Science Saturday: Superheroes in Scales
Much like our own world, the world of Chronsylvania is full of strange natural phenomena. Every week we'll highlight an article that explores the odd, and very real, scientific properties of our universe. We'll also leave you with a writing/drawing prompt based on the article to get your creative juices flowing.
Despite thousands of years of human exploration, there is still so much we don't know about our own planet.
Take for example, the fact that until January 2019, nobody in the world knew that these bad boys existed.
In this week’s article, science correspondent Josh Gabatiss (follow him on twitter @josh_gabatiss) relates the findings of a paper published in Zootaxa that describes six newly-discovered species of catfish and their strange and impressive physical features.
All of the newly-discovered species hail from South America, specifically the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers. These locations have been known to be home to some creatures with unexpected physical characteristics, and these catfish are no exceptions: snouts covered with small, bristle-like tentacles; sharp claw-like spines protruding from their fins, and armor-like scales plating their back.
"They're warriors," says Dr. Lesley De Souza, the lead scientist on the study. "They're fish superheroes."
Superheroes are typically protectors, using their special abilities to defend a person, ideal, or place. And if any place was ever in need of defense, it's the rainforests of South America. Gabatiss ends his article by reminding us how these treasure troves of biolgical diversity are under constant threat from "intensive agriculture, deforestation and chemicals used in gold mining." And if we don't curb these man-made threats, we may never get the chance to learn about the strange and wonderful creatures that call this place home. Humanity may cause species to go extinct before we have even discovered them.
Luckily, the rainforest is a deep and mysterious place. Full of creatures that have tentacle-faces, and weapon-like fins, and armor-plated skin.
Maybe the defenders of the rainforest won't be human after all.
Maybe the hero that will protect the rainforest is already there, hiding somewhere deep within the bends of the Amazon River, waiting to be discovered.
Creative Prompt: Design a superhero or heroine to defend the rainforest from the human advances that threaten to destroy it. But wait. Before you go sketching Jungle Man or a 21st-century Tarzan, there are a few catches:
1. The Superhero or heroine must be based off an animal native to the rainforest. That might be a howler monkey, a scarlet macaw, a poison dart frog, or any other rainforest animal you might choose. Check out this link to Trails.com for a more comprehensive list of rainforest-dwellers,
2. The Superhero or heroine must have some undiscovered element to them. Don't let the animal you choose include only the elements we already know about them. Consider the tentacle-faced and armor-plated catfish from above. What undiscovered element might your creature have developed to survive in the rainforest? A jaguar with poison fangs? An anaconda with camouflage abilities? A toucan with the intelligence of Stephen Hawking?
3. The superhero or heroine cannot have a human origin. Remember, humans are the threat to your hero or heroine's home. Push against tropes here and have your character's origin be based in an animal's point of view. It is okay if your hero or heroine is an animal who has been somehow altered by human experimentation, but he or she should not simply be a human who was been injected with animal DNA. First and foremost, your hero sees the world from the perspective of an animal.
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Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next Wednesday with a brand new page.