Science Links of the Week

A passion for the natural world drives many of our adventures. And when we’re not actually outside, we love delving into the discoveries about the places where we live and travel. Here are some of the best natural history links we’ve found this week.

Tamarin monkeys copy accents: Red-handed tamarin monkeys can mimic the call of pied tamarin monkey. Researchers observed the behavior of 15 groups of the species and found that the red-handed tamarins have a more flexible vocal call that allows them to copy the long calls that pied tamarins usually make when they enter their territory. “Because these tamarin species rely on similar resources, changing their ‘accents’ in this way is likely to help these tiny primates identify one another more easily in dense forest and potentially avoid conflict,” said one researcher.

Helium rain falls on Jupiter: Scientists have simulated the conditions in Jupiter’s atmosphere. They found that the temperature and pressure create an environment that stops the hydrogen and helium in its atmosphere from mixing. Instead, the helium forms droplets, because they are denser than hydrogen, they rain down on the planet. 

Largest-ever map of the universe’s dark matter: Dark matter is invisible material that accounts for 85% of the universe. Astronomers can map dark matter by analyzing the light traveling to earth from other galaxies. They have now used artificial intelligence to look at images of 100 million galaxies and create the largest map of dark matter to date.

Pencils mark the locations of partial spears, arrow points, and other stone artifacts found with the skeletons. Photo: The British Museum


Stone Age battles

Small-scale warfare in the Stone Age: Over 8,000 years ago, one group of hunter-gatherers attacked another group in the Nile Valley. Skeletons from an excavation site found in the 1960s show injuries consistent with raids and ambushes. The skeletons from adults, teens, and children imply that these people indulged in sporadic warfare. The site where the remains were found, Jebel Sahaba in Sudan, dates between 13,400 and 18,600 years old. It provides the oldest evidence of regular, small-scale conflicts in humans.

Malfunction on NASA’s Mars helicopter: NASA’s Mars rover Ingenuity has had its first major malfunction since it landed on the Red Planet last month. During its sixth test flight, one of the images taken by its navigation camera didn’t log on to the system, confusing the craft about its location. The little craft tilted back and forth precariously until the inbuilt system for extra stability kicked in. “Ingenuity muscled through the situation,” said the helicopter’s chief pilot back on earth. “And while the flight uncovered a timing vulnerability that will now have to be addressed, it also confirmed the robustness of the system.”

A “scuba-diving” lizard. Photo: Lindsay Swierk


Humans’ impact on Earth began 4,000 years ago: Ecologists have extracted 1,100 mud cores from a range of lakes and wetlands across 1,000 different world locations. The long cylinders contain a record of what grew in the soil thousands of years ago. Scientists assumed that they would see the first signs of humans a few centuries ago when landscapes began to change because of the Industrial Revolution. Instead, the pollen records in the soil show signs of our species 4,000 years ago.

Lizards breathe underwater by attaching air bubbles to their snouts: Anoles, types of semi-aquatic lizards often kept as pets, have evolved to breathe underwater. Surprised researchers observed the lizards spend up to 16 minutes underwater. The little lizards breathe exhaled air using a pocket of air that clings to their snouts. “The lizards then re-inhale the air, a maneuver we’ve termed ‘rebreathing’, after the scuba-diving technology,” said Chris Boccia of Queen’s University in Canada.