Earth’s mysterious ‘deep biosphere’ may harbor millions of undiscovered species

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Scientists say the underground ecosystems are a “subterranean Galapagos” just waiting to be studied.

This unidentified nematode from the Kopanang gold mine in South Africa lives 1.4 kilometers below the surface.Gaetan Borgonie / Extreme Life Isyensya, Belgium

Life on Earth takes billions of shapes, but to see most of them you’ll have to dig deep below the planet’s surface.

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Critically Endangered Tree Frog Bred for First Time

An adult La loma tree frog (Hyloscirtus colymba) Now you know!

As frogs around the world continue to disappear — many killed by a rapidly spreading disease called chytridiomycosis, which attacks the skin cells of amphibians — one critically endangered species has received an encouraging boost.

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For Bats, All Smooth, Horizontal Surfaces Are Water

trying to drink from a smooth metal plate.

For bats, any smooth, horizontal surface is water. That’s true even if vision, olfaction or touch tells them that the surface is actually a metal, plastic or wooden plate. Bats therefore rely more on their ears than on any other sensory system. This is due to how smooth surfaces reflect the echolocation calls of bats: they act just like mirrors. In nature there are no other extended, smooth surfaces, so these mirror properties prove to be a reliable feature for recognition of water surfaces.

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New Human Species Discovered: Mitochondrial Genome of Previously Unknown Hominins from Siberia Decoded

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Archaeologists in the Denisova Cave in August 2005 where the tiny piece of finger bone was found.

An international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig has sequenced ancient mitochondrial DNA from a finger bone of a female found in southern Siberia. She comes from a previously unknown human species, which lived about 48,000 to 30,000 years ago in the Altai Mountains in Central Asia.

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Bird Bones May Be Hollow, but They Are Also Heavy

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Bird bones have evolved special features to make them stiffer and stronger than mammal bones, including high bone density, fusion of some bones and altered shape.

For centuries biologists have known that bird bones are hollow, and even elementary school children know that bird skeletons are lightweight to offset the high energy cost of flying. Nevertheless, many people are surprised to learn that bird skeletons do not actually weigh any less than the skeletons of similarly sized mammals. In other words, the skeleton of a two-ounce songbird weighs just as much as the skeleton of a two-ounce rodent.

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Could Smell Play a Role in the Origin of New Bird Species?

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An IU Bloomington researcher collects preen oil from a junco’s uropygial gland into a small glass tube.

Two recently diverged populations of a southern California songbird produce unique odors, suggesting smell could contribute to the reproductive isolation that accompanies the origin of new bird species. The Indiana University Bloomington study of organic compounds present in the preen oils of Dark-eyed Juncos is described in this month’s Behavioral Ecology.

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Scientists Identify Driving Forces in Human Cell Division

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Metaphase in a human cervical carcinoma (HeLa) cell. Chromosomes (red), microtubules (green).

If you can imagine identical twin sisters at rest, their breath drawing them subtly together and apart, who somehow latch onto ropes that pull them to opposite sides of the bed — you can imagine what happens to a chromosome in the dividing cell.

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Canine Morphology: Hunting for Genes and Tracking Mutations

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Researchers studying the dog genome have a new understanding of why domestic dogs vary so much in size, shape, coat texture, color and patterning.

Why do domestic dogs vary so much in size, shape, coat texture, color and patterning? Study of the dog genome has reached a point where the molecular mechanisms governing such variation across mammalian species are becoming understood.

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Is an Animal’s Agility Affected by the Position of Its Eyes?

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Researchers sampled the relationship between agility and vision between frontal eyed species, such as cats, to lateral-eyed mammals, such as rabbits, to establish if the positioning of the eyes resulted in limitations to speed and agility.

New research from scientists in Liverpool has revealed the relationship between agility and vision in mammals. The study, published in the Journal of Anatomy, sampled 51 species to compare the relationship between agility and vision between frontal eyed species, such as cats, to lateral-eyed mammals, such as rabbits, to establish if the positioning of the eyes resulted in limitations to speed and agility.

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Evolutionary Game of Rock-Paper-Scissors May Lead to New Species

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Side-blotched lizards have three color morphs with different mating strategies, but in some populations only one morph occurs.

New research on lizards supports an old idea about how species can originate. Morphologically distinct types are often found within species, and biologists have speculated that these “morphs” could be the raw material for speciation. What were once different types of individuals within the same population could eventually evolve into separate species.

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Surprising New Branches on Arthropod Family Tree

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Centipede.

Any way you look at it — by sheer weight, species diversity or population — the hard-shelled, joint-legged creepy crawlies called arthropods dominate planet Earth. Because of their success and importance, scientists have been trying for decades to out the family relationships that link lobsters to millipedes and cockroaches to tarantulas and find which might have come first.

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