In this week’s News to Note, read about a sharp-toothed, vegetarian dinosaur, the art of finding “missing links,” a creationist creation, the plant internet, and a record-setting bird.
Trips to the dentist might have been out of the question for the 800-toothed Gryposaurus monumentensis, a two-legged dinosaur discovered in Utah in 2004. The dinosaur’s 800 teeth lined a “very large, strong jaw and beak,” explains the Utah Museum of Natural History’s Terry Gates, one of the authors in a recent Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society study of the creature.
A team at the University of Leeds in England has engineered a spray nozzle that replicates the bombardier beetle’s (in)famous defense mechanism.
There’s little doubt that many of us regard the internet as one of humankind’s most notable achievements. But humbling humankind are the seemingly high-tech networks of plants, reports a team from the Netherlands’ Radboud University. According to research recently conducted by Radboud ecologist Josef Stuefer and colleagues, plants such as strawberry and clover use near-ground and underground networks to communicate and share resources.
The plants use horizontal stems known as “runners” that bud off new plants, remaining connected to old plants via the runners. The connections allow plants to communicate such dangers as a hungry caterpillar or insect, prompting the plants to counteract the threat with chemical and physical responses that reduce the overall damage to the plant system.
The information is passed along through the phloem, which plants use to transport organic compounds. That suggests the information is represented by organic chemicals as well.
But just as computer viruses can propagate through a computer network, the plant networks can also spread botanical viruses.
Evolutionists chalk up amazing capabilities like the plant internet to “selective pressures,” as ecologist and evolutionary biologist André Kessler of Cornell University explains, even when they can’t explain the origin of such a complex system that requires information to be encoded by one plant and interpreted by another. Of course, this is one of many examples of nature around us exhibiting far greater complexities than humans could have imagined even decades ago—complexities of design that extol the creative genius of the Creator.
[We covered an update to this story in the October 25, 2008, edition of News to Note.]
In addition to the Internet, humankind loves to marvel at machines that go faster and farther, it seems, with each passing decade. The century of the airplane eventually gave rise to craft that could fly incredible distances with only in-flight refueling or no refueling whatsoever, although these remain the exception rather than the rule.
But a recent shorebird’s flight reminds us that human engineering is merely an attempt to re-create God’s original designs. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey tracking a female Bar-tailed Godwit last month were amazed to “observe” (via satellite) its flight from New Zealand to Alaska and back. The trip covered a distance of 18,000 miles (29,000 km); the birds “commute” between summer breeding grounds in Alaska to winter homes in New Zealand and Australia (where it is summer during the northern winter).
The flight included the longest recorded nonstop flight for a land bird, lasting eight days and stretching for an incredible 7,200 miles (11,600 km).
Once again, human achievements are put to shame by these birds’ almost unbelievable capabilities. And in case you didn’t catch it last week, be sure to read about how these birds “see” the earth’s magnetic field as they navigate such vast distances.
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