News Briefs from around the World: September 2022 – Scientific American

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Unlimited Knowledge Awaits.
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A newfound, centimeter-long bacterium challenges conventional wisdom that bacteria cannot grow large enough to be seen with the naked eye. Scientists wonder whether their sulfur-rich mangrove habitat is what lets these segmented single cells reach the size of an eyelash.
Scientists discovered that a tiny toad species’ inner ears are too small to work as internal gyroscopes, leading to terrible jumping skills. The diminutive orange amphibians somersault through the air, often landing on their backs.
Researchers found that an isolated polar bear population has adapted to thrive without long-term access to sea ice by hunting from fallen chunks of glacier ice instead. This skill could help them endure as the climate changes and sea ice dwindles.
An ancestral strain of Yersinia pestis—the bacterium responsible for the Black Death—was sequenced from the teeth of two 14th-century women buried eight years before the plague spread across Europe. The strain’s DNA was only two mutations shy of the one that caused the notorious disease.
Researchers suggest a 77-square-mile seagrass bed, once continuously connected by roots, is the world’s largest-known organism. This hybrid of Poseidon’s ribbon weed first sprouted 4,500 years ago and has since grown to dominate the floor of Shark Bay on the country’s western coast.
Reexamining ancient chicken bones revealed that the fowl were likely domesticated in Thailand about 3,500 years ago, thousands of years after previously proposed domestication dates. The birds may have been attracted to newly cultivated rice paddies.
This article was originally published with the title “Quick Hits” in Scientific American 327, 3, 19 (September 2022)
Fionna M. D. Samuels was a 2022 AAAS Mass Media Fellow at Scientific American. She’s pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry at Colorado State University. Follow her on Twitter @Fairy__Hedgehog
Amy Brady
Sasha Warren
Daniel Cusick and E&E News
Julie Appleby, Jazmin Orozco Rodriguez and Kaiser Health News
Nicoletta Lanese and LiveScience
Karen Hopkin
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