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Native Australian mammal are known for having the ‘weirdest penises’ in the animal kingdom

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The ‘very strange and unusual’ echidna penis remains a mystery to researchers who still don’t understand why it has four heads.

The ‘very long’ phallus makes up a third of the mammal’s body while erect, is bright red, and has four prongs, which can all be used for reproduction.

University of Queensland researcher Dr Steve Johnson co-authored a study on the short-beaked echidna’s impressive member, but said only ‘the creator God’ knows why it is so bizarrely shaped.

It may be to please the insatiable female echidna, who scientists think may mate multiple times with up to a dozen males while ovulating.

The echidna is native to Australia, has spiky pines, a bird-like beak, a pouch like a kangaroo and also lays eggs.

The ‘very strange and unusual’ echidna penis remains a mystery to researchers who still don’t understand why it has four heads 

When the echidna has sex, two of the four prongs are engorged while the others are flaccid.

The female has two separate reproductive tracts which take a penis head each during sex.

It is possible she could mate with up to a dozen partners while ovulating, as  scientists have found sperm from eleven different males inside one deceased female echidna.

Researchers also predicted the pair may have intercourse multiple times, possibly using all prongs during a session.

‘It does look like they do it more than once, but there’s still a bit of debate… we’re not quite sure whether these guys are induced ovulators or not,’ Dr Johnson said.  

The penis is also unusual because it is not used for urinating.

‘Not only is the [echidna] penis strange in the way it looks, it’s also strange in terms of they don’t actually urinate through their penis,’ said Dr Johnson.

‘[This is unlike] all other species of mammals expect for the platypus and the other species of echidna. These animals urinate not through their penis, but at the base of the penis.’

Researchers want to understand the short-beaked echidna reproductive system to help breed the short-beaked echidna, a critically endangered species found in New Guinea.

Dr Johnston said the ‘unique animal’ is poorly understood, despite being found across the country.  

‘They’re very common. You’ll find echidnas nearly all over Australia, across Mt Kosciuszko right through to the desert, on the coastline, even here in suburban Brisbane,’ he said. 

The ‘very long’ phallus makes up a third of the mammal’s body while erect, is bright red and has four prongs which can all ejaculate

HOW DO ECHIDNAS MATE?

  • Males follow the female before the female signals it is ready to mate by digging its legs and head into the ground. The male will then dig a rut next to the female 
  • A male has a four-headed penis, but only uses two of those heads at a time to ejaculate sperm when mating with a female
  • The male will then use the other two heads the next time it mates
  • A female echidna typically has a 20-day gestation period before laying an egg directly into her temporary pouch that develops when she is pregnant and regresses when her baby no longer needs it 
  • The puggles hatch about 10 days after the egg is laid, and stay in the pouch for two to three months
  • When the puggles hatch they are only 1.5 centimetres long and will travel further down their mother’s pouch to get milk
  • At seven months old the mother echidna leaves and the puggles are left to fend for themselves

Source: ABC Science 

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Young clownfish living closest to the shore die FASTER than those further out

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Young clownfish living closest to the shore die faster than those further out because they are being exposed to artificial lighting from streetlights, piers and ports, a new study has warned. 

Made famous by ‘Finding Nemo’, the iconic reef-dwellers feed, reproduce, defend their territories and interact with other fish during the day before sleeping at night.

Like humans, this period of inactivity is crucial for their well-being because they need it to recharge, researchers said.

But when the down time is interrupted by artificial light the effect on clownfish can be catastrophic.

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In need of sleep: Young clownfish living closest to the shore die faster than those further out because they are being exposed to artificial lighting from piers and ports, a study has warned

Clownfish were monitored for almost two years in the reefs around Moorea in French Polynesia

Why do clownfish need moonlight rather than artificial light to thrive?

The survival and growth rates of clownfish are negatively affected by long-term exposure to artificial light at night, a study has found. 

This may be due to the potential for light to attract natural predators, as well as the harmful effects on physiology of the fish, the team of international researchers said.

Clownfish need a period of inactivity at night to recharge but the lack of sleep caused by artificial light may also result in increased metabolism, with a subsequent higher demand for energy.

This could be part of the reason why the growth of young clownfish was stunted.

By comparison, those living further from the shore and enjoying natural moonlight had higher survival rates and increased growth.

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A team of international scientists from France, the UK, Chile and Australia found that young clownfish had higher rates of death when exposed to light pollution close to the coast.

This is because of the harmful effects it has on the physiology of the fish, as well as the potential for artificial light to attract natural predators. 

The juvenile clownfish also grew 44 per cent slower than those in natural lighting conditions.

‘The impacts of light pollution found here are probably underestimated and mitigation measures and policy changes are urgently required,’ said marine ecology expert Stephen Swearer.

The clownfish were monitored for almost two years in the reefs around Moorea in French Polynesia.

Professor Swearer, from the University of Melbourne, said researchers exposed 42 clownfish in their host anemones to either artificial light at night (ALAN) or natural light in the lagoon. 

‘Thirty six per cent of the clownfish exposed to light pollution were more likely to die than fish under natural light cycles,’ said lead author, Jules Schligler, from the École Pratique des Hautes Études PSL Université Paris.

He said clownfish can be found in shallow coastal waters and are easily impacted by light at night from streetlights, piers or ports because they are highly sedentary living in anemones. 

In the research paper, the scientists said that ‘even those fish that survived didn’t entirely escape the effects of artificial light at night as they grew less than fish from the control group.’ 

Reef-dwellers: Researchers exposed 42 clownfish to either artificial light or natural moonlight

The study from the University of Melbourne produced this graphic to summarise its findings

‘This is the first time that the impacts of ALAN have been tested on a coral reef fish in the wild and over such a long time,’ said Daphne Cortese, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Glasgow. 

‘As 12 per cent of all coral reef fish live in close association with another sedentary species, such as a coral or anemone, light pollution could already be having severe negative impacts on a fifth of fringing reef fish populations.’

Scientists hope the research will help raise awareness of the impacts of ALAN on coastal marine ecosystems.

‘Many marine protected areas are impacted by light pollution at night, and authorities are not taking this pollution into account,’ said Ricardo Beldade, associate professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. 

‘We hope that policymakers take this threat much more seriously for future management strategies.’

The study is published by the University of Melbourne in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

CLOWNFISH FATHERS HAVE STRONG NURTURING INSTINCTS BECAUSE OF A ‘LOVE HORMONE’

Nurturing: Clownfish parenting instincts are so strong that even if you place eggs from an unrelated nest near a bachelor anemonefish, he will take care of them

One area where Finding Nemo had things right is the great lengths clownfish dads go to to support their offspring, just like Marlin.

Their parenting instincts are so strong that even if you place clownfish eggs from an unrelated nest near a bachelor anemonefish, he will take care of them. 

Researchers previously found the love hormone behind this fathering behaviour.

And it’s very similar to oxytocin, the hormone that facilitates bonding between human mothers and their babies after childbirth.

Scientists, based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, decided to study the brain chemistry behind this parental care.

So they took individual anemonefish that were fathering and gave them an injection of antagonists.

They then analysed how these drugs might either promote or inhibit male parental care.

They found that anemonefish rely on isotocin, a signalling molecule that is almost identical to oxytocin. 

When the researchers blocked this hormone, they found that the anemonefish fathers stopped tending to their eggs.

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University College London scientists hope stem cell breakthrough could one day cure heart failure

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A breakthrough stem cell injection could one day help cure faulty hearts, according to scientists.

Previous attempts to regenerate hearts this way have faltered because the cells struggle to adapt to their new environment.

Now researchers at University College London have figured out how to keep stem cells alive for longer in the heart by first growing them on to miniature spheres.

The size of the microspheres means they can be injected into heart muscle. The researchers say their method, which was tested in rats, could help cure heart failure.

Researchers at University College London (above) have figured out how to keep stem cells alive for longer in the heart by first growing them on to miniature spheres

The disease, in which the heart cannot properly pump blood around the body, affects nearly a million people in the UK.

The scientists hope to test the treatment in humans within a decade. 

Dr Daniel Stuckey at University College London said: ‘Our technology provides a new way of ensuring that the cells injected into the heart are working as they should.’

Professor Metin Avkiran, of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This is a promising new delivery system that could give stem cell-derived heart cells the best chance of repairing damaged hearts.’

Stem cells are those which can morph into all sorts of other cell types and are used in bone marrow transplants and other therapies.

The breakthrough stem cell injection could one day help cure heart failure, according to scientists

Dr Stuckey’s colleague Annalisa Bettini said: ‘As well as developing heart injections, we are developing these traceable microspheres to act as heart patches that can be simply injected to the particular area of heart damage.

‘In the future, these could provide cardiologists with a number of solutions to provide the best treatment for their patients.’ 

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Long-lost letter from Amelia Earhart’s captain detailing their final trip in 1937 is found

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A long-lost letter detailing Amelia Earhart and her Captain Fred J. Noonan’s adventure around the globe has been discovered nearly 84 years after the pair went missing.

The handwritten, 17-page letter is postmarked just eight days before the duo issued their last radio call from somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

It was mailed on June 23, 1937 from the Grand Hotel in Indonesia and contains specific details of dates, locations and weather challenges that Earhart and Noonan faced along the fateful flight path.

The letter is one of four discovered by San Diego-resident Hunter Person, whose mother found them rolled up in her father’s desk 40 years ago.

Person’s grandfather was a close friend of Noonan and the two had exchanged letters for years and even up until the captain disappeared.

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The handwritten, 17-page letter is postmarked just eight days before the duo issued their last radio call from somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. It was mailed on June 23, 1937 from the Grand Hotel in Indonesia

Earhart took to the sky on June 1, 1937 to be the first female aviator to fly around the world.

She and her navigator Noonan left Oakland, California then flew to Miami, down to South America, across to Africa and then east to India and South Asia.

A few weeks later, they departed Lae in Papua New Guinea and planned to stop on Howland July 2, 1937 to refuel. 

Earhart and Noonan eventually lost radio contact and were never heard from or seen again.

It contains specific details of dates, locations and weather challenges Earhart and Noonan faced along the fateful flight path

Pictured are Amelia Earhart (left) and  Captain Fred Noonan (right) on June 11 1937. This was 10 days into their adventure when the pair stopped at the hangar at Parnamerim airfield, Natal, Brazil,

The long-lost letters are postmarked from 1935 through 1937 and could holding missing clues to what happened after Earhart and Noonan left Papua New Guinea.

‘It’s an exciting letter. You know, like I say, it tells the whole trip, and the last postmark was from Bandung, Java,’ Person told KSWB.

The letter is one of four discovered by Hunter Person, from San Diego, whose mother found them rolled up in her father’s desk 40 years ago

‘It describes, you know, the flight like no one has ever read it before.

‘And they were handwritten by Captain Fred J. Noonan, Amelia Earhart’s navigator who was with her on the tragic flight.’

Person’s mother, Beverly, told her father and Noonan had been corresponding through since she was just 15 years old and some of the letters were also addressed to her.

Experts are amazed by the letter because it is the last complete account of the trip days before the pilots went missing and it could provide a trail to where the plane may have been resting all these years. 

The mystery of Earhart’s disappearance also produced a number of theories – from crashing to landing on and island an island outside of Howland or being taken as hostages by the Japanese. 

Person’s mother, Beverly, told her father and Noonan had been corresponding through since she was just 15 years old and some of the letters were also addressed to her (pictured)

The mystery of her disappearance has produced a number of theories – from crashing to landing becoming castaways on an island outside of Howland to being taken as hostages by the Japanese

Although no one has confirmed what really happened, many have accepted the challenge to solve the puzzle, with the latest being scientists from Penn State University.

In February, the team announced they are using a nuclear reactor to analyze a metal patch found on a small Pacific Island in 1991 to determine if the piece belonged to Earhart’s Lockheed Model 10-E Electra plane.

The patch was obtained from Richard Gillespie, who leads The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) that has been focused on Earhart’s disappearance since 1988.

Experts are amazed by the letter because it is the last complete account of the trip days before the pilots went missing and it could provide a trail to where the plane may have been resting all these years. Pictured is ‘Amelia Earhart’

Although no one has confirmed what really happened, many have accepted the challenge to solve the puzzle, with the latest being scientists from Penn State University . The team announced they are using a nuclear reactor to analyze a metal patch found on a small Pacific Island in 1991 to determine if the piece belonged to Earhart’s Lockheed Model 10-E Electra plane 

Gillespie found the metal panel in storm debris on Nikumaroro, a Pacific island about 300 miles away from Earhart’s actual destination of Howland Island.

Using a nuclear reactor, the team was able to send  powerful beams through the patch to uncover paint particles or eroded etching that may go unnoticed to the naked eye.

The group is set to reveal their findings sometime this year. 

WHAT ARE THE THEORIES ON AMELIA EARHART’S FINAL DAYS?

Theory One: Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan crash into the Pacific a few miles short of their intended destination due to visibility and gas problems, and die instantly.

Theory Two: Earhart and Noonan crash land on the island of Nikumaroro, where they later die at the hands of coconut crabs, which hunt for food at night and grow up to three-feet long. The name comes from their ability to opened the hardened shells of coconuts.

Theory Three: Earhart and Noonan veer drastically off course and crash land near the Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands. They are rescued but soon taken as prisoners of war by the Japanese and sent to a camp in Saipan. Noonan is beheaded and Earhart dies in 1939 from malaria or dysentery.

Theory Four: Earhart and Noonan make it to Howland Island as planned and are eaten by cannibals. 

Theory Five:  Earhart was an American spy sent to gather information on the Japanese ahead of World War II. 

Theory Six: Earhart and Noonan are unable to locate Howland Island, and head toward their ‘contingency plan’. After a ten hour journey back toward the location they came from, they crash in the jungle of East New Britain Island, in what is now known as Papua New Guinea.

There are several conflicting theories about Earhart’s disappearance. The alleged details of Earhart’s final flight, and where she is believed to have ended up based on different theories over the years

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