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January 2003 Archive

New research suggests that a European species of earthworm introduced to North America may be decimating populations of an endangered and unusual fern. The finding suggests that other plants might be at risk too.

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted 20 years ago today— and hasn't stopped issuing lava since. For much of that time, volcanologists Steve and Donna O'Meara have lived and worked on the mountain's flanks, witnessing the ongoing spectacle of the Kilauea eruption. Full story and photo gallery:

Innovative technologies are changing the way documentary filmmakers see African wildlife. To better understand how, filmmaker Maya Laurinaitis followed a husband and wife team during the making of their film Walking With Lions. National Geographic News recently spoke with Laurinaitis about her assignment.

The animal world has its share of celebrated navigators, from flocking geese to spawning salmon. New research suggests that Caribbean spiny lobsters—which use the Earth's magnetic fields in a sophisticated guidance system known as true navigation—may rank among the best of them.

For more than 50 years, the staff of the Australian Reptile Park in New South Wales has raised and milked hundreds of venomous spiders and snakes—including the death adder—for their poisonous venom to create life-saving antivenins. It's a dangerous job that has saved hundreds of lives. Full story and photo gallery: 

Britain's streets are under aerial attack, but it's dive-bombing birds, not warplanes that are menacing the country's urban centers. Seagulls are descending on towns and cities with piercing cries and open beaks, terrorizing citizens and leaving messes. With numbers rising by 13 percent each year, local authorities face an uphill battle in trying to fend them off.

Africa explorer Mike Fay has survived being gored by an elephant in Gabon. He received cuts and gashes, including a puncture through his right arm, but otherwise escaped serious injury. "I feel like the luckiest person on the planet," said Fay, who has also survived a plane crash, many bouts of malaria, and confrontations with armed poachers. Full story, photo gallery, and audio: 

Sardines and anchovies swim to the beat of a 50-year climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean. The seesawing changes of these two tiny fish—the one abundant when the other is scarce—have highlighted a natural climatic pattern that may color our understanding of global warming.

Sardines and anchovies swim to the beat of a 50-year climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean. The seesawing changes of these two tiny fish—the one abundant when the other is scarce—have highlighted a natural climatic pattern that may color our understanding of global warming.

Is human cloning inevitable? The answer will surprise you. For perspective on the possibility of engineering a human clone, and to help sort fact from fiction, National Geographic Today spoke with molecular biologist Kathy Hudson, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins University Genetics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

South America's Pantanal—the world's largest wetland—abounds with biodiversity, from jaguars and alligators to unique human cultures. The Pantanal is the setting for this weekend's National Geographic EXPLORER documentary Brazil's Vanishing Cowboys. But the unique wetland is itself under threat, according to an expert.

In Cambodia, nine miles (14.5 kilometers) from Phnom Penh, the "killing fields" of Choeung Ek have become a tourist attraction, horrifying and fascinating. Choeung Ek is one of thousands of other such sites around the country where the Khmer Rouge practiced genocide during the late 1970s.

Researchers announced today their discovery of an ancient shipwreck more than 2,300 years old that sank in the Black Sea off the coast of present-day Bulgaria. It is the oldest shipwreck ever found in the Black Sea. Full story, video, and photo gallery:

Life wasn't always easy for some of today's top canine celebrities. Before being discovered, many were abandoned by previous owners and living in animal shelters, hoping for a second chance at life.

Matthew Henson accompanied Robert E. Peary on numerous Arctic expeditions, most notably on their summit to the North Pole on April 6, 1909. Did Henson, Peary's African American companion, actually reach the summit before Peary? Full text and photo gallery: 

The park rangers at Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument wear camouflage, carry assault rifles, and chase drug smugglers through the blazing desert. They're at the front lines of a violent border war—and they're losing.

The appearance of hairless black bears has become common on the western edge of Florida's Ocala National Forest. The dramatic hair loss is caused by mange, a disease spurred by an outbreak of mites. Researchers seek to learn why the outbreak has occurred.

One hundred and fifteen years ago today, 33 bearded men in frock coats traveled the gas-lit streets of Washington, D.C. to a small building near the White House to discuss "the advisability of organizing a society for the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge." The rest, as they say, is history.

It's a race against the clock to save nearly 1,000 wild horses in Nevada. Rescue groups say they have until Wednesday to buy the horses from the state, or the horses will likely be purchased by slaughter houses that ship the meat overseas for human consumption.

Snakelike robots may soon fight terrorism, save lives, and repair everything from battleship engines to the human body. Sound like science fiction? New research is bringing these incredible possibilities closer to reality.

A new study finds that sharks in the North Atlantic Ocean are vanishing at a phenomenal rate. Hammerhead shark populations shrank the most, dropping 89 percent in the last 15 years. Researchers say the only way to stop this shark slide may be to limit fishing.

Later this year, reproductive biologist Betsy Dresser will check some rather extraordinary luggage on a flight to Kenya: Two thermoses containing about 50 frozen bongo embryos, which will hopefully develop into healthy calves in order to repopulate bongo herds—endangered antelope that are rapidly disappearing from their African range.

Barney Smith is the Texas king of toilet seat art. For more than 35 years, the retired plumber has whiled away his idle hours decorating the lids of toilet seats. Now 81, Smith counts 642 lids in his oeuvre.

Kazuo Inamori, founder of the Inamori foundation, talks with National Geographic News about scientific progress and the enrichment of human values. The Inamori Foundation bestows the annual Kyoto Prizes, which are given in the categories of advanced technology, basic science, and arts and philosophy. Since 1984, Kyoto Prizes have been given to 60 people from 12 countries. Given not only for excelling in one's field of specialization, the award recognizes those who, in the course of their research, have made contributions to humanity and society.

Airlines have long overcharged business travelers. But with more executives these days relying on smaller carriers like Southwest or ATA for cheaper rates, giants like United are slashing some business fares by 40 percent. Do business travelers really win in this competitive climate? Yes and no, says Traveler Editor in Chief Keith Bellows. Here's why.

Researchers are venturing out on the high seas with a camera-equipped underwater robot to track jellyfish and jelly-like creatures in their own domain. Findings reveal more about the ocean's food web, and the opportunities to use these creatures as sentinels of environmental change.

Since its inception over 30 years ago, the World Heritage Convention—a treaty administered by the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization—has designated 730 sites in 125 countries for their global cultural, historic, or natural significance. Conservationists say the addition of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System in 1996 has aided the tiny Central American nation. Full story and photo gallery:

The art of "matching the hatch"—fishing for trout using exact replicas of the insects the trout feed on—revolutionized fly fishing. But at the sport's spiritual home, the chalk rivers of England, aquatic insects are vanishing. Anglers now fear the skills used for more than 150 years could also disappear.

India's often-feared snake species have no voice of their own, but they do have at least one energetic and determined protector. For over a decade, animal welfare activist Snehal Bhatt has championed the cause of India's reptile residents, teaching her fellow citizens how to save both themselves and the snakes. This story airs on the National Geographic Channel.

This summer, a team of virus hunters will journey to Australia, Malaysia, India, Sumatra and Thailand to explore what they call "hot zones"—sites where deadly new diseases have emerged. The common enemy is the Nipah virus, or a relative, which may now be more widespread in Southeast Asia than anybody recognized.

Paleontologists in China have discovered the fossil of a four-winged dinosaur with fully developed feathers on all its limbs. The new species provides more evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs, and could help answer the question of how a group of ground-dwelling flightless dinosaurs evolved to a feathered animal capable of flying. Full story and photo gallery: 

Three Americans, including adventure travel writer Robert Young Pelton, were reportedly kidnapped Friday in the Darien Gap region of Panama by a Colombian paramilitary group, according to U.S. Embassy officials in Panama.

Conservation International and National Geographic Traveler magazine announced today the first winners of the World Legacy Awards, recognizing operators in southern Africa, Italy, and Thailand as the "best examples in the tourism industry of the ideal balance between nature conservation, the protection of heritage sites, social responsibility, and commerce."

By late spring or early summer, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service may propose removing the western population of gray wolf from the endangered species list. But the delisting proposal has sparked debate among federal and state agencies, and private environmental groups, about whether the wolf should indeed roam free of the endangered designation.

Last year, 134 illegal migrants lost their lives while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border along a 261-mile-long (420-kilometer) stretch of the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona. For the past 12 years, photojournalist and author John Annerino has documented the life-and-death struggle of migrants embarked on this perilous crossing. National Geographic News recently spoke with Annerino about his own 50-mile (80-kilometer) crossing and his perspective on the border problem.

Marine scientists surveying an unexplored mountain range deep beneath the Arctic Ocean have discovered at least nine hydrothermal vents on the Gakkel Ridge, a mid-ocean mountain range that snakes for 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers) from high above Greenland to Siberia. Scientists say the vents may potentially host unique forms of life previously unknown to science.

An endangered moss species has fruited for the first time in nearly 140 years. British researchers behind the discovery hope to now conserve the species by matchmaking male and female moss patches that have been too far apart to mate with one another.

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National Geographic has taken viewers on living-room safaris to the wildest places. Now filmmakers spotlight a savage environment unlike any other: the National Football League, where dolphins take on broncos and cardinals can compete against eagles. Premiering on the National Geographic Channel tonight, a documentary looks at the real animals behind American football.

Members of a Colombian paramilitary group released three American citizens, including danger-seeking author Robert Young Pelton, last night. The trio was taken hostage in the Darien province of Panama earlier this week.

National Geographic photographer Reza has devoted his life to documenting the impact of war and poverty with poignant images that illustrate the suffering and the strength of oppressed peoples. Reza recently spoke with National Geographic News about his three-year imprisonment in Iran and his recent assignment documenting the lives of Kurds in northern Iraq.

Students all over the world will have a chance in coming weeks to meet pinnipeds, watch the flights of Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and learn the ancient ways of the Chumash culture. The JASON Project's annual expedition will explore California's Channel Islands this year, offering students and teachers an opportunity to conduct field work, participate in scientific experiments, and communicate with scientists in real time, as part of the team or from their own classrooms.

A right-wing Colombian death squad released National Geographic Adventure contributing editor Robert Young Pelton and two American hikers on Thursday, after holding the trio hostage for 10 days. In an online-exclusive interview, Pelton talks about his captivity and release.

Earth-bound asteroids grab newspaper headlines for good reason. But why does the threat of a comet impact with Earth—potentially as dire if not worse than that of an asteroid—rarely leak onto the pages of the popular press?

The tusks of an animal that roamed the Earth long before the age of dinosaurs provide the earliest fossil evidence of differences between the sexes of the same species, reports a team of biologists.

The pygmy hog, the smallest wild pig in the world, has been hovering on the brink of extinction for several decades. Conservation measures and a captive breeding program initiated in 1996 offer the best hope for the species' recovery.

Slaves came to the Americas from different parts of Africa, bringing with them distinct languages, religions, and arts. A new book, Jubilee: the Emergence of African-American Culture, shows how these diverse peoples united, forged their own new identity, and laid foundations for unique social, cultural, political, and economic expressions. Full story and photo gallery:

To catch a Komodo dragon in the dry deciduous monsoon forests of Indonesia's Flores Island, biologist Claudio Ciofi and his colleagues set a "10-foot mousetrap" with a freshly killed goat as bait. Then they wait. Ciofi's research stands to boost the species' population in the wild and in the world's zoos.

Some strange, six-legged astronauts are in orbit above the Earth. A team of U.S. high school students has launched 15 ants with the space shuttle Columbia, hoping to learn how space's extremely low gravity might affect the ants' behavior.

Scientists have successfully "teleported" quantum bits—tiny units of computer information—along more than a mile of fiber-optic wire. The breakthrough in this highly technical field is said to have exciting promises for encryption of information in computers and networks.

A satellite whose creators hope will be the envy of NASCAR is slated to deliver business cards, personal notes, fine jewels, and cremated human remains to the surface of the moon later this year. The mission will be launched by a California company that is the first to be licensed by the U.S. government for private sector flights to the moon.

An ecological disaster is looming in the Australian island state of Tasmania. Authorities are racing against time to find and eradicate illegally introduced red foxes before they decimate the unique fauna of this island.

Game For It, a reality television series on the National Geographic Channels International, broadcasts video diaries of amateur filmmakers on extraordinary adventures. The series is produced by the same people who brought Big Brother to European and U.S. television screens. National Geographic News recently spoke with Stephen Marsh, the series producer, about the program.

A challenging new theory describes how rudimentary life—the predecessor of Earth's first free-living cells—may have evolved inside tiny chambers within deep-sea rocks.

Dozens of rattlesnake roundups will take place in at least seven U.S. states this year. For the communities that host them, the festivals are seen as a way to raise money and public awareness. But some conservationists and animal welfare advocates question the practice. This story airs tonight on the National Geographic Channel.

Red wolves are making a comeback. A recovery program has taken the species from extinction in the wild to a restored population of more than 100 in northeastern North Carolina. But while conservationists consider the program a success, many challenges still lie ahead for the species that once ranged across much of the eastern United States.

Tools like the Hubble Space Telescope have given astronomers a new view of the cosmos, allowing them to gaze deep into the universe to observe far-off galaxies. But a new digital telescope here on Earth has opened a revelatory view of the universe as well as our own galactic neighborhood.

The black-capped vireo—a songbird with a repertoire of some 1,700 different notes—is found today only in west-central Oklahoma and a region of Texas. Having very specific vegetation requirements to breed and nest, habitat loss plagues the remaining population, as well as benefiting the parasitic cowbird, causing the vireo to depend on the dedication of conservationists.

Most European colonial economies in the Americas from the 16th through the 19th century were dependent on enslaved African labor for their survival. In a second excerpt from Jubilee: The Emergence of African-American Culture, Howard Dodson looks at how slavery gave the United States a role in the global political economy. Full story and photo gallery: logo