Sea-cucumber skin inspires new material
Scientists have long been amazed by the skin of a sea cucumber, which can switch from stiff to floppy, or vice versa, in mere seconds in order to help the animal defend itself against predators.
Flying bats take cue from bugs
Bats use the same aerodynamic trick as flying insects do to stay aloft, scientists have discovered. When the bat wing flaps downward, the motion produces a tiny cyclone of air above the wing, called a "leading edge vortex," that pulls the animal upward. Researchers have known that insects create these vortices while flying, but they’ve wondered whether same thing works for larger, heavier animals like bats.
Bird poop -- the best disguise ever
Swallowtail caterpillars are masters of deception. In their early stages of life they look just like the black and white goo of bird droppings, and just before becoming butterflies they resemble the green leaves they live on. Scientists have now identified the hormone responsible for this change in appearance. They report their discovery in the Feb. 22 issue of the journal Science.
Jupiter and Saturn's siblings
Researchers have discovered two new planets outside our solar system, each with a mass less than that of Jupiter. The planets are orbiting a star about half the size of our sun.
Harnessing 'people power'
Researchers have created a device that looks like a knee brace, which converts the energy from a walking person’s moving leg into electricity.
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What's seeping in the Lost City?
How do you turn a tree trunk into gas for your car? For the most part, our fuel comes from plants and animals that were buried deep in the Earth.
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Guess who? Helping machines recognize faces
Unless you're decked out in a really elaborate disguise, say as a Lord Voldemort or a Star Wars creature, you can generally recognize yourself in the mirror. It doesn't matter what angle you're facing or how the lighting is -- you still know you're you. But, it's not nearly so easy for computers.
More nutritious corn for kids around the world
New research may help plant breeders develop corn (known as maize in many parts of the world), with higher levels of an important nutrient. The body uses this nutrient to make vitamin A, which is very important for staying healthy. Vitamin A deficiency causes eye disease in 40 million children each year and places 140 to 250 million at risk for a variety of health disorders, according to study author Carlos Harjes of Cornell University and his colleagues.
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Elephants, giraffes and the ants in their plants
Nobody wants to see the elephants, giraffes and other grazing animals disappear from the eastern African savanna, but it's not just people who would miss them. Researchers have discovered that many of the ants and trees that share the mammals' turf would suffer, too.
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Butterfly larvae fool ants into mothering them
Danish researchers have found that in some areas in their country, beautiful blue Alcon butterflies fool ants into raising the butterfly larvae instead of their own, a report explains. The reason? The butterflies have developed an outer coating that mimics that of the ants.
Organizing the beetle files
When biologists set out to organize the family tree for the huge family of beetles, they ended up identifying previously unknown relationships for many of the beetle groups -- somewhat like finding new cousins -- and re-defining the major families, new research shows.
Habitat split leads to biodiversity decline
Amphibians such as frogs are at risk, especially those that have to travel from their homes in forest habitats to aquatic areas to breed and back; and with this added risk, the diversity, or variety, of species declines, according to a new report. Traveling to the water to breed, then returning to the forest is called habitat split, and researchers say that it is usually caused by human activity.
Hinode mission delves into the Sun's mysteries
New results from the Hinode space mission should help explain some long-standing mysteries of the Sun. ("Hinode" is Japanese for "sunrise.")
In early human ancestor, growing up came late for males
If Paranthropus robustus -- a human ancestor that lived about 2 million years ago -- had gone to school dances, it would have been pretty awkward. New research shows that the males of this species matured much later in life than females.
A supercontinent that stayed put
For about 100 million years of Earth's history, from the Permian through the Jurassic periods, all of Earth's continents were actually joined as a single supercontinent, called Pangea ("pan-JEE-uh"). It began breaking up during the Jurassic, forming the continents Gondwanaland and Laurasia.
'Roach-bots' guide cockroach swarms
When a handful of cockroach-like robots joined a group of real roaches, the roach-bots coaxed the whole group to behave in unusual ways, researchers report in a new study.
Spadefoot toads break the rules in dry weather
Desert-dwelling animals have all kinds of clever tricks for surviving in their dry environments. This includes the spadefoot toad, which is named for the hard, pointy "spade" on its hind feet, which is used for digging.
They don't fly, they aren't lemurs, but colugos are our closest relative
Researchers have determined that colugos are the closest relative to primates, according to a Science research article. Humans belong to the biological order of primates along with apes, monkeys and lemurs. Knowing who we are related to allows researchers the opportunity to study how we primates evolved from our nearest relative.
Neanderthals may have been redheads
Some Neanderthals -- relatives to modern humans, who lived in Europe and Central Asia approximately 230,000 to 30,000 years ago -- may have had genetic variations that hypothetically could have produced pale skin and red hair, a European research team has found.
A mutation in a dog gene opens new research into the defensin protein
Researchers who were trying to find the mutated gene that controls coat color in dogs now report that they found the gene, and have also discovered that it has an unexpected additional role. The gene also sends a signal to a member of a protein family that is responsible for defending the body against infection. The proteins are called defensins, because their job is to defend the body.
Titan's morning weather forecast: Widespread drizzle
Mornings on Saturn's moon Titan are often cloudy and drizzly over a wide area, according to a new astronomy/weather report by astronomers using giant telescopes on Earth.
Wild crows are crafty with tools
Recording themselves on tiny video cameras attached to their tailfeathers, New Caledonian crows have revealed themselves to be resourceful tool-users in the wild.
Research supports oral histories of distant marine travel across the Pacific
Stories passed down for generations in the Pacific islands tell of regular maritime travel over several thousands of kilometers while most people were still traveling only in sight of land and long before Europeans began their world travels. Two Australian scientists reported this week that they found evidence to support these oral histories.
Keeping it clean at Mars' South Pole
Though we can't say you'd want to drink it, the water frozen in Mars' south polar ice cap is pretty pure, a new study suggests. Scientists have known that both poles of Mars are hidden beneath caps of layered ice. But they're only just learning how much ice there is and what it's made of.
Searching by starlight for the universe's mysterious dark matter
The objects that we can see in the universe, from the smallest speck of sand to the largest planet, are made up of protons, electrons and neutrons. But, most of the universe's matter is "dark matter." We can't see it, because it doesn't interact with light, and we don't even know what kind of particles it's made up of. Now, researchers think they know a way to learn more about this mysterious type of matter.
Funding provided by the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation at AAAS.