What Wombats Leave Behind

wombat

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…]

Do You Smell a Rat … Or Should the Rat Smell You?

African giant pouched rat

Some animals, such as this African giant pouched rat, are being used to sniff out disease in humans. (Photo credit: Penny Boyd/Alamy Stock Photo)

In 1989, a paper appearing in the British medical journal The Lancet made an astounding claim. Two dermatologists reported how a patient decided to come in for an exam because her dog kept sniffing a mole on her leg. The dog even tried to bite it off at one point. Tests proved it was a malignant melanoma nearly two millimeters thick. When removed, the woman survived, and the study would eventually become known as the ‘First Lancet Letter’ or the first time in a peer-reviewed medical journal that an animal’s senses had been linked to the detection of disease. [Read more…]

The Cockroach Communication Network

cockroach

New research indicates cockroach communication is dependent on microbes in their feces. (Photo credit: Erik Karits/Shutterstock)

Chances are, you’ve seen a gathering of cockroaches some place at some time. Conditions don’t even need to be especially filthy for these most reviled of insect pests to appear.

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Sweet Potatoes Genetically-Modified by Bacteria 8000 Years Ago

sweet potato

Scientists recently discovered that the sweet potato contains DNA sequences that originated in bacteria. (Photo credit: mama_mia/Shutterstock)

It’s Thanksgiving time again – that time for turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and, for many, sweet potatoes. While known for its nutritious qualities and sweet flavor, new research indicates that the sweet potato may also be the first known example of a naturally genetically modified food. [Read more…]

Who You Gonna Call? Moldbusters!

moldy room

Think you have a ghost? It’s probably just mold. (Photo credit: Alex Ramsay/Alamy Images)

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s the season for haunted houses filled with costumed ghosts. Real haunted houses–ones in which the occupants claim actually to have seen ghosts–often aren’t that fun. One professor of environmental engineering, however, thinks he might know how to get rid of the hauntings completely. Clean! [Read more…]

When Injured, the Moon Jellyfish Doesn’t Repair. It Recycles!

moon jellyfish

Moon jellyfish possess a unique mechanism for self-repair. (Photo credit: Byba Sepit/Moment/Getty Images)

The moon jellyfish is a tough creature to figure out. For one, while experts argue that the species consists of numerous subspecies, it is nearly impossible to distinguish one from another without DNA testing, which leads other scientists to propose the distinction is meaningless. [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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Spider Goat, Spider Goat . . . Her Milk Could Make a Bulletproof Coat

spider

Scientists inserted the silk-making gene from a golden orb spider, such as the one shown here, into a goat to produce goat’s milk that contains spider silk. (Photo credit: Christopher Meder/Getty Images)

Genetic engineering is nothing new. In fact, it’s a practice that’s literally thousands of years old. For centuries, humans have selectively bred plants and animals in an attempt to pass along desired traits. Today, however, genetic engineering has taken the practice to a new level.

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The Heart of the Matter

heart

A healthy heart is key to a healthy life. (Photo credit: Tlorna/Shutterstock)

February is the month of the heart. Not only home to Valentine’s Day–the day to celebrate the love long-considered to originate from the heart–in the United States, February is designated as National Heart Month. [Read more…]

A Waning Rodent Species and Its Connection to the California Drought

Belding's ground squirrel

Belding’s ground squirrels have a surprising role to play in California’s drought. (Photo credit: iStockphoto/Getty Images)

Are Belding’s squirrels heroes or villains? [Read more…]