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  • News

    Shy fish no bigger than a pinkie provide much of the food in coral reefs

    Nervous little fishes that divers rarely notice could be unexpectedly important to coral reefs. A new study finds that nearly 60 percent of the fish flesh that feeds bigger fishes and other predators on a reef comes from tiny fishes that stick close to crevices and other hiding places.

    These tiny species, called cryptobenthic fishes, may not look as if they amount to much among all the...

    05/24/2019 - 13:46 Animals, Ecology
  • News

    Some plants use hairy roots and acid to access nutrients in rock

    No soil? No problem. Some herbaceous shrubs living on rocky mountains in Brazil use roots equipped with fine hairs and acids to dissolve rocks and extract the key nutrient phosphorus. The discovery, published in the May Functional Ecology, helps explain how a variety of plants can survive in impoverished environments.

    “While most people tend to view nutrient-poor environments as less...

    05/22/2019 - 07:00 Plants, Ecology
  • Wild Things

    Tiger sharks feast on migratory birds that fall out of the sky

    It all started when a small tiger shark barfed up a bunch of feathers.

    Marcus Drymon, a fisheries ecologist at Mississippi State University in Biloxi, had been catching sharks as part of a long-term shark monitoring program in the north-central Gulf of Mexico. Typically, a shark spent only about 90 seconds out of the water, enough time for scientists to weigh and tag it before releasing...

    05/21/2019 - 12:00 Animals, Ecology
  • News in Brief

    Signs of red pigment were spotted in a fossil for the first time

    The 3-million-year-old mouse wore red.

    For the first time, chemical traces of red pigment have been detected in a fossil, scientists say.

    Using a technique called X-ray spectroscopy, researchers led by paleontologist Phillip Manning at the University of Manchester in England searched the fossil for a chemical signature associated with pheomelanin, the pigment responsible for...

    05/21/2019 - 05:00 Paleontology
  • News

    Bad moods could be contagious among ravens

    Here’s a downer: Pessimism seems contagious among ravens. But positivity? Not so much.

    When ravens saw fellow birds’ responses to a disliked food, but not the food itself, their interest in their own food options waned, researchers report May 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study suggests that the birds pick up on and even share negative emotions, the...

    05/20/2019 - 17:37 Animals, Psychology
  • News

    This early sauropod went from walking on four legs to two as it grew

    Most long-necked sauropods lumbered on four legs all their lives to support their titanic bulk. But an early relative of such behemoths as Brachiosaurus made the unusual transition from walking on four legs to two as it grew, a new study shows.

    Diminutive at hatching, Mussaurus patagonicus (which means “mouse lizard”) began life walking on all fours. But by the time the 200-million-year-...

    05/20/2019 - 05:00 Paleontology, Evolution
  • News

    How allergens in pollen help plants do more than make you sneeze

    “Are plants trying to kill us?” allergy sufferers often ask Deborah Devis.

    A plant molecular geneticist at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus in Australia, Devis should know the answer better than most. She is chugging through the last few months of a Ph.D. that involves predicting how grasses use pollen proteins that make people sneeze, wheeze and weep for days on end.

    What...

    05/19/2019 - 08:00 Health, Plants, Immune Science
  • News

    Vaccines may help bats fight white nose syndrome

    Oral vaccines could give wild bats a better chance at surviving white nose syndrome, the fungal disease that has ravaged bat colonies in North America. In lab tests conducted on captured little brown bats, vaccination led to fewer infected bats developing lesions and more of the bats surviving, researchers report May 1 in Scientific Reports.

    White nose syndrome, caused by the fungus...

    05/17/2019 - 07:00 Animals, Biomedicine
  • News in Brief

    Some dog breeds may have trouble breathing because of a mutated gene

    Dogs with flat faces aren’t alone in their struggle to breathe. It turns out that Norwich terriers can develop the same wheezing — caused not by the shape of their snouts, but possibly by a wayward gene. 

    DNA from 401 Norwich terriers revealed that those suffering a respiratory tract disorder shared the same variant of gene ADAMTS3 that’s associated with swelling around airways. Nearly a...

    05/16/2019 - 14:00 Animals, Genetics
  • News

    Bloodthirsty bedbugs have feasted on prey for 100 million years

    The first bedbug infestations may have occurred in the beds of Cretaceous critters.

    Scientists previously assumed the bloodsuckers’ first hosts were bats. But a new genetic analysis of 34 bedbug species reveals that bedbugs appeared 30 million to 50 million years before the nocturnal mammals, says Michael Siva-Jothy, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sheffield in England,...

    05/16/2019 - 13:47 Molecular Evolution, Animals