2018 has been an interesting year with a number of fascinating discoveries that seems like will eventually change the course of history. From new planets to DNA breakthroughs to whale earwax, 2018 has been filled with exceptional scientific stories.
Whale Earwax Shows Stress Levels
Over their long lives, whales accumulate earwax plugs that can get as long as ten inches in large species. The plugs show bands that correspond with their age—every year, they have heavy feeding times and migration times that change the colour of the wax.
In a report published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers described how they studied the chemical make-up of the bands and discovered that the whales produced significantly more of the stress hormone cortisol during years when the most whales were being hunted.
Scientists believe warming sea temperatures is responsible for creating stress for the marine mammals.
There Seems To Be A lake on Mars
A report in Science some months back revealed that radar scans from the Mars Express spacecraft had detected an underground lake on the red planet, below the southern ice cap.
Although ice and gaseous water have been found on Mars, its surface clearly shows that at some point in the past the planet had plenty of liquid water that had somehow gone missing.
If the Martian seas somehow ended up as underground reservoirs, they could provide resources for future human missions to the planet. Astrobiologists say the lake could be conducive to life, with similar environment having been found on Antarctic which hosts living bacteria.
NASA landed the InSight on Mars
The InSight lander made a flawless descent to the red planet’s surface in November. Its mission is to study Mars’s seismic activity, which will allow scientists to gain a better understanding of the thickness of its crust and the size and temperature of its molten core.
The InSight will be searching for signs of microbial life, an Opportunity, which went silent during a dust storm that probably disabled its solar panels but there is hope that wind will blow the dust off and allow Opportunity to restart.
Animal populations are shrinking dramatically
According to the WWF Living Planet Report for 2018, the average number of vertebrate populations—mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians—decreased by 60 percent between 1970 and 2014.
Habitat degradation and loss, overfishing, and overhunting are among the major causes. In South and Central America, animal populations have fallen by a staggering 89 percent, on average.