biology

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Ancient Flower Species Found Trapped in Amber

Perfect specimen could be up to 45M years old

(Newser) - A beautiful and probably deadly plant preserved in amber for years has turned out to be a species completely new to science. The new species, which has been named Strychnos electri, was identified from two tiny flowers perfectly preserved in amber found in a mine in the Dominican Republic. It... More »

Decades-Old Question About This 'Purple Sock' Is Answered

Scientists still haven't seen the creatures feed

(Newser) - Since it was first discovered 60 years ago off the coast of Sweden, biologists have wondered exactly where the deep sea creature that resembles a crumpled purple sock belongs in the animal kingdom's family tree. Now the discovery of four new species in an entirely different ocean has effectively... More »

Math Model Helps Answer Riddle of Tiger's Stripes

Researchers can better explain why they're vertical or horizontal

(Newser) - Since the 1950s mathematicians have been trying to sort out exactly why some animals, like tigers and zebras, have stripes that are oriented perpendicularly to their spines, while others, like the zebrafish, have stripes that are parallel. Now Harvard researchers are proposing a mathematical model in the journal Cell Systems... More »

Crocodiles May Be Watching You While They Sleep

Researchers say crocodiles do indeed sleep with one eye open

(Newser) - Bad news for Captain Hook: Crocodiles may be keeping an eye on humans even when the crocs are sleeping, according to new research published this week in the Journal of Experimental Biology . The BBC reports researchers in Australia monitored juvenile crocodiles using infrared cameras and determined they often slept with... More »

Study Overturns Long-Held Belief on Hummingbirds

They don't drink the way researchers have thought for 200 years

(Newser) - Hummingbirds beat their wings approximately 50 times per second, but that's nothing compared to how fast they can drink. A study out of the University of Connecticut debunks nearly 200 years of scientific thinking on how hummingbirds accomplish that task, with results showing the tiny birds can sip up... More »

Scientists Discover Venomous Frogs— the Hard Way

One gram of frog's venom is enough to kill 80 humans

(Newser) - Miss Piggy's split with Kermit wasn't the only painful frog-related news this week. Researchers have released their findings on the world's first known venomous frogs, whose abilities were only discovered when one of them stung a researcher's hand, leaving him with what a colleague calls... More »

Sharks Have a Sixth Sense for Killing, Literally

They're better at sensing electric fields than even our best tools

(Newser) - It turns out there's something sharks are even better at than spicing up your average made-for-TV movie about tornadoes: sensing electricity. Back in 1971, a Dutch scientist discovered sharks use tiny pores on their heads to sense the electric fields produced by other aquatic animals—and hunt those creatures,... More »

3 New Kinds of Pocket-Sized 'Dragons' Found

Andes cloud forests yield spiky, colorful lizards

(Newser) - Even in the year 2015, and even with widespread destruction of the world's wilderness, zoologists who look hard enough can still find new species of dragons—the dwarf kind, at least. Researchers combing the cloud forests of the Andes in Ecuador and Peru have uncovered three new kinds of... More »

Mushroom-Shaped Critter in Deep Sea Vexes Biologists

Animal found in 1986, only now being scientifically described

(Newser) - From afar, the deep-sea animal species Dendrogramma enigmatica resembles a chanterelle mushroom. Upon closer inspection, though, the creatures seem to belong to the animal, not fungi, kingdom. And yet they cannot be classified under any existing animal group, perhaps necessitating an entire rewriting of the early tree of life, not... More »

Four Basic Taste Types? Think Again

Salty, sweet, bitter, sour don't even begin to account for basic taste types

(Newser) - Most of us have been taught that salty, sweet, sour, and bitter (that last one added by Greek philosopher Democritus a few thousand years ago) make up the four building blocks of taste. But since the "savory" taste (also called umami) was added as a fifth taste about a... More »

New Species Looks Like Mouse, Is More Similar to Elephant

One-ounce shrew has some surprising DNA cousins

(Newser) - Scientists have discovered a new species that, though it looks a lot like a mouse, is actually a close genetic relative of an elephant. The mammal, which was found in a remote western African desert, is a type of elephant shrew or "round-eared sengi." Dubbed the Macroscelides micus,... More »

Sorry, Men, We Barely Need Y Chromosomes

Just two genes from it are necessary to reproduce: study

(Newser) - Who needs a Y chromosome? Scientists have found that "male" mice without the sex-defining chromosome can reproduce—as long as they've got two key genes from it. A team in Hawaii worked with mice lacking full Y chromosomes; instead, they had two genes, called Sry and Eif2s3y, inserted... More »

Study Suggests Earth Life Began on Mars

Building blocks of life may have arrived via meteorite: scientist

(Newser) - Were our earliest ancestors Martians? A new study suggests that all life on Earth may have originated on the Red Planet, the BBC reports. That's because Mars would have had plenty of the minerals that are best at forging RNA, which is one of the key components of life... More »

Tests Hint at Fish Miles Below Antarctic Ice

Scientists study RNA at Lake Vostok

(Newser) - A lake nearly 2.5 miles below Antarctica's ice sheet could harbor some surprising organisms—including, perhaps, fish, scientists find. Lake Vostok, some 5,800 square miles in area, is thought to have been closed off from the atmosphere for millions of years, the BBC notes. But rivers below... More »

Things Can Actually Live at the Ocean's Deepest Point

Bacteria makes a home 8 miles underwater

(Newser) - The Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench contains the deepest point in all the world's oceans. But despite its nearly eight-mile depth (Mount Everest, by comparison, doesn't hit six miles), Challenger Deep is also home to life, a study finds. Researchers sent a robot into Challenger Deep in 2010... More »

Tech Giants Fund Big Annual Award for Scientists

Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, will shell out $3M to each winner

(Newser) - Forget the Nobel Prize; pretty soon, enterprising medical researchers will really be after the Life Sciences Breakthrough Prize. Some of the biggest names in tech—including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin—have teamed to create the award, which rewards biological breakthroughs with fat, $3 million checks.... More »

Search Begins for Life in Antarctic Lake

Lake Ellsworth has been isolated for up to 500K years

(Newser) - What lurks in the pitch black, near-freezing waters of Lake Ellsworth? That's what British researchers, who began their trek to the lake in October 2011, hope to find out in as soon as a week. They've begun drilling through more than two miles of ice to reach the... More »

Scientist Who Cloned Dolly Dead at 58

Keith Campbell's idea prompted first adult mammal cloning

(Newser) - A British cell biologist central to the cloning of the first adult mammal died at his home in England last Friday, aged 58. Keith Campbell and colleague Ian Wilmut announced their success with cloning Dolly the sheep in 1997, achieving what experts had believed impossible—and sparking a major ethical... More »

What Makes Music Scary?

An evolutionary biologist thinks it's nonlinear noises

(Newser) - Why exactly does the Jaws theme send a chill down our spine? What makes Darth Vader's entrance music so unsettling? In short, why does certain music freak us out? Evolutionary biologist Daniel Blumstein thinks he has the answer. Blumstein hit on the idea while observing baby marmots, who would... More »

Beneath Pacific Lies Ancient, Barely Alive Bacteria

Bacteria 100 feet under ocean floor haven't had new food since time of dinosaurs

(Newser) - Some 100 feet below the most nutrient-starved part of the Pacific Ocean floor, incredibly old life exists. In the most detailed look yet at the lifestyles of "extremophile" bacteria, scientists have determined that the organisms have survived for what could be as long as millions of years solely on... More »

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