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Inside New Zealand’s rehab center for sassy, endangered penguins

By Ashley Strickland, CNN

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”

This Sherlock Holmes quote from Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” delivered by the endearing Dustin Henderson in the new season of “Stranger Things,” reminded me of the quest to understand how life really works. It’s a bit of a never-ending story.

No matter where and when we look, there is always something waiting to be discovered.

As we try to understand how a single mutation can cause rare genetic disorders, scientists are hot on the trail of “the age of human therapeutic gene editing” and even tinkering with reverse aging. Contemplating missions to the moon and Mars means accounting for how the human body will survive long-term spaceflight — not just physically but emotionally and mentally as well.

As humans, we can’t help it. The more we explore, the more challenges we uncover along the way — including rare species that need our help.

Fortunately, the world is full of intrepid souls who keep running up that hill of revelation.

Fantastic creatures

One of the most endangered penguin species in the world has a reputation for being loudmouthed and sassy.

The yellow-eyed penguin, which lives in New Zealand, is locally called hoiho, which means “noise shouter” in Māori. But the population of this unique, solitary species has dropped dramatically in recent years. Only about 3,000 remain in the wild.

The aquatic birds suffer from starvation, rising temperatures, water pollution, toxic algae blooms, injuries and a mystery disease called red lung, which scientists are still trying to understand.

New Zealand’s Penguin Place takes in hundreds of hoiho at its rescue and rehab center to make sure they have a chance at surviving. It’s a place for the feisty birds — which are capable of giving a good slap — to rest and receive treatment and lots of delicious fish.

Conservationists are hopeful that refuges such as Penguin Place will help the hoiho bounce back.

Other worlds

At first glance, Neptune and Uranus could be planetary twins. The distant, icy worlds are similar in size and atmospheric composition.

But as Voyager 2 revealed when it flew by both planets in 1989, they aren’t the same color. Neptune has a bright blue appearance, while Uranus is a paler shade of cyan blue.

Now, scientists think they know the reason behind this difference: a thick layer of haze that builds up in Uranus’ atmosphere, causing it to be a whiter shade of pale.

And speaking of planets, keep your eyes on the night sky for an alignment of five planets this month.

The wonder

If you want to see the world’s largest living plant, you’re going to need a bigger boat.

The marine plant, called Posidonia australis, stretches for more than 112 miles (180 kilometers) in Shark Bay off the coast of Western Australia.

In case you wondered, that seagrass sprawl is about the distance between San Diego and Los Angeles.

Researchers were shocked to find that it’s a single plant with an unexpected way of expanding: The seagrass clones itself.

A long time ago

Meet the original headbangers.

When paleontologists found an odd fossil in China’s northwestern Junggar Basin, they weren’t quite sure what to make of the creature.

Discokeryx xiezhi was a strange early relative of the giraffe that lived 17 million years ago, a new analysis has found.

Equipped with helmet-like headgear and the most complex head-neck joints ever seen in a mammal, the giraffoid was perfectly suited for competitive headbutting in the quest for courtship.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the discovery, apart from the fact that it looks like the animal wore a nifty bowler hat, is that Discokeryx xiezhi has shed light on why the modern giraffe evolved to have such a long neck.


Ancient relics and colored sarcophagi are some of the latest finds from Egypt’s Saqqara necropolis.

Revealed to the public this week, the collection includes the largest discovery of bronze statues in the region dating to the fifth century BC. The 150 statues were modeled after gods such as Anubis, Nefertem and Amun.

An Egyptian archaeological mission has been working in the royal burial grounds, 18 miles (29 kilometers) south of Cairo, since 2018.

So far, the researchers have also uncovered hundreds of other well-preserved items, including jewelry, mummies, masks and figurines.

Take note

Don’t miss out on these:

— The Hubble Space Telescope looked straight into the heart of a grand design spiral galaxy and shared a stunning head-on view.

— Energy experts warn that states may not have enough power to meet demand during a hotter than normal summer — and grid operators aren’t accounting for extreme weather driven by the climate crisis in their planning.

— Fossilized teeth have shown that great white sharks may have doomed megalodons to extinction despite the fact that “The Meg” was almost four times larger.

Like what you’ve read? Oh, but there’s more. Sign up here to receive in your inbox the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by CNN Space and Science writer Ashley Strickland, who finds wonder in planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from the ancient world.

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