Category Archives: Biology

No one knows how often DNA jumps between animal species

Christie Wilcox writes: To survive in the frigid ocean waters around the Arctic and Antarctica, marine life evolved many defenses against the lethal cold. One common adaptation is the ability to make antifreezing proteins (AFPs) that prevent ice crystals from growing in blood, tissues and cells. It’s a solution that has evolved repeatedly and independently,… Read More »

Subway swabbers find a microbe jungle and thousands of new species

The New York Times reports: For centuries, naturalists have mapped the world’s flora and fauna. They have assembled atlases of migratory birds and cold-water fishes, sketched out the geography of carnivorous animals and alpine plants. Now, an enormous international team of researchers has added a new volume to the collection: an atlas of microorganisms that… Read More »

How do we know that Covid isn’t a bioweapon?

Since the revival of the lab-leak theory will once again enliven conspiracy theorists, it’s worth being reminded why it’s wildly implausible that SARS-CoV-2 was created in the Wuhan Institute of Virology as a biological weapon. (Also keep in mind that the possibility that the virus accidentally leaked from the lab does not contradict the still… Read More »

Life deep underground and inside other worlds

Jordana Cepelewicz writes: Scientists poke and prod at the fringes of habitability in pursuit of life’s limits. To that end, they have tunneled kilometers below Earth’s surface, drilling outward from the bottoms of mine shafts and sinking boreholes deep into ocean sediments. To their surprise, “life was everywhere that we looked,” said Tori Hoehler, a… Read More »

The ‘dark matter’ inside your gut

Jonathan Jarry writes: There is a kind of dark matter inside our intestinal tract. “Dark matter” is the phrase coined for the matter that is implied to be present in the universe based on physicists’ calculations but that cannot be seen yet. Scientists who study tiny living things are facing their own type of dark… Read More »

Deep beneath the Earth’s surface life is weird and wonderful

Gaetan Borgonie and Maggie Lau write: The living landscape all around us is just a thin veneer atop the vast, little-understood bulk of the Earth’s interior. A widespread misconception about the deep subsurface is that this realm consists of a continuous mass of uniform compressed solid rock. Few are aware that this mass of rock… Read More »

Microbes are a missing piece in the biodiversity puzzle

Ian Morse writes: Scientists are clear: the number of plant and animal species on Earth is declining. The climate crisis, habitat loss, pollution and the illegal wildlife trade are all pushing species toward extinction. Researchers especially worry that losing too much biodiversity could push the earth past a tipping point into irreversible change, and on… Read More »

Can single-cell organisms learn?

Catherine Offord writes: Even by her own telling, Beatrice Gelber’s work was offbeat. It was October 1960, and Gelber had recently opened a facility called the Basic Health Research Institute in Tucson, Arizona. Described as an “enthusiastic psychologist” by the newspaper interviewing her about her work, Gelber explained how, several years earlier, she’d discovered an… Read More »