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  • News in Brief

    A marine parasite’s mitochondria lack DNA but still churn out energy

    One parasite that feeds on algae is so voracious that it even stole its own mitochondria’s DNA.

    Mitochondria — the energy-generating parts of cells — of the parasitic plankton Amoebophyra ceratii seem to have transferred all of their DNA to the cell’s nucleus, researchers report April 24 in Science Advances. The discovery is the first time that scientists have found an oxygen-using...

    04/24/2019 - 14:52 Genetics, Microbes
  • Science Visualized

    See beautiful fossils from top Cambrian sites around the world

    For most of the nearly 3.5 billion years of documented life on Earth, creatures were simple, dominated by organisms such as bacteria, algae and fungi (SN: 10/13/18, p. 10).

    Then, beginning about 541 million years ago, life quickly diversified into an array of new, complex forms. This flourishing, called the Cambrian explosion, took place within about 25 million years. Fossils from the...

    04/24/2019 - 07:00 Evolution
  • The Science Life

    A scientist used chalk in a box to show that bats use sunsets to migrate

    When it comes to migration science, birds rule. Although many mammals — antelopes, whales, bats — migrate, too, scientists know far less about how those animals do it. But a new device, invented by animal navigation researcher Oliver Lindecke, could open a new way to test how far-ranging bats find their way.

    Lindecke, of Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany, has...

    04/19/2019 - 08:00 Animals
  • It's Alive

    Parenting chores cut into how much these bird dads fool around

    The extreme dads of the bird world do all the work raising chicks while females fight intruders. The result: Male black coucals don’t sleep around as much when busy parenting.

    On occasion, a male black coucal (Centropus grillii) slips over to another male’s nest to sire a chick. The demands of incubating eggs, however, reduce a male’s excursions about 17 percent, on average, compared...

    04/17/2019 - 08:00 Animals, Evolution
  • Feature

    Climate change made the Arctic greener. Now parts of it are turning brown.

    The Chugach people of southern Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula have picked berries for generations. Tart blueberries and sweet, raspberry-like salmonberries — an Alaska favorite — are baked into pies and boiled into jams. But in the summer of 2009, the bushes stayed brown and the berries never came. 

    For three more years, harvests failed. “It hit the communities very hard,” says Nathan Lojewski...

    04/11/2019 - 07:00 Climate, Ecosystems, Plants
  • News in Brief

    Peruvian fossils yield a four-legged otterlike whale with hooves

    An ancient four-legged whale walked across land on hooved toes and swam in the sea like an otter.

    The newly discovered species turned up in 2011 in a cache of fossilized bones in Playa Media Luna, a dry coastal area of Peru. Jawbones and teeth pegged it as an ancient cetacean, a member of the whale family. And more bones followed.

    “We were definitely surprised to find this type of...

    04/05/2019 - 15:22 Paleontology, Evolution
  • News in Brief

    Testing mosquito pee could help track the spread of diseases

    There are no teensy cups. But a urine test for wild mosquitoes has for the first time proved it can give an early warning that local pests are spreading diseases.

    Mosquito traps remodeled with a pee-collecting card picked up telltale genetic traces of West Nile and two other worrisome viruses circulating in the wild, researchers in Australia report April 4 in the Journal of Medical...

    04/05/2019 - 08:00 Health, Genetics, Animals
  • News

    How emus and ostriches lost the ability to fly

    Evolutionary tweaks to DNA that bosses genes around may have grounded some birds. 

    New genetic analyses show that mutations in regulatory DNA caused ratite birds to lose the ability to fly up to five separate times over their evolution, researchers report in the April 5 Science. Ratites include emus, ostriches, kiwis, rheas, cassowaries, tinamous and extinct moa and elephant birds. Only...

    04/04/2019 - 14:05 Evolution, Genetics, Molecular Evolution
  • News in Brief

    Cats recognize their own names

    Whether practical, dramatical or pragmatical, domestic cats appear to recognize the familiar sound of their own names and can distinguish them from other words, researchers report April 4 in Scientific Reports.

    While dog responses to human behavior and speech have received much attention (SN: 10/1/16, p. 11), researchers are just scratching the surface of human-cat interactions. Research...

    04/04/2019 - 09:00 Animals
  • News

    A major crop pest can make tomato plants lie to their neighbors

    Don’t blame the tomato. Tiny pests called silverleaf whiteflies can make a tomato plant spread deceptive scents that leave its neighbors vulnerable to attach.

    Sap-sucking Bemisia tabaci, an invasive menace to a wide range of crops, are definitely insects. Yet when they attack a tomato plant, prompting a silent shriek of scents, the plant starts smelling as if bacteria or fungi have...

    04/04/2019 - 06:00 Plants, Animals, Agriculture