December 18, 2013 9:08 am
People usually know what they’re talking about when it comes to the animals that live in their own backyard. For years, however, scientists ignored locals in the Amazon who said there was not one but two species of tapir—a large mammal that slightly resembles a pig—roaming the forest, Mongabay reports. Now, science has caught up to what the locals knew all along. Authors of a recent research paper finally paid attention and discovered that a new species of tapir does indeed exist.
Four other species of tapirs are found in the Amazon and in Southeast Asia, but a new one hasn’t been discovered since 1865. The new tapir, dubbed Tapirus kabomani, is the smallest of the bunch but still counts as one of the largest mammals found in South America.
Found inhabiting open grasslands and forests in the southwest Amazon (the Brazilian states of Rondônia and Amazonas, as well as the Colombian department of Amazonas), the new species is regularly hunted by the Karitiana tribe who call it the “little black tapir.” The new species is most similar to the Brazilian tapir (Tapirus terrestris), but sports darker hair and is significantly smaller: while a Brazilian tapir can weigh up to 320 kilograms (710 pounds), the Kabomani weighs-in around 110 kilograms (240 pounds). Given its relatively small size it likely won’t be long till conservationists christen it the pygmy or dwarf tapir. It also has shorter legs, a distinctly-shaped skull, and a less prominent crest.
After noticing some discrepancies in tapir skull specimens about a decade ago, lead author Mario Cozzuol finally decided to investigate. He followed up on leads from locals about the “little black tapir,” and they provided Cozzuol and his team with skulls and other materials for genetic analysis. Those tests, combined with field surveys, confirmed that this tapir was indeed a species unrecognized by the scientific community. “Local peoples have long recognized our new species, suggesting a key role for traditional knowledge in understanding the biodiversity of the region,” Cozzuol concludes in his paper.
Interestingly enough, it seems Theodore Roosevelt also listened to the native experts. A skull from an animal he hunted in 1912 matches up with the new species, Mongobay writes, and at the time Roosevelt commented that indigenous people told him it belonged to a “distinct kind” of tapir.
More from Smithsonian.com:
December 17, 2013 2:06 pm
From North Pole to South Pole, from the surface of the planet to the top of the atmosphere, at its most basic, wind is caused by differences in pressure. The sun heats the Earth’s surface unevenly and causes the air to heat unevenly, as well. Since hot air rises, the hot air lifts up and up, leaving a low pressure zone underneath. In colder places, where the pressure is higher, air rushes away, moving to balance out this difference in pressure. That’s how wind happens.
Working with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg made a stunning Wind Map, which shows real time winds as they flow around the U.S. And now computer programmer Cameron Beccario has produced an even more powerful creation—a mesmerizing tool that helps visualize the winds all over the globe and is known simply as “Earth.”
In the animated photo above, we’ve used Earth to show the wind conditions at 250 hectopascals, a region of the atmosphere that flows between around 30,000 and 50,000 feet, and includes the well-known northern subtropical jet stream—what you’d normally just call “the jet stream.”
But Beccario’s map can also be used to show what the wind is like on the surface or way high up in the stratosphere, where winds rage in massive polar vortexes. It also lets you play with different styles of map projection, from Waterman and Winkel to the super-trippy stereographic.
H/T Dan Satterfield
More from Smithsonian.com:
December 17, 2013 12:11 pm
Video games are definitely hard. But are they a sport? According to the United States government, they are. At least if you go by their visa policies.
James Plafke at Geek.com reports that Kim Dong-hwan, a competitive StarCraft player, was just issued a P-1A visa—the type that, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is for people ”coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.” Plafke:
Kim, who goes by the handle viOLet has been traveling between South Korea and the US in order to participate in pro-gaming StarCraft tournaments. He was using a visa waiver, and living at his manager’s apartment between tournaments. Eventually, though, he was told he was traveling between the countries so much that he wouldn’t be allowed back without a true visa. Dong-hwan tried to get a student visa, but was denied.
According to Plafke, both Blizzard, the company that makes StarCraft, and Twitch, the company who broadcasts the StarCraft World Championship, helped Kim by writing letters of recommendation to USCIS.
Kim isn’t the first gamer to get a P-1A visa. This summer, a Canadian League of Legends gamer got one as well, according to Alan Yu at NPR. Yu says that issuing athlete visas to gamers could bolster the professional gaming community:
The move could bring more professional gamers to the U.S. and grow an already booming industry. This October, the final match for the game League of Legends almost packed the Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, with more than 13,000 people. The combined prize money for the three StarCraft II world championship series next year is $1.6 million.
There are a few points in favor of treating games like athletes. The players get paid like athletes. Kim isn’t even the highest ranked StarCraft II player around, and even at spot 63 worldwide, he’s made $95,830 over the last three years from gaming. Choi Seong-hun, ranked fourth in the world, has earned $245,670 in prize money so far. And they practice like athletes too—10 to 12 hours a day. Then again, you could say the same of a musician or writer, and neither of those professions gets lumped in with athletes.
But for Blizzard, the athlete visa might be the ticket to getting pro gamers from Asia to come live in the United States. Blizzard told Yu that they had a few more players with pending visa applications, looking to make the same jump Kim did.
More from Smithsonian.com:
December 17, 2013 11:25 am
You’ve heard of Charles Darwin, right? Of course you have. But have you heard of A.R. Wallace? Probably not. But what if I told you that he was just as important as Darwin in discovering the theory of natural selection?
History has not been kind to Wallace, pushing him back to the depths of obscurity, while every nerdy college kid sticks a Darwin poster on their dorm room wall. In this video, animators Flora Lichtman and Sharon Shattuck tell the forgotten story of Wallace—a tale of misfortune, shipwreck, backpacking, malaria and incredible science.
It was during fits of malaria that Wallace started to come up with the idea of natural selection. He sent his manuscript to Darwin, who puts together a set of notes to be presented alongside Wallace’s. When the Linnean Society of London hears the case for natural selection in 1858, Wallace and Darwin share the credit.
So what happened? Why do we remember Darwin and not Wallace? Well, for one, when Darwin published On the Origin of Species, he barely mentions Wallace at all. And Wallace doesn’t’ complain. In fact, he loves the book. And with that, he fades away.
More from Smithsonian.com:
December 17, 2013 10:38 am
Icelandic children get to enjoy the favors on not one but 13 Father Christmases. Called the Yule Lads, these merry but mischievous fellows take turns visiting kids on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. On each of those nights, children place one of their shoes on the windowsill. For good boys and girls, the Yule Lad will leave candy. If not, the Yule Lads are not subtle in expressing their disapproval: they fill the shoe with rotting potatoes.
Don’t think well-behaved Icelandic kids have a sweet deal all around, however. They may enjoy 13 Santa Claus-like visits, but they also have to contend with a creature called Grýla who comes down from the mountains on Christmas and boils naughty children alive, and a giant, blood-thirsty black kitty called the Christmas Cat that prowls around the country on Christmas Eve and eats anyone who’s not wearing at least one new piece of clothing.
Apparently, the Yule Lads used to be a lot more creepy then they are today, too, but in 1746 parents were officially banned from tormenting their kids with monster stories about those particular creatures. Today, they’re mostly benign–save for the harmless tricks they like to play.
Like Snow White’s seven dwarves, each of the Yule Lads has his own distinct personality. Their names, however, remained a point of much interpretation and debate until recently. As the National Museum of Iceland describes:
Dozens of different names for the Yule Lads appear in different folk tales and stories. A popular poem about the Yule Lads by the late Jóhannes úr Kötlum, which first appeared in the book Jólin koma (Christmas is Coming) in 1932, served to make their names and number much better known. The names of the 13 Yule Lads that most Icelanders know today are all derived from that poem.
Today, as the Museum describes, the Yule lads are:
- Sheep-Cote Clod: He tries to suckle yews in farmer’s sheep sheds
- Gully Gawk: He steals foam from buckets of cow milk
- Stubby: He’s short and steals food from frying pans
- Spoon Licker: He licks spoons
- Pot Scraper, aka Pot Licker: He steals unwashed pots and licks them clean
- Bowl Licker: He steals bowls of food from under the bed (back in the old days, Icelanders used to sometimes store bowls of food there – convenient for midnight snacking?)
- Door Slammer: He stomps around and slams doors, keeping everyone awake
- Skyr Gobbler: He eats up all the Icelandic yogurt (skyr)
- Sausage Swiper: He loves stolen sausages
- Window Peeper: He likes to creep outside windows and sometimes steal the stuff he sees inside
- Door Sniffer: He has a huge nose and an insatiable appetite for stolen baked goods
- Meat Hook: He snatches up any meat left out, especially smoked lamb
- Candle Beggar: He steals candles, which used to be sought-after items in Iceland
More from Smithsonian.com: