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Panda stalking reveals panda hangouts

Giant Panda in the snow

Scientists used GPS trackers to learn about the giant panda lifestyle. They also planted a few cameras across their observation area, and one captured this panda sauntering through the snow.

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Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) may not be quite the lone rangers they’re reputed to be, researchers report March 27 in the Journal of Mammology.

A research team strapped GPS collars to five wild pandas — one male and four females — that live in Wolong Nature Reserve in China and sporadically tracked their movements from 2010 to 2012. Compared with other bears, the pandas had smaller individual ranges, probably a result of their low-energy bamboo diets. The pandas also frequented 20 to 30 core areas that may be important for feeding.

Though perceived as largely solitary foragers, the researchers were surprised to see pandas occasionally spend time in the same place at the same time. Understanding how such interactions fit into the panda lifestyle can inform conservation efforts.

PANDA TRACKERS  Using GPS trackers, researchers mapped the movements of five pandas: three female adults, Pan Pan, Mei Mei and Zhong Zhong; a young female, Long Long; and a male dubbed Chuan Chuan. The video shows the pandas' movements from May 2010 to August 2012 at a rate of roughly one month per second.

Credit: Michigan State University Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

Evolution,, Animals

Bright bird plumage resulted from natural, sexual selection

By Bethany Brookshire 2:00pm, March 27, 2015
Darwin hypothesized that bird color differences resulted from sexual selection. Wallace disagreed. A study shows that both were right after all.
Animals

For bats, simple traffic patterns limit collisions

By Kate Baggaley 6:34pm, March 26, 2015

Humans aren’t the only ones who follow traffic rules. Bats do it too, researchers report March 26 in PLOS Computational Biology.

Scientists eavesdropped on echolocating Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii) as the animals cruised for dinner. Once a bat locks on to a peer’s  sonar calls, the bat copies its movements to within a few wingbeats, the researchers found.

Planetary Science,, Astronomy

NASA has a plan for putting rock from asteroid in moon’s orbit

By Christopher Crockett 5:46pm, March 25, 2015
NASA selects concept for its Asteroid Redirect Mission, which will let astronauts train for future missions to Mars.
Science & Society,, Numbers

John Nash, Louis Nirenberg share math’s Abel Prize

By Lila Guterman 4:53pm, March 25, 2015
John Nash and Louis Nirenberg will receive the 2015 ‘Nobel of mathematics’ for their work on partial differential equations.
Quantum Physics

One photon wrangles 3,000 atoms into quantum entanglement

By Andrew Grant 2:00pm, March 25, 2015
A single photon can trigger the creation of quantum entanglement between thousands of atoms.
Microbiology,, Agriculture

A vineyard's soil influences the microbiome of a grapevine

By Helen Thompson 7:00am, March 25, 2015
Vineyard soil microbes end up on grapes, leaves and flowers, study finds.
Neuroscience

The brain sees words, even nonsense ones, as pictures

By Ashley Yeager 5:28pm, March 24, 2015
Once we learn a word, our brain sees the string of letters as a picture, even if the word isn't a real one.
Chemistry,, Neuroscience,, Health

Today’s pot is more potent, less therapeutic

By Beth Mole 12:32pm, March 24, 2015
The medicinal qualities of marijuana may be up in smoke thanks to years of cross-breeding plants for a better buzz.
Planetary Science,, Astrobiology

Potentially life-friendly nitrogen compounds found on Mars

By Lila Guterman 3:53pm, March 23, 2015
“Fixed” nitrogen has been found in Mars deposits, raising the possibility that ancient life could have used it to build biomolecules.
Planetary Science

Bright patches on Ceres are plumes of water, maybe

By Christopher Crockett 10:49am, March 20, 2015
Bright patches on Ceres could be plumes of water venting into space.
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