Who can figure out the toucan? You can!
The toco toucan's bill occupies a special place in the hall of animal oddities. Making up about one-third of the bird's total body length, it's the largest bill of any bird, compared to its owner's body size. Scientists have puzzled for centuries over the bill's possible purpose. Might be used for attracting mates? Maybe for manipulating fruit?
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Moths use sonar to foil bat attacks
Researchers have found that a particular species of tiger moth is able to escape from attacking bats by jamming their sonar with sudden bursts of the moths' own ultrasound. This new discovery adds to the long list of defense mechanisms that insects use against bats.
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How the turtle got its shell
In their earliest stages as embryos, turtles, chickens, mice, and even humans all look pretty much the same -- big head, tiny arms, long spine that looks like a tail. By the time they hatch, however, turtles have taken a major detour and developed shells on their backs.
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Exploring the layer of ice at Mars' north pole
NASA's Phoenix mission landed on the planet Mars in May 2008, and explored the surface of the Red Planet for more than five months. New data from the Phoenix Mars Lander confirms that there is a layer of ice water at the Martian north pole -- about five to 18 centimeters beneath the soil.
AAAS: 10 science books to help your kids avoid summer brain drain
In time for summer vacation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has released a summer reading list of 10 science books for children ages 10-14, or grades 4-8. The books include stories on bioluminescent creatures, excavations from colonial-era settlements, and women who trained for space flight. Malcomson's list also includes activity books, such as a bird watching guide and a book containing tips on how to be "green".
Contact: Molly McElroy
Fish ears and ocean chemistry
In environments with high carbon dioxide levels, researchers say that the ear bones of young fish actually grow larger than normal -- rather than smaller, as they had expected. This finding means that ocean chemistry could have unexpected effects on the minerals produced by fish larvae.
Plant fossils shed light on extinction
Plant fossils from Greenland tell us that the number of plants there decreased abruptly about 200 million years ago, when the Triassic period ended and the Jurassic period began, researchers say in the latest issue of Science.
How whirlybird seeds catch air
Plants and flying animals have evolved the same aerodynamic trick for fighting gravity while flying, scientists have discovered.
Bird 'mobsters' learn from their neighbors
When a cuckoo comes along, hoping to sneak one of its own eggs into a reed warbler nest, the warblers mount an impassioned defense, mobbing the parasitic birds while making loud, raspy calls and snapping their beaks.
Undiscovered gas and oil in the Arctic Circle
Researchers say that the Arctic Circle probably contains a full 30 percent of the natural gas in the world that hasn't been discovered yet. They also predict that the Arctic Circle holds 13 percent of Earth's undiscovered oil.
An entire region of Mars, shaped by water
Long ago, the face of Mars was shaped by water flowing across its surface. But, researchers have never known exactly how these processes took place on the ancient Martian planet. NASA's Mars rover Opportunity has been exploring the Victoria crater, located near the equator of the red planet, for two years. Now, researchers have reviewed some of the data it has collected along the way, and they are sharing some rather exciting discoveries.
Longer seasons for many different reasons
Many complex relationships exist between Earth's seasonal cycles, the global climate, and the lives of individual species in nature. Changes made to one of these things usually means that the other two will change in some way as well. Now, some new research is highlighting just how much we still don't understand about these important and complex relationships.
Northern shrimp like it cold
Northern shrimp -- the small, sweet ones that you're likely to see in salad -- use temperature as a cue for egg-laying and may therefore be seriously vulnerable to climate change, scientists say in a new study.
The dangers of the global wildlife trade
Like any other product, animals are bought and sold on the global market. The trade of wildlife from one part of the world to another represents a serious money-making business, but some researchers also call it a serious threat.
Spiderman's silk secret revealed?
Adding small amounts of certain metals to spider silk makes the silk even more resistant to breaking, researchers report. In its natural form, spider silk is already tougher and lighter than steel, so that's a pretty impressive improvement.
Blood Falls: Life beneath a rusty glacier
At Blood Falls, on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, rivers of red, iron-rich minerals spill out from the snout of the Taylor Glacier, dramatically staining the white ice.
A model to explain how animals fly
In order to control themselves, flying creatures need to use specialized movements, or maneuvers, to get from one place to another. For a long time, researchers have wondered exactly how they do it. Now, researcher Tyson Hedrick and colleagues have created a model of flight for small creatures (like insects) and large ones (like birds) to better explain how it's done.
Robots working in the laboratory
Could robots replace scientists in the laboratory one day? Some researchers seem to think so -- at least to some degree. After building a robot that designed and performed scientific experiments in a laboratory, Ross King and colleagues seem convinced that robots will work together with human scientists someday in the lab. But, they do not believe human scientists will be replaced entirely.
What triggers giant fish schools?
Two may be company and three a crowd, but for herring, a few more makes things really exciting.
Boy or girl? Female finches make the choice
In some species, females can adjust the sex of their offspring when they are pregnant. Depending on the quality of their mate, females can sometimes decide if they will have a male or a female baby. This is a very adaptive trait that allows the females to make the most out of what they have -- their offspring, their mates, and food.
Changing productivity in Antarctica
Near the South Pole of the globe, in Antarctica, researchers have noticed some serious changes in the ice, the water, the clouds, and even the animals. In an area known as the Western Antarctic Peninsula (or WAP), they say that a dramatic loss of ice-cover has also led to major shifts in animal activity -- starting with plankton and including penguins.
The world's first horse farm
The domestication, or taming, of wild horses was an important accomplishment for the human race. In fact, it altered the course of human history. Taming wild horses have changed the ways we travel, the ways we communicate, and even the ways we fight wars with each other. But, until now, researchers have never been able to identify events in human history that tell us when (or where) humans first made this breakthrough.
Why bad times leave a bad taste in your mouth
When bad things happen -- maybe a friend never returns your favorite video game or your sister says mean things about you at school -- we sometimes say that the experience "left a bad taste in my mouth." And you might think that's kind of weird. After all, what do bad feelings have to do with your mouth?
Topsy-turvy algae tumble into line
Single algae cells called phytoplankton have a weird habit of spreading out in a thin film that can reach several kilometers across the ocean.
Tracking songbird migration
For the first time, researchers have tracked the seasonal migration of songbirds from Pennsylvania all the way to South America and back. This study reveals that the small birds can fly much farther and much faster than anyone had thought possible. Now, researchers can see exactly which migration routes the birds take each spring and fall as well.
Funding provided by the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation at AAAS.