Back in the 1970s, scientists came up with a revolutionary idea about how Earth’s deep interior works. They proposed it is slowly churning like a lava lamp, with buoyant blobs rising as plumes of hot mantle rock from near Earth’s core, where rocks are so hot they move like a fluid. According to the
Scientists are constantly learning more about the tectonic plates shifting across our planet’s surface. According to new research, it turns out those plates have been around on Earth for longer than we originally thought – about a billion years longer, in fact. These giant slabs of rock sit in the Earth’s crust just above
Throughout history, Earth has experienced at least five major mass extinctions that wiped out most life around the globe. Most of these events pretty clearly coincided with catastrophes such as asteroid impacts, geological activity, and volcanic eruptions. One event, however, is more of a mystery – the Late Devonian extinction 360 million years ago.
Eating one’s own kind might be considered poor taste to us humans, but it’s a remarkably common survival tactic among other animals. Which is why we shouldn’t be surprised that dinosaurs also turned to cannibalism on occasion. A haul of fossils from over 150 million years ago has provided palaeontologists with a rare glimpse
Rats are growing increasingly aggressive in their hunt for food as restaurants across the US remain shuttered to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned. With many restaurants now only open for takeout services, the bins that used to be filled with scraps and refuse
The way chimpanzees smack their lips together has a similar rhythm to human speech, and a new study suggests this could be a clue to where our ancestors got their knack for language. The evolution of human speech is a mystery to us all, and there are few hints of it in non-human primates.
A federal judge ruled this week that a salvage company can go forward with a plan to recover the telegraph that the Titanic used to send out distress calls as it sank. RMS Titanic, Inc., the court-designated salvage company for the Titanic, plans to send a remote operated vehicle (ROV) into the Marconi suite, the
New satellite data from the European Space Agency (ESA) reveal that the mysterious anomaly weakening Earth’s magnetic field continues to evolve, with the most recent observations showing we could soon be dealing with more than one of these strange phenomena. The South Atlantic Anomaly is a vast expanse of reduced magnetic intensity in Earth’s
For decades, scientists have been intrigued and captivated by small, fuzzy balls of moss that slowly make their way across Arctic glaciers. Now we know more about how these ‘glacier mice’ are travelling together. While several reports have been filed observing these mossy balls, so far very little research has been done into how
New research details the hidden ecosystem that once acted as an Eden-like sanctuary for animal life, including early humans, at the southern tip of South Africa. The Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (PAP), now submerged by ocean waters off the South African coast, could have provided a rich habitat for all kinds of animals during glacial periods, when
When you wake up hungry and there’s nothing to eat, the most sensible thing to do is acquire snacks. In this, bumblebees are no different from humans. If they wake early from hibernation to find a scarcity of pollen, the insects have a cunning way to force plants to flower. Using their mandibles and
Naturalists in Algeria have filmed a Saharan cheetah, a subspecies listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, for the first time in a decade, the national parks authority said. The animal was spotted in the Hoggar Mountains national park in the vast country’s desert south, parks official Salah Amokrane told the state-run
If you’ve ever looked carefully at the snails in your garden, you may have noticed a curious quirk. Most of their shells spiral in the same direction. Every now and again, you might find one going the other way, but the odd ones out are extremely rare. This structural mirroring is a phenomenon known
Cats have recently been on the tail-end of bad press, with recent research finding roaming pet cats kill 390 million animals per year in Australia. Most of them are native species. To protect our native wildlife, who never evolved with such an efficient predator, it’s imperative we keep our cats contained – all day,
It’s going to be a very noisy summer in some parts of the United States. After 17 years underground, a brood of periodical cicadas are ready to emerge into the world above in several east coast states. Once they breathe in that first bout of fresh air and shed their underground coats, these harmless
In 1936, Benjamin, the last known thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), died from exposure in an Australian zoo. Only the year before, he was filmed for the long-forgotten travelogue Tasmania the Wonderland by the prolific Brisbane-based filmmaker Sidney Cook. Today, just a few scenes of the film survive: a double-decker tram system, Hobart’s Sandy Bay beach,
When people first arrived in what is now Queensland, they would have found the land inhabited by massive animals including goannas 6 metres (20 feet) long and kangaroos twice as tall as a human. We have studied fossil bones of these animals for the past decade. Our findings, published today in Nature Communications, shed
We know feral cats are an enormous problem for wildlife – across Australia, feral cats collectively kill more than three billion animals per year. Cats have played a leading role in most of Australia’s 34 mammal extinctions since 1788, and are a big reason populations of at least 123 other threatened native species are dropping.
Perhaps you’ve had to put up with a moody, uncooperative teenager. You may well have been one yourself. A new study suggests that dogs go through a similar phase of stubbornness and disobedience when they hit puberty at about eight months old. Looking at the behaviour of a total of 378 canines, researchers found
Pangaea was the Earth’s latest supercontinent – a vast amalgamation of all the major landmasses. Before Pangaea began to disintegrate, what we know today as Nova Scotia was attached to what seems like an unlikely neighbour: Morocco. Newfoundland was attached to Ireland and Portugal. About 250 million years ago, Pangaea was still stitched together,
Antarctica’s king penguins emit such copious amounts of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, via their faeces that researchers went a little “cuckoo” studying them, according to a Danish scientific study published Thursday. “Penguin guano produces significantly high levels of nitrous oxide around their colonies,” said the head of the study, Professor Bo Elberling, of
Beneath the cyan and cerulean waters of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands lurks a leviathan. Its true extent has been hidden for many years, but no more. What geologists have found is a marvel – the biggest, hottest known volcano in the world. Startlingly, it’s more than twice the size of the previous record holder, Mauna
Our planet wears its magnetic field like an oversized coat that just won’t sit comfortably. All that sliding means the north magnetic pole is destined to move ever closer to Siberia’s coastline over the coming decade. There’s no conspiracy behind it – but the geological forces responsible have been something of a mystery. Now,
Life on the ocean floor 80 million years ago was tough. Sea levels were shallow, predators were ever on the prowl, and there was always some other slimy, spiky, hard-shelled critter willing to steal your spot. To survive, ancient relatives of the sea urchin reshaped their anatomy to become dead ringers for robust organic
Anchovies. You know ’em. Real piscine pipsqueaks. People put ’em on pizza. Before they were a polarising flavour bomb, though, anchovies used to be a terror of the seas. As fossil records newly reveal, millions of years ago anchovies up to a metre long (3.3 feet) hunted the oceans with gnashing fangs and one single
The idea that female Tyrannosaurus rex are chonkier than males may have no basis in reality. This assumption has prevailed when it comes to popular notions of these prehistoric beasties, but its origin might have been mistaken. In the science world, sexing dinosaurs has long been contentious. Now, a new study found that we
According to recent press reports, two Asian giant hornets – a species not known to occur in North America – were found in northwest Washington state in late 2019, and a hornet colony was found and eliminated in British Columbia. Now scientists are trying to determine whether more of these large predatory insects are
Thousands of years ago, in what is now the Santa Elena peninsula in Ecuador, a whole bunch of giant sloths met their collective end. Bones, of course, are common in the fossil record, but a lack of sediment separating the skeletons suggested that at least 22 Panamerican ground sloths (Eremotherium laurillardi) all died around the
The ability to detect our planet’s magnetic field and use it as a map while migrating, homing or hunting could well be one of the most remarkable feats of evolution, and it’s also one of the most mysterious. While this powerful sense is well established in many animal species, including birds, bats, rodents and
About 200 million years ago, a brutal underwater attack took place in the Atlantic. A squid-like creature, armed with 10 tentacles studded with hooks, swam up to a prehistoric fish. The predator wrapped its long arms around the fish’s head and crushed its skull. The cephalopod was looking for a quick, delicious bite, but
Some truths about the Universe and our experience in it seem immutable. The sky is up. Gravity sucks. Nothing can travel faster than light. Multicellular life needs oxygen to live. Except we might need to rethink that last one. Earlier this year, scientists discovered that a jellyfish-like parasite doesn’t have a mitochondrial genome –
We like to think the human brain is special and superior, but even the smallest brains on Earth occasionally show remarkable similarities to our own. When wood ants (Formica rufa) store visual memories in their brains, new research suggests they break the rules of symmetry: One side of the tiny critter’s brain appears to store
Hollywood has never produced a movie about South Africa’s Cape honeybees, and frankly it’s a travesty. The pitch writes itself: Aspiring to become a queen, a lowly Apis mellifera capensis worker leaves home to invade a rival nest and successfully fills it with her clones. All thanks to the talents of a single, amazing gene
The word “raptor” conjures the image of sleek, fearsomely clawed dinosaurs stalking prey with wolf-like social intelligence. But that nail-biting Jurassic Park kitchen scene, which made these prehistoric creatures so memorable, keeps being foiled by new scientific evidence. First, reptilian scales gave way to feathers (not to mention the noises they made in the
Arctic wolves are fearsome predators in the icy north, but in terms of sheer biomass, the lesser known wolf spider (Pardosa lapponica) is actually the more abundant carnivore. As the Arctic warms and summers become longer, these ferocious hunters are growing bigger and reproducing more, although that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more of
Almost a millennium ago, a major upheaval occurred in Earth’s atmosphere: a giant cloud of sulphur-rich particles flowed throughout the stratosphere, turning skies dark for months or even years, before ultimately falling down to Earth. We know this event happened because researchers have drilled and analysed ice cores – samples taken from deep within
Most people know that lightning strikes can destroy – but it turns out, they can also create. On rare occasions, when a bolt of electricity hits sand or soil, the resulting jolt of extreme heat can melt and fuse together stunning and fragile hollow tubes of glass. This can happen when a lightning bolt
Coronavirus shutdowns are hard on everyone, including the eels.The Sumida Aquarium in Tokyo made an unlikely request, asking people to video call the organisations 300 garden eels. Keepers at the aquarium posted videos on social media showing the eels hiding in their burrows whenever people approached, and they asked the public to help. Now,
It’s long been thought that koalas get most of the water they need from the succulent eucalyptus leaves that provide the basis of their diet, but new research reveals we’ve been missing a vital way these iconic marsupials quench their thirst. A new study documenting over a decade’s worth of observations by researchers and
As if 2020 wasn’t already bad enough, the US now has another problem to deal with: a terrifying monster insect nicknamed the “murder hornet”. Officially called the Asian giant hornet, or Vespa mandarinia, the huge insects have been spotted in the US for the first time in recent months, appearing in Washington state, the state’s
We already know what a tough and hardy little creature the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) is, but it turns out these critters do have a weakness after all – they rely on high levels of carbon dioxide in their immediate environment, otherwise they have seizures. While previous studies have already identified the animal’s ability
The hailstone is so massive it even stunned meteorologists. “It’s incredible,” said meteorologist Matthew Kumjian from Penn State University in the US. “This is the extreme upper end of what you’d expect from hail.” The hefty ice lump smashed down from a supercell thunderstorm in Argentina two years ago, in the heavily populated town Villa
A single tail from one of the largest and most enigmatic dinosaur species looks to have solved a longstanding mystery about these extinct creatures: whether they could swim. The discovery of a giant fossilised tail belonging to the theropod Spinosaurus aegyptiacus suggests these huge predators were aquatic animals after all, using tail-propelled locomotion to swim
It’s not every day that scientists uncover an entirely new species of mammal, let alone a creature whose shrouded origins lie so far back in time, they emanate from the mysterious supercontinent of ancient Gondwana. In a new study, researchers have unveiled the fossilised remains of a new genus and species discovered in Madagascar.
The mata mata turtle of South America is known for its camouflage, blending in effortlessly with the plant detritus, rocks and algae of its freshwater homes. But little did we realise that it was also hiding an entire species. Yep – what we thought was a single species of turtle in the Chelus genus
A long-known but under-studied deposit of Cretaceous rock on the edge of the Sahara desert was more than just an ancient stomping ground for dinosaurs, according to a comprehensive new paper. The Kem Kem Group in eastern Morocco might also represent a prime candidate for the most dangerous time and place to have been alive
The glowing greenhouse of our dreams is still so very far away, but it just got a tantalising nudge closer. Scientists have genetically engineered a plant with not just a visible glow, but a self-sustaining glow that lasts for the duration of the plant’s life cycle. It’s a breathtaking improvement on previous glowing plants.
Earth’s continents are constantly on the move, it’s a key feature of our planet, but that wasn’t always the case. While some scientists think Earth’s tectonic plates began pushing and pulling only a billion years ago, others think the whole process started nearly four billion years ago, when our planet was but an infant.