The Curious Case of the Platypus

The platypus is native to Australia. (Photo Credit: Peter Scoones/Photo Researchers, Inc.)

The platypus is a curious animal. It has a bill like a duck, it produces milk and has fur like a mammal, and it lays eggs like a reptile. Scientists recently sequenced the entire genome of a platypus and discovered that its odd appearance is in fact a testament to its bird, reptile, and mammal ancestors. [Read more…]

Bringing Heritage Turkeys Back to the Thanksgiving Table

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Turkey is a common sight on Thanksgiving. (Photo credit: Photodisc/Getty Images)

The centerpiece of many Thanksgiving dinners in the United States is a roasted turkey. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it is expected that over 243 million broad-breasted white turkeys–the standard turkey found in your local supermarket–will be raised in the United States. [Read more…]

Pyrosomes: The Ultimate Social Networkers

pyrosome

This pyrosome is made up of thousands of tiny organisms linked together as one. (Photo credit: Mark Conlin/Alamy)

If you’re looking for a strange sea creature, you can’t get much weirder than the giant pyrosome. With an appearance like a monster out of a science fiction movie, those who’ve had the good luck to see them have likened them to everything from unicorns, due to their rareness, to the Borg, because of how they stick together and seem to be part of a collective.

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Cephalopod Intelligence Tied to Genetic Anomaly

cuttlefish

Cuttlefish (shown here), squid, and octopuses can edit their own RNA. (Photo credit: David Litman/Shutterstock)

Cephalopods, such as the squid and octopus, have long been known for their wily intelligence. Their complex behaviors include unlocking and escaping from aquarium tanks, opening jars, and communicating with one another using a system similar to Morse code. These underwater creatures, along with cuttlefishes, are all coleoids, which is a subclass of cephalopods. New research highlights another unique ability of these underwater creatures: they can edit their own RNA. [Read more…]

Think Your Dog is Smart? Probably Not as Smart as the Wolf

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Is a wolf smarter than your beloved pet dog?
(Photo credit: Elayne/Fotolia)

You probably think your dog is pretty smart. And you may be right. Dogs sometimes seem to be able to read our minds, knowing exactly what we’re thinking and what we’re going to do before it’s even clear to us. However, recent research indicates that their wild ancestor, the wolf, may have an edge in some intelligence competitions. [Read more…]

World’s Oldest Homo sapiens Fossils Discovered

hominin skull

These images show two views of a composite reconstruction of the earliest known Homo sapiens fossils discovered in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco. (Photo credit: Philipp Gunz/Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

It’s time to rewrite the textbooks. Until now, the oldest known Homo sapiens fossils, found in Omo Kibish in Ethiopia, dated to 195,000 years ago. The new fossils, discovered in Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, date to approximately 300,000 years ago. This means the new findings predate the previous oldest-known fossils by over 100,000 years.

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A Mouse That Sings

singing mouse

The deer mouse is just one type of mouse that is known to sing. (Photo credit: Thomas Kitchin and Victoria Hurst/Design Pics Inc./Alamy)

You are likely quite familiar with the sound of birds singing. You might have also heard the sounds of frogs singing a chorus around a pond or lake. But did you know that some mice sing too? What is the reason behind this unusual behavior? [Read more…]

Ambergris: A Perfume Ingredient with an Unusual Origin

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Ambergris is a valuable substance that originates in a sperm whale’s digestive system. (Photo credit: Michael Freeman/Corbis)

When a “strange and mysterious” object washed ashore on a public beach in Wellington, New Zealand, rumors began to spread that it was ambergris. Soon after, fortune hunters arrived and tore the mysterious substance apart with shovels, collecting pieces in plastic bags. [Read more…]

What Wombats Leave Behind

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Wombats are furry marsupials endemic to Australia. (Photo credit: covenant/Shutterstock)

Let’s be honest, poop is kind of gross. It’s not something normally discussed in polite company. Yet, we can all agree it serves a purpose. Beyond the obvious purpose of eliminating wastes, what organisms excrete also can help both human and animal doctors diagnose illnesses and assess the general health of a patient. In the wild, “scat,” as it’s often referred to, has even greater significance. [Read more…]

Hate Cilantro? Blame Your Genes

New research indicates that your love (or hate) for cilantro depends on your genes. (Photo credit: Marnie Burkhart/Fancy/Alamy Images)

When it comes to the taste of cilantro in a spicy bowl of soup or wrapped up in a burrito, where do you stand? Do you find its taste refreshing? Or does it seem like you’re eating a mouthful of soap? This seemingly-benign herb elicits a love-hate relationship for many people. New research indicates that your genes may dictate your initial reaction to the flavor of this green herb.

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