This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.Australia is world famous for its venomous critters, including its many highly venomous snakes.The snake that holds the popular title of “world’s most venomous” is the inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), an inhabitant of Australia’s arid interior. Astonishingly, a single bite from an inland taipan is capable of delivering enough venom to kill 250,000 lab mice.The venom of the inland taipan has attracted considerable research interest and the toxins responsible for its extreme toxicity have been identified. Effective antivenom also exists for the treatment of bites.What we don’t know, though, is why the inland taipan needs such toxic venom. We know almost nothing about the evolutionary selection pressures that have refined and enhanced the toxins present in the venom of this iconic species of snake. … [Read more...] about Why are Some Snakes So Venomous?
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Cobras, with their threatening hoods and intimidating upright postures, are some of the most iconic snakes on Earth. Their elegance, prideful stance and venomous bite have made them both respected and feared.“Cobras occur throughout Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia,” said Sara Viernum, a herpetologist based in Madison, Wisconsin. The word comes from the Portuguese cobra de capello, which means "hooded snake."There is some disagreement about what exactly a cobra is, and the number of cobra species ranges from 28 to about 270 depending on how a cobra is defined. Genetically, “true” cobras are members of the genus Naja, but according to Viernum, often “the name cobra references several species of snakes, most of which are in the venomous snake family Elapidae. Elpididae includes other snakes like coral snakes, kraits and mambas.” Many of these snakes either possess hoods or the ability to raise the upper part … [Read more...] about Facts About Cobras
Vipers are a large family of snakes; the scientific name is Viperidae. They are found all over the world, with the exceptions of Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, north of the Arctic Circle and island clusters such as Hawaii. The family Viperidae includes adders, pit vipers (like rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and copperheads), the Gaboon viper, green vipers and horned vipers. All vipers are venomous and have long, hinged fangs. "Generally more venomous vipers are in tropical areas, particularly South America and Africa," said Alan Savitzky, a professor of biological sciences at Utah State University specializing in the biology of snakes. Vipers found in colder, northern climates, such as the black or European adder have more moderate venom. [Image gallery: Snakes of the World] Physical characteristicsVipers range widely in size, though are generally stocky with short tails. One of the world’s smallest vipers is the Mao-Lan pit viper (Protobothrops … [Read more...] about Facts About Vipers
Badgers are small mammals with flat, wedge-shaped bodies, broad feet with long claws and coarse hair that can be black, brown, gold or white. They are related to ferrets, minks, otters, weasels and wolverines. All of these animals are members of Mustelidae, the largest family in the order Carnivora. The classification of badgers is complex. According to Daniel Heath Justice, author of "Badger" (Reaktion Books, 2015), "Categories are under constant revision, rendering the taxonomic accuracy of any study … temporary at best."Justice acknowledges that there continues to be a debate about which animals should be considered "true badgers." "Scientists generally agree on three species: the Eurasian badger, the Asian hog badger and the North American badger." Including the honey badger in this group is controversial, he wrote, because it is genetically and genealogically distant from the others. However, the honey badger, also called the ratel, is generally still included among … [Read more...] about Facts About Badgers
Facebook wants to change how we control computers Facebook's latest foray into brain computer interfaces is a reflection of the changing nature of hardware and how we interact with it. Neuralink may be one of the best-known brain computer interface companies in the world right now, but everyone from big tech to tiny startups and neuroscience researchers are working on projects aimed at linking human minds to computers. Artificial Intelligence Facial recognition: This new AI tool can spot when you are nervous or confused High energy: Facebook's AI guru LeCun imagines AI's next frontier What is AI? Everything you need to know about Artificial Intelligence Researchers use AI to track great white sharks (ZDNet YouTube) Watch this robot solve a Rubik's Cube one-handed (CNET) Artificial intelligence: Cheat sheet (TechRepublic) Here are some of the experimental and real-world applications they've come up with so far.Fighting paralysisWhen Ian Burkhart had a diving … [Read more...] about Mind-reading systems: Seven ways brain computer interfaces are already changing the world