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April 30 2015

Hate Yard Work? Amazon Lets You Hire a Goat


To relieve customers of backbreaking yard work, various manufacturers have rolled out their versions of the automatic, robotic lawnmower.

Amazon, on the other hand, has a different solution: goats.

Yes, the same company that wants to revolutionize its delivery capabilities with drones is currently testing a service that allows you to hire a goat to trim your shrubs.

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April 30 2015

Some monkeys can understand danger calls made by different monkey species


A team of researchers with members from France, Ivory Coast, Switzerland and the U.K. has found that some monkeys of one species are able to listen in and respond to communications made by monkeys of another species. In their paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers describe a field study they conducted with two monkey species and what they learned from it.

Human beings are the only species known to have a complete language, though other animals make sounds that can be interpreted by others of their species, and now it appears that at least in one case, the sounds made by one species can be interpreted by members of another.

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April 30 2015

Bats use both sides of brain to listen—just like humans


Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center and American University have shown that, like humans, mustached bats use the left and right sides of their brains to process different aspects of sounds. Aside from humans, no other animal that has been studied, not even monkeys or apes, has proved to use such hemispheric specialization for sound processing—meaning that the left brain is better at processing fast sounds, and the right processing slow ones.

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April 30 2015

Is it a bird? Is it a bat? Meet Yi qi, the dinosaur that is sort of both


Researchers today announced the discovery of a stunning new dinosaur fossil: a glider with wings similar to both birds and bats. It has been named Yi qi (meaning ‘strange wing’) and is a small feathered dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic age fossil beds of China that have yielded a host of important fossils in recent years. Yi qi, like so many other small dinosaurs, is preserved with a full coating of feathers and was a close relative of the lineage that ultimately gave rise to birds.

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April 29 2015

Human hunting weapons may not have caused the demise of the Neanderthals


The demise of Neanderthals may have nothing to do with innovative hunting weapons carried by humans from west Asia, according to a new study. The researchers say their findings mean that we may need to rethink the reasons humans survived Neanderthals - and that we may not have behaved as differently as we thought. The researchers looked at innovative stone weapons used by humans about 42,000-34,000 years ago. Traditionally, anthropologists believed that innovation in weapons enabled humans to spread out of Africa to Europe. However, the new study suggests that the innovation was not a driving force for humans to migrate into Europe as previously thought - they were no better equipped than the Neanderthals.

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April 29 2015

DNA suggests all early eskimos migrated from Alaska's North Slope


CHICAGO, Northwestern University—Genetic testing of Iñupiat people currently living in Alaska's North Slope is helping Northwestern University scientists fill in the blanks on questions about the migration patterns and ancestral pool of the people who populated the North American Arctic over the last 5,000 years.

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April 29 2015

Archaeologists rebuild 1608 church where Pocahontas was married


About five years after the footprint of the first Jamestown colony church was discovered, archaeologists and other specialists are busy partially reconstructing the structure. Believed to be the place where Pocahontas married the English tobacco planter John Rolfe, archaeologists hope that the reconstruction will provide the public with a real life, physical replica of the building that made history more than 400 years ago near the banks of the James River in southern Virginia.

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April 29 2015

Ancient megadrought entombed dodos in poisonous fecal cocktail


Nine hundred kilometers off the east coast of Madagascar lies the tiny island paradise of Mauritius. The waters are pristine, the beaches bright white, and the average temperature hovers between 22°C and 28°C (72°F to 82°F) year-round. But conditions there may not have always been so idyllic. A new study suggests that about 4000 years ago, a prolonged drought on the island left many of the native species, such as dodo birds and giant tortoises, dead in a soup of poisonous algae and their own feces.

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April 29 2015

1.5m citizen scientists discover penguins need to use poo in order to breed


A citizen science project has found that penguins use their faeces to melt rocky breeding sites in order to lay their eggs.

The project of 1.5 million online volunteers, organised by the University of Oxford, clicked through 175,000 images of penguins and flagged up images showing strange or surprising behaviour in order to aid scientific discovery.

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April 29 2015

Monkey Creates 6-Word 'Language'


Male species of a West African monkey communicate using at least these six main sounds: boom-boom, krak, krak-oo, hok, hok-oo and wak-oo.

Key to the communication by the male Campbell's monkey is the suffix "oo," according to a new study, which is published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

By adding that sound to the end of their calls, the male monkeys have created a surprisingly rich "vocabulary" that males and females of their own kind, as well as a related species of monkey, understand.

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April 29 2015

Bird 'accents' change with elevation


Imagine having a different accent from someone else simply because your house was farther up the same hill. For at least one species of songbird, that appears to be the case. Researchers have found that the mating songs of male mountain chickadees (Poecile gambeli, shown) differ in their duration, loudness, and the frequency ranges of individual chirps, depending in part on the elevation of their habitat in the Sierra Nevada mountains of the western United States.

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April 29 2015

New York state to turn lights out for migrating birds


On their arduous flights North to their breeding grounds, birds migrating up the US East Coast will have one less peril to worry about - bright lights from state-owned and -managed buildings in New York.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday said that state buildings will turn off non-essential outdoor lighting from 11pm until dawn during peak migration in the spring and fall.

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April 29 2015

Harbour light 'attracts ship-damaging creatures'


Artificial lighting in harbours is attracting sea creatures that damage ships and boats, a study suggests.

Scientists believe that the night-time illumination is altering the behaviour of some animals that attach to vessels' hulls. Keel worms, for example, are lured in by the lights.

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April 29 2015

Signs of Subsurface 'Alien' Life Found in Antarctica


An airborne survey of a presumably dry Antarctic valley revealed a stunning and unexpected interconnected subsurface briny aquifer deep beneath the frozen tundra, a finding that not only has implications for understanding extreme habitats for life on Earth, but the potential for life elsewhere in the solar system, particularly Mars.


Related: Remember that Time the Russians Found Scorpions on Venus?

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April 29 2015

Did life begin in underwater volcanoes?


Scientists have long pondered whether hot vents on the seabed could have been where life on Earth began.

And now chemists in London have discovered that such vents emit geothermally heated water that does create the kind of environment needed to produce organic molecules necessary for life.

Their discovery about the chemistry of the vents could also create eco-friendly fuels and plastics made from carbon dioxide.

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April 29 2015

How Microbes Helped Clean BP's Oil Spill


Like cars, some microbes use oil as fuel. Such microorganisms are a big reason why BP's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was not far worse.

"The microbes did a spectacular job of eating a lot of the natural gas," says biogeochemist Chris Reddy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The relatively small hydrocarbon molecules in natural gas are the easiest for microorganisms to eat. "The rate and capacity is a mind-boggling testament to microbes," he adds.

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April 29 2015

Amazon: 1% of tree species store 50% of region's carbon


About 1% of all the tree species in the Amazon account for half of the carbon locked in the vast South American rainforest, a study has estimated.

Although the region is home to an estimated 16,000 tree species, researchers found that just 182 species dominated the carbon storage process.

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