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No. 118: Jul-Aug 1998

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Biological Miscellany

Sisterly synchrony. In Utah, three of E. Carey's four daughters gave birth on the same day, March 11, 1998, at 7:18 AM, 3:25 PM, and 8:58 PM. The daughters are aged 28, 27, and 24 -- no twin phenomena here. Odds against this synchrony were said to be 50 million to 1.

(Anonymous; "3 Sisters Deliver 3 Babies -- All on Same Day," San Francisco Chronicle, March 14, 1998. Cr.J. Covey.)

Oliver is all chimp. That aberrant chimp, Oliver, thought by some to be a humanchimpanzee hybrid (SF#110), is 100% chimpanzee say geneticists at the University of Texas. Even so, Oliver always walks erect and can mix drinks!

(Holden, Constance; "Oliver no 'Humanzee'," Science, 280:207, 1998.)

Phase changes. He was not frightened by a ghost or abducted by aliens, but the hair of a healthy, 45-year-old

French farmer turned from black to pure white in less that 14 days. For six months the embarrassed man endured, but then over a period of four months, his hair grew back to full black.

(Nelson, Douglas; "Aaaaaargh," New Scientist, p. 93, April 11, 1998.)

Mummified llamas yield superior wool. The wool found on a group of mummified llamas that had been sacrificed and buried some 1,000 years ago in Peru had hair far finer than cashmere and far superior to that of modern llamas. The ancient Peruvians apparently knew how to breed their animals to accentuate certain features. Their secret was lost during the Spanish conquest.

(Anonymous; "Mummified Llamas Yield Superior Wool," NEARA Transit, 10:6, Spring 1998.)

Telestomping elephants. Elephants, rhinos, okapis, and even some birds use infrasound (frequencies below 20 Hertz) for communication. At a recent meeting of the American Acoustical Society, University of California researchers reported that elephants also send low-frequency acoustic signals by stomping the ground. Almost inaudible in the air, the sounds travel through the ground and can be picked up by ground microphones. It is thought that this communication channel has a range of as much as 50 kilometers -- far greater than the sounds could be perceived in the air. Supporting this notion, anecdotes say that elephants somehow know when other elephants are being killed far, far away. They run in the opposite direction! But how do they detect the stomping sounds if they travel through the ground?

(Anonymous; "Stomping Ground," New Scientist, p. 25, December 13, 1997.)

Some sperm are immense -- and nutritious. Fruitflies smaller than a tomato seed pro-duce sperm almost 6 centimeters (2.3 inches) long. These can be seen coiled up in the tiny fertilized eggs. Why so long? Perhaps they carry nourishment for the developing embryo.

(Boyce, Nell; "Monster Sperm," New Scientist, p. 40, April 11, 1998.)

From Science Frontiers #118, JUL-AUG 1998. � 1998-2000 William R. Corliss