- News Home
19 December 2013 12:36 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
After 20 years of trying, researchers have finally convicted massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia as the culprit in...
Five federally funded optical and radio telescopes in the United States could be forced to shut down over the next 3...
A 2-year budget agreement pushes back the threat of sequestration but leaves scientists still wondering how much money...
After a decade away from physics, Robert Laughlin, a Nobel laureate at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California,...
Computer scientists and others have teamed up to persuade the 117 state parties to the Convention on Certain...
The swine flu pandemic of late 2009 had a peculiar aftereffect in parts of Europe: a spike in children being diagnosed...
- 19 December 2013 12:36 pm , Vol. 342 , #6165
- About Us
ScienceShot: The Unbalanced Sloth
31 July 2012 7:01 pm
Most creatures need a good sense of balance—especially tree-dwellers that swing among high branches. In mammals, the ability largely comes from three loop-shaped structures in the inner ear called semicircular canals; in most species, the size, shape, and arrangement of those loops (inset) is extremely consistent from one individual to another. But in three-toed sloths (such as Bradypus variegatus, the brown-throated three-toed sloth, pictured), many proportions of the semicircular canals are surprisingly variable from one sloth to another. The overall variability is at least twice that seen in other species of mammals the team analyzed, researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. That high degree of variation stems from the sloths' languid lifestyle, the researchers suggest. Sloths, which move extremely slowly when they move at all, don't require the sense of balance that a swift, agile creature such as a primate needs. The finding supports one of Charles Darwin's notions about evolution: If an organ isn't crucial, variations in its structure or performance aren't lost over time, keeping the potpourri in the population.