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  • News

    A flexible bone that helps mammals chew dates back to the Jurassic Period

    Chew on this: Millions of years before the emergence of true mammals, an early ancestor had a tiny, saddle-shaped bone connected to the jaw that was thought to belong to mammals alone. That bone, scientists say, helps all mammals chew and swallow, and ultimately was one secret to our success, enabling the spread into various ecological niches. 

    Microdocodon gracilis, a shrew-sized mammal...

    07/18/2019 - 14:00 Paleontology
  • News in Brief

    A deadly fungus gives ‘zombie’ ants a case of lockjaw

    Fungus-infected “zombie” ants are known to scale a plant, sink their jaws into a leaf or twig and wait to die while the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungi feast on the insects’ bodies. Eventually, a fungal stalk shoots out of the ant’s head and releases spores that rain down and infect more ants below.

    The carpenter ants’ part in this nightmare may seem dictated by mind control, but the...

    07/17/2019 - 18:00 Animals, Fungi, Ecology
  • Science Stats

    Planting trees could buy more time to fight climate change than thought

    A whopping new estimate of the power of planting trees could rearrange to-do lists for fighting climate change. 

    Planting trees on 0.9 billion hectares of land could trap about two-thirds the amount of carbon released by human activities since the start of the Industrial Revolution, a new study finds. The planet has that much tree-friendly land available for use. Without knocking down...

    07/17/2019 - 09:02 Ecology, Plants, Climate
  • News

    This gene may help worms live longer, but not healthier

    Long life and good health don’t always go hand in hand. 

    A gene that lengthens nematode worms’ lives and is necessary for reproduction also makes the worms more susceptible to infection and stress, researchers report July 17 in Nature Communications. That’s unusual; longevity-promoting genes generally help organisms deal with stress, says Arjumand Ghazi, a geneticist who studies aging at...

    07/17/2019 - 05:00 Genetics, Animals
  • News

    Spraying bats with ‘good’ bacteria may combat deadly white nose syndrome

    A one-time spritz with a solution of beneficial bacteria may help bats infected with white nose syndrome survive the deadly disease.

    Boosting the amount of naturally antifungal Pseudomonas fluorescens bacteria that are already present on many bats’ skin allowed nearly half of the animals to live through winter, compared with only 8 percent surviving in an untreated group, a small study...

    07/15/2019 - 09:00 Conservation, Animals, Fungi
  • News in Brief

    Southern right whale moms and calves may whisper to evade orcas

    Whales are known for belting out sounds in the deep. But they may also whisper. 

    Southern right whale moms steer their calves to shallow waters, where newborns are less likely to be picked off by an orca. There, crashing waves mask the occasional quiet calls that the pairs make. That may help the whales stick together without broadcasting their location to predators, researchers report...

    07/11/2019 - 11:00 Animals, Evolution, Oceans
  • News in Brief

    An ancient bird found encased in amber had a bizarrely long toe

    There once was a little bird, smaller than a sparrow, that lived about 99 million years ago. And it had a freakishly long toe.

    Researchers found the ancient bird’s right leg and foot preserved in a chunk of amber. Its third digit is 9.8 millimeters long, about 41 percent longer than its second-longest digit — and 20 percent longer than its entire lower leg. This foot morphology is unique...

    07/11/2019 - 11:00 Paleontology
  • News

    Both fish and humans have REM-like sleep

    No one should have to sleep with the fishes, but new research on zebrafish suggests that we sleep like them.

    Sleeping zebrafish have brain activity similar to both deep slow-wave sleep and rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep that’s found in mammals, researchers report July 10 in Nature. And the team may have tracked down the cells that kick off REM sleep.

    The findings suggest that...

    07/10/2019 - 13:38 Neuroscience, Physiology, Animals
  • News

    Ground beetle genitals have the genetic ability to get strange. They don’t

    A new peek at the genetics of beetle genitals reveals the underpinnings of a battle of the sexes.

    When mating, males of Japan’s flightless Carabus beetles insert a chitin-covered appendage that, once inside a female, pops out a plump sperm-delivery tube as well as a side projection called a copulatory piece. That piece doesn’t deliver any sperm, but steadies the alignment by fitting just...

    07/08/2019 - 08:00 Animals, Evolution, Genetics
  • Feature

    Moonlight shapes how some animals move, grow and even sing

    Crowds of people gather to watch an evening spectacle on beaches in Southern California: Twice a month, typically from March through August, the sand becomes carpeted with hundreds or thousands of California grunion. Writhing, flopping, silvery sardine look-alikes lunge as far onto shore as possible. As the female fish dig their tails into the sand and release eggs, males wrap around females...

    07/08/2019 - 06:00 Ecology, Animals, Astronomy