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

The evolution of biodiversity: ever-increasing or did it hit a ceiling?

Using the fossil record to estimate the levels of biodiversity is still a challenge given that we have more fossils from the recent past and as we go back deeper in time, none have been found for entire continents. Image credit - James St. John/Flickr, licenced under CC BY 2.0

By Gareth Willmer Preserving biodiversity is one of the key debates of our time – but another subject of hot debate in recent decades among evolutionary experts is how biodiversity has changed over the past few hundred million years. New findings are challenging the conventional view on this. Increasing knowledge on historical patterns of biodiversity … Read more

How crop and animal sensors are making farming smarter

Ear tags with a wireless radio frequency identification antenna along with a smart robotic feeder can tell farmers every time a cow goes to feed and what dose of mineral supplements it receives. Image credit - Ivan Andonovic

Installing wireless sensors among crops and attaching ‘smart’ ear tags to livestock could help farmers produce more food with less impact on the environment. The bounty of food we can find on supermarket shelves across Europe is the result of knowledge accumulated over thousands of years by generations of farmers. But with the global human … Read more