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Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

Each week we find the most interesting and informative articles we can and along the way we uncover amazing and cool images. Here you'll discover incredible photos and the stories behind them.

Snake orgy

(Image credit: Getty)

A group of water snakes coil together in a “mating ball” in Ohio. Springtime is the annual mating season for water snakes, which caught some Florida lake-goers off guard this week. According to a Facebook post from the Lakeland parks and recreation department, certain parts of nearby Lake Hollingsworth needed to be cordoned off with caution tape to prevent visitors from stumbling into a waterside snake orgy. Luckily, water snakes are harmless and non-venomous, and will soon return to their low-key routines (they are fond of lounging in tree branches) in anticipation of this summer’s babies.

[Read full story: Florida officials cordon off park for annual snake orgy]

Warrior with elaborate hairdo

The Tulloch stone depicts a spear-holding ancient warrior.

(Image credit: Mark Hall et. al ; Antiquity 2020)

Archaeologists in Scotland have discovered an ancient monolith that they named the "Tulloch stone." The monolith has an engraving of a spear-holding warrior with an "elaborate hairstyle" and "pronounced" butt. The carving belongs to the Picts, an ancient Celtic-speaking group who lived in what is now eastern and northern Scotland.

[Read full story: Ancient engraving of warrior with 'elaborate hairstyle' and 'pronounced butt' discovered in Scotland]

Whale's eye view

(Image credit: Jacob Linsky/National Marine Fisheries Service.)

A rare species of Antarctic whale has given scientists an unprecedented view beneath the sea ice. To capture such views, researchers suction-cupped tags to 30 Antarctic minke whales. The devices recorded video and motion data for 24 to 48 hours, revealing, for instance, that the whales spend about half of their time in open water compared with just 15% of their time in water full of sea ice. As the climate changes and the Earth warms, this Antarctic sea ice is shrinking; as such, understanding its role in the lives of minke whales is crucial for protecting the species, the researchers said.

[Read full press release on the American Geophysical Union (AGU) site]

Neanderthal burial

(Image credit: Graeme Barker)

Archaeologists have discovered the squashed skull and torso of a Neanderthal that lived about 70,000 years ago, a new study finds. The discovery was made in Shanidar Cave in Iraqi Kurdistan, a place famous for its Neanderthal remains. Clues from the new find, including a stone that possibly served as a grave marker, indicate that the individual was likely buried. It's hotly contested whether Neanderthals intentionally buried their dead, as modern humans do. But, according to this discovery, it appears that these particular Neanderthals did. 

[Read full story: 70,000-year-old Neanderthal remains may be evidence that 'closest human relative' buried its dead]

Monkeyface fish

(Image credit: NOAA/MBARI)

Biologists from the University of California, Irvine just looked at the genome of a pretty bizarre fish called a monkeyface prickleback (Cebidichthys violaceus); the fish is among just 5% of fish species that are vegetarian. The researchers found that the fish can survive on an all-veggie diet because it’s really efficient at breaking down lipids; that’s despite the fact that lipids comprise such a teensy bit of the algae the fish consume. Implications? The researchers hope to figure out which genes are linked to this ability so they can perhaps improve aquaculture without the need for pollution-rich and costly meat ingredients. “If we scan additional fish genomes, we may find omnivorous fish with the right genes that could provide new candidates for sustainable aquaculture,” the study’s first author Joseph Heras said in a statement.

Besides helping humans, this fish is quite a sight: It can grow to about 3 feet (1 meter) in length and up to 6 lbs. (2.7 kilograms). And because the fish can breathe above and below water, it can survive on land for up to 37 hours. 

[Read full press release at UCI News]

Coronavirus spike protein

(Image credit: Jason McLellan/Univ. of Texas at Austin)

A group of researchers has figured out the molecular structure of a key protein that the new coronavirus (SARS-COV-2) uses to invade human cells. Understanding the structure of this "spike" protein might be the key to developing vaccines and treatments that target the coronavirus, according to new findings published Feb. 19 in the journal Science. 

Using a high-resolution microscopy technique called cryogenic electron microscopy, the group created a 3D "map" or "blueprint" of the spike protein, mapping the location of each of its atoms relative to one another.

This map could be used to develop drugs targeting the spike protein to stop the virus from infecting cells. It could also be used as a basis for a vaccine that gives the body some immunity to the virus before being exposed to it.

[Read full story: Coronavirus 'spike' protein just mapped, leading way to vaccine]

Mucus bombs

(Image credit: Allen Collins and Cheryl Ames)

Scientists finally discovered the source of mysterious "stinging water" that zaps the skin of people swimming in tropical lagoons around the world: A mix of jellyfish mucus and venom-filled "bombs." The upside-down jellyfish (Cassiopea xamachana) rests top-down on the ocean floor and secretes viscous mucus into the water above. When researchers examined the snot under the microscope, they saw tiny spheres spinning around in the fluid. Stinging cells coat the spheres and deposit venom on creatures that run into them. Unwary swimmers develop an irritating itch after touching the toxin, while tiny animals like brine shrimp perish on contact.

[Read full story: Upside-down jellyfish release venom-filled 'bombs' in their snot]

Mating millipedes

Two millipedes are mating under UV light. The millipedes, in the Pseudopolydesmus genus, don’t have an affinity to ultraviolet light.

(Image credit: Stephanie Ware, Field Museum)

At first glance, this image might look more psychedelic than scientific, but take a closer look and you’ll see: Two millipedes are mating under UV light. The millipedes, in the Pseudopolydesmus genus, don’t have an affinity to ultraviolet light. Rather, scientists wanted to understand details of the millipedes’ genitals, which start glowing under black light. With that imaging combined with other techniques such as CT scanning, the researchers were able to see, for the first time, pairs’ sexual organs interact. They described the findings in the journal Arthropod Structure and Development.

[Read full press release on the Field Museum in Chicago site]

Coronavirus images released

(Image credit: NIAID-RML)

This is one of the first-ever images of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that has sickened tens of thousands of people and killed over 1,000 in an outbreak that began in Wuhan, China. Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) imaged samples of the virus and cells taken from a U.S. patient infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

[Read full story: Images of new coronavirus just released]

Reaper of death

(Image credit: Julius Csotonyi)

The infamous Tyrannosaurus rex has a new cousin! And this beast may have been just as fierce. Partial skulls and jaws of the 79.5-million-year-old species were discovered in Alberta, Canada. From those bones, paleontologists think the beast would have sported a monstrous face with a mouthful of serrated teeth, each more than 2.7 inches (7 centimeters) long. They named the tyrannosaur Thanatotheristes degrootorum, or “reaper of death” — "Thanatos" is the Greek god of death and "theristes" is Greek for "reaper." When alive, the dinosaur would have been quite a sight, measuring 26 feet (8 meters) long from snout to tail, the researchers estimated.

[Read full story: 'Reaper of death,' newfound cousin of T. rex, discovered in Canada]

Originally published on Live Science.

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