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E.g., 08/18/2019
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  • News

    How these tiny insect larvae leap without legs

    No legs? Not a problem. Some pudgy insect larvae can still jump up to 36 times their body length. Now high-speed video reveals how.

    First, a legless, bright orange Asphondylia gall midge larva fastens its body into a fat, lopsided O by meshing together front and rear patches of microscopic fuzz. The rear part of the larva swells, and starts to straighten like a long, overinflating...

    08/08/2019 - 18:20 Biophysics, Animals, Evolution
  • It's Alive

    There’s more to pufferfish than that goofy spiked balloon

    So what if fish need water to live. For certain pufferfish, flirting on the sand of a moonlit beach is irresistible (in bursts). And that’s not the only odd thing the ocean’s famous self-inflators do.    

    Some of the 200 or so species in the puffer family take courtship to extremes. On a few moonlit nights a year at some Asian shores, Japanese grass pufferfish (Takifugu niphobles) flock...

    08/01/2019 - 12:07 Animals, Genetics, Evolution
  • News

    Droplets of these simple molecules may have helped kick-start life on Earth

    For the origin of life on Earth, ancient puddles or coastlines may have had a major ripple effect.

    A new study shows that a simple class of molecules called alpha hydroxy acids forms microdroplets when dried and rewetted, as could have taken place at the edges of water sources. These cell-sized compartments can trap RNA, and can merge and break apart — behavior that could have encouraged...

    07/22/2019 - 15:24 Chemistry, Evolution, Cells
  • News in Brief

    Southern right whale moms and calves may whisper to evade orcas

    Whales are known for belting out sounds in the deep. But they may also whisper. 

    Southern right whale moms steer their calves to shallow waters, where newborns are less likely to be picked off by an orca. There, crashing waves mask the occasional quiet calls that the pairs make. That may help the whales stick together without broadcasting their location to predators, researchers report...

    07/11/2019 - 11:00 Animals, Evolution, Oceans
  • News

    Ground beetle genitals have the genetic ability to get strange. They don’t

    A new peek at the genetics of beetle genitals reveals the underpinnings of a battle of the sexes.

    When mating, males of Japan’s flightless Carabus beetles insert a chitin-covered appendage that, once inside a female, pops out a plump sperm-delivery tube as well as a side projection called a copulatory piece. That piece doesn’t deliver any sperm, but steadies the alignment by fitting just...

    07/08/2019 - 08:00 Animals, Evolution, Genetics
  • News

    Why some insect eggs are spherical while others look like hot dogs

    Look at the nail of your pinky finger. That’s about the width of the biggest known insect egg, which belongs to the earth-borer beetle Bolboleaus hiaticollis. The smallest egg, from the wasp Platygaster vernalis, is only half the width of the thinnest recorded human hair.

    Insect eggs range across eight orders of magnitude in size, and come in a stunning variety of shapes, a new database...

    07/03/2019 - 13:00 Ecology, Evolution
  • News

    Some ancient crocodiles may have chomped on plants instead of meat

    Some extinct crocs may have been keen to eat greens.

    An analysis of fossil teeth suggests that plant-eating relatives of modern crocodiles evolved at least three times during the Mesozoic Era, which stretched from roughly 252 million to about 66 million years ago, researchers report June 27 in Current Biology.

    Today’s crocodiles are predominantly carnivorous, and have the simple,...

    06/27/2019 - 11:02 Animals, Evolution, Paleontology
  • News

    Parasites ruin some finches’ songs by chewing through the birds’ beaks

    Invasive parasites in the Galápagos Islands may leave some Darwin’s tree finches singing the blues.

    The nonnative Philornis downsi fly infests the birds’ nests and lays its eggs there. Fly larvae feast on the chicks’ blood and tissue, producing festering wounds and killing over half of the baby birds. Among survivors, larval damage to the birds’ beaks may mess with the birds’ songs when...

    06/21/2019 - 11:39 Animals, Evolution, Ecology
  • Reviews & Previews

    Carbon plays a starring role in the new book ‘Symphony in C’

    Symphony in CRobert M. HazenW.W. Norton & Co., $26.95

    Carbon is by no means the most abundant element in the cosmos, but it is undoubtedly the most important to life as we know it. For every 1,000 hydrogen atoms in the universe, there are only five or so carbon atoms. But every cell in the human body — indeed, every living cell on Earth — relies on carbon as the chemical...

    06/10/2019 - 06:00 Chemistry, Evolution, Cosmology, Ecosystems
  • News in Brief

    Tiny structures in dragonfish teeth turn them into invisible daggers

    In the deep sea, dragonfish lure smaller fish near their gaping jaws with beardlike attachments capped with a light. But the teeth of the pencil-sized predators don’t gleam in that glow.

    Instead, dragonfish teeth are transparent and hard to see, thanks to nanoscale structures that reduce the amount of light scattered by the teeth, researchers report June 5 in Matter.

    The clear...

    06/05/2019 - 11:00 Animals, Biophysics, Evolution