What looks like a spider, but with a segmented rear plus a long spike of a tail, has turned up in amber that’s about 100 million years old.
Roughly the size of a peppercorn (not including the tail, which stretches several times the body length), this newly described extinct species lived in forests in what is now Myanmar during the dinosaur-rich Cretaceous Period.
Spiders as their...
News in Brief
Ready for sketch comedy she’s not. But a 14-year-old killer whale named Wikie has shown promise in mimicking strange sounds, such as a human “hello” — plus some rude noises.
Scientists recorded Wikie at her home in Marineland Aquarium in Antibes, France, imitating another killer whale’s loud “raspberry” sounds, as well as a trumpeting elephant and humans saying such words as “one, two,...
First, a note to any impala suddenly rushed by a cheetah: Do not — repeat, do not — just zoom straight off as fast as four hooves can carry you.
The best escape move, according to analysis of the most detailed chase data yet from big cat predators, is some fluky turn, even though turning requires a slower stride. Swerve far enough, and the cheetah will be racing too fast to make the same...
Maybe Earth’s early years weren’t so hellish after all.
Asteroid strikes repeatedly bombarded the planet during its first eon, but the heat released by those hits wasn’t as sterilizing as once thought, new research suggests. Simulations indicate that after the first few hundred million years of bombardment, the heat from the impacts had dissipated enough that 10 to 75 percent of the top...
Newly described little scaly bits could push back the fossil record of the moth-and-butterfly branch on the tree of life by some 70 million years. That raises the question of whether the drinking-straw mouthparts evolved long before the flower nectar many drink today.
The microscopic ridged scales date from roughly 200 million years ago, around the time of one of Earth’s less famous mass...
Letters to the Editor
Species shmecies01/10/2018 - 12:37 Evolution, Technology, Astronomy
In “Defining ‘species’ is a fuzzy art” (SN: 11/11/17, p. 22), Susan Milius asked scientists to define “species.” Schoolbooks may define the concept as a group of organisms that create fertile offspring when mating with each other but not when mating with outsiders. But for researchers specializing in the topic, a single definition is hard to come by.
“It seems to me...
Despite a reputation as mellow apes, bonobos have a thing for bad guys.
Rather than latching on to individuals with a track record of helpfulness, adult bonobos favor obstructionists who keep others from getting what they want. The result may help explain what differentiates humans’ cooperative skills from those of other apes, biological anthropologists Christopher Krupenye of the...
Year in Review
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).Homegrown...
The Science Life
The battle of the sexes, at least among certain ocean mammals, may come down to well-placed skin folds, suggests research by Patricia Brennan, an evolutionary biologist at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., and colleagues.
In some species, enhanced male-female genital fit has evolved over time in ways that make mating easier. This is an example of what scientists call...
A skull and other fossils from northeastern Australia belong to a new species in the extinct family of marsupial lions.
This newly named species, Wakaleo schouteni, was a predator about the size of a border collie, says vertebrate paleontologist Anna Gillespie of the University of New South Wales in Sydney. At least 18 million years ago (and perhaps as early as 23 million years ago), it...