April 18, 2024
Fungi Mushrooms amphibian

Fungi are intriguing and necessary components of the biosphere. They have a bit of a mixed reputation. On the one hand, mushrooms and networks of fungal roots are sought-after sources of nutritionally dense food, mind-altering medications, and environmentally benign materials — and they assist trees in sharing nutrients and storing carbon in a way that may help combat climate change.

Other species of the fungus family tree are less desirable since they operate as disease-causing pathogens, disrupting ecosystems and endangering human and animal health.

However, a recently discovered riddle involving a mushroom and a frog reveals that fungi’s position in the ecosystem is far from black and white.

Once Upon a Planet

In June 2023, naturalists discovered an unusual sight in a roadside pond in the Indian state of Karnataka: a golden-backed frog with a little mushroom blooming from its flank.

The crew photographed the seemingly healthy amphibian and reported their discovery. After reviewing the photographs, an expert recognised the mushroom as a common bonnet, a form of fungus that often grows on rotting wood.

It’s unclear why the fungus chose the frog as its habitat. The unusual growth might be the consequence of a fungal infection, which is common in frogs, or proof of a symbiotic connection.

The researchers intend to return to the same location during the following monsoon season to examine further.

Look up!

The DART mission was a watershed moment in asteroid deflection technology, providing a proof of concept in case mankind ever has to shield Earth from a potentially cataclysmic impact with a space rock, such as the one that killed dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Dimorphos, a moonlet asteroid orbiting Didymos, was the target of the NASA mission in 2022. When the DART spacecraft collided with Dimorphos, it altered the asteroid’s orbital period — the time it takes to circle Didymos — by around 32 to 33 minutes.

Since then, space scientists have discovered more about Dimorphos’ fate. According to recent study, the collision affected the asteroid in a fundamental way rather than simply creating a crater.

“If you think of Dimorphos as starting out as resembling a chocolate M&M, now it would look like it has had a bite taken out of it!” Dr. Sabina Raducan, a postdoctoral researcher at the Physics Institute of the University of Bern in Switzerland, is the study’s primary author.

Fungi Mushrooms amphibian
Ocean secrets

Whale sounds have long been known to reverberate across the surprisingly raucous ocean depths, but marine giants aren’t the only ones making themselves heard.

Scientists have found a little, transparent fish that emits a sound louder than an elephant. Danionella cerebrum, a species that lives in shallow seas off the coast of Myanmar, can produce sounds that exceed 140 dB.

“This is comparable to the noise a human perceives from an aeroplane during take-off at a distance of 100 (metres) and quite unusual for an animal of such diminutive size,” said ichthyologist Dr Ralf Britz of the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden, Germany, in a news release.

Britz and his colleagues analysed high-speed video footage, micro-CT scans, and genetic data to determine how males of the species produce the booming sound.

Turn, turn

Have you forgotten why February has an additional day this year? Here is a brief refresher.

A leap year is simply a required piece of cosmic bookkeeping that keeps the seasons from being out of sync. Without one, the summer solstice that we typically observe in June would occur in December 700 years from now.

NASA calculates a solar year to be 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds long. As a result, the frequently used 365-day calendar is around one-quarter of a day behind the solar year.

While this may not appear to be a significant difference, it adds up to around one full day over four years.

Lunar update

Odysseus, the first US-made vehicle to achieve a soft landing on the moon in five decades, had a busy week after its nerve-racking descent and landing near the lunar south pole on February 22.

Despite a rocky landing that left Odie on its side, which was recorded in stunning photographs, data from all six NASA sensors on board, as well as commercial payloads, were relayed, authorities said Wednesday.

Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 lander is now facing another challenge: surviving lunar night, which is a risky circumstance because the drop to ultra-freezing temperatures at this time might harm Odie’s technology.

Space astronomers discovered three weak and small moons around the Milky Way’s farthest planets: Uranus and Neptune.

Curiosities

Discover these mind-expanding stories:

— Archaeologists discovered a 2,000-year-old clay head from a deity statue. The uncommon find sheds additional light on life in Roman Britain.

— A dead star that once feasted on a planet in its orbit may presage the fate of our own solar system.

Scientists have uncovered one explanation for the proliferation of invasive Jorō spiders throughout the United States.

Do you like what you’ve read? Oh, but there is more. Sign up here to get the next installment of Wonder Theory, hosted by CNN Space and Science correspondents Ashley Strickland and Katie Hunt. They are fascinated with planets outside of our solar system as well as old findings.

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