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Peacocks, panther chameleons, scarlet macaws, clown fish, toucans, blue-ringed octopuses, and so many more: The animal kingdom has countless denizens with extraordinarily colorful beauty. But in many cases, scientists know much more about how the animals use their colors than about how they make them. New work continues to reveal those secrets, which often depend on the fantastically precise self-assembly of minuscule features in and on the feathers, scales, hair, and skin—a fact that makes the answers intensely interesting to soft-matter physicists and engineers in the photonics industry.

Many of the colors seen in nature, particularly in the plant kingdom, are produced by pigments, which reflect a portion of the light spectrum while absorbing the rest. Green pigments like chlorophyll reflect the green part of the spectrum but absorb the longer red and yellow wavelengths as well as the shorter blue ones. Which specific wavelengths get reflected or absorbed depends on the pigment’s molecular makeup and the exact distances between the atoms in its molecular structures.

Because plants are masters of biochemical synthesis, their cells can concoct many types of pigments, but animals by and large have lost the metabolic pathways to make most of them. Melanin, the predominant pigment in animals, is either brown (eumelanin) or reddish yellow (pheomelanin)—a rather limited palette. To make the richer rainbow of colors they need for decorating and disguising themselves, courting mates and warding off predators, many animals can obtain the needed pigments from their diet. Birds’ bright reds and yellows, for instance, mostly come from carotenoid pigments in their food.

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Prehistoric rhino weighed 21 tonnes – the equivalent of four large African elephants – and could reach close to 7m to graze treetops.
In north-western China, scientists have discovered fossil evidence of a new species of giant rhinoceros, “taller than a giraffe” that lived 26.5 million years ago, making it one of the largest mammals to have ever roamed the planet.

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In the future, your vanilla ice cream may be made from plastic bottles. Scientists have figured out a way to convert plastic waste into vanilla flavoring with genetically engineered bacteria, according to a new study.

Vanillin, the compound that carries most of the smell and taste of vanilla, can be extracted naturally from vanilla beans or made synthetically. About 85% of vanillin is currently made from chemicals taken from fossil fuels, according to The Guardian.

Vanillin is found in a wide variety of food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, cleaning and herbicide products, and the demand is "growing rapidly," the authors wrote in the study. In 2018, the global demand for vanillin was about 40,800 tons (37,000 metric tons), and it's expected to grow to 65,000 tons (59,000 metric tons) by 2025, according to the study, published June 10 in the journal Green Chemistry.

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After a decade of work, a biologist has shown that a horizontal offshoot of the thale cress plant is a body part all its own: the cantil.

The machinery of life is dazzlingly complex. To try to make sense of it, researchers have spent decades focusing on so-called model organisms: creatures that are easy to study in the lab and share key features with many other forms of life. This model group includes the lab mouse, the fruit fly, and an unassuming weed called thale cress, or Arabidopsis thaliana.

Model organisms are among the best understood lifeforms in the world. So imagine scientists’ surprise when, after a decade of work, a dogged plant biologist found a brand-new organ on thale cress, hiding in plain sight.

The newfound organ, described today in the journal Development, is a horizontal arm that juts off the main stem of Arabidopsis and acts as a support for the pedicel, the small stalk that leads to the base of a flower. Extending from the main stem of the plant, the part is reminiscent of the structural support known as a cantilever, leading researchers to name the organs “cantils.”

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NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced Friday that the agency has approved a new infrared space telescope in the effort to help advance planetary defense efforts.

The Near-Earth Object Surveyor space telescope (NEO Surveyor) will move to the next phase of mission development at JPL after a successful review that moved the mission forward into preliminary design.

The NEO Surveyor was proposed to aid NASA's ability to both discover and characterize near-earth objects, like the "potentially hazardous" asteroid 2021 KT1.

KT1, the size of Seattle's Space Needle, recently hurtled past Earth at a distance of approximately 4.5 million miles and a velocity of 40,000 mph.

According to NASA, a near-Earth object is an asteroid or comet that approaches within 1.3 astronomical units of the sun.

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Most of the U.S. missed out on the "ring of fire" piece of year's first solar eclipse on Thursday (June 10), but parts of the East Coast caught a stunning sunrise partial eclipse to make up for it.

The June 10 annular eclipse was mostly visible over Canada, Greenland and Siberia, plus a small sliver of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. But skywatchers in a much wider range were able to catch the eclipse in partial phases. In many areas, the partial eclipse aligned closely with sunrise, making for a particularly eerie spectacle.

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Exoplanet discoveries used to be nothing but a dream for scientists, but new telescope technology and more advanced observation techniques have made the task of finding planets outside of our solar system easier than ever. In fact, so many new exoplanets are being found these days that scientists have to pick and choose which ones are most in need of study since there simply aren’t enough eyes to go around.

Now, a massive international team of astronomers and other scientists have revealed the discovery of a particularly interesting exoplanet that is sure to get a lot of attention. It’s called TOI-1231b, and it orbits a star much cooler than our own Sun. The star, named NLTT 24399, is a red dwarf, so despite TOI-1231b being much closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, the planet is actually similar in temperature, and it is thought to have a robust atmosphere that warrants future study.

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A behemoth that once stood more than 16 feet tall and was as long as a basketball court has been confirmed as the largest dinosaur ever found in Australia.

The newly classified species, known as Australotitan cooperensis and nicknamed "the southern titan," now ranks among the 15 largest dinosaur specimens found worldwide. Paleontologists from the Queensland Museum and the Eromanga Natural History Museum described the new species in a study published Monday in the science journal PeerJ.

The fossilized skeleton was discovered in 2007 on a farm in southwest Queensland, near Cooper Creek. The specimen, which became known as "Cooper," was an estimated 16 to 21 feet tall and measured up to 98 feet long, according to the researchers.

The dinosaur is a type of giant sauropod, a plant-eating subgroup characterized by their elongated necks, long tails and four trunk-like legs.

Australotitan is thought to have lived 92 million to 96 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, the scientists said.

To classify Australotitan, the scientists created 3D scans of each bone and compared them to other known sauropod species in Australia and around the world.

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A weight-loss drug described as a 'game-changer' by obesity researchers has just been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), representing the first time the agency has endorsed such a treatment in several years.

Wegovy, a weight-management therapy to be manufactured by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, is the the first FDA-approved weight-loss drug since 2014, but it's not entirely a new medication.

The same drug, called semaglutide, has been used in the US and other countries as an anti-diabetic medication for years. More recently, however, evidence has shown that semaglutide at a different dosage also functions as a powerful and effective appetite-suppressant.

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These frozen prehistoric animals are superbly well-preserved and now famous around the world.

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NASA's new chief is setting up an effort to further study unidentified flying objects within his first month in office.

Bill Nelson, the former Florida senator and spaceflight veteran, told CNN Business' Rachel Crane during a wide-ranging interview on Thursday that it's not clear to anyone — even in the upper echelons of the US space agency — what the high-speed objects observed by Navy pilots are.

Nelson added that he does not believe the UFOs are evidence of extraterrestrials visiting Earth. "I think I would know" if that were the case, Nelson said. But, he acknowledged, it'd be premature to rule that out as a possibility.

Nelson's comments echo the findings of a new Pentagon report expected to be released later this month. Five sources familiar with the results of that study told CNN that US intelligence officials found no evidence that the UFOs are alien spacecraft, but investigators also have not reached a definitive assessment as to what these mysterious objects might be.

"We don't know if it's extraterrestrial. We don't know if it's an enemy. We don't know if it's an optical phenomenon," Nelson said. "We don't think [it's an optical phenomenon] because of the characteristics that those Navy jet pilots described ... And so the bottom line is, we want to know."

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Fossil records show that roughly 90 percent of the planet's open-ocean sharks inexplicably vanished.


Sharks are some of nature’s greatest survivors. For more than 400 million years, the marine predators have plied Earth’s waters, from shallow reefs to the heart of the open ocean. Sharks are older than the oldest fossil forest. They’ve made it through at least four mass extinctions.

And yet, 19 million years ago, something mysteriously dealt open-ocean sharks a huge blow—one from which they’ve never recovered.

Records of this extinction, detailed for the first time in the journal Science, come in the form of shark scales, called denticles, found in seafloor samples from the Pacific Ocean. Based on the shapes and abundance of denticles in the samples, the researchers estimate that the planet’s open-ocean shark populations suddenly and inexplicably fell by more than 90 percent. By contrast, during the extinction event that killed off the non-avian dinosaurs 66 million years ago, sharks suffered losses of roughly 30 percent.

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