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  • Wild Things

    Fire ants build towers with three simple rules

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    When faced with rushing floodwaters, fire ants are known to build two types of structures. A quickly formed raft lets the insects float to safety. And once they find a branch or tree to hold on to, the ants might form a tower up to 30 ants high, with eggs, brood and queen tucked safely inside. Neither structure requires a set of plans or a foreman ant leading the construction...

    07/21/2017 - 14:54 Animals
  • News

    Resistance to CRISPR gene drives may arise easily

    A genetic-engineering tool designed to spread through a population like wildfire — eradicating disease and even whole invasive species — might be more easily thwarted than thought.

    Resistance to the tools, called CRISPR gene drives, arose at high rates in experiments with Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, researchers at Cornell University report July 20 in PLOS Genetics. Rates of...

    07/20/2017 - 16:35 Genetics, Science & Society, Animals
  • Science Ticker

    Elephant seals recognize rivals by the tempo of their calls

    The tempo of a male elephant seal’s call broadcasts his identity to rival males, a new study finds.

    Every male elephant seal has a distinct vocalization that sounds something like a sputtering lawnmower — pulses of sound in a pattern and at a pace that stays the same over time.

    At a California state park where elephant seals breed each year, researchers played different variations...

    07/20/2017 - 12:00 Animals
  • Science Ticker

    This robot grows like a plant

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    Robots are branching out. A new prototype soft robot takes inspiration from plants by growing to explore its environment.

    Vines and some fungi extend from their tips to explore their surroundings. Elliot Hawkes of the University of California in Santa Barbara and his colleagues designed a bot that works on similar principles. Its mechanical body sits inside a plastic...

    07/19/2017 - 17:26 Robotics, Plants
  • News

    These genes may be why dogs are so friendly

    DNA might reveal how dogs became man’s best friend.

    A new study shows that some of the same genes linked to the behavior of extremely social people can also make dogs friendlier. The result, published July 19 in Science Advances, suggests that dogs’ domestication may be the result of just a few genetic changes rather than hundreds or thousands of them.

    “It is great to see initial...

    07/19/2017 - 14:00 Genetics, Animals
  • News

    Dog domestication happened just once, ancient DNA study suggests

    People and pooches may have struck up a lasting friendship after just one try, a new genetic study suggests.

    New data from ancient dogs indicates that dogs became distinct from wolves between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago, researchers report July 18 in Nature Communications. Dogs then formed genetically distinct eastern and western groups 17,000 to 24,000 years ago, the researchers...

    07/18/2017 - 11:18 Genetics, Animals, Archaeology
  • News

    Water bears will survive the end of the world as we know it

    Water bears may be Earth’s last animal standing.

    These tough little buggers, also known as tardigrades, could keep calm and carry on until the sun boils Earth’s oceans away billions of years from now, according to a new study that examined water bears’ resistance to various astronomical disasters. This finding, published July 14 in Scientific Reports, suggests that complex life can be...

    07/14/2017 - 11:40 Animals, Astronomy, Astrobiology
  • News

    Ravens pass tests of planning ahead in unnatural tasks

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    Ravens have passed what may be their toughest tests yet of powers that, at least on a good day, let people and other apes plan ahead.

    Lab-dwelling common ravens (Corvus corax) in Sweden at least matched the performance of nonhuman apes and young children in peculiar tests of advanced planning ability. The birds faced such challenges as selecting a rock useless at the...

    07/13/2017 - 14:20 Animals, Neuroscience, Evolution
  • Science Ticker

    Whales feast when hatcheries release salmon

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    Humpback whales, those innovative foodies, have discovered their own pop-up restaurants.

    Migrant humpbacks returning to southeastern Alaska in spring are the first of their kind known to make routine visits to fish hatcheries releasing young salmon into the sea, says marine ecologist Ellen Chenoweth.

    The whales are “40 feet long and they’re feeding on fish that...

    07/11/2017 - 19:05 Animals, Ecology, Science & Society
  • News in Brief

    How a crop-destroying fungus mutated to infect wheat

    A wheat strain that let its guard down may have paved the way for a crop-destroying fungus to infect the species.

    About 1980, Brazilian farmers began growing a strain of wheat called Anahuac, which is suited to the country’s nonacidic soils. And that, researchers report July 7 in Science, may be when wheat started to lose an arms race with blast fungus (Pyricularia oryzae, also known as...

    07/10/2017 - 08:00 Genetics, Plants