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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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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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