The first skeletons evolved multiple times independently because of unusually chalky seas, later becoming essential for survival even when chalk became scarce. Calcium-based skeletons appeared suddenly in the fossil record around 550 million years ago, fundamentally changing the global carbon cycle and introducing a wealth of new predatory strategies to the sea.

Question: How much of the land on Earth is covered by humans? According to the FAO Global Land Cover SHARE database, produced in 2014, 0.6% of Earth’s land surface is defined as ‘Artificial surfaces’. Artificial surfaces include any areas that have an artificial cover as a result of human activities such as construction (cities, towns, transportation), extraction (open mines and quarries) or waste disposal. This figure gives us an estimate of roughly 900,000 km2 of human-covered land worldwide.

I’ve previously blogged on the topic of edible insects, so I was thrilled to hear from Ghergich about their new blog and infographics on the subject. It is great to see real recipes using insects as an ingredient and I’m pleased to see how far the industry has progressed since I wrote my original post. Thinking about ways to increase your protein intake? You might want to think about bugs. Yes, that’s right, we said it: Edible insects are an environmentally friendly addition to your dinner plate.


Chimps use tools to get tipsy

Did you hear the one about the drunken monkey? Primates frequently encounter and consume alcohol in their natural environment, most commonly through fermented fruit. But a study published last year showed that some Chimpanzees are actively seeking it out, and have even developed tools to help them access their preferred tipple!

I’ve written before on the topic of animals and recreational drug use. Research has shown that many animals consume alcohol in their diet, from treeshrews drinking alcoholic nectar in Malaysia to Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) drinking fermented berries of the Brazilian Pepper Tree (Schunus terebinthifolius). But deliberate consumption of alcohol – which is, let’s not forget, a poison – is harder to find.

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Ancient fossil arachnid reveals the origins of spiders

A new fossil discovered in France promises to shed light on the murky evolutionary history of spiders. The rare three-dimensional fossil of the new species shows that it is nearly, but not quite, a spider, lacking the key silk-spinning adaptation that defines spiders. This 300-million-year-old arachnid is our closest view yet of the ancestor to all spiders.
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Cuckolding common in nature, but rare in humans

Fathers can breath a sigh of relief. Although biologists have found cuckolding, where one male unwittingly raises the offspring of another male, is common in animal societies, it appears humans are one of the few exceptions.

A recent review published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution on 5th April claims that across modern and ancient human societies, women tended to be faithful to their partners.

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Ancient Beast was part-sabretooth, part-otter

The extinct carnivore, Kolponomos, looked like a bear, and bit like a sabre-toothed tiger.

A group of carnivores that went extinct around 20 million years ago looked superficially like modern bears, but new research shows their bite was more similar to sabre-toothed cats. Known as Kolponomos, these extinct bears were thought to feed on shelled organisms, like modern otters, but with few fossils to go on, their diet and lifestyle has remained contentious.

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Honeybees treat their mates for STDs

Male honeybees produce antimicrobial chemicals in their semen to protect new queens from a fungal disease.

Sex always comes with the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, so male honeybees have evolved to produce antimicrobial chemicals in their semen. The fungus Nosema apis is a specialised pathogen of honeybees, which can be transmitted to new queens when they mate, but new research shows that male honeybees’ semen has powerful antifungal activity, disrupting the lifecycle of the Nosema spores and reducing their viability.
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Social Supergene is a Green Beard for Fire Ants

Scientists have found the final missing link answering a long-standing question about how social behaviour evolves. New research shows that a social supergene in fire ants coordinates a host of biological processes and behaviours, that ultimately determine how sociable their colonies are, and who they choose to be their queen.

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