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  • teakettle caterpillar
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  • News in Brief

    This scratchy hiss is the closest thing yet to caterpillar vocalization

    Tap — gently — the plump rear of a young Nessus sphinx hawk moth, and you may hear the closest sound yet discovered to a caterpillar voice.

    Caterpillars don’t breathe through their mouths. Yet a Nessus sphinx hawk moth, if disturbed, will emit from its open mouth a sustained hiss followed by a string of scratchy burplike sounds. “Hard to describe,” says animal behaviorist Jayne Yack of...

    02/26/2018 - 18:33 Animals, Ecology, Evolution
  • News

    Ants practice combat triage and nurse their injured

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    No wounded left behind — not quite. Ants that have evolved battlefield medevac carry only the moderately wounded home to the nest. There, those lucky injured fighters get fast and effective wound care.

    Insect colonies seething with workers may seem unlikely to stage elaborate rescues of individual fighters. Yet for Matabele ants (Megaponera analis) in sub-Saharan...

    02/16/2018 - 14:14 Animals, Evolution, Ecology
  • News

    It’s a bad idea for a toad to swallow a bombardier beetle

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    Toad versus bombardier beetle is almost a fair fight. Toads are hugely bigger, can tongue-strike in an eyeblink and swallow all kinds of nasty stuff. But bombardier beetles can shoot hot steam and noxious chemicals from their back ends.

    In a lab face-off, 43 percent of Pheropsophus jessoensis bombardiers escaped alive after being swallowed by toads, a pair of...

    02/06/2018 - 19:05 Animals, Ecology
  • Introducing

    18 new species of pelican spiders discovered

    Despite their name, pelican spiders aren’t massive, fish-eating monstrosities. In fact, the shy spiders in the family Archaeidae are as long as a grain of rice and are a threat only to other spiders.

    Discovering a new species of these tiny Madagascar spiders is tough, but Hannah Wood has done just that — 18 times over.

    Wood, an arachnologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of...

    01/11/2018 - 18:15 Animals, Ecology
  • News

    Rising CO2 in lakes could keep water fleas from raising their spiky defenses

    Rising carbon dioxide levels could leave some tiny lake dwellers defenseless. Like the oceans, some lakes are experiencing increasing levels of the greenhouse gas, a new study shows. And too much CO2 in the water may leave water fleas, an important part of many lake food webs, too sleepy to fend off predators.

    Detailed observations of lake chemistry over long periods of time are rare....

    01/11/2018 - 16:29 Climate, Ecology
  • News

    A deadly fungus is infecting snake species seemingly at random

    It doesn’t matter if it’s a burly rattler or a tiny garter snake. A deadly fungal disease that’s infecting snakes in the eastern and midwestern United States doesn’t appear to discriminate by species, size or habitat, researchers report online December 20 in Science Advances.

    The infection, caused by the fungal pathogen Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, can cover snakes’ bodies with lesions...

    12/20/2017 - 16:35 Fungi, Animals, Ecology
  • News in Brief

    Once settled, immigrants play important guard roles in mongoose packs

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    Immigrants, they get the job done — eventually. Among dwarf mongooses, it takes newcomers a bit to settle into a pack. But once these immigrants become established residents, everyone in the pack profits, researchers from the University of Bristol in England report online December 4 in Current Biology.  

    Dwarf mongooses (Helogale parvula) live in groups of around 10...

    12/11/2017 - 09:00 Animals, Ecology
  • News

    Most blue whales are ‘righties,’ except for this one move

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    Blue whales, it turns out, are a tad ambidextrous.

    When hunting in deep water, the whales tend to be “right-handed,” lunging at krill while twisting 180 degrees or less onto their right side. But when gobbling up the tiny crustaceans near the surface, the whales tend to be lefties, launching themselves upward while performing a 360-degree barrel roll to the left,...

    11/28/2017 - 14:00 Animals, Oceans, Ecology
  • Reviews & Previews

    Invasive species are a growing global threat

    The Aliens Among UsLeslie AnthonyYale Univ. Press, $30

    Remote Bouvet Island, a tiny, glacier-smothered landmass in the South Atlantic rimmed by 500-meter-tall cliffs, has a notable distinction: It’s the only known spot on Earth, scientists say, that has zero invasive species. Every other place, and every person, on the planet is at least indirectly affected by one or more...

    11/05/2017 - 07:00 Ecology, Animals, Plants
  • Science Ticker

    What male bias in the mammoth fossil record says about the animal’s social groups

    Male mammoths really had to watch their steps. More than two-thirds of woolly mammoth specimens recovered from several types of natural traps in Siberia came from males, researchers report November 2 in Current Biology.

    Paleogenomicist Patrícia Pečnerová of the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm and her colleagues examined genomic data recovered from 98 mammoth bone, tooth,...

    11/02/2017 - 12:15 Paleontology, Evolution, Ecology