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Bizarre Adaptations

Mission to Mercury

Of all the planets in our solar system, Mercury is closest to the Sun. It’s also the smallest planet – and one we know little about.

Now, a spacecraft carrying two satellites has blasted off on a mission to learn more about Mercury. Called BepiColombo, it’s a joint project between the space agencies of Europe and Japan. When the satellites reach Mercury, they’ll separate and orbit the planet, collecting information to send back to Earth.

However, the BepiColombo spacecraft has a long journey ahead. It will take seven years for it to reach Mercury!

Bendable concrete

Concrete: the most commonly used human-made material in the world. It’s very strong, but also brittle – meaning it can’t bend very much before breaking. This means pavements and roads need to be repaired again and again, and that gets expensive!

However, scientists around the world have been working on a solution inspired by a type of shellfish called an abalone! The shiny material inside abalone shells is made up of tiny blocks held together with a soft substance, which makes the material strong and flexible.

Concrete is normally just a mixture of gravel and sand held together with cement. But when scientists added lots of tiny stretchy fibres, it was able to bend without breaking. This new concrete was also able to self-repair!

This means it could be useful not only for road repairs, but in helping to protect buildings from the effects of natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Spot the giraffe

We all know what giraffes look like. But we don’t know much about why they look like that.

Now, thanks to new research from Penn State University in the US, we understand that calves inherit the pattern of their spots from their mothers. The researchers studied Masai giraffes in Tanzania, Eastern Africa, and found that not only did the calves have the same shape of spots as their mothers, but the spots also had a similar degree of smoothness to their edges. The researchers also discovered that calves with larger, more irregular-shaped spots were less likely to be killed by predators. This could mean that irregular spots provide better camouflage.

Learn more…

We’ve learned that giraffes inherit their spots from their mothers and why. But how did animals evolve to be so different from each other in the first place? Discover more about inheritance with our Twig video, Bizarre Adaptations.