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

Is there life on super-Earths? The answer could lie in their cores

The habitability of a super-Earth could be related to its having a magnetic field. Image credit - ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser, licensed under CC BY 4.0. Artist’s impression of super-Earth K2-18 b

Rocky planets larger than our own, so-called super-Earths, are surprisingly abundant in our Galaxy, and stand as the most likely planets to be habitable. Getting a better idea of their interior structures will help predict whether different planets are able to generate magnetic fields – thought to be conducive for life to survive. Atmospheric water … Read more

Green fertiliser made from cow dung and chicken feathers could transform big agriculture

Farm waste is often full of nutrients that take time to break down before crops can use them. Image credit - Pxhere, licensed under CC0

A raft of strategies is being trialled in Europe to turn nutrient-rich farm waste such as chicken feathers, cow dung and plant stalks into green fertiliser. Full of phosphorus and nitrogen, recycled products could help reduce intensive agriculture’s emissions and reliance on fertiliser imports. European agriculture produces an abundance of high quality food, but also … Read more