Isla Guanape Peru
A Hawaiian green turtle

At a Maui aquarium a Hawaiian green turtle makes a guest appearance. Members of this threatened species are unique among sea turtles for their herbivorous diet, thought to imbue their fat with a greenish hue.

PHOTO: JOSE CARDONA

Fluttering wings leave lacy trails as moths beat their way to a floodlight.

Fluttering wings leave lacy trails as moths beat their way to a floodlight on a rural Ontario lawn. The midsummer night’s exposure, held for 20 seconds, captured some of the hundreds of insects engaged in a nocturnal swarm.

PHOTO: STEVE IRVINE

 

Stone walls on Isla Guañape Norte prevent precious bird droppings, called guano, from falling into the Pacific.

Stone walls on Isla Guañape Norte prevent precious bird droppings, called guano, from falling into the Pacific. Coveted as fertilizer, the dung must be reaped by hand. Here a worker returns sifted-out feathers and bones.
PHOTO: TOMAS MUNITA

Girl in red car

EDITORS’ CHOICE
Serena Amaduzzi
Rome, Italy
Walking around Havana, Cuba, after a thunderstorm, Amaduzzi, 23, stopped to watch two men fixing a broken-down car. “I saw a cute little face inside it, staring at me, and I smiled,” she says. When the child’s eyes smiled back, “it was like we’d shared a mute conversation.”


READERS’ CHOICE
Ellen Case
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
“This mosquito was trapped in a bead of cooking oil in a dish of water,” says Case, 57. “I noticed it when I went to clean up the mess I’d made earlier,” while working at home on a series of close-up shots. The refracted colors are from a plastic tablecloth beneath the dish.

Mosquito stuck in bead of cooking oil.


World Beneath the WavesPeople do beautiful things in the water. They become braver and calmer, more fluid and playful. The freedom of buoyancy allows us to act as we truly are.

I grew up near the ocean in Australia, but I didn’t appreciate our ancestral ties to it until I’d spent years living abroad. When I returned, I noticed how people here are drawn to the beaches. The pull is shared—a human equalizer. When you see swimmers in the ocean together, you see them react intuitively to the tide’s push and pull.

I like the clarity of salt water. In the past dozen years my technique and equipment have stayed simple: a deep breath, a small camera, and transparency film, for its dense blacks and saturation. Despite new technologies, the magic of the darkroom still fascinates me.

On hot days I hang out where the waves are forming. Just before they break, I dive to the bottom. A flash of sunlight penetrates the curl and the churn, illuminating the swimmers above. They look like actors dancing or flying on an underwater stage. I take one picture, surface, breathe, and repeat. Shooting 36 frames might take a day.

We love the sea, yet we pollute it. As a mother, I agonize over what my children will inherit. But I’m also optimistic. If we can notice natural beauty, we might learn how to preserve it. —Narelle Autio

Two girls frolic in a wave’s effervescent wake.


PHOTO: NARELLE AUTIO

Narelle Autio is a photographer based in Adelaide, Australia. Her images of the country’s coastal life are exhibited internationally.


 

PHOTO: NARELLE AUTIO

Swimmers paddle in the clear surf of Sydney’s Freshwater Beach.

Swimmers paddle in the clear surf of Sydney’s Freshwater Beach. For many of us the water is a playground. But to me these images show something else: our shared humanity when we’re immersed.


As big waves buffet the eastern Australian coast, a father clings to his son.

As big waves buffet the eastern Australian coast, a father clings to his son. I get pounded in the same surf as the swimmers, so I never know exactly what my shots will show until I develop them.

PHOTO: NARELLE AUTIO 


 

PHOTO: NARELLE AUTIO

Swimmers paddle in the clear surf of Sydney’s Freshwater Beach.

At Bondi Beach near Sydney, a young woman dives to safety as a vast wave rolls overhead. It’s always a nice surprise to me when the light, the wave, and the swimmer come together perfectly in one frame.


 

PHOTO: NARELLE AUTIO

On the sandy floor of a popular Sydney beach, a girl floats in a prone position, her life held in a breath of air.

On the sandy floor of a popular Sydney beach, a girl floats in a prone position, her life held in a breath of air. Despite its many mysteries and dangers, the ocean exerts an elemental pull that draws us back.

Jurassic Mother Lode

Pterosaurs died out with the dinosaurs, leaving more mysteries than fossils. Now paleontologists who study the flying vertebrates are hitting pay dirt. In 2009 a transitional form in pterosaur evolution, Darwinopterus, was found in China. Then the site yielded a 160-million-year-old fossil of one with an egg (right).

The University of Leicester’s David Unwin and colleagues say the latter find bolsters a hypothesis that pterosaurs were sexually distinct: Females had wider hips, and only males had head crests. Other experts agree, but Kevin Padian of the University of California, Berkeley argues that we don’t yet know enough about pterosaur maturation to say whether age or gender accounts for physical differences among fossils. More scrutiny may resolve that flap—and help decipher other abiding pterosaur enigmas. —Jeremy Berlin


pterosaur-fossil
Pterosaur fossil

This fossil from China’s Liaoning Province reveals a pterosaur—about the size of a small falcon—with an egg (circle).

PHOTO: DING MING, ZHEJIANG MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

40 Winks?

Life is hard, and mammals need their z’s to slog through it. But why does a chipmunk need about 15 hours of shut-eye a day, when a giraffe needs only 4.5? One answer, says UCLA sleep researcher Jerome Siegel, lies in the varied ways animals have adapted to be energy efficient and to stay safe.
Consider elephants, which nod off just three-plus hours a day. “To be so big, they have to eat most of the time,” Siegel says. In contrast, it makes evolutionary sense for brown bats to conserve energy except during the few hours a night when their insect prey is out. A platypus also can feed less and slumber more (14 hours). Why? Maybe because just a little crustacean meal packs a huge caloric punch. As for safety, those mammals that nap in hiding, like bats or rodents, tend to have longer, deeper snoozes than those on constant alert. Of course, a few beasts can slumber anytime, anywhere. Says Siegel, “Who’s going to mess with a sleeping lion?” —Jennifer S. Holland

Chart showing number of hours various animals sleep
Giraffe sleeping

GRAPHIC: ÁLVARO VALIÑO. SOURCE: JEROME M. SIEGEL, UCLA. PHOTO: MITSUYOSHI TATEMATSU, NATURE PRODUCTION/MINDEN PICTURES

Giraffes sleep briefly and lightly—logical for animals that nap out in the open.

Angry Bird Watch

The popularity of the video game Angry Birds, in which feathered friends launch themselves at pigs that have stolen their eggs, may have some people wondering: Do birds get mad in the real world? Indeed they do—especially when their nests are threatened.

Golfers in the Great Plains of the United States regularly risk dive-bombing by Mississippi kites, medium-size hawks that often build their homes in trees near open areas and react aggressively when people approach. Even more common are attacks by mockingbirds. Cats, dogs, and humans
walking near a mockingbird nest, usually in urban and suburban areas, can expect a close encounter with an angry parent and even a sharp peck.

The world champion angry bird, though, may well be the goshawk, a large raptor with needle-sharp talons that breeds in northern regions. The female of this species, when protecting her nest, may be the most dangerous bird on Earth to humans. Biologists working near their nests wear protective clothing to ward off bloody attacks. How nasty are goshawks? Attila the Hun decorated his battle helmet with the figure of one. —Mel White

PHOTOS: PETE MELLA (RIGHT); REBECCA HALE, NGM STAFF 

Perceived threats to bird nests can trigger 'angry' swoops, like this tern's on the U.K.'s Farne Islands.

Making Way for Euros

Seventeen European Union countries have adopted the euro since its introduction in 1999, replacing such national currencies as Dutch guilders, French francs, and—as of January 1—Estonian krooni. What happens to all those retired coins? Some are waffled, like this kroon (left), then sold as scrap metal or reminted. But many coins are simply never exchanged, including 41 percent of francs and around 500 million euros’ worth of guilders. Banks call that hoarding behavior, but nostalgia sounds nicer. —Amanda Fiegl

Perceived threats to bird nests can trigger “angry” swoops, like this tern’s on the U.K.’s Farne Islands.

 
Food security illustration
Food security chart
Illustration: This meal shows the average amount of food purchased, and wasted, per person in the United States during the course of a year.

How to Feed a Growing Planet Here’s an uncomfortable math problem: By 2045 Earth’s population will likely have swelled from seven to nine billion people. To fill all those stomachs—while accounting for shifting consumption patterns, climate change, and a finite amount of arable land and potable water—some experts say global food production will have to double. How can we make the numbers add up?

Julian Cribb, author of The Coming Famine, says higher yielding crop varieties and more efficient farming methods will be crucial. So will waste reduction. Cribb and other experts urge cities to reclaim nutrients and water from waste streams and preserve farmland. Poor countries, they say, can improve crop storage and packaging. And rich nations could cut back on resource-intensive foods like meat. In fact, wherever easy access to cheap food means people buy more than they consume, we could all start by shopping smarter—and cleaning our plates.

As Cribb notes, food security is increasingly a collective challenge. It’s also a chance “to pull together on something we can all agree about, share, and enjoy.” —Amanda Fiegl

7 Billion Logo

Food Security

Food security illustration

*2008, the latest year data is available. Amounts do not include nonedible food parts such as bones, peels, pits, and cores.

JOHN TOMANIO, NGM STAFF. ART: JOHN KLEBER. RESEARCH: MEGAN CASSIDY. SOURCES: HODAN WELLS, JEAN BUZBY, USDA

Manatees

Manatees in Hot Water

Sea cows are gentle creatures, with few natural predators. Yet the 5,000-plus manatees in Florida waters can’t catch a break. They’ve long been the victims of watercraft, entanglements, and red tide, but now their deadliest foe is low temperatures. Over the past two winters, says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, hypothermia and stress from cold weather—including the most frigid 12-day stretch in 70 years—have killed at least 400 of the endangered mammals.

Manatees are tubby but lack the insulating blubber of whales. In winter they once relied on warm springs; now they depend largely on the effluent discharged by power plants. Even some off-line plants, like this one in Palm Beach County (right), are required to heat the water to 61°F. But hot tubs can only do so much. More temperate winters would help keep the surrounding waters suitably warm—and manatee populations afloat. —Gretchen Parker

PHOTOS: LANNIS WATERS, PALM BEACH POST/AP IMAGES (LEFT); TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM

Accidental ArchaeologyA man with a metal detector found Britain’s biggest trove of Anglo-Saxon gold. Here are five cases in which amateur U.K. treasure hunters have turned up key artifacts. —Malcolm Jack


 

 

 

 


1992
Hoxne Hoard
In Suffolk, Eric Lawes uncovered a $2.8-million collection of Roman gold and objects, such as this silver tigress.
2001
Ringlemere Cup

A plow crushed the gold Bronze Age chalice before Cliff Bradshaw found it in a Kent field.
2003
Domitianus Coin
Discovered in Oxfordshire by Brian Malin, one coin among 5,000 confirmed the existence of a “lost” Roman emperor.
2009
Stirling Hoard
Minutes into his first foray, David Booth found four gold Iron Age neck ornaments in a boggy Stirlingshire meadow.
2009
Staffordshire Hoard
Terry Herbert hit the $5.3-million jackpot: the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon booty ever discovered in the U.K.

Silver tigress