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  • 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

    Baby seahorses’ toddler phase

    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
  • Screentime

    Help ornithologists develop bird photo ID tool

    If you have a terrific picture of a Tennessee warbler, you can help the Cornell Lab of Ornithology improve its Merlin Bird Photo ID program. Upload your picture and put dots on the beak, eye and tail tip. Then, using patterns in the data, Merlin attempts to identify the bird. The aim is to help Cornell create a mobile device tool for...

    07/28/2015 - 07:00 Animals, Technology
  • News in Brief

    Antibody that fights MERS found

    By mining the immune cells of a patient that beat the MERS virus, scientists have identified a protein that could help prevent and treat the deadly disease.

    When tested in mice, the protein targeted the virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome. The protein could be used to develop vaccines or treatments to protect people from the MERS virus,...

    07/27/2015 - 15:00 Immune Science, Microbes
  • News

    Microbes’ role in truffle scents not trifling

    Truffles, the homely fungal celebrities of the culinary world, have unseen help concocting their prized — and pricey — aromas.

    Microbes that inhabit the subterranean mushrooms probably produce key chemicals that make truffles smell like truffles, according to a new analysis appearing online July 17 in Applied and...

    07/27/2015 - 13:30 Fungi, Microbes
  • News

    Laser light made inside cells

    Biologists often use lasers to probe cells. Now, for the first time, cells have returned fire.

    Harvard University researchers have created intracellular lasers by implanting microscopic beads and oil droplets into animal cells. When energized by an outside laser pulse, an implant traps and amplifies light and then emits a laser pulse of its own. “It’s a wonderful way of coupling optics...

    07/27/2015 - 11:00 Biophysics, Cells, Microbiology
  • Reviews & Previews

    Fossils illustrate evolution of life

    The Story of Life in 25 Fossils
    Donald R. Prothero...

    07/26/2015 - 09:00 Paleontology, Animals