Wild Things: Tarantulas, Jellyfish and More...
Hummingbirds, attacking bears, ancient hominids and other news updates in wildlife research
- By T.A. Frail, Megan Gambino, Laura Helmuth, Erin Wayman and Sarah Zielinski
- Smithsonian magazine, July-August 2011,
Resin cast of Paranthropus boisei, known as "Nutcracker Man," a hominid that lived in Africa around 1.75 million years ago. It was found by Mary Leakey in the Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, in 1959. (Barbara Strnadova / Photo Researchers, Inc.)
Name: Paranthropus boisei, a human relative that lived in East Africa from about 2.3 million to 1.2 million years ago.
Dentition: Its massive jaw and flat molars gave rise to the belief that its diet consisted of nuts, which other nearby primates ate also. Its nickname is “Nutcracker Man.”
Nutrition: A new analysis of carbon isotopes in teeth from 22 individuals strongly suggests that P. boisei ate grasses and sedges instead.
Competition: “It was not competing for food with most other primates,” says Kevin Uno of the University of Utah, a researcher on the new study, “but with grazers”—ancestors of today’s zebras, pigs and hippos.
"Box Jellyfish Use Terrestrial Visual Cues for Navigation," Anders Garm et al., Current Biology, April 28, 2011
"The hummingbird tongue is a fluid trap, not a capillary tube," Alejandro Rico-Guevara and Margaret A. Rubega, PNAS, May 2, 2011
"Tarantulas cling to smooth vertical surfaces by secreting silk from their feet," F. Claire Rind et al., Journal of Experimental Biology, June 1, 2011
"Diet of Paranthropus boisei in the early Pleistocene of East Africa," Thure E. Cerling et al., PNAS, May 2, 2011
"Fatal attacks by American black bear on people: 1900–2009," Stephen Herrero et al., Journal of Wildlife Management, May 11, 2011