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  • Science Ticker

    Whales feast when hatcheries release salmon

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    Humpback whales, those innovative foodies, have discovered their own pop-up restaurants.

    Migrant humpbacks returning to southeastern Alaska in spring are the first of their kind known to make routine visits to fish hatcheries releasing young salmon into the sea, says marine ecologist Ellen Chenoweth.

    The whales are “40 feet long and they’re feeding on fish that...

    07/11/2017 - 19:05 Animals, Ecology, Science & Society
  • Feature

    DNA evidence is rewriting domestication origin stories

    One lab full of rats looks pretty much the same as another. But visiting a lab in Siberia, geneticist Alex Cagan can distinguish rats bred to be tame from those bred to be aggressive as soon as he opens the lab door.

    “It’s a completely different response immediately,” he says. All of the tame rats “come to the front of the cage very inquisitively.” The aggressive rats scurry to the backs...

    07/06/2017 - 12:00 Genetics, Animals
  • Wild Things

    Drowned wildebeests can feed a river ecosystem for years

    More than a million wildebeests migrate each year from Tanzania to Kenya and back again, following the rains and abundant grass that springs up afterward. Their path takes them across the Mara River, and some of the crossings are so dangerous that hundreds or thousands of wildebeests drown as they try to traverse the waterway.

    Those animals provide a brief, free buffet for crocodiles and...

    06/27/2017 - 09:00 Animals, Ecology
  • News

    How bearded dragons switch their sex

    When things get hot, embryonic bearded dragon lizards turn female — and now scientists might know why. New analyses, reported online June 14 in Science Advances, reveal that temperature-induced changes in RNA’s protein-making instructions might set off this sex switch. The findings might also apply to other reptile species whose sex is influenced by temperature.

    Unlike most mammals, many...

    06/14/2017 - 14:07 Development, Animals, Genetics, Epigenetics
  • Feature

    Live antibiotics use bacteria to kill bacteria

    The woman in her 70s was in trouble. What started as a broken leg led to an infection in her hip that hung on for two years and several hospital stays. At a Nevada hospital, doctors gave the woman seven different antibiotics, one after the other. The drugs did little to help her. Lab results showed that none of the 14 antibiotics available at the hospital could fight the infection, caused by...

    06/13/2017 - 10:49 Health, Microbiology, Biomedicine, Immune Science
  • News

    Primitive whales had mediocre hearing

    Early on, whale hearing may have been ho-hum.

    Unlike today’s whales that specialize in making  — and hearing — very high- or low-pitched sounds, early whales’ ears probably picked up noises somewhere in the middle, paleontologists Mickaël Mourlam and Maeva Orliac report June 8 in Current Biology.

    Looking at CT scans of ancient whale ear bones allowed the researchers, from the...

    06/09/2017 - 03:00 Paleontology, Animals, Evolution
  • Science Visualized

    Big slimy lips are the secret to this fish’s coral diet

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    Tubelip wrasses eat dangerously, daring to dine on sharp corals lined with stinging cells. New images reveal the fish’s secret to safe eating: lubing up and planting a big one on their dinner.

    “It is like sucking dew off a stinging nettle. A thick layer of grease may help,” says David Bellwood, a marine biologist at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, who...

    06/05/2017 - 17:50 Animals, Ecology
  • News

    Peru’s plenty brought ancient human migration to a crawl

    Some of the earliest settlers of the Americas curtailed their coastal migration to hunker down in what’s now northwestern Peru, new finds suggest. Although researchers have often assumed that shoreline colonizers of the New World kept heading south from Alaska in search of marine foods, staying put in some spots made sense: Hunter-gatherers needed only simple tools to exploit rich coastal and...

    05/31/2017 - 07:00 Archaeology, Anthropology
  • It's Alive

    Blennies have a lot of fang for such little fishes

    After a recent flurry of news that fang blennies mix an opioid in their venom, a question lingers: What do they need with fangs anyway? Most eat wimpy stuff that hardly justifies whopper canines.

    Not that fang blennies are meek fishes.

    “When they bite, they bite savagely,” says Bryan Fry of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. “If these little jobbies were 3 meters...

    05/16/2017 - 10:00 Animals, Evolution
  • News

    Seabirds use preening to decide how to divvy up parenting duties

    Seabirds called common murres appear to use preening as a way to negotiate whose turn it is to watch their chick and who must find food. And when one parent is feeling foul, irregularities in this grooming ritual may send the other a signal that all is not well, researchers report in the July issue of The Auk: Ornithological Advances.

    “The fascinating part of this study is the inference...

    05/09/2017 - 07:00 Animals, Ecology