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In Australia, Horses Kill More People Than Venomous Creatures Do

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In Australia, the dangers of snakes, spiders, and other venomous creatures may be far overblown in the popular imagination, as the BBC recently highlighted. The most dangerous animal in the country, in fact, is a more unassuming creature: the horse.

Research published in the Internal Medicine Journal examined 42,000 hospital admissions for venomous stings and bites over the course of 13 years (2000–2013). Bees were the most dangerous, comprising 31 percent of hospital visits, while spider bites made up 30 percent and snake bites made up 15 percent.

And yet, as the BBC reports, none of the animals the researchers specifically studied was as deadly as the unassuming horse. Study author Ronelle Welton found during the research that horse-related injuries over the same period led to 74 deaths—more than all the animals in the study combined.

The study’s authors found that 64 people were killed by venomous stings or bites, the majority because of the subsequent allergic reaction. Despite the smaller number of snake bite hospitalizations, they were pretty deadly: Snake bites caused 27 of these deaths, the same as did bees and wasps. There were no deaths from spider bites.

Surprisingly, most of the fatalities occurred in cities, not while people were out in the wilderness. Most happened at home. It’s possible that people don’t seek medical care as urgently where healthcare options are plentiful, and can die very quickly from anaphylaxis. And people can develop bee allergies even if they didn’t develop a reaction to a previous sting. Only in 44 percent of fatalities from an allergic reaction related to an insect sting did the person get to the hospital before they died.

The lessons we can take from this are: Be extra careful around bees, and even more careful around the stable.

[h/t BBC]

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These Deep-Sea Worms Could Live More Than a Thousand Years

Plunge below the sparkling surface of the Gulf of Mexico, head down into the depths, and there you'll find the ancient ones, growing in clusters of drab tubes like piles of construction equipment. Scientists writing in the journal The Science of Nature report that some of these worms could be more than 1000 years old.

When it comes to marine organisms, the deeper you go, the slower and older life gets. Biologists have found an octopus that guarded her eggs for four and a half years. They've seen clams born during the Ming dynasty and sharks older than the United States. They've seen communities of coral that have been around for millennia.

Previous studies have shown that some species of tube worm can live to be 250 years old. To find out if the same was true for other species—in this case, the Gulf of Mexico's Escarpia laminata—researchers spent years watching them grow. They used a long-lasting dye called Acid Blue to mark six clusters of worms, then let them to go about their wormy business. A year later, they collected all 356 blue-stained tubes and brought them back to the lab to measure their growth.

By calculating the speed of the worms' growth and comparing it to the size of the largest individuals, the scientists could devise a pretty good estimate of the oldest worms' age.

And boy, are they old. The researchers' worm-growth simulation suggested that the most ancient individuals could be more than 9000 years old. This seems incredible, even for tough old tube worms, so the scientists calculated a more conservative maximum age: a mere 1000 years.

A millennium-long lifespan is an extreme and not the average, the paper authors note. "There may indeed be large E. laminata over 1000 years old in nature, but given our research, we are more confident reporting a life span of at least 250 to 300 years," lead author Alanna Durkin of Temple University told New Scientist.

Still, Durkin says, "E. laminata is pushing the bounds of what we thought was possible for longevity."

She's excited by the prospect of finding older creatures yet.

"It's possible that new record-breaking life spans will be discovered in the deep sea,” she says, “since we are finding new species and new habitats almost every time we send down a submersible.”


[h/t New Scientist]

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Watch as Hummingbirds Fly, Drink, and Flap Their Tiny Wings in Slow Motion
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Hummingbirds have more feathers per inch than nearly any other bird, but it’s hard to fully appreciate their luminescent colors when they beat their wings between 70 to 200 times per second.

For the enjoyment of birders everywhere, National Geographic photographer Anand Varma teamed up with bird biologists and used a high-speed, high-resolution camera to capture the tiny creatures in slow motion as they flew through wind tunnels, drank artificial nectar from a glass vessel, and shook water from their magnificent plumage.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]


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