Science Briefs – Feb. 1, 2011

Kelsey Gobroski
Sun Star Reporter

Polar bear sets amazing swim pace, loses weight

Polar bears are faced with an increasingly daunting autumn commute. A polar bear swam for nine days to find a patch of sea ice 427 miles from the coast. Scientists had fitted the female polar bear with a radio collar before the voyage. She left weighing 226kg with a yearling in tow, and they found her weighing 177kg, sans cub.
Source: Discovery News

Carnivorous plant home to bats

The carnivorous Bornean pitcher plants Nepenthes rafflesiana elongata and Nepenthes lowii have difficulty successfully capturing insects. Instead, the plants offer space for rent to woolly bats. The bats, Kerivoula hardwickii, roost in the pitchers during the day. The plants digest the bats’ fecal matter as an alternative to trapped insects. The bats get nectar and a perch, and the plants get food.

Amoeba farms its own food

A species of amoeba saves some of its bacteria food for farming. Certain strains of Dictyostelium discoideum, a slime mold, cast out undigested bacteria with their spores. The amoebas then harvest their crop. D. discoideum, as a social amoeba, relies on communication between many individuals to produce this farming behavior. Farming and non-farming strains both can have a competitive advantage depending on their highly variable environment.
Source: Science News

Hands-free driving tested in Europe

In the next 10 years, European drivers may not always need to be in control of their vehicles when driving. Some roads could have convoy options with vehicles guided by a pilot car instead of their individual drivers. Seven firms, including Volvo, produced the convoy technology, Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE). SARTRE recently went for a test drive at low speeds, and the driver could sip coffee and read a newspaper.
Source: BBC

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