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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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…]

52 Environmental Things to Do for Earth Day (and Every Day)

planet Earth

April 22 marks the 46th annual celebration of Earth Day. (Photo credit: Digital Vision/Getty Images)

April 22 marks the 48th annual Earth Day celebration. Earth Day was originally established by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 to bring environmental issues to the forefront of the national agenda. Until then, there were little to no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect the environment.

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Vaccination: Increasing Your Shot at a Long, Healthy Life

Vaccinations save lives. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Today, vaccinations exist for a variety of diseases, including measles, tetanus, and everyone’s least favorite wintertime malady, influenza (i.e., the flu). But how are these vaccines developed? More important, are they safe?

vaccine

A number of illnesses and diseases can be prevented through vaccination. (Photo credit: Richard Shock/Corbis)

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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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Drones Launch Wildlife Research to New Heights

drone launching

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, also called drones) can cover more ground and easily access hard-to-reach areas. (Photo credit: Sander van Andel/REX Shutterstock/Associated Press)

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—more familiarly known as drones—are quickly becoming a key piece of equipment for wildlife researchers. UAVs are safer, less costly, more efficient, and more precise than other, more traditional wildlife research methods. [Read more…]

Where Do Insects Go When it Snows?

stonefly

Some insects, such as the stonefly, thrive in the harsh conditions of winter. (Photo credit: Photo Fun/Shutterstock)

For those who don’t like the cold and snow,perhaps the one good thing about winter is the fact that were not bothered by a lot of insects. Insects, however, don’t disappear when its cold. [Read more…]

Bringing Heritage Turkeys Back to the Thanksgiving Table

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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…]

Cephalopod Intelligence Tied to Genetic Anomaly

cuttlefish

Cuttlefish (shown here), squid, and octopuses can edit their own RNA. (Photo credit: David Litman/Shutterstock)

Cephalopods, such as the squid and octopus, have long been known for their wily intelligence. Their complex behaviors include unlocking and escaping from aquarium tanks, opening jars, and communicating with one another using a system similar to Morse code. These underwater creatures, along with cuttlefishes, are all coleoids, which is a subclass of cephalopods. New research highlights another unique ability of these underwater creatures: they can edit their own RNA. [Read more…]

World’s Oldest Homo sapiens Fossils Discovered

hominin skull

These images show two views of a composite reconstruction of the earliest known Homo sapiens fossils discovered in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco. (Photo credit: Philipp Gunz/Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

It’s time to rewrite the textbooks. Until now, the oldest known Homo sapiens fossils, found in Omo Kibish in Ethiopia, dated to 195,000 years ago. The new fossils, discovered in Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, date to approximately 300,000 years ago. This means the new findings predate the previous oldest-known fossils by over 100,000 years.

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