Asian fungus threatens world's salamanders and newts
A fungus from Asia that recently made its way to Europe, where it has killed many salamanders, may have traveled through the international pet trade, according to researchers. This fungus, known as Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, is lethal to at least a dozen European and North American salamander and newt species, which means that it could pose a threat of extinction unless steps are taken to halt its spread, they say.
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When lizards invade, it's time to evolve -- quick!
You might think of evolution as something that takes millions and millions of years to happen -- and yes, sometimes it does take that long for an animal or plant species to change. But scientists watching two species of lizards got a chance to see one of those lizard species evolve in just 10 years -- a biological blink of an eye.
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When herbivore numbers drop, plants ditch thorny defenses
Plants can persist in landscapes full of hungry plant eaters, or herbivores, either by shielding themselves with special defenses like thorns, or by putting down roots in risky regions where carnivores -- who hunt the herbivores -- roam.
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Prosthetic hands and arms that 'belong'
Scientists are getting closer to making prosthetic hands and arms look and act like real hands and arms. Dustin Tyler at Case Western Reserve University and colleagues show that two adult male amputees can perform everyday tasks for over a year (including strenuous outdoor activities such as chopping wood) without problems.
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Cheetahs and pumas balance their needs to be effective hunters
It's not easy being a predator. Finding, chasing and killing your prey is hard work, and it requires a lot of energy. That's why researchers have been studying medium-sized predators (mesopredators) like cheetahs and pumas so much: they want to know how these wild cats are able to hunt so effectively without exhausting themselves.
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The solar system's water: Older than the sun
Where did the water in our solar system come from? For years, researchers have been debating whether it came from processes that took place after the sun was born, when the planets were just beginning to form -- or if it was created much earlier, before a cold cloud of gas even formed the sun. Now, it appears that researchers finally have an answer.
Blue oak trees unlock the secrets of California's current
Wind off the coast of California drives cool, nutrient-rich waters from the depths of the Pacific Ocean up to replace warm surface water in a process called coastal upwelling. Now, a new study shows that this upwelling off California's coast has become more variable over the past 60 years than almost any other time during the last 600 years.
Younger species cope better with changing land
Researchers studying birds in Costa Rica have made an interesting discovery: older species, which have been evolving for a long time, go extinct much quicker than newer species, which haven't had as long to evolve, when forests are converted to farmland. This discovery shows how changing a landscape can actually change the tree of life by favoring certain species over others -- and it may help with conservation efforts in the future.
Greenland's ancient temperatures revealed
Researchers studying the last deglaciation, when Earth's ice sheets were beginning to melt, now know more about the temperature of Greenland at that time, thanks to a new report. For years, studies have suggested that Greenland started warming up later than the rest of the Northern Hemisphere -- about 14,700 years ago instead of about 19,000 years ago, when the deglaciation began.
In Brazil, conservation is worth the price tag
Researchers have determined that it would cost Brazil less than 1 percent of its gross domestic product, or the total amount of goods and services that the country produces each year, to set aside enough private farmland to conserve the Atlantic Forest -- one of the world's most diverse habitats.
Do corals and fish 'sniff' their ways home?
Efforts to restore degraded coral reefs that have been overrun by seaweed could be complicated by some new findings in this week's issue of Science. Danielle Dixson and colleagues studied coral larvae and young reef fish from the coastal waters of Fiji and found that both of these aquatic drifters were attracted to chemical signals released by healthy corals and repulsed by similar cues coming from seaweed.
A swarm of a thousand robots
Inspired by swarming insects, like ants or bees, researchers have created a swarm of 1,024 small robots that can communicate with each other and organize themselves into shapes, like stars or letters of the alphabet, without any help from humans. Robotic swarms like this have normally been limited to just dozens or hundreds of robots. But, Michael Rubenstein and colleagues have set a new record with their tiny machines, called Kilobots.
A real-life, origami-inspired transformer
Using flat materials and origami-inspired patterns, researchers have built a real-life transformer -- a self-folding robot that, once assembled, can crawl and turn. This advance is reported in the Aug. 8 issue of the journal Science. Such a self-folding machine has various potential applications, including delivery to tight spaces, like rooms in collapsed buildings, for search and rescue missions.
A recipe for birds: 50 million years of dinosaur shrinking
To give us birds as we know them today, the line of dinosaurs that evolved into birds shrank in body size continuously for 50 million years, a new study in the Aug. 1 issue of Science reports.
Earth's disappearing animals
This week, a special issue of Science highlights humans' role in the recent extinctions of many species. There have been five mass extinction events on Earth, documented by the fossil record, and researchers say that the planet is currently in the midst of a 'sixth extinction wave.'
Keeping the heart on beat
Scientists have figured out how to genetically tweak heart tissue to keep the heart beating normally. The findings appear in the July 16 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Smaller plastic, bigger problem
Even very small fragments of plastic can be harmful to life in the ocean, according to a new Policy Forum in the July 11 issue of Science. In this Policy Forum, Kara Law and Richard Thompson explain the dangers of pieces of plastic smaller than a few millimeters, called microplastics.
Planet's signals are tricks created by starry noise
Regions of strong activity coming from stars have made scientists think they are planets, a new study reports in the July 4 issue of the journal Science reports, when in reality, they are not.
Extra smells make finding flowers harder
Insects consume nectar from flowers. To find their favorite flowery snacks, they follow the odors flowers give off, but a new study in the June 27 issue of the journal Science reports that competing odors, including manmade ones, make this task harder for bugs.
Skulls with mix of traits shine light on human evolution
Researchers have analyzed the biggest collection of ancient human fossils ever recovered from a single excavation site. Their study in the 20 June issue of the journal Science sheds light on the origin and evolution of Neandertals, an extinct species of human.
Are isolated plant populations more prone to disease?
Researchers have generally believed that diseases spread quicker among densely clustered populations and slower among populations that are spread out. However, a new study of the weed, Plantago lanceolata, and a fungal pathogen, known as powdery mildew, which infects the weed, shows that highly connected plant populations -- those that are growing close together -- are more resistant to the powdery mildew than isolated populations of the plant.
Sensors help catfish 'see' in the dark
Researchers have discovered that the Japanese sea catfish, Plotosus japonicas, has sensors on the outside of its body that detect slight changes in the water's pH level. In other words, these sensors can help the fish tell if the water they're swimming in becomes a little more acidic or basic -- an ability that helps them hunt in dark, murky waters.
Slowly removing invasive species spares the natives
Sometimes, getting rid of invasive species is harder than it sounds because native plants and animals come to rely on them for resources. Now, however, Adam Lampert and colleagues have come up with a new way to get rid of invasive species that also protects native species more effectively. But, it may take more time than traditional approaches, they say.
Unexpected twist in evolution of flightless birds
Ratite birds, some of the largest flightless birds, live all over the world, and now a new study published in the May 23 issue of the journal Science suggests they spread so far over not because big landmasses split up, forcing their separation, but because their ancestors flew far and wide. It was only after separating, this study says, that most members of this group lost the ability to fly.
Stick bugs show that some evolution is predictable
If we could go back to the beginning of life on Earth -- or rewind 'the tape of life,' as scientists say -- would plants and animals evolve exactly the same way they did? Or would it have all gone differently? It's a question that researchers have been trying to answer for a long time.
Funding provided by the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation at AAAS.