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  • News

    Bones make hormones that communicate with the brain and other organs

    Long typecast as the strong silent type, bones are speaking up.

    In addition to providing structural support, the skeleton is a versatile conversationalist. Bones make hormones that chat with other organs and tissues, including the brain, kidneys and pancreas, experiments in mice have shown.

    “The bone, which was considered a dead organ, has really become a gland almost,” says Beate...

    06/21/2017 - 15:00 Health, Biomedicine, Cells
  • News

    Orangutans take motherhood to extremes, nursing young for more than eight years

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    The supermoms of the mammal world are big, shy redheads. Studying growth layers in orangutan teeth shows that mothers can nurse their youngsters for eight-plus years, a record for wild mammals.  

    Teeth from a museum specimen of a young Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) don’t show signs of weaning until 8.1 years of age. And a Sumatran orangutan (P. abelii) was still...

    05/17/2017 - 14:46 Animals, Anthropology
  • Feature

    Chaco Canyon’s ancient civilization continues to puzzle

    Chaco Canyon is a land of extremes. Summer heat scorches the desert canyon, which is sandwiched between sandstone cliffs nearly two kilometers above sea level in New Mexico’s northwestern corner. Bitter cold sweeps in for winter. Temperatures can swing as many as 28 degrees Celsius during the course of a day. Through it all, Chaco Canyon maintains a desolate beauty and a craggy pride as home...

    05/17/2017 - 07:00 Archaeology, Anthropology
  • Feature

    Yes, statins protect hearts. But critics question their expanding use

    Cholesterol is so important to life that practically every human cell makes it. Cells use the compound to keep their membranes porous and springy, and to produce hormones and other vital substances. The body can make all the cholesterol it needs, but Americans tend to have a surplus, thanks in large part to too little exercise and too much meat, cheese and grease. Fifty years ago, researchers...

    05/03/2017 - 07:00 Health, Biomedicine
  • It's Alive

    How one enslaving wasp eats through another

    Parasites can drive their hosts to do weird, dumb things. But in certain oak trees, the parasites themselves get played.

    “Creepy and awesome,” says Kelly Weinersmith of Rice University in Houston, who has helped reveal a Russian doll of nested parasitisms.

    The saga begins when two majestic live oak species in the southeastern United States send out new shoots, and female crypt gall...

    03/16/2017 - 12:00 Animals, Ecology, Plants
  • 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
  • It's Alive

    Meat-eating pitcher plants raise deathtraps to an art

    Tricking some bug into drowning takes finesse, especially for a hungry meat eater with no brain, eyes or moving parts. Yet California pitcher plants are very good at it.

    Growing where deposits of the mineral serpentine would kill most other plants, Darlingtonia californica survives in low-nutrient soil by being “very meat dependent,” says David Armitage of the University of Notre Dame in...

    01/06/2017 - 07:00 Plants, Ecology, Evolution
  • Feature

    Year in review: Sea ice loss will shake up ecosystems

    In a better world, it would be the big news of the year just to report that Arctic sea ice shrank to 4.14 million square kilometers this summer, well below the 1981–2010 average of 6.22 million square kilometers (SN Online: 9/19/16). But in this world of changing climate, extreme summer ice loss has become almost expected. More novel in 2016 were glimpses of the complex biological consequences...

    12/14/2016 - 07:37 Climate, Animals, Plants
  • Feature

    For robots, artificial intelligence gets physical

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    In a high-ceilinged laboratory at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., a gleaming white robot stitches up pig intestines.

    The thin pink tissue dangles like a deflated balloon from a sturdy plastic loop. Two bulky cameras watch from above as the bot weaves green thread in and out, slowly sewing together two sections. Like an experienced human surgeon...

    11/02/2016 - 17:16 Robotics, Science & Society
  • News

    Eels may not take most direct route in epic ocean-crossing spawning runs

    Storied spawning runs of European eels may not be an en masse push to a mating site. Roundabout routes may delay many eels so much that they miss the big event and have to wait to mate until next season.

    The most extensive reconstructions of individual eel journeys challenge an assumption that Europe’s freshwater eels (Anguilla anguilla) migrate and spawn as a group, says behavioral...

    10/05/2016 - 14:08 Animals, Conservation