The fate of a major European ecosystem depends on populations of a tiny, mouse-like creature: the vole.
Herbivorous voles play a critical role in the food chain. They are prey for many predators and important consumers of vegetation. Historically, voles have had three- to five-year boom-and-bust population cycles. However, over the past half-century, these cycles have been much less pronounced, a new study finds. The widespread flattening of vole populations may be due to climate change, and it could have detrimental effects on species that rely on these little creatures.
Scientists have discovered two new species of strange-looking microbes that live in the bellies of termites, and they've named the creatures Cthulhu and Cthylla, an ode to H.P. Lovecraft's pantheon of horrible monsters.
Even though Lovecraft said the mere existence of Cthulhu was beyond human comprehension, the 20th-century American sci-fi author described the ocean-dwelling creature as vaguely anthropomorphic, but with an octopus-like head, a face full of feelers, and a scaly, rubbery, bloated body with claws and narrow wings.
Credit: Boston University Center for Space Physics
Glowing red arcs invisible to the naked eye have now been detected high above most of Europe using advanced cameras pointed at the sky.
When streams of high-energy, charged particles come rushing from the sun to batter Earth, they cause what are called geomagnetic storms. These events are disruptions in the magnetosphere, the part of Earth's atmosphere dominated by the planet's magnetic field. The most dramatic effects of these storms are giant, bright auroras in Earth's polar regions, but the tempests result in other striking consequences as well, such as faintly glowing red arcs high up in the ionosphere. This is the electrically charged part of Earth's atmosphere, stretching from about 50 to 370 miles (85 to 600 kilometers) above the Earth.
The ability to mimic the facial expressions of others is thought to be linked to empathy. It's known that humans and orangutans "ape" each other in this way, but gelada monkeys appear to do it too, a new study shows.
The phenomenon, known as rapid facial mimicry, is an unconscious response that occurs when two animals are interacting. Researchers showed that geladas (Theropithecus gelada), a type of Old World monkey, show facial mimicry during play — particularly mother-infant pairs. The curious ability may have a common evolutionary root among primates, the researchers say.
Astronomers have spotted the most distant massive star explosion of its kind, a supernova that could help scientists better understand the nature of the universe.
Using the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists recently caught sight of Supernova UDS10Wil (nicknamed SN Wilson) which exploded more than 10 billion years ago. It took more than 10 billion years for the light of this violent star explosion to reach Earth.
Lake Erie is under attack from noxious algae blooms, and the problem only looks likely to get worse if something isn't done to reverse the trend, new research suggests.
In the summer of 2011, western Lake Erie turned a noxious green, as a massive algae bloom coated the surface and lapped up in mats along the shore. At its peak, the bloom covered an area 2.5 times larger than that of any Erie bloom on record, according to a study published today (April 1) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
The hundreds of volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io aren't where they're supposed to be, scientists say.
Io's major volcanic activity is concentrated 30 to 60 degrees farther east than models of its internal heat profile predict, a recent study reports, suggesting that the exotic, volcanic Jupiter moon Io is even more mysterious than researchers had previously thought.