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  • News

    Hyenas roamed the Arctic during the last ice age

    Modern hyenas stalk the savannas of Asia and Africa, but the animals’ ancient relatives may have had snowier stomping grounds: the Arctic. Two fossilized teeth, collected in Canada in the 1970s, confirm a long-held hunch that ancient hyenas ventured into North America via the Bering land bridge, scientists say.

    The teeth belonged to members of the extinct genus Chasmaporthetes, also...

    06/18/2019 - 06:00 Paleontology, Animals, Ecology
  • News in Brief

    Bats are the main cause of rare rabies deaths in the U.S.

    In the United States, the landscape of rabies transmission has shifted over the last 70 years. 

    Following a massive campaign to vaccinate dogs starting in 1947, rabies deaths linked to dog bites and scratches have dropped, and those from wild animals now carry a greater share of the blame. Since 1960, bats have caused 62, or roughly 70 percent, of the 89 deaths from rabies exposure that...

    06/12/2019 - 13:14 Animals, Health
  • News

    Worms lure two new species of hopping rats out of obscurity

    Two newfound species of shrew-rat have joined a lengthy list of endemic mammals on Luzon, the largest island in the Philippine archipelago and a hotbed of biodiversity. Researchers made their discovery thanks to wriggling worms and a stroke of luck, and hope the finding might help sway legislators to protect the vulnerable ecosystem before it’s too late (SN: 6/8/19, p. 5).     

    The new...

    06/06/2019 - 10:00 Animals, Conservation, Ecology
  • News in Brief

    Tiny plastic debris is accumulating far beneath the ocean surface

    Vast swathes of litter floating on the ocean, like the great Pacific garbage patch, may just be the tip of the trash heap.

    Divers have reportedly spotted plastic bags and candy wrappers as deep as the Mariana Trench. Now, a survey of microplastics at various depths off the coast of California suggests that this debris is most common several hundred meters below the surface, scientists...

    06/06/2019 - 09:00 Oceans, Pollution, Animals
  • News in Brief

    Tiny structures in dragonfish teeth turn them into invisible daggers

    In the deep sea, dragonfish lure smaller fish near their gaping jaws with beardlike attachments capped with a light. But the teeth of the pencil-sized predators don’t gleam in that glow.

    Instead, dragonfish teeth are transparent and hard to see, thanks to nanoscale structures that reduce the amount of light scattered by the teeth, researchers report June 5 in Matter.

    The clear...

    06/05/2019 - 11:00 Animals, Biophysics, Evolution
  • News in Brief

    Fossils reveal saber-toothed cats may have pierced rivals’ skulls

    Saber-toothed cats may sometimes have wielded their formidable canine teeth as deadly weapons to puncture the skulls of rival cats.

    It was already suspected that Smilodon cats used their huge canines to take down prey, perhaps by ripping out the prey’s throat (SN: 3/30/19, p. 20). But some researchers argued that the daggerlike teeth, which could grow up to 28 centimeters long in the...

    05/31/2019 - 07:00 Paleontology, Animals
  • Letters to the Editor

    Questions about solar storms, slingshot spiders and more reader feedback

    Blast from the past

    Ice core and tree ring data indicate that nearly 3,000 years ago, Earth was blasted with one of the strongest solar storms ever to pummel the planet, Carolyn Gramling reported in “One of the strongest known solar storms blasted Earth in 660 B.C.” (SN: 4/13/19, p. 15).

    Reddit user diffcalculus wondered what kind of damage such a storm would cause today.

    Earth...

    05/29/2019 - 16:05 Astronomy, Robotics, Animals
  • News in Brief

    A 50-million-year-old fossil captures a swimming school of fish

    Fossilized fish captured mid-swim offer a rare glimpse into extinct animal behavior — and suggest that swimming in schools developed at least 50 million years ago.

    A limestone shale slab from the Eocene Epoch reveals that extinct, thimble-sized fish called Erismatopterus levatus may have coordinated their motion similar to how fish in groups move today, researchers report May 29 in...

    05/28/2019 - 19:05 Animals, Evolution, Paleontology
  • 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
  • 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