This scientist watches meat rot to decipher the Neandertal diet

WASHINGTON — Kimberly Foecke has a great relationship with her local butcher. Though she buys loads of meat, Foecke is not a chef or the owner of a small zoo. She’s a paleobiologist who studies what Neandertals ate. And that involves, in her words, “experimental putrefaction, which is a fancy way of saying, I rot ... Read more

Poop provides a link in determining penguin diet from space

The best way to find out what an Adélie penguin is eating is to catch it and make it regurgitate its meal. This is about as pleasant for bird and researcher as you might think. It’s also invasive, time-consuming and expensive to do on a large scale, so scientists need other ways to determine diet. ... Read more

The first known fossil of a Denisovan skull has been found in a Siberian cave

CLEVELAND — A palm-sized section of a braincase is the first Denisovan skull fossil ever found. Discovered in two pieces in Siberia’s Denisova Cave in August 2016, the find joins only a handful of fragmentary fossils from these mysterious, extinct hominids. Mitochondrial DNA, a type of genetic material typically inherited from the mother, extracted from ... Read more

Watch a desert kangaroo rat drop-kick a rattlesnake

The deserts of the southwestern United States may be the lair of secret ninja masters: desert kangaroo rats. Researchers armed with high-speed cameras have captured the complex maneuvers that the rodents (Dipodomys deserti) deploy to avoid deadly bites from sidewinder rattlesnakes (Crotalus cerastes). Two new studies, published online March 27 in Functional Ecology and the ... Read more

A single-dose antidote may help prevent fentanyl overdoses

Synthetic opioids outlast current antidotes. A nanoparticle-based alternative could fix that. A newly developed single-dose opioid antidote lasts several days, a study in mice shows. If the results can be duplicated in humans, the treatment may one day help prevent overdoses from deadly drugs like fentanyl. Normally, a dose of the opioid antidote naloxone passes ... Read more

New fossils may capture the minutes after the dinosaur-killing asteroid impact

About 66 million years ago, a giant asteroid smashed into Earth off the coast of what’s now Mexico. Less than an hour later, a riverbed 3,000 kilometers away sloshed violently back and forth, swiftly burying fish, plants and other organisms in the sediment, a study finds. Evidence of those surges, as well as tiny traces ... Read more

Tiny pumpkin toadlets have glowing bony plates on their backs

When a group of biologists realized that pumpkin toadlets had no middle ear bone, the team was stumped. That meant that these tiny, toxic frogs couldn’t hear each other’s high-pitched chirps, which is how most frogs attract mates. “We scratched our heads about how they could communicate by other means,” says Sandra Goutte, an evolutionary ... Read more

What we know and don’t know about how mass trauma affects mental health

In March, three people connected to mass school shootings died by suicide, raising questions about the lingering effects of such trauma on a person’s mental health. Two teenagers who survived the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., took their own lives within days of each other. The father of a ... Read more

Newborn stars sculpt their galaxies in new James Webb telescope images

A gaggle of galaxies crackle with intricate detail in new images from the James Webb Space Telescope. JWST’s sharp infrared eyes are revealing how newborn stars shape their surroundings, giving hints to how stars and galaxies grow up together. “We were just blown away,” says Janice Lee, an astronomer at the University of Arizona in ... Read more

Some monkeys accidentally make stone flakes that resemble ancient hominid tools

Monkeys in southern Thailand use rocks to pound open oil palm nuts, inadvertently shattering stone pieces off their makeshift nutcrackers. These flakes resemble some sharp-edged stone tools presumed to have been created on purpose by ancient hominids, researchers say.Thailand’s long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) produce shards that could easily be mistaken for stone flakes previously found ... Read more