United States

In windswept Iowa, ears of mature corn dry ahead of the autumn harvest. Last year the state yielded nearly 62 million tons of the crop—vital for livestock feed and ethanol production—making it the top U.S. grower of golden kernels.

PHOTO: JIM LO SCALZO

Indonesia

A tender moment transpires between mother and infant orangutans in Borneo’s Tanjung Puting National Park. The arboreal species has one of the longest intervals between births among mammals, typically around eight years.

PHOTO: JAMI TARRIS, CORBIS

United States

Burning hot on a winter’s day, a brush fire consumes a patch of dried marsh, drawing spectators at a golf course in Denver, Colorado. Fueled by wind and low humidity, the blaze charred dozens of acres.

PHOTO: MATTHEW SLABY, LUCEO

       

Ron GravelleKitchener, Ontario

“When I left Santa Fe,” says Gravelle, 46, a part-time storm chaser vacationing in New Mexico, “I was sure there’d be a tornado near Springfield, Colorado.” He was right. This twister “stayed in the open country, away from people or buildings, rotating at 120 mph but only moving at 5 mph.”

       

Brian SingMount Dandenong, Australia

On a solo bike trip from Argentina to Ecuador, Sing, 36, met two companions in southern Bolivia. One was Carl-David Granback, whom he photographed (using Granback’s camera) at this crossroads. After deliberation, the cyclists went left.

       

National Geographic Photography Contest

Winning
Images

More than 16,000 photographs were submitted to last year’s National Geographic Photography Contest—and this image won top honors in the People category. Your photo can be a winner too. Submissions for the 2011 contest will be accepted until November 30. Prizes include $10,000, a trip to National Geographic headquarters, and publication in the magazine. Go to ngphotocontest.com for more information.

PEOPLE Chan Kwok Hung Hong Kong, China
Cattle race through rice fields in West Sumatra. The farmer holds on by the animals’ tails.

       

National Geographic Photography Contest

Winning
Images

Go to ngphotocontest.com for more information.

PLACES Jana Ašenbrennerová San Francisco, California
In Chittagong, Bangladesh, workers take apart a freighter so the parts can be sold for scrap.

       

National Geographic Photography Contest

Winning
Images

Go to ngphotocontest.com for more information.

NATURE AND GRAND-PRIZE WINNER Aaron Lim Boon Teck Singapore
Trekkers peer from the crater’s rim at the Rinjani volcano in Lombok, Indonesia.

The Elusive Okapi

What has a head like a giraffe, a body like a horse, stripes like a zebra, and a blue tongue long enough to clean its own ears? This shy African herbivore (right) kept the world guessing until 1901, when it was identified as a new genus of giraffe: Okapia johnstoni. Today roughly 15,000 are believed to roam the wild, but they’re famously hard to spot in the forest’s sun-dappled undergrowth. “We still don’t know that much about them,” says Steve Shurter of the White Oak Conservation Center, which runs an okapi breeding facility in Florida and helps manage the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mining and human migration there threaten critical habitat for the okapis, but for now, they persist in quiet mystery. —Amanda Fiegl

PHOTO: JOEL SARTORE. MAP: NGM MAPS. SOURCE: JOHN A HART,
LUKURU WILDLIFE FOUNDATION, TL 2 PROJECT

Wicked Beauty

Curses, convulsions, poisonous peashooters—as much as some plants inspire poetry, others evoke the dark arts. The human-looking roots of mandrakes, source of legendary shrieks and dark spells, terrify budding wizards in the Harry Potter series. Greek mythology tells of monkshood toxin in the saliva of the three-headed hound Cerberus. And in the Middle Ages deadly nightshade was believed to help witches fly. When it comes to sinister species, parsing fact from fiction can be spellbinding. “Most people are amazed that so many common plants have toxins and can even kill you,” says Trevor Jones, who tends an educational “poison garden” near England’s Alnwick Castle, aka Hogwarts in the Potter films. Kids who shoot peas through the hollow stems of giant hogweed (right), for instance, risk sprouting painful blisters. Adding to the menace: Some species thought to have medicinal properties are also toxic; others get mistaken for edible plants. Nightshade berries in particular have enticed—at times to lethal effect. —Luna Shyr

Heracleum mantegazzianum
Giant Hogweed
Contact with its sap can bring on blisters in the sun due to phototoxic chemicals.

PHOTOs: JASON LARKIN

Arum maculatum
Cuckoopint
Also known as bloody man’s finger, this species may cause the tongue to swell.

Aconitum napellus
Monkshood
Ingesting any part of this plant can lead to heart failure.

Death rates are down
for many cancers in
the U.S. But globally
the disease is rising.

COUNTING CANCER

The Top Five Killers

U.S. death rates for four
of the five cancers with
the highest mortality
(right) have fallen as new
screenings and treatments
arise. Total federal funding
through the National
Cancer Institute topped
$5 billion in fiscal 2011.

Number of people living
in U.S. with current
or prior case,
as of
December 31, 2007

LUNG
Women: 200,100
Men: 173,400

BREAST
Women: 2,632,000
Men: 13,620

PANCREATIC
Women: 17,850
Men: 16,810

COLORECTAL
Women: 567,900
Men: 542,100

 
 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 

PROSTATE
Men: 2,355,000




ART: BRYAN CHRISTIE

FORTY YEARS AGO the U.S. government declared war on cancer by announcing a major push to boost federal funding and coordinate research through the National Cancer Institute (NCI). For the first two decades progress was slow, but since the early 1990s, better screening tests for colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer have led to early detection and contributed to better survival rates. The latest NCI statistics, in fact, show that U.S. mortality rates for 14 of the 19 most deadly cancers declined from 2003 to 2007. Lung cancer is among them; after years of falling death rates in men, women are registering lower numbers for the first time.

Along with the good news come more sobering statistics. Cancers without reliable screening tests—such as pancreatic, liver, and uterine—or effective treatments still have rising death rates. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer patients is 6 percent, compared to over 90 percent for some forms of breast and prostate cancer. Other factors, from the way a tumor grows to the amount of diseased tissue available for research, can affect the outcome of a particular type of cancer, says NCI deputy director James Doroshow.

About a third of U.S. cancer deaths are still linked to tobacco, although the number of smokers in the country is down. (People who never smoked are susceptible too, often due to secondhand smoke.) Higher taxes on tobacco products have been key, along with public smoking restrictions and awareness campaigns, says NCI physician Michele Bloch. She notes that larger, graphic cigarette warning labels mandated earlier this year help bring the U.S. in line with 30 other nations’ antitobacco policies. Still, lung cancer remains the leading cancer killer worldwide, with 1.4 million deaths each year.

In the next few decades, says David Forman of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, growing and aging populations will make cancer more common. Changes that come with economic growth, such as diet and less physical activity, will also play a role. This fall the United Nations convened a summit on cancer and other chronic diseases—only the second such meeting in the UN’s history. Says Forman: “We already have the knowledge to prevent many deaths. We just need the resources to implement it.” —Shelley Sperry

*FUNDING FOR PANCREATIC CANCER FROM 1996 TO 2007 ONLY
GRAPHIC: OLIVER UBERTI, NGM STAFF; SOURCE: NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE

Where is cancer deadliest?

The answer depends on regional differences
in lifestyle, diet, and health care. Worldwide,
lung cancer claims the most lives.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION REGIONS

Regional Patterns

Breast cancer rates are
higher in richer nations, where
women give birth later in life
and have fewer children.

Colorectal cancer, linked
to diets with more meat and
processed foods in affluent
nations, is less deadly when
caught early.

Cervical cancer kills more
women in countries where
the human papilloma virus is
common and screening rare.

Liver cancer is linked to the
hepatitis B and C viruses, more
prevalent in nations like China,
South Korea, and Mongolia.

GRAPHIC: OLIVER UBERTI, NGM STAFF; SOURCE: GLOBOCAN, INTERNATIONAL AGENCY FOR RESEARCH ON CANCER

The juvenile’s hip bone (below) indicates adults had huge thigh muscles (right).

Fossils that were found (highlighted in brown), likely from an adult and a juvenile, suggest that Brontomerus mcintoshi would have grown as tall as a double-decker bus.   ART: MAURICIO ANTÓN

Sizing Up
a Sauropod

It’s known as “Thunder Thighs,” but don’t let the funny nickname fool you. This was one serious—and seriously imposing—dinosaur. That’s the conclusion paleontologists Mike Taylor and Matt Wedel came to after analyzing the fragmented remains of two Cretaceous-period sauropods. Their research shows that even in its youth, the long-necked, plant-eating animal had a huge, dinner-platter-size hip bone (detail at right). That would have anchored enormous thigh muscles, which may have been used to deliver powerful kicks to raptors and other enemies.

Found in a Utah quarry in 1994, the fossils languished in an Oklahoma museum until 2007, when Taylor and Wedel convened to study them. To further unravel the story of this newly identified, still mysterious species, they say, a larger sample size is needed. “We’re not flying blind at this point,” says Taylor, “but we are flying a bit myopic.” —Catherine Zuckerman