Tag Archives: animals

The Shadow of Surface Tension

An insect like a wasp or a water strider can rest atop the water, held up by surface tension. This means that the cohesive force of the water molecules sticking to each other is stronger than the force of the bug being pushed down by gravity. This works because it spreads its weight out over a large surface area (like snowshoes). That creates a slight indentation in the top of the water, changing the direction that the light coming down is refracted and re-directing it slightly sideways (that’s where the bright halos around the dark areas come from). And what’s the absence of light?

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Ever wonder what an owl would look like without feathers? Like a skinny cartoon vulture.

I’m really not sure about the scientific accuracy of this one. But still, interesting theory.

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Giant prehistoric penguins

I love penguins. I truly do. So when I see any news/pictures/neat things about them I’ll usually post them. This little piece I found pretty interesting. Apparently, about 25 million years ago, in what would have been New Zealand, 5 foot tall giant penguins were waddling around. Not only did they add a few extra feet of penguin to the fun, but according to the awesome picture above, they killed a prehistoric dolphin ancestor, which is neat.

Named Kairuku, a Maori word that means “diver who returns with food,” the penguin was reconstructed from fossilised bones that were collected in 1977 by Dr Ewan Fordyce, a paleontologist from the University of Otago. The bones drew the attention of Dan Ksepka from North Carolina State University because of the unusual shape of the body. “Kairuku was an elegant bird by penguin standards, with a slender body and long flippers, but short, thick legs and feet,” said Ksepka in a press release. “If we had done a reconstruction by extrapolating from the length of its flippers, it would have stood over six-feet tall. In reality, Kairuku was around four feet-and-two-inches tall or so.”

Aided by North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences colleague Paul Brinkman, Ksepka built the physical model of the bird using two separate fossils and the skeleton of an existing king penguin. The resultant reconstruction revealed a penguin that would have been the largest of the five species known to have lived in New Zealand during the Oligocene period. Said Ksepka in the release: “The location was great for penguins in terms of both food and safety. Most of New Zealand was underwater at that time, leaving isolated, rocky land masses that kept the penguins safe from potential predators and provided them with a plentiful food supply.”

The results, which have been published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, are hoped will aid the research into the entire prehistoric penguin population in this area. “This species gives us a more complete picture of these giant penguins generally, and may help us to determine how great their range was during the Oligocene period,” says Ksepka.

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The T-Rex had the strongest bite of any animal, ever. (Still had girly arms)

The T-Rex has been the badass of the dinosaurs for as long as I can remember. In recent years however they have come under attack from stupid idiots who said that they were nothing more than giant scavengers and weren’t that badass at all. Thank god a new study has been released that gives good ol’ Rexy a little ego boost. The study found that the T-Rex had a much stronger bite fore than previously thought, stronger than any other animal in the history of the world. So fuck you sharks and crocodiles, you pussies.

Previous estimates of the prehistoric predator’s bite suggested it was much more modest – comparable to modern predators such as alligators.

This measurement, based on a laser scan of a T. rex skull, showed that its bite was equivalent to three tonnes – about the weight of an elephant.

The findings are published in the journal Biology Letters.

Dr Karl Bates from the biomechanics laboratory at the University of Liverpool led the research.

He and his colleague, Peter Falkingham from the University of Manchester, used the life-sized copy of a T. rex skeleton exhibited at Manchester Museum as a model for their study. “We digitised the skull with a laser scanner, so we had a 3-D model of the skull on our computer,” Dr Bates explained.

“Then we could map the muscles onto that skull.”

The scientists then reproduced the full force of a bite by activating the muscles to contract fully – snapping the digital jaws shut.

“Those [simulated] muscles closed the jaw as they would in life and… we measured the force when the teeth hit each other,” Dr Bates explained to BBC Nature.

“The maximum forces we found – up at the [back] teeth – were between 30,000 and 60,000 Newtons,” he said.

“That’s equivalent to a medium-sized elephant sitting on you.”

Previous studies had estimated that T. rex’s bite had a force of 8,000-13,000 Newtons.

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