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  • News

    No more than 800 orangutans from this newly identified species remain

    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...

    11/02/2017 - 12:00 Animals, Genetics, Evolution
  • News

    New CRISPR gene editors can fix RNA and DNA one typo at a time

    New gene-editing tools can correct typos that account for about half of disease-causing genetic spelling errors.

    Researchers have revamped the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editor so that it converts the DNA base adenine to guanine, biological chemist David Liu and colleagues report October 25 in Nature. In a separate study, published October 25 in Science, other researchers led by CRISPR pioneer...

    10/25/2017 - 13:00 Genetics, Health
  • News in Brief

    Inbreeding hurts the next generation’s reproductive success

    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...

    10/23/2017 - 17:46 Genetics, Evolution
  • News in Brief

    Mating with Neandertals reintroduced ‘lost’ DNA into modern humans

    ORLANDO, Fla. — Interbreeding with Neandertals restored some genetic heirlooms that modern humans left behind in the ancient exodus from Africa, new research suggests.

    Those heirlooms are versions of genes, or alleles, that were present in humans’ and Neandertals’ shared ancestors. Neandertals carried many of those old alleles, passing them along generation after generation, while...

    10/23/2017 - 14:43 Genetics, Ancestry
  • Reviews & Previews

    Resurrecting extinct species raises ethical questions

    Rise of the NecrofaunaBritt WrayGreystone Books, $26.95

    A theme park populated with re-created dinosaurs is fiction. But if a handful of dedicated scientists have their way, a park with woolly mammoths, passenger pigeons and other “de-extincted” animals could become reality.

    In Rise of the Necrofauna, writer and radio broadcaster Britt Wray presents a comprehensive look at...

    10/20/2017 - 07:00 Genetics, Animals, Science & Society
  • News

    Doubling up on ‘junk DNA’ helps make us human

    ORLANDO — Doubling up on some DNA may have helped make humans human — including giving us uniquely human diseases.

    DNA that doesn’t produce proteins may be especially important for creating differences between humans and other primates, biochemist Paulina Carmona-Mora reported October 18 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics.

    Carmona-Mora and colleagues in...

    10/19/2017 - 18:18 Genetics
  • News

    To understand the origins of pain, ask a flatworm

    Hydrogen peroxide, a molecule produced by cells under duress, may be a common danger signal, helping to alert animals to potential harm and send them scurrying. New details from planarian flatworms of how this process works may deepen scientists’ understanding of how people detect pain, and may ultimately point to better ways to curb it.

    “Being able to get a big-picture view of how these...

    10/16/2017 - 12:46 Animals, Neuroscience, Genetics
  • News in Brief

    We’re more Neandertal than we thought

    Modern people of European and Asian ancestry carry slightly more Neandertal DNA than previously realized.

    About 1.8 to 2.6 percent of DNA in non-Africans is an heirloom of ancient human-Neandertal interbreeding, researchers report online October 5 in Science. That corresponds to 10 to 20 percent more Neandertal ancestry than previous estimates — and it may carry consequences for human...

    10/10/2017 - 17:30 Genetics, Ancestry
  • News

    Ancient humans avoided inbreeding by networking

    DNA of people who lived around 34,000 years ago reveals an especially lively social scene that may have been a key to humans’ evolutionary success.

    Much like hunter-gatherers today, ancient Eurasians married outside their home groups and formed webs of friends and in-laws vital for eventually building cities and civilizations, a new study suggests.

    Long-gone hunter-gatherers lived...

    10/05/2017 - 14:00 Genetics, Anthropology, Human Evolution
  • Feature

    José Dinneny rethinks how plants hunt for water

    José Dinneny, 39Plant stress biologistCarnegie Institution for Science 

    José Dinneny wants us to see plants as stranger things.

    “They’re able to integrate information and make coherent decisions without a nervous system, without a brain,” he points out. Plus, plants find water without sight or touch. For too many of us, however, lawns, salads and pots on a sunny windowsill make plants so...

    10/04/2017 - 13:52 Plants, Genetics, Agriculture