Orangutans living in forested foothills on the Indonesian island of Sumatra represent a previously unknown species, researchers say.
Skeletal and genetic evidence puts these apes on a separate evolutionary trajectory from other orangutans in Sumatra (Pongo abelii) and Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), says a team led by evolutionary anthropologist Michael Krützen of the University of...
Finding the chemical basis for the close association between the Attine ants, inhabiting an area extending from Argentina to the southern United States, and the fungus they culture is the aim of research … by Prof. Michael M. Martin of the University of Michigan. Although many animals feed on fungi, the culturing of fungus by the Attine ants is the only known example of...
Classification is inevitable. It’s a widespread human tendency and a bedrock of scientific study. From rocks to stars to the stinkbug buzzing against my window, from parts of speech to diseases to the fundamental forces of nature, if an object or phenomenon can be described, it will be grouped with others like it and distinguished from those that differ.
One of the best-known scientific...
Letters to the Editor
Gut feelings11/01/2017 - 12:11 Health, Evolution, Animals
Tests in mice show that microbes in the gut may tamper with the production of tiny molecules in brain regions known to help control anxiety, Maria Temming reported in “How gut bacteria may affect anxiety” (SN: 9/30/17, p. 12).
Online reader Amanda wondered what has more influence: gut bacteria on anxiety, or anxiety on the bacterial makeup of the gut. If bacteria have more of...
The funniest thing I’ve ever said to any botanist was, “What is a species?” Well, it certainly got the most spontaneous laugh. I don’t think Barbara Ertter, who doesn’t remember the long-ago moment, was being mean. Her laugh was more of a “where do I even start” response to an almost impossible question.
At first glance, “species” is a basic vocabulary word schoolchildren can ace on a...
It’s a tale as old as wine. Two organisms meet over a barrel of alcohol and decide to mate.
Geneticist Maitreya Dunham didn’t see it happen. But she has molecular evidence that two yeast species produced a hybrid in an old warehouse turned microbrewery. The two species had grown apart, evolutionarily speaking, about 10 million to 20 million years ago, Dunham, of the University of...
Halloween horror aside, vampires are really pretty spineless.
Most have no backbone at all. By one count, some 14,000 kinds of arthropods, including ticks and mosquitoes, are blood feeders. Yet very few vertebrates are clear-cut, all-blood specialists: just some fishes and three bats. Why hasn’t evolution produced more vertebrate vampires?
The question intrigues herpetologist Harry...
News in Brief
ORLANDO, Fla. — Kissing cousins aren’t doing their children any evolutionary favors, some preliminary data suggest.
Mating with a close relative, known as inbreeding, reduces nonhuman animals’ evolutionary fitness — measured by the ability to produce offspring. Inbreeding, it turns out, also puts a hit on humans’ reproductive success, David Clark of the University of Edinburgh reported...
Some great tits in the United Kingdom are getting long in the beak — and it may have something to do with a British fondness for bird feeders.
Parus major songbirds are thought to be relatively similar throughout Europe. But comparing DNA data from great tits in the United Kingdom with those in the Netherlands revealed key genetic differences between the two populations. The analysis,...
The Science Life
Robert Klapper has examined scores of damaged and diseased human knees, hips and shoulders. But a visit to the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum introduced the orthopedic surgeon to the suffering of an extinct cat — and a scientific mystery. In 2000, Klapper took a break from his patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to visit the nearby tar pits, where myriad mammals and other...