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  • Science Ticker

    This robot grows like a plant

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    Robots are branching out. A new prototype soft robot takes inspiration from plants by growing to explore its environment.

    Vines and some fungi extend from their tips to explore their surroundings. Elliot Hawkes of the University of California in Santa Barbara and his colleagues designed a bot that works on similar principles. Its mechanical body sits inside a plastic...

    07/19/2017 - 17:26 Robotics, Plants
  • News in Brief

    How a crop-destroying fungus mutated to infect wheat

    A wheat strain that let its guard down may have paved the way for a crop-destroying fungus to infect the species.

    About 1980, Brazilian farmers began growing a strain of wheat called Anahuac, which is suited to the country’s nonacidic soils. And that, researchers report July 7 in Science, may be when wheat started to lose an arms race with blast fungus (Pyricularia oryzae, also known as...

    07/10/2017 - 08:00 Genetics, Plants
  • News

    Hermaphrodite wildflower has its own battle of the sexes

    PORTLAND, Ore. — Petals of wildflowers called starry campions may be a pretty little battleground for a sexual skirmish between the plant’s male and female parts.

    As is common in flowers, each Silene stellata bloom forms both male and female sex organs. After measuring petal variation between plants and tracking parenthood of seeds, Juannan Zhou suspected a sexual tug-of-war.

    ...

    07/07/2017 - 08:00 Plants, Evolution
  • News

    How to eavesdrop on kelp

    BOSTON — If kelp growing in an underwater forest makes a sound, such noises could be used to keep tabs on ocean health.

    Listening to how projected sound reverberates through kelp beds allows scientists to eavesdrop on environmental factors such as water temperature and photosynthetic activity, bioacoustician Jean-Pierre Hermand reported June 28 at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of...

    07/06/2017 - 06:00 Plants, Ecology
  • News

    Petunias spread their scent using pushy proteins

    When it comes to smelling pretty, petunias are pretty pushy.

    Instead of just letting scent compounds waft into the air, the plants use a particular molecule called a transporter protein to help move the compounds along, a new study found. The results, published June 30 in Science, could help researchers genetically engineer many kinds of plants both to attract pollinators and to repel...

    06/29/2017 - 14:00 Plants, Cells, Genetics
  • News in Brief

    Floral curve test shows what’s great for a moth is not so good for a flower

    PORTLAND, ORE. — A great flower shape for a moth trying to get a drink in the dark turns out to be awful from the plant’s point of view.

    Offering hawk moths (Manduca sexta) a range of 3-D printed flowers with different curvatures shows that a moderately curved trumpet shape lets moths sip most efficiently, Foen Peng reported June 24 at the Evolution 2017 meeting. That’s a win for a...

    06/27/2017 - 10:00 Plants, Evolution, Animals
  • News

    Genetic switch offers clue to why grasses are survival masters

    Grasses have top-notch border control to conserve water in their leaves. Now, scientists have identified the genetic switch that makes them such masters at taking in carbon dioxide without losing water. The find might eventually help scientists create more drought-resistant crop plants, the researchers report in the March 17 Science.  

    Adjustable pores called stomata on the undersides of...

    03/20/2017 - 15:35 Plants, Cells, Physiology
  • It's Alive

    How one enslaving wasp eats through another

    Parasites can drive their hosts to do weird, dumb things. But in certain oak trees, the parasites themselves get played.

    “Creepy and awesome,” says Kelly Weinersmith of Rice University in Houston, who has helped reveal a Russian doll of nested parasitisms.

    The saga begins when two majestic live oak species in the southeastern United States send out new shoots, and female crypt gall...

    03/16/2017 - 12:00 Animals, Ecology, Plants
  • News

    Enzymes aid rice plants’ arsenic defenses

    BOSTON — Rooted in place, plants can’t run away from arsenic-tainted soil — but they’re far from helpless. Scientists have identified enzymes that help rice plant roots tame arsenic, converting it into a form that can be pushed back into the soil. That leaves less of the toxic element to spread into the plants’ grains, where it can pose a health risk to humans, researchers reported February 17...

    02/19/2017 - 12:08 Plants
  • News

    Big genetics study blazes path for bringing back tomato flavor

    An analysis of nearly 400 kinds of tomatoes suggests which flavor compounds could bring heirloom deliciousness back to varieties that were bred for toughness over taste.

    About 30 compounds are important in creating a full-bodied tomato flavor, says study coauthor Harry Klee of the University of Florida in Gainesville. He and colleagues have identified 13 important molecules that have...

    01/26/2017 - 14:09 Plants, Genetics, Agriculture