Male lizard cooperation adds new wrinkle to evolutionary theory

Blue-throated lizards that help each other achieve reproductive success are also helping scientists understand how social cooperation evolved. Most examples of cooperative behavior in animals involve cooperation between genetically related individuals, which is explained by the theory of “kin selection.” Now, researchers have described an example of cooperation between genetically similar but unrelated members of a lizard species common in the western United States. Their findings, published in the June 20 issue of the journal Science, shed new light on the evolution of cooperation and social behavior.

Researchers discover giant seafloor 'plumbing' system

Researchers have discovered a pair of seamounts on the ocean floor that serve as inflow and outflow points for a vast plumbing system that circulates water through the seafloor. The seamounts are separated by more than 30 miles (52 kilometers). “One big underwater volcano is sucking in seawater, and the water flows north through the rocks of the seafloor and comes out through another seamount,” said Andrew Fisher, an associate professor of Earth sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Scientists explain formation of stone circles, other strange patterns

Perfect circles of stones cover the ground in parts of Alaska and the Norwegian islands of Spitsbergen. Elsewhere in the far north, stones form other striking patterns on the ground: polygons, stripes, islands, and labyrinths. No, pranksters are not at work in these remote areas, nor are aliens, elves, or any other outside forces moving the stones around. According to scientists who have studied the phenomenon, cyclic freezing and thawing of the ground drives simple feedback mechanisms that generate these remarkable patterns.

Astronomers Detect a Faint Debris Trail in the Andromeda Galaxy

The discovery of a faint trail of stars in the nearby Andromeda galaxy offers new evidence that large spiral galaxies have grown by gobbling up smaller satellite galaxies. Andromeda (also known as M31) is the nearest large galaxy to our own Milky Way and is very similar to it in appearance. Studying Andromeda gives astronomers an external perspective on a galaxy much like our own–it’s like looking at a bigger sibling of our galaxy.