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  • News

    What spiders eating weird stuff tell us about complex Amazon food webs

    Rudolf von May has seen some pretty wild things in Peru’s Amazon rainforest. But this took things to a whole new level. There, caught on a team member’s cell phone video, was a giant tarantula, about the size of a dinner plate, weeble-wobbling through the leaf litter with the body of what was later identified as a mouse opossum hanging from its fangs.

    “It was very surprising, to some...

    02/28/2019 - 11:09 Animals, Ecology
  • News

    Hermit crabs are drawn to the smell of their own dead

    The death of a millionaire with no heir draws an opportunistic crowd. So, too, does the demise of a land-dwelling hermit crab. Researchers working in Costa Rica found that the curious crabs are drawn to the smell of flesh torn from one of their own.

    Dartmouth College biologist Mark Laidre, along with undergraduate student Leah Valdes, set out 20 plastic tubes on a beach, each holding...

    02/25/2019 - 08:00 Animals, Ecology
  • News in Brief

    Floating seabirds provide a novel way to trace ocean currents

    Seabirds are like feathered buoys. Gently rafting on the ocean’s surface, these birds go with the flow, making them excellent proxies for tracking changes in a current’s speed and direction.

    Oceanographers traditionally use radar, floating buoys or autonomous underwater vehicles to measure ocean current velocities, which can affect the climate, ecosystems and the movement of important...

    01/10/2019 - 09:00 Oceans, Ecology
  • News in Brief

    Pea aphid youngsters use piggyback rides to escape a crisis

    First it’s mammal bad breath. Then it’s babies pestering for piggyback rides. A near-death experience is tough on pea aphids.

    When warm, moist breath signals that some cow or other giant is about to chomp into foliage, tiny green aphids feeding on that foliage drop toward the ground by the hundreds (SN Online: 8/10/10). “It literally rains aphids,” says ecologist Moshe Gish, who in 2010...

    12/05/2018 - 20:00 Animals, Ecology
  • Feature

    Beavers are engineering a new Alaskan tundra

    In a broad swath of northwestern Alaska, small groups of recent immigrants are hard at work. Like many residents of this remote area, they’re living off the land. But these industrious foreigners are neither prospecting for gold nor trapping animals for their pelts. In fact, their own luxurious fur was once a hot commodity. Say hello to Castor canadensis, the American beaver.

    Much like...

    11/28/2018 - 09:00 Ecosystems, Ecology, Animals
  • 50 years ago, screwworm flies inspired a new approach to insect control

    Screwworm fly upsurge 

    Screwworms, the first pest to be eliminated on a large scale by the use of the sterile male technique, have shown an alarming increase, according to U.S. and Mexican officials…. The screwworm fly lays its eggs in open wounds on cattle. The maggots live on the flesh of their host, causing damage and death, and economic losses of many millions of dollars. —...

    11/23/2018 - 07:00 Agriculture, Ecology, History of Science
  • News

    Eating less protein may help curb gut bacteria’s growth

    Humans and other animals may have a way to control the growth of gut microbes: Eat less protein.

    That’s because protein contains nitrogen. And, it turns out, the amount of nitrogen in the diet of mice governed the growth of bacteria in the animals’ large intestine, researchers report October 29 in Nature Microbiology. The finding may help researchers learn how to manipulate the types and...

    11/02/2018 - 06:00 Microbiology, Ecology, Physiology
  • The Science Life

    How researchers flinging salmon inadvertently spurred tree growth

    How much salmon would scientists sling if scientists could sling salmon? For one research team, the question isn’t hypothetical, and the answer is … tons.

    During 20 years of monitoring salmon populations in one southwest Alaskan stream, ecologists have found and flung a total 267,620 kilograms of dead fish into the forest. Those rotting carcasses leached enough nutrients to speed up tree...

    10/30/2018 - 13:54 Ecology, Animals, Plants
  • Reviews & Previews

    If you want to believe your home’s bug free, don’t read this book

    Never Home AloneRob DunnBasic Books, $28

    As I write this in my basement office, a sticky trap lies beneath my desk catching whatever insects wander by. Its current haul is pretty typical: a cricket, a spider and some small flies. But as Rob Dunn writes in his intriguing new book, Never Home Alone, I’m missing a lot if I think that’s all that lurks beneath my slippers.

    Dunn has...

    10/30/2018 - 11:08 Animals, Ecology, Microbiology, Science & Society
  • News

    The first vertebrates on Earth arose in shallow coastal waters

    The cradle of vertebrate evolution was limited to a zone of shallow coastal waters, no more than 60 meters deep.

    In those waters, fish — the first vertebrates — appeared roughly 480 million years ago, a study finds. For nearly 100 million years, those creatures rarely strayed from that habitat, where they diversified into a dizzying array of new forms, scientists report in the Oct. 26...

    10/25/2018 - 14:08 Paleontology, Animals, Ecology