Stick Spiders from Different Hawaiian Islands Evolve in Parallel

Esther Pilla reports on a discovery in evolution It is very rare for scientists to catch examples of parallel, convergent evolution, but earlier in March Professor Rosemary G. Gillespie and her colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley, published
a study that highlighted parallel evolution in Hawaiian stick spiders. The group analysed a genus of spider, Ariamnes, whose ancestor probably first arrived on the oldest Hawaiian islands and later spread to

The Birds at the End of the World

Euan Furness talks to Dr Michael Brooke, Curator of Ornithology at the Cambridge University Museum of Zoology, about his work finding birds in remote places Even today, hundreds of scientists around the world are discovering new and amazing things that have been hiding right under our noses. Some are also discovering things that were not really hiding at all but were just a very long way away from anyone interested

A Day In The Life: A Scientist With Wings

Laura Nunez-Mulder interviews Prof. Nicky Clayton Professor Nicky Clayton sits with her knees tucked up and her feet on the sofa, cradling her cup of coffee in her hand. “I’ve always been interested in birds, from as soon as I could start walking. I’m a movement junkie. I wanted to fly, to be like a bird. I’ve got invisible wings – can’t you see them?” She shimmies, and smiles. Nicky

Pterodactyls lived like seagulls

Jack McMinn investigates pterosaur parenting Pterosaurs were the the dominant airborne animals of the Mesozoic Era (252-66 million years ago), dying out alongside the dinosaurs and being ecologically replaced by birds. However, a new study by Xiaolin Wang et al. seems to suggest that pterosaurs often used the same evolutionary strategies as their avian replacements. Fossilised embryos of Hamipterus, a Chinese cousin of the famous Pteranodon, were found still inside

Lady of the Diptera

Matthew Brady talks to Dr Erica McAlister about her work exploring the world for some of science’s smallest animals With approximately 160,000 described species, and having evolved over 260 million years ago, Diptera are amongst the most diverse groups of organisms on the planet. They also mean a lot of science, and vinegar flies have been directly involved in Nobel prize winning work for physiology or medicine six times. The

Judged by your Genes

Katherine Dudman introduces genetic discrimination, the sly cousin of racism and sexism Have you ever spared a thought for the value of the information encoded in your genes? Have others? We are constantly bombarded with headlines about the latest research to link behaviour, appearance or disease to variations in our genetic makeup. You may even have considered your own chances of developing cancer, escaping Alzheimer’s or making it through to

Weird and Wonderful: Giving a Fig about Wasps

While many plants entice pollinators with nectar, fig trees do so with the promise of safety and food for the pollinators’ offspring. For the last 50 million years, fig trees have been exclusively pollinated by symbiotic wasps. The insects are born in the little flowers that make up the inside of the fig fruit and are thus provided with a ready food supply. The winged females and wingless males mate

Why care about the Polar Bear?

Rachael Beasley reveals how there is more to polar bears than meets the eye Climate change. Already in your mind are images of traffic jams hazy with pollution, melting icecaps, and most likely the polar bear. This year marked the fifth lowest Arctic sea ice extent since records began. The low amount of ice has a severe impact on the bears – in fact, they are increasingly becoming known as

Read, learn, and inwardly digest

Joy Thompson studies the links between the lavatory and the literary In 2008, Goldstein and colleagues were concerned about a hole in the gastroenterology literature. It’s common knowledge that many a person has “first solaced his mind, then wiped his behind”, according to the limerick, but no-one had studied the effect of toilet reading on digestive health. Goldstein et al. hypothesised that toilet reading could make defecation easier by providing

Can Birds Read Minds?

Rachel Crosby puts herself inside the mind of the Eurasian Jay If you walk into the kitchen and see your friend jumping around holding onto their foot, you are likely to think that they have stood on something painful, not that they are performing a ritual rain dance. Humans have the ability to decode the thoughts, beliefs and emotions of others, allowing you to predict and understand peoples’ actions because