When I was searching for ammonite fossils last year, I tended to concentrate on searching out the distinctive coiled shapes that were the shells of these once-abundant marine invertebrates. Other parts of the animal that lived inside that shell could be fossilized as well, but most of us would never notice such small bits. One of those tiny parts sometimes found in ammonite fossils is the animal’...
02/07/2014 - 08:30
Variations in rainfall and storm intensity over a broad swath of the Southern Hemisphere follow a pattern that repeats every 20 to 30 days. The pattern is the first regular atmospheric oscillation found outside the tropics and could help scientists forecast weather and climate changes in the region.Weather is notoriously chaotic; even the best forecasts are rarely accurate more than a week or two...
02/07/2014 - 14:40
As trees grow older and bigger, they bulk up faster and faster, researchers report January 15 in Nature.The findings revise scientists’ understanding of big trees’ role in stockpiling carbon drawn from the air.“This will come as a surprise for many people,” says forest ecologist Maurizio Mencuccini of the University of Edinburgh. “The...
01/15/2014 - 13:00
Reviews & Previews
Almost nothing in nature is so rare as a mass extinction. On only five occasions in Earth’s long history has a large fraction of the planet’s biodiversity disappeared in a geological instant. But, journalist Kolbert reminds us in her new book, we are well on our way to making it six.A lesser writer tackling this subject might offer up a dreary list of dead and dying species; Kolbert instead tells...
02/11/2014 - 09:03
Earth, History of Science
News in Brief
CHICAGO— Crude oil in the ocean from spills may cramp crucial electrical activity in fish, crippling the pitter-patter of piscine hearts and potentially causing death.Researchers knew that spilled oil harms heart health of embryonic fish, but didn’t understand how oil sinks tickers.Marine scientist Barbara Block of Stanford University and colleagues scooped up oil floating in the...
02/14/2014 - 11:17
Toxicology, Pollution, Oceans
News in Brief
CHICAGO – As commercial interest in mining metals and minerals from the seafloor intensify, scientists are treading water in attempts to understand how such digs might alter marine life.In the fertile waters off Namibia, for example, mining companies are exploring the potential for extracting phosphate for fertilizer. In September 2013, the Namibian government, which takes pride...
02/19/2014 - 07:29
Coral reefs are biological hotspots, valued for both their beauty and biodiversity. But there is no reef that has been left untouched by humans. Thirty percent of the world’s reefs have been completely destroyed or left severely degraded, and 60 percent are facing extinction by 2030. Just how that destruction filters through the food web, though, is bound to be complicated.For example, you might...
02/20/2014 - 15:11
Commercial bees in stressful, often unhygienic working conditions may spread their pathogens to wild pollinators, a large study suggests.These are tough times for bees, both in the wild and in colonies that commercial beekeepers and farmers manage. Several small studies have already raised the possibility that the substantial number of viruses and parasites plaguing commercial honeybees and...
02/19/2014 - 13:53
Earth Science Hawaiian volcanoes recycle rocks The slurpy orange lava erupting in Hawaii looks fresh, but it actually contains scraps of reused rock that covered the planet in its early years, according to French and U.S. scientists. * | "We find in basalts erupting in Hawaii the traces of ancient sediments," says Francis Albarede of the Ecole Normale Superieure in Lyon. These sediments...
08/14/1999 - 00:00
News in Brief
Of 68 water taps that scientists sampled across the United States, 47 percent harbored traces of Legionella pneumophila. The bacterium causes Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia and flulike Pontiac fever — collectively referred to as legionellosis.Though legionellosis is relatively rare with an estimated 8,000 to 18,000 infections annually nationwide, the vast majority of...
02/21/2014 - 11:16