News in Brief
PORTLAND, ORE. — A great flower shape for a moth trying to get a drink in the dark turns out to be awful from the plant’s point of view.
Offering hawk moths (Manduca sexta) a range of 3-D printed flowers with different curvatures shows that a moderately curved trumpet shape lets moths sip most efficiently, Foen Peng reported June 24 at the Evolution 2017 meeting. That’s a win for a...
More than a million wildebeests migrate each year from Tanzania to Kenya and back again, following the rains and abundant grass that springs up afterward. Their path takes them across the Mara River, and some of the crossings are so dangerous that hundreds or thousands of wildebeests drown as they try to traverse the waterway.
Those animals provide a brief, free buffet for crocodiles and...
A newly discovered glass frog from Ecuador’s Amazon lowlands is giving researchers a window into its heart.
Hyalinobatrachium yaku has a belly so transparent that the heart, kidneys and urine bladder are clearly visible, an international team of researchers reports May 12 in ZooKeys. Researchers identified H. yaku as a new species using field observations, recordings of its distinct call...
The mystery of why birds’ eggs come in so many shapes has long been up in the air. Now new research suggests adaptations for flight may have helped shape the orbs.
Stronger fliers tend to lay more elongated eggs, researchers report in the June 23 Science. The finding comes from the first large analysis of the way egg shape varies across bird species, from the almost perfectly spherical...
The cat is starting to come out of the bag when it comes to revealing when and how wild felines became couch kitties.
A tale hidden in ancient cat DNA suggests cats were probably first domesticated in the Middle East. They later spread, first by land, then by sea, to the rest of the world, researchers report June 19 in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Early farmers brought...
Newly named fossils suggest that a weird and varied chapter in amphibian deep history isn’t totally over.
Small fossils about 220 million years old found along steep red slopes in Colorado represent a near-relative of modern animals called caecilians, says vertebrate paleontologist Adam Huttenlocker of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Caecilians today have long...
Paper wasps have a knack for recognizing faces, and a new study adds to our understanding of what that means in a wasp’s brain.
Most wasps of a given species look the same, but some species of paper wasp (Polistes sp.) display varied colors and markings. Recognizing these patterns is at the core of the wasps’ social interactions.
One species, Polistes fuscatus, is especially good...
When things get hot, embryonic bearded dragon lizards turn female — and now scientists might know why. New analyses, reported online June 14 in Science Advances, reveal that temperature-induced changes in RNA’s protein-making instructions might set off this sex switch. The findings might also apply to other reptile species whose sex is influenced by temperature.
Unlike most mammals, many...
Fossil DNA may be rewriting the history of elephant evolution.
The first genetic analysis of DNA from fossils of straight-tusked elephants reveals that the extinct animals most closely resembled modern African forest elephants. This suggests that straight-tusked elephants were part of the African, not Asian, elephant lineage, scientists report online June 6 in eLife.
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Those who struggle to fit a vacation wardrobe into a carry-on might learn from ladybugs. The flying beetles neatly fold up their wings when they land, stashing the delicate appendages underneath their protective red and black forewings.
To learn how one species of ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) achieves such efficient packing, scientists needed to see under the...