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  • News in Brief

    Fossils reveal saber-toothed cats may have pierced rivals’ skulls

    Saber-toothed cats may sometimes have wielded their formidable canine teeth as deadly weapons to puncture the skulls of rival cats.

    It was already suspected that Smilodon cats used their huge canines to take down prey, perhaps by ripping out the prey’s throat (SN: 3/30/19, p. 20). But some researchers argued that the daggerlike teeth, which could grow up to 28 centimeters long in the...

    05/31/2019 - 07:00 Paleontology, Animals
  • Letters to the Editor

    Questions about solar storms, slingshot spiders and more reader feedback

    Blast from the past

    Ice core and tree ring data indicate that nearly 3,000 years ago, Earth was blasted with one of the strongest solar storms ever to pummel the planet, Carolyn Gramling reported in “One of the strongest known solar storms blasted Earth in 660 B.C.” (SN: 4/13/19, p. 15).

    Reddit user diffcalculus wondered what kind of damage such a storm would cause today.

    Earth...

    05/29/2019 - 16:05 Astronomy, Robotics, Animals
  • News in Brief

    A 50-million-year-old fossil captures a swimming school of fish

    Fossilized fish captured mid-swim offer a rare glimpse into extinct animal behavior — and suggest that swimming in schools developed at least 50 million years ago.

    A limestone shale slab from the Eocene Epoch reveals that extinct, thimble-sized fish called Erismatopterus levatus may have coordinated their motion similar to how fish in groups move today, researchers report May 29 in...

    05/28/2019 - 19:05 Animals, Evolution, Paleontology
  • News

    Shy fish no bigger than a pinkie provide much of the food in coral reefs

    Nervous little fishes that divers rarely notice could be unexpectedly important to coral reefs. A new study finds that nearly 60 percent of the fish flesh that feeds bigger fishes and other predators on a reef comes from tiny fishes that stick close to crevices and other hiding places.

    These tiny species, called cryptobenthic fishes, may not look as if they amount to much among all the...

    05/24/2019 - 13:46 Animals, Ecology
  • Wild Things

    Tiger sharks feast on migratory birds that fall out of the sky

    It all started when a small tiger shark barfed up a bunch of feathers.

    Marcus Drymon, a fisheries ecologist at Mississippi State University in Biloxi, had been catching sharks as part of a long-term shark monitoring program in the north-central Gulf of Mexico. Typically, a shark spent only about 90 seconds out of the water, enough time for scientists to weigh and tag it before releasing...

    05/21/2019 - 12:00 Animals, Ecology
  • News

    Bad moods could be contagious among ravens

    Here’s a downer: Pessimism seems contagious among ravens. But positivity? Not so much.

    When ravens saw fellow birds’ responses to a disliked food, but not the food itself, their interest in their own food options waned, researchers report May 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study suggests that the birds pick up on and even share negative emotions, the...

    05/20/2019 - 17:37 Animals, Psychology
  • News

    Vaccines may help bats fight white nose syndrome

    Oral vaccines could give wild bats a better chance at surviving white nose syndrome, the fungal disease that has ravaged bat colonies in North America. In lab tests conducted on captured little brown bats, vaccination led to fewer infected bats developing lesions and more of the bats surviving, researchers report May 1 in Scientific Reports.

    White nose syndrome, caused by the fungus...

    05/17/2019 - 07:00 Animals, Biomedicine
  • News in Brief

    Some dog breeds may have trouble breathing because of a mutated gene

    Dogs with flat faces aren’t alone in their struggle to breathe. It turns out that Norwich terriers can develop the same wheezing — caused not by the shape of their snouts, but possibly by a wayward gene. 

    DNA from 401 Norwich terriers revealed that those suffering a respiratory tract disorder shared the same variant of gene ADAMTS3 that’s associated with swelling around airways. Nearly a...

    05/16/2019 - 14:00 Animals, Genetics
  • News

    Bloodthirsty bedbugs have feasted on prey for 100 million years

    The first bedbug infestations may have occurred in the beds of Cretaceous critters.

    Scientists previously assumed the bloodsuckers’ first hosts were bats. But a new genetic analysis of 34 bedbug species reveals that bedbugs appeared 30 million to 50 million years before the nocturnal mammals, says Michael Siva-Jothy, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sheffield in England,...

    05/16/2019 - 13:47 Molecular Evolution, Animals
  • Science Visualized

    Peacock spiders’ superblack spots reflect just 0.5 percent of light

    Male peacock spiders know how to put on a show for potential mates, with dancing and a bit of optical trickery.

    Microscopic bumps on the arachnids’ exoskeletons make velvety black areas look darker than a typical black by manipulating light. This architecture reflects less than 0.5 percent of light, researchers report May 15 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

    The ultradark...

    05/14/2019 - 19:05 Animals, Evolution