There’s no question that science is full of explanations that defy our commonsense expectations. And every year, researchers find ever more mystifying discoveries about the universe we live in. From disgusting medical anomalies to blueberry planets to giant tadpoles, here are the 14 most bizarre findings of 2018. We gathered for you 7 Interesting Science Tales from 2018.
Every year, Science publishes hundreds of news stories, both online and in our weekly magazine. And whereas many of these highlight huge advances in research (some of which get a nod in our breakthroughs of the year), a lot are simply cool stories that resonated with us, our readers, or both.
Crocodiles Were Played Classical Music. A group of international researchers scanned Nile crocodiles in MRI scanners while playing classical music to see how their brains handle complicated sensory information. The researchers played Bach music to the crocodiles while also exposing them to sophisticated visual cues. The study discovered that the brains of crocodiles, which evolved more than 200 million years ago, exhibited distinct brain activation after being exposed to sophisticated noises such as classical music versus when they were exposed to simple sounds. The findings showed that this sophisticated sensory processing originated far earlier than scientists previously believed.
Lizards Dream Like Us. A study of lizards’ sleep led by the Neuroscience Research Center of Lyon found that they have distinct sleep states much like humans. The researchers were investigating how lizards sleep to determine how sleep states developed in humans. The study determined that lizards experience phases similar to rapid-eye movement (REM) and slow-wave sleep states in humans. The findings suggested that lizards may experience dreams in a similar way to people.
Asian Elephants Are Extremely Good at Counting. According to research published in the Journal of Ethology in October, Asian Elephants exhibit mathematical ability that is more similar to humans than other species. The researchers taught a 14-year-old Asian elephant to utilize a computer-controlled touch screen, which the elephant used its trunk to express numerical judgments. The elephant picked the right answer 181 out of 271 times (66.8 percent of the time), indicating that it possesses cognitive powers equivalent to human counting.
Goats Know When People Are Smiling And They Like To See It Happen. In a study published by the Royal Society, researchers investigated the intelligence of goats in understanding social cues. Using 35 goats, the scientists observed preference when they were presented with an image of either an angry or a happy human expression. The study found that the goats preferred to spend time around images of happy human faces — this indicated for the first time that domesticated farm animals, which haven’t been bred specifically to interact with humans, can read facial communication cues in people.
Scientists Have Developed A Sensory System Small Enough To Ride On Bumblebees. Engineers at the University of Washington have developed a sensor device that rides on the backs of bees to monitor temperature, humidity, and crop health. Farmers may employ drones for this purpose, but they take a lot of electricity to fly over big fields, so they need to be recharged frequently. The bumblebee sensory system includes position tracking, wireless communication, and a seven-hour battery that recharges as the bees sleep in their hives at night. Mark Stone/University of Washington / Via University of Washington
Three New Species Of Rainbow Chameleons Were Discovered. Three new species of rainbow chameleons were discovered on the east coast of Madagascar on an expedition led by a German zoological society. The researchers who discovered them said that the three species likely have small populations without a lot of distribution. One of the chameleon species was only observed in a 37-acre patch of isolated rainforest.
Researchers Rediscovered An Animal That Hadn’t Been Seen In 30 Years. The San Quintin kangaroo rat, a small, feisty burrow-dwelling mammal from northern Mexico, was last seen in 1989 and was declared extinct by the Mexican government in 1994. However, researchers came across four of the kangaroo rats during a routine survey in 2017 and published their findings in May this year. The researchers stated that the reappearance of the kangaroo rat is a promising sign that the natural ecosystems in the Baja California region are recovering after an agricultural boom drastically changed the environment.