nature

I received a Dear John letter from my blog. I’ve decided that I’d better spend some time working on our relationship or else it might leave me for good!

So here, for your approval, is video and a news article about an octopus that nearly drowned one of the scientists observing it. No, silly, not in a 40,000 Leagues Under the Sea kind of way. The scientist was so surprised at the antics of the little sucker(s) that he almost drowned trying to laugh and scuba drive at the same time!

King Arthur of Monty Python fame might be surprised to learn that it’s not swallows who carry coconuts!

Yes, apparently there is. The slime mold’s intelligence has been proven.

In their experiment, biophysicist Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University and colleagues manipulated the environment of Physarum slime-mold amoebas (near right). As the cells crawled across an agar plate, the researchers subjected them to cold, dry conditions for the first 10 minutes of every hour. During these cool spells, the cells slowed down their motion. After three cold snaps the scientists stopped changing the temperature and humidity and watched to see whether the amoebas had learned the pattern. Sure enough, many of the cells throttled back right on the hour in anticipation of another bout of cold weather. When conditions stayed stable for a while, the slime-mold amoebas gave up on their hourly braking, but when another single jolt of cold was applied, they resumed the behavior and correctly recalled the 60-minute interval. The amoebas were also able to respond to other intervals, ranging from 30 to 90 minutes.

The jury’s still out on the rest of us, though.

With the end of winter fast approaching, I thought today would be a good time to celebrate the snowflake with a gorgeous image gallery. Naturally, those are professional photots, but I’m assured that anyone can take amazing pictures of snowflakes with the right camera. If that’s a bit beyond your budget, consider this flash game instead.

Or, just head out and enjoy your snow while you still have it. I’ll be sitting here in sunny FL wishing for hot cocoa (with marshmallows) weather and missing the hours I used to spend building snowmen, sledding and ice skating.

As promised, here’s another pretty cool webcam that I’ve followed over the years. It’s a live video feed of a stork nest in Vetschau, Germany. It’s a little early yet, to feature this cam, as the birds have not arrived back in Europe from their winter grounds in Africa.

Once the birds arrive, this cam will allow you to watch their mating rituals, hear their bill clattering (which is really the only vocalization these birds make and is quite unusual) and perhaps watch the chicks hatch. Over the summer, the chicks will grow and eventually leave the nest for their annual migration. Once they reach sexual maturity, they will migrate back from Africa to start their own families and will continue to pilgrimage annually throughout their lives.

I have not yet managed to catch a hatching, but I have seen first flights and fall leave-takings. I’ll be watching again this spring in the hopes of catching the elusive hatching experience.