Time to add even more candles to life’s birthday cake – around another 150 million of them, to be precise. Rocks from northern Canada have shown signs that life was doing its thing about 3.95 billion years ago, setting a new record for fossils while showing biology was more eager to get started on Earth
Primates such as apes, monkeys and chimpanzees can appear extraordinarily human in their responses to the world around them. They have been observed, for instance, grieving when members of their tribe die, in a surprisingly touching way. Mother primates are also known to carry around their dead babies for some time after death, although it
Five minutes in the life of a guppy in the terrible spring of 2015: You’re swimming around with your friends in a tank. You’ve been here for days. Food falls from the sky. Everything is fine. Then suddenly, you’re netted up and dropped into an alien world, all alone, just you and the glass.
We’ve all heard the terrible stories about the Great Barrier Reef, and the extensive bleaching that has occurred in recent years. But despite what some news outlets might think, the reef is not actually dead, and we still need to monitor what’s happening closely to try to stop the damage where possible. That’s why
Diploscapter pachys has a lineage that goes back about 18 million, and in all that time it seems the tiny little roundworm hasn’t cared much for doing the horizontal Hokey-Pokey. That’s quite a record, and now researchers think they know why D. pachys is such an all-star of sexual abstinence; it has amassed a rather
It was well past midnight when Michael Abrams, Claire Bedbrook and Ravi Nath crept into the Caltech lab where they were keeping their jellyfish. They didn’t bother switching on the lights, opting instead to navigate the maze of desks and equipment by the pale blue glow of their cellphones. The students hadn’t told anyone that they were
Hermit crabs are well known for their ability to turn an empty shell into protective armour, but it seems that shells aren’t the only armour around. A new species of hermit crab that shelters in solitary corals has been discovered in southern Japan. Details of the discovery, made by scientists at Kyoto University, have
In the world of ducks, there’s a lot going on under the surface. But the biggest influence on what’s down below seems to be the company they keep. Of the 10,000 or so known species of birds, ducks are in the rare minority that have actually retained their penises, which shrink and expand by as
A giant, beach ball-sized frog that lived 70 million years ago had a bite that would have been strong enough to snap up small dinosaurs. Beelzebufo ampinga was the largest frog to have ever lived – at least that we know of. But it was similar to the modern Ceratophrys frogs, and now scientists have used
It’s not easy raising kids. You bring them into this world, feed them, look after their every need, and what kind of thanks do you get? Well, in the case of velvet spiders, a mother’s pride in her brood is nightmarishly short-lived, because when food supplies run low, her crawling, many-legged children will ultimately devour
Wolves have an understanding of cause-and-effect that domesticated dogs do not – and they’re just as good as dogs at following directions given by a human. This difference in cognition may have something to do with the domestication process, according to researchers from the Wolf Science Centre at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna.
Mexico sits atop three of Earth’s largest tectonic plates – the North American plate, the Cocos Plate, and the Pacific Plate. Whenever these chunks of crust grind or butt up against one another, earthquakes happen. As a former lakebed, Mexico City is also home to soft soil that essentially acts as an amplifier for tremors,
So many new species aren’t discovered straight out of the ground, but after having been under our noses for decades. Such is the case with Arminisaurus schuberti, a newly discovered ‘sea monster’ that swam the Jurassic oceans 190 million years ago. Poor Arminisaurus had a dreadful journey. The fossilised bones were originally discovered in a
A new study has revealed that at least one dinosaur species laid eggs that were a striking blue-green colour – and that suggests the creatures were even more like birds than we previously thought. Analysis of a fossilised dinosaur nest has now confirmed the egg shells found within weren’t discoloured by fossilisation, but were actually
Scientists have discovered a small octopus city – dubbed Octlantis – a find that suggests members of the gloomy octopus species (Octopus tetricus) are perhaps not the isolated and solitary creatures we thought they were. Octlantis features dens made out of piles of sand and shells, and is home to up to 15 of the cephalopods,
How animals evolved on Earth is somewhat murky. We know that most major animal phyla we see today appeared during the Cambrian explosion 541 million years ago – but before that, the fossil record is patchy. But that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. Before the Cambrian explosion, there lived a group of strange lifeforms known collectively
A brave little koala has survived a perilous 16-kilometre (10-mile) journey clinging to the axle of a four-wheel-drive. The marsupial is believed to have crawled into the car’s wheelwell unbeknownst to the driver, who then started driving through the winding terrain of the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. Other drivers had flagged him, but he
The snow leopard’s conservation status just got knocked down a notch, and the big cat is now officially no longer endangered. On the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, the snow leopard is now considered Vulnerable – still under threat, just not quite as dire as the Endangered status.
Benjamin Franklin may or may not have flown a kite through lightning. But British scientist Michael Faraday, a 19th-century pioneer in electromagnetism, definitely grabbed an electric eel. He wrote in awe of animals that gave the “same concussion to the living system as the electrical machine, the voltaic battery and the thunderstorm”. Faraday decided
It’s tough being different – especially when you’re an 8-year-old who absolutely loves bugs and brings them to school as friends. Sophia Spencer’s fascination with insects didn’t go down well with her peers until a crowd of professional entomologists stepped in for support. Now she has just become the proud junior author of a paper
After high winds and heavy rains brought by Hurricane Harvey, a mysterious sea creature with fangs and no face washed up on the shoreline in southwest Texas – giving the Internet a challenging task: to identify it. Preeti Desai, social media manager at the National Audubon Society, posted pictures of the critter earlier this month
Beneath the Antarctic ice, Weddell seals play in underwater caverns. Resplendent quetzals deliver food to their young in a Costa Rican cloud forest. And an elephant gazes at a photographer as her herd quenches its thirst by the edge of a waterhole. Even as hurricanes and wildfires wreak havoc on much of the globe, the
Peacock spiders keep dancing their way into our hearts. They’re tiny, they’re colourful, they’re fluffy and they have killer moves. And more are being discovered all the time, thanks in large part to zoologist Jurgen Otto. During the day, Otto works for the Department of Agriculture as an acarologist, specialising in mites and ticks.
A new set of fossils dating back more than half a billion years has been uncovered by scientists: left behind by the earliest forms of complex life on Earth, these fossils could contain clues about the very beginnings of evolution on our planet. These are actually what’s known as trace fossils – the tracks and burrows
In a study that shows just how cool giraffes can get, researchers have tested a hypothesis that the giraffe’s long neck actually helps regulate their body temperature. At up to 5.8 metres tall (19 feet), giraffes are the tallest animal on land, thanks to their unusually long necks. But although their necks can measure up
Scientists have identified the genomes of close to 8,000 microorganisms from samples taken out in the field – and around a third of them are distinct from any life forms known to science, adding a crazy 20 new branches to our tree of microscopic life. Microorganisms fall into two categories, either bacteria or archaea, and make up the vast majority
Scientists have discovered a new type of ‘hell ant’ – a species with terrifying spiky mouthparts reinforced with metal and used for drinking the blood of its enemies. Thankfully, these insects have been extinct for a while, but a 98-million-year-old amber specimen has now revealed stunning detail of the prehistoric species, including a curious metal
Zoo Miami isn’t evacuating its animals. Instead, it has safely secured them, hunkering down to weather Hurricane Irma. Many of them have been temporarily relocated to a reinforced building on the zoo site, where they will stay until the hurricane – which made landfall Sunday and is currently battering the state’s south – has passed.
As a meteorologist, there are things you learn in textbooks that you may never see in person. You know they happen theoretically, but the chances of seeing the most extraordinary weather phenomena are slim to none. This is one of those things – a hurricane strong enough to change the shape of an ocean.
Remember when crows were the big deal among tool-building animals? That’s so last decade. Parrots are where it’s all at now in clever avian construction. More precisely, Goffin’s cockatoo is the latest bird to be declared a master engineer by biologists. Which comes as a bit of a surprise to researchers – unlike the crow,
A world-famous butterfly migration along the west coast of the US has reduced to a relative trickle in recent decades, indicating this amazing natural phenomenon could soon be a thing of the past. The decline in western monarch populations has been evident since the 1980s. Now a new study is calling it; the end is
We’ve never seen the CRISPR gene-editing tool used like this before. Scientists have turned a Japanese garden plant from violet to white by disrupting a single gene – yet more evidence of the huge potential that CRISPR holds. The modified flower is the Japanese morning glory plant (the Ipomoea nil or Pharbitis nil), with researchers
Scientists have never fully understood what drives whole pods of whales to beach themselves in mass strandings along the world’s coastlines, but it’s possible the impetus may not originate on Earth. The same phenomenon that produces spellbinding aurorae like the northern lights could also be triggering mass whale strandings, with powerful solar storms causing disruptions
Do pack animals just follow their leader? Or if not, how do they reach a consensus? According to observations taken of African wild dogs in Botswana, one option is sneezing. According to new research, if enough animals in the pack sternutate, that constitutes a quorum that it’s time to get up and go hunting.
Thanks to an outburst from the sun on Labor Day, northern US states may be in for a light show late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning. On Monday, the surface of the sun erupted into a small solar flare and burped out a cloud of high-energy particles. This particle cloud, called a coronal mass
There’s something to be learned from every fossil, but now and then, a fossil is found that doesn’t quite seem to fit. These are the exciting ones. Like Hongyu chowi, a newly described fish fossil that seems to imply that more species were evolving to live on land than we’d previously known. Found in a quarry
The most poisonous animal in the world is difficult to quantify, but one of the most deadly is, without question, the golden poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis), native to Colombia. But how does it avoid killing itself with its toxins? They look adorable, but within their skin glands, they store an alkaloid toxin called batrachotoxin. Enough
It’s sticky, slimy, and if you held one in your hands it might feel something like a gelatinous, semi-deflated basketball. But the biggest surprise about this bizarre brain-like blob found recently in an artificial lagoon in Canada is that the gooey mass isn’t actually an it at all, but a they. Yep, this pile
Think of the tropics, and you’ll no doubt picture lush, dense greenery with huge leaves. Venture towards the poles or arid regions, however, and the leaves on vegetation become small and narrow. So it’s easy to assume plants evolved different sized leaves to cope with differences in temperature and moisture. Now scientists have a clearer
Our increased use of antidepressants is having a knock-on effect on nature: scientists have found evidence of these drugs in the brain tissue of 10 different species of fish in the Great Lakes region. Not only does it threaten the biodiversity of the lakes, the researchers say, it can also cause harmful changes to the
As a researcher who works on fruit flies, I often get asked how to get them out of someone’s kitchen. This happens to fly researchers often enough that we sit around fly conferences (these actually exist) and complain about getting asked this question. Meanwhile, we watch the same fruit flies buzz around our beers instead
A prey-killing mechanism so imperceptibly deadly it evolved at least five times in different kinds of ants has been caught on camera by scientists – just barely. Myrmoteras, a rarely seen genus of trap-jaw ants from South-East Asia, snap their jaws shut on unsuspecting prey at speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour (50
Palaeontologists have identified the largest ‘sea dragon’ of its kind in the fossil record, after discovering the mislabelled remains of an ancient ocean dweller from 200 million years ago. The specimen, the largest representative of the Ichthyosaurus genus on record, was a kind of marine reptile commonly taken to be a swimming dinosaur – but
Residents of the Houston area affected by Hurricane Harvey have spotted an unusual risk in the floodwaters: colonies of fire ants that have joined together to form floating rafts. Fire ants are an invasive species native to South America, and they have successfully colonised the southern US. Whenever a major storm blows through, bringing flooding,
The journey to harvest hallucinogenic honey produced by Himalayan giant honey bees is far from easy. In eastern Nepal, select members of the Kulung people scale bamboo rope ladders up 300-foot (91 metre) cliffs to get it. They ward off swarms of the bees with smoke from burning grass, which is attached to a pole,
Changes to the Turkish secondary school science curriculum that has been expected to take effect by 2019 will be in place next month, according to recent updates on the controversial measure. While the government sees this as the foundation for a simpler, “values-based” education system, for many in the politically-charged nation it’s a troubling sign
I watched the solar eclipse on my parents’ farm in Wisconsin and got a front row seat to wacky animal behaviour during the celestial event of the century. At the eclipse’s peak, when the moon was covering about 83 percent of the sun, chipmunks popped their heads out of their burrows, and a pheasant started
After years of research, scientists have worked out how some bacteria are able to survive inside amoebae – by stabbing them with microscopic daggers to prevent digestion. This miniature game of biological swordplay was discovered through a new method where amoebae are frozen to minus 180°C (minus 292°F) and then gradually chiselled with a focussed