In recent years, it’s emerged that some dinosaurs – considered scaly and reptilian for many years – were actually wearing feathers. But a newly discovered species of scansoriopterygid dinosaur sports a different style. This tiny creature had bat-like wings: leathery, not feathery. It’s called Ambopteryx longibrachium, and it was just 33 centimetres (13 inches) long.
Along the Black River in North Carolina, bald cypress trees have been quietly growing for millennia. Quite literally so: Scientists recently found trees over 2,000 years old – including one that is at least 2,624 years old. That makes it the fifth-oldest known non-clonal tree in the world. (Utah’s Pando, an ancient quaking aspen forest,
Here’s a question for you. If A is greater than B, and B is greater than C, then is A greater than C? It’s a simple puzzle, something children can solve. In fact, even animals have demonstrated the form of reasoning – called transitive inference – that we use to answer this kind of problem.
For most of us, the jump from meat-eater to vegetarian is a big one. For the giant panda, the switch was all too easy. Despite a long family history of meat-heavy meals, this large bear now feeds almost exclusively on tough bamboo – a change its ancestors made more than 2 million years ago. For
In the mountainous cloud forests of Borneo, nothing goes to waste, and that includes waste itself. Here, the largest carnivorous plant on Earth has evolved to become a sort of customised outhouse for local tree shrews (Tupaia montana). With a toilet seat perfectly contoured to the mammal’s backside, this huge, jug-shaped pitcher plant (Nepenthes rajah)
Two tiny tyrannosaurid skeletons have just filled in the fossil record, elucidating the humble origins of the Cretaceous’ mightiest predator, Tyrannosaurus rex. Dating back to around 92 million years ago, the two tyrannosaurs hail from the Zuni Basin in New Mexico. They stood just 1 metre (3 feet) tall and have been named Suskityrannus hazelae.
Amongst the huge variety of life on Earth, there are some mighty resilient microorganisms out there. Now, scientists have tracked down an ocean microbe that survives by breathing arsenic – the chemical element we humans regard as a notorious poison. The researchers think this is an ancient survival strategy used in the distant past when oxygen
An alleged Russian spy whale is refusing to leave a Norwegian port city, in what appears to be a high-profile defection after a week of global attention on the unnamed beluga. Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries official Jorgen Ree Wiig told The Washington Post that the beluga “was the first thing I saw outside of the
During the last Ice Age, more than 10,000 years ago, the bridge between North and South America was guarded by a daunting array of beasts, including a wolf-like carnivore and the largest bear ever to roam the Earth. An ancient graveyard, buried at the bottom of an underwater cave in Mexico, has turned up not
You can find snakes in Australia pretty much anywhere. At the beach. On your car. But this three-eyed slitherer discovered in the Northern Territory is obviously all kinds of special. Found by rangers near a small town called Humpty Doo just outside of Darwin, the three-eyed carpet python looks to be sporting three fully functioning
Life isn’t easy at the bottom of Challenger Deep – at nearly 11,000 metres (36,000 feet) the deepest point of the oceans – and scientists just shed some light on how tiny creatures are able to survive at these phenomenal depths. It turns out that the Hirondellea gigas amphipods (small crustaceans) manufacture themselves tiny suits
Breaking news: Yeti are real, and they’re on the move – at least according to the Indian army, which said Monday that its mountaineering expedition team stumbled upon a set of “mysterious footprints” in Nepal this month. No, we are not confirming that this elusive snowman actually exists. But while the prints might be a
For the northernmost herbivores on Earth, foraging for food has never been easy. Bound to the icy tundras of an Arctic archipelago, the wild Svalbard reindeers of Norway (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) are accustomed to sparse vegetation. But what they are dealing with now is far beyond that. With global warming causing more rain and less snow,
Scientists have discovered a new species of crab that swam the seas 95 million years ago — and behold, it could be the next Pixar character. The small, pocket-size crab, named Callichimaera perplexa, was different than its modern cousins. This crab sported a tiny lobster-esque shell, with legs flattened like oars, and huge Pound Puppies-style
Deep in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest live tiny frogs that are bright orange, toxic, and glow ultraviolet, thanks to revelations from new research. It’s the first known case of an amphibian showing “exceptional” fluorescence right through their skin. “The origin of the fluorescence lies in the dermal bone of the head and back, visible through
Given the fervour with which naturalists scoured Southeast Asia in the 19th century looking for new bird species, you’d think the region would be tapped out. But nature can still find ways to sneak up on us: Two previously undescribed species have only just been discovered in Indonesia. They both belong to the genus Zosterops,
Apes . . . well, ape. Two gorillas at Virunga National Park in Congo have taken the Internet by storm by posing – on two feet – in a photograph with park rangers. The rangers posted a selfie on Facebook late last week showing two orphaned female gorillas, Ndakazi and Ndeze, standing tall beside them in the Senkwekwe Center
California is notorious for its earthquakes, but a stunning new discovery reveals for the first time just how much we’ve underestimated its omnipresent earth-shaking potential. By the time you just about finish reading this story, in fact, Southern California will probably have experienced another quake – based off a new, unprecedented deep dive into 10
Slime mould might easily be one of the strangest life forms on our planet. They are neither plants, animals, nor fungi, but various species of complex, single-celled amoebas of the protist kingdom. Sometimes they form colonies able to grow, move, and even exhibit a strange kind of intelligence. Even without a nervous system, they are
Have you ever seen a giant red jellyfish light up the night sky for a split second? If you have, you’re not imagining things. You’ve just witnessed a lightning-like electrical discharge high in the atmosphere known as a sprite. Paul Smith captured the elusive phenomenon Wednesday night as storms raged over northwest Oklahoma and the
In the Hollywood blockbuster The Core, the planet’s core suddenly stops rotating, causing Earth’s magnetic field to collapse. Then bursts of deadly microwaves cook the Colosseum and melt the Golden Gate Bridge. While “nearly everything in the movie is wrong,” according to Justin Revenaugh, a seismologist from the University of Minnesota, it is true that
So you’ve discovered an unusual winged insect preserved in amber, and it happens to have a superb set of mouth parts dangling from its head. You could name it after a president’s body part, maybe. If not David Attenborough. Again. Or just do what one researcher did with a specimen that doesn’t seem to fit
A beautiful spring morning at the Topeka Zoo in Kansas turned tragic Saturday when a male Sumatran tiger attacked a keeper, inflicting wounds that sent her to a hospital. Although keepers are never supposed to be in the same space as the tigers, they found themselves together in the outdoor habitat that morning for reasons
Butterflies are like the Bear Grylls of the Amazon rainforest. Faced with a nutrient-poor environment, these beautiful creatures will drink just about anything to survive. That goes for muddy river banks, sweaty clothing, puddles of urine, and of course, the ‘tears’ of turtles. It’s hard to believe until you see it with your own eyes.
There’s something about the meandering streak of lightning that implies random chaos. Yet bolts from the blue not only hit the same places with regularity, but successive discharges often reuse the exact same channel. It’s never been entirely clear how the path laid down by one bolt sticks around for repeat performances, but new research
Just when you think orcas couldn’t possible be any more awesome, they get even better. New evidence shows these whales are really good at scaring off the most feared beast in the sea. Yep. Orcas have toppled the great white shark off their ‘apex predator’ throne. A team of marine scientists has found that great
Proof that families come in all shapes, sizes and species, three eagles – two dads and a mom – are raising three, fluffy-feathered eaglets in a nest near the Mississippi River this spring. According to the Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge, all three birds, Valor I, Valor II (dads) and Starr (mom), “take
A Florida man was killed on Friday by what ornithologists say is the “world’s most dangerous bird“. It was a cassowary – an enormous, flightless bird around which even experienced zookeepers take precautions. He raised the animal on his farm, along with other exotic birds, authorities said. Police identified the man as 75-year-old Marvin Hajos.
Over the years, researchers have learned a lot about dinosaur anatomy, but there’s one feature that keeps eluding us. Of all the dinosaur tracks discovered, only a rare few, far less than one percent, show any traces of skin. It’s a serious blindspot, especially when the patterns that this organ makes are like fingerprints, showing
In the sandy seabeds of temperate climates, a curious flatworm thrives. It’s called Paracatenula, and it has neither mouth, butt, nor gut. These shortcomings don’t slow the worm down, though – a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that live inside it keeps it alive. It works so well, in fact, they’ve been doing it for over
We’ve still got so much of the undersea world to explore, not least the Mariana Trench – the deepest natural trench in the ocean – which goes down 10,994 metres (36,070 feet) in places. Now another fantastic find from this subaqueous abyss has just been revealed. The most comprehensive microbial analysis of the trench to
Although the image above might make you think it’s had an Instagram filter added, what you’re looking at is pollen – lots and lots of pollen. The images were taken by photographer Jeremy Gilchrist on Monday in Durham, North Carolina and honestly, if you’re feeling a little sneezy just looking at it, you’re not alone.
Sixty-five million years ago, planet Earth was pummelled by a wave of extinction that left few marine organisms alive. Now scientists are trying to coax what’s left out of the abyss and into the limelight, baiting some ancient creatures with a rare delicacy of the past. A gross, yet fascinating new video shows a troop
Archaeologists just pried another secret of our past from the clutches of the earth, welcoming a new human species to our growing family tree. This discovery began with an ancient foot, or what was left of one. A foot bone, called the third metatarsal, was found in the Callao Cave on the Philippine island of
For 430 million years, nestled in some rocks in England, Cthulhu waited, dreaming. Now it’s finally seen the light of day, and it’s honestly a lot smaller than we were expecting. This fossilised Cthulhu is related to sea cucumbers, and dates back to the Silurian period, when the first bony fish appeared. Its three-centimetre (1.1
It wasn’t ash that killed the victims of volcano Vesuvius in Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 CE. It wasn’t lava. It was something called pyroclastic flows – extremely hot clouds of volcanic gas and debris that can move at insane speeds. Pyroclastic flow speeds are so intense, they seem to defy the laws of physics,
Cats have a reputation for being aloof, and that reputation is only going to get stronger after scientific results from Japan revealed the true extent to which they have been ignoring us all this time. While dog owners have to do very little to get the eager-to-please attention of their good boys and girls, cats
Researchers last week captured and killed the largest Burmese python to be removed from Big Cypress National Preserve in the Florida Everglades, according to wildlife officials. The 17-foot (5.1-meter), 140-pound (63.5-kilogram) female snake – an invasive species devastating to native wildlife – was discovered using a new tracking approach that leans on technology and the
Five suspected poachers entered Kruger National Park in South Africa last week to kill rhinos living there, according to authorities. Only four of the men left alive. The fifth was killed by an elephant and later “devoured” by a pride of lions, park officials said in a statement. “Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on
You might not think about it much, but water is super weird. It doesn’t behave like any other liquid. And scientists think they have figured out why – and it has to do with the strange arrangement of its molecules. One of the weirdest aspects of water is its unusual density. Normally, liquids become increasingly
Whether loved ones or strangers, wild gorillas in the forests of Rwanda and Congo appear to be fascinated by their dead. Researchers have now recorded three instances of these creatures gathering around, and sometimes even on, gorilla corpses – staring, sniffing, licking, touching, and grooming them for minutes on end. The first two sightings were
Whales belong in the ocean, right? That may be true today, but cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises) actually descended from four legged mammals that once lived on land. New research published in Current Biology reports the discovery in Peru of an entirely new species of ancestral whale that straddled land and sea, providing insight into the
Getting around in a city can be a lot more dangerous than wide open spaces, and that, it seems, is true for migratory birds as well, especially if they’re in the habit of calling out to each other at night. A new study has analysed the deaths of 70,000 songbirds that died after colliding with
Before there was life, ribonucleic acid (RNA) ruled the primordial soup. Or so the story goes, according to what’s known as the RNA World hypothesis. But it seems we may have been too hasty in leaving out RNA’s more complex cousin, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Chemists from the UK and the US have shown how both
Sure, you might think your average acorn-chomping grey squirrel is sort of cute. But seriously, it’s never going to be giant rainbow squirrel from India level of cute. It’s not just our opinion either. When amateur photographer Kaushik Vijayan posted some pics of Malabar giant squirrels (Ratufa indica) on Instagram, they quickly wowed the internet. Vijayan took
For most animals, reproduction is straightforward: some species lay eggs, while others give birth to live babies. But our recent research uncovered a fascinating mix between the two modes of reproduction. In an Australian skink, we observed the first example of both egg-laying and live-bearing within a single litter for any backboned animal. This suggests
Upon first glance, this fossilized sea creature looks more like the Sarlacc from Star Wars’ “Return of the Jedi” than any animal on Earth today. According to a recent study, the Daihua sanqiong – which lived 518 million years ago and was first discovered about a decade ago in southern China’s Yunnan Province – had
Miniaturised frogs form a fascinating but poorly understood group of amphibians. They have been exceptionally prone to taxonomic underestimation because when frogs evolve small body size they start to look remarkably similar – so it is easy to underestimate how diverse they really are. As part of my PhD I have been studying frogs and