In this issue . . .
Q: What’s so scary about a Portuguese man-of-war?
A: For most U.S. citizens, the word colony invokes images of early America. The Mayflower, our first Thanksgiving, the Revolutionary War. Bonnets and muskets, and living off of the land. But there’s another image the word conjures up, at least to biologists—an image of a creature that is mysterious, dangerous, and astounding: the Portuguese man-of-war.
Whatever you do, don’t call them jellyfish. That name is a misnomer. They are not “true” jellyfish. And though they can be found off the coast of Portugal, they are most commonly found in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans. They also can be found in the northern Atlantic Gulf Stream. Wherever the ocean is warm, chances are you’ll find them.
The name man-of-war is also misleading. They certainly aren’t men, and they don’t go to war. In fact, they aren’t even individual animals! A Portuguese man-of-war is actually a floating colony.
News to Note Quick Look
“Jurassic lark”: Flying Monsters 3D, featuring British naturalist Sir David Attenborough, just became the first 3D movie to win a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award. The film will air on Christmas day on the UK’s Sky1 television as well as in IMAX theaters around the country. Sir David sets out to solve “one of the greatest mysteries in paleontology: how and why did pterosaurs fly? How did creatures the size of giraffes defy gravity and soar through prehistoric skies?” Read more.
Starbursts: The Silver Dollar Galaxy in the constellation Sculptor provided a very photogenic target for testing the European Space Agency’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST). VST is the largest telescope in the world to rely on visible light for its observations. The detailed images of bright blue clumps in the spiral galaxy are purportedly “stellar nurseries where hot young stars have just ignited.” Read more.
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