Why zebras evolved to have their distinctive stripes has long puzzled scientists, with one of the leading hypotheses the idea that the stripes are a temperature control mechanism. A study last year suggested that wasn’t the case, but now there’s new evidence on the table. In this latest study, researchers measured temperature differences between black
Nearly 200 million years ago, Earth’s skies were home to a creature unlike anything seen today. Neither bird nor dinosaur, this long-extinct reptile was, quite literally, born to fly. A fresh look at the fossilised embryos of pterodactyls has revealed just how independent these so-called flaplings truly were. Discovered in China for the first time
Carnivorous plants are known for being brutal and opportunistic predators, but an unexpected and fascinating discovery in Canada has proved especially gruesome. Described as a “WTF moment” by researchers, it appears that pitcher plants in the wetlands of Ontario are not just luring in insects and spiders. They are also regularly capturing and devouring vertebrates.
In the beginning, life was simple. Then, about half a billion years ago, biology got complicated. Identical cells shrugged off the shackles of conformity and divided up the chores between them, evolving into the first members of the animal kingdom. Exactly what this animal prototype looked like has long been the subject of debate. A
Many comparisons have been made between humans and dolphins, those sleek mammals of the sea. Now scientists have found another point of similarity between us and our cetacean cousins: Like us, dolphins make friends based on mutual interests. In the case of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) specifically, individuals tend to hang out with
A huge wolf head preserved since the last Ice Age has been found in incredible condition in Siberia, an estimated 40,000 years since being entombed in frozen wilderness. The giant head, discovered by a local man in 2018 along the shores of the Tirekhtyakh River in the Russian Republic of Sakha (aka Yakutia), measures a
Around 1.2 billion years ago, the biggest asteroid ever to hit the British Isles is thought to have slammed into Earth. Now, experts have identified where the exact impact point may have lain hidden this whole time. The spot in question is estimated to be about 15 to 20 kilometres (9 to 12 miles) off Enard
Mountains are some of the mightiest geographic features on our planet, and no two ranges are the same. Some have soaring peaks, ragged ridges, and deep ravines, while others gently roll away in wavy hills and wide valleys. No matter where they appear, or even how, their branched structures share a universal similarity, and that
Meteorologists in Southern California got a strange surprise on Tuesday night when they spotted a huge blob on the National Weather Service radar. Appearing to be about 130 by 130 kilometres (80 miles), it was moving southward over San Bernardino County. “It was very strange because it was a relatively clear day and we weren’t
The dragonfish is a top predator at the bottom of the sea. A bioluminescent lure on its head and spots on its belly beckon prey, like a lantern draws in moths. The rest of its body, as long as a pencil and almost as slender, is an inky black that blends in with water deeper
As a rule, your brain’s activity doesn’t influence the physiological development of your sex cells. In simpler terms: What you ‘think’ can’t be inherited. But now it looks like we may need to rethink this rule for at least one species. The activity of nematode neurons has been shown to influence the foraging behaviour of
Feathers are not simply the domain of birds, nor did they arise solely for flight. New research on China’s rich fossil record suggests instead that these structures arose 100 million years before birds, and maybe even before dinosaurs themselves. The breakthrough came late last year, when researchers were studying two new fossilised pterosaurs in China.
Not everything on Earth has sex. While the vast majority of creatures on the planet reproduce this way, some animals prefer to go it alone. Sometimes when they do this, they thrive – successfully rejecting sex for millions of years. Sometimes animals even switch between sexual and asexual reproduction. So, sex is a tricky thing.
New York is one signature away from becoming the first state in the country to ban cat declawing, a practice advocates say serves no benefit to felines and is done typically out of convenience. The bill, which passed by a wide margin Tuesday in the state’s majority-Democrat Assembly and Senate, would impose a US$1,000 fine
Do you need another reason to love bees? Not only can our fuzzy little flower friends perform basic arithmetic, scientists have now discovered that they can recognise symbols associated with numbers. Just as we humans recognise the symbol 7 or VII is associated with a quantity of seven, it seems that bees can make the
Australia’s dinosaur record is one of the most poorly understood, with only a handful of species discovered in the past hundred years. But a newly identified one has been in our possession for decades without us even knowing. A strange collection of unstudied bones on show at Australia’s oldest museum for years has turned out to
They say you should never turn your back on the ocean, but what if the waves are coming from all sides? This is what happens when an unlucky swimmer or boater gets caught between two opposing swells, known as a cross sea. This rare pattern of square waves is a beautiful sight to behold, but
Earth is not one to sit still. For roughly 3 billion years, our planet has been perpetually recycling its ocean floor, swallowing up old oceanic crust in some areas and pouring out new seabed in others. Diamonds, it would seem, are the beautiful byproducts of all this restlessness. Tipped off by tiny traces of trapped salt,
For a species as young and puny as humans, every ancient fossil is a most extraordinary gift from our planet’s vast history. Even so, this 50-million-year-old bunch of dead fish might just be the coolest fossil we’ve ever seen. An unassuming slab of limestone from the Green River Formation in North America became the final
Let’s face it – compared to Mars, our planet is a biological paradise dripping with moisture and relative absence of toxic chemistry. If we want to know what life might look like on the Red Planet, we need to go hunting in extreme environments. Ethiopia’s Dallol geothermal area could qualify. Minerals from one of the
The first known sighting of an albino panda has taken place in China, revealing a uniquely pale bear cub padding through a lush green bamboo forest. This unprecedented vision was not seen directly by human eyes, but was captured by an infrared camera triggered when the panda moved into its motion-activated scopes. We’re lucky it
The way information travels inside the cells of our bodies is not unlike the wiring inside a computer chip, according to a new study that has unveiled the intricate workings of a network of calcium ions as intracellular messengers. According to researchers from the University of Edinburgh in the UK, this “cell-wide web” uses a
Staffers at the New England Aquarium last winter were setting up for an after-hours event near the Amazon rain forest exhibit when they made an unexpected discovery. Anna the anaconda – 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms), 8 years old and 10 feet (3 meters) long – had given birth to a litter of baby snakes. Aquarium
A volcano erupted on the Indonesian island of Bali Saturday, sending ash into the sky over surrounding villages and lava pouring down its sides. The island’s Mount Agung put national agencies on notice, causing some flight cancellations but no reported casualties with the eruption, which reportedly spread lava and incandescent rocks over about two miles.
All chimpanzees eat animals at least sometimes, including anything from ants and termites to bushpigs and even baboons. Monkeys, in fact, are typically the most frequent item on the menu, and in some cases chimpanzees can eat so many monkeys they threaten to wipe out entire populations. One group in Senegal even hunts tiny, mouse-like
From deep in the shale beds of Arctic Canada, what seems to be the earliest evidence of life on land has emerged. The discovery of microscopic fossils just pushed back the earliest recorded appearance of fungus by more than half a billion years. This was the early Neoproterozoic Era, the last era in the Precambrian
In a couple of years, the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) could have an important decision to make. A working group just voted 29 to 4 in favour of recognising a new modern epoch, and plans to formally make its case to the ICS in the next two years. If you haven’t heard of this commission,
Sharks are pretty eclectic eaters. They’ll go for prey ranging from fish and invertebrates to sea mammals and turtles. A shark may even have a chomp on the odd surfer. If they can catch it, or scavenge it, and it’s made of meat, sharks will generally eat it. A new study identifying the contents of
In November last year, geologists announced they’d picked up something really weird: a huge seismic event originating in the island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean, felt all across the globe, source unknown. A few months later, scientists used modelling to produce an answer – hypothesising a giant underwater volcanic eruption. And now it seems
If you pictured a fight between a snake and a squirrel, you probably wouldn’t bet on the squirrel coming out on top. But that’s exactly what happened in a particularly gruesome case in 2009, caught on camera by William Leggett, who was a ranger at West Texas’ Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The photo below shows
Strange as it might seem, learning to crawl before learning to walk is actually a very unusual trait among animals. Aside from humans, only a few kinds of dinosaurs are thought to have crawled like this, and scientists just identified another candidate. The dinosaur in question is a sauropod named Mussaurus patagonicus (“mouse lizard”), which
You know how when one of your friends is grumpy, it brings everyone’s mood down? Well, it that’s not unique to humans. Turns out some of our favourite avian friends are prone to the same malady. A raven in a huff makes other ravens surly, too. According to new research, when a raven is shown
If you think your mom is laying it on thick about producing grandchildren, take heart: At least you’re not a male bonobo. Bonobo mothers have been seen performing a variety of behaviors that seem to lend their sons an advantage when it comes to fathering babies, according to a study published Monday in Current Biology
Bed bugs first evolved into existence more than 100 million years ago, new science reveals, meaning the insects would have breathed the same air as Tyrannosaurus rex and other dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period. The new study suggests bats, which initially emerged 50-60 million years ago, weren’t in fact the first animals to host bed
It’s long been known that cannabis plants are indigenous to Central Asia, but a new study provides a fresh focus on where exactly this genus may have first evolved millions of years ago. Documents dating back to the middle ages show humans have been hypothesising about the geographical origins of cannabis for over a thousand
Peacock spiders are so adorable, they stand a chance to sway the feelings of the most seasoned spider hater. These creatures are tiny – a mere 5 millimetres (0.2 inches). They’re also fluffy, the males have incredibly colourful butts, and they love to dance. Now we’ve discovered these spiders also have an interesting superpower – the
Researchers have pinpointed a previously unknown source of volcanoes in the extreme depths of Earth – in the transition zone between the upper and lower mantle. Until now, we thought we had a handle on the ways in which volcanoes form, welling up from the molten regions in the upper mantle beneath our planet’s crust,
Can snails fart? Thank you. – Avalon, age 9, Scotts Head, NSW.(Asked as part of the Curious Kids series where children ask questions, and experts answer.) Lots of animals fart because of what they eat, but it was not easy for me to find a clear answer on whether snails really do. More research is
Unlike human history, when nature repeats itself, there’s usually a good reason. For the white-throated rail (Dryolimnas cuvieri), all it took was a peaceful reef Eden, free from predators and competition. On the remote Aldabra atoll in the Indian Ocean, scientists have discovered that the same species of bird has lost its ability to fly
Scientists have found a bunch of microscopic creatures that could be totally new to science – but it’s an exceptional challenge to determine who is who when the tiny things you’ve discovered are actually the larva of animals that look completely different in their adult stage. The little-known animals in question are called phoronids, or
Amber from Myanmar in Southeast Asia is turning out to be an incredibly rich resource for examining the natural world of 100 million years ago. In the last year, it’s turned up frogs, snails, a snake, weird feathers, and some pretty wacky bugs. What do all of those have in common? They’re land-dwellers. But now
There’s no denying that keeping livestock has deeply benefited humanity over the millennia. But, while sheep and cows may have adapted well to farm life, there’s one animal humans like to eat that would fare poorly in farms. Octopuses, scientists have argued in a new essay, should never be farmed – not just because of
Today the Australian Koala Foundation announced they believe “there are no more than 80,000 koalas in Australia”, making the species “functionally extinct”. While this number is dramatically lower than the most recent academic estimates, there’s no doubt koala numbers in many places are in steep decline. It’s hard to say exactly how many koalas are
When you’ve been surviving in all sorts of environments for billions of years, you pick up a few tricks for harvesting light as efficiently as possible – and now long-living, light-emitting microalgae could be about to help us develop the next generation of solar panels. These fluorescent algae are able to capture up to 95%
In recent years, it’s emerged that some dinosaurs – considered scaly and reptilian for many years – were actually wearing feathers. But a newly discovered species of scansoriopterygid dinosaur sports a different style. This tiny creature had bat-like wings: leathery, not feathery. It’s called Ambopteryx longibrachium, and it was just 33 centimetres (13 inches) long.
Along the Black River in North Carolina, bald cypress trees have been quietly growing for millennia. Quite literally so: Scientists recently found trees over 2,000 years old – including one that is at least 2,624 years old. That makes it the fifth-oldest known non-clonal tree in the world. (Utah’s Pando, an ancient quaking aspen forest,
Here’s a question for you. If A is greater than B, and B is greater than C, then is A greater than C? It’s a simple puzzle, something children can solve. In fact, even animals have demonstrated the form of reasoning – called transitive inference – that we use to answer this kind of problem.
For most of us, the jump from meat-eater to vegetarian is a big one. For the giant panda, the switch was all too easy. Despite a long family history of meat-heavy meals, this large bear now feeds almost exclusively on tough bamboo – a change its ancestors made more than 2 million years ago. For