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.
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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.
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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.
Materials that heal themselves
Imagine a material that can repair itself after a bullet passes through it. That's what Scott White and colleagues have designed. Until now, polymer materials, or materials made of large molecules that are, in turn, made up of small, repeating subunits, have only been engineered to repair very small defects. But these researchers have improved the self-healing properties of polymer materials to the point that they can now automatically patch holes in themselves that are 3 centimeters in diameter.
Clever bird mimics multiple species to score meals
Anyone who knows the story of 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' knows that people eventually stop listening to liars. The same is true in nature: Animals will eventually stop paying attention to others that give false alarms, or those that cry out in warning even when there is no danger. Now, however, a new study in Science shows that one particular African bird is able to trick other species again and again by mimicking the sounds of multiple species.
Hidden diversity floating on top of the sea
Individual cells of the tiny ocean bacteria Prochlorococcus -- perhaps the most plentiful photosynthetic creature on Earth -- are more diverse from one cell to the next than previously thought, a new study in the April 25 issue of the journal Science reports.
How to discover species (without killing them)
It's no surprise that newly discovered species (or even 'rediscovered' species that researchers had thought were extinct) often come from small, isolated populations. This fact means that these new species are already at risk -- but museums and private collectors can make these species' situation even worse, according to the authors of a Perspective article in this week's issue of Science.
How flies escape the swatter
Anyone who's ever swatted at a fly knows how fast the small, winged insects can be. Now, a new study shows how flies are able to make such quick escapes -- and the way they do it is not what researchers had expected.
Whales and butterflies: The migration effect
What do a 40-ton whale and near-weightless butterfly have in common? They both migrate every year, along with billions of other animals like ducks, turtles and moths. Now, a new study in the April 4 issue of the journal Science explains how important migration is to shaping ecosystems on Earth.
The angular control of light
Scientists trying to control light have made progress, a new study in the March 28 issue of the journal Science reports.
Crows and cuckoos: A unique relationship
The great spotted cuckoo is known to be a nuisance. This parasitic bird sneaks its eggs into other birds' nests and tricks the other birds into caring for their young. However, a new study of these cuckoos and of carrion crows shows that the cuckoos aren't all bad: In addition to crowding the crows' nests, they seem to protect the birds from predators.
Despite few food options, abundant assortment of species
A close look at tropical flies and the parasitic wasps that lay eggs inside them reveals an incredibly complex web of interactions, including some that would have remained hidden without new and advanced molecular techniques.
Funding provided by the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation at AAAS.