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We’ve shared the best environmental stories of the month and forded the current bog of environmental calamities, so now it’s time for something a bit lighter. These were the stories we reported on this month that don’t have huge implications for the future of science or the planet; these are the stories we just thought were pretty neat.

4) This Drought Is Not Over

No, you read that right. California’s record-breaking drought is in its fourth year now, and that’s definitely not cool for us Californians. But after months of hot, dry conditions, we finally got a week’s worth of rain. That, dear readers, was very cool indeed. Unfortunately, we’ll need a lot more than that to end the drought (say, 11 trillion gallons or so), but if El Niño keeps up, at least we can dream.

A rendering of M. rex by target="_blank">Davide Bonadonna. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

A rendering of M. rex by Davide Bonadonna. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

3) This Monster Crocodile Was Just Discovered in Tunisia

Don’t worry, it’s been dead for 130 million years. Machimosaurus rex was recently discovered under the Sahara desert and now ranks as the largest ocean-dwelling crocodile in the fossil record. The creature was almost the size of a bus, weighed an estimated three tons and had a head that was over five feet long. Even more interesting, the discovery of this monstrous reptile puts a kink in the J-K Extinction Theory––specifically, the fact that it lived tens of millions of years after such large animals were believed to have gone extinct.

Omo photographed in Tarangire National Park on January 17, 2015. (Photo Credit: Dr. Derek Lee / Wild Nature Institute)

Omo photographed in Tarangire National Park on January 17, 2015. (Photo Credit: Dr. Derek Lee / Wild Nature Institute)

2) This White Giraffe Might Be the Only One in the World

No, she’s not an albino. “Oma” the giraffe (so named for a popular brand of detergent) is leucistic, meaning some of her cells don’t produce pigment the way a traditional giraffe’s would. The good news is, she’s alive and well and socializes with other giraffe. The bad news is, her distinctive white color may make her a target for hunters. Thankfully, the Wild Nature Institute, which first discovered Oma in Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park, is working to save giraffe in the region with their anti-poaching efforts.

The Brazilian social wasp Polybia paulista. (Photograph: Professor Mario Palma / São Paulo / PA)

The Brazilian social wasp Polybia paulista. (Photograph: Professor Mario Palma / São Paulo / PA)

1) This Wasp Kills Cancer

Perhaps the coolest story we’ve covered in a while, the Brazilian wasp Polybia Paulista carries a unique toxin that actually kills cancer cells. This has been confirmed in a study first published in the September issue of the journal Biophysical Research. Researchers Paul Beales of the University of Leeds and João Ruggiero Neto of São Paulo State University discovered that a toxin extracted from the wasp’s venom basically melts the outer membrane of cancer cells. The unique properties of the Polybia-MP1 toxin destroys the cancer but leaves normal cells intact. As Beales explains, this could lead to “an entirely new class of anticancer drugs.”

Thumbs up for science.


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