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Incredible Animal Adaptations

Greg Laden reports that scientists have sequenced the genome of the Tammar Wallaby, which boasts “the longest period of embryonic diapause of any known mammal, highly synchronized seasonal breeding and an unusual system of lactation.” The new research “provides a hitherto lacking understanding of marsupial gene evolution and hopes to have identified marsupial-specific genetic elements.” Dr. Dolittle shares more amazing research on Life Lines, telling us seals can cool off their brains while diving to conserve oxygen. They do this by shunting blood “to large superficial veins allowing heat to escape to the environment” instead of “routing the blood through arterio-venous heat exchangers.” And on The Weizmann Wave, researchers conclude fruit bats use more than echolocation to navigate after gluing tiny GPS transmitters to their backs. Bats released 84 kilometers from home made straight for their old haunts—as soon as they had a line of sight. This suggests bats “watch for prominent visual landmarks” to “judge their distance and mentally triangulate their positions,” and could even “sense directional sea breezes or magnetic fields.”

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