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  • News in Brief

    Liverwort reproductive organ inspires pipette design

    The sex organs of primitive plants are inspiring precise pipettes.

    Liverworts are a group of ground-hugging plants with male and female reproductive structures shaped like tiny palm trees. The female structures nab sperm-packed water droplets by surrounding them with their fronds, like an immobilized claw in an arcade machine.

    Scientists have coopted that design to create a plastic...

    03/15/2018 - 07:00 Plants, Physics
  • News in Brief

    These petunias launch seeds that spin 1,660 times a second

    Nature may have a few things to teach tennis players about backspin.

    The hairyflower wild petunia (Ruellia ciliatiflora) shoots seeds that spin up to 1,660 times per second, which helps them fly farther, researchers report March 7 in Journal of the Royal Society Interface. These seeds have the fastest known rotations of any plant or animal, the authors say. Plants that disperse seeds a...

    03/06/2018 - 19:06 Plants, Biophysics
  • News

    Pollution regulations help Chesapeake Bay seagrass rebound

    Underwater grasses are growing back in the Chesapeake Bay. The plants now carpet three times as much real estate as in 1984, thanks to more than 30 years of efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution. This environmental success story shows that regulations put in place to protect the bay’s health have made a difference, researchers report the week of March 5 in Proceedings of the National Academy of...

    03/05/2018 - 15:00 Ecosystems, Oceans, Plants
  • News

    Early land plants led to the rise of mud

    Early plants made Earth muddier. Ancient riverbed deposits of mud rock — rocks containing bits of clay and silt smaller than grains of sand — began increasing around 458 million years ago, around the time that rootless plants became common across Earth, researchers say.

    Anecdotally, geologists have long noted that early sediment deposits became muddier at some point, and suggested a...

    03/01/2018 - 16:19 Earth, Plants
  • It's Alive

    The flowers that give us chocolate are ridiculously hard to pollinate

    It’s a wonder we have chocolate at all. Talk about persnickety, difficult flowers.

    Arguably some of the most important seeds on the planet — they give us candy bars and hot cocoa, after all — come from pods created by dime-sized flowers on cacao trees. Yet those flowers make pollination just barely possible.

    Growers of commercial fruit crops expect 50 to 60 percent of flowers to...

    02/20/2018 - 07:00 Plants, Animals, Agriculture
  • News in Brief

    Ancient ozone holes may have sterilized forests 252 million years ago

    Volcano-fueled holes in Earth’s ozone layer 252 million years ago may have repeatedly sterilized large swaths of forest, setting the stage for the world’s largest mass extinction event. Such holes would have allowed ultraviolet-B radiation to blast the planet. Even radiation levels below those predicted for the end of the Permian period damage trees’ abilities to make seeds, researchers report...

    02/12/2018 - 07:00 Plants, Earth, Ecosystems
  • Wild Things

    Pollinators are usually safe from a Venus flytrap

    Out of the hundreds of species of carnivorous plants found across the planet, none attract quite as much fascination as the Venus flytrap. The plants are native to just a small section of North Carolina and South Carolina, but these tiny plants can now be found around the world. They’re a favorite among gardeners, who grow them in homes and greenhouses.

    Scientists, too, have long been...

    02/06/2018 - 07:00 Plants
  • Year in Review

    2017 delivered amazing biology finds from organisms large and small

    2017 revealed some surprising biology of organisms large and small, from quick-dozing elephants to sex-changing lizards and carbon-dumping sea creatures.

    Switch it up

    Toasty temperatures trump genetics when it comes to the sex of a bearded dragon lizard. Now researchers have found how RNA editing helps turn overheated male embryos into females (SN Online: 6/14/17).

    12/27/2017 - 07:00 Animals, Plants, Evolution
  • News

    The dietary habits of the emerald ash borer beetle are complicated

    DENVER — An invasive beetle has unexpected — and potentially troublesome — tastes in trees. Now two new studies are clarifying the insects’ dining habits, researchers reported at the annual Entomological Society of America meeting.

    Metallic-green Asian beetles called emerald ash borers (Agrilus planipennis) have devastated wide swaths of forest in North America. For years, researchers...

    11/21/2017 - 11:00 Plants, Animals
  • News in Brief

    Honeybees fumble their way to blueberry pollination

    DENVER — Honeybees may be the world’s most famous pollinator, but a new study shows that blueberry blooms reduce the insects to improvisational klutzes. Not useless ones though.

    Pollination specialists have realized that the pollen haul found in hives of Apis mellifera honeybees has little, if any, from blueberry flowers, ecologist George Hoffman said November 5 at the Entomology 2017...

    11/09/2017 - 09:00 Animals, Plants, Agriculture