Wild Things: Life as We Know It

Flamingos, T. rex Tails, Burmese monkeys and more…

Cheryl Carlin

Tail Power

Tyrannosaurus rex
(Scott Hartman)
Researchers underestimate Tyrannosaurus rex tail muscle mass by as much as 45 percent, say University of Alberta scientists who compared its tail vertebrae with those of modern reptiles. Heftier muscles, from the base of the tail to the hind legs, made the fierce dino more agile than commonly thought.

A Touch of Rouge

Greater Flamingo
(Michael Weber / Imagebroker / FLPA)
A flamingo's pink color comes from pigments concentrated in the brine shrimp and other foods it eats. How does a flamingo attract a mate after its feathers fade? Cosmetics, according to a study in Spain. Males and females secrete pigments from a gland near the tail, and they rub the secretions on their feathers, brightening their color during breeding season. Once a flamingo has found a mate, it spends less time applying makeup.

Learn more about the greater flamingo at the Encyclopedia of Life.

The First Greens

(Jan-Peter Frahm)
Plants that greened the earth 400 million years ago probably needed help. In experiments with liverworts, the most ancient plant group, scientists in Britain and Australia found that fungi may have provided nutrients to the plants as they spread across the continents.

Learn more about liverwort at the Encyclopedia of Life.

Sneezing in the Rain

Burmese snub-nosed monkey
(Martin Averling / Fauna & Flora International)
Wildlife biologists conducting a census in remote mountains of Myanmar have documented the existence of a primate previously unknown to science. They learned of the Burmese snub-nosed monkey from local residents, who said they can hear the monkey in the rain. Apparently, raindrops trickle into its upturned nostrils, causing the animal to sneeze.


religious festival
(Mona Lisa Productions)
Name: Atlantic molly (Poecilia mexicana), a freshwater fish in caves in southern Mexico.
Party: For a religious feast, the Zoque people added poisonous barbasco plant roots to the water and ate fish that floated to the surface.
Hearty: Over centuries, a new study says, fish developed tolerance to the poison and passed the trait to offspring, leading to resistant populations. Michael Tobler from Oklahoma State University says "the fish responded to [the ritual] evolutionarily."
Lights Out: The festival has been discontinued to protect the cave.

Learn more about the Atlantic molly at the Encyclopedia of Life.

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