National Geographic News’s most popular coverage of 2009 scientific finds is swarming with megamouth sharks, giant snakes, a transparent-headed fish, “Jacques Cousteau” clouds , and rare species rescued from obscurity—then eaten.
Top 10 National Geographic Discoveries of 2009:
10. Ultra-Rare Megamouth Shark Found, Eaten
In March, the 41st megamouth shark ever found went from swimming in Philippine waters to simmering in coconut milk.
9. Ancient Gem-Studded Teeth Show Skill of
The glittering “grills” of some hip-hop stars aren’t exactly unprecedented. Sophisticated dentistry allowed Native Americans to add bling to their teeth as far back as 2,500 years ago, a May study said.
8. Alien Giant Snakes Threaten to Invade Up to
1/3 of U.S.
Nine giant snakes could be on the verge of causing ecological catastrophe if they establish themselves in the U.S. wild—at least two have already set up shop in Florida—according to an October report.
7. Biggest Snake Discovered; Was Longer Than a Bus
The 60-million-year-old reptile was also heavier than a car, scientists said in February, adding that the fossil could shed light on climate change.
6. Gold Rush-Era “Ghost Ship” Wreck Found
With boots thrown hastily on deck and cooking utensils scattered, the last moments of the crew aboard the gold rush-era paddleboat A.J. Goddard are preserved in the ship’s recently found wreck, archaeologists announced in November.
5. Oldest Skeleton of Human Ancestor Found
There was never a chimp-like missing link between humans and today’s apes, according to an October fossil-skeleton study that could rewrite human evolutionary history. Said one scientist, “It changes everything.”
4. “Extinct” Bird Seen, Eaten
Long believed to be extinct, a rare quail from the Philippines was photographed for the first time ever—then sold at a poultry market, experts said in February.
3. New Cloud Type Discovered?
Nicknamed “Jacques Cousteau” clouds, these “turbulent” seas in the sky could be examples of the first official new cloud type since 1951, experts said in June.
2. Fish With Transparent Head Seen Alive for First Time
Perhaps the most bizarre nature discovery of the year—though Stephen Colbert put it a bit less delicately—a Pacific barreleye fish shows off its transparent head and barrel-like eyes in pictures released on February of the first specimen ever found alive.
1. “Missing Link” Found: Fossil Connects Humans, Lemurs?
The 47-million-year-old, exceptionally preserved primate fossil “Ida,” unveiled on May 20, was hailed by some as a major discovery in human evolution.
The publicity frenzy made National Geographic News’s brief coverage our most viewed page of the year—and inspired a backlash as some experts, including one here at Nat Geo HQ, suggested Ida was more media event than milestone.