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  • News

    Wild elephants clock shortest shut-eye recorded for mammals

    Fitbit-style tracking of two wild African elephants suggests their species could break sleep records for mammals. The elephants get by just fine on about two hours of sleep a day. Much of that shut-eye comes while standing up — the animals sleep lying down only once every three or four days, new data show.

    Most of what scientists previously knew about sleeping elephants came from captive...

    03/01/2017 - 14:01 Animals, Neuroscience
  • News

    Oldest microfossils suggest life thrived on Earth about 4 billion years ago

    Tiny, iron-rich fossils exhumed from the depths of an ancient ocean could reveal the cradle of life.

    These micrometer-scale structures are probably remnants of microorganisms that once lived amidst ancient hydrothermal vents, researchers suggest March 1 in Nature.

    “In a nutshell, what we’ve found are the oldest microfossils on Earth,” says study coauthor Matthew Dodd, a...

    03/01/2017 - 13:00 Paleontology, Microbes
  • Science & the Public

    Transgender children are at greater risk of mental health problems

    Amid a flurry of cabinet appointments and immigration policies, the Trump administration has announced one thing it will not do: pursue policies that protect transgender children in public schools.The Feb. 22 announcement rescinds Obama administration guidelines that, among other protections, allow transgender kids to use bathrooms and participate in sports that correspond with their genders,...

    03/01/2017 - 07:00 Human Development, Science & Society, Health
  • Scicurious

    Scientists may work to prevent bias, but they don’t always say so

    For a scientist, conducting a scientific study is walking into a minefield of potential biases that could detonate all over the results. Are the mice in the study randomly distributed among treatment groups? Does the person evaluating an animal’s behavior know what treatment the mouse got — and thus have an expectation for the outcome? Are there enough subjects in each group to reduce the odds...

    02/28/2017 - 15:53 Science & Society
  • Science Ticker

    Saturn’s ‘Death Star’ moon may not conceal an ocean after all

    An ocean of liquid water probably doesn’t lurk beneath the icy surface of Mimas, Saturn’s smallest major moon, new calculations suggest. Scientists had proposed the ocean in 2014 to help explain an odd wobble in the moon’s orbit.

    Other ocean-harboring moons, such as Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus, are crisscrossed by fractures opened by strong tides that cause their oceans to...

    02/28/2017 - 14:07 Planetary Science, Oceans
  • News

    DNA may offer rapid road to Zika vaccine

    Last August, scientists injected a potential vaccine for Zika virus into a human being — just 3½ months after they had decided exactly what molecular recipe to use.

    In the world of vaccine development, 3½ months from design to injection is “warp speed,” says vaccine researcher Nelson Michael of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md. Clinical trials can take...

    02/28/2017 - 07:00 Health, Clinical Trials
  • News

    Bacteria genes offer new strategy for sterilizing mosquitoes

    A pair of bacterial genes may enable genetic engineering strategies for curbing populations of virus-transmitting mosquitoes.

    Bacteria that make the insects effectively sterile have been used to reduce mosquito populations. Now, two research teams have identified genes in those bacteria that may be responsible for the sterility, the groups report online February 27 in Nature and Nature...

    02/27/2017 - 11:00 Immune Science, Genetics
  • The –est

    Black hole enjoys fantastically long stellar feast

    Black holes are speed eaters, usually scarfing down a star in less than a year. But a supermassive black hole in a galaxy about 1.8 billion light-years away has been gorging on a single star for more than 10 years – longer than any other observed supermassive black hole meal.

    Astronomers detected the extraordinary feast in X-ray images from ESA’s XMM-Newton spacecraft and NASA’s...

    02/27/2017 - 09:00 Astronomy
  • Wild Things

    Most fish turned into fishmeal are species that we could be eating

    A person growing up in Peru in the 1970s or 1980s probably didn’t eat anchoveta, the local species of anchovies. The stinky, oily fish was a food fit only for animals or the very poor. The anchoveta fishery may have been (and still is, in many years) the world’s largest, but it wasn’t one that put food on the table.

    For thousands of years, though, anchoveta fed the people of Peru. It was...

    02/27/2017 - 07:00 Sustainability, Oceans, Animals
  • On the Scene

    The stories of supernova 1987A, as told by Science News

    The planning for our supernova special issue began months ago. In one early meeting, astronomy writer Christopher Crockett lit up as he told the story of the night supernova 1987A was discovered. The account has all the ingredients of a blockbuster. There’s a struggle (with an observatory door), the element of surprise (an unexpected burst on a photographic plate), disbelief (by our...

    02/24/2017 - 11:51