Category - Nature

Forget the Red Sea; China’s Red Beach is the coolest crimson colored natural wonder

While many parts of the world welcome the onset of fall by celebrating red leafed trees changing their colors, visitors to Panjin, Chinas Red Beach does so by watching the plant life surrounding a nearby estuary change to a brilliant scarlet autumn, the seepweep that surrounds the water goes from green to red and eventually purple at the end of the cycle. While you cant walk on the seepweep, there is a wooden jetty that snakes around the 51 square foot area so that visitors can get an up close experience with the gorgeous natural phenomenon. In 1998, it was deemed a protected area and is also home to Crown cranes and Black Beaked gulls. [h/t] red-beach-china-2-1 red-beach-china-3-1 red-beach-china-4-1 red-beach-china-5-1 red-beach-china-6-1 red-beach-china-7-1 red-beach-china-8-1 red-beach-china-9-1 red-beach-china-10-1

New Zealand’s glowworm colonies are magical otherworlds that literally glow in the dark

Remember those glowworm dolls you used to have as a kid? They were cute, right? Well, the real deal — from all the way down under in New Zealand — may not be particularly cute but they sure are beautiful.

tumblr_losmeehplz1qeeqk5o1_500The glowworm’s scientific name, Arachnocampa luminosa, came to it in 1924, after first being named Bolitiphila luminosa in 1891. It was actually first discovered in 1871 in a gold mine in the Thames region of New Zealand.

1When it was first discovered, people thought it to be a relative of the European glowworm beetle but many years later, a Christchurch educator found (through examining the larva) that it is a actually a gnat, not a beetle.

2a3f3afe00000578-0-image-a-45_1436095988402These glowworms are known to dwell in wet caves, grottoes and humid spots in forests throughout the country though their native territories are getting smaller and smaller due to farming and deforestation.

tumblr_m7fnyjff1t1qfeseeThe larvae stage is the longest part of the glowworm’s life cycle, clocking in from between six and 12 months. In contrast, adult glowworms only live a few days before dying. The interim stage – the pupa stage – lasts around one to two weeks and finds the worm hanging from a silk thread on the roof of a cave or enclosure.

waitomo-glow-worm-caves-glowing-10Their glow, or bioluminescence, is a chemical reaction between the oxygen in the air and a compound found in the glowworm’s tail. The glowworm can restrict the flow of oxygen to their tail to control how brightly and frequently they’re glowing.

1335024235_rk8glbx-xlLarvae glow to attract prey — which are mostly moths, snails, mayflies, mosquitoes, millipedes and flies. Since the larvae grow while hanging from the top of caves and enclosed spots, some scientists believe that the prey are attracted to the larvae because they think the brightness is actually sunlight.

Both pupa and adult stage glowworms glow, but not as brightly as when they are in the larvae form. Additionally, when male larvae are about to become adults, they begin to lose their glow while the females glow even brighter, in hopes to attract a mate one they’ve hatched.

glowwormGlowworms do not have many natural predators though when they’re touched or disturbed by an outside light source (like a flashlight!), they’re stop glowing and retreat into their nests for safety.

Photographs of these colonies are hauntingly beautiful; they look otherworldly, glowing in clusters in dark, murky caves. While it’s hard for tourists to enjoy the experience in real life, due to their delicate constitution, many talented wildlife photographers have captured the natural phenomenon for everyone to enjoy. [source: Wikipedia]


The Mystery of Death Valley’s Sailing Stones Solved

clip_image001For over 70 years, the mystery of Death Valley’s sailing stones have perplexed scientists and nature lovers alike. Tracks in the sand were the sole clue that the large stones were somehow sliding across the desert of Racetrack Playa. But it was anyone’s guess what was causing them to move. Was it manmade interference? Or maybe very strong winds.

clip_image003One study organized by a group of very patient researchers finally put the mystery to rest in 2014 when conditions were just right and the scientists caught the rocks moving on camera. Props to them for persevering. Watching the grass grow would have yielded faster results.

Led by Dr Brian Jackson of Boise State University, the researchers were able to point to a handful of factors that brought about the perfect conditions for the rocks to slide.

clip_image004First, the playa must fill up with just the right amount of water during winter. Deep enough to form a sheet of ice on top but shallow enough to keep the stones exposed. At night when temperatures reach their lowest, the water freezes and forms thin sheets of windowpane ice. Then when the next day’s sun heats up the ice, it melts and breaks up into giant floating panels. Light winds push it across the watery surface and they in turn push the rocks around in the mud. Multiple stones will often leave parallel tracks with simultaneous turns in trajectory matching the changing of the winds.

clip_image006Before the video proof, the leading theory on how the stones moved was via very, very strong winds. But the researchers found that light winds of 3-5 meters per second were pushing the ice. And stones moved only 2 to 6 meters per minute – a speed so slow you won’t notice it moving at all without a stationary reference point.

Another theory surmised the rocks were being completely lifted off the ground by the ice and hitching a ride on top of the sheet. That too was thrown out as we now know the rocks remain touching the muddy floor the whole time.

clip_image008The stones range in size from a few hundred grams to hundreds of kilograms. They only move once every two or three years and their tracks last three or four years.

You can watch the sliding for yourself in this timelapse video put together by the researchers who cracked the case.