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  • It's Alive

    Coconut crab pinches like a lion, eats like a dumpster diver

    A big coconut crab snaps its outsized left claw as hard as a lion can bite, new measurements suggest. So what does a land crab the size of a small house cat do with all that pinch power?

    For starters, it protests having its claw-force measured, says Shin-ichiro Oka of the Okinawa Churashima Foundation in Motobu, Japan. “The coconut crab is very shy,” he says. It doesn’t attack people...

    02/21/2017 - 07:00 Animals, Ecology, Biophysics
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Cannibalism’ chronicles grisly science of eating your own

    CannibalismBill SchuttAlgonquin Books, $26.95

    Until recently, researchers thought cannibalism took place only among a few species in the animal kingdom and only under extraordinary circumstances. But as zoologist Bill Schutt chronicles in Cannibalism, plenty of creatures inhabit their own version of a dog-eat-dog world.

    Over the last few decades, scientists have observed...

    02/05/2017 - 08:00 Animals, Anthropology
  • Feature

    With dinosaurs out of the way, mammals had a chance to thrive

    For dinosaurs, the end of the world began in fire.

    The space rock that stamped a Vermont-sized crater into the Earth 66 million years ago packed a powerful punch. Any animal living within about a thousand miles of the impact zone was probably vaporized, says paleontologist Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

    “Everything would have been toast.”

    But...

    01/25/2017 - 14:30 Paleontology, Evolution, Animals
  • News

    It takes guts for a sea spider to pump blood

    NEW ORLEANS — A newfound way of delivering oxygen in animal circulatory systems depends mostly on food sloshing back and forth in the guts.

    This discovery came in sea spiders, or pycnogonids, which can look like legs in search of a body. Their spookily long legs hold stretches of digestive tract, which wouldn’t fit inside the creatures’ scrap of an abdomen. Waves of contraction sweeping...

    01/11/2017 - 16:46 Animals, Physiology
  • Feature

    Better batteries charge forward

    Everybody wants more juice from their batteries. Smartphones and laptops always need recharging. Electric car drivers must carefully plan their routes to avoid being stranded far from a charging station. Anyone who struggles with a tangle of chargers every night would prefer a battery that can last for weeks or months.

    For researchers who specialize in batteries, though, the drive for a...

    01/09/2017 - 17:50 Chemistry
  • 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
  • How Bizarre

    These acorn worms have a head for swimming

    Certain marine worms spend their larval phase as little more than a tiny, transparent “swimming head.” A new study explores the genes involved in that headfirst approach to life.

    A mud flat in Morro Bay, Calif., is the only known place where this one species of acorn worm, Schizocardium californicum, is found. After digging up the creatures, Paul Gonzalez, an evolutionary developmental...

    01/03/2017 - 10:00 Animals
  • News in Brief

    Baby starfish on the hunt whip up whirlpools

    A baby starfish scoops up snacks by spinning miniature whirlpools. These vortices draw in tasty algae so the larva can slurp them up, scientists from Stanford University report December 19 in Nature Physics.

    Before starfish take on their familiar shape, they swim the ocean as millimeter-sized larvae. They use hairlike appendages called cilia to paddle. The larvae also adjust the...

    12/23/2016 - 12:00 Biophysics
  • 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
  • Science & the Public

    You’ve probably been tricked by fake news and don’t know it

    If you spent Thanksgiving trying in vain to convince relatives that the Pope didn’t really endorse Donald Trump or that Hillary Clinton didn’t sell weapons to ISIS, fake news has already weaseled its way into your brain.

    Those “stories” and other falsified news outperformed much of the real news on Facebook before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And on Twitter, an analysis by...

    12/04/2016 - 06:00 Psychology, Science & Society