Wild Things: Life as We Know It

Mosquitoes, New Zealand flightless birds, pink lizards and more

Gumprechts green pit viper
In a span of ten years, more than 1,000 species were discovered in Southeast Asia's Greater Mekong region. Rene Ries

Species Hot Spot

Species Hot spot
(Maura McCarthy)
Between 1997 and 2007, more than 1,000 species previously unknown to science were discovered in Southeast Asia's Greater Mekong region, according to a report by the World Wildlife Fund. That's about two new species a week. The Greater Mekong has the highest concentration of different ecosystems in mainland Asia, and the Mekong River supports more wildlife per square mile than the Amazon. Newly documented flora and fauna include, clockwise from upper right, a woolly bat (Kerivoula titania); Aeschynanthus mendumiae; Gumprecht's green pit viper (Trimeresurus gumprechti); and the dragon millipede (Desmoxytes purpurosea).

Vision Thing

(Maura McCarthy)
The rarely seen spookfish dwells in dark ocean depths, where bioluminescent flashes from other creatures can be the only light. When scientists this past year caught a live spookfish for the first time in the South Pacific, they found its two elaborate eyes are positioned to capture light from both above and below. Stranger still, reflective crystals focus light onto the retina—making the spookfish the only vertebrate whose vision is based on mirrors.

Mosquito Love Duet

(Maura McCarthy)
When two mosquitoes of the opposite sex approach each other, according to new research at Cornell University, they synchronize their wing beats and harmonize the buzzing, producing a high-frequency love duet. The researchers theorize that the ritual evolved as a form of sexual selection that helps females pick mates: if a male can't keep up with her song, she'll fly away to find a real Pavarotti.

Yes, This Big Lizard Is Pink

Pink lizard from the Galapagos Islands
(Maura McCarthy)
A new study from the University of Rome Tor Vergata shows that a rare strawberry-tinted land iguana in the Galápagos Islands is genetically distinct from other iguanas there, having diverged from them more than five million years ago as the archipelago formed. The rosada iguana—which escaped Darwin's notice—was discovered only recently, largely because it lives on the desolate slopes of an active volcano.


Giant moa
(Maura McCarthy)
Name: Moa, flightless birds (order Dinornithiformes) from New Zealand that went extinct hundreds of years ago.
High Life: Some species stood taller than nine feet and were believed to have feasted primarily on trees and shrubs.
Low Life: Some bent low to eat herbs, according to a new analysis of fossilized moa dung by researchers from New Zealand and Australia.
Balanced Life: Several of these plant species are now rare, perhaps in part because moas no longer spread their seeds around.

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