Science Links of the Week

A passion for the natural world drives many of our adventures. When we’re not outside, we love delving into discoveries about the places we live and travel. Here are some of the best natural history links we’ve found this week.

Remains of 76 child sacrifices found in Peru: Archeologists have found the remains of 76 child sacrifice victims near Huanchaco, Peru.

All of the skeletons have a clean cut across the sternum, suggesting that the children’s hearts were removed. The Chimu people then buried the children on top of an artificial mound facing east.

“We thought that the area, and particularly the mound, was free of Chimu child sacrifices, but we found the opposite,” anthropologist Gabriel Prieto said.

Researchers believe that there may be up to 1,000 child sacrifices in total. Scientists dated some previous remains between 1100 and 1200 AD. No one is sure why the Chimu carried out child sacrifices at such a scale.

Good friends

Chimpanzees and gorillas are friends: Decades of observations have confirmed the first known long-lasting social relationship between chimpanzees and gorillas.

In the Republic of the Congo, the two species regularly cross paths and share habitats. Fighting between the species is rare. Instead, they have been playing and socializing for hours.

Over half of the sightings of these social gatherings took place in fig trees. The chimpanzees would call loudly when they came across fruiting trees, and the gorillas would respond and join them.

A chimpanzee sits amongst small yellow flowers, clasping its hands together and opening its mouth.

Chimpanzees and gorillas are friends. Photo: Shutterstock


Dancing whales

Blue whales dance with the wind: It turns out that blue whales respond to changes in the wind.

From March to July, seasonal winds push the top layer of water out to sea. Cool, nutrient-rich water then rises. Blue whales detect these plumes of cool water and move offshore when the upwellings stop. The whales recognize these wind shifts and use them to identify where food-rich upwellings might occur.

Researchers knew that blue whales moved into these areas every season but this shows that they track the process.

“This research and its underlying technologies are opening new windows into the complex and beautiful ecology of these endangered whales,” oceanographer John Ryan said.

Three tree frogs perch on a branch and look at the camera.

Amphibians’ decline may cause more malaria. Photo: Shutterstock


Fewer frogs mean more mosquitoes

Declining amphibians tied to increased malaria cases: Between the 1980s and 2000s, the number of amphibians in the world declined dramatically. One reason: a fungal disease severely reduced numbers.

Their decline may cause a rise in malaria cases in Costa Rica and Panama. Amphibians eat mosquito larvae, and fewer amphibians may cause a boom in mosquito populations. Researchers have yet to confirm their theory, as there is no population data for mosquitos.

Indonesia bans foreign scientists: Five western scientists questioned the Indonesian government’s claim that orangutan populations are thriving in Indonesia. The Indonesian government responded by banning scientists from doing fieldwork in the country.

The government also ordered national parks to make them aware of any research by foreign scientists and are preventing the publication of negative environmental data.

Indonesia is home to many endangered species, but habitat destruction and rampant hunting are destroying the country’s rich biodiversity. “Our voices are silenced,” one conservationist explained. 

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.