A Sloth Smorgasboard

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

April 15, 2015

I went down a three-toed sloth internet K-hole this week, thanks to a brief but densely hyperlinked post in Science. I learned that these animals snack on algae that grows in their fur. The algae is so nutrient-rich, it makes the sloths climb down from their trees to poop. This descent made no sense to anybody until scientists realized that this poop on the forest floor is the ideal location for moths to lay eggs. When the moths hatch, they find their way to the sloth’s fur, where they help nourish the resident algae. NATURE IS MAGICAL. Also, check out this video below of a brown jay nibbling insects off sloth fur. Three’s a crowd, pal.

Forest fires around the vicinity of Ukraine’s 1986 Chernobyl disaster are stirring up radioactive materials and sending them airborne. Climate models, reports the New York Times, are predicting an increase in wildfires in the region, where there’s an absence of microbes to break down dead trees—thus, lots of kindling lying around. These fires could bring toxic dustings to parts of Europe, possibly contaminating cropland.

Remember those hopeful headlines about polar bears being able to live off the land, eating geese and berries, in lieu of their sea-ice hunting grounds? New research puts a pause on that excitement, and, as science is inclined to do, seeks out additional context for that information. High Country News talks with a biologist trying to understand how polar bears will fare on more solid ground as well as how they will affect those land ecosystems.

Where can you find rocket science, manmade dunes, and sea-level rise all in one place? FLORIDA—where talk of climate change is banned and NASA is scrambling to save the Kennedy Space Center from the waves. I loved this seemingly run-of-the-mill, human-interest-cloaked climate story from NPR Science this week.

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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