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  • Reviews & Previews

    Fossils sparked Charles Darwin’s imagination

    Darwin’s FossilsAdrian ListerSmithsonian Books, $19.95

    Charles Darwin famously derived his theory of evolution from observations he made of species and their geographic distributions during his five-year voyage around the world on the H.M.S. Beagle. But in the introduction of On the Origin of Species, the naturalist also cites another influence: the thousands of fossils that he...

    04/08/2018 - 08:00 Evolution, History of Science, Paleontology
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers debate dinosaur designation and more

    Diagnosis dinosaur

    Some scientists are shaking up the dinosaur family tree and raising questions about which features define the ancient reptiles, Carolyn Gramling reported in “New fossils are redefining what makes a dinosaur” (SN: 3/3/18, p. 18).

    “I am a bit put out by the continuing references to dinosaurs as being reptiles,” reader David Persuitte wrote. Dinosaurs’ legs were...

    04/05/2018 - 07:52 Paleontology, Evolution, Planetary Science
  • News

    Ardi walked the walk 4.4 million years ago

    A famous 4.4-million-year-old member of the human evolutionary family was hip enough to evolve an upright gait without losing any tree-climbing prowess.

    The pelvis from a partial Ardipithecus ramidus skeleton nicknamed Ardi (SN: 1/16/10, p. 22) bears evidence of an efficient, humanlike walk combined with plenty of hip power for apelike climbing, says a team led by biological...

    04/02/2018 - 16:17 Anthropology, Evolution
  • News

    Dino-bird had wings made for flapping, not just gliding

    Archaeopteryx was a flapper, not just a glider. The shape of the ancient bird’s wing bones suggests it was capable of short bursts of active, flapping flight, similar to how modern birds like pheasants and quails fly to escape predators, a new study finds.

    One of the earliest birds, Archaeopteryx lived about 150 million years ago during the Jurassic Period, spanning the evolutionary gap...

    03/13/2018 - 12:00 Animals, Evolution
  • It's Alive

    In a pack hunt, it’s every goatfish for itself

    The only fish known to hunt with wolf pack moves may not be true team players, just lemon-yellow me-firsts.

    Yellow saddle goatfish (Parupeneus cyclostomus) do more than school together as they dart over Indo-Pacific coral reefs. Like wolves, the goatfish take different roles in a pursuit. One or two fish may rush straight toward prey as the others shoot to the sides, blocking escape....

    03/06/2018 - 07:00 Animals, Evolution
  • News

    It’s official: Termites are just cockroaches with a fancy social life

    Termites are the new cockroach.

    Literally. The Entomological Society of America is updating its master list of insect names to reflect decades of genetic and other evidence that termites belong in the cockroach order, called Blattodea.

    As of February 15, “it’s official ... that termites no longer have their own order,” says Mike Merchant of Texas A&M University in College...

    03/01/2018 - 07:00 Animals, Evolution
  • News in Brief

    This scratchy hiss is the closest thing yet to caterpillar vocalization

    Tap — gently — the plump rear of a young Nessus sphinx hawk moth, and you may hear the closest sound yet discovered to a caterpillar voice.

    Caterpillars don’t breathe through their mouths. Yet a Nessus sphinx hawk moth, if disturbed, will emit from its open mouth a sustained hiss followed by a string of scratchy burplike sounds. “Hard to describe,” says animal behaviorist Jayne Yack of...

    02/26/2018 - 18:33 Animals, Ecology, Evolution
  • News in Brief

    The last wild horses aren’t truly wild

    When it comes to wild claims, hold your horses.

    Free-roaming Przewalski’s horses of Central Asia are often called the last of the wild horses, the only living equines never domesticated. But a new genetic analysis of ancient horse bones suggests that these horses have a tamed ancestor after all, making them feral rather than wild.

    The findings also debunk the idea that these...

    02/22/2018 - 14:00 Genetics, Animals, Evolution
  • Feature

    New fossils are redefining what makes a dinosaur

    “There’s a very faint dimple here,” Sterling Nesbitt says, holding up a palm-sized fossil to the light. The fossil, a pelvic bone, belonged to a creature called Teleocrater rhadinus. The slender, 2-meter-long reptile ran on all fours and lived 245 million years ago, about 10 million to 15 million years before scientists think dinosaurs first appeared.

    Nesbitt, a paleontologist at...

    02/21/2018 - 16:00 Paleontology, Evolution
  • News

    Ants practice combat triage and nurse their injured

    View the video

    No wounded left behind — not quite. Ants that have evolved battlefield medevac carry only the moderately wounded home to the nest. There, those lucky injured fighters get fast and effective wound care.

    Insect colonies seething with workers may seem unlikely to stage elaborate rescues of individual fighters. Yet for Matabele ants (Megaponera analis) in sub-Saharan...

    02/16/2018 - 14:14 Animals, Evolution, Ecology