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How a tokey gecko can eliminate the need to use insecticides at your home?

Holding a tokey gecko.

Roach Ruin

When chemical sprays failed to stay the advances of cockroaches in their apartment, three New Yorkers called in a professional exterminator from Southeast Asia.

“They bought a Tokay Gecko, a foot-long lizard with beady chartreuse eyes, garish orange polka dots and a voracious appetite for insects,” reports the New York Times.

From its home under the refrigerator, the lizard came out to feed nightly on the teeming insects.

“We used to hear him crunching on them at night,” said one of the apartment dwellers.

“It woke us up at first, but after a few nights we got used to it.”

In a few months the gecko brought the roach numbers down to “manageable proportions.”

Why some orphaned young elephants have become rogue elephants?

Young orphaned young elephants.

Elephant delinquents

“Like children, young elephants need discipline if they are to grow up as responsible members of society,” notes New Scientist.

“Wildlife biologists say that orphan bull elephants in South Africa’s Pilanesberg Game Reserve have turned delinquent because they have never been taken in hand by their elders.”

The rogue elephants have attacked humans, have gored to death 19 white rhinoceroses in the past three years, and have even tried to mate with rhinos.

Two humans were killed, including a professional hunter sent out to shoot an offending elephant after it had charged a group of tourists.

In each instance, the delinquent animal was from a group of young male elephants brought into the reserve from Kruger National Park after the rest of their herd was culled to control the size of the elephant population.

While a number of factors have placed stress on the elephants, scientists feel that the lack of discipline and nurturing from older animals, a dominant feature of the normal life of elephant families, is at least partly responsible for their wayward behavior.

Now, only whole elephant families will be moved so that the young bulls “will continue to receive the strict parental discipline they need,” says the article.

How the abalone snail amazingly engineers it's shell?

Abalone snail shell.

Abalone shell

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to snap a piece of chalk crayon in two?

But now, try to snap the shell of the red abalone in two.

Chances are you would need a hammer to break it.

Yet the abalone shell is made of the same stuff as the chalk—calcium carbonate.

The shell is just put together differently.

So differently, in fact, that it is some 40 times more resistant to fracturing than chalk crayon is.

How does the abalone manage this engineering feat?

Scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle, U.S.A., have unlocked some of this marine snail’s secrets.

The abalone uses its single dish-like shell as a protective wall against the world outside.

For the sake of strength, the shell grows in layers.

The outer layer is rough and coarse.

But the inner layer, called the nacre, glistens in translucent beauty, and herein lies the shell’s strength.

The Washington scientists have learned that this inner layer “has a laminated, brick-and-mortar structure,” notes Science News.

Only about a micron wide (one millionth of a meter), these tiny bricks are held together with a mortar made by the abalone itself, a powerful adhesive that scientists are still trying to figure out.

Scientists say that the layers of microscopic “bricks” absorb impacts by sliding against adjacent layers.

Meanwhile, the organic layers of mortar somehow bridge developing cracks with special “ligaments.” In all, the shell may have as many as five mechanisms for resisting breakage!

Scientists are so impressed with the abalone’s remarkably strong shell that they are trying to develop similar techniques in making strong ceramics.

If they succeed, they will no doubt be showered with applause.

Why the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between North And South Korea is a safe haven for migratory birds?

Migratory birds flocking to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between North and South Korea.

Best Refuge

One unexpected outcome of dividing Korea into two has been the creating of a wildlife sanctuary in the DMZ (demilitarized zone).

Although soldiers sometimes go into this two-and-a-half-mile-wide [4 km] ribbon of land that stretches across the country, hunting is strictly forbidden.

“So tense is the atmosphere,” observes columnist S. Chang in Japan’s Daily Yomiuri, “that even a single shot fired at a stray animal or bird could touch off an eruption of gunfire from tens of thousands of troops deployed on both sides.”

The result is a quiet no-man’s land where nature flourishes.

In particular, wild boars, roe deer, badgers, and scores of varieties of birds and freshwater fish are increasing.

Migratory birds flock here, and even endangered species have found a haven.

With two strong armies keeping people out, these clever creatures have located to what must at present be one of the safest homes in the world for wildlife

How is a tiny cricket able to make such a loud noise?

Picture of a tiny cricket on a leave.

Insect amplifiers

Have you ever wondered how the little tree cricket can pierce the air with such a loud sound?

Researchers believe that they have discovered the secret.

They observed a number of crickets “singing” with their bodies protruding through holes that they had gnawed in leaves.

Apparently they were using the leaves as a sounding board for amplification, as the noise level was far lower when they “sang” without the leaves.

What is the difference between a toad and a frog?

Picture of a marbled reed frog.

For centuries toads and frogs have had a bad reputation.

“They cause warts.”

“Witches can turn people into toads and frogs.”

Who has not heard the fairy tale of the ugly frog that turns into a handsome prince when kissed by a princess?

However, since the popularity of Kermit the Frog in the children’s TV program “Sesame Street” and in “The Muppet Show,” frogs have been getting a more favorable press.

What is the truth about frogs and toads?

How do they differ?

Toad or Frog—What is the difference?

Let us set the record straight—viruses, not toads, cause warts.

And fairy tales are just that—fairy tales, fiction and myth.

And although witches do exist, they cannot change a person into a frog or a toad.

Frogs and toads are found in most parts of the world, but there are no frogs in Antarctica, nor are there toads in the Arctic.

There are about 3,800 species of frogs and toads, of which over 300 are toads. So how can you distinguish a toad from a frog?

The World Book Encyclopedia answers:

“Most true toads have a broader, flatter body and darker, drier skin than do most true frogs. True toads are commonly covered with warts, but true frogs have smooth skin. Unlike most true frogs, the majority of true toads live on land. The adults go to water only to breed.”

Frogs are usually found near water, ready to jump in when they hear you coming.

Most frogs have teeth only on their upper jaw.

Toads are toothless.

Thus, both swallow their prey whole.

Many frogs and toads produce powerful poisons.

The reddish-colored Costa Rican poison arrow frog (Dendrobates pumilio) is one example. Some frog poisons can easily kill a person.

The book Biology states:

“Native tribes in the tropics often poison their arrow tips by rubbing them on these frogs.”

Can a shark be loved by humans?

A woman under water together with a shark.

The fish that nobody loves

Is the shark your favorite fish?

Not likely.

To most people, the shark is no favorite, though for some it provides their favorite meal, their favorite type of hide, or perhaps their favorite creature to kill for sport.

More and more sharks are being killed for such reasons.

U.S.News & World Report notes that the annual catch of shark in just the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and off the U.S. East Coast has risen by over 1,000 percent in the last ten years!

If you have heard no outcry calling for protection of the shark, it is not surprising.

After all, many see the shark as a menace, an implacable eating machine with little in its brain besides an urge to sink its jaws into humans.

But while shark attacks do happen, they are much rarer than the purveyors of scary movies would have you believe.

According to U.S.News & World Report, “fewer than 100 [shark attacks] are reported worldwide each year, and not many are fatal.”

Besides, not all sharks are the attacking sort.

Species range in length from 4 inches [10 cm] to 60 feet [18 m], and in weight from under 1 ounce [28 gm] to 15 tons [14,000 kg]!

About 90 percent of the 300 species (including the very largest) pose no threat to humans.

And sharks are valuable.

Like undersea vacuum cleaners, they play a crucial cleanup role in the oceans, gobbling up diseased creatures and refuse.

Scientists eagerly study their defense system since sharks seem to be free of cancer or major infections.

Still, sharks are not invulnerable.

They reproduce slowly (giving birth to as few as two babies, or pups, in a year), so they may not spring back quickly if decimated.

Fortunately, the shark is finding some friends at last.

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries has produced a 100-page plan to protect the fish, calling for limits on how many sharks may be taken by humans

How a polar bears white coat is an engineering marvel?

Picture of a mother and baby polar bear.

Polar bear coat

Canadian wildlife census takers have found that they could not simply take conventional aerial photos of these creatures, since they blend into the white landscape.

Infrared film, usually ideal for photographing warm-blooded animals, also failed.

The animals were simply too well insulated to give off enough heat for the film to detect.

However, when ultraviolet film was used, white seals and polar bears showed up as stark black objects on the white background.

“While the snow reflected ultraviolet rays, the animals absorbed them,” reports The Toronto Star.


According to physicist Grojean and Gregory Kowalski, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, the bear’s coat holds the answer.

At the invisible, ultraviolet end of the spectrum, the hairs of the coat trap 90 percent of the ultraviolet light and transmit it to the black skin beneath, thereby warming the bear.

In the Arctic, where the temperature often dips to -20 degrees Fahrenheit [-29° C.], the coat’s ability to keep its owner warm is remarkable.

Common rooftop solar collectors, in contrast, are far less efficient.

In fact, Kowalski estimates that man-made solar panels might be rendered 50 percent more efficient by applying the principles of the polar bear’s coat.

In the visible portion of the spectrum, the hairs on the coat behave in just the opposite way; they reflect 90 percent of the light.

This gives the bear its dazzling white appearance, even though the individual hairs themselves are not really white but transparent and pigmentless.

The coat’s whiteness enables the bear to hunt unseen on the Arctic snowscape.

Some observers have even seen polar bears covering their black noses as they stalk their prey, as if conscious of the need to blend into the snow.

The polar bear’s coat thus perfectly addresses two of the animal’s key needs: looking white and staying warm.

Little wonder, then, that physicist Grojean praised the coat as a “fantastic engineering feat.”

How a parrot become a key witness in a court dispute?

 A parrot giving testimony in a court dispute.

Parrot Testimony

A parrot became the key witness in a court in India’s southern state of Kerala.

The Indian Express reported the court case involving neighbors who were locked in a dispute over who owned the parrot.

To settle the argument, the judge ordered the parrot to appear in court and stand as a witness.

Crucial testimony was provided when the cooperative parrot obligingly rattled off the names of the children belonging to the family that had earlier reported the parrot missing.

Thanks to the faithful parrot, the district judge decided the case in favor of this family.

How three dolphin lifeguards rescue a man from a shark attack?

Picture three jumping dolphins.

Dolphins to the rescue

A man swimming in the Red Sea may have been saved by a group of dolphins, reports the Journal of Commerce.

The tourist from Britain, was swimming off the Egyptian shore when he was attacked by a shark.

After he suffered bites to his side and arm, he was encircled by three bottle-nosed dolphins “flapping their fins and tails to scare away the shark.”

The dolphins then “continued to circle the man until his friends got to him.”

According to the Journal, “such behavior by dolphins is common when mothers are protecting their calves.”

How the Blackbird car alarm is fooling car owners?

Picture of a black bird on the road.

Blackbird car alarm

Blackbirds are causing an unusual problem in England’s North Yorkshire town of Guisborough—they jolt people from their early morning slumber by mimicking car alarms.

“When the owners rush out to confront the thieves they often find a blackbird in mid-song,” reports The Times of London.

“It had the tone and pitch just right,” commented one local resident. “We’ll all be driven crackers.”

And there may be little respite.

As one bird passes a new song on to a neighbor, the sound can become a lot more common.

Actually, about 30 of Britain’s bird species are capable of mimicking other sounds.

The common starling is the most gifted of them all and can easily mimic the calls of other birds.

One was known to imitate the ring of a telephone so convincingly that it was impossible to tell the imitation from the real thing.

How commuting pigeons have been dodging fares?

Commuting Pigeons

Pigeons have long been observed hitching rides on the subway with earthbound commuters.

Additionally, some people claim that the birds even know at which stop they should get off.

Following an invitation by a magazine, a number of readers wrote to tell about their own experiences with the feathered travelers.

One man, for example, wrote:

“ I regularly encountered a single pigeon of light reddish coloring boarding the underground metro train station and disembarking at the next station.”

Another man observed a similar spectacle as far back as 1965.

It would seem that pigeons have been dodging metro fares for more than 50 years!