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Life sciences/Organismal biology/Animals/Invertebrates/Arthropods/Insects

A tiny, furry-tailed creature was the earliest ancestor of the placental mammals—a group excluding marsupials and egg-laying mammals—and lived after the extinction of the dinosaurs, according to a study in the 8 February Science.

The origins and early evolution of placental mammals have long been a matter of debate.

Arthropods, which include insects, arachnids and crustaceans, are the most diverse group of terrestrial species on the planet. And that might be why researchers have had such a difficult time estimating their numbers, especially in tropical forests where so many arthropod species are known to thrive.

While widespread vaccination led to eradication of smallpox by 1979, a changed world and changing health priorities make it tougher to totally eliminate other infectious diseases, experts said at a AAAS meeting.

“Eradication of smallpox gave rise to a glow of optimism,” said Joshua Rosenthal, acting deputy director of the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health. If smallpox was gone, could measles, polio, and other diseases be far behind?

Genetically modified (GM) corn plants can reduce damage to other neighboring, unmodified crops too—and farmers who plant both types of crops are experiencing the economic benefits, researchers say this week in Science. This finding comes after William Hutchison from the University of Minnesota, along with colleagues from across the United States, studied the effects that genetically engineered corn has had on European corn borer moths in the United States over the years.

SAN DIEGO—Families with children, teachers, early-career scientists, and all others with a curious mind are invited to events that are free and open to the public at the AAAS Annual Meeting, 18-22 February in San Diego, California. This is the first time in the association’s 162-year history that AAAS is meeting in San Diego.