Earth

DURHAM, N.C. -- Born pink, blind, and helpless, giant pandas typically weigh about 100 grams at birth -- the equivalent of a stick of butter. Their mothers are 900 times more massive than that.

This unusual size difference has left researchers puzzled for years. With a few exceptions among animals such as echidnas and kangaroos, no other mammal newborns are so tiny relative to their mothers. No one knows why, but a Duke University study of bones across 10 species of bears and other animals finds that some of the current theories don't hold up.

Rapa Nui (or Easter Island, as it is commonly known) is home to the enigmatic Moai, stone monoliths that have stood watch over the island landscape for hundreds of years. Their existence is a marvel of human ingenuity -- and their meaning a source of some mystery.

Take a deep breath in. Slowly let it out.

You have just participated in one of the most profound evolutionary revolutions on Earth--breathing air on land. It's unclear how the first vertebrates thrived after crawling out of the sea nearly 400 million years ago, but the lungs hold an important clue.

A Dartmouth study finds that the conscious perception of visual location occurs in the frontal lobes of the brain, rather than in the visual system in the back of the brain. The findings are published in Current Biology.

The results are significant given the ongoing debate among neuroscientists on what consciousness is and where it happens in the brain.

Described as "living rocks", giant land tortoises are lumbering beasts with a reputation for being sluggish in both speed and brainpower. But new research carried out by scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) suggests we have greatly underestimated the intelligence of these creatures, who can not only be trained but also have amazing powers of long-term recall.

Studies have shown that perinatal exposure of rats and mice to common flame retardants found in household items permanently reprograms liver metabolism, often leading later in life to insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The manipulation of rivers in California is jeopardizing the resilience of native Chinook salmon. It compresses their migration timing to the point that they crowd their habitats. They may miss the best window for entering the ocean and growing into adults, new research shows.

The good news is that even small steps to improve their access to habitat and restore natural flows could boost their survival.

A new study on wild banded mongooses reveals that females may use spontaneous abortion to cope with reproductive competition, and to save their energy for future breeding attempts in better conditions.

Using new high-resolution imaging techniques, MDC researchers and colleagues have tracked titin, the body's largest protein, in real time throughout its entire lifecycle. The method and results could provide new insight into muscle development as well as treating damaged muscles and heart disease.

Made up of 2D sheets of carbon atoms arranged in honeycomb lattices, graphene has been intensively studied in recent years. As well as the material's diverse structural properties, physicists have paid particular attention to the intriguing dynamics of the charge carriers its many variants can contain. The mathematical techniques used to study these physical processes have proved useful so far, but they have had limited success in explaining graphene's 'critical temperature' of superconductivity, below which its' electrical resistance drops to zero.

The fifth edition of the Dutch Soil Animal Days saw earthworms almost grab top spot thanks to the wet autumn weather. But at the end of the day, woodlice once again emerged as the most-observed soil animal in Dutch gardens. Nearly 1000 'citizen scientists' sent in their observations this year. And a surprisingly high number of people tried to do something in return for the vital services these soil creatures provide for us.

Ancient air samples from one of Antarctica's snowiest ice core sites may add a new molecule to the record of changes to Earth's atmosphere over the past century and a half, since the Industrial Revolution began burning fossil fuels on a massive scale.

The survival of Earth's life is not a battle of humans versus nature. In this week's Science, an independent group of international experts, including one from Michigan State University (MSU), deliver a sweeping assessment of nature, concluding victory needs both humans and nature to thrive.

"Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change" explores how human impacts on life on Earth are unprecedented, requiring transformative action to address root economic, social and technological causes.

A model that uses genetic markers to accurately estimate the lifespans of different vertebrate species is presented in a study in Scientific Reports this week. The 'lifespan clock' screens 42 selected genes for CpG sites, short pieces of DNA whose density is correlated with lifespan, to predict how long members of a given vertebrate species may live.

Spider webs are one of nature's most fascinating manifestations. Many spiders extrude proteinaceous silk to weave sticky webs that ensnare unsuspecting prey who venture into their threads. Despite their elasticity, these webs possess incredible tensile strength. In recent years, scientists have expressed increased interest in the spider orb-web as a biological-mechanical system. The web's sensory mechanisms are especially fascinating, given that most web-weaving spiders--regardless of their vision level--use generated vibrations to effectively locate ensnared prey.