sample of the week


our featured sample this week can be found in abundance at Pamukkale in Turkey, where it flows from hot springs to cover the landscape. precipitating from the calcite-rich rich waters when they become exposed to the atmosphere, calcium carbonate forms a type of limestone called travertine. over the eons, it has built a series of cascading cliffs and pools – used since ancient times for bathing and healing

read more about Pamukkale in our latest column for AnOther

sample of the week: pyrite cubes


the mineral pyrite can be found in a variety of crystal forms, but none is as surreal and beautiful as these perfect, naturally-occurring cubes. found outside the town of Navajún in the Rioja region of Spain, the cuboid crystals are prized around the world by collectors for their incredible geometry – with single cubes ranging in size from 1mm to 20cm plus all kinds of combinations, variations and offset angles

species of the week: Urtica dioica

Urtica dioica

just coming into season in the UK, stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are basically free superfood. packing in iron, omega-3, protein, potassium, manganese and calcium, plus vitamins A, C and K, they can be cooked like spinach or made into tea. both methods eliminates the stingy bit, which is caused by fine hairs called trichomes which contain a mix of stingy chemicals

to harvest, obs wear gloves and go for the youngest, freshest looking leaves. make sure you do this in the coming months, before they flower (as shown above) since after this nettles develop gritty particles which aren’t safe to eat. ensure you pick them from places that for sure haven’t been sprayed with chemicals and as with all wild foods only take what you need and make sure you know what you’re doing. happy hunting!

species of the week: Strix varia

barred owl

our species this week stands accused of making trouble in Oregon lately – namely ‘hat stealing’ trouble. although we should point out that conservationists believe it’s just a ‘lone individual’ barred owl involved, four joggers have now been attacked in a park in the state capital, Salem. Strix varia can be particularly aggressive during nesting season, so park officials are hoping it’s just a phase and that the aggro owl will chill out somewhat next month

species of the week: Phocoena sinus


our supercute species this week is the vaquita, a small, ultra-rare porpoise which lives in the Gulf of California. with fewer than a hundred left, these little guys are sadly the most endangered cetacean in the world. find out how you can help here

sample of the week: dinitrogen tetroxide

ESA image

this week’s chemical sample hit the headlines today for all the wrong reasons following the massive explosion of an unmanned Antares rocket bound for the International Space Station. first rising, then exploding, falling and exploding again, the giant craft carried the toxic compound amongst others, leading NASA officials to warn the public about approaching the area. used since the early days of rocketry, dinitrogen tetroxide is a powerful oxidizer which reacts on contact with hydrazine in what’s called a hypergolic reaction – making it ideal for launching rockets, but highly hazardous when things go wrong

species of the week: Tadarida brasiliensis


as attendees of SXSW may already know, between March and April up to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats flock from Mexico to downtown Austin’s Congress Avenue bridge to form the largest urban bat colony in North America. made up mostly of pregnant females, the colony resides within the deep, cavernous recesses under the bridge to give birth, with each female producing a single bat pup. for almost an hour at dusk the new moms stream into the sky to feed on the abundance of moths, dragonflies and wasps in nearby habitats, forming vast, swirling, black clouds across the Austin sunset before withdrawing to their urban home to nurse their young


sample of the week: Ringwoodite


an ultra-rare mineral discovered inside a diamond suggests there could be vast amounts of water hundreds of miles below the earth’s surface. the sheer volume trapped deep down in the mantle is mind-boggling – possibly as much as all the world’s oceans combined. the accidental discovery was made by researchers at the University of Alberta, who found a tiny sample of water-rich ringwoodite inside a diamond mined in Brazil, which was blasted up from the depths by a diatreme eruption. created only under extreme pressure, it’s the first time the olivine mineral has been found naturally on earth – it’s previously only been seen in meteorites or created artificially in labs

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sample of the week: ice cores


extracted from hundreds or even thousands of metres of accumulated ice and snow, ice cores are a key tool for mapping the earth’s changing climate. the trapped air bubbles, much like the rings of a tree, can be studied to determine the historical atmospheric composition of the planet. the sample above was collected by Dutch scientists from the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research in Antarctica to assist with their continued research into concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide over the past 800,000 years

species of the week: Greta oto


displaying a rare example of terrestrial translucency, the tissue between the veins of this stunning butterfly is almost clear, leading to its common English alias of ‘glasswing’ or the charming ‘epijiotos’ (little mirrors) in Spanish. native to the neotropical zones of South America and Southern Florida, the males are assumed to be toxic due to their diet of alkaloid-high nectar from flowers such as Asteraceae

species of the week: Orobanche Californica

Orobanche californica ssp. californica

growing in clusters on California’s harsh and precipitous coastal bluffs the Orobanche Californica or California Broomrape is one of a small number of plant species that is Holoparastic. lacking chlorophyll in its stem, the plant is unable to photosynthesise and instead wholly reliant on a host plant for nourishment. its striking and thickly veined tubular flower holds a capsule containing minute seeds

species of the week: Cortinarius

B0032P 0083

our species this week is an imagined one; part of Vincent Fournier‘s new photographic art series. where previous projects saw him exploring space infrastructure, robotics and architecture, ‘Post Natural History’ is very much focused on life, but not as we know it. a new kingdom of engineered living things, creations run the gamut from pollution-detecting beetles to predator-proof owls. Cortinarius (Fungus aridus) is a fungi engineered to tolerate arid environments, created by the “injection of a genetically modified gene isolated from camel hump cells in spores. Reservoir of fatty tissue derived from lipoblasts within cap. Metabolized tissue with a yield of approx. 0.1 g of H2O for each 0.1 g of fat converted through reaction with O2 from the air”

Post Natural History is on show at acte2galerie‘s Left Bank space in Paris until 1 September 2013

sample of the week: Malachite


used to make green paint in ancient times, Malachite is a rich green copper carbonate hydroxide mineral with the formula Cu2CO3(OH)2. usually found deep underground, where hydrothermal fluids and water reservoirs can create Malachite stalagmites. this particular sample is from Zaire

species of the week: Xanthoria parietina


an uncommonly beautiful example of common orange lichen aka Xanthoria parietina, maritime sunburst lichen or shore lichen. it thrives in sunny hardwood forests and on exposed seacliffs, where bird droppings provide a rich source of nitrogen. incredibly tolerant of air pollution and heavy metal contamination, it can be used as a bioindicator to measure things like air quality

species of the week

the Shield mantis is just one of millions of species found in Yasuni National Park, Ecuador – one of the most biodiverse places on earth thanks in part to the fact it never froze over during the last ice age. the rainforested area is home to an incredible array of wildlife ranging from fish and birds to reptiles and amphibians, as well as several uncontacted human tribes

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species of the week: Lycoperdon perlatum

the surface of this mushroom is described, variously, as being covered in warts, spiny bumps, jewels or spikes. early on, when still crisp and white, these mushrooms are edible, with an apparently aromatic taste to them. when older, the matured and now slightly brown-coloured puffball reproduces by opening its upper surface to liberate and disperse spores

warning: super/collider does not recommend eating wild mushrooms unless you are an expert, as insanely poisonous varieties can resemble edible ones

species of the week: Cephea cephea

the jellyfish Cephea cephea is captured here in the mobile stage of its life cycle. the term jellyfish or medusa only refers to the free-swimming members of the greater phylum of Cnideria, whereas when attached to the sea-bed, they are called polyps. instead of tentacles they have eight highly-branched oral arms, along which there are suctorial mini-mouth orifices. Cephea cephea wafts in the tropical water of the Indo-Western Pacific, and is fished for cooking purposes despite consisting of up to 98% water

species of the week: Linepithema humile

one of the most successfully invasive species on earth, the humble little Argentine ant thrives by linking up with neighbours instead of fighting them. this ‘unicoloniality’ results in giant supercolonies – one of which stretches more than 6000 km along the Mediterranean coast. indeed, researchers now believe that the three giant Linepithema humile colonies in California, Europe and Japan are in fact genetically identical, and thus one massive ‘global supercolony’

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species of the week: Dendronephthya

there are over 250 species of Carnation Tree Coral, including this peach-colored specimen found in Komodo National Park, Indonesia

sample of the week: Gallium

a soft, silvery metal whose melting point is so low that it turns to liquid in your hands. used in semiconductors, neutrino detection and, possibly in the future, in hydrogen energy transfer and storage systems