Reviews & Previews
Mama’s Last HugFrans de WaalW.W. Norton & Co, $27.95
During the last few weeks of her life, Mama, an elderly chimpanzee at a zoo in the Netherlands, received a special visitor. As Mama lay curled up on a mound of straw, biologist Jan van Hooff entered her enclosure. Van Hooff, who had known Mama for more than 40 years, knelt down and stroked the arm of the listless chimp. When...
The death of a millionaire with no heir draws an opportunistic crowd. So, too, does the demise of a land-dwelling hermit crab. Researchers working in Costa Rica found that the curious crabs are drawn to the smell of flesh torn from one of their own.
Dartmouth College biologist Mark Laidre, along with undergraduate student Leah Valdes, set out 20 plastic tubes on a beach, each holding...
Everything about Wallace’s giant bee is goliath: It reaches an average body length of around 4 centimeters — about the size of a walnut — and has a wingspan of over 7.5 centimeters. Yet despite its eye-popping size, it’s been nearly 40 years since the world’s largest bee (Megachile pluto) was officially sighted in the wild.
So when Eli Wyman, an entomologist at Princeton University, had...
A new dinosaur shows that even Tyrannosaurus rex had humble beginnings.
Dubbed Moros intrepidus, or “the harbinger of doom,” the new species is one of the smallest tyrannosaurs yet discovered from the Cretaceous Period. Analyses of the animal’s fossilized leg show that the creature would have stood only 1.2 meters at the hip, and weighed an estimated 78 kilograms — about the size of a...
Fierce and swift, steel blue in color and called the world’s most perfect flying machine, the peregrine falcon is heading toward extinction in North America. The reason: DDT. Perilously high levels of the pesticide and related chemicals have been found in the eggs, fat and tissues of the birds…. [The falcons] are not picking up the DDT directly, but get it by eating other birds which...02/14/2019 - 07:00 Animals, Conservation, Toxicology
A 240-million-year-old case of bone cancer has turned up in a fossil of an extinct ancestor of turtles. Dating to the Triassic Period, the fossil is the oldest known example of this cancer in an amniote, a group that includes mammals, birds and reptiles, researchers report online February 7 in JAMA Oncology.
The fossilized left femur from the shell-less stem-turtle Pappochelys rosinae...
Letters to the Editor
Defining intelligence02/10/2019 - 07:15 Artificial Intelligence, Astronomy, Animals
Artificial intelligence followed fauna, diagnosed disease, mapped the moon and more in 2018, Maria Temming reported in “Artificial intelligence is mastering a wider variety of jobs than ever before” (SN: 12/22/18 & 1/5/19, p. 25).
Online reader greg found the term “artificial intelligence” misleading. “In reality what we call AI are merely classification...
News in Brief
It all started with the can’t-tear-your-eyes-away video of black soldier fly larvae devouring a 16-inch pizza in just two hours. Watching sped-up action of the writhing mass inspired mechanical engineer Olga Shishkov of Georgia Tech in Atlanta to see what makes these insects such champions of collective feeding.
An individual Hermetia illucens larva doesn’t eat steadily, Shishkov found....
The Science Life
Mysterious red-coated canids in Texas are stirring debate over how genetic diversity should be preserved.
“I thought they were some strange looking coyotes,” wildlife biologist Ron Wooten says of the canids on Galveston Island, where Wooten works. But DNA evidence suggests the large canids might be descendants of red wolves, a species declared in 1980 to be extinct in the wild.
When it comes to deciding what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner, pandas have it easy: Bamboo, bamboo and more bamboo. But that wasn’t always the case.
Although modern giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) chow almost exclusively on bamboo in the mountain forests of central China, these bears’ diet was much broader not so long ago, researchers report online January 31 in Current Biology....