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Botany & zoology.

Enforcer beans In a novel study of partnerships between species, researchers found that soybeans punish root-dwelling microbes that don't fulfill their obligation (164: 221).

First impressions In a new wrinkle on how females develop mate preferences, female wolf spiders chose males whose courtship shows resembled displays they had seen when young (164: 276).

Daddy diligence Bluegill sunfish provided a tidy confirmation of the prediction that a dad's diligence in child care depends on how certain he is that the offspring are really his (163: 246).

Splitsville Genetics bolstered the idea that musical taste, rather than geography, split Africa's indigobirds into multiple species (164: 116). And because a Japanese snail with a shell spiraling to the right can't mate readily with a lefty, scientists concluded that changes in the single gene that controls shell direction created a new species (164: 243).

Fig-wasp upset Within what had been a textbook example of a fight buddy system--fig species that supposedly each has its own pollinating wasp--some species team up with multiple partners (163: 259).

Wren spots killers For the first time, researchers found a bird species--Australia's superb fairy-wren--in which the female often deserts the nest if her own chicks disappear and a giant imposter, a young cuckoo, takes their place (163: 206).

Bird smarts New Caledonian crows were shown to ratchet up the sophistication of their technology by sharing design improvements--perhaps the first display of this capability outside of people (163: 182 *). Female coots appeared to tally their eggs in nests, a rare example of an animal counting in the wild (163: 212).

Sex specific After more than a decade of work an international team found the main gene that separates the girls from the boys among honeybees (164: 132).

Homing lobsters Spiny lobsters became the first animals without backbones to pass tests for the orienteering power called true navigation (163: 4).

Incubate or bust Bird eggs can catch infections through their shells, and parent birds start incubating their eggs as soon as possible to reduce that risk (164: 189).

Chain links New data supported a hypothesis about a mysterious spike in neurological disease in Guam: The food chain--bacteria to plants to bats to people--magnifies the tissue concentrations of a naturally produced neurotoxin (163: 310; 164: 366).

Entomologists decided that stick insects might have done something once thought impossible: lost a complicated trait, their wings, in the course of evolution but recovered it millions of years later (163: 35).

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Title Annotation:Science News Of the year
Publication:Science News
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:Dec 20, 2003
Words:427
Previous Article:Biomedicine.
Next Article:Cell & molecular biology.
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