Take a minute to watch this video, and you may find the article below worth the read:
A chromolithograph of Christopher Columbus arriving at the Caribbean. Credit Louis Prang and Company/Getty Images
Thanks to Carl Zimmer for this 1493-ish story:
Many botanists argued that humans must have carried the valuable staple to the Pacific from South America, a hidden chapter in human history. Not so, according to a new study.
The distribution of the sweet potato plant has baffled scientists. How could the plant arise from a wild ancestor in the Americas and wind up on islands across the Pacific? Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times
Of all the plants that humanity has turned into crops, none is more puzzling than the sweet potato. Indigenous people of Central and South America grew it on farms for generations, and Europeans discovered it when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean.
In the 18th century, however, Captain Cook stumbled across sweet potatoes again — over 4,000 miles away, on remote Polynesian islands. European explorers later found them elsewhere in the Pacific, from Hawaii to New Guinea.
The distribution of the plant baffled scientists. How could sweet potatoes arise from a wild ancestor and then wind up scattered across such a wide range? Was it possible that unknown explorers carried it from South America to countless Pacific islands? Continue reading
Athoor, Dindigul, Tamil Nadu
Illustrations by R. Kikuo Johnson
Yesterday our attention was riveted by heroic efforts in the Highlands to re-wild, and today it is back to the sadder topic of un-wilding. Thanks to Rachel Nuwer for this article on a topic long of interest in these pages:
R. Kikuo Johnson
JAKARTA — In the market for a new pet? Maybe something a bit exotic? For many consumers, reptiles and amphibians are just the thing: geckos, monitors, pythons, tree frogs, boas, turtles and many more species are available in seemingly endless varieties, many brilliantly colored, some exceedingly rare.
Exotic reptiles and amphibians began surging in popularity in the early 1990s, not only in the United States but also in Europe and Japan. From 2004 to 2014, the European Union imported nearly 21 million of these animals; an estimated 4.7 million households in the United States owned at least one reptile in 2016.
But popularity has spawned an enormous illegal trade, conservationists say. Many reptiles sold as pets are said to have been bred in captivity, and sales of those animals are legal. In fact, many — perhaps most, depending on the species — were illegally captured in the wild. Continue reading
Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY
Eurasian grey wolves at the Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie, Scotland.
Thanks to Kevin McKenna and the Guardian for this profile of an entrepreneurial conservation project that is quite in the spirit of our work over the last two decades. We salute Paul Lister and his team for this wonder:
Thanks to Livia Albeck-Ripka and the New York Times for this
female – Baja California Sur, Mexico
We are already big fans of this fruit, for all kinds of reasons, so this is like icing on the cake:
A banana might reasonably replace sports drinks for those of us who rely on carbohydrates to fuel exercise and speed recovery, according to a new study comparing the cellular effects of carbohydrates consumed during sports.
It found that a banana, with its all-natural package, provides comparable or greater anti-inflammatory and other benefits for athletes than sports drinks. But there may be a downside, and it involves bloating.
For decades, athletes and their advisers have believed, and studies have confirmed, that eating or drinking carbohydrates during prolonged exertion can enable someone to continue for longer or at higher intensities and recover more quickly afterward than if he or she does not eat during the workout. Continue reading
female – Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Kerala
Parque del Acueducto, Cali, Colombia
A UK levy of 5p per bag introduced in 2015 has already reduced single-use plastic bags by 85%. Photograph: Stuart Kelly/Alamy Stock Photo
We never tire of reporting on efforts at plastic-reduction, so thanks to Juliette Jowit and the Guardian for this update:
Image © National Geographic
In 2016 I wrote a couple times about eBird’s data––the observations contributed by citizen scientists––being used for migration maps, among other things. Those posts included animated gif images that illustrated the flow of thousands of birds across the Western Hemisphere at different times of year, which could be used in a casual setting to predict when to go out looking for a target species one wants to see in the wild, or in a conservation setting to know what time of the year is best to enforce certain environmental regulations, like open hunting or hiking seasons in sensitive areas. The moving maps also served as a mesmerizing graphic to simply astound us with the magnitude of travel these birds are undertaking.