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  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Spying on Whales’ dives into the story of true leviathans

    Spying on WhalesNick PyensonViking, $27

    Just before humans evolved, whales and dolphins were, pound for pound, the brainiest creatures on Earth. Another cetacean superlative: Today’s biggest whales are heftier than the largest dinosaurs that ever lived. The evolutionary trends that produced big, brainy marine animals are just a few of the fascinating tales told in Spying on Whales...

    06/29/2018 - 12:00 Animals, Evolution, Paleontology
  • News

    Why some mammal species don’t have descended testicles, but most do

    Scientists have long wondered what the earliest mammals’ balls were like. After all, a few species today live with theirs swaddled safely up by the kidneys, like elephants do. Most other mammals drop their testes to the lower abdomen to a spot under the skin — like seals — or into an extra-abdominal sack called the scrotum — like humans. What style came first has been a topic of debate.

    ...

    06/28/2018 - 14:00 Animals, Evolution
  • News

    In a conservation catch-22, efforts to save quolls might endanger them

    Conservationists are stuck in a catch-22: In trying to save some species, the would-be protectors may be giving the animals an evolutionary disadvantage. A new study describes how efforts to protect the endangered northern quoll, a spotted, kitten-sized marsupial native to Australia, by placing a population on a threat-free island may have actually undermined a key survival instinct.

    ...

    06/07/2018 - 12:33 Animals, Conservation, Ecology, Evolution
  • News in Brief

    The first land-walking vertebrates may have emerged from salty estuaries

    Earth’s earliest land-walking vertebrates didn’t paddle about in freshwater lakes or rivers. Instead, these four-footed creatures, which appeared about 375 million years ago, lived in the brackish waters of an estuary or delta, researchers report online May 30 in Nature.

    Early tetrapods, such as Ichthyostega and Acanthostega, lived an amphibious existence between land and sea: They had...

    05/30/2018 - 17:29 Animals, Evolution
  • News

    Oldest known lizard fossil pushes group’s origins back 75 million years

    A little animal that washed out to sea 240 million years ago off the coast of what’s now Italy turns out to be the oldest known fossil of a lizard.

    The identification pushes back the fossil record of snakes and lizards by about 75 million years, says Tiago Simões of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. He and colleagues used observations of the fossil, called Megachirella...

    05/30/2018 - 16:24 Paleontology, Evolution, Animals
  • Reviews & Previews

    Skeletons come in many shapes and sizes

    SkeletonsJan Zalasiewicz and Mark WilliamsOxford Univ., $24.95

    For much of life’s reign on Earth, organisms got by without skeletons. But since that innovation evolved about 550 million years ago, there’s been an evolutionary arms race of epic proportions.

    One of the first competitors was Cloudina, a small seafloor creature whose exterior skeleton almost certainly evolved in...

    05/27/2018 - 08:00 Evolution, Animals, Paleontology
  • News in Brief

    Pregnant bonobos get a little delivery help from their friends

    Like humans, African apes called bonobos may treat birth as a social event with a serious purpose.

    In three recorded instances in captivity, female bonobos stood close by and provided protection and support to a bonobo giving birth to a healthy infant. Female bystanders also gestured as if ready to hold an infant before it was born, or actually held one as it was born, scientists report...

    05/24/2018 - 13:26 Animals, Anthropology, Evolution
  • News

    Green blood in lizards probably evolved four times

    Green blood is weird enough. But now the first genealogical tree tracing green blood in New Guinea’s Prasinohaema lizards is suggesting something even odder.

    These skinks have been lumped into one genus just because of blood color, says biologist Christopher Austin of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Yet they don’t all turn out to be close relatives. Green blood looks as if it...

    05/16/2018 - 14:10 Animals, Evolution, Physiology
  • News

    This ancient fowl bit like a dinosaur and pecked like a bird

    A bird that lived alongside dinosaurs may have preened its feathers like modern birds — despite a full mouth of teeth that also let it chomp like a dino.

    A new 3-D reconstruction of the skull of Ichthyornis dispar, which lived during the Late Cretaceous epoch between 87 million and 82 million years ago, reveals that the ancient fowl had a small, primitive beak and a mobile upper jaw....

    05/02/2018 - 13:00 Animals, Evolution, Paleontology
  • News in Brief

    Defenseless moths do flying impressions of scary bees and wasps

    Clearwing moths may not look all that dangerous, despite having largely see-through wings like bees and wasps. But some fly like fierce insects best left well alone.

    Four clearwing species from Southeast Asian rainforests aren’t perfect mimics of local bees and wasps. Yet the resemblance looked much stronger when entomologist Marta Skowron Volponi of the University of Gdansk in Poland...

    05/01/2018 - 19:05 Animals, Evolution