2021 research reinforced that mating across groups drove human evolution

Fossils and DNA point to mixing and mingling among Homo groups across vast areas Evidence that cross-continental Stone Age networking events powered human evolution ramped up in 2021. A long-standing argument that Homo sapiens originated in East Africa before moving elsewhere and replacing Eurasian Homo species such as Neandertals has…

Cleared tropical forests can regain ground surprisingly fast

Abandoned agricultural lands can recover by nearly 80 percent on average in just 20 years Tropical forests are disappearing at an alarming clip across the globe. As lush land is cleared for agriculture, climate-warming carbon gets released and biodiversity declines. But when farmland is left alone, nature can make a…

Wildfire smoke may ramp up toxic ozone production in cities

A new study reveals what happens when urban pollution mixes with smoke’s chemical cocktail Wildfire smoke and urban air pollution bring out the worst in each other. As wildfires rage, they transform their burned fuel into a complex chemical cocktail of smoke. Many of these airborne compounds, including ozone, cause…

Gut bacteria let vulture bees eat rotting flesh without getting sick

Specialized microbes help the insects avoid food poisoning Mention foraging bees and most people will picture insects flitting from flower to flower in search of nectar. But in the jungles of Central and South America, “vulture bees” have developed a taste for decaying flesh. They are “the weirdos of the…

Physicists have coaxed ultracold atoms into an elusive form of quantum matter

A new experiment produces a material with properties of a ‘quantum spin liquid’ An elusive form of matter called a quantum spin liquid isn’t a liquid, and it doesn’t spin — but it sure is quantum. Predicted nearly 50 years ago, quantum spin liquids have long evaded definitive detection in…

A massive 8-year effort finds that much cancer research can’t be replicated

Unreliable preclinical studies could impede drug development later on After eight years, a project that tried to reproduce the results of key cancer biology studies has finally concluded. And its findings suggest that like research in the social sciences, cancer research has a replication problem. Researchers with the Reproducibility Project:…

Light-colored feathers may help migrating birds stay cool on long flights

Images of more than 10,000 bird species reveal that farther fliers tend to have lighter feathers From teeny hummingbirds to giant whooping cranes, roughly half of the world’s more than 10,000 bird species migrate. Longer wings and beefed-up flying muscles often help these birds crisscross vast expanses of air. But…

Invasive grasses are taking over the American West’s sea of sagebrush

Highly flammable cheatgrass and similar nonnative plants dominate one-fifth of the Great Basin No one likes a cheater, especially one that prospers as easily as the grass Bromus tectorum does in the American West. This invasive species is called cheatgrass because it dries out earlier than native plants, shortchanging wildlife…

Climate change could make Virginia’s Tangier Island uninhabitable by 2051

Time is running out for the island’s residents, two researchers say Virginia’s Tangier Island is rapidly disappearing. Rising sea levels are exacerbating erosion and flooding, and could make the speck of land in the Chesapeake Bay uninhabitable within the next few decades. For years, island residents, policy makers and others…

Tiny living machines called xenobots can create copies of themselves

Blobs of frog cells exhibit surprising and complex behavior Tiny “living machines” made of frog cells can replicate themselves, making copies that can then go on to do the same. This newly described form of renewal offers insights into how to design biological machines that are self-perpetuating. “This is an…