Biodegradable glitter and pollution-eating microalgae: the new materials inspired by nature

The reflected colour of the marble berry differs from cell to cell, giving it a striking appearance. Image credit - Juliano Costa/Wikimedia, licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0

The iridescence of marble berries and the clever, light-bending perforations of microalgae are some lessons from nature that scientists are drawing upon to create biodegradable glitter and makeup pigments, and bionic algae to use in lasers or to clean pollutants. Nature has spent millions of years evolving answers to problems. It has come up with ingenious solutions … Read more

Grassland studies, radar-tracked bumblebees offer clues for protecting pollinators

It's not just crops that rely on bumblebees; wild plants do too. Image credit - Anthony King

Scientists used a radar to track a bumblebee from its maiden flight until death for the first time as part of wider research racing to understand the impact and needs of declining bee populations, including on Europe’s fragmented biodiversity hotspots – grasslands. Wild bees are major pollinators of crops in Europe such as peas, beans and … Read more

Plants can detect insect attacks by ‘sniffing’ each other’s aromas

Caterpillar saliva causes maize to release a fragrant chemical that prepares other parts of the plant for attack. Image credit - Pxhere, licensed under CC0

Fragrant aromas from plants can actually be a response to attacks by insects, and can alert neighbours to an attack or summon the insects’ predators. Now, scientists are deciphering these secret codes to develop better, greener chemicals to defend crops against herbivorous insects. Plants have nowhere to run from their enemies – flying, crawling and … Read more

Understanding different brown bear personalities may help reduce clashes with people

Brown bears show individuality in the distance they travel each day, their preference for daytime or night-time movement and other behaviours, according to research. Image credit - Rufus46, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The brown bear is one of Europe’s five large carnivores and can sometimes cross paths with people, with potentially fatal consequences. But bears have different personalities and behaviours, say researchers, and understanding this is the key to reducing conflict and protecting both them and humans. Brown bears once thrived in woodlands throughout Europe, but human … Read more

How did the plague reshape Bronze Age Europe?

In the early Bronze Age, there was an infusion of a different genetic makeup in Europe whose origin ancient DNA experts are trying to explain. Image credit - geograph/David Dixon, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Europe changed dramatically during the Bronze Age, with huge population shifts generally ascribed to the rise of new metal technologies, trading and climate change. But scientists believe that there may have been another reason for this social upheaval – the plague, possibly transported by, or on the back of, newly domesticated horses. Plague is forever … Read more