Stripes are common in our lives. It’s a pretty basic pattern, and easy to take for granted. As an applied mathematician who studies how patterns form in nature, though, I am wowed by the striped patterns the zebrafish wears across its body and fins.
As a graduate student in the 1970s, microbiologist Richard Blakemore probably wasn’t expecting to discover a new bacterial species with a never-before-seen ability. While studying bacteria that live in muddy swamps, he observed that some tended to swim reliably toward the same geographical direction. Even when he rotated the microscope, they persisted in wiggling toward one direction. After confirming that their swimming behaviors were unaffected by light, Blakemore suspected they might be responding to the weak magnetic fields naturally present on Earth.
Whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. So wrote Charles Darwin, in his On the Origin of Species. The origin and evolution of animals is one of the most fascinating questions in modern biology.
If you’ve ever seen a picture of a DNA molecule, you probably saw it in its famous B-form: two strands coiling around each other in a right-handed fashion to form a double helix. But did you know that DNA can change its shape?
When those first fat drops of summer rain fall to the hot, dry ground, have you ever noticed a distinctive odor? I have childhood memories of family members who were farmers describing how they could always “smell rain” right before a storm.
Science may have enabled us to travel in space and trace the history of the entire universe, but it has not yet been able to answer exactly how and when life first arose on our planet. Traditionally, scientists have used the fossil record to try to answer these questions. Yet, as palaeontologists are all too aware, fossils are increasingly hard to find as we move backwards in time.
To make this familiar summer sound, the male cricket holds his nerve and “stridulates” – rubbing his back legs together in order to entice a female. He knows this makes him vulnerable. What a female cricket can find, so too can the predators and parasites that wish to consume or infect him.
Earth’s oceans are having a rough go of it these days. On top of being the repository for millions of tons of plastic waste, global warming is affecting the oceans and upsetting marine ecosystems in potentially irreversible ways.
“Just how old do you think my dog is in dog years?” is a question I hear on a regular basis. People love to anthropomorphize pets, attributing human characteristics to them. And most of us want to extend our animal friends’ healthy lives for as long as possible.
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, but much of its life cycle remains shrouded in mystery. These gentle giants gather in just a handful of places around the globe – something which has long baffled scientists – but our new research has started to explain why. Better understanding of whale shark movements could help prevent further population loss in a species that has already experienced a 63% population decline over the past 75 years.
There’s a tree that once covered the whole of Australia, then dwindled to a dozen examples, and is now spread around the world. We call it the Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis), but you could call it the dinosaur tree.
For their first 100 million years on planet Earth, our mammal ancestors relied on the cover of darkness to escape their dinosaur predators and competitors. Only after the meteor-induced mass extinction of dinosaurs66 million years ago could these nocturnal mammals explore the many wondrous opportunities available in the light of day.
This summer, the fifth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise will be on the big screen, reinforcing a love of dinosaurs that has been with many of us since childhood. There is something awe inspiring about the biggest, fiercest, and “deadest” creatures that have ever walked the planet. But the films have had an additional benefit – they have sparked an interest in dinosaur DNA.
When it comes to bees, it seems that nothing really does matter. As shown in a paper published today, our research demonstrates that the honeybee can understand the quantitative value of nothing, and place zero in the correct position along a line of sequential numbers.
Marine zooplankton are tiny animals, roughly the size of insects you might see on a summer day, that drift with ocean currents. Many of them are lovely, but except for scientists who study them, few people are aware that they are among the most numerous – and important – animals on Earth.
Starting about 7,000 years ago, and extending over the next two millennia, recent studies suggest, the genetic diversity of men—specifically, the diversity of their Y chromosomes—collapsed. The collapse was so extreme it was as if there were only one man left to mate for every 17 women.
It is difficult to refer to what dogs, as a collective, like and dislike and how they behave. Just as humans do, dogs all have their own personalities and learned preferences and so can differ dramatically in how they approach life and what they take from it.
Around the world, large predators at the top of their respective food chains are on the move. Recently, animals like alligators, otters, killer whales, mountain lions, and wolves have turned up in new, surprising places.
Declines in bee populations around the world have been widely reported over the past several decades. Much attention has focused on honey bees, which commercial beekeepers transport all over the United States to pollinate crops.
Unfortunately, both mammoth and most of the mammoth steppe ecosystem today have long but disappeared. But a group of geneticists from Harvard are hoping to change this by cloning living elephant cells that contain a small component of synthesized mammoth DNA
If you happen to be thirsty in the woods, there are a lot of things you can stick in your canteen to help clean up your drinking water. There are chlorine pills and filters (not crystals — never crystals). And now scientists have identified a certain kind of moss that could do it, too.
Earth’s crust is made up of fractured slabs of rock, like a broken shell on an egg. These plates move around at speeds of about 5cm per year – and eventually this movement brings all the continents together and form what is known as a supercontinent. The last supercontinent on Earth was Pangaea, which existed between 300-180m years ago.
Ohio State researchers found that corals that were more resilient to harsh ocean conditions also had more healthier microbiomes. Microbes may therefore be essential for to keep corals healthy under stressful conditions.
Genetic analysis reveals new evidence to explain how the hogfish uses its skin to “see.”The hogfish is a pointy-snouted reef fish that can go from pearly white to mottled brown to reddish in a matter of milliseconds as it adjusts to shifting conditions on the ocean floor.
The Global Seed Vault at the Svalbard archipelago is about to get some upgrades, Norway announced. Almost a decade since the vault opened, it now houses more than 850,000 seed samples donated by nations from all over the world for safekeeping.