Wild Things: Life as We Know It

Feathered dinosaurs, white-coated horses, giant redwoods and more…

Camargue horses running through water France
Camargue horses running through water France © Steve Bloom Images / Alamy

Sequoias In The Mist

Coast redwoods
(James P. Blair / National Geographic Stock)
Coast redwoods, which can grow more than 300 feet tall and live 2,000 years, depend on fog, which protects them during droughts. A University of California at Berkeley study suggests the trees may be in trouble: coastal fog in Northern California and Oregon has inexplicably decreased by 33 percent since the early 20th century.

Learn more about coast redwoods at the Encyclopedia of Life.

Bloomin' Tide

algae
(Vince Lovko)
When certain marine algae proliferate or "bloom," they can release toxins that kill fish—and even sicken beachgoers. Scientists believed the toxins primarily deterred fish that prey on the algae themselves. But a new University of Minnesota-led study says the widespread algae Karlodinium veneficum, which cause blooms called "brown tide," release toxins to paralyze another type of algae. In lab tests, K. veneficum algae lurked near their stunned prey, presumably waiting to feed.

Share and Share Alike

Bonobos
(© Frans Lanting / Corbis)
Bonobos have what was thought to be a uniquely human trait: they share. Researchers in Congo tested the great apes by placing one bonobo in a room that had food and another bonobo in an empty room next-door. The one with the food usually invited the other over for a bite to eat. (Chimpanzees, a closely related species, don't do this.) Bonobo generosity wasn’t dependent on kinship, pressure or past favors. Instead the animals may have expected a favor in return or they may have had "a more altruistic motivation."

Learn more about bonobos at the Encyclopedia of Life.

Living Color

Anchiornis huxleyi
(Michael DiGiorgio / Yale University)
Paleontologists have speculated that dinosaurs weren't drab, but how were they actually colored? A 156-million-year-old feathered theropod, Anchiornis huxleyi, is the subject of the first scientific reconstruction of a dinosaur’s color pattern. Researchers analyzed cellular structures called melanosomes in an exquisitely preserved fossil from China and compared them with similar structures in modern birds. The four-winged dinosaur had a coppery crest, a speckled face and white-striped wings.

Learn more about Anchiornis huxleyi at our Dinosaur Tracking blog.

Observed

Equus caballus
(© Steve Bloom Images / Alamy)
Name: The horse (Equus caballus), specifically the white horse.
Among Humans: Prized.
Among Flies: Not so much.
Among Horses: White-coated horses are more susceptible to skin cancer and vision problems than more darkly pigmented herd mates. But this is a mixed curse, researchers studying a herd in Hungary have found. Blood-sucking, disease-spreading flies that prey on horses find their victims in part by detecting the polarized light reflected by the horses’ coats. White coats reflect light differently, making them less vulnerable to fly attacks.

Learn more about horses at the Encyclopedia of Life.