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There is a huge ‘monolith’ on Phobos, one of Mars’s moons

Posted on 24 Sep 2016 in Journalism, Space

Many people are vexed by the Phobos monolith. It has inspired all manner of alien-based conspiracy theories and this fascinating discussion on Reddit. It even gave its name to an album released this year by Les Claypool and Sean Lennon Ono. So what is it? Image: Mars Global Surveyor/Nasa

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How some animals accelerate faster than all others

Posted on 19 Sep 2016 in Animal Behaviour, Evolution, Featured, Journalism

The smashing mantis shrimp predatory attacks are so fast, and so brief, that their exact speed went unappreciated by scientists until about 15 years ago. And what does the mantis shrimp do with its astonishingly quick weapons? It uses them to attack an animal virtually synonymous with sluggishness: a snail. Image: Christian Gloor (mostly) underwater photographer

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Tap-dancing songbirds drum with their feet to attract mates

Posted on 19 Sep 2016 in Animal Behaviour, Journalism

It is not just about speed. The only songbird known to perform a rapid tap dance during courtship makes more noise with its feet during its routines than at other times. Image: acornjfl

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Snub-nosed monkeys are so inbred they may struggle to survive

Posted on 16 Sep 2016 in Evolution, Journalism

With a global population below 250, things have been looking bleak for the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. But the creatures might be in even more trouble than we thought. One section of mitochondrial DNA seems to be identical in all members of the largest known population – a sign of inbreeding that can leave a species vulnerable to extinction. Image: dangnguyenxuan

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Blind people use brain’s visual cortex to help do maths

Posted on 16 Sep 2016 in Journalism, Neuroscience

Subtract 8 from 52. Did you see the calculation in your head? While a leading theory suggests our visual experiences are linked to our understanding of numbers, a study of people who have been blind from birth suggests the opposite. Image: morebyless

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The strange reason why hagfish tie themselves into knots

Posted on 9 Sep 2016 in Animal Behaviour, Evolution, Journalism

Hagfish do not actually have bony vertebrae in their backs: they are literally spineless. They have several hearts, and at least twice as much blood in their bodies as other fish. On top of that, they have only half a jaw, yet they can still tear through tough flesh. And they can tie themselves in knots. Image: kinskarije

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