Science News Briefs from Around the Planet

I’m Scientific American assistant news editor Sarah Lewin Frasier. And here’s a short piece from the December 2020 issue of the magazine, in the section called Advances: Dispatches From The Frontiers Of Science, Technology And Medicine.

The article is titled Quick Hits, and it’s a rundown of some non-coronavirus stories from around the globe.

U.S.: Western Joshua trees will get a year of temporary endangered species status in California while the state considers permanently listing the distinctive succulents as the first-ever plant species protected because of climate change–related threat.

Panama: A tropical forest ground survey revealed that one lightning strike often damages more than 20 trees, a quarter of which can die within a year. Researchers combined this finding with satellite data to estimate that lightning kills 200 million tropical trees worldwide every year—a significant cause of their demise.

Greenland: Climate researchers discovered records of an automatic weather station that measured −93.3 degrees Fahrenheit one day in December 1991—a temperature colder than the average on Mars and the coldest ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere.

Italy: Scientists have examined a shark found south of Sardinia that somehow survived to three years old without skin or teeth. They concluded it was a genetic mutation and plan to check nearby sediment for potential pollutant causes.

China: Newly discovered and pristinely preserved fossils suggest two sleeping dinosaurs were buried alive in an underground burrow 125 million years ago. The burrow may have collapsed under volcanic debris.

Australia: A new study shows how Australian grasslands’ strange barren patches—called fairy circles—are landscaped by the grasses themselves. Baking heat creates a hard clay crust over a patch of ground; water runs off of it, forming a more welcoming zone at its edges that grasses bolster as they grow and cool the soil.

That was “Quick Hits.” I’m Sarah Lewin Frasier.

(The above text is a transcript of this podcast)

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