on your genes. (Photo credit: Marnie Burkhart/Fancy/Alamy Images)

When it comes to the taste of cilantro in a spicy bowl of soup or wrapped up in a burrito, where do you stand? Do you find its taste refreshing? Or does it seem like you’re eating a mouthful of soap? This seemingly-benign herb elicits a love-hate relationship for many people. New research indicates that your genes may dictate your initial reaction to the flavor of this green herb.

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What Wombats Leave Behind

wombat

Wombats are furry marsupials endemic to Australia. (Photo credit: covenant/Shutterstock)

Let’s be honest, poop is kind of gross. It’s not something normally discussed in polite company. Yet, we can all agree it serves a purpose. Beyond the obvious purpose of eliminating wastes, what organisms excrete also can help both human and animal doctors diagnose illnesses and assess the general health of a patient. In the wild, “scat,” as it’s often referred to, has even greater significance. [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…]

The Curious Case of the Platypus

The platypus is native to Australia. (Photo Credit: Peter Scoones/Photo Researchers, Inc.)

The platypus is a curious animal. It has a bill like a duck, it produces milk and has fur like a mammal, and it lays eggs like a reptile. Scientists recently sequenced the entire genome of a platypus and discovered that its odd appearance is in fact a testament to its bird, reptile, and mammal ancestors. [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…]

How ‘Super’ Are Superfoods?

superfoods

Some foods, such as asparagus and blueberries, are called superfoods. But what — if anything — does it mean to be a superfood? (Photo credit: Marilyn Barbone/Shutterstock)

If you search the term superfoods, the results will include a seemingly endless list of articles expounding upon the health benefits of various fruits, vegetables, and other foods. Most likely, the articles also will have headlines such as “The 10 Best Superfoods for Weight Loss” or “8 Superfoods that Prevent Cancer.” But what exactly makes a certain food item super? And, will eating these superfoods really benefit your health? [Read more…]