Biologist Leo Smith held an unusual job while an undergraduate student in San Diego. Twice a year, he tagged along on a chartered boat with elderly passengers. The group needed him to identify two particular species of rockfish, the chilipepper rockfish and the California shortspine thornyhead. Once he’d found the red-orange creatures, the passengers would stab themselves in the arms with the...
The Science Life
While researching fossils in a museum in 2007, Sterling Nesbitt noticed one partial skeleton that was hard to place. Though the reptile — at the time, unofficially called Teleocrater rhadinus — was thought to be a dinosaur relative, it was an oddball. At about 2 meters long, it was larger than other close relatives, walked on four feet instead of two, and had an unusually long neck and tail....
The quantitative abilities of lizards may have their limits.
From horses to salamanders, lots of different species display some form of number sense, but the phenomenon hasn’t been investigated in reptiles. So a team of researchers in Italy set up two experiments for 27 ruin lizards (Podarcis sicula) collected from walls on the University of Ferrara’s campus. In the first test, the team ...
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Glass frogs often start life with some tender care from a source scientists didn’t expect: frog moms.
Maternal care wouldn’t be news among mammals or birds, but amphibian parenting intrigues biologists because dads are about as likely as moms to evolve as the caregiver sex. And among New World glass frogs (Centrolenidae), what little parental care there is almost...
When choosing more attractive guys, girl guppies with larger brains have an advantage over their smaller-brained counterparts. But there’s a cost to such brainpower, and that might help explain one of the persistent mysteries of sex appeal, researchers report March 22 in Science Advances.
One sex often shows a strong preference for some trait in the other, whether it’s a longer fish fin...
The standard dinosaur family tree may soon be just a relic.
After examining more than 400 anatomical traits, scientists have proposed a radical reshuffling of the major dinosaur groups. The rewrite, reported in the March 23 Nature, upsets century-old ideas about dinosaur evolution. It lends support to the accepted idea that the earliest dinosaurs were smallish, two-legged creatures. But...
Dental plaque preserved in fossilized teeth confirms that Neandertals were flexible eaters and may have self-medicated with an ancient equivalent of aspirin.
DNA recovered from calcified plaque on teeth from four Neandertal individuals suggest that those from the grasslands around Beligum’s Spy cave ate woolly rhinoceros and wild sheep, while their counterparts from the forested El...
Letters to the Editor
Doomsday preppers03/08/2017 - 12:22 Animals, Evolution, Biophysics
Dinosaurs and other creatures were largely wiped out 66 million years ago from an asteroid impact, volcanic eruptions or maybe a mix of the two, Thomas Sumner reported in “Devastation detectives” (SN: 2/4/17, p. 16), in the Science News special report “Dino Doomsday.”
Online reader Mike van Horn wondered if the timing of the volcanic eruptions, which happened for h...
Reviews & Previews
MonkeytalkJulia FischerUniv. of Chicago, $25
The social lives of macaques and baboons play out in what primatologist Julia Fischer calls “a magnificent opera.” When young Barbary macaques reach about 6 months, they fight nightly with their mothers. Young ones want the “maternal embrace” as they snooze; mothers want precious alone time. Getting pushed away and bitten by dear old...
50 Years Ago
Evidence of Precambrian life
From deep in the gold mines of South Africa’s Orange Free State has come evidence that there was some form of biologic activity on Earth at least 2.15 billion years ago. Polymerized hydrocarbon “chemo-fossils” found in the gold ores … [probably] were originally part of a rich bacterial and algal life in the Witwatersrand basin. Since the rock layers from...