Why zebras evolved to have their distinctive stripes has long puzzled scientists, with one of the leading hypotheses the idea that the stripes are a temperature control mechanism. A study last year suggested that wasn’t the case, but now there’s new evidence on the table. In this latest study, researchers measured temperature differences between
Nearly 200 million years ago, Earth’s skies were home to a creature unlike anything seen today. Neither bird nor dinosaur, this long-extinct reptile was, quite literally, born to fly. A fresh look at the fossilised embryos of pterodactyls has revealed just how independent these so-called flaplings truly were. Discovered in China for the first
Carnivorous plants are known for being brutal and opportunistic predators, but an unexpected and fascinating discovery in Canada has proved especially gruesome. Described as a “WTF moment” by researchers, it appears that pitcher plants in the wetlands of Ontario are not just luring in insects and spiders. They are also regularly capturing and devouring vertebrates.
In the beginning, life was simple. Then, about half a billion years ago, biology got complicated. Identical cells shrugged off the shackles of conformity and divided up the chores between them, evolving into the first members of the animal kingdom. Exactly what this animal prototype looked like has long been the subject of debate.
Many comparisons have been made between humans and dolphins, those sleek mammals of the sea. Now scientists have found another point of similarity between us and our cetacean cousins: Like us, dolphins make friends based on mutual interests. In the case of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) specifically, individuals tend to hang out
A huge wolf head preserved since the last Ice Age has been found in incredible condition in Siberia, an estimated 40,000 years since being entombed in frozen wilderness. The giant head, discovered by a local man in 2018 along the shores of the Tirekhtyakh River in the Russian Republic of Sakha (aka Yakutia), measures a
Meteorologists in Southern California got a strange surprise on Tuesday night when they spotted a huge blob on the National Weather Service radar. Appearing to be about 130 by 130 kilometres (80 miles), it was moving southward over San Bernardino County. “It was very strange because it was a relatively clear day and we
The dragonfish is a top predator at the bottom of the sea. A bioluminescent lure on its head and spots on its belly beckon prey, like a lantern draws in moths. The rest of its body, as long as a pencil and almost as slender, is an inky black that blends in with water deeper
As a rule, your brain’s activity doesn’t influence the physiological development of your sex cells. In simpler terms: What you ‘think’ can’t be inherited. But now it looks like we may need to rethink this rule for at least one species. The activity of nematode neurons has been shown to influence the foraging behaviour
Not everything on Earth has sex. While the vast majority of creatures on the planet reproduce this way, some animals prefer to go it alone. Sometimes when they do this, they thrive – successfully rejecting sex for millions of years. Sometimes animals even switch between sexual and asexual reproduction. So, sex is a tricky thing.
New York is one signature away from becoming the first state in the country to ban cat declawing, a practice advocates say serves no benefit to felines and is done typically out of convenience. The bill, which passed by a wide margin Tuesday in the state’s majority-Democrat Assembly and Senate, would impose a US$1,000
They say you should never turn your back on the ocean, but what if the waves are coming from all sides? This is what happens when an unlucky swimmer or boater gets caught between two opposing swells, known as a cross sea. This rare pattern of square waves is a beautiful sight to behold,
Earth is not one to sit still. For roughly 3 billion years, our planet has been perpetually recycling its ocean floor, swallowing up old oceanic crust in some areas and pouring out new seabed in others. Diamonds, it would seem, are the beautiful byproducts of all this restlessness. Tipped off by tiny traces of trapped
For a species as young and puny as humans, every ancient fossil is a most extraordinary gift from our planet’s vast history. Even so, this 50-million-year-old bunch of dead fish might just be the coolest fossil we’ve ever seen. An unassuming slab of limestone from the Green River Formation in North America became the
Let’s face it – compared to Mars, our planet is a biological paradise dripping with moisture and relative absence of toxic chemistry. If we want to know what life might look like on the Red Planet, we need to go hunting in extreme environments. Ethiopia’s Dallol geothermal area could qualify. Minerals from one of
The first known sighting of an albino panda has taken place in China, revealing a uniquely pale bear cub padding through a lush green bamboo forest. This unprecedented vision was not seen directly by human eyes, but was captured by an infrared camera triggered when the panda moved into its motion-activated scopes. We’re lucky
The way information travels inside the cells of our bodies is not unlike the wiring inside a computer chip, according to a new study that has unveiled the intricate workings of a network of calcium ions as intracellular messengers. According to researchers from the University of Edinburgh in the UK, this “cell-wide web” uses
Staffers at the New England Aquarium last winter were setting up for an after-hours event near the Amazon rain forest exhibit when they made an unexpected discovery. Anna the anaconda – 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms), 8 years old and 10 feet (3 meters) long – had given birth to a litter of baby snakes.
A volcano erupted on the Indonesian island of Bali Saturday, sending ash into the sky over surrounding villages and lava pouring down its sides. The island’s Mount Agung put national agencies on notice, causing some flight cancellations but no reported casualties with the eruption, which reportedly spread lava and incandescent rocks over about two miles.
All chimpanzees eat animals at least sometimes, including anything from ants and termites to bushpigs and even baboons. Monkeys, in fact, are typically the most frequent item on the menu, and in some cases chimpanzees can eat so many monkeys they threaten to wipe out entire populations. One group in Senegal even hunts tiny,
From deep in the shale beds of Arctic Canada, what seems to be the earliest evidence of life on land has emerged. The discovery of microscopic fossils just pushed back the earliest recorded appearance of fungus by more than half a billion years. This was the early Neoproterozoic Era, the last era in the
In a couple of years, the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) could have an important decision to make. A working group just voted 29 to 4 in favour of recognising a new modern epoch, and plans to formally make its case to the ICS in the next two years. If you haven’t heard of this
Sharks are pretty eclectic eaters. They’ll go for prey ranging from fish and invertebrates to sea mammals and turtles. A shark may even have a chomp on the odd surfer. If they can catch it, or scavenge it, and it’s made of meat, sharks will generally eat it. A new study identifying the contents
If you think your mom is laying it on thick about producing grandchildren, take heart: At least you’re not a male bonobo. Bonobo mothers have been seen performing a variety of behaviors that seem to lend their sons an advantage when it comes to fathering babies, according to a study published Monday in Current Biology
It’s long been known that cannabis plants are indigenous to Central Asia, but a new study provides a fresh focus on where exactly this genus may have first evolved millions of years ago. Documents dating back to the middle ages show humans have been hypothesising about the geographical origins of cannabis for over a
Peacock spiders are so adorable, they stand a chance to sway the feelings of the most seasoned spider hater. These creatures are tiny – a mere 5 millimetres (0.2 inches). They’re also fluffy, the males have incredibly colourful butts, and they love to dance. Now we’ve discovered these spiders also have an interesting superpower –
Scientists have found a bunch of microscopic creatures that could be totally new to science – but it’s an exceptional challenge to determine who is who when the tiny things you’ve discovered are actually the larva of animals that look completely different in their adult stage. The little-known animals in question are called phoronids,
Amber from Myanmar in Southeast Asia is turning out to be an incredibly rich resource for examining the natural world of 100 million years ago. In the last year, it’s turned up frogs, snails, a snake, weird feathers, and some pretty wacky bugs. What do all of those have in common? They’re land-dwellers. But
There’s no denying that keeping livestock has deeply benefited humanity over the millennia. But, while sheep and cows may have adapted well to farm life, there’s one animal humans like to eat that would fare poorly in farms. Octopuses, scientists have argued in a new essay, should never be farmed – not just because
Today the Australian Koala Foundation announced they believe “there are no more than 80,000 koalas in Australia”, making the species “functionally extinct”. While this number is dramatically lower than the most recent academic estimates, there’s no doubt koala numbers in many places are in steep decline. It’s hard to say exactly how many koalas
When you’ve been surviving in all sorts of environments for billions of years, you pick up a few tricks for harvesting light as efficiently as possible – and now long-living, light-emitting microalgae could be about to help us develop the next generation of solar panels. These fluorescent algae are able to capture up to
In recent years, it’s emerged that some dinosaurs – considered scaly and reptilian for many years – were actually wearing feathers. But a newly discovered species of scansoriopterygid dinosaur sports a different style. This tiny creature had bat-like wings: leathery, not feathery. It’s called Ambopteryx longibrachium, and it was just 33 centimetres (13 inches)
Along the Black River in North Carolina, bald cypress trees have been quietly growing for millennia. Quite literally so: Scientists recently found trees over 2,000 years old – including one that is at least 2,624 years old. That makes it the fifth-oldest known non-clonal tree in the world. (Utah’s Pando, an ancient quaking aspen
Two tiny tyrannosaurid skeletons have just filled in the fossil record, elucidating the humble origins of the Cretaceous’ mightiest predator, Tyrannosaurus rex. Dating back to around 92 million years ago, the two tyrannosaurs hail from the Zuni Basin in New Mexico. They stood just 1 metre (3 feet) tall and have been named Suskityrannus hazelae.
Amongst the huge variety of life on Earth, there are some mighty resilient microorganisms out there. Now, scientists have tracked down an ocean microbe that survives by breathing arsenic – the chemical element we humans regard as a notorious poison. The researchers think this is an ancient survival strategy used in the distant past when
An alleged Russian spy whale is refusing to leave a Norwegian port city, in what appears to be a high-profile defection after a week of global attention on the unnamed beluga. Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries official Jorgen Ree Wiig told The Washington Post that the beluga “was the first thing I saw outside of the
During the last Ice Age, more than 10,000 years ago, the bridge between North and South America was guarded by a daunting array of beasts, including a wolf-like carnivore and the largest bear ever to roam the Earth. An ancient graveyard, buried at the bottom of an underwater cave in Mexico, has turned up
You can find snakes in Australia pretty much anywhere. At the beach. On your car. But this three-eyed slitherer discovered in the Northern Territory is obviously all kinds of special. Found by rangers near a small town called Humpty Doo just outside of Darwin, the three-eyed carpet python looks to be sporting three fully
Life isn’t easy at the bottom of Challenger Deep – at nearly 11,000 metres (36,000 feet) the deepest point of the oceans – and scientists just shed some light on how tiny creatures are able to survive at these phenomenal depths. It turns out that the Hirondellea gigas amphipods (small crustaceans) manufacture themselves tiny
Breaking news: Yeti are real, and they’re on the move – at least according to the Indian army, which said Monday that its mountaineering expedition team stumbled upon a set of “mysterious footprints” in Nepal this month. No, we are not confirming that this elusive snowman actually exists. But while the prints might be
For the northernmost herbivores on Earth, foraging for food has never been easy. Bound to the icy tundras of an Arctic archipelago, the wild Svalbard reindeers of Norway (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) are accustomed to sparse vegetation. But what they are dealing with now is far beyond that. With global warming causing more rain and less
Scientists have discovered a new species of crab that swam the seas 95 million years ago — and behold, it could be the next Pixar character. The small, pocket-size crab, named Callichimaera perplexa, was different than its modern cousins. This crab sported a tiny lobster-esque shell, with legs flattened like oars, and huge Pound
Deep in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest live tiny frogs that are bright orange, toxic, and glow ultraviolet, thanks to revelations from new research. It’s the first known case of an amphibian showing “exceptional” fluorescence right through their skin. “The origin of the fluorescence lies in the dermal bone of the head and back, visible
Given the fervour with which naturalists scoured Southeast Asia in the 19th century looking for new bird species, you’d think the region would be tapped out. But nature can still find ways to sneak up on us: Two previously undescribed species have only just been discovered in Indonesia. They both belong to the genus
Apes . . . well, ape. Two gorillas at Virunga National Park in Congo have taken the Internet by storm by posing – on two feet – in a photograph with park rangers. The rangers posted a selfie on Facebook late last week showing two orphaned female gorillas, Ndakazi and Ndeze, standing tall beside them in the Senkwekwe Center
California is notorious for its earthquakes, but a stunning new discovery reveals for the first time just how much we’ve underestimated its omnipresent earth-shaking potential. By the time you just about finish reading this story, in fact, Southern California will probably have experienced another quake – based off a new, unprecedented deep dive into
So you’ve discovered an unusual winged insect preserved in amber, and it happens to have a superb set of mouth parts dangling from its head. You could name it after a president’s body part, maybe. If not David Attenborough. Again. Or just do what one researcher did with a specimen that doesn’t seem to fit
Butterflies are like the Bear Grylls of the Amazon rainforest. Faced with a nutrient-poor environment, these beautiful creatures will drink just about anything to survive. That goes for muddy river banks, sweaty clothing, puddles of urine, and of course, the ‘tears’ of turtles. It’s hard to believe until you see it with your own