AS WEEDS GO, Arabidopsis thaliana is a rather charming specimen. On a spring day, you might see it sprouting from the cracks of a parking lot, unleashing a small riot of white flowers that give it the common name “mouse ear cress.” But its rotund leaves often bear unwelcome passengers: among them, a bacteria called Pseudomonas syringae. It sits there looking for a way into the plant, usually the stomata through which the leaf takes in water and carbon dioxide, or through a wound. That’s when things get interesting.
EVERY YEAR, GREAT white sharks travel over 12,000 miles from South Africa to Australia, charting a nearly perfect straight line across the ocean. And every year, they turn around and travel back. There are no street signs to guide them and, for much of the journey, no stable landmarks by which they can set their course. Currents and water temperatures change. The sun sets at night, the stars disappear during the day. But the sharks carry on.
The riches of the natural world are not spread evenly across the globe. Some places, such as the tropical Andes in South America, are simply stacked with unique species of plants and animals, many found no place else on Earth. So-called biodiversity “hotspots” are thought to cover just 2.3 percent of the planet’s surface, mostly in the tropics, yet they account for half of all known plant species and 77 percent of land vertebrates.
SCIENTISTS ARE CONTINUING to tease out the mechanisms by which the Venus flytrap can tell when it has captured a tasty insect as prey as opposed to an inedible object (or just a false alarm). There is evidence that the carnivorous plant has something akin to a short-term “memory,” and a team of Japanese scientists has found evidence that the mechanism for this memory lies in changes in calcium concentrations in its leaves, according to a recent paperpublished in the journal Nature Plants.
Finding new diseases is difficult and dangerous work. In the middle of the night, the researchers would get dressed in protective gear. They would wear suits that covered them from head to toe, goggles, two pairs of gloves, and boots. Then they would go to caves and set up nets to capture bats and tarps to collect their droppings. There would be so many bats that it would take the team just a few minutes to have hundreds to sample. Continue reading Smithsonian Scientists Discover Six New Coronaviruses in Bats in Myanmar
Marine biologists have found evidence of a previously unobserved deep-sea migration route more than 4,500 feet beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, according to a new paper. Continue reading Scientists Find Evidence of Deep-Sea Fish Migration Route
For the first time, a government is supporting a plan to create animal embryos with human cells and bring them to term, resulting in a type of humanimal known as a human-animal chimera. Continue reading Japan Approves Scientist’s Plan to Create World’s First Humanimals