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The Key to Tasmanian Devil Survival? Being Less Aggressive

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Though they're delightfully adorable, Tasmanian devils don't have a reputation for being sweet and cuddly (just look at that Taz on Looney Tunes!). But according to a new study, evolving to be less ferocious might be the only thing that could keep them from going extinct.

Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) causes tumors to grow around an infected animal's mouth and face, eventually leading to starvation. The disease has been wiping out the species since the first official case was described in 1996. DFTD is spread primarily by biting, and researchers have discovered that the more often one of the creatures is bitten, the less likely he is to have contracted the virus.

It's precisely the opposite of what they expected to find. It means that the alpha males, who get bitten the least, are most likely to catch DFTD, and those at the bottom of the pack, the least aggressive creatures that get bitten the most often, are the least likely to contract the disease. "In most infectious diseases there are so-called super-spreaders, a few individuals responsible for most of the transmission," said Dr. Rodrigo Hamede of the University of Tasmania, the lead author of the study. "But we found the more aggressive devils, rather than being super-spreaders, are super-receivers." This is because, Hamede says, "they bite the tumours of the less aggressive devils and become infected."

The key to saving the species may be identifying less aggressive members of packs and introducing them into selective breeding programs, with the ultimate goal of making a less ferocious Tasmanian devil that will consequently be less likely to contract DFTD.

Of course, the question remains: If you breed out one of the most defining characteristics of a species, are the resulting creatures still part of that species, or are they something new?

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Space
Look Up! Residents of Maine and Michigan Might Catch a Glimpse of the Northern Lights Tonight
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iStock

The aurora borealis, a celestial show usually reserved for spectators near the arctic circle, could potentially appear over parts of the continental U.S. on the night of February 15. As Newsweek reports, a solar storm is on track to illuminate the skies above Maine and Michigan.

The Northern Lights (and the Southern Lights) are caused by electrons from the sun colliding with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. The solar particles transfer some of their energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules on contact, and as these excited molecules settle back to their normal states they release light particles. The results are glowing waves of blue, green, purple, and pink light creating a spectacle for viewers on Earth.

The more solar particles pelt the atmosphere, the more vivid these lights become. Following a moderate solar flare that burst from the sun on Monday, the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center forecast a solar light show for tonight. While the Northern Lights are most visible from higher latitudes where the planet’s magnetic field is strongest, northern states are occasionally treated to a view. This is because the magnetic North Pole is closer to the U.S. than the geographic North Pole.

This Thursday night into Friday morning is expected to be one of those occasions. To catch a glimpse of the phenomena from your backyard, wait for the sun to go down and look toward the sky. People living in places with little cloud cover and light pollution will have the best chance of spotting it.

[h/t Newsweek]

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The North Face
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Design
The North Face's New Geodesic Dome Tent Will Protect You in 60 mph Wind
The North Face
The North Face

You can find camping tents designed for easy set-up, large crowds, and sustainability, but when it comes to strength, there’s only so much abuse a foldable structure can take. Now, The North Face is pushing the limits of tent durability with a reimagined design. According to inhabitat, the Geodome 4 relies on its distinctive geodesic shape to survive wind gusts approaching hurricane strength.

Instead of the classic arching tent structure, the Geodome balloons outward like a globe. It owes its unique design to the five main poles and one equator pole that hold it in place. Packed up, the gear weighs just over 24 pounds, making it a practical option for car campers and four-season adventurers. When it’s erected, campers have floor space measuring roughly 7 feet by 7.5 feet, enough to sleep four people, and 6 feet and 9 inches of space from ground to ceiling if they want to stand. Hooks attached to the top create a system for gear storage.

While it works in mild conditions, the tent should really appeal to campers who like to trek through harsher weather. Geodesic domes are formed from interlocking triangles. A triangle’s fixed angles make it one of the strongest shapes in engineering, and when used in domes, triangles lend this strength to the overall structure. In the case of the tent, this means that the dome will maintain its form in winds reaching speeds of 60 mph. Meanwhile, the double-layered, water-resistant exterior keeps campers dry as they wait out the storm.

The Geodome 4 is set to sell for $1635 when it goes on sale in Japan this March. In the meantime, outdoorsy types in the U.S. will just have to wait until the innovative product expands to international markets.

[h/t inhabitat]

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