National Geographic : 2018 Oct
EMBARK | BREAKTHROUGHS GENETICS High-Tech Chocolate Scientists at the Innovative Geno mics Institute (IGI) have teamed up with candy maker Mars to use the Crispr gene editing technology to protect one of the world’s favor ite treats. The goal: give the cacao plant an immune system that can resist a virus ravaging West Africa’s crops. That could avert losses on two levels, says IGI’s Susan Jenkins: “The selfcentered side is ‘Oh my gosh, no more chocolate’”—and for cacaogrowing regions “the socio economic impact is huge as well.” —NS DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT LINES OF SCIENCE AND INNOVATION PHOTOS: SPROUT WORLD (PENCIL); TIM LAMAN (BIRD); ANDREYGORULKO, ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES (CACAO) Grow Your Words There’s no erasing mistakes with Sprout, a Danish brand of pencil. Instead of the rubber nub that’s typically on the end of such writing utensils, this one has a bio- degradable capsule that holds a collection of seeds. After it’s worn to a stub, the pencil can be planted and watered until it blooms into a handful of daisies, a sprig of basil, or one of eight other plants. —NS A FALLEN TREE in a forest may seem unremarkable—but to some birds of paradise, it’s the ideal stage for a mating dance. Edwin Scholes, who runs Cornell’s Birds-of-Paradise Project, and Tim Laman, a biologist and National Geographic photographer, were doing research in the Arfak Mountains of western New Guinea when they found a downed log and set up a camera in hopes of catching a courtship display. The bird that appeared was differ- ent from others of its species, says Scholes: Its feathers fanned into a unique crescent shape, and it had distinctive moves, “like a Latin dance where all the motion is below the hips.” What he and Laman observed confirmed a previous discovery of genetic variation. Last year they announced a new species: the Vogelkop superb bird of paradise. Such sightings may benefit the region, says Scholes, by encouraging ecotourism that provides a “new economic incentive to keep the forest intact.” —NINA STROCHLIC ANIMALS PRANCE DISCOVERY THE DANCE MOVES OF AN UNUSUAL-LOOKING BIRD CAME AS A SURPRISE TO SCIENTISTS.