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Science News Staff

Science Ticker

Science Ticker

Mystery deepens for what made tarantulas blue

Sexual display is probably not the answer

tarantula Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens

BLUE MYSTERY  Internal structures, not pigment, puts blue in hairs on the tarantula Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens. What drives the evolution of such color in animals that probably can’t see it still puzzles researchers.

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Blue hair has evolved independently at least eight times among tarantulas, a new study finds. But the puzzle of what benefits the color might bring has gotten even more mystifying.

Lab measurements show unusually similar hues from species with very different color-causing structures inside the hairs, researchers report November 27 in Science Advances. That convergence dashes the idea that blue is just a side effect of some hair property like ability to shed water, says study coauthor Todd Blackledge of the University of Akron.

Spider specialists don’t expect that the coloring wows females, because the eyes of tarantulas probably can’t tell blue from other colors, Blackledge says. So now he wonders about protection from predators: What looks bright blue in the lab could go inconspicuously dull in the greenish light of tropical forests.   

Plants,, Molecular Evolution

Conifer ancestors had a double dose of DNA

By Tina Hesman Saey 6:30am, November 24, 2015
The genomes of conifers — pine, cypress and yew trees — doubled twice in the distant past.
Plants,, Technology

Roses rigged with electrical circuitry

By Helen Thompson 4:22pm, November 20, 2015
Bioelectric molecules can form wires and conduct electricity in cut roses, researchers find.
Science & Society,, Genetics,, Animals

Genetically modified salmon gets approval in U.S.

By Tina Hesman Saey 3:33pm, November 19, 2015
Fast-growing salmon become first genetically engineered animals approved for human consumption.

Adorable birds tap dance their way into the heart of a mate

By Helen Thompson 12:55pm, November 19, 2015
Blue-capped cordon-bleu songbirds not only sing, but also tap dance to woo mates, study reveals.
Fungi,, Pollution

Truffles aren’t laced with radioactive cesium

By Thomas Sumner 9:00am, November 18, 2015
Fallout from the Chernobyl disaster hasn’t made truffles dangerously radioactive, scientists find.

Study brews up more evidence for coffee’s health benefits

By Teresa Shipley Feldhausen 4:00pm, November 16, 2015
Drinking up to five cups of coffee a day reduced the risk of dying early from heart and brain diseases and suicide.
Plants,, Genetics

Ancient gardeners saved the gourd

By Chris Samoray 3:00pm, November 16, 2015
Domestication might have helped early vine plants like pumpkin survive after seed-dispersing megafauna went extinct.
Anthropology,, Genetics

DNA puts Neandertal relatives in Siberia for 60,000 years

By Bruce Bower 3:00pm, November 16, 2015
Recovered DNA suggests Denisovans inhabited Siberia for around 60,000 years.
Quantum Physics

More tests confirm quantum spookiness

By Andrew Grant 1:51pm, November 13, 2015
New experimental results confirm and strengthen evidence for the “spooky” reality of quantum physics.
Anthropology,, Genetics

Mummified boy’s DNA unveils new but ancient maternal lineage

By Bruce Bower 9:00am, November 12, 2015
An Inca child’s DNA shows he hailed from a newly identified line of maternal ancestors.
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