Posts by James Borrell

Remembering the animals that went to war

War is often regarded as the greatest downfall of humankind. Indeed, no other species commits such wanton destruction on such a grandiose scale and with such horrifying efficiency. It’s tragic too then, that as humanity has domesticated wildlife, we have incorporated them into our fights and conflicts. During the First World War, along with a million … Continued

5 spectacular wildlife tours from every corner of the planet

How can ordinary folk like you and me encourage conservation in countries around the world? We could petition governments, launch campaigns, boycott products—the ideas are endless but it can be tough to assess if these methods really work. Fortunately, there’s a far simpler (and substantially more enjoyable) approach: sustainable tourism. Nothing speaks louder than visiting … Continued

Do you know about nature's strangest symbioses?

Out in the natural world it’s survival of the fittest. Whether that means being the fastest or strongest, the best camouflaged or most poisonous, or perhaps simply the most intelligent—nature has thought of it all. Amongst the most ingenious strategies are symbioses. These are species that have adapted, through chance, to rely on and benefit … Continued

Life with latitude: The great puzzle of biogeography

Mention the tropics and you’ll likely imagine vast rainforests teeming with wildlife. With over 300 species of tree per hectare in Panama (there’s less than half of that in the whole of Canada!) and more than 1800 species of birds in Colombia, it’s clear the tropics are bursting at the seams with plant and animal … Continued

Have you heard about the mystery of the Zuiyo-maru?

Early on the 25th of April, 1977, a Japanese fishing vessel named the Zuiyo-maru was trawling for mackerel, around 30 miles off the New Zealand coast. Little did they know that entangled in their nets, over 300m below the surface, was something far larger and more mysterious than its normal catch—something that would set the scientific … Continued

Lovers for life? The secret world of animal cheats

Think you love someone? Want to spend the rest of your life with them and raise lots and lots of cute kids? Sorry, that might be exactly what your genes want you to think. Monogamy is a strategy, and for species where the young are vulnerable or take a long time to mature then it’s … Continued

10 species we know almost absolutely nothing about

From giant canopy-dwelling stick insects, to a mysterious spiny anteater in the Cyclops Mountains, onto otherworldly tentacles in the deepest depths of the ocean buried; there are plenty of species that we know almost nothing about, despite our best efforts. In some cases, the species is almost certainly extinct and just a handful of remaining … Continued

5 amazing theories about the origin of life on Earth

Stephen Hawkins recently said that science ‘can explain the light of stars but not the lights that shine from Planet Earth.’ Where did we come from? Why are we here? Most importantly, are we alone? Whatever the answers, they will be incomprehensibly profound and of unique importance to the human race—the universe either teeming with … Continued

We're pretty sure we've found the world's cutest animal babies

It’s no surprise that you enjoy watching videos of baby kittens, tiny piglets or a sleepy newborn chipmunk. That instinct that makes you go Squeeee is actually the product of millions of years of evolution. Our empathy towards baby animals is part of a process that makes us better parents towards our own offspring—we look … Continued

The 'people of the forest' are disappearing. Here's why

As of last month, the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) is now listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. It joins the closely related Sumatran Orangutan (P. abelii), meaning that both species are now sitting precariously on the brink of extinction. The orangutan are rainforest apes found in South-east Asia. Mainly arboreal, they spend … Continued

Just how big can animals grow?

If you were to take a walk through North America a mere 10,000 years ago, there would have been an awful lot more animals with you on their menu. From giant sloths to short-faced bears, to perhaps even the 9ft-long (three metre) sabertooth salmon. If we think of big animals now, then our imagination takes … Continued

'If only more people knew that it exists'—Meet Africa's critically endangered ghost cat

The fastest land mammal on Earth once ranged across 25 million square kilometers, from South Africa to Morocco and Iran to India. Now, the iconic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a shadow of its former self. Beset on all sides by vanishing prey, declining habitat and increasing poaching, and human-wildlife conflict, the future is at best … Continued

Universal adapters: 5 species that are conquering the planet

We often hear about biodiversity loss, extinction and the general declining state of our natural world. We lament the giant panda, doomed by evolution to be a fussy eater and not very good at reproducing, and we put great effort into saving sea turtles that mistake plastic bags for jellyfish. But for a moment—instead of … Continued

An insightful probe into the planet's 10 most incredible plants

Plants might just surprise you. If you’re like most people, you find it easy to think of impressive animals—tigers, elephants, maybe something obscure like giant squid—but what about incredible plants? Sure they can’t run and they’re not cute and cuddly, but being literally rooted to a single spot they have had to evolve some remarkable … Continued

Sea of creepy ice monsters

Oceans cover more than two thirds of the world surface and contain a staggering 99% of the living space on our planet. It’s no surprise then that scientists are still turning up strange and unexpected creatures. We’ve all heard about the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle and the strange adaptations of the Deep Sea, but what … Continued

TED's 10 top talks on conservation

When it comes to ground breaking and innovative ideas that really get people talking, you’ve probably heard of TED. TED started back in 1984 as a conference that brought technology, design and entertainment together, but over the decades it has grown far beyond that. Now, it’s exciting to see some of the world’s leading conservationists … Continued

The golden moles of Africa

Dig down a few feet into Africa’s parched red soils and you might just encounter a burrowing biological oddity that has baffled scientists for two centuries. The golden moles (although, entirely unrelated to the more familiar ‘true’ moles) are a group of subterranean insectivorous mammals that live beneath a variety of forest, grassland and desert … Continued

6 surprising animals that can change sex

Lets face it; most things in the natural world revolve around sex. Specifically, making sure you survive long enough to find and impress a mate—then have lots of offspring. It’s a complicated game that has led to all sorts of adaptations, but the one we’re sharing with you today is amongst the most surprising—the ability … Continued

10 most unusual defence mechanisms found in Nature

Just as deadly predators have evolved ingenious ways to lure and catch their prey, so too have animals developed surprising and unexpected methods of escape. From fish that fly and lizards that squirt blood from their eyes, to insects that wear dead ants as a disguise. Welcome to the weird world of unusual defense mechanisms. … Continued

Conservation spotlight: The Ethiopian bush-crow

‘Enigmatic and baffling’, this is how scientists describe one of the most remarkable ornithological discoveries of the 21st century. The Ethiopian Bush-crow (Zavattariornis stresemanni) first became known to science relatively recently, during an expedition to southern Ethiopia in 1937 led by Edoardo Zavattari, after whom the bird was named. Its origins and evolution have remained somewhat … Continued

Meet Borneo's pygmy elephants

Think of elephants and you probably picture majestic herds lumbering across an African plain. That’s unsurprising; there are still some 700,000 elephants on the continent, despite being down from as many as five million barely a century ago. The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is the poster child for conservation, garnering millions of dollars in pledges … Continued