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  • Wild Things

    How bears engineer Japanese forests

    If you were to look up when walking through a forest in Japan, you might see “Kuma-dana,” or “bear shelves,” high in the trees. These patches of broken branches and dead leaves are created by Japanese black bears when they climb high to find fruit. That’s why climbing a tree...

    07/31/2015 - 13:00 Animals, Ecology
  • Growth Curve

    Antibiotics early in life may have lingering effects

    A few months back, two puffy, red eyes full of goop landed my toddler in the doctor’s office, where an exam also turned up two ear infections. This double-eye, double-ear whammy led to her first dose of antibiotics, post haste.

    I was tremendously thankful for something that might make her feel better. But as she began slurping down her bubble gum-flavored medicine after breakfast, I...

    07/31/2015 - 11:17 Microbes, Human Development, Health
  • News in Brief

    Where salamanders should be very afraid

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    A salamander-killing fungus hitchhiking via the international live-animal trade may prove especially disastrous if it invades three regions of North America.  

    Biologists haven’t reported the deadly fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or Bsal, loose on the continent yet,...

    07/30/2015 - 14:27 Animals, Conservation, Fungi
  • News

    Caterpillar treats and tricks ants by oozing spiked juice

    Beware the caterpillar offering a juicy treat. Sips tweak ant brain chemistry, lulling the insects into neglecting their own colony in favor of hanging around the source of the marvelous droplets.

    Effects on the brain help Narathura japonica caterpillars recruit a corps of ant bodyguards, says chemical ecologist Masaru K. Hojo of Kobe University in Japan. In lab tests, ants...

    07/30/2015 - 12:07 Animals, Neuroscience, Ecology
  • The Name Game

    Wolves in jackals’ clothing

    Some canids in Africa could bristle at being called jackals. Using DNA evidence, scientists have built a case that African golden jackals deserve a name change.

    Canids known as golden jackals (Canis aureus) roam Eurasia and Africa. The African and Eurasian animals closely resemble each other, but their looks are deceiving. The two are actually separate species, Klaus-Peter...

    07/30/2015 - 12:07 Genetics, Animals, Evolution
  • Editor's Note

    Encountering an unexpected Pluto and life's complexity

    By her own estimate, Susan Milius has considered writing about the downfall of biological kingdoms for some 10 years. That long contemplation made it somewhat difficult to pare all the material down to a...

    07/29/2015 - 15:27 Evolution, Planetary Science
  • Feature

    The tree of life gets a makeover

    The tree of life might seem like a stable design, appropriate for indelible ink. Plenty of people think so. An Internet search for “phylogenetic tattoos” turns up some showy skin art.

    But the branches are shifting. Since a radial diagram based on 1990s genetics inspired a rush for tree-of-life tattoos, technical diagrams of life’s ancestral connections have been redrawn. And the...

    07/29/2015 - 15:00 Evolution, Microbes, Genetics
  • Science Visualized

    Encased algae create kaleidoscope of color

    Under a microscope, carefully arranged diatoms form a dazzling display.

    Diatoms are single-celled algae (in the stramenopile supergroup) that live in sunny, wet habitats. The organisms come in many shapes and sport natural pigments of green, gold and brown. To complete their look, diatoms extract silica, a mineral used in glass, from the water and erect intricate outer skeletons. The...

    07/28/2015 - 17:14 Ecology, Oceans
  • Wild Things

    On the importance of elephant poop

    In the last century or so, Asian elephants have lost some 95 percent of their habitat and 90 percent of their population, and there are now fewer than 50,000 Elphas maximus elephants. One consequence of the loss is that some plant species are losing a key seed disperser. Elephants eat the plant’s fruit and defecate the seeds,...

    07/28/2015 - 16:57 Animals, Plants
  • It's Alive

    Toddler seahorses are bumbling and adorable

    Newborn seahorses look like their parents. They already have the power for beyond-fast strikes at prey. And their tails end with a miniature up-curl like a grown-up’s prehensile marvel. But they’re babies, and they bumble.

    That’s the impression of evolutionary morphologist Dominique Adriaens, who has watched several Hippocampus species born in his lab at Ghent University in...

    07/28/2015 - 14:14 Animals, Biophysics, Evolution