Earth Facts

Sea otter's special sleep habit

 When these furry little sea otters doze off, "they float on their backs on the surface of the water. So they don't drift away while they slumber, they've been known to hold hands in pairs or small groups. They also may wrap themselves in a strand of kelp or seaweed growing from the sea floor as an anchor of sorts." (Seen in Mother Nature Network, 2016).

Alaska's temperature warms

A Homer Alaskan native, Nancy Lord, in her book "Early Warming" wrote: "In the last fifty years, Alaska temperatures averaged across the state and through the year rises of 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter temperatures have risen more sharply, by an average of 6.3 degrees." In February, 2010 "the winter snows turned to rain." Her neighbors and she went about without jackets or hats. "Then in March, a blizzard dumped four feet of snow, temperatures dropped to zero, and schools were closed for the first time in decades."

A billion year-old gravitional wave passes through the earth

Over a billion years ago, in a far away galaxy two black holes collided with a violent impact "releasing more energy than the combined output of every star in every galaxy in the observable universe." But this was dark energy "carried by the invisible force of gravity." In September, 2015 a tiny portion of that energy reached Earth.  By the time it passed through Earth it was reduced to a "mere whisper of its thunderous beginning."

Cosmic Dust

Carbon and oxygen are made from a dying red giant star.  Our carbon atoms come from red giant star.
Red giants start to collapse on themselves and explode creating a supernova.  All 92 natural elements are created during a supernova—number 1 hydrogen all the way to number 92 uranium.
All supernovas create “cosmic dust”—all the elements form the minerals and the rocks.  A lot of gas is created as well.  Gases shoot out from the supernova’s blasts in two degrees above absolute—and they turn immediately to ice.

Glaciers: Architects and Providers of Earth

Our most recent Ice Age occurred during the Pleistocene Epoch from 10,000 years ago to 1.6 million years ago.  Today we live in an Intergracial period.  Glaciers have advanced and retreated at least four times during this period.  The last major glacier -- "The Laurentide" -- began to form over 100,000 years ago.  At its peak -- 18,000 years ago -- it covered all of Canada and into the U.S. as far south as Chicago.  This glacier was 2.5 miles thick.  The glacier advanced leveling mountains and carving valleys, called "glacial erosion."  Then about 14,000 years ago, the Laurentide began retreating and melting due to warmer temperatures, and this retreat formed the Great Lakes.  The "meltwater" filled the Great Lakes' holes.  Without the enormous weight of the glaciers, the land began to rebound.  Nearly all the land in the Great Lakes basin continues to rise about three inches every 100 years.

Fact and Myth about the Albatross

"An albatross is the grandest living flying machine on Earth.  ...A parent albatross may fly more than 10,000 miles to deliver one meal to its chick.  Wielding the longest wings in nature--up to eleven and a half feet--albatrosses can glide hundreds of miles without flapping, crossing ocean basins, circumnavigating the globe.  A 50-yest-old albatross has flown, at least, 3.7 million miles.

"We know albatross from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 1798 poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  In the poem, the albatross benevolently fill the ship's sails with wind and aids its progress.  When the mariner impulsively kills the albatross, horror grips the crew; they punish the mariner by making him wear the great corpse around his neck. (thus the burden of the Albatross.)

If you could travel millions of miles fueled by clean, self-renewing, zero-emissions energy, you'd be an albatross.

Many albatross live around the Falklands' Islands at 51 degrees south latitude.  Some 399,000 pairs, two-thirds of the world's black-brows, breed here in the Falklands."

National Geographic Magazine
"On the Wings of the Albatross"
by Carl Safina

Birds migrate for food, not temperature

"Amphibians seek an environment based on temperature.  Cold blooded animals do this.  Warm blooded animals seek an environment where they can get energy from food.  So, birds migrate south and north not because they cannot take the cold, but because they cannot find food in areas where the water freezes and plants die for a season," wrote Eric Strauss.  For every species there is a critical limiting factor in the environment.  It controls their range of movement.

Mistletoe is an Epiphyte. What?

When Jane Goodall looks at trees she’s aware she is often seeing only half the tree, the part above ground. The rest of the tree, she says, “is far, far down, penetrating deep beneath the ground.”  Some types of roots, however, are above ground, called aerial roots.  These are epiphytes—plants growing on trees or sometimes buildings, taking water and nutrients from the air and rain.  Mistletoe is an epiphyte, a parasite that sends roots deep into the host tree to steal its sap.  They are harmful to trees, but do not usually kill their hosts.  From the time of the Vikings on, mistletoe became associated with festivals, with love, fertility, and kissing in gratitude in a variety of cultures.

How Whales Became Whales

Whales' ancestors started out as land-walking mammals more than 55 million years ago.  They had four feet back then.  Scientists think these early creatures were pig-like scavengers living close to the sea.  They started entering the water, snacking on dead fish along the shore and then chasing live fish in the shallows, before finally searching for food in deep water.  Once in the water, these whale ancestors started evolving traits that allowed them to swim and hunt more effectively. Over time, whales grew larger and heavier because the water could bear their weight.  These giant mammals adapted from a land environment to a sea environment.  Today whales swim and splash instead of walk and run.

How Do Crocodiles Get Their Teeth Cleaned?

When crocodiles are lying on the bank of a river, they keep their mouths open.  It looks like they are ready to pounce on any food source silly enough to stick its nose in the croc’s mouth. In fact, sand pipers are just so silly…and wiley.  They actually do climb into the crocodile’s mouth and play the role of dental hygienist by picking clean the food lodged between the teeth of the crocodile.  In gratitude, the crocodile lets the sand pipers go.  Now that’s a symbiotic relationship:  The crocodile gets its teeth cleaned and the sand pipers get dinner.

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