Natural History News

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Machu Picchu is one of the most iconic symbols of Peru and the Inca culture, but urban development threatens this archaeological treasure. UNESCO, the United Nations-run organization that protects historical and natural sites around the world, recently launched an evaluation to determine the level of preservation of Machu Picchu. The investigators found more stringent regulations are necessary to protect the ancient ruins.

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Although not the most natural of attractions in Central America, the Miraflores Locks are still an important part of society in Panama and have important implications there. It is hard to imagine a time before the Panama Canal, even though it was not too long ago that it was dug out. Finished in the early 20th century, it forever changed the face of shipping in North and South America. Locks are a crucial aspect of the canal, lifting ships up 85 feet to the main elevation of the canal.

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When Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos, he was repulsed by the marine iguanas, famously referring to them in his journal as “imps of darkness.” But these “disgusting, clumsy lizards” were one of the keys that helped Darwin unlock the secrets of his theory of evolution. Galapagos marine iguanas are the only aquatic lizards in the world, and Darwin surmised they were able to adapt their ability to swim and dive for food to suit their habitat.

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The landscapes of Chilean Patagonia are so impressive and brimming with sights that nature travel enthusiasts can’t absorb everything in just one trip. After you’ve explored the famed glaciers and landscapes of Torres del Paine, adventurers should consider venturing off of the beaten path to the Marble Cathedral near General Carrera glacial lake on the border of Chile and Argentina. The remoteness of this location makes it a bit complicated to reach, but once you get there, you'll be glad you made the effort.

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In remote jungles of northern India, researchers recently discovered a previously unknown family of creatures — legless amphibians called chikilidae. The Associated Press reports that the creature was once thought to be a deadly mini-snake, but now much more is known about this amphibian that looks more like a worm than the primitive group to which it belongs, the caecilian group.

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Scientists from the California Academy of Sciences, the Oakland Museum and the National Museum of Natural History recently reported the discovery of a previously undocumented shark species swimming around the waters of the Galapagos Islands. The San Francisco Chronicle reports the researchers actually found and collected a number of these sharks back in 1998, but the process of cataloguing a new species is not a quick one, as everything from ensuring it is actually new to naming it can be time-consuming.

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The Amazon rainforests are home to many unique creatures — so many that scientists regularly discover new species. Already this year, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced that 365 previously undocumented species have been recorded in the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, which encompasses a portion of the Southwest Amazon.

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Researchers are constantly discovering previously unknown species, and sometimes these species have been extinct for millions of years. A team of scientists from the Florida Museum of Natural History and the University of Florida recently uncovered and identified two of the oldest species of ancient camels in Panama, Aguascalietia panamaensis and Aguascalietia minuta.

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Most people tour Patagonia for the stunning hikes and nature travel experiences around the Andes. However, exploring the cultures of the people who have inhabited these rugged peaks for centuries adds a particular sense of beauty and connection to this vast wilderness.

At the extreme southern reaches of South American, people have been building civilizations for centuries. However, it was not until the 16th century that they first made contact with Europeans.

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It's no secret that deforestation has been detrimental to the world's rainforests. Advocacy groups and volunteers have been working to put a stop to the industrializing of tropical regions like the Amazon for decades. While these groups have been successful, damage has already been done to the delicate ecological balance.

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