Behind the Headlines
Explore our world, one headline at a time.
World Book Editors break down the news in our Behind the Headlines feature allowing for a deeper understanding of the complex events that shape our world today. Behind the Headlines articles are carefully crafted presenting the latest national and world news, science discoveries, current events and other top stories and are simplified for young readers.
In 1918, 100 years ago, the Congress of the United States passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to help protect wild birds in North America from extinction. Bird populations, ravaged by habitat loss, overhunting, and pollution, had dropped sharply in the years leading up to the act. The MBTA helped preserve those populations and allowed them to recover and thrive.
Bird watchers in Australia were recently surprised as several species of predatory birds appeared to be spreading bushfires as a novel hunting technique. For many years, wildlife biologists have documented raptors that fly around the edges of wildfires, practicing what the scientists call “fire-foraging.”
The axolotl, an unusual Mexican salamander, is one of the most studied animals in the world. It is also one of the most endangered animal species, and the axolotl may soon be extinct in the wild.
On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, already home to the Sumatran orangutan, a new species of the great orange ape has recently been named: the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis). Orangutans are shy and reclusive, and they live in remote jungle areas.
A recent report released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Brazilian Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development details 381 new animal and plant species discovered in the Amazon rain forest over a 24-month period. The report, titled “New Species of Vertebrates and Plants in the Amazon 2014-2015,” lists 216 new plants, 93 new fish, 32 new amphibians, 20 new mammals, 19 new reptiles, and 1 new bird in the vast Amazon region that spans several South American countries.
The region of the Western Ghats mountain range in India has turned up another new species of frog in 2017, and this one is quite bizarre. Bhupathy’s purple frog was named in honor of noted herpetologist Subramaniam Bhupathy, who died from a fall during an expedition in the Western Ghats in 2014.
The pangolin, a reclusive, unusual insect-eating animal, is the world’s most trafficked (illegally traded) mammal. These armored but endangered animals live in tree hollows or dense thickets in remote forests and scrublands of Africa and Southeast Asia.
Kermit the Frog’s saying, “With good friends, you can’t lose,” appears to apply—rather unusually—to the marsh frog and the Anatolian water buffalo of northern Turkey. A Polish ecologist was bird watching in the Kızılırmak Delta along the Black Sea coast, one of the largest wetlands in the Middle East, when he accidentally happened upon water buffaloes covered with hitchhiking frogs.
In order to survive, many animals have undergone some incredibly unique adaptations. The ability to change colors is fairly common in the animal world, as is the development of dazzling or dull colors for camouflage. But a rare few critters use light itself to deceive or even not to be seen at all. In the dark depths of the oceans, the smallest traces of light can illuminate a hungry fish’s potential dinner. For the hunted, then, it is better not to reflect light at all, and become nearly invisible, or to create or bend light so as to appear as something else.
Naked mole-rats may not rank highly on the cute scale, but they are certainly one of the world’s most bizarre and uniquely adapted animals. The naked mole-rat is a mammal, and the vast majority of mammals are warm-blooded. However, naked mole-rats belong to a special group of cold-blooded mammals (along with the platypus and other rare oddities).
For decades, dinosaurs have been grouped into two broad categories: long-necked sauropods and meat-eating theropods (along with birds) in one group, and the remaining plant-eaters, such as Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Iguanodon, in the other. In March, a group led by Matthew G. Baron from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom challenged that view. They published their findings in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.
For thousands of years, indigenous (native) people of Western Australia knew about giant ancient footprints along the shore of the Indian Ocean. But only recently have scientists learned about, and been able to study, the tracks, which were made by dinosaurs some 100 million years ago.
Scientists, never satisfied with the current number of known frogs in the world, have added two new species of toads to the ever-growing list. These new toads, native to Indonesia, have DNA so different from other toads that scientists went a step further and gave them their own genus, Sigalegalephrynus. When classifying living things, a genus (a group of related animals or plants) ranks below a family or subfamily and above a species.
After five years of exploration and study in the mountainous Western Ghats region of India, scientists have announced the discovery of seven new species (kinds) of frogs. Four of these new species are among the tiniest known frogs in the world, small enough to gather more than one on a 5-rupee coin (the rupee is the chief monetary unit of India).
Off the coast of Brazil, where the Amazon River spills into the Atlantic Ocean, scientists are taking the first up-close and personal look at the recently discovered Amazon Reef. Existence of the large coral reef was not confirmed until an oceanographic survey of the area in 2012. The survey’s findings were published in 2016, and in late January 2017, scientists began exploring the reef two-by-two in a small submarine, the exploration craft of the Greenpeace ship Esperanza.In the late 1950’s, a ship collected sponges—animals that often inhabit coral reefs—from the floor of the Amazon Delta.
Move over, Luke, there’s a new Skywalker in town! A new species (kind) of gibbon, the Skywalker hoolock gibbon, has been found living in the tropical rain forests of southwestern China and northeastern Myanmar.
Australia’s rare ruby seadragon has recently been seen alive for the first time. Because of rough sea conditions, a team of researchers had just one day to find the elusive “monster” off the coast of southern Australia. The ruby seadragon lives in waters too deep for human divers, so the team used a remote-controlled submersible (undersea vessel) to scour the murky sea bottom.
For the first time in the continental United States, a wild bee has been designated as an endangered species In the past 20 years, the insect’s population has dropped 87 percent because of habitat loss, disease, pesticides, and climate change.
This week’s Monday monster may look oddly familiar. Perhaps you’ve seen a much smaller version of this buglike creature in your backyard on a rotting tree stump or under a rock. Those little critters are commonly called pill bugs, roly polies, sow bugs, or wood lice. But today, meet the giant isopod (Bathynomus giganteus)—this roly poly can grow as big as a small dog!
The Asian giant hornet is so large, it is sometimes mistaken for a small bird in flight. This big predator is equipped with piercing jaws, a quarter-inch-long (half-centimeter-long) stinger loaded with deadly venom(poison), and an aggressive disposition. It keeps beekeepers up at night and is responsible for the deaths of dozens of people each year.
When asked which creature is the floppiest, ugliest, and “blobbiest glob” in the animal kingdom, many people might answer, “the blobfish.” With its beady black eyes, bulbous nose, and dumpy frown, the face of the blobfish is unnervingly similar to that of a gloomy human. Loose, scale-free skin covers its plump, squishy body, which grows to about 1 foot (30 centimeters) in length. It has soft bones and deflates into a saggy wad of pink jelly when removed from the water
Flash! Flash! Flash! No, it’s not photographers following around Hollywood stars. It’s a new species of frog that flashes in a different kind of way, with a showy display to ward off attackers.
Under water, the box jellyfish is practically invisible. It is one of the most venomous animals on Earth. It kills more people each year than sharks do. At most, however, it weighs only about 4½ pounds (2 kilograms). This Monster Monday critter packs a lot of pain into a small package.
How do you eliminate pests or an invasive species (introduced species that spreads quickly and harms native wildlife)? These kinds of organisms can wreak havoc on native ecosystems—so much so, that they can cause native species to become endangered or even extinct in their own homeland. This is exactly what’s happening in New Zealand.
Halloween trick-or-treaters in the forested Pine Barrens region of New Jersey should be watchful tonight. A beast known as the Jersey Devil is said to roam the area. This monster is commonly described as a creature somewhat resembling a small horse or goat with clawed hooves, batlike wings, fangs, red glowing eyes, and a forked tail.
It haunts caves, crevices, and tunnels by day, emerging only at night to look for victims. You probably would not hear it flying above your head, but you might catch a glimpse of its whitish fur flashing in the moonlight… It is the ghastly ghost bat of Australia.
The lamprey is an animal of contradictions. It looks like a leech, but it’s actually a fish. Some adult lampreys suck blood, but others don’t eat at all. Some kinds are invasive, but others are threatened. What is abundantly clear, however, is that the lamprey has a face only a mother could love.
Sure, the zorilla (or striped polecat) is cute, but petting is not advised. Aside from its stinky spray, the zorilla’s sharp teeth and strong jaws can deliver a tenacious and painful bite.
When you see models or illustrations of dinosaurs, have you ever wondered how accurate they are? Bones, skin impressions, and tracks can tell scientists and artists a great deal about the shape, size, and movements of these animals, but how do people know what color patterns the beasts adopted?
Small and slithery and creepy snakes can make people jump, but what about the monstrous anaconda, a snake so large it can swallow a small cow?
Extensive sampling of giraffe populations from previously recognized giraffe subspecies, under the one and only giraffe species (Giraffa camelopardalis), has turned up a great surprise: instead of just one species of giraffe, there may be four!
A sea spider is a terrifying beast. It has frighteningly long legs connected to a tiny body. It possesses no teeth or gaping jaws. Instead, it has a long tube called a proboscis, which it uses to suck the fluids out of its prey.
Standing at a whopping 10 feet (3 meters) tall and weighing more than 900 pounds (400 kilograms), Gigantopithecus was about twice the size of a large male gorilla, making it the largest ape that ever lived.Gigantopithecus walked on its hands and fists, like today’s great apes, and roamed the tropical forests of what are now southern China, northern Vietnam, and northern India.
Once teetering on the brink of extinction, the rare island fox of California’s Channel Islands has made the quickest recovery yet for a North American mammal in the history of the Endangered Species Act.
Monkeys in the Amazon rain forest likely entered their own Stone Agemore than 700 years ago, according to scientists investigating a fascinating site at Serra da Capivara National Park in northeastern Brazil.
The aptly named megamouth shark looks every bit the monstrous man-eater. This enigmatic shark typically grows over 20 feet (4 meters) long and has 50 rows of teeth lining massive, all-swallowing jaws.
Pokémon Go leads a player on the game path in Tarragona, Spain, on July 18, 2016.Credit: © Nito, Shutterstock Millions of players are taking to the streets to play Pokémon Go, a mobile gaming...
Late last month, paleontologists (scientists who study fossils) announced an amazing discovery. Researchers led by Lida Xing at the ChinaUniversity of Geosciences in Beijing had discovered two bird wings preserved in amber. They published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Learn about the humble armadillo's prehistoric cousin—the glyptodont. While modern armadillos range in length from about 6 inches to 5 feet (15 centimeters to 1.5 meters), some species of glyptodont grew to over 10 feet (3 meters) long, the size of a small car.
Photo: The black mamba shows its ominous black smile. Credit: © NickEvansKZN, Shutterstock Widely regarded as one of the world’s deadliest snakes, the monstrous reputation of the black mamba...
Photo: Crazy antCredit: © Brberrys, Shutterstock Everyone knows how annoying ants can be, particularly when they invade our homes or picnics. Imagine, however, relentless swarms of ants so...
About the photo: The Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola)—seen here in 2002—has vanished from the Earth. Scientists believe the small rodent is the first mammal victim of climate change. Credit:...
Vampire Squid. Photo Credit: © Steve Downer, ardea.com/Pantheon According to legend, vampires have the ability to transform into bats. Could it be that some of them actually turn into spooky, glowing...