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Zoology

159 articles
  • How “My Octopus Teacher” Defied Convention

    Craig Foster reflects on a relationship that changed his connection to the natural world.

  • He Did Right by Animals. And Didn’t Take Bull from Anyone.

    Bernard Rollin was a pioneer in animal rights. He left us with this scalding interview.

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    A Close Encounter with a Flame-Bright Egyptian Vulture

    On a bright March morning as wildlife photographer Oriol Alamany tucked into breakfast on the island of Socotra, an Egyptian vulture landed on a nearby rock. Caught without proper equipment, Alamany crawled across the ground to photograph the bird from below at close range with a small camera he kept in his pocket. The vulture […]

  • The Truth About Sharks

    Spearfisher turned marine activist Valerie Taylor wants you to respect these oft-maligned creatures—not fear them.

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    Order Flocking Out of Chaos

    A physicist-turned-photographer captures the incredible harmony of starling murmurations.

  • The Witness Is a Whale

    Uncovering one of the greatest environmental crimes of the 20th century.

  • The Witness Is a Whale

    Uncovering one of the greatest environmental crimes of the 20th century.

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    David Attenborough’s Life in Color

    New technology enables filmmakers to capture how animals use color like never before.

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    The Whale Who Will Come Soon

    A whale-watching trip is a voyage into the psychic dimensions of ocean in the 21st century.

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    The Evolutionary Wonders in the Deep Sea

    It’s a golden age for finding new and mysterious forms of deep-sea life.

  • In the Deep Sea, Incredible Animals Abound

    It’s a golden age for finding new and mysterious forms of deep-sea life.

  • Helm_HERO

    The Largest Cells on Earth

    Deep in the ocean abyss, xenophyophores are worlds unto themselves.

  • Keim_HERO

    How “My Octopus Teacher” Defied Convention

    Craig Foster reflects on a relationship that changed his connection to the natural world.

  • The Octopus Teacher’s Student

    Craig Foster reflects on a relationship that changed his connection to the natural world.

  • The Light Magic of Squid

    How squid transmute illumination into intention

  • The Mystery of the Missing Sockeye

    A disease detective hopes to discover why British Columbia’s wild salmon continue to decline.

  • Wilmer_HERO

    Cognitive Scientists Are Going to the Dogs

    Unleashing a new breed of research into co-evolution and the aging brain.

  • Keim_HERO

    Octopuses Find New Hunting Buddies

    Animals are teaming up to adapt to a changing world.

  • In the Partnership of Octopus and Fish, a Marvelous Sign of Resilience

    It’s not just physical adaptations that allow creatures to survive the challenges of a warming planet. It’s learning, too.

  • The Whale Who Will Come Soon

    A whale-watching trip is a voyage into the psychic dimensions of ocean in the 21st century

  • The Curious Strength of a Sea Sponge’s Glass Skeleton

    A glass sponge found deep in the Pacific shows a remarkable ability to withstand compression and bending, on top of the sponge’s other unusual properties.

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    We Didn’t Evolve for This

    A lesson from the animal kingdom on why COVID-19 is so deadly to humans.

  • Fish in the 21st Century: The Good, the Bad, and the Hopeful

    Will our relations with fish ever catch up to our knowledge?

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    How Sea Turtles Find Their Way

    Whether you’re a sea turtle or a ship’s captain, you’ll need two tools—a map and a compass.

  • How Sea Turtles Find Their Way

    a map and a compass.

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    These Photos Remind Us Why Conservation Matters

    Enjoy the 2020 winners of a natural photography competition.

  • Lessons for the Return of Great White Sharks

    Modern science has largely debunked the idea of sharks as marauding “man eaters.” Can modern culture catch up?

  • A Tale of Two Species

    The entangled worlds of horseshoe crabs, whelks, and us.

  • The Earth-Shaping Animal Migration No One Ever Sees

    A closer look at one of nature’s hidden wonders.

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    Why We Should Eat Crickets. And Other Bug Ideas

    As the human population expands, we are going to have to find better ways to feed ourselves without further decimating the environment.Photograph by Koldunova Anna / Shutterstock In his new book, The Butterfly Effect: Insects and the Making of the Modern World, Edward Melillo calls some insects “little laboratories,” the various productions of which have […]

  • To Save Sharks, We Must Understand People

    In Sri Lanka, laws are supposed to protect sharks—but what if people won’t obey the laws?

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    The Fungal Evangelist Who Would Save the Bees

    How mushrooms could solve colony collapse disorder.

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    No, Animals Do Not Have Genders

    How do we know that gender is not simply a biological fact? What makes it cultural, rather than analogous to sex-differentiated behavior in animals?

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    Eels Don’t Have Sex Until the Last Year of Their Life

    Why eels are one strange fish.

  • There’s a World Living on Every Loggerhead

    Scientists from Darwin on have marveled at how these sea turtles transport other species across the ocean. New research suggests they're even better at it than we thought.

  • The Grace of Manta Rays

    New research suggests that manta rays aren’t just solitary ocean wanderers. They’re also shaping the undersea environment in ways we never imagined

  • This Animal Hides Using—& Is Kept Up by—Its Own Glowing Head

    The Hawaiian bobtail squid uses an interesting camouflage strategy.

  • How and Why Computers Roll Loaded Dice

    Researchers are one step closer to injecting probability into deterministic machines.

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    The Animal Kingdom Should Have Father’s Day Too

    A concerned clownfish father looking after his nest of tiny, orange eggs.Justin Rhodes Becoming a parent brings out the best in many animals. Although parenting is usually left to the females, males from many species go above and beyond to care for the offspring. Take anemonefish. In Finding Nemo, Marlin swims over 1,000 miles from […]

  • The Fish That Took a Century to Name

    The unlikely story of Alfred Russel Wallace’s pike.

  • MacNamara_HERO

    T. Rex Was a Slacker

    A natural wonder of the big theropod was how it conserved energy.

  • MacNamara_HERO

    T. Rex Was a Slacker

    A natural wonder of the big theropod was how it conserved energy.

  • Stewart-Williams_HERO

    Evolution Is the Greatest Show on Earth

    These videos are a gateway drug to science.

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    Welcome Back, Animals!

    It’s time to consider how we can have more animals in our daily lives in the city.

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    The Unintended Beauty of Starlings

    Those wondrous, undulating flocks are stirred by predators.

  • The Acquired Tastes of Foodies and Cockroaches

    How genes influence the animal palate.

  • Spark of Science: Joyce Poole

    The elephant researcher tells her story.

  • LeDoux_HERO

    The Tricky Problem with Other Minds

    How our mental states overlap with and diverge from those of other species.

  • How Swarming Insects Act Like Fluids

    By studying a swarm of flying midges as though it were a fluid, physicists have learned how collective behaviors might stabilize a group against environmental disruptions.

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    How Swarming Insects Act Like Fluids

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. Starlings take to the sky in swirling vortices; ants teem like rivers. “They stretch, they move around, but they retain cohesion in a way you’d expect from a fluid moving,” said Nicholas Ouellette, a physicist at Stanford University. That’s why to him, it isn’t far-fetched to think about collective animal behavior in […]

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    It Takes a Village to Raise a Meerkat

    What the rare cooperative species tells us about ourselves.

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    We Need Insects More Than They Need Us

    Inside the world of plastic-eating worms, dung-rolling beetles, and agricultural ants..

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    Fear Is Good for the Forest

    In 2011, the renowned evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson paid a visit to Gorongosa National Park, in Mozambique. It is one of the few places in the world where you can get a feel for the Great African Rift Valley, humanity’s evolutionary home. After a couple hundred thousand years, the area is largely as it was—mostly […]

  • Elucidating Cuttlefish Camouflage

    Research sheds light on the control and development of skin patterning in cuttlefish.

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    A Eulogy for a Cow

    How commodified animals die.

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    Hitler and the Naming of the Shrew

    When zoologists tried to change the words for bat and shrew, the Führer was not amused.

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    How Insulin Helped Create Ant Societies

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine‘s Abstractions blog. Ants, wasps, bees, and other social insects live in highly organized “eusocial” colonies where throngs of females forgo reproduction—usually viewed as the cornerstone of evolutionary fitness—to serve the needs of a few egg-laying queens and their offspring. How they got that way has been hard to explain despite more than 150 […]

  • How Insulin Helped Create Ant Societies

    Evolution may have coopted an ancient metabolic mechanism to set social insects on the path toward one of the most puzzling behaviors found in nature.

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    Predators, Prey, and Vodka

    Surveying muskoxen in the Russian far north.

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    What If Only Females Could See Color?

    No doubt if you had the special ability to see beyond the color spectrum, it would benefit not just yourself, but your family and friends, too.Pexels Have you ever wondered how your life might be different if you could see beyond the visible light spectrum—into ultraviolet or infrared? For one thing, you might be immune, […]

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    When It’s Good to Be Antisocial

    It turns out that, even in a highly coordinated hive, antisocial individuals persist.“Wanderer above the sea of fog,” by Caspar David Friedrich (1817) Bees are emblems of social complexity. Their honeycombs—intricate lattices dripping with food—house bustling hive members carrying out carefully orchestrated duties like defending against predators and coordinating resource collection. Much of our own […]

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    What Is It Like to Be a Dolphin?

    Maybe dolphins are more “tuned in” with the world around them, by necessity: a holistic blend of the physical, sensory, and cognitive, all seamless enough to remember to go up for air. Photograph by Matthew Baya / Flickr Humans have come to fetishize dolphins: their smiles, their penchant for heavy petting, and they imbue their […]

  • Complex Animals Led to More Oxygen, Says Maverick Theory

    that new animal behaviors raised oxygen levels and remade the environment.

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    Why Are So Many Animals Homosexual?

    Few creatures can boast of devotions so deep as greylag geese. Most are monogamous; many spend their decade-long adult lives with the same goose, side-by-side in constant communication, taking another partner only if the first should die. It’s a remarkable degree of fidelity, and it includes relationships of a sort that some humans consider unnatural. […]

  • The Antelope Killing Fields

    Why did two thirds of all saiga antelope die in a couple months?

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    The Antelope Killing Fields

    Why did two thirds of all saiga antelope die in a couple months?

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    The Real Difference Between You and a Plant

    The best way to draw the line sounds less biological than poetic: What separates us is the “difference between staying and going,” as Hope Jahren, the geochemist and geobiologist, puts it.Vincent van Gogh / Wikicommons One way to rouse someone is to ask: “What makes you think you’re so different from a plant?” Several sensible […]

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    Would Twitter Ruin Bee Democracy?

    Simple-majority democracy is used by many animals. But they don’t have social media.

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    The Fish That Took a Century to Name

    The unlikely story of Alfred Russel Wallace’s pike.

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    Darwin’s Lost Beetle Is Back

    It’s difficult to overstate the importance of finding an original Darwin specimen, collected during the Beagle’s first voyage. But finding it, and realizing it was a lost specimen collected by Darwin, was just the first step in a much longer journey.Photograph by fiddledydee / Flickr On August 24, 1832, HMS Beagle dropped anchor at Bahía […]

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    When Mollusks Fall in Love

    Two stories from the remarkable work of Sy Montgomery and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.

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    When It’s Good to Be Antisocial

    It turns out that, even in a highly coordinated hive, antisocial individuals persist.“Wanderer above the sea of fog,” by Caspar David Friedrich (1817) Bees are emblems of social complexity. Their honeycombs—intricate lattices dripping with food—house bustling hive members carrying out carefully orchestrated duties like defending against predators and coordinating resource collection. Much of our own […]

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    I Am Not a Monster

    Science has turned the squid from a storied monster into a marvel.

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    Manhattan’s God of Insects

    Lawrence Forcella reminds us why we loved bugs as kids.

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    Why It’s Good to Be Curious About Insects

    One of the best jokes May Berenbaum, an entomologist at the University of Illinois, has ever told at a conference goes like this: A man walks into a doctor’s office, imploring her for help. “I think I’m a moth,” he says. The doctor goes, “It’s clear you have a problem, but I’m a pediatrician not […]

  • Why It’s Good to Be Curious About Insects

    Entomology—and all curiosity driven research—catalyzes unexpected, useful discoveries.

  • Uberti_HERO

    Where the Wild Things Go

    The remarkable travel itineraries of animals.

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    How to Hear Like a Champion Birder

    Take a walk with the man building a Shazam for birds.

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    How We Really Tamed the Dog

    A daring experiment builds a new tame species in just 60 years.

  • Are We Headed for a Sixth Extinction?

    The stability of life on Earth depends on the biogeochemical cycles of carbon, which in turn depend on poorly understood microbial ecosystems.

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    What It’s Like to Be an Ant

    The idiosyncrasies of our social and cultural lives significantly influences our conscious and unconscious responses to the smells of others and our behaviors toward them.Photograph by Gayil Nalls / Installation View: The Hugo Boss Prize 2016: Anicka Yi, Life Is Cheap, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, April 21–July 5, 2017 Right now, at the […]

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    Traffic Wouldn’t Jam If Drivers Behaved Like Ants

    Ant colony optimization has itself migrated with impressive speed and range, and has been taken up residence in all kinds of research pursuits, from estimating electricity consumption in Turkey to designing supply chains to the design of tall bridge piers to robot learning.Photograph by Bernardinus Nugraha / Flickr As someone so flummoxed by traffic I […]

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    How a Kids’ Cartoon Created a Real-Life Invasive Army

    Once upon a time, raccoons were strangers to the island of Japan, save for the occasional critter kept in a zoo. That all changed when Araiguma Rasukaru aired and turned a nation onto raccoons’ inherent charm. Tales of monsters invading Japan are a longstanding tradition, usually involving menacing kaiju—literally “strange creatures”—rising from the sea to […]

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    If Bugs Are Sentient, Should We Eat Them?

    The ethics of eating insects.

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    What the Rat Brain Tells Us About Yours

    The evolution of animal models for neuroactive medicine.

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    What to Do When Your Girlfriend Is 70 Times Bigger Than You

    Out in the clear waters near the Great Barrier Reef, a common blanket octopus male swims toward a female. This male need not worry about showing his brightest colors or engaging in a showy battle of strength in hopes of winning the female’s permission to approach. In fact it’s unclear if the female even notices […]

  • Why Do Jellyfish Glow?

    A fluorescent protein helped researchers illuminate human cellular biology.

  • What Sea Slugs Taught Us About Our Brain

    The simple nerve cells of sea creatures helped scientists fathom human memory.

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    The Evolutionary Pull of Ocean Tides

    How animals’ biological clocks turn with the tides.

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    Inside the Goth Chicken: Black Bones, Black Meat, and a Black Heart

    In the historical novel The Black Tulip, written by Alexandre Dumas, an honest and decent Dutch tulip fancier is nearly brought to ruin by his quest to breed a purely black flower. More precisely, his misadventure is due to the dastardly schemes of his neighbor, who, frantic with spite and jealousy over the plants, frames […]

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    Why Birds Love Mobs

    When I tell Katie Sieving, an avian wildlife ecologist at the University of Florida, that it’s probably a stretch to call “mobbing” an act of heroism, she laughs. Mobbing, as the term suggests, involves a mob: It’s when a group of animals band together to harass and drive out a common predator—a behavior already well-known […]

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    Spark of Science: Jon Beckmann

    The conservation ecologist discusses the plight of animals in a human-dominated landscape.

  • Sean B. Carroll, PhD

    Vice President for Science Education, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

  • Joyce Poole

    The elephant researcher tells her story.

  • Lisa Becking

    A marine biologist talks about the wonders of hidden lakes.

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    The Caterpillar Watcher

    Charles Bonnet discovered insect trails but became famous for his hallucinations.

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    Spark of Science: Lisa Becking

    A marine biologist talks about the wonders of hidden lakes.

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    City Living Makes Animals Dishonest

    Honesty is the basis of any good relationship. This is as true for animals as it is for humans. When a peahen is looking for a mate, she sees a peacock’s tail as an honest signal of his quality. “Look at me!” says her suitor, wiggling his ridiculous display from side to side, “I can […]

  • The Other Crisis on the Mexican Border

    Animals are struggling to cope with the US-Mexico border wall.

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    Dear Natural History Museum, What Is That Infernal Squawk Out My Window?

    The subject line of the email was simply, “Bird?” It’s not unusual for researchers at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles to receive requests like this. Local residents aren’t shy about asking for help to identify critters they encounter on hikes or even in their backyards. But what was unusual about this email, sent […]

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    This Doesn’t Sound Tasty

    How moths bat away their predators.

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    Only Street Dogs Are Real Dogs

    Purebreds don’t satisfy the biological definition of a species.

  • Coppinger_HERO

    Only Street Dogs Are Real Dogs

    Purebreds don’t satisfy the biological definition of a species.

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    How an Elephant Loses Its Tusks

    Elephants without tusks are a response to the selective pressure of poaching.

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    Spark of Science: Joyce Poole

    The elephant researcher tells her story.

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    Do Dolphins Have Conversations? We Still Can’t Say

    Sure, dolphins use sonar, whiz through the ocean at incredible speeds, and battle sharks. But can they chat? Last week, a study published in Russia’s St. Petersburg Polytechnical University Journal: Physics and Mathematics claimed to have recorded two dolphins doing just that. Two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, named Yasha and Yana, exchanged a series of vocal […]

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    Fish Can Be Smarter Than Primates

    To understand the plurality of intelligence, look under water.

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    The Sacred Beauty of a Hermit Thrush Call

    On an early morning in June, New York City’s Prospect Park is peaceful and nearly empty: A few people sleeping on benches, a few more walking their dogs, and the birds chirping—exactly what Ben Mirin comes to hear, and they put on quite a show. Whistling, warbling, tweeting, and trilling, the avian residents of Prospect […]

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    The Case For Leaving City Rats Alone

    A Vancouver rat study is showing us how pest control can backfire.

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    Why the Songbird’s Serenade Is Going Off Key

    Urban din is forcing animal mating calls to be either unsexy or unheard.

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    Bothered by Noise? Try Being a Bat

    Human noise is a rising global pollutant. Urbanization, road networks, and energy extraction infrastructure are all widespread and expanding sources of acoustic waste. In the contiguous 48 states today, to take just one illustration, nearly 4 million miles of road cover the country; as a result, no area is more than 21 miles from a […]

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    Put Yourself in a Dolphin’s Skin

    Humans have come to fetishize dolphins: their smiles, their penchant for heavy petting, and they imbue their frolicking with moral assertions about one’s duty to live with abandon. These projections endear them to us. But the truth about what’s going on inside a dolphin’s head has very little to do with our human experience. Just […]

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    That Time in 8th Grade When an Electric Eel Almost Killed Sarah

    When you’re a kid, it’s easy to take things for granted—to assume, for example, that your experiences, however unique, are relatively common. But then you find out way later in life that no, in fact not everyone tested the “Mary Poppins Theory of Gravity” by jumping off their hay barn clutching an umbrella, as I […]

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    What Wild Animals Do in the Dark of the Night

    Capturing wildlife with flash photography at the turn of the century.

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    In Which I Try to Become a Swift

    The closest I ever got to flying with the birds was on the ground.

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    Can a Cat Have an Existential Crisis?

    Treating my cat for depression caused me to question the state of anxiety in animals and us.

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    Parasites Are Us

    How biological invaders challenge our idea of self and other.

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    Dolphins Are Helping Us Hunt for Aliens

    When 12 men gathered at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia to discuss the art and science of alien hunting in 1961, the Order of the Dolphin was born. A number of the brightest minds from a range of scientific disciplines, including three Nobel laureates, a young Carl Sagan, and an eccentric neuroscientist named […]

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    The Other Crisis on the Mexican Border

    Animals are struggling to cope with the US-Mexico border wall.

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    Ecologists Can’t Beat Invasive Species, So They’re Joining Them

    The path to Ohe’o Gulch, in Maui, meanders through a short section of forest, past mango trees and pockets of bamboo, then opens onto the ocean. Palm trees of all sizes and varieties line the Pacific coast, their trunks hunched over the sand, fronds waving picturesquely in the trade winds. Though they may seem perfectly […]

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    The Ecologist Who Threw Starfish

    Robert Paine showed us the surprising importance of predators.

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    How This Revolutionary Old Zoo Was Redesigned for the 21st Century

    At the height of his powers in 15th century Florence, Lorenzo de Medici managed to secure a magnificent giraffe for his menagerie. The animal was such a marvel that several works of art depicted its arrival. (Just how grueling and gruesome the transit must have been to the giraffe is lost to history.) For ages, […]

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    Why Are So Many Animals Homosexual?

    Few creatures can boast of devotions so deep as greylag geese. Most are monogamous; many spend their decade-long adult lives with the same goose, side-by-side in constant communication, taking another partner only if the first should die. It’s a remarkable degree of fidelity, and it includes relationships of a sort that some humans consider unnatural. […]

  • Keim-HERO

    What Pigeons Teach Us About Love

    The sweet, avian romance of Harold and Maude.

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    Chimps and the Zen of Falling Water

    There is a waterfall in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park. Maybe 12 feet high, it’s fairly modestly sized, though even a modest waterfall is quite a magical thing. And it’s here that chimpanzees come to dance. You can watch a video online, narrated by the great primatologist Jane Goodall, who, as with so many chimpanzee behaviors, […]

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    The Fly King Speaks

    Meet Fredrik Sjöberg, author of the sleeper hit, The Fly Trap.

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    The Philosopher King of the Hoverflies

    A roving meditation on nature, literature, and the joy of collecting flies.

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    Seeing Electricity, Hearing Magnetism & Other Sensory Feats

    For elephants, feet are sensory organs.Martin Harvey, Getty Images It’s pretty obvious that dogs have sharper ears and cats a keener sense of smell than we do. But as powerful these senses are, they are merely keener versions of the ones we humans possess. The animal kingdom also boast some senses that are arguably more […]

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    Biologists’ Clever Way to Detect Animals They Can’t Find

    A hellbender at the National Zoo in WashingtonBrian Gratwicke via Flickr Wildlife doesn’t get much weirder than the hellbender, a frilly, crayfish-gobbling salamander, about the length of a baby alligator, whose bizarre aliases include “snot otter,” “devil dog,” and “grampus.” The giant amphibian stalks rocky streambeds throughout the eastern United States—or at least it did, […]

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    Where Endangered Vultures Go for a Healthy, Rotting Meal

    A young, captive Cape vultureChelsea Biondolillo   The sun is hot and high over Hartbeetspoort, South Africa, the air thick with humidity and flies. On the dirt in front of us are the remains of three cows. Bridgette Cahill asks, “Ready to get your hands dirty?” Her fellow volunteer Nobuhle Thelma Mabhikwa nods. They work […]

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    Songbirds in the Suburbs

    House finches, Costco, and remaking the American wild.

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    Animals Just Wanna Have Fun

    Perched on the edge of a snowy slope, the youngster drops a small, makeshift sled at his feet. He steps onto it and glides down the incline, struggling to keep his balance. When the sled slows to a stop, he picks it up and trudges back up to the top for another go. Again and […]

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    These Males Are Cheating Animals

    The tricks they play would make Darwin blush.

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    This Tool-Using Sniper Changed What We Think About Fish

    An archerfish lets fly at its unsuspecting prey.Ingo Rischawy / Schuster lab, University of Bayreuth    Few animals have had their cognitive abilities maligned like fish. Myths about their dullness abound—no doubt you’ve heard the one about goldfish’s three-second memories. But have you also heard the one about gobies memorizing the location of rock pools? Or coral […]

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    Human vs. Squirrel: The Battle of Wits Is On

    “Hey, thanks for the new feeder. Now I can pretend I’m super-squirrel while I eat!”IanC66 via Shutterstock Feed the birds, they said. It will be fun, they said. Early this spring I bought a simple wood-and-plastic bird feeder. My children and I filled it with feed that promised to lure colorful birds, hung it from […]

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    What’s Worse: Unwanted Mutations or Unwanted Humans?

    Three of the rare Przewalski’s horses that now roam the area near the Chernobyl nuclear plant.Sergey Gaschak After a fatal series of errors and malfunctions in the early morning of April 26, 1986, the core of the Chernobyl nuclear facility melted down and then exploded, killing 31 workers at the plant. The accident spewed massive […]

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    The Natural World Is an Elephant World

    Elephant dung perfumes the air, a fresh, sweet smell, with undertones of sour vegetation. These balls of waste, scattered across the Kenyan savanna, carry the aroma of the bush, an open sea of acacia trees, aloe vera, Sansevieria, and drapes of elephant pudding, a succulent vine that tastes like salty snap beans but smells like […]

  • Jabr_HERO

    Tantalizing Creatures with Male and Female Genes

    Gyandromorphs overturn traditional theories of sexual development.

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    What Do Animals See in a Mirror?

    A controversial test for self-awareness is dividing the animal kingdom.

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    The Beetle That Eavesdrops on an Ant’s Secret Language

    Before noon in the Soconusco region of southern Chiapas, down by the border where Mexico meets Guatemala, the lush, green terrain is rife with bodies in motion. It is an area abutting the Pacific, a vast collection of plantations, most of them growing coffee. Hsun-Yi Hsieh, a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, has […]

  • Olinguito

    How Unicorns Evolved Into Rhinos, Goblin Sharks & Olinguitos

    Earlier this month there was a rare announcement, promoted widely by the press: a new mammal species had been discovered, the first carnivorous mammal identified in the Americas for 35 years. But the olinguito, as the raccoon-like carnivore is now known, was not spotted for its surprising looks or remarkable behaviors that set it apart […]

  • Hirsch_e_HERO

    Songbirds in the Suburbs

    House finches, Costco, and remaking the American wild.

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    In Changeable Times, Inventiveness Could Save Your Species

    There’s no doubt that the climate in many parts of the planet is changing quickly. The planet is getting hotter, sea levels are rising, storms are intensifying, many lands are drying up—and there are going to be more changes that will test organisms’ ability to adapt and survive. While many species on the planet are […]

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    The New Flight of the Ibis

    How a determined scientist taught an ancient species to migrate again.

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    The New Flight of the Ibis

    How a determined scientist taught an ancient species to migrate again.

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    Ants Go Marching

    More than an expert traveler, the fire ant is the ultimate invader.

  • Noble_HERO_1280x376

    Ants Go Marching

    More than an expert traveler, the fire ant is the ultimate invader.

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    Do Other Animals Make Music, or Just Sounds?

    The question in the title of this post involves not one but two enigmas: Artistic merit is an abstract and slippery concept, and assigning intention to the actions of other species is a perpetual challenge. Thus, the question invites various, contradictory answers. Still, I find myself inspired by the activities of other animals, and believe […]

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    You Didn’t Build That: The Best Animal Engineers

    If an intelligent alien species landed on the small bit of galactic rock that we call home, they might get out of their spaceships, have a look around, and decide that we—that is, our species—are the master builders on our planet. There would be plenty of reasons to think so. We build bridges spanning enormous […]

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    You Didn’t Build That FONT WEIGHT BUSTED

    If an intelligent alien species landed on the small bit of galactic rock that we call home, they might get out of their spaceships, have a look around, and decide that we—that is, our species—are the master builders on our planet. There would be plenty of reasons to think so. We build bridges spanning enormous […]

  • Animal Eyes pt 2 HERO

    Jeepers, Creepers. Where the Heck Did You Get Those Peepers?

    Last week, we asked you to pick out human eyes from animal eyes that look similar. It was probably harder than you expected. This week’s eyeball challenge, again courtesy of some great photographs by Suren Manvelyan, might be even harder. Can you tell which very inhuman-looking eyes (bigger images below) belong to which animals?  Here’s […]

  • Don't I look fine

    A Moment When Animals Started to Seem More Like People

    Any self-respecting pet owner will confidently claim that their dog or cat (or rabbit, or gerbil) seems sentient, exhibiting a distinct temperament and emotional responses. I know my many beloved pets over the years could feel pain, and fear, as well as love and trust. But are our pets truly conscious creatures? Or are we […]

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    Humanizing Animals With the Most Human Eyes

    People place incredible importance on their eyes. They’re arguably our default tool for perceiving the world, and one of the primary ways we remember and describe one another. Your eye color is on your birth certificate, driver’s license, and online dating profile. Those who make eye contact are considered more competent, friendlier, and more professional. Online […]

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    Dr. Frankenstein Needs His Own Hippocratic Oath

    In the next war, instead of a soldier going on a reconnaissance mission into enemy territory, consider this possibility: a cloud of “micro air vehicles,” flying cyborgs, with built-in cameras and microphones, that could be guided by remote control. What military commander wouldn’t want that? DARPA, the research wing of the Department of Defense, has […]

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    Human Tendencies

    Some of our most cherished traits are shared by other animals—and even plants.

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    Empathy, Morality, Community, Culture—Apes Have It All

    Primatologist Frans de Waal takes exception with human exceptionalism.

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    Ingenious: Nautilus and Me

    My wonderful, dangerous life with the amazing nautilus.