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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Video: Huge Dust Devil Prowling Mars
5 April 2012 2:06 pm
Earth may have terrifying tornadoes, but when it comes to dust devils, Mars has us beat. A camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured a stunning example of a swirling funnel of dust spinning up to an altitude of 20 kilometers. (The animation above provides a side view.) On Earth, tornadoes often reach such heights, but dust devils seldom reach up more than a few hundred meters. That's because dust devils only draw their energy from the solar heating of the surface; tornadoes also tap the heat energy from the condensation of water vapor in a tornadic storm. Mars is too dry for that, but the thinness of its air allows dust devils to soar, even on their restricted energy diet. Astronauts wouldn't be knocked off of their feet if caught in one, but martian dust devils are strong enough to play many roles. They loft dust high into the atmosphere between major dust storms. Some Mars scientists suspect dust devils generate enough static electricity to produce bleach-like chemicals that consume any organic matter—and any living thing—in martian soil. And dust devils have certainly lent NASA a hand; they occasionally blow the dust off a rover's solar cells, letting it power back up and keep on truckin'.
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