Quirkiest News of 2004: Flatulent Fish and Beyond

Updated December 30, 2004

Truth is stranger than fiction. Doubters need only follow the parade of weird discoveries, bizarre behaviors, and other oddities that Mother Nature and scientists around the world trot out each year.

Here, then, is a decidedly unscientific ranking of the top ten quirkiest stories of 2004, as chosen by the editors of National Geographic News:

10. Bloodthirsty Bedbugs Stage Comeback in U.S., Europe
Bloodsucking bedbugs are sneaking back between the sheets some 50 years after being all but wiped out in the developed world, a new study says. The insects are sweeping cities across North America, Western Europe, and Australia.
Full story >>

9. Ancient Olympics Mixed Naked Sports, Pagan Partying
Nude athletes, performance-enhancing lizard meat, and animal sacrifices are just a few of the things that separate the ancient Olympics from the modern games, says the author of The Naked Olympics.
Full story >>

8. Unknown Life of Lobsters: Sex, Robots, and Beyond
When lobsters flirt or fight, they first signal their intention by urinating in one another's faces—just one of many intriguing facts uncovered in a new book about the little-known life of these familiar crustaceans.
Full story >>

7. Camel Spiders: Behind an E-Mail Sensation From Iraq
A photo of a U.S. soldier in Iraq holding massive, hairy, supposedly flesh-eating spiders has been burning up e-mail in-boxes around the world. The arachnids are real, but scientists say many claims about them are anything but.
Full story >>

6. Huge, Freed Pet Pythons Invade Florida Everglades
In the past five years the United States has imported more than 144,000 Burmese pythons. Some of those snakes are now wrestling alligators in the Florida Everglades—and breeding.
Full story and photo gallery >>

5. Alien Contact More Likely by "Mail" Than Radio, Study Says
Intelligent alien life, should it exist, is more likely to communicate with Earth by sending artifacts, rather than radio waves, a new study says.
Full story >>

4. Hobbit-Like Human Ancestor Found in Asia
Scientists have found skeletons of a human species that grew no larger than a three-year-old modern child. The species lived with pygmy elephants and giant lizards on a remote island in Indonesia.
Full story and picture gallery >>

3. "Brain" in Dish Flies Simulated Fighter Jet
Scientists have grown a "brain" in a petri dish that can fly a simulated F-22 fighter plane. It's all part of a quest to build "living" computers.
Full story >>

2. Cat Cloning Offered to Pet Owners
Now cats may have more than nine lives. The company that funded the first successful cloning of a domestic cat two years ago has gone commercial. Four pet owners have each ponied up U.S. $50,000 to get their kitties copied.
Full story >>

1. Herring Break Wind to Communicate, Study Suggests
Schools of herring communicate by passing gas, according to an unprecedented study. The fish apparently hear the bubbles as they're expelled, helping them to find each other in the dark and form protective groups.
Full story and audio >>

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