How Ancient Sea Creatures Licked Their Way onto Land

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

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.”

This article was originally published on onEarth, which is no longer in publication. onEarth was founded in 1979 as the Amicus Journal, an independent magazine of thought and opinion on the environment. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. This article is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the article was originally published by and link to the original; the article cannot be edited (beyond simple things such grammar); you can’t resell the article in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select articles individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our articles.

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