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Cheetah’s are specialized hunters! NSF Science Now 56

Cheetah’s are specialized hunters!  NSF Science Now 56


-Music- Cheating Cheetahs! The cheetah is the world’s fastest land
animal. But did you know their unique anatomy makes
cheetahs very specialized hunters? NSF-funded researchers at the American Museum
of Natural History have discovered how the inner ear helps the cheetah maintain balance
and visual contact with its prey all while moving at speeds of 65 miles per hour. The team used high-resolution X-ray computed
tomography to look deep inside the skulls of modern and fossil cat species, including
an extinct cheetah species that lived from 2.6 million to 126,000 years ago. The researchers discovered that the semicircular
canal system of the inner ears of modern cheetahs is substantially larger than other cats. This distinctive inner ear anatomy allows
cheetahs today to hold their head still and to maintain a locked gaze on their prey during
a high-speed pursuit. The fossil cheetah did not show the same inner
ear anatomy, suggesting that this sensory organ most likely evolved relatively recently
in cheetahs to help them run faster than other predators. The team says this research is important for understanding how species adapt to environments through time and how ecosystems change over time and shape biodiversity. Remote sensing of water trends Today’s growing human population puts a heavy
demand on water resources. Traditional gauging station networks and emerging
satellite-based river gauging methods are necessary to continue meeting global water
demands, but obtaining the necessary data about discharge in small rivers is difficult
to come by. NSF-funded researchers at Utah State University
have found a way to help. The team used high-resolution aerial imagery
gathered from helicopters and drones. Their method overlaps aerial images collected
under dry conditions to produce three-dimensional digital elevation models of smaller river
channels that are unobservable in coarse satellite imagery. These specialized models are used to estimate river discharge by matching simulated and observed river width. In a case study, this method was found to
have similar accuracy as older, more expensive gaging stations. While this method was developed in the Arctic, the team hopes this approach will help give scientists a better view of what is happening to the quantity and quality in smaller, river basins elsewhere. Fruit bats and Sonar! It seems that fruit bats have taken a page
from modern-day military surveillance! The NSF-funded scientists at Johns Hopkins
University, partnering with collaborators at the University of Washington believes that the fruit bat can simply click its tongue at different positions within the mouth and produces signals in different directions without moving its head or mouth. What’s that got to do with military surveillance? Stay tuned! The team measured the animals in the “bat lab” at Johns Hopkins by capturing high-speed video and ultrasonic audio of bats in flight
to study the mechanism of their behavior and navigation. While the team was unable to solve the mystery of the seemingly motionless tongue click direction changes, they did recognize that the patterns of sound the bats produce are similar to those found in radar and sonar surveillance systems. Sonar or radar works when an airplane or submarine emits pulses of radio waves in the air, or sound underwater, then analyzes the returning waves to detect objects or hazards. Instead of pointing all sound energy in one direction, fruit bats produce sound waves that point in different directions at different frequencies to create a sharper image—similar to how today’s frequency-scanning sonar
would act. The team thinks their results, when combined
with the bats’ highly adaptive sonar behavior, could inspire new directions for driverless
cars and drones. For more information about these stories,
visit us at nsf.gov. This is NSF Science Now, I’m Dena Headlee.

Comments (2)

  1. has everyone seen smarter every day's chicken. what is with the frame capture seen in pigeons heads. how is our saccades phased with our natural neural pace. the real cheat will be how this will be obviated by machine.

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