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  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers inquire about a Neptune-sized moon, nuclear pasta and more

    Exomoonmoon

    A sighting by the Hubble Space Telescope provides more evidence that there’s a Neptune-sized moon, dubbed Neptmoon, orbiting the exoplanet Kepler 1625b, Lisa Grossman reported in “Hubble may have spotted the first known exomoon” (SN: 10/27/18, p. 14).

    “If Neptmoon actually exists, could it possibly have moons of its own?” online reader MAdScientist72 asked. “And what...

    12/05/2018 - 05:00 Physics, Astronomy, Animals
  • News

    Rebel honeybee workers lay eggs when their queen is away

    Even honeybee queens have rebellious kids.

    In a colony of European honeybees (Apis mellifera), only the queen lays eggs that hatch into female workers who maintain the hive and nurse the young. But at times a colony experiences periods of queenlessness, when the old queen has left and a new one isn’t ready. Some of the queen’s left-behind worker daughters seize this chance to lay their...

    12/04/2018 - 08:00 Animals
  • News

    An acid found in soil may make a disease killing deer less infectious

    An acid found in rich humus soil breaks down the misfolded brain proteins — called prions — that cause chronic wasting disease.

    When concentrations of humic acid similar to those found in soils were applied to diseased elk brain tissue, chemical signatures of the infectious prions were nearly erased, researchers report online November 29 in PLOS Pathogens. That suggests that the acid...

    11/30/2018 - 06:00 Toxicology, Animals, Microbiology
  • News

    A jumping spider mom nurses her brood for weeks on milk

    Mom nurses her young for weeks on milk that has four times the protein of a cow’s. Yet this mother’s not a mammal. She’s a jumping spider with eight legs and a taste for fruit flies.

    We mammals have named ourselves after our mammary glands. Yet other animals, from tsetse flies to pigeons, secrete their own versions of milk for their babies. The newly discovered nursing in Toxeus magnus...

    11/29/2018 - 16:03 Animals, Evolution
  • 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
  • News

    Mosquitoes may surf winds above Africa more than we realized

    VANCOUVER — Adult female mosquitoes could be surfing air currents high above the West African Sahel. This traffic, at least 40 meters up, might be troubling news for efforts to control malaria.

    Traps attached to balloons flown over villages in Mali caught close to 3,000 mosquitoes at heights between 40 and 290 meters above the ground, where winds might blow the insects long distances....

    11/27/2018 - 12:45 Animals, Health
  • The Science Life

    How locust ecology inspired an opera

    Locust: The Opera finds a novel way to doom a soprano: species extinction.

    The libretto, written by entomologist Jeff Lockwood of the University of Wyoming in Laramie, features a scientist, a rancher and a dead insect. The scientist tenor agonizes over why the Rocky Mountain locust went extinct at the dawn of the 20th century. He comes up with hypotheses, three of which unravel to music...

    11/26/2018 - 10:00 Animals, Evolution, Science & Society
  • Introducing

    This huge plant eater thrived in the age of dinosaurs — but wasn’t one of them

    A new species of hulking ancient herbivore would have overshadowed its relatives.

    Fossils found in Poland belong to a new species that roamed during the Late Triassic, a period some 237 million to 201 million years ago, researchers report November 22 in Science. But unlike most of the enormous animals who lived during that time period, this new creature isn’t a dinosaur — it’s a...

    11/22/2018 - 14:00 Paleontology, Animals
  • News

    Hemp fields offer a late-season pollen source for stressed bees

    VANCOUVER — Fields of hemp might become a late-season pollen bonanza for bees.

    Industrial hemp plants, the no-high varieties of cannabis, are becoming a more familiar sight for American bees as states create pilot programs for legal growing. Neither hemp nor the other strains of the Cannabis sativa species grown for recreational or medicinal uses offer insects any nectar, and all rely on...

    11/19/2018 - 06:00 Animals, Conservation, Agriculture
  • Mystery Solved

    Wombats are the only animals whose poop is a cube. Here’s how they do it.

    Of all the poops in the world, only wombats’ are shaped like cubes.

    The varied elasticity of the wombat’s intestines helps the marsupials to sculpt their scat into cubelike nuggets, instead of the round pellets, messy piles or tubular coils made by other mammals, researchers reported November 18 at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting in Atlanta.

    Wombats...

    11/18/2018 - 17:00 Animals