Tracking the Movement of Cyborg Cockroaches

New research from North Carolina State University offers insights into how far and how fast cyborg cockroaches – or biobots – move when exploring new spaces. The work moves researchers closer to their goal of using biobots to explore collapsed buildings and other spaces in order to identify survivors.

NC State researchers have developed cockroach biobots that can be remotely controlled and carry technology that may be used to map disaster areas and identify survivors in the wake of a calamity.

For this technology to become viable, the researchers needed to answer fundamental questions about how and where the biobots move in unfamiliar territory. Two forthcoming papers address those questions.

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How Dragonfish Open Their Fearsome Mouths So Wide

How Dragonfish Open Their Fearsome Mouths So Wide

Barbeled dragonfish — predatory fish with long, dark bodies that inhabit the deep sea — are unnerving to look at. Their name refers to glowing barbell-shaped lures that dangle from their oversize lower jaws and attract unsuspecting prey in the cold, dark ocean depths. Those jaws, studded with prominent, sharp teeth, can swing wide enough to gulp down large fish whole — even prey larger than the swallower.

And a new study has discovered one of the secrets to their exceptional gape — a specialized head joint that is unique to dragonfish. Read more

Our Closest Worm Kin Regrow Body Parts

Our closest worm kin regrow body parts, raising hopes of regeneration in humans

What if humans could regrow an amputated arm or leg, or completely restore nervous system function after a spinal cord injury?

A new study of one of our closest invertebrate relatives, the acorn worm, reveals that this feat might one day be possible. Acorn worms burrow in the sand around coral reefs, but their ancestral relationship to chordates means they have a genetic makeup and body plan surprisingly similar to ours.

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Each Animal Species Hosts a Unique Microbial Community and Benefits

Each animal species hosts a unique microbial community and benefits from it

Each animal species hosts its own, unique community of microbes that can significantly improve its health and fitness.

That is the implication of a laboratory study that investigated four different animal groups and their associated microbiota. The research found that each species within the group has a distinctive microbial community.

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The Forest Through the Fog

The atmosphere within Northern California’s coast redwood forests is humid, the air pungent and loamy, smelling at once like the sea and earth. This olfactory fusion is appropriate; scientists have discovered that redwood forests thrive on a sea-sourced fog that carries nutrient-rich coastal ocean water. However, uncovering the numerous processes that make it possible for the sea to nourish the trees requires novel approaches and multiple disciplines to uncover.

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Shark Swims Up To Diver For a Cuddle Every Time She Sees Him

To visit his friend, Rick Anderson has to strap on an oxygen tank, put a regulator into his mouth and dive into the ocean off the coast of Nobbys Beach in New South Wales, Australia.
Anderson’s friend is a 6-foot female Port Jackson shark. She doesn’t have a name, but Anderson recognizes her by her markings.

And she always recognizes him, according to Anderson.
“I started playing with her about seven years ago when she was just a pup about 6 inches long,” Anderson told The Dodo. “I approached her carefully so as not to spook her, then began to gently pat her. Once she got used to me, I would cradle her in my hand and talk soothingly to her through my regulator.”

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Mythical Ruby Seadragon Seen In The Wild For The First Time

Known only from old museum specimens, scientists have now found the magnificently bizarre ruby seadragon swimming in the sea.

I never understand why we are so obsessed with life on other planets when we have the mysterious universe of the sea right here on our own spinning orb. The creatures that dwell in the deep are so outrageously strange compared to us, and most of them remain unknown.

Case in point: Seadragons. The truly wonderfully odd creatures are relatives of the seahorse and up until recently have come in the form of two species – leafy and weedy, both from Australia. Admired for their flamboyant camouflaging appendages that mimic leaves and weeds, combined with a graceful yet somewhat helpless-seeming swimming style, they are as enchanting as they are peculiar. A leafy seadragon below, see what I mean?

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Hummingbirds See Motion in an Unexpected Way

Hummingbirds See Motion in an Unexpected Way

Summary: Have you ever imagined what the world must look like to hummingbirds as they zoom about at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour? According to new evidence on the way the hummingbird brain processes visual signals you can’t. That’s because a key area of the hummingbird’s brain processes motion in a unique and unexpected way.

Have you ever imagined what the world must look like to hummingbirds as they zoom about at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour? According to new evidence on the way the hummingbird brain processes visual signals reported in Current Biology on January 5, you can’t. That’s because a key area of the hummingbird’s brain processes motion in a unique and unexpected way.

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Universe is Expanding Up To 9% Faster Than We Thought, Say Scientists

Earth and stars as seen from the International Space Station, 17 May 2016. Photograph: Nasa/Rex/Shutterstock

Earth and stars as seen from the International Space Station, 17 May 2016. Photograph: Nasa/Rex/Shutterstock

The universe is expanding faster than anyone had previously measured or calculated from theory. This is a discovery that could test part of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, a pillar of cosmology that has withstood challenges for a century.

Nasa and the European Space Agency jointly announced the universe is expanding 5% to 9% faster than predicted, a finding they reached after using the Hubble space telescope to measure the distance to stars in 19 galaxies beyond theMilky Way.

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Here’s How The World Could End And What We Can Do About It

In a dingy apartment building, insulated by layers of hanging rugs, the last family on Earth huddles around a fire, melting a pot of oxygen. Ripped from the sun’s warmth by a rogue dark star, the planet has been exiled to the cold outer reaches of the solar system. The lone clan of survivors must venture out into the endless night to harvest frozen atmospheric gases that have piled up like snow.

As end-of-humanity scenarios go, that bleak vision from Fritz Leiber’s 1951 short story “A Pail of Air” is a fairly remote possibility. Scholars who ponder such things think a self-induced catastrophe such as nuclear war or a bioengineered pandemic is most likely to do us in. However, a number of other extreme natural hazards—including threats from space and geologic upheavals here on Earth—could still derail life as we know it, unraveling advanced civilization, wiping out billions of people, or potentially even exterminating our species.

Yet there’s been surprisingly little research on the subject, says Anders Sandberg, a catastrophe researcher at the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute in the United Kingdom. Last he checked, “there are more papers about dung beetle reproduction than human extinction,” he says. “We might have our priorities slightly wrong.”

Frequent, moderately severe disasters such as earthquakes attract far more funding than low-probability apocalyptic ones. Prejudice may also be at work; for instance, scientists who pioneered studies of asteroid and comet impacts complained about confronting a pervasive “giggle factor.” Consciously or unconsciously, Sandberg says, many researchers consider catastrophic risks the province of fiction or fantasy—not serious science.

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