We begin this week with a story about a stray puppy, a mountain, and a golfer. A dog named Rupee, rescued from a trash dump when he was a puppy by former professional golfer Joanne Lefson, completed with Lefson a trek to Base Camp on Mount Everest. Here, Rupee looks on with a proud sense of accomplishment. Can you blame him?
Unlike Rupee, here's a creature whose least-fun thing to do would be to pose for a photograph. It's a female saola that was captured in 1996. Saola are extremely reticent animals, rarely available to strike a pose. However, one was recently photographed in Vietnam, for the first time in 15 years, via a World Wildlife Fund camera trap. The saola wasn't even discovered until 1992 -- in Vietnam, near the Laotian border. At the time, it was the first large mammal in more than 50 years to be stumbled upon by science. Its elusiveness has earned it the nickname "Asian unicorn." Who says unicorns don't exist?
This green poison-dart frog has a couple of neat tricks up its mating sleeve. First, it can appear as bright as a red poison-dart frog to members of its own species, but not as bright to birds (their predators) when viewed on dark backgrounds. It's also able to vary its mating call to suit the circumstances. When females are distant, the green male calls less frequently than the red male of the species. But when a desirable Ms. Frog is close by, he will greatly increase his calling activity. Therefore, the little green guy is able to deliver pretty good signals to the ladies while also being less visible to predators. Not bad! The findings come from a study that tested whether green poison-dart frogs were more, or less, conspicuous to possible mates and predators than red variants of the same species. It was published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology and led by Beatriz Willink of the Universidad de Costa Rica.
Got music? This little fella does. Well, sort of. New research with squirrel monkeys showed that the critters understood not only sound patterns but also when those patterns changed. That ability is central to language and music, and therefore may have evolved at least 30 million years ago.
Speaking of music, this quokka looks ready to burst into song. He has a cane; all he needs is a top hat. A quokka, known to some as a "kangaroo rat," even though it is certainly not a rat, can get as big as your average household cat. This one lives on Rottnest Island, off the coast of Western Australia. (Fun fact: 17th-century Dutch explorers originally named the island "Rotte nest," which means rat's nest, because they saw the quokko living there.) Is it smiling for the camera? That would be nice, but also a little unsettling.
Just when entomologists think they've found all of the scorpions, a new species pops up. This one -- formal name Euscorpius lycius, but will answer to "scorpion" -- is a 2.5-inch bundle of freak-out false-alarm: It doesn't even have a dangerous sting. If you got stung by one it would feel more like a mosquito bite than a potentially death-dealing event. The new entry into the worldwide scorpion mugshot book was found in the pine forests and rocks of Southwestern Turkey.
Elephants are caught in a horrible situation not of their making. Poverty in Africa combined with demand, particularly in Asia, for illegal ivory leaves the great creatures vulnerable to poachers. Some 30,000 African elephants are killed for their tusks each year. Recently the U.S. announced it would destroy its stockpile of ivory, in hopes it would send a strong signal to poachers and buyers alike that it's time for them to get out of the ivory business.
Snakes don't have the best of eyesight, which can be a problem when a threat arises. But research has found that at least one type of snake, the coachwhip, is able to control the blood flow to its eyes when it senses a threat, improving its vision and keeping it ready for whatever needs to happen next. It's the kind of evolutionary adaptation Mr. Magoo might have wished he had.
Winter is on the way, but this Alexandrian parrot is ready, hanging out in Schlosspark Biebrich in Wiesbaden, Germany on Nov. 14, 2013. Parrots in Wiesbaden and elsewhere in the country have adapted to the German winter and are able to survive.
We finish the week with a term you probably won't come across again -- well, at least not today: hermaphroditic sea slug. This might look like a bizarre attempt at a new gummy candy creation, but instead it's two Siphopteron sp. 1 sea slugs, caught in the act of furthering their species. Siphopteron sp. 1 is a special kind of sea slug in that, during a study of the mating rituals of hermaphroditic sea slugs, it was the only one of five such species to consistently stab its partner between the eyes with a penile stylet during mating.