News in Brief
Orangutan numbers on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo plummeted from 1999 to 2015, more as a result of human hunting than habitat loss, an international research team finds.
Over those 16 years, Borneo’s orangutan population declined by about 148,500 individuals. A majority of those losses occurred in the intact or selectively logged forests where most orangutans live, primatologist...
Harbor porpoises are frequently exposed to sounds from shipping vessels that register at around 100 decibels, about as loud as a lawnmower, scientists report February 14 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Sounds this loud can cause porpoises to stop echolocation, which they use to catch food.
While high-frequency submarine sonar has been found to harm whales (SN: 4/23/11, p. 16), low...
The Science Life
Spring calving season for the saiga antelope of central Kazakhstan is a delight for the researchers who keep tabs on the critically endangered animals. During the day, thousands of newborn saigas lie quiet, hidden within a sea of waving grass. Mothers return twice daily to feed them. “If you come at dawn and dusk, it’s magical,” says E.J. Milner-Gulland, a conservation biologist at the...
SAN FRANCISCO — Even moderate light pollution can roughly double the time a house sparrow remains a risk for passing along the worrisome West Nile virus.
House sparrows, about as widespread across the United States as artificial lighting itself, make a useful test species for a first-of-its-kind study of how night illumination might contribute to disease spread, said Meredith Kernbach,...
Sickness makes some corals lose their glow.
Disease reduces a coral’s overall fluorescence even before any sign of the infection is visible to the naked eye, a new study finds. An imaging technique that illuminates the change could help with efforts to better monitor coral health, researchers report November 6 in Scientific Reports.
Many corals naturally produce fluorescent...
Gene-editing tools heralded as hope for fighting invader rats, malarial mosquitoes and other scourges may be too powerful to use in their current form, two new papers warn.
Standard forms of CRISPR gene drives, as the tools are called, can make tweaked DNA race through a population so easily that a small number of stray animals or plants could spread it to new territory, predicts a...
It’s a rare triumph when a species comes back from the dead. A new genetic analysis has officially established what many entomologists and conservation biologists hoped was true: The Lord Howe stick insect (Dryococelus australis) lives.
Nicknamed “tree lobsters,” the dark-brown crawlers are nocturnal, flightless creatures that can grow up to 15 centimeters long. They feed on tea trees,...
The funniest thing I’ve ever said to any botanist was, “What is a species?” Well, it certainly got the most spontaneous laugh. I don’t think Barbara Ertter, who doesn’t remember the long-ago moment, was being mean. Her laugh was more of a “where do I even start” response to an almost impossible question.
At first glance, “species” is a basic vocabulary word schoolchildren can ace on a...
The deep waters of the East Pacific hold an unprepossessing treasure trove: potato-sized lumps of rock that contain valuable metals such as manganese, cobalt and copper. Turns out, such “manganese nodules” are home to another kind of goody: a species of sponge never before seen, researchers report online September 24 in Systematics and Biodiversity. These newly discovered nodule-dwellers may...
The world’s tropical forests are exhaling — and it’s not a sigh of relief. Instead of soaking up climate-warming gases on balance, these so-called “lungs of the planet” are beginning to release them.
A new study based on analyses of satellite imagery of tropical Asia, Africa and the Americas suggests that tropical forests contribute more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than they remove...