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  • News

    A caterpillar outwits corn defenses by gorging on fattening ‘junk’ food

    Here’s the story of a caterpillar that foils gruesome violence orchestrated by corn.

    No, that’s not backward. Plants often look helpless to a human, but they fight with smells and other invisible chemistry. A growing body of evidence, for example, shows that plants under attack can waft out scents that attract help, such as tiny wasps that deal a lingering death to leaf-chewing...

    05/22/2018 - 07:00 Animals, Plants, Ecology
  • Feature

    Fighting like an animal doesn’t always mean a duel to the death

    Pick an animal.

    Choose wisely because in this fantasy you’ll transform into the creature and duel against one of your own. If you care about survival, go for the muscular, multispiked stag roaring at a rival. Never, ever pick the wingless male fig wasp. Way too dangerous.

    This advice sounds exactly wrong. But that’s because many stereotypes of animal conflict get the real biology...

    05/03/2018 - 15:05 Animals
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘The Curious Life of Krill’ is an ode to an underappreciated crustacean

    The Curious Life of Krill Stephen NicolIsland Press, $30

    Stephen Nicol is here to change your mind about krill: They’re not microscopic and they’re far from boring. The biologist is so sick of people misunderstanding his study subjects that he’s even gotten a (slightly botched) krill tattooed on his arm to help enlighten strangers.

    In The Curious Life of Krill, Nicol is taking...

    04/29/2018 - 08:00 Animals, Oceans, Ecosystems
  • News

    Masses of shrimp and krill may play a huge role in mixing oceans

    When it comes to tiny ocean swimmers, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. Ocean turbulence stirred up by multitudes of creatures such as krill can be powerful enough to extend hundreds of meters down into the deep, a new study suggests.

    Brine shrimp moving vertically in two different laboratory tanks created small eddies that aggregated into a jet roughly the size of the...

    04/18/2018 - 13:20 Oceans, Ecology
  • Feature

    Flying insects tell tales of long-distance migrations

    Every autumn, a quiet mountain pass in the Swiss Alps turns into an insect superhighway. For a couple of months, the air thickens as millions of migrating flies, moths and butterflies make their way through a narrow opening in the mountains. For Myles Menz, it’s a front-row seat to one of the greatest movements in the animal kingdom.

    Menz, an ecologist at the University of Bern in...

    04/05/2018 - 06:00 Animals, Ecology
  • News

    How obesity makes it harder to taste

    As mice plumped up on a high-fat diet, some of their taste buds vanished. This disappearing act could explain why some people with obesity seem to have a weakened sense of taste, which may compel them to eat more.

    Compared with siblings that were fed normal mouse chow, mice given high-fat meals lost about 25 percent of their taste buds over eight weeks. Buds went missing because mature...

    03/20/2018 - 14:00 Health, Nutrition
  • 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
  • Feature

    Skyrmions open a door to next-level data storage

    Like sailors and spelunkers, physicists know the power of a sturdy knot.

    Some physicists have tied their hopes for a new generation of data storage to minuscule knotlike structures called skyrmions, which can form in magnetic materials. Incredibly tiny and tough to undo, magnetic skyrmions could help feed humankind’s hunger for ever-smaller electronics.

    On traditional hard drives,...

    02/07/2018 - 15:03 Materials, Physics
  • News

    Rising CO2 in lakes could keep water fleas from raising their spiky defenses

    Rising carbon dioxide levels could leave some tiny lake dwellers defenseless. Like the oceans, some lakes are experiencing increasing levels of the greenhouse gas, a new study shows. And too much CO2 in the water may leave water fleas, an important part of many lake food webs, too sleepy to fend off predators.

    Detailed observations of lake chemistry over long periods of time are rare....

    01/11/2018 - 16:29 Climate, Ecology
  • News

    Blowflies use drool to keep their cool

    SAN FRANCISCO — Blowflies don’t sweat, but they have raised cooling by drooling to a high art.

    In hot times, sturdy, big-eyed Chrysomya megacephala flies repeatedly release — and then retract — a droplet of saliva, Denis Andrade reported January 4 at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. This process isn’t sweating. Blowfly droplets put the cooling...

    01/05/2018 - 18:04 Animals, Physiology