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Anecdotes from the Archive

Battle of Gallipoli: A Strategic View, 1915

Giant guns of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the most powerful battleship afloat when it shelled Turkish forts onshore. The main battery of 15-inch guns was impressive, but not particularly useful against well-camouflaged land targets.  Image: Scientific American, April 13, 1918

Scientific American looked at the wider context of the battle for Gallipoli. This Week in World War I: April 24, 1915 April 25, 2015, marks the 100-year anniversary of an important battle in the First World War: it was a major defeat for the Allies (Britain, France and Russia) and a great victory for the [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Proud Battleships, Subtle Mines: Dardanelles, 1915

British battleship "Irresistible," launched 1898, sunk in the Dardanelles, 1915.  Image: Scientific American, April 3, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: April 3, 1915 “The day when Constantinople will be covered by the guns of the enemy is not very far distant.” That’s the ebulliant sentence from the article in Scientific American two weeks before this one, just after the initial British and French attack near [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Naval Attack on the Dardanelles: Prelude to a Disaster, 1915

French battleship “Bouvet.” The ship attacked Turkish forts in the Dardanelles and was sunk by a mine on March 18, with a disastrous loss of life. Image: Scientific American, March 20, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: March 20, 1915 The report published in this issue from a century ago delivers a robustly optimistic outlook on the Allied attack on Turkish territory at the entrance to the waterway between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean: “If the great Mahan were living to-day [...]

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Compound Eye

An Australian Insect Sampler

brentidae2f

The wayward continent of Australia is famous for the strange and relictual creatures that have evolved in near-complete isolation. The insects are no exception. I spent December travelling the great southern continent, and of the 3,000 exposures I took during the month here are a few of my favorites:

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Extinction Countdown

Sunday Species Snapshot: Swift Parrot

swift parrot

The beautiful bird known as the swift parrot may be on the fast track to extinction. Species name: Swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) Description: A small bird, just 25 centimeters long, with bright features and a particularly showy attitude. Where found: Small portions of Tasmania. The birds also migrate to mainland Australia after their breeding season. [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Teeny, Tiny Relative of Komodo Dragon Discovered in Australia

dampier-peninsula-goanna

Lizards don’t get much bigger than the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), which can reach three meters in length and may weigh as much as 70 kilograms. But not every member of the Varanus genus is a giant. Scientists in Australia last month unveiled the newest Varanus species and it’s as small as the Komodo is [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Holiday Species Snapshot: Christmas Island Shrew

christmas island shrew

Many species don’t have anything to be thankful for this holiday season. Here’s one that may have already been lost. Species name: The Christmas Island shrew (Crocidura trichura) Where found: This miniscule mammal only exists—if it still exists at all—on Australia’s Christmas Island, a tiny dot in the Indian Ocean that is also home to [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Butt-Breathing Turtle Now Critically Endangered

butt-breathing turtle

Few reptiles can breathe underwater. Australia is home to one of the exceptions, the white-throated snapping turtle (Elseya albagula), which can extract oxygen from water through its backside via a process called cloacal respiration. This unusual technique, shared by a handful of other turtle and fish species, gave the turtles an evolutionary advantage for millennia, [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Halloween Horrors: The Ghost Bat (aka the False Vampire Bat)

ghost bat

Something ghostly and hungry flies the skies of northern Australia. Its massive white wings stand out against the darkness as it circles, searching for prey. When it finds something tasty this unusual creature darts out of the sky, grabs its dinner in its claws, presses it to the ground and bites into the neck with [...]

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Extinction Countdown

A Wild Idea: Save Tasmanian Devils While Controlling Killer Cats

tasmanian devils

Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) disappeared from mainland Australia centuries ago, probably not long after humans first brought dingoes to the continent. A new plan could bring the infamous, snarling predators back from the island of Tasmania to Oz. That would not only benefit the devils, which are dying out due to a communicable cancer, but [...]

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Extinction Countdown

This Rare White Possum Could Soon Be a Ghostly Memory

white lemuroid ringtail possum

A ghost lives in the Daintree Rainforest in northeastern Queensland, Australia. There, on a single mountain range located 1,100 meters above sea level, scientists have recently found what may be the last few white lemuroid ringtail possums (Hemibelideus lemuroides), a species that was all but wiped out by a heat wave in 2005. They may [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Island Sanctuary Could Save Sex-Crazed Northern Quoll

northern quoll

Life is tough if you’re a northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus). These rare, cat-sized Australian marsupials don’t have very long life spans—especially males, which tend to die after their first mating experience when less than a year old. You see, all female quolls go into heat at the same time, and it drives the males a [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Climate Change Could Wipe Out the World’s Smallest Kangaroo [Video]

musky rat kangaroo

Scientists in Australia have warned that we’d better get hopping and slow down climate change if we want to prevent the world’s smallest kangaroo from going extinct. The musky rat-kangaroo (Hypsiprymnodon moschatus), which reaches just 35 centimeters in length, lives in a tiny stretch of tropical rainforest on Australia’s northeastern coast. According to researchers from [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Poisoning Dingoes Has Domino Effect on Australia’s Biodiversity

dingo

Australia has a long history of poisoning its dingoes (Canis lupus dingo), which have an unfair reputation of preying on sheep and other livestock. But according to a new study, killing the country’s native canines may have had unintended consequences, dramatically impacting the biodiversity in regions where dingo populations have been reduced or removed. The [...]

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Observations

A Proposal to Introduce Elephants to Australia: Really?

elephants

Why not bring elephants to Australia? That’s the proposal made by biologist David Bowman of the University of Tasmania in a comment published February 2 in Nature. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) The pachyderms could help to polish off gamba grass, introduced from Africa to Australia in the 1930s as fodder for [...]

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Running Ponies

The Great Emu War: In which some large, flightless birds unwittingly foiled the Australian Army

emu-wars

I have to admit it – that’s some real Australian behaviour going on up there. Why are the emus so attracted to his upside-down bicycling? Beats me, but maybe his upturned shoes look like comely emu heads. Which sounds kinda dumb, but don’t let those 80-pound lugs fool you – they once brought the Australian [...]

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Running Ponies

Congratulations on your new fluffy record, Tufted Ground Squirrel. Please don’t eat our livers.

tufted-ground-squirrel-running-ponies-featured

It’s a record that none of us even knew existed, but the tufted ground squirrel from Borneo is the official owner of the Fluffiest Tail in the World. Good job, tufted ground squirrel. We’ll never know the sacrifices you made to achieve such fluff, the lost time with your family and friends that you’ll never get [...]

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Running Ponies

King of the Killer Whales: The Legend of Old Tom and the Gruesome ‘Law of the Tongue’

old-tom-killer-whale-featured

This is the story of an orca named Old Tom, who during the early 20th century spent almost four decades helping fishermen catch baleen whales off the coast of Australia. In return, Old Tom and his pod feasted on the lips and tongues of the whalers’ haul. The coastal town of Eden sits just over [...]

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Running Ponies

New Species of Peacock Spider has Leopard Spots and Cat-like Moves

peacock-spider-jurgen-otto

This is my second post in a week featuring spiders doing undeniably adorable things – dancing and cartwheels. It’s as if spiders know they have a reputation problem and have launched some kind of secret PR campaign to highlight their cuter, less-likely-to-give-you-skin-rot members. But then a bunch of ‘yellow sac spiders’ (cuteness diminishing) invaded a [...]

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Running Ponies

Meet Australia’s Easter Bunny: the Long-Eared Greater Bilby

greater-bilby-featured

Easter in Australia is pretty much the same as Easter elsewhere in the world. We do Easter egg hunts and put sad-looking yellow chickens with loose eyespots on display in straw nests and eat nothing but chocolate for three days straight. But there’s a war going on, and the Easter Bunny is at the centre [...]

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Running Ponies

Move Over, Snotty: Australian Jellyfish Crambione Cookii Filmed for the First Time

crambione-cookii-featured

It’s jellyfish mania in Australia right now, thanks to our snotastic new friend, whose discovery on a Tasmanian beach was announced just last week. While Captain Vom waits patiently for his new official name, we’ve got time to welcome another Australian jellyfish species into the spotlight, and this one’s been waiting more than a century [...]

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