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  • News

    As temperatures rise, so do insects’ appetites for corn, rice and wheat

    With temperatures creeping up as the climate warms, those very hungry caterpillars could get even hungrier, and more abundant. Crop losses to pests may grow.

    Insects will be “eating more of our lunch,” says Curtis Deutsch of the University of Washington in Seattle. Based on how heat revs up insect metabolism and reproduction, he and his colleagues estimate that each degree Celsius of...

    08/31/2018 - 12:24 Climate, Agriculture, Animals
  • News in Brief

    Naked mole-rats eat the poop of their queen for parenting cues

    Dealing with poop is an unavoidable hazard of raising children, regardless of species. But for naked mole-rats, that wisdom is especially salient.

    During pregnancy, the scat of a naked mole-rat queen — the only female in the colony that reproduces, giving birth to a few dozen pups each year — contains high levels of the sex hormone estradiol. When subordinate female naked mole-rats eat...

    08/27/2018 - 15:00 Animals
  • The Science Life

    There’s method in a firefly’s flashes

    A firefly’s blinking behind is more than just a pretty summer sight.

    It’s known that fireflies flash to attract mates (SN Online: 8/12/15) — but the twinkles may serve another purpose as well. Jesse Barber, a biologist at Boise State University, had a hunch that the lights also warn off potential nighttime predators. He wasn’t the first person with this hypothesis. As far back as 1882,...

    08/24/2018 - 07:00 Animals, Evolution
  • News

    A fossil mistaken for a bat may shake up lemurs’ evolutionary history

    In one published swoop, an ancient fossil fruit bat has turned into a lemur. If that transformation holds, it suggests that lemur ancestors made two tricky sea crossings from Africa to Madagascar, not one as researchers have often assumed.

    A new fossil analysis finds that the ancient species Propotto leakeyi, which lived in East Africa between 23 million and 16 million years ago, was not...

    08/21/2018 - 11:00 Anthropology, Animals
  • Mystery Solved

    How salamanders can regrow nearly complete tails but lizards can’t

    Salamanders and lizards can both regrow their tails, but not to equal perfection.

    While a regenerated salamander tail closely mimics the original, bone and all, a lizard’s replacement is filled with cartilage and lacks nerve cells. That contrast is due to differences between stem cells in the animals’ spinal cords, researchers report online August 13 in Proceedings of the National...

    08/17/2018 - 12:30 Cells, Development, Animals, Evolution
  • News

    Here’s what robots could learn from fire ants

    Robots, take note: When working in tight, crowded spaces, fire ants know how to avoid too many cooks in the kitchen.

    Observations of fire ants digging an underground nest reveal that a few industrious ants do most of the work while others dawdle. Computer simulations confirm that, while this strategy may not be the fairest, it is the most efficient because it helps reduce overcrowding in...

    08/16/2018 - 14:04 Robotics, Animals, Technology
  • News

    A resurrected gene may protect elephants from cancer

    Elephants rarely succumb to cancer. That’s surprising given how large the animals grow and how long they can live, which should provide more opportunities for cells to morph into cancer cells. A newly described gene that was brought back from the dead may take part in protecting the animals from the disease.

    A deep dive into elephants’ evolutionary history revealed a defunct gene called...

    08/14/2018 - 14:23 Health, Genetics, Animals
  • News

    In the animal kingdom, what does it mean to be promiscuous?

    MILWAUKEE — When it comes to the sex lives of animals, scientists have a slate of explicit terms to describe the proclivities of species. But researchers may be playing a little fast and loose with one of those words. Just what sort of activity qualifies an animal as promiscuous?

    A review of almost 350 studies published in scientific journals in 2015 and 2016 found that the label was...

    08/13/2018 - 07:00 Animals, Ecology
  • Film

    What ‘The Meg’ gets wrong — and right — about megalodon sharks

    OK, so what if a giant prehistoric shark, thought to be extinct for about 2.5 million years, is actually still lurking in the depths of the ocean? That’s the premise of the new flick The Meg, which opens August 10 and pits massive Carcharocles megalodon against a grizzled and fearless deep-sea rescue diver, played by Jason Statham, and a handful of resourceful scientists.

    The...

    08/10/2018 - 12:41 Paleontology, Animals, Oceans
  • News

    A ghost gene leaves ocean mammals vulnerable to some pesticides

    A gene that helps mammals break down certain toxic chemicals appears to be faulty in marine mammals — potentially leaving manatees, dolphins and other warm-blooded water dwellers more sensitive to dangerous pesticides.

    The gene, PON1, carries instructions for making a protein that interacts with fatty acids ingested with food. But that protein has taken on another role in recent decades...

    08/09/2018 - 14:00 Animals, Molecular Evolution, Toxicology