World’s largest and smelliest flower may be extinct soon

According to new research, most species of the famously large Rafflesia flower, which has long captured the imagination with its enormous speckled red petals, are now at risk of extinction.

Thriving in rainforests, it is in danger of extinction due to habitat loss as well as poaching — its buds are harvested and sold for medicinal properties.

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> This largest known individual flower of the Earth is found only in Malaysia, Sumatra, Java & Kalimantan of Indonesia, southern Thailand, and southern Philippines.

> It has a smell like rotten meat making it known locally as “corpse flower”

> Rafflesia is actually a parasite, and lives on tropical vines across parts of Southeast Asia, producing blooms that are among the largest in the world.

> The plant cannot grow in captivity, and, as most occurrences of Rafflesia contain only male or female flowers, pollinations is rare. A fly must land first on a male flower, avoid being eaten, and then transport the pollen to a female flower.

> The flower was first discovered by French naturalist and adventure, Louis Dechamps in then Java (present day Indonesia) between 1791-1794. It was named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, an adventurer and founder of British colony of Singapore.

Rare spotless giraffe spotted in Namibia

Where have all the spots gone? Some scientists say that this is a genetic anomaly while some others believe that technically these are not spotless animals, instead it’s “one-spot-all-over the giraffe.”

The unprecedented sighting occurred at Mount Etjo Safari Lodge, a private game reserve in central Namibia. Tour guide Eckart Demasius saw and photographed the solid-brown calf during a game drive on the roughly 90,000-acre reserve.

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Earlier this summer another spotless giraffe was born at the Brights Zoo in Limestone, Tennessee. It has been named Kipekee, which means “unique” in Swahili.

Before these recent births, a giraffe with all-brown coloring was last seen at a Tokyo zoo in 1972.

Some aspects of giraffe spots are passed down from mother to calf, according to a 2018 study in the journal PeerJ, and larger, rounder spots appear to be linked to higher survival rates for younger giraffes, but the reasons for that remain unclear.

Fish with hands washes ashore

A rare “handfish”, believed to be extinct was found by a runner in Primrose Sands, a beach in Tasmania, Australia. The 9cm fish was initially thought to be a toadfish which is known to inhabit the coastal and estuarine waters of the area.

Scientists believed the species had been extinct for nearly 20 years but this discovery is all they need to renew research in the area.

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The spotted handfish, known scientifically as Brachionichthys hirsutus, is one of seven handfish species endemic to Tasmania and the Bass Strait. While once abundant on Tasmania’s east coast, the population has decreased sharply over the past three decades.

The rare fish is known to use its ‘hands’ to walk on the sea floor and cares for its eggs with the ‘fingered flippers’

Germany creates history by winning their maiden FIBA World Cup

A nation primarily known for football, Germany leaves their imprint in the world of basketball, becoming world champions for the first time in the sport, following a tense 83-77 win over Serbia. The German hoopsters caused a major upset in the semis, as they defeated perennial favourites USA 113-111. The victorious team was led by Dennis Schröder, who plies his trade for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA.

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>The FIBA World Cup 2023 saw a series of first. Not only did Germany win their first championship title, Canada too won their first medal, that too by defeating their neighbours 127-118 in the bronze medal match. Germany’s and Canada’s respective wins over the US means basketball is no longer American monopoly.

>Germany’s achievement is even more impressive, especially put in the context of their last few outings. They finished 17th in 2010, didn’t qualify in 2014, and finished 18th in 2019.

>The last time the Germans finished on the podium in the FIBA World Cup was way back in 2002. The team, led by NBA superstar Dirk Nowitzki, won the Bronze medal.

ChatGPT diagnoses rare medical condition that 17 doctors could not

The impact of AI reached new heights when a concerned mother turned to ChatGPT to seek a diagnosis of her four-year-old son, Alex.

It all started with a chronic toothache, but as soon as the growth rate slowed, it raised further concerns. A doctor suggested that it could be a lingering effect of COVID-19, but the situation remained unresolved. Frustrated after visiting 17 doctors over three years without a final diagnosis, the mother turned to an unlikely source: ChatGPT.

She shared the child’s symptoms with the AI tool, hoping for some solution. ChatGPT suggested a rare neurological condition known as tethered cord syndrome.

A neurosurgeon later confirmed the diagnosis.

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This remarkable instance isn’t the first time ChatGPT has aided in diagnosing medical conditions. Earlier this year, a Twitter user shared how the AI tool correctly helped discover a diagnosis for their pet dog when conventional doctors had failed to do so.

Pleasantly mysterious golden egg found on the ocean floor

Ocean researchers using a remotely operated survey vehicle spotted a strange golden item on a rock about two miles deep in the Gulf of Alaska. It is over 4 inches in diameter and has a small tear near its base.

Initially it looked like a hat but as the videographers zoomed into, it seemed like a dead sponge attachment or a coral or an egg casing. But it was neither.

Invoking almost fairytale-like imagery, the specimen has since been dubbed a ‘golden orb’ and even a ‘golden egg.

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This unidentified object was seen on August 30, 2023, during Dive 07 of the Seascape Alaska 5: Gulf of Alaska Remotely Operated Vehicle Exploration and Mapping expedition.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the object is shiny delicate to the touch, is like skin tissue.

DNA tests in the lab could reveal an entirely new animal completely unknown to science. Dr Tammy Horton at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton couldn’t say what the mystery object is but agreed it is ‘potentially a new species’.

Takahe, a prehistoric bird once thought to be extinct, returns to New Zealand

In a rare win for conservationists, a large flightless bird, not seen in the wild in 100 years, made a return to the alpine slopes of New Zealand’s South Island. Takahe, which dates back to at least the prehistoric Pleistocene era, was formally declared extinct in 1898, after being rediscovered in 1948. Since then, they have been raised in captivity, away from predators and their numbers have steadily risen to about 500.

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> Many New Zealand birds are flightless as before the arrival of humans, there were no native land mammals that preyed on them.

> The European settlers brought with them many animals that wreaked havoc on the local bird population. The nation plans to wipe out some of its worst predators – rats, possums and stoats – by 2050.

> The Takahe is considered to be taonga – a treasure that should be protected, by the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. The bird has also appeared in a stamp before.

Oldest fossil remains of a plant-eating dinosaur discovered in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer.

Scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee and the Geological Survey of India (GSI) have discovered the oldest fossil remains of a long-necked, plant-eating dicraeosaurid dinosaur in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. The study published in Scientific Reports, an international journal by publishers of Nature, reveals that the remains are 167 million years old and belong to a new species, which makes this new Indian sauropod not only the oldest known dicraeosaurid but also globally the oldest diplodocoid (broader group which includes dicraeosaurids and other closely related sauropods).

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It has been named ‘Tharosaurus indicus’, the first name referring to the Thar desert where the fossils were found, and the second after its country of origin.  Some of the dinosaurs whose remains have been found in India include:
Barapasaurus, Indosuchus, Isisaurus, Kotasaurus and Rajasaurus