Nature can be a beautiful place, but it can also be really gross. Enter the vulture: These birds love them some fleshy meals, but they’re not designed to actually get to the good stuff themselves. They’re just not strong enough to tear into the skin of most big animals. Vultures rely on larger scavengers that can tear into flesh more easily. The vultures just swoop in and eat the leftovers. But what happens when a vulture can’t count on buddies such as hyenas to do the hard work? National Geographic Explorer Jen Guyton explains that a hungry vulture will go straight for the softest parts of the body: the eyeballs and the butt.
Dwarf star a dark and stormy spot
Scientists using NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes have discovered a long-lived storm on a cool dwarf star called W1906plus40 for short that’s reminiscent of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. The findings, published in the Astrophysical Journal, shed light on the mysterious atmospheric dynamics on these strange objects existing on the blurry boundary between planet and star.
Endangered owl crowded by owl
The Pacific Northwest forest apparently isn’t big enough for the both of them. Across that range, federally protected northern spotted owls and invasive barred owls are in a nasty turf war. A U.S. Geological Survey study says that spotted owls that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed on the endangered species list to save them from logging and development don’t stand a chance. Research estimates that spotted owl populations have fallen by up to 77 percent in Washington state, up to 68 percent in Oregon and by more than half in California.
Rover finds new kind of moon rock
The Chinese Yutu rover has identified a new type of moon rock, according to a study published last week in Nature Communications. The rover — which was the first explorer to land on the moon since the 1970s, if you don’t count orbiters that made crash landings — is poking around a region that’s been reshaped by volcanic activity relatively recently. At just under 3 billion years old, these slightly-less-ancient flows have rock unlike the samples brought home by previous missions.
Venomous snake washes up in Calif.
A dead yellow-bellied sea snake from southern Mexico has been discovered on Bolsa Chica beach, only the third one ever reported in California. Natural History Museum snake curator Greg Pauly says it’s only the seventh or eighth one ever seen north of Baja California’s Magdalena Bay. All the California sightings have come during El Niño years when oceans are warmer than usual.