How Ancient Sea Creatures Licked Their Way onto Land

A weekly roundup of the best in science journalism, doodled.

March 25, 2015

Weird. Cool. Science. A team of biomechanists thinks it has found a new clue about how fish evolved to live on land 400 million years ago by watching the way mudskippers feed. The fish comes onto land with a mouthful of water, then uses that water like a tongue, submerging its prey and then sucking it all back in. This is the opposite of the way fish usually feed but similar to the function of the tongue in primitive tetrapods, our four-legged ancestors. Fleshy tongues came later.

Grist explains ocean acidification with a soda maker and lots of other fun props. I never knew ocean acidification can cause some fish species to get lost more easily and increase their anxiety levels. Who could blame them: Cute little pteropods are already starting to dissolve. Not cool.

This High Country News piece takes a closer look at an alarming op-ed in the Los Angeles Times last week penned by a NASA scientist who announced California has just a year of water left. Like all of my favorite science writing, it focuses on how to educate the public thoughtfully about serious and nuanced issues.

NRDC science fellow Lance Larson, who makes maps on GIS, pointed me to a study that found 70 percent of forests today are very close to human developments. That means there’s not a lot of forest left, and it’s highly vulnerable to further encroachment. “Nearly 20 percent of the world's remaining forest is the distance of a football field—or about 100 meters—away from a forest edge,” said one of the study’s authors. “That means almost no forest can really be considered wilderness.”

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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