Earth

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.

Today, a paper published in Science documents for the first time the global wind circulation patterns in the upper atmosphere of a planet, 120 to 300 kilometers above the surface. The findings are based on local observations, rather than indirect measurements, unlike many prior measurements taken on Earth's upper atmosphere. But it didn't happen on Earth: it happened on Mars. On top of that, all the data came from an instrument and a spacecraft that weren't originally designed to collect wind measurements.

Monsoons can have a significant impact on human populations all around the world, bringing heavy rainfall associated with flooding and mudslides that can damage crops and pose a health and safety risk. In countries such as India, monsoons also provide a vital source of water needed for growing crops. Being able to accurately forecast monsoons, as well as predict climate changes that drive these events, is of great benefit to humanity as it can help communities to better prepare and plan, which can improve safety and reduce economic losses.

The transformation and degradation of natural landscapes due to human activities has been intensifying for several decades. This is especially true for forestland: its area decreases each year, especially in tropical regions. In Southeast Asia, tropical rainforests are cut down to make room for new plantations. Around 0.4 mln ha of forests are destroyed every year on Sumatra (Indonesia) only.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - A newly published study, presented on Dec. 12 at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting, reveals that a type of Martian aurora originally detected by NASA's MAVEN spacecraft is in fact the most common aurora on the Red Planet, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University researchers said.