In male mice, the same brain cells influence both aggressive and sexual behaviours, but for the first time we now know that’s not the case for females… Read the rest
The Ig Nobels honor the most hilarious of serious scientific work. This year prizes went to cats that flow, clueless twins, and emotionally manipulative crocodiles… Read the rest
In 1856, three years before the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, a group of miners uncovered human fossils in a limestone cave in the Neander Valley of northern Germany — what would later be named Neanderthal 1, the first specimen to be recognized as belonging to another, archaic species of human. We have been trying to understand as much as possible about our mysterious cousins ever since. To do so, experts have consulted two major lines of evidence: the hundreds of bones and stone tools found to date, scattered from Spain and England to the Altai Mountains, and, much more recently, genomic data and inferences drawn from statistical models.
But these approaches paint strikingly different pictures of what Neanderthal populations would … Read the rest
Detail or range? Two new books offer very different approaches to the fascinating and violent world of earthquake science… Read the rest
In one species of spider, unmated females not only care for other spiders’ offspring, they allow the tiny spiderlings to devour their insides… Read the rest
We must prepare for the bigger storms to come, but if planners get it wrong, their efforts to protect people could make future mega-disasters even worse… Read the rest
Magnitude isn’t the only demonstration of an earthquake’s power. For centuries, mysterious lights have popped up in the wake of strong quakes… Read the rest
When new species evolve, where do their viruses come from? As little more than free-ranging bundles of genetic material, viruses desperately need to hijack their hosts’ cellular machinery and resources to replicate, over and over again. Without its host, a virus is nothing.
Because of that dependence, some viruses have stuck with their hosts throughout evolution, mutating to make minor adjustments every time the host branched into a new species — a process called co-divergence. Humans and chimpanzees, for instance, have slightly different versions of the hepatitis B virus, both of which likely mutated from a version that infected their shared ancestor more than four million years ago.
The other option — cross-species transmission — occurs when a virus jumps into a completely new type of … Read the rest
The monster storm has the second strongest wind speeds ever recorded for an Atlantic hurricane, and its growth was fuelled by warming waters… Read the rest
As sea levels have risen due to climate change, uninhabited islands in Micronesia have vanished beneath the waves – but some last longer than others… Read the rest
A glut of new dams and motorways in eastern and south-eastern Europe will bring prosperity, but could mean unique flora and fauna will soon be gone for good… Read the rest
A snapshot of views on evolutionary science in the UK reveals a surprising level of scepticism. And not just on religious grounds, says Fern Elsdon-Baker… Read the rest
Bacteria have an unfortunate — and inaccurate — public image as isolated cells twiddling about on microscope slides. The more that scientists learn about bacteria, however, the more they see that this hermitlike reputation is deeply misleading, like trying to understand human behavior without referring to cities, laws or speech. “People were treating bacteria as … solitary organisms that live by themselves,” said Gürol Süel, a biophysicist at the University of California, San Diego. “In fact, most bacteria in nature appear to reside in very dense communities.”
The preferred form of community for bacteria seems to be the biofilm. On teeth, on pipes, on rocks and in the ocean, microbes glom together by the billions and build sticky organic superstructures around themselves. In these films, … Read the rest