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Whales only recently evolved into giants when changing ice, oceans concentrated prey

Tue, 23 May 2017 19:00:05 EDT

The blue whale, which uses baleen to filter its prey from ocean water and can reach lengths of over 100 feet, is the largest vertebrate animal that has ever lived. On the list of the planet's most massive living creatures, the blue whale shares the top ranks with most other species of baleen whales alive today. According to new research from scientists at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, however, it was only recently in whale's evolutionary past that they became so enormous.

Friends help female vampire bats cope with loss

Tue, 23 May 2017 19:00:02 EDT

Female vampire bats form strong social bonds with their mothers and daughters as they groom and share regurgitated meals of blood. They also form friendships with less closely related bats. Gerry Carter, post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), and colleagues discovered that unrelated friends are important backup support when family members go missing.

Microhabitats enhance butterfly diversity in nature's imitation game

Tue, 23 May 2017 19:00:01 EDT

The spectacular variety of colours and patterns that butterflies use to ward off potential predators may result from highly localised environmental conditions known as "microhabitats", researchers have found.

Egypt moves bed, chariot of King Tut to new museum

Tue, 23 May 2017 17:17:17 EDT

Egypt safely moved two artifacts, a funerary bed and a chariot, belonging to the famed pharaoh King Tutankhamun on Tuesday, from the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo to a new one across the city, which will house a large collection of the ancient monarch's items.

Lizards may be overwhelmed by fire ants and social stress combined

Tue, 23 May 2017 17:00:26 EDT

Lizards living in fire-ant-invaded areas are stressed. However, a team of biologists found that the lizards did not exhibit this stress as expected after extended fire ant exposure in socially stressful environments, leading to questions about stress overload. "After encounters with non-lethal stress levels (from fire-ant exposure), we asked; Okay, they (the lizards) live, but what happens then?" said Tracy Langkilde, professor of biology, Penn State. "Do they live and are fine? Do they live and remain stressed? We just don't know."

More than play: Can video games train sailors and marines?

Tue, 23 May 2017 16:21:49 EDT

Blasting video game zombies, aliens and gangsters might not seem intellectually stimulating, but current research shows these computerized conflicts actually sharpen a range of cognitive skills—including better multitasking, increased attention span, faster reaction time and greater visual acuity.

Genetic mutation trade-offs lead to parallel evolution

Tue, 23 May 2017 15:42:53 EDT

Organisms in nature adapt and evolve in complex environments. For example, when subjected to changes in nutrients, antibiotics, and predation, microbes in the wild face the challenge of adapting multiple traits at the same time. But how does evolution unfold when, for survival, multiple traits must be improved simultaneously?

Appeals court revives challenge to NSA surveillance practice

Tue, 23 May 2017 14:47:12 EDT

A challenge to the government's practice of collecting certain internet communications can move forward, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

Gulf Coast anglers plan protest against fishing limits

Tue, 23 May 2017 14:45:37 EDT

Recreational anglers along the Gulf Coast are planning a floating protest against strict federal limits on red snapper fishing that they say are hurting businesses throughout the region.

NASA sees powerful storms with advancing monsoon in Bay of Bengal

Tue, 23 May 2017 14:44:05 EDT

Storms associated with the advancing monsoon in the Northern Indian Ocean's Bay of Bengal were analyzed by NASA with the GPM or Global Precipitation Measurement mission core satellite.

The high plains aquifer: Can we make it last?

Tue, 23 May 2017 14:42:01 EDT

The heart of the United States is a highly productive agricultural region. This "breadbasket" underpins much of U.S. society, but it also relies almost entirely on a complex network of diminishing groundwater resources.

New chemical reaction could eventually yield new fuels and medications

Tue, 23 May 2017 14:41:19 EDT

When scientists develop the chemical formulas for new products such as fuels and medications, they often must first create molecules that haven't previously existed.

US says Fiat Chrysler used software to cheat emissions tests

Tue, 23 May 2017 14:10:01 EDT

The U.S. government is suing Fiat Chrysler, alleging that some of its diesel pickup trucks and Jeep SUVs cheat on emissions tests.

How X-rays helped to solve mystery of floating rocks

Tue, 23 May 2017 14:00:38 EDT

It's true—some rocks can float on water for years at a time. And now scientists know how they do it, and what causes them to eventually sink.

Improve evolution education by teaching genetics first

Tue, 23 May 2017 14:00:01 EDT

Evolution is a difficult concept for many students at all levels, however, a study publishing on May 23 in the open access journal PLOS Biology has demonstrated a simple cost-free way to significantly improve students' understanding of evolution at the secondary level: teach genetics before you teach them evolution.

Special X-ray technique allows scientists to see 3-D deformations

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:58:38 EDT

While doctors use X-rays to see the broken bones inside our bodies, scientists have developed a new X-ray technique to see inside continuously packed nanoparticles, also known as grains, to examine deformations and dislocations that affect their properties.

Scientists transform how complex marine data from the Ocean Health Index is synthesized, communicated

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:57:49 EDT

In 2012, scientists at UC Santa Barbara's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) launched the Ocean Health Index (OHI), a scientific framework to measure and track the health of the world's oceans. Working in partnership with the nonprofit Conservation International, the OHI team measured the combined benefits that oceans sustainably provide for people—from wild-caught and farmed seafood to habitats that protect coastlines. Annual status reports show how and where to improve ocean management.

Biosynthetic secrets: How fungi make bioactive compounds

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:56:01 EDT

Biological engineers at Utah State University have successfully decoded and reprogrammed the biosynthetic machinery that produces a variety of natural compounds found in fungi.

VLA reveals new object near supermassive black hole in famous galaxy

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:55:08 EDT

Pointing the Very Large Array (VLA) at a famous galaxy for the first time in two decades, a team of astronomers got a big surprise, finding that a bright new object had appeared near the galaxy's core. The object, the scientists concluded, is either a very rare type of supernova explosion or, more likely, an outburst from a second supermassive black hole closely orbiting the galaxy's primary, central supermassive black hole.

Target, states reach $18.5 million settlement on data breach

Tue, 23 May 2017 12:44:38 EDT

Target Corp. has reached an $18.5 million settlement over a massive data breach that occurred before Christmas in 2013, New York's attorney general announced Tuesday.

Study shows snakes, thought to be solitary eaters, coordinate hunts

Tue, 23 May 2017 12:42:00 EDT

Snakes, although as social as birds and mammals, have long been thought to be solitary hunters and eaters. A new study from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, shows that some snakes coordinate their hunts to increase their chances of success.

Declawing linked to aggression and other abnormal behaviors in cats

Tue, 23 May 2017 12:41:02 EDT

Declaw surgery (onychectomy) is illegal in many countries but is still a surprisingly common practice in some. It is performed electively to stop cats from damaging furniture, or as a means of avoiding scratches. Previous research has focused on short-term issues following surgery, such as lameness, chewing of toes and infection, but the long-term health effects of this procedure have not to date been investigated.

Cowbird moms choosy when selecting foster parents for their young

Tue, 23 May 2017 12:39:50 EDT

Brown-headed cowbirds are unconventional mothers. Rather than building nests and nurturing their chicks, they lay their eggs in the nests of other species, leaving their young ones to compete for resources with the foster parents' own hatchlings. Despite their reputation as uncaring, absentee moms, cowbird mothers are capable of making sophisticated choices among potential nests in order to give their offspring a better chance of thriving, a new study shows.

Study: Street gangs, crime serve as deviant leisure activities for youths

Tue, 23 May 2017 12:39:03 EDT

Although at-risk youths may have a variety of reasons for joining street gangs, a new study suggests that gang membership and criminal acts often serve as deviant leisure activities, fulfilling young people's needs for excitement, a sense of belonging and social support.

Study: DNA may have only modest impact on sexual assault arrests

Tue, 23 May 2017 12:38:30 EDT

Most arrests in sexual assault cases occur before crime laboratory results are available, a new study found, suggesting that DNA testing may influence arrests in just a small number of cases.The paper is among the first studies to examine the impact of DNA on sexual assault arrest rates, although the researchers said the findings should be interpreted cautiously because of the small sample size of cases used in key analyses.

Pope's encyclical boosted his credibility on climate change, especially among liberals

Tue, 23 May 2017 12:36:49 EDT

Pope Francis's 2015 encyclical on climate change, "Laudato si'," sought to leverage the pontiff's moral authority and draw attention to climate change as a global issue that disproportionately harms the poor.

Oyster farming to benefit from new genetic screening tool

Tue, 23 May 2017 12:34:39 EDT

Oyster farmers are set to benefit from a new genetic tool that will help to prevent disease outbreaks and improve yields.

Atomic structure of irradiated materials is more akin to liquid than glass

Tue, 23 May 2017 12:32:48 EDT

Materials exposed to neutron radiation tend to experience significant damage, leading to the containment challenges involved in immobilizing nuclear waste or nuclear plant confinements. At the nanoscale, these incident neutrons collide with a material's atoms that, in turn, then collide with each other somewhat akin to billiards. The resulting disordered atomic network and its physical properties resemble those seen in some glassy materials, which has led many in the field to use them in nuclear research.

Understanding stars: How tornado-shaped flow in a dynamo strengthens the magnetic field

Tue, 23 May 2017 12:30:58 EDT

The massive, churning core of conducting liquids in stars and some planets creates a dynamo that generates the planetary body's magnetic field. Researchers aim to better understand these dynamos through computer simulations and by recreating them in the laboratory using canisters of rapidly spinning, liquid sodium.

Neptune: Neutralizer-free plasma propulsion

Tue, 23 May 2017 12:30:38 EDT

Plasma propulsion is an important and efficient technology used to control spacecraft for Earth observation, communications and fundamental exploration of outer space.