Author: Jennifer Spencer

My name is Jennifer Spencer and I am thrilled to be a part of the team. Writing is a passion of mine and I love to share all of the best wonders in the earth with you. When I am not busy writing, I enjoy spending time with my pet turtle (Arnie) and my lovely daughter. Thank you all for allowing me to share my stories with you!

10 Magnificent Underwater Wonders

10 Magnificent Underwater Wonders

Beneath the waters of the world, there is a whole realm of underwater wonders. There are sunken cities, forests, caves and even sculptures. Let’s explore a few of these magnificent watery landscapes.

Lake Kaindy, Kazahstan

Lake Kaindy, also known as the sunken forest, is a spectacular sight to behold. It was formed when an earthquake triggered a landslide of limestone that formed a dam. Lake Kaindy features tree trunks protruding out of the water, giving the appearance of a forest upon the lake.

Pavlopetri, Greece

The submerged city of Pavlopetri is an archaeological site discovered in 1967. It is dated at 5000 years old and is believed to be the oldest submerged city in the world. Many artifacts have been found such as Minoan jars, tableware and fragments of buildings.

Yonaguni, Japan

In 1986, a diver made a startling discovery off the south shore of the remote Yonaguni Island in Japan. It is unknown whether the underwater ruins are natural or manmade. However, the Yongauni pyramid looks as though it is manmade and the formation of steps appears as if they once led to a palace that may have been part of an ancient city. Perhaps time will explain the enigma of these unusual structures.

Green Lake, Austria

Green Lake has the surreal appearance of an underwater park where divers could rest on a bench. However, it has a natural explanation. During the winter the water recedes and the area is used as a park. Once spring arrives the lake fills with snow from the surrounding mountains submerging the trees, bridges and park benches.

Cleopatra’s Palace, Egypt

Once believed to be a myth, the remains of Cleopatra’s Palace were found sunken in the waters off of Alexandria in Egypt. Several artifacts have been found including coins, jewelry, amulets and two preserved sphinxes which were guardians of the palace.

Dwarka, India

According to legend, Dwarka was home to Lord Krishna. After his death, the city sank beneath the Gomti River. Many artifacts have been recovered from the site, lending credence to the ancient story.

Christ of the Abyss, Italy

A giant statue of Christ standing with arms outstretched and reaching skyward stands submerged in the Mediterranean Sea. The incredible work of art was created by Guido Galletti in 1954.

Orda Cave, Russia

Orda Cave is an underwater world of white walls, clear water and connecting tunnels. The cave is filled with deep vaults and an abundance of gypsum. According to legend, the Lady of the Cave protects it from harm.

Dean’s Blue Hole, Bahamas

This deep blue shaft of salt water is a diver’s dream. As you dive deeper you find yourself surrounded by wonderful creatures such as turtles, barracudas and sea horses. This sinkhole has extremely clear water and excellent visibility.

Underwater Waterfall, Mauritius

Mauritius is home to an amazing variety of flora and fauna, as well as an underwater waterfall. However, the waterfall is actually an optical illusion created by sediments of silt and sand. It is a popular tourist attraction and a beautiful sight to see.


These are just a few of the many underwater wonders around the world. Do some exploring of your own. If you love to travel, add some of these underwater wonders to your travel itinerary. If you’re planning a vacation any of these locations would be a great place to visit.

A Brief History of the Eiffel Tower

A Brief History of the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower, with its distinctive curved base and latticework of iron, is unique among the great buildings of the world.  Originally disliked by many French people, it became a symbol of French culture and national pride.  In the 120 years it has stood on the banks of the Seine River, it has been the backdrop for movies, a focal point for civic events, and the site of more than a few marriage proposals.

Eiffel Tower History

The Eiffel Tower is an impressive engineering feat. It stands 1063 feet (324 meters) tall.  It was the tallest building in the world from its completion in 1889 until the Chrysler Building surpassed it in 1931, and is still the fifth tallest in Europe.  It is built of an open lattice of 18,038 pieces of wrought iron held together by 2.5 million rivets.  The Tower’s open latticework is an ingenious innovation making it light enough to stand and reducing wind resistance.  In fact, the Tower is designed to withstand 150 mile-per-hour winds.

The Eiffel Tower features 2 restaurants and an observation deck located at the 900 foot level.  Most people take the lift, but there are always a few hardy souls who climb the 1650 steps to the top!

In 1887, Gustav Eiffel entered his design for a thousand foot tower in a competition for the upcoming Paris Exposition Universalle commemorating the centennial of the French Revolution.  Though the design was accepted, it was controversial.  Many Parisians signed petitions against what they considered an eyesore.    Nevertheless, the Tower proved extremely popular.  So many people bought tickets that the Eiffel Tower nearly paid for itself the first year after its opening on March 31, 1889.

The Eiffel Tower was intended to be a temporary structure, to be torn down after 20 years.  However, by 1909, the French had found an unexpected use for the Eiffel Tower: it made a perfect communications tower for the new technology called radio.  In 1913, scientists succeeded in establishing a trans-Atlantic radio link with counterparts in New York using the Eiffel Tower.  Its value as a communications tower was fully established during the First World War, when it was used by the French military.

The Eiffel tower was used from 1924 to 1935 to advertise Citroen cars, probably giving it the dubious honor of having been the largest billboard in history.  In 1940, the French sabotaged the lifts, forcing the Nazis to climb the steps in order to hang a swastika banner from the observation deck.

During its lifetime, more than 200 million people have visited the Eiffel Tower.  In 2006, there were 6.7 million visitors.  This enduring popularity continues to make the Eiffel Tower the most visited monument in the world.

12 Most Endangered Animals in The World

Did you know that many animals are facing endangerment and are at risk of being the last of their generation on this planet? Due to various factors such as being hunted or climate change they are at the brink of extinction. To think that they will be wiped off completely after a couple of decades is heartbreaking!

Here are the 12 most endangered animals on the planet:

The Bornean Orangutan

Photo via. World Wildlife Fund

This species of orangutans are only found on the Borneo islands. Since 1950, their population has decreased by 60% and will be down by another 20% in the next decade or so.

Deforestation and illegal hunting is the major cause of their endangerment as well as slow birthrates.

Orangutans are extremely smart and patient animals. They are curious and observant, there are stories of Orangutans escaping zoos after watching zookeepers lock and unlock doors. They are closely related to humans; sharing 97% similar DNA.

Ili Pika

Photo via. National Geographic

This adorable rodent-like animal lives in the Tianshan mountain ranges of China. Humans were not aware this tiny animal even existed until 1982. Only a few people have seen these furry creatures, with only 29 confirmed sightings.

Adults weigh up to 205 grams (1/2 lb)

These little guys reach about eight inches long and typically max out at 205 grams (half a pound). The Ili Pika lives in mountain ranges at high altitudes (usually above 13,000 feet). The Pika is very sensitive to changing its environment, its population is dwindling. Scientists believe the Pikas are endangered by livestock dominating its food supply in its region. It is estimated that less than 1,000 Ili Pikas exist in the wild.

Giant Otter

Photo via. Zoo Atlanta

They are a rare species of otter that are now only found in parts of South America. Their population decline has been largely due to hunting for their pelts (high demand in the fashion industry). Since they live in South American rivers, they are susceptible to pollution from heavy metals and mercury.

Baby otters will learn to swim 2-3 weeks after they’re born

These big boys can reach up to six feet long and weigh over 70 pounds. River otters can swim as fast as nine miles per hour. Interestingly enough, baby otters dwell in dens for their first couple weeks until they get their “sea legs.” An adult otter can eat up to 6-9 pounds of food a day. Besides humans, otters’ biggest predators jaguars, large anacondas, and large caimans. 

Amur Leopard

Photo via. World Wildlife Fund

After they went extinct in Korea and China, these beautiful leopards are now only found near the Amur River in Russia. There are hardly 60 of them left now. They have adjusted to cooler climates with fur that reaches up to three inches long. They have become endangered as a result of commercial logging and farming destroying their habitat. They are also aggressively poached for their fur.

Amur Leopards can run as fast as 37 mph

Other than humans, the Amur leopard does not have a real predator. These creatures use their fur as camouflage. They can leap up to 12 feet and use their giant paws like snowshoes to traverse through banks. These leopards reach up to six feet in length, three feet in height and 110 pounds in weight.

Black-Footed Ferret

Photo via. Buffalo Center of the West

They are only found in North America and have been reduced down to plagues and encroachment. More than 90% of the black-footed ferret’s diet is made up of eating prairie dogs. They are also known to eat squirrels, rabbits, and birds. Although they are tiny, these ferrets can eat up to 100 prairie dogs a year. Prairie dogs range from 1-3 pounds, black footed-ferrets typically range from 1.5-2 pounds.

Black-footed ferrets reach up to 24 inches in length (5-6 is tail)

Black-footed ferrets once numbered in the tens of thousands. In the 1900s diseases and habitat destruction, drove its population down to an alarming amount. In 1986 there were only 18 of these creatures left; all in captivity. Now, researchers are slowly releasing them back into the wild.  

Darwin’s Fox

Photo via. Speak Up for the Voiceless

This wolf-like fox is one of a kind. Its species is being threatened due to deforestation, hunting, and other predators. The good news is it was downgraded from “critically endangered” to “endangered” in 2016. It is estimated that fewer than 700 live today.

Darwin Fox live in two distinct places: Island of Chiloé and Nahuelbuta National Park

Feral dogs pose a giant threat to the Darwin fox, from bites that spread diseases. This small canine weighs between 4-9 pounds and reaches lengths between 19-23 inches. This fox was first collected on San Pedro Island by Charles Darwin in 1834. Darwin described it as “More curious or more scientific, but less wise, than the generality of his brethren.”

Sumatran Rhinoceros

Photo via. PBS

Thanks to poaching and illegal hunting, this rhino species is facing extinction in Malaysia, Burma, and Indonesia. So much so that their family is reduced down to merely a few dozen of them. They are the smallest of the rhino family despite their capability of reaching a metric ton. The first recorded Sumatran rhinoceros was shot 10 miles outside Fort Marlborough in 1793.

The Sumatran is the world’s most endangered rhino

Fewer than 100 are estimated to exist. It is on the critically endangered list and has seen a 50% decline in population per decade since 1990. Its horn is estimated to be valued as high as $35,000 per kilogram. This makes them a primary target for poachers. The population is now small and scattered, but at least they live in unreachable mountainous territories of Indonesia.

White-Rumped Vulture

Photo via. acadime- Devianart

The White-rumped vulture is native to South and Southeast Asia. These white vultures are almost extinct as 99% of them have been wiped out since the 80s. Many of them died due to ingesting diclofenac from cows. It is on the critically endangered list. In the 1980s it was considered the most abundant bird in the world with a population of several million.

These birds weigh up to 10 lbs and 3 feet

Most populations (in their given areas) are fewer than 100 individuals. Captive breeding programs and artificial feedings have been implemented in recovery efforts. In 2007, the first captive eggs hatched, but they died weeks after hatching. Researchers noted that the mother and father were first-time breeders and not aware of how to properly nurture their chicks.


Photo via. Pangolin Specialist Group

This cute little animal is found in the tropical forests of Asia and Africa. They are being endangered and have faced a massive population decline all due to poachers and hunters. Villages have hunted this animal for medicine. 

They also fart as a defense mechanism

When pangolins sense threat, they snuggle up into a tight, almost impenetrable ball to protect their tender undersides. If caught, they will thrash about using their tail muscles. Because their scales have very sharp edges, they can slice the skin of a human or predator when they do this.


Photo via. World Wildlife Fund

This is a very endangered animal and is very difficult to find now. The saola was first discovered in 1992 and animal researchers have only been able to see it 4 times since then. It lives in the forests of Laos and other parts of Vietnam. Their extinction is all due to deforestation and hunting.

Maybe they’re the real unicorns?

The saola has only been known to science since 1922. Scientists have no real gauge on the saola’s importance to the ecosystem. It looks like an antelope and reaches 220 pounds and heights up to 77 inches (that’s the typical height of an NFL player). Since we know so little about them, they’re like the modern day unicorn.


Photo via. Mexico Daily News

This is the world’s rarest marine mammal. It looks like a species of whale and there are roughly only 60 of them left in the world. Their population has decreased by 40% since 2014 and is continuing to decrease. Scientists say they might be wiped off in as little as 15 years or so.

The vaquita has no close relatives

A large part to their rapid decline is the use for gill-nets. They are not directly hunted but are often a casualty due to these nets catching mass amounts of fish at on time. The vaquita is considered the most endangered of 129 extant marine mammal species.

Peruvian Black Spider Monkey

Photo via. robertharding

Their main habitat is in the north of the Amazon River. Since the last 50 years, they have decreased in numbers by 50%. This is all due to deforestation, encroachment and hunting. This planet is facing a major crisis in terms of climate and animal extinction. It is up to us to find ways to preserve life and our ecosystems.

In good news, Nepal’s populations of the endangered Bengal tiger have doubled in the last 9 years!

Dolphins Like Watching TV, Just Like Humans

Did you know that in India, dolphins have been granted “non-human person” status? This means they are given basic human rights that protect them the same way humans are protected. The reason for this is that dolphins and humans have a lot in common. They are social and cognitive animals, they speak different dialects and give each other names, they come in second in brain size relative to their body (right after humans), and the human genome and dolphin genome are essentially the same. What’s more, that’s just scratching the surface of our similarities with this remarkable marine creature. Recently, one more very interesting intersection has been discovered between humans and dolphins: we both love watching television.

Dolphins Need Entertainment Too

It’s no secret that dolphins are much less happy in captivity, so in order to make their stay more enjoyable, marine facilities try to keep them entertained in various ways. Sometimes they are given typically pool toys to play with, like noodles and rings. However, recently, researchers at Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder in Key Largo, Florida decided to place some great big TV’s beside the underwater windows of their tanks. What they found was that dolphins were not only paying attention to the videos on the TV’s, they seemed to be enjoying what they were watching.

There have been two different species of dolphin present and watching TV at the Key Largo facility: one group of 11 bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus) dolphins, and one group of five rough-toothed (Steno bredanensis) dolphins. Both watched jungle and ocean scenes from Planet Earth, a BBC nature documentary, and also episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants. Choosing these starkly contrasting options was meant to see if dolphins preferred watching something akin to their own life, in a natural setting, over a cartoon.

Dolphins’ TV Preferences Are Revealed

The dolphins’ behavior while watching the two shows was closely monitored by researchers. They noted aggressive behavior, like head and body jerks and jaw claps, as well as signs of interest, indicated by a dolphin raising their chin or pressing their melon (forehead), against the glass near the TV. Some dolphins also blew bubbles, which can indicate either aggression or interest. Researchers suspect the dolphins’ TV-watching bubbles were more aligned with aggressive behavior.

What was found, as published in Zoo Biology, is that the dolphins didn’t seem to show a preference for one show over the other. Whatever was going on, they were equally interested in it. However, they did make some other interesting revleations. Some dolphins seemed notably more interested in the TV shows than others. In particular, the rough-toothed dolphins were found to react more to the TV than the bottlenose dolphins, displaying more bubble and interest behaviors.
Another thing they noted was that the two species spent the same amount of time watching the TVs. Curiously, even hearing-impaited dolphins paid attention to the TVs equally, regardless of which video was playing. That seems to indicate the capitvating aspect of the TV lies more in the moving picture and less in the sound.

What Can We Do With This Information?

Dolphins have such large brains and cognitive abilities, scoring better than even great apes in these departments. They need to be stimilated in order to be happy, so being in captivity can really do a number on their mental health. Unfortunately, captivity can cause some dolphins to become unfit for release. Television could be a great way to keep their brains stimilated, thus keeping them happier.

On the science front, studying dolphin responses to different videos could open a lot of doors in terms of understanding how this great marine mammal thinks.

NEXT: Dolphins are super smart, but animals a little closer to home might not be as bright as their owners would like to believe. Why dogs aren’t really as smart as we think they are.

This Road In Nepal Will Have You Paralyzed With Fear

Do you ever encounter an Uber driver that doesn’t necessarily have the most patience behind the wheel? What about your last taxi ride? Did you hit a few bumps on the way to your destination?

When we think of a nightmare drive, we probably imagine miles upon miles of dead-stop traffic in the middle of a hot summer. If you’re from the northern United States, you might even be visualizing an avalanche dropped right in the middle of the busiest intersection.

Keep scrolling for the REAL waterfall road…

For a few brave souls in Nepal, this “waterfall road” creates a commute to work that most of us could not even fathom- or stomach.

Potholes Are An Understatement

In America, we’re extremely used to the occasional pothole in the middle of our favorite highway. Individuals who live in the south are never surprised when a family of deer prance across the road. All of these hazards can make for a relatively rough drive if encountered. But high up in the Himalayan Mountains is a very different story.


It’s almost impossible to see the imprint of a road on the mountainside from Manang to Besisahar in the Annapurna region of Nepal. But it’s there, running parallel with an older mule track. Jagged rocks stand upright and gleam in the hot sun, daring drivers to cross their treacherous path.

Winding Through Waterfalls

The rocks are just the beginning. The roar of approaching water hits the driver’s ears before their eyes. This water isn’t happily flowing next to the road. No, it’s crashing down onto the road, around the road, and over the side of the mountain, down into the valleys thousands of feet below.


So you’re sitting in your 4X4 (because that is the only vehicle that can even come close to taking on this treck), and what seems like millions of gallons of water are rushing at your windshield. To your right is the jagged mountainside. To the left is the very steep edge of the cliff. This scenario seems like something out of an absolute nightmare.

But to some Nepal natives, it’s just another Monday commute.

What’s Your Commute Like?

Experienced drivers that have traveled this road continuously struggle with it. Tourists should not even begin to think about attempting this trek. Adrenaline junkies beware! This is not a risk worth taking!

Safety barriers had previously lined the treacherous road, but residents say that they have washed away long ago. Even something as simple as a rail bar wouldn’t bring the terror factor down for most reasonable drivers.

The entire video of the drive can illicit pretty high-anxiety responses in most viewers. It’s clear that the drivers in the video are fearless and have completed this trip hundreds of times before. Regardless, it’s still one of the bumpiest and craziest things we’ve ever seen!

Let’s all take a moment to be thankful that the most frustrating part of our daily commute is most likely the elderly neighbor trying to change lanes without a turn signal.

Otherworldly Natural Events You Won’t Believe Happen On Earth

It’s no secret that the world is full of natural beauty, but some variations of it are far rarer than others. Here you’ll find a collection of times when nature seemed to feel the need to just plain show off. Some of the natural phenomena you’re about to see has been explained by science over time, while others remain a mystery. Prepare to feast your eyes on some of the craziest, most unusual things our planet has to offer.

These Crazy UFO-Shaped Clouds

These insane cloud formations are called lenticular clouds. If you think they look like UFO’s, you’re not alone. They’ve been mistaken for alien invaders so many times throughout history that they may even be responsible for why we imagine UFO’s to be similarly shaped.

Lenticular clouds are usually formed when the air over mountains cools enough to create condensation and shapes it into perfect pancake discs. One of their creepier aspects is that unlike regular clouds, lenticular clouds do not move. They just keep reforming in the same place with new air.

These Rainbow Colored Trees

Upon first glance, it may look like a toddler took a box of crayons and graced these trees with a little abstract art. The trees assure you, however, that this is their native bark.

They’re commonly known as Rainbow Eucalyptus trees and are native to areas such as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. If you’re looking to see them closer to home, you can also find groves of them in Hawaii.

The Ever-Mysterious Eternal Flame Falls

This one may be worth stopping to Instagram if you ever find yourself passing through Chestnut Ridge Park, NY. Though eternal flames are common enough, naturally occurring ones are virtually unheard of.

Scientists are baffled by this little flame which they believe was lit by Native Americans thousands of years ago. The fact that it’s still burning doesn’t appear to make any sense. Luckily, the flame itself does not appear to care.

These Cotton Candy Looking Trees In Pakistan

Although there is an explanation for these crazy looking Pakistani trees, it’s incredibly bizarre in itself. They started to pop up after parts of Pakistan had experienced rising flood waters that were taking their time receding.

Russell Watkins/U.K. Department for International Development

At a certain point, the area spiders got tired of waiting and began to take refuge in the trees which they turned into ghostly looking mass webs.

Russell Watkins/U.K. Department for International Development

The Gorgeous Thermal Pools Of Pamukkale, Turkey

Though these natural turquoise pools look like something out of Star Wars, they’re actually located in a small town in Turkey called Pamukkale (“cotton castle” in Turkish). There you’ll find hills made of white limestone deposits called travertine that remain constantly sourced by natural thermal springs.

For thousands of years, they were among the most famous bathing destinations in the world. These days, officials have unfortunately closed them for bathing in an attempt to preserve their natural beauty. They still draw in plenty of visitors each year, even if they’re only allowed to look.

As you can see, sometimes even nature feels the need to go all “look what I can do!”

NEXT: See what happens when bubbles get caught in some of the clearest ice on Earth. You won’t believe the pictures.

We Might Have Just Found the Coldest Spot on Earth

Planet Earth is a place with many different environments. It harbors sizzling hot deserts that will suck the life out of any living thing and also bone-chilling cold regions that can freeze anything in an instant. So when we think about the coldest place on earth, only one name comes to mind: Antarctica.

Nearly all of Antarctica is covered with snow and ice year-round.

Antarctica is an uninhabited region that is located in the south of our planet. It is the area of extremely cold temperatures which is the main reason why it is uninhabited by the humans. Only animals that are indigenous to this region can survive here such as penguins, albatross, and seals.

Research has been going on for ages by the scientists to point out the coldest region on Earth. They have managed to narrow it down to Antarctica, but are now searching for the exact location on this icy continent.

In 2013, researchers from NASA claimed to have discovered the coldest spot on earth. They used remote sensing satellites including the Landsat 8 to pinpoint this location. The location was present near the East Antarctic Plateau and the recorded temperature of this region was astonishingly low. The satellite reported the temperature of -133.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-92 degrees Celsius).

Antarctica’s only permanent residents are the animals that are specially adapted to the extreme cold.

This temperature significantly beats the previously recorded lowest temperature of -128.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-89.2 degrees Celsius). This previously coldest temperature was recorded through the Russian Vostok research Center in East Antarctica. This temperature was recorded back in 1983 and after 35 years this record is finally broken.

A scientific fact that can rule out the Vostok temperature recording is that it was measured in the air. Measuring the temperature of the air isn’t considered as accurate since it fluctuates differently than the temperature of the surface of the earth. This is why recording the temperature with the help of a satellite is much more accurate because it observes it directly the surface of the Earth and even a few feet below.

Scientists believe that to accurately measure the temperature of the surface from a satellite it is necessary to have clear skies and dry air. Clear skies help in viewing from the satellite and dry air makes sure the temperatures are as low as possible. This is because moisture in the air absorbs heat inside it, which increases the temperature of the area.

Scientists often travel to Antarctica to do research, but the best measurements of temperature come from satellites way up in space.

Ted Scambos is a leading researcher in this study and he revealed that it is evident from the decades of studies that the coldest temperatures on Earth usually occur in the region of Eastern Antarctica. He said that the reason for these extremely low temperatures is the prolonged winter that stays over this region all year long. This winter causes intense radiative cooling of the snow on the surface with the help of the dry atmosphere and clear skies.

The researchers believe that there are even colder regions that are yet to be discovered. But they are absolutely sure that those regions exist on the continent of Antarctica.

Lonesome George Is Still Giving Us Insights Into The Long Life Of Giant Tortoises

Giant tortoises have been a staple of the Galapagos and can live up to 100 years in captivity. Lonesome George may have been the last of his species, Chelonoidis abingdonii, but he has provided an insight into the genetics of longevity. Genetic analysis of DNA from Lonesome George and samples from other giant tortoises were found to possess a number of gene variants linked to DNA repair, immune response, and cancer suppression not possessed by shorter-lived vertebrates. The tortoises’ slow metabolism and large size tend to correlate well with long life and infrequent reproduction.

Decline Of The Giant Tortoise Population

These large creatures began disappearing after the arrival of humans in the Galapagos since they were hunted for their oil and meat. Two centuries of exploitation caused the loss between 100,000 to 200,000 tortoises. It’s estimated that only 20,000 – 25,000 live on the islands today.

Tortoises tend to move slowly, leaving them open for hunters and breed too infrequently to compensate for the loss. A female tortoise can lay 1-4 nests over their nesting season (June to December). The number of eggs varies but can range from 20-25 eggs for domed tortoises.

This number may seem like a lot but their eggs and young are easy prey for other species like rats and birds. Lonesome George’s species population size has been in decline for about one million years. However, this is expected for a large species confined to a small island that reproduces slowly.

The Secret Of Tortoise DNA

Adalgisa “Gisella” Caccone, the senior researcher in Yale’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and co-senior of the research, began sequencing the whole genome of Lonesome George to study the evolution of the tortoise population on the Galapagos in 2010.

The data was then analyzed by Carlos Lopez-Otin at the University of Oviedo in Spain in order to find gene variants that are usually associated with longevity. He explained that they “had previously described nine hallmarks of aging and after studying 500 genes on the basis of this classification, they found interesting variants potentially affecting six of those hallmarks in giant tortoises, opening new lines of aging research.”

Although the genetics of longevity has been explored in long-lived mammals, extending to tortoises should illuminate general hallmarks of the genetic basis of longevity.

New Lines Of Aging Research

These new details of the giant-tortoise genomes could shed light on aspects of the peculiar evolution and development of tortoises, such as their shell. Duplications of genes involved in DNA repair have also been noted to be related to longevity and exists in not only giant tortoises but also several other species.

However, these lessons about the longevity of tortoises should not be applied to the human species without some form of caution. The longevity of any species is the blueprint of who they are and their entire life’s history. The research surrounding giant tortoises is not over and according to Caccone, “Lonesome George is still teaching us lessons.” It will be interesting to see where Lonesome George will lead us next.

Venezuela’s Humboldt Glacier Is Melting and Will Be Gone in the Coming Years

Glaciers don’t normally make the headline news. But that was before Venezuela’s last glacier is close to disappearing for good, according to a recent report. The country’s Humboldt Glacier in the Andes Mountains is melting at a rapid rate, and it’ll soon be gone before scientists can study the ice particles.

What does this recent report reveal about science?

Plenty Of Ice For Everyone

When Carsten Braun, a geography professor at Westfield State University, visited the Venezuelan Andes in 2009, he was amazed at the glaciers found in the Pico Humboldt, the country’s second-highest mountain peak. He measured the Humboldt Glacier with a GPS, knowing he would one day want his scientific recordings.

Well, he had no idea that day has finally arrived. Braun has visited the glacier several times since 2009, but now he has noticed drastic and upsetting changes in the glacier’s size.

It’s Shrinking

On a recent trip, Braun noticed the glacier is shrinking at a remarkable rate. He noted it looked like “draping a pancake over a slope.” The glacier is now a thin piece of ice no more than 65 feet thick. It would only take someone just one mile to walk around the glacier’s entire circumference.

But why exactly is the glacier shrinking and how soon will it be completely gone?

Sensitive To Climate Change

Climate change is occurring. That is a scientific fact. The debate that rages on to this day stems from those who do not understand the science behind the warming temperatures, melting ice sheets, increased severity of extreme weather events, and so on, while science has shown time and time again that these changes are due to manmade burning of fossil fuels releasing greenhouse gases into our atmosphere at a rate that is unprecedented in the history of our planet.

Venezuela has found itself nestled between this debate. Scientists are comparing the country’s glaciers to others, including ones found in China and Tanzania. But Venezuela’s Humboldt Glacier will be the first one to completely disappear for good due to the drastic changes in the climate’s heat. Glaciers are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations than other environments.

Braun reported, “What we’re seeing now is maybe the last gasp of the Humboldt Glacier.”

Scientists expect the glacier to melt away in the next decade or two.

Why We Should Be Concerned

For the average person, losing a glacier probably isn’t a big deal. We have other glaciers, don’t we? Why are we concerned about Venezuela’s glacier?

Glaciers are more important than what you think. While their contribution to sea-level rise isn’t that significant, glaciers are a critical source of water— for drinking, hydropower, and agriculture purposes. It would be a drastic impact on our environment if we were to lose this valuable resource.

According to researchers, glaciers have been rapidly shrinking in size since the 1970s. Glaciers may have been stronger 30 years ago, but now the majority of them, Venezuela’s Humboldt included, have numerous cracks and meltwater.

“It looks sick,” said Maximiliano Bezada, a former geomorphology professor. “It will die very soon.”

Currently, Humboldt is vulnerable and at its smallest size ever reported. It will disappear very soon, that is an accepted fact. If scientists aren’t watching, the glacier will vanish right before their eyes.

That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

MORE: This problem isn’t exclusive to the warm, tropical regions close to the Equator. Glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate even at the coldest place on Earth.

Dragon-like Lizards Singled Out In Illegal Trade

When a conservationist discovers a new species of animal or re-discovers an elusive one, they are met with a tough choice. They can either take their findings and publish them for millions to read or choose to keep their information among other researchers. But why would they choose the latter? Sadly, animal lovers are not the only ones reading their articles.

Thousands of people use this information to stalk the specimen’s native location, steal them, and sell them in the illegal wildlife trade. The rarer the animal, the better. Unfortunately, this dwindles a small population to an even smaller one. And in 2018, it’s a dragon-esque lizard from Indonesia that many criminals are trying to get their fingers on.

Dinner And A Show

In May of 2008, a crew of researchers was exploring a jungle in Indonesian Borneo. They stopped to take a quick break for some much-needed nourishment. It was relatively silent while mouths were busy chewing until someone noticed a tiny, spiked lizard standing near them.

Then, they proceeded to do something that most of us who are not exploring a jungle in Indonesia would never do. They took turns holding and petting the lizard. The little guy, surprisingly, seemed hardly phased by their curiosity. He was gently returned to his original seat as the scientists continued about their day.

Later, after returning to their rooms, they decided to look through reptile identification books to pinpoint exactly what kind of lizard this could be. The researchers could hardly believe their luck!

The extremely rare earless monitor lizard matched their lunch break buddy. The Lanthanotus borneensis was extremely rare. It was quickly realized that they had stumbled upon a gem.

Quite The Conundrum

The earless monitor lizard had been seen less than 100 times since their discovery in 1877. A few team members compiled details of their experiences with the lizard. This information was then published in a scientific journal in 2012.

The scientists were very careful about providing as little detail as possible about the exact origin of their findings. However, even the smallest amount of information allowed for members of the illegal wildlife trade to pinpoint the location.

Immediately, there seemed to be an increase in online ads of earless monitor lizards. Researchers and conservationists alike started to feel concerned. The lizards were popping up for sale all over the world, from the Czech Republic to Japan to America.

The Double-Edged Sword

Since that time, these tiny “dragons” continue to come across the online sales pages with price tags that go for over $15,000 when the demand is at its highest. But the coverage of the lizards did not solely have negative consequences.

Researchers also brought to light the danger that the lizards are in. Responsible reptile enthusiasts will now be able to spot the illegal trade and sell and report those involved. This is the extremely tough determination that researchers, scientists, and journalists are faced with. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be outweighing the rate at which they are being cruelly collected.