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July 2002 Archive

Nearly one-third of Americans age 16 and older—more than 66 million—fed, photographed, and observed wildlife in 2001, and they spent $40 billion doing so, according to the latest figures of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Elephants may stomp, scream, and make the ground rumble to communicate with each other over distances as far as 20 miles (32 kilometers) away, said a researcher who headed to Africa this June. Such signals could warn other elephants of predators, help a lonely elephant find a mate, or direct them toward food and water.

A Quebec power company plans to build a hydroelectric plant on the Rupert River that threatens to curb the flow of water that draws sports enthusiasts and sustains the region's Cree people. In a new turn in a series of bitter battles over such development, Cree leaders are supporting the project.

A northern snakehead—a fish that can breathe air and walk from one body of water to another—found in a Maryland pond is the latest species to threaten an ecosystem far from its native habitat. Foreign organisms present a challenge to environmental managers as they kill off native species and disrupt human activities.

The Pentagon was targeted by terrorists in the September 11 attack because of its symbolism as the heart of America's military power. The loss of life and physical destruction were devastating, but America rallied almost immediately. The Phoenix Project is rebuilding the sections that were directly hit by the airplane. Workers have been on the job round-the-clock to meet a daunting goal: to complete construction by September 11, 2002.

National Geographic presented a map cabinet to President Bush at the White House Wednesday. The handcrafted walnut cabinet contains copies of 22 current maps, including maps of Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Middle East. National Geographic has presented map cabinets to every President since first presenting one to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941.

Archaeologists have found a 1.8-million-year-old skull of a tiny-brained human ancestor at a dig site in the Republic of Georgia. The find is one of many uncovered at the Dmanisi site, and has scientists reexamining a widely held hypothesis that the evolution of big brains propelled the exodus of early humans out of Africa.

A researcher in Britain has found a very rare fossil of a crocodile-like creature that she believes provides a stepping stone between our aquatic ancestors and the first four-legged land dwellers. The 348- to 344-million-year-old fossil falls in a 30-million-year gap in the fossil record that has stumped paleontologists.

National Geographic Today sent science producer Chad Cohen on a mission to explore underwater sea mountains (seamounts) in the Gulf of Alaska. He joined up with a team of scientists, on the research vessel Atlantis and traveled to the Patton Seamount, 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Kodiak Island, Alaska. In a brief missive direct from the ship, Cohen describes his journey in a deep-sea submersible called Alvin to explore an unknown world of bizarre spider crabs and exotic corals.

Bright yellow radiation suits are not standard-issue attire for archaeologists. Nor is a Geiger counter. But these precautions are sometimes required for the researchers exploring the eerie A-bomb rubble and ghost towns left over from Cold War blasts at the Nevada Test Site, formerly the Nevada Proving Grounds, on 1,375 square miles of desert 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Steve Wolter gets calls from people needing advice on whether they can salvage concrete that has been damaged or involved in a fire. But last year, Wolter was hired to study concrete that came from a building hit by the most extreme conditions that Wolter had ever seen—the Pentagon.

By some estimates, Earth is losing three or four species every hour. Yet, not every loss is as permanent as it seems, writes Scott Weidensaul in his new book The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking, and the Search for Lost Species. Scientists regularly "rediscover" species they thought were extinct, while others are trying to resurrect species through cloning.

For several years scientists have been trying to figure out the cause of a rise in physical abnormalities among frogs in many locations. Pesticides and parasites have been the competing hypotheses offered to explain the phenomenon. Now, a new study says it's the combination of these two factors that has disturbed normal development of frogs, leading many to have extra or missing limbs.

A National Geographic expedition led by explorer Robert Ballard has found what is believed to be the remains of John F. Kennedy's PT-109. Experts from the U.S. Navy recently confirmed the May 2002 find is most likely the World War II patrol boat. PT-109 sank in the Solomon Islands when a Japanese destroyer sliced through it, setting into motion the survival odyssey that became a cornerstone of the Kennedy legend.

A team excavating in northern Chad has unearthed an intact skull and other fossils of what they believe was a hominid that lived six to seven million years ago. That date would make it the oldest known ancestor of humans.

After close to fifteen years of careful captive breeding and boot camp, the black-footed ferret may be making a comeback. The recent birth of the 100th ferret via a new artificial insemination technique was a small but significant conservation milestone along the road to recovery.

Four volcanoes in the central Andes mountains of South America, all previously thought to be dormant, must now be considered active due to ground motions detected from space, geophysicists say.

When developing countries look to the rest of the world for help, it's important to make sure the response is a grassroots effort and not just solutions imposed from the top down, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and other panelists said Wednesday night at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.

As the United States designates permanent repositories for storing nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain and elsewhere, there's a need to develop warning systems that would alert people 10,000 years from now about the potential risks.

In its never-ending war against drug smugglers, the U.S. Customs Service employs amazingly effective "detector dogs." These canine officers, recruited from pounds and animal shelters, keep billions of dollars worth of drugs off the streets. For them, the job is just a game, but smugglers often come up on the losing end. This article is the first in our series The Dog Days of Summer.

Maryland wildlife officials who recently found an invasive northern snakehead fish in a pond in Crofton, Maryland, have now captured eight juveniles of the species. The troubling development means the voracious air-breathing and land-crawling predator is multiplying.

A century and a half after it was looted from an Egyptian tomb, a prized mummy acquired by an Atlanta museum is a step closer to going home. Officials of the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University announced Tuesday they had agreed to return the mummy, because there was enough evidence to indicate it probably was the remains of the missing pharaoh Ramses I, founder of one of Egypt's most famous dynasties.

Each year huge shoals of sardines migrate up to the waters along the coast of South Africa's KwaZulu Natal province. The shoals, which can be several miles long, are pursued by sharks, dolphins, and other predators that herd them in close to shore, where huge crowds gather to watch "The Greatest Shoal on Earth."

For fire crew commander Peter M. Leschak, author of Ghosts of the Fireground, released this month, there's no better place than the line of fire.

Analysis of residue from a ceramic "teapot" suggests that the Maya, and their ancestors, may have been gobbling chocolate as far back as 2,600 years ago, pushing back the earliest evidence of cacao use more than 1,000 years.

The jury may be out on whether you can teach old dogs new tricks. But experience suggests a special breed of pooches can teach old bears new tricks—in this case, a healthy fear of humans.

The skull of a giant flying reptile that lived among dinosaurs suggests that it might have hunted for food like modern birds known as skimmers, using its scissors-like bill to snatch prey as it glided over water.

The Amorphophallus titanum, the world's biggest and worst-smelling flower currently exhibiting its stinky splendor at the Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas, California. The plant rarely blooms, and when it does the flower lasts at most two and a half days.

A bison kill site found in Oklahoma may mean that the Paleoindians of the Ice Age are about to lose their reputation as "big game hunters." The site, which is tentatively estimated to be about 10,750 years old, provides evidence that the Clovis people had a more varied diet and employed more sophisticated hunting techniques than was once believed.

Regions of the Chesapeake Bay can be notorious hotbeds for the sea nettle, Chrysaora quinuecirrha—a jellyfish with a veil of transparent stinging tentacles. Now researchers are tracking sea nettles in the Chesapeake and posting a "nowcast" map every Friday that shows the likelihood of close encounters.

There are only about 1,000 greater adjutant storks left in the world, and more than 80 percent of them are in the Indian state of Assam. For the past several years, baby storks there have been falling out of their nests, plunging to their deaths. Local wildlife lovers, fearing for the species, have developed a simple solution to stem the death toll: safety nets.

The people known as Sumerians are credited with starting the first civilization and building the first cities. They also invented writing, and then filled millions of tablets with their intricate, detailed characters. A dictionary being developed at the University of Pennsylvania offers a key to the text.

The snakehead, a razor-toothed Asian fish that can walk on land and is so predatory it can wipe out native species of fish, raised alarms in recent weeks after it was found in a Maryland pond and showed signs of reproducing quickly. But it's also been reported across the southern United States, and officials are seeking to ban further importation of the fish, which is sought for aquariums and food markets.

Researchers have found the first terrestrial evidence that the Earth was heavily bombarded by meteorites around four billion years ago. Now the scientists are wondering whether the discovery can also be linked to early life on Earth.

Dogs have served in the U.S. military every war this century, acting as trackers, scouts, mine sniffers, and other roles. The Vietnam Dog Handler Association is pushing for a national memorial that will recognize the heroic service of these canine soldiers. This is the third in the National Geographic News special series The Dog Days of Summer.

July 26, 2002—Earlier this week the largest invertebrate on Earth, an animal that has never before been seen in its native habitat, washed up on the chilly eastern shores of Tasmania, Australia. The giant squid, an adult female, bore the marks of a torrid sexual affair.

Kirtland's warbler, an endangered species that breeds only in northern Michigan, is on the rebound according to a recent census that counted more than 1,000 breeding pairs. But while scientists have learned a great deal in the last two decades about how to manage the population, human changes to the habitat mean the bird will probably never be removed from the Endangered Species List.

The purple coneflower, also known as echinacea, is used by some consumers as a cold-fighting remedy that stimulates the immune system. But its popularity is based mainly on folklore, and medical science doesn't know much about natural remedies such as these. Now, a Kansas research consortium is working to replace the mystique with science.

Some "endocrine-disrupting" chemicals in the environment are known to disturb normal sexual reproduction and development in animals. A new study shows that the impact appears to be greater in fish, which are susceptible to damage from many more common household pollutants than previously thought.

Who says that National Geographic Today doesn't treat its reporters well? NGT sent science correspondent Chad Cohen to check out one of the world's hippest bachelor pads, just off the coast of Alaska, to hang out with the guys.

In the most ambitious study of marine life ever undertaken in the United States, scientists spent a month recently counting the fish in the Florida Keys. The underwater census is part of a campaign to save endangered fish stocks in South Florida and restore the shrinking Dry Tortugas, the largest living coral reef in North America.

It was the Greeks whose ancient language produced the word "chaos." And that word seems unnervingly apt these days when describing the state of preparations for the Olympic Games scheduled to be held in Athens in 2004.

An unusual multi-ringed crater discovered in waters off the coast of England could give scientists greater insight into what happens when a meteor or comet hits Earth. Unlike most similar craters on Earth, which have been damaged by erosion, the North Sea crater is very well preserved. logo