Earth

Some tropical plants pick the best hummingbirds to pollinate flowers

Some tropical plants pick the best hummingbirds to pollinate flowers

Rather than just waiting patiently for any pollinator that comes their way to start the next generation of seeds, some plants appear to recognize the best suitors and "turn on" to increase the chance of success, according to a new study published this week.

Being picky may increase access to genetic diversity and thus give the plants a competitive advantage over their neighbors, but there is a risk, the researchers say. If the preferred pollinators decline for any reason, the plants may not reproduce as easily and could decline as well.

First photograph of light as a particle and a wave

First photograph of light as a particle and a wave

Quantum mechanics tells us that light can behave simultaneously as a particle or a wave. However, there has never been an experiment able to capture both natures of light at the same time; the closest we have come is seeing either wave or particle, but always at different times. Taking a radically different experimental approach, EPFL scientists have now been able to take the first ever snapshot of light behaving both as a wave and as a particle. The breakthrough work is published in Nature Communications.

How were fossil tracks made by Early Triassic swimming reptiles so well preserved?

How were fossil tracks made by Early Triassic swimming reptiles so well preserved?

A type of vertebrate trace fossil gaining recognition in the field of paleontology is that made by various tetrapods (four-footed land-living vertebrates) as they traveled through water under buoyant or semibuoyant conditions.

Study identifies first-ever human population adaptation to toxic chemical, arsenic

High up in the high Andes mountains of Argentina, researchers have identified the first-ever evidence of a population uniquely adapted to tolerate the toxic chemical arsenic.

For thousands of years, in some regions of the Andes, people have been exposed to high levels of arsenic, a naturally occurring phenomenon that happens when arsenic in the volcanic bedrock is released into the groundwater. How could this population adapt to tolerate arsenic, a potent killer of such ill repute that it's often the overused plot-driver of many murder mysteries?

Mystery solved: Why seashells' mineral forms differently in seawater

For almost a century, scientists have been puzzled by a process that is crucial to much of the life in Earth's oceans: Why does calcium carbonate, the tough material of seashells and corals, sometimes take the form of calcite, and at other times form a chemically identical form of the mineral, called aragonite, that is more soluble -- and therefore more vulnerable to ocean acidification?

The rub with friction - we don't really know how it works

Here's the rub with friction -- scientists don't really know how it works. Sure, humans have been harnessing the power of friction since rubbing two sticks together to build the first fire, but the physics of friction remains largely in the dark.

Spurring production of a sluggish enzyme for crop yields

Australian scientists have found a way to improve production of the Rubisco enzyme, essential to plant growth. Important staple crops, such as wheat, cotton and rice stand to benefit.

The discovery advances efforts to improve global food security that aim to increase the yields of some of our most important staple crops, such as wheat, cotton and rice.

Leukemia-associated mutations almost inevitable as we age

It is almost inevitable that we will develop genetic mutations associated with leukaemia as we age, according to research published today in Cell Reports. Based on a study of 4219 people without any evidence of blood cancer, scientists estimate that up to 20 per cent of people aged 50-60 and more than 70 per cent of people over 90 have blood cells with the same gene changes as found in leukaemia.

Human Activity May Be Supporting Growth of Harmful Algae in Lakes

Intensified land-use, sewage discharge, and climate change have likely favored disproportionate development of harmful algae in freshwaters. A new study found that blooms of one type of harmful algae, called cyanobacteria, have increased disproportionately over the past two centuries relative to other species, with the greatest increases since 1945.
Cyanobacteria pose a serious threat to drinking water sources worldwide because they can release toxins into the surrounding environment.

Black men less willing to be investigated for prostate cancer

The incidence of prostate cancer among men of Afro-Caribbean origin is higher than in white men, they are more likely to be diagnosed as emergencies, and their mortality rates are higher.

Why?

A new survey of more than 500 men attending general practices in Bristol may provide answers.