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Earth Day 2015: Celebrating Our Awe Inspiring World

14961414078_3807a5f721_zWe share Earth with millions of amazing plants and animals. Whether we’re relaxing in a hot spring like a Japanese macaque, or catching a glimpse of a rare bird, our exposure to Nature’s diversity enriches our lives and makes us feel closer to the wild world around us.

For Earth Day 2015, we are celebrating our diversity by highlighting some of our favorite images of flora and fauna from recently published PLOS ONE papers.

Fanged frog births live tadpoles

journal.pone.0115884.g002(1)Scientists have recently discovered a new frog species, Limnonectes larvaepartus, that resides in Indonesia and is related to fanged frogs. This newly described species has both internal fertilization and gives birth to live tadpoles, instead of laying eggs like many other frogs.

1,600 year-old ‘grandmother’ tree

journal.pone.0121170.g002These plump, trunked trees are called fony baobab and are found in Tsimanampetsotsa National Park in Madagascar. Researchers found one fony baobab tree called “grandmother,” which has three different aged stems fused together. Scientists’ radiocarbon dated the tree and found that the oldest part of the tree is likely close to 1,600 years old, possibly the oldest baobab tree in Madagascar.

You’re makin’ me yawn!

journal.pone.0105963.g001The wolves pictured above aren’t barking at each other. They’re actually experiencing a phenomenon that humans also experience, called yawn contagion. Scientists aren’t quite sure why the yawning seems to spread between these wolves, but they think that closer social bonds may increase yawn contagion.

Clues to understanding isolated dolphin populations

10.1371_journal.pone.0101427.g004With over 8 million animals inhabiting Earth, it’s difficult to study them all in depth. To search for clues about two ‘near-threatened’ and rarely studied dolphin populations, scientists looked at the Australian snubfin and humpback dolphins living in the tropical coastal waters of northern Australia. They found that these populations are genetically isolated, which the authors caution may impede their ability to adapt to environmental change.

Thanks for celebrating this great blue planet with us today.

Happy Earth Day!


Citations: Iskandar DT, Evans BJ, McGuire JA (2014) A Novel Reproductive Mode in Frogs: A New Species of Fanged Frog with Internal Fertilization and Birth of Tadpoles. PLoS ONE 9(12): e115884. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115884

Patrut A, von Reden KF, Danthu P, Leong Pock-Tsy J-M, Patrut RT, et al. (2015) Searching for the Oldest Baobab of Madagascar: Radiocarbon Investigation of Large Adansonia rubrostipa Trees. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0121170. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121170

Romero T, Ito M, Saito A, Hasegawa T (2014) Social Modulation of Contagious Yawning in Wolves. PLoS ONE 9(8): e105963. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105963

Brown AM, Kopps AM, Allen SJ, Bejder L, Littleford-Colquhoun B, et al. (2014) Population Differentiation and Hybridisation of Australian Snubfin (Orcaella heinsohni) and Indo-Pacific Humpback (Sousa chinensis) Dolphins in North-Western Australia. PLoS ONE 9(7): e101427. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101427

Images 1, 2, 3, 4, 5: View of Rocky Mountain National Park by Andrew E. Russell, Figure 2, Figure 2, Figure 1, and Figure 4

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