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  • News

    DNA reveals how cats achieved world domination

    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...

    06/19/2017 - 17:01 Genetics, Archaeology, Animals
  • Science Ticker

    Facial recognition changes a wasp’s brain

    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...

    06/14/2017 - 18:00 Animals, Genetics
  • News

    How bearded dragons switch their sex

    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...

    06/14/2017 - 14:07 Development, Animals, Genetics, Epigenetics
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers question climate’s freshwater effects

    Water woes

    A recent survey of lakes around the globe found that from 1985 to 2009, most warmed while only several cooled, Alexandra Witze reported in “In hot water” (SN: 5/13/17, p. 18). Rising temperatures have consequences for every part of a lake’s food web, from algae to walleye to freshwater seals.

    “This article indicates that no pattern could be found to predict which lakes would...

    06/14/2017 - 10:47 Climate, Genetics
  • News

    Ancient DNA shakes up the elephant family tree

    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.

    Straight-...

    06/13/2017 - 15:08 Evolution, Genetics, Animals
  • News

    Therapy flags DNA typos to rev cancer-fighting T cells

    Mutations that prevent cells from spell-checking their DNA may make cancer cells vulnerable to immunotherapies, a new study suggests.

    A type of immune therapy known as PD-1 blockade controlled cancer in 77 percent of patients with defects in DNA mismatch repair — the system cells use to spell-check and fix errors in DNA (SN Online: 10/7/15). The therapy was effective against 12 different...

    06/09/2017 - 15:12 Cancer, Immune Science, Genetics, Biomedicine
  • Science Ticker

    Mummy DNA unveils the history of ancient Egyptian hookups

    Egyptian mummies are back in style at the summer box office — and in genetics labs. A study of genetic blueprints from 90 mummies repairs the frayed reputation of sarcophagus occupants as sources of ancient DNA. And it reveals evidence of a hookup history with foreigners from the east.

    An Egyptian mummy served up the first ancient human DNA sample in 1985 (SN: 4/27/85, p. 262). But both...

    05/31/2017 - 16:30 Genetics, Archaeology
  • News

    The Zika epidemic began long before anyone noticed

    The Zika virus probably arrived in the Western Hemisphere from somewhere in the Pacific more than a year before it was detected, a new genetic analysis of the epidemic shows. Researchers also found that as Zika fanned outward from Brazil, it entered neighboring countries and South Florida multiple times without being noticed.

    Although Zika quietly took root in northeastern Brazil in late...

    05/24/2017 - 13:00 Genetics, Microbes
  • News

    Hybrid protein offers malaria protection

    Dogged genetic detective work has led scientists to a hybrid red blood cell protein that offers some protection against malaria.

    Reporting online May 18 in Science, researchers describe a genetic variant that apparently is responsible for the fusion of two proteins that protrude from the membranes of red blood cells. In its hybrid form, the protein somehow makes it more difficult for the...

    05/18/2017 - 14:19 Genetics, Evolution, Immune Science, Biomedicine
  • Feature

    Jumping genes play a big role in what makes us human

    Face-to-face, a human and a chimpanzee are easy to tell apart. The two species share a common primate ancestor, but over millions of years, their characteristics have morphed into easily distinguishable features. Chimps developed prominent brow ridges, flat noses, low-crowned heads and protruding muzzles. Human noses jut from relatively flat faces under high-domed crowns.

    Those facial...

    05/16/2017 - 07:00 Genetics, Human Evolution, Molecular Evolution