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.
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.
Seventy years ago today, on Dec. 6, 1947, United States President Harry S. Truman officially opened southwestern Florida’s Everglades National Park. The park was established to conserve parts of the Everglades wetlands and the Big Cypress Swamp, as well as many coastal islands along the Gulf of Mexico.
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.
In June 2017, the state of California classified glyphosate, the most widely used herbicidal chemical in the world, as a known carcinogen(cancer-causing substance). In the early 1970’s, organic chemist John E. Franz discovered the plant-killing chemical compound while working for the Monsanto Company, a leading chemical maker in the United States.
Last month, in June, an international team of researchers and scientists braved heavy snows, freezing winds, and thin air to extract ice core samples from the Illimani glacier high in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia. The samples were the latest collected by teams from Ice Memory, a project aiming to gather ice samples from endangered glaciers around the world.
On June 10, the Expo 2017 international exhibition opened in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, a country in west-central Asia. Expo 2017—like so many exhibitions and fairs before it—is a celebration of international commerce, industry, and science. The theme for Expo 2017 is “Future Energy,” concentrating on clean energy innovations as well as creative ideas for the future.
In Canada’s Yukon territory, increased melting of the vast Kaskawulsh Glacier has caused the nearby Slims River to run dry. The Slims, once a gushing channel of glacial melt water, is now a waterless expanse of mud and dust.
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.
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.
Yesterday, November 7, officials from around the world gathered in Marrakech, Morocco, for the 2016 United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, or COP22. COP22 is an acronym for the 22nd annual session of the Conference of the Parties. The meetings come on the heels of the Friday, November 4, entry into force of COP21’s Paris Climate Agreement. One hundred countries—including the two considered to be the greatest polluters, China and the United States—have ratified the agreement for nations to report their greenhouse gas emissions.
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.
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.
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.
Today, August 25, is the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS is a bureau of the United States Department of the Interior. It manages the approximately 400 areas of the National Park System.
Last week, on July 26, the solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, completing the first-ever zero-fuel flight around Earth. Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard flew the final leg from Cairo, Egypt, to Abu Dhabi’s Al-Bateen Executive Airport, a grueling 48½-hour journey buffeted by hot desert air-driven turbulence.
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:...