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Living World

The accidental tree killers

Epidemics of forest-felling diseases are on the rise thanks to globetrotting pathogens that slip through even the best defenses. To prevent further losses, scientists are turning to high-tech surveillance and detection, even canine noses.

Making and breaking connections in the brain

The links between nerve cells, called synapses, allow us to learn and adapt, and hold clues to conditions such as autism, schizophrenia and more

The origin of mud

For most of Earth’s history, hardly any of the mucky stuff existed on land. It finally started piling up around 458 million years ago, changing life on the planet forever.

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.

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?

Earth to birds: Take the next left

Scientists have long thought that avian migration is guided by the magnetic field, but how, exactly? The search has led to three very different hypotheses.

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.

The single-cell life

Three ways that studying cells individually — instead of by the thousands — is revolutionizing our understanding of biology

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.

Inside the fertility clinic for frogs | Things to Know

VIDEO: How scientists are using assisted reproduction technology to help amphibian species in trouble

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