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  • It's Alive

    Shutdown aside, Joshua trees live an odd life

    A year when vandals trashed a Joshua tree in a national park during a U.S. government shutdown is a good time to talk about what’s so unusual about these iconic plants.

    The trees’ chubby branches ending in rosettes of pointy green leaves add a touch of Dr. Seuss to the Mojave Desert in the U.S. Southwest. Its two species belong to the same family as agave and, believe it or not,...

    02/06/2019 - 08:00 Plants, Conservation, Science & Society
  • News

    This rediscovered Bolivian frog species survived deadly chytrid fungus

    Save for one “lonely” survivor in captivity, the Sehuencas water frog hadn’t been seen in the wild since 2008. That’s when its numbers collapsed, primarily due to chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease that has devastated frog populations worldwide. Fearing the species might be extinct, some scientists spent 10 years searching the Bolivian mountain forests for the amphibians. Now, they’ve found a...

    01/17/2019 - 06:00 Animals, Conservation
  • News

    Endangered northern bettongs aren’t picky truffle eaters

    A small endangered marsupial with a taste for truffles may be a linchpin in one kind of Australian forest — and the evidence is in the animal’s poop.

    Northern bettongs feast on truffles, the meaty, spore-producing parts of certain fungi. Plenty of animals eat a selection of these subterranean orbs from time to time. But analyses of the scat from northern bettongs (Bettongia tropica)...

    12/14/2018 - 13:21 Animals, Conservation
  • News

    Counting the breaths of wild porpoises reveals their revved-up metabolism

    By counting harbor porpoise breaths, researchers have come up with a new way to judge the animals’ hard-to-measure metabolism. The trick shows that the animals can burn energy more than twice as fast as humans.

    Researchers analyzed the several thousand puff-huff respiratory sounds recorded per day from each of 13 harbor porpoises swimming freely in Danish waters. Including just everyday...

    12/14/2018 - 06:00 Animals, Physiology, Conservation
  • News

    Hemp fields offer a late-season pollen source for stressed bees

    VANCOUVER — Fields of hemp might become a late-season pollen bonanza for bees.

    Industrial hemp plants, the no-high varieties of cannabis, are becoming a more familiar sight for American bees as states create pilot programs for legal growing. Neither hemp nor the other strains of the Cannabis sativa species grown for recreational or medicinal uses offer insects any nectar, and all rely on...

    11/19/2018 - 06:00 Animals, Conservation, Agriculture