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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Fly Like a Hummingbird, Glide Like a Swift
30 April 2013 7:15 pm
The hummingbird hovers and rotates as handily as a helicopter; the swift glides and loops all day without landing. How did these closely related animals develop such different flying techniques? Researchers are gleaning clues from the fossil (left) of a new bird species that lived 50 million years ago. At 12 cm, Eocypselus rowei, discovered in Wyoming by commercial fossil hunters, is built on the same small scale as hummingbirds (upper right) and swifts (lower right), its modern-day cousins. The specimen's fossilized feathers—an unusual find that delighted researchers—show that its wings were somewhere in between the swift's superlong flappers and the hummer's comparatively short ones. The fossil's petite size suggests that birds in this family started to shrink early, researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, and that hummingbirds and swifts evolved separately, rather than one giving rise to the other. Fossilized pigment cells suggest that the new species' plumage was glossy black, maybe even iridescent. But maybe only its feathers were showy: The bird probably wasn't a superstar of the air, instead perching for much of the day and making limited flights to nab insects.
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