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Living World

Microbial secrets of sourdough

It all starts with a community teeming with yeasts and bacteria — but what’s really happening? Scientists peer into those jars on the kitchen counter to find out.

Seeking a better test for Alzheimer’s

New blood assays and brain scans are among the biomarkers revolutionizing clinical trials and changing the way researchers think of the disease. They may soon change the way patients are treated as well.

The life that springs from dead leaves in streams

A crunchy brown leaf may seem like an ending. But the food webs it supplies can be far more expansive than the ones it nourished when it was young, green and in its prime.

Collective behavior: How animals work together

Studies of birds, fish and ants reveal the hidden ways groups coordinate movement, which might influence engineers designing drone armadas and efficient information flow

Searching high and low for the origins of life

Researchers think they’re getting warmer: They’ve created amino acids and primitive membranes by simulating conditions found at scalding vents on the ocean floor

How viruses evolve

Pathogens that switch to a new host species have some adapting to do. How does that affect the course of a pandemic like Covid-19?

The bat-virus détente

Bats cope with myriad viruses, including the one causing Covid-19, with few ill effects. Scientists are probing their immune systems to fathom how they do it. The answers might help infected people, too.

Loss of smell, confusion, strokes: Does Covid-19 target the nervous system?

Reports of patients with neurological symptoms have emerged during the pandemic. Scientists don’t yet know whether these are a direct effect of the virus or part of the body’s response to infection.

How predictable is evolution? An ant-loving beetle holds answers.

Dozens of times over the eons, rove beetles have made complex, independent adaptations to live inside the nests of ants — the phenomenon of convergent evolution. Biologists want to know if this shows patterns at work in natural selection.

Pollution evolution: The little fish that could

Where other species succumbed, the killifish survived contaminated habitats. It’s a finding that could help researchers understand environmental risk factors for humans.

How disease sleuths are using genomics to track the coronavirus

Rapid sequencing of viral genomes can help public health officials figure out the origins, spread and nature of quickly moving epidemics

Infectious disease: Making — and breaking — the animal connection

We know pathogens from other species can endanger us. Scientists are better equipped than ever to do something about it, but political buy-in is crucial.

The silence of the owls

No one knows exactly how the nocturnal hunters manage their whisper-soft flight, yet it is inspiring the design of quieter airplanes, fans and wind turbines

An old problem: How immune responses weaken with age

The body’s defenses lose flexibility and diversity over time, and protective responses to vaccines weaken as well. Scientists are working on ways to boost seniors’ protections against influenza, the novel coronavirus and other pathogens.

Life’s little oscillations

A bevy of intricate biochemical fluctuations inside cells rule the natural world. Scientists are trying to figure out how they all work.

Beat of life: Understanding the cell’s rhythms

VIDEO: Many cellular processes are guided by fluctuations of molecules, from circadian clocks to the feat of precisely dividing into two daughter cells

What do genes do? | Things to Know

VIDEO: Scientists have captured live video of parts of the most fundamental event in biology — cells reading and copying DNA instructions to make proteins