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Europe was once home to giant tortoises almost 2m long

Posted on 2 Feb 2017 in Journalism, Palaeontology

About two million years ago, not long before humans first arrived in south-east Europe, a giant was disappearing from the west of the continent. Titanochelon, Europe’s last giant tortoise, was on its way to extinction. Image: Adán Pérez-García

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Plant keeps moths captive inside its fruits for almost a year

Posted on 1 Feb 2017 in Journalism, Life

Visit a forest in south-east China, say, in mid-March and you might catch one of the more unusual sights in the natural world. The ripe fruit of one species of tree burst open at that time each year – and fully developed moths fly out. Image: Dick Culbert

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Parasite turns wasp into zombie then drills through its head

Posted on 25 Jan 2017 in Animal Behaviour, Journalism

The crypt gall wasp (Bassettia pallida) is a master manipulator. It parasitises the sand live oak tree, encouraging it to form hollow galls – or “crypts” – in its woody stems. Young wasps develop inside the crypts through the second half of the year, chewing their way out to emerge as adults the following spring. Image: hoan luong

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Breath of life: Did animals evolve without oxygen?

Posted on 18 Jan 2017 in Earth Science, Evolution, Journalism

At the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Greece, there is a lake. Complete with a delicate shoreline and an inviting deep blue surface, the L’Atalante basin looks almost like a lake on land. But this is an inhospitable place. Image: crimsonwoods_flickr

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Complex life may have had a false start 2.3 billion years ago

Posted on 16 Jan 2017 in Earth Science, Featured, Journalism

It was a sign of things to come. About 2.3 billion years ago, our primitive planet was an oxygen-poor world profoundly different from now – but then it briefly and mysteriously gained an oxygen-rich atmosphere. This so-called Lomagundi Event could have provided a fleeting opportunity for complex, animal-like creatures to evolve billions of years before the ancestors of all animals we know today appeared. Image: maxelman

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Despite what you might think, chickens are not stupid

Posted on 11 Jan 2017 in Animal Behaviour, Journalism

It is also common for people to view chickens as unintelligent animals that lack the complex psychological characteristics of “higher” animals like monkeys and apes. This is a view reinforced by some depictions of chickens in popular culture. But chickens are anything but dumb. Image: Hopkinsii

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