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Eighteen black-footed albatrosses hatched on Guadalupe Island after their eggs were flown by commercial airliner from the North Pacific’s Midway Atoll. The atoll, which houses a third of the near-threatened birds’ breeding population, is vulnerable to flooding and sea-level rise.


Jays and gray squirrels may have planted” more than half of the many trees “planted” more than half of the many trees growing on two swaths of farmland abandoned in lowland England in 1961 and 1996, researchers found. The new growth consisted largely of oaks, whose seeds the animals bury in winter.


The domesticated watermelon has long been thought to have come from South Africa, but it may instead have originated with Sudan’s Kordofan melon. Scientists used genetic sequencing, ancient Egyptian iconography and Russian cold war–era botany texts to identify the sweet, whitish-pulped melon as watermelon’s closest relative.


Scientists found evidence of the oldest-known bubonic plague case in the skull of an infected hunter-gatherer from 5,000 years ago. Remnants of the ancient bacterial strain suggest it could not infect fleas and instead may have been transmitted through a beaver bite.


“Sea snot,” a type of mucus released by phytoplankton, smothered shellfish and gummed up fishing nets in the Sea of Marmara. Turkey’s president called the slime a “mucilage calamity,” and workers were dispatched to vacuum it up using hoses.


Divers noticed white lesions atop the heads of up to hundreds of whitetip reef sharks near Sipadan Island. Scientists suspect the cause is a fungus that thrives in warming oceans.

This article was originally published with the title “Quick Hits” in Scientific American 325, 3, 15 (September 2021)



Maddie Bender was a 2021 AAAS Mass Media Fellow at Scientific American. She recently received an MPH in microbial disease epidemiology from the Yale School of Public Health. Follow Maddie Bender on Twitter Credit: Nick Higgins.

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