Earth

A Plug for Science

A biopsy dart fired from a crossbow hits home on the flank of a surfacing humpback whale in the Palmer Deep off the Antarctic Peninsula in January. Duke Marine Lab scientists based on the research ship Lawrence M. Gould were harmlessly obtaining these small samples of skin and blubber during a National Science Foundation expedition to identify the sex and relatedness of whales and to assess their diet and reproductive status.

Frozen in Time

Mounted, dried and carefully catalogued, this specimen of Polylstichum "Christmas Fern" from British Columbia is laden with reproductive spores. You see them on the underside of the leaves at left.  This is one of more than 800,000 mounted plant specimens in the Duke Herbarium,  a working collection of vascular plants, mosses, algae, fungi and lichens from all over the world.

Wearing Hard Lenses

This three-inch mollusk, called a chiton, has hundreds of eyes arrayed across its tank-like carapace that are made of the same rock-like calcium carbonate as the rest of its shell. Duke researchers Daniel Speiser and Sönke Johnsen figured out that the animal can see potentially threatening shapes above it with these eyes, which probably don't see well enough to read a web page, but do apparently work just as well in water as in air.

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