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Living World

Why scientists need to be better at data visualization

The scientific literature is riddled with bad charts and graphs, leading to misunderstanding and worse. Avoiding design missteps can improve understanding of research.  

Getting the microbe story, straight from the mouth

A trio of researchers has mapped the living things that make the tongue, gums and palate home

Profiling the perpetrators of past plagues

The ancient pathogens in old graves are as dead as the people they once infected. Still, they tell a vivid tale.

How a poisonous plant became breakfast, lunch and dinner for monarchs

By engineering mutations into fruit flies, scientists reconstructed how the butterflies may have evolved resistance to the toxins found in milkweed, allowing their caterpillars to feast on the plant

Fast facts about freshwater mussels | Things to Know

VIDEO: The humble bivalves can clean polluted water and bump up diversity — but there's plenty more to learn about the odd group of mollusks that make their homes in our streams and rivers

From tiger scat to DNA to — hopefully — survival

Researchers dig out the elusive cats’ genetic material where they can, to guide efforts at conservation and diversity

Cell meets robot in hybrid microbots

Researchers are developing microbe-propelled tiny bots to deliver drugs, target cancer or do other work in the body

Total recall: A brilliant memory helps chickadees survive

In winter, the birds must remember where they’ve hidden tens of thousands of seeds. Biologist Vladimir Pravosudov explains what this can teach us about how the brain evolves.

To date a dinosaur

Stegosaur expert Susie Maidment is laying crucial groundwork for assigning ages to fossils from North America’s most dinosaur-rich rocks. More precise timings promise to reveal plenty about how the beasts lived and evolved through time.

Predicting biological invaders

Complex mathematical tools are aiding the battle to identify invasive species before they get a foothold in the environment. But bureaucracy can blunt the techniques.

A world in a bottle of water

Revolutionary techniques using traces of environmental DNA are analyzing entire ecosystems “from microbes to whales”

Mucus: the body’s unsung hero

The slimy stuff has a surprisingly wide array of beneficial biological functions

Tiny, living stones of the sea

How limestone-covered algae sway global climate — and how their fate may shift as the oceans acidify

The hidden strengths of freshwater mussels

The humble bivalves can clean polluted water and bump up diversity — but in dammed rivers and fouled watersheds, many species face extinction. With help, maybe they can save themselves.

Life’s a blur — but we don’t see it that way

Our brains manage to construct stable images even as our eyes keep darting around. Here’s what we know about how that happens. 

Plasmonics brings the molecular world into sharper focus

People have been using metals to manipulate light for centuries. Now researchers are using it to create powerful biosensors.

Sex strategies of the evolutionary kind

For women, a short-term fling may involve a quest for good genes or just a good time. It’s a puzzle for the researchers looking at how people choose mates.

As climate changes, so does life in the planet’s soils

To understand what might be lost, ecologist Janet K. Jansson taps molecular methods to explore Earth’s underground microbes, from the permafrost to the grasslands