Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.
As many as six billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy, according to new estimates
Australian fossil reveals new plant species
Fresh examination of an Australian fossil -- believed to be among the earliest plants on Earth -- has revealed evidence of a new plant species that existed in Australia more than 359 Million years ago.
Overlooked: The role of bacterial viruses in plant health
not quite overlooked, see my phages feature from 2011, featuring work of Britt Koskella and others.
Wildfires cause bird songs to change
Cattle vs. hippopotamus: Dung in rivers of the Savannah
In many regions of the world, populations of large mammalian herbivores have been displaced by cattle breeding, for example in Kenya the hippos by large herds of cattle. This can change aquatic ecosystems due to significant differences in the amount and type of dung input. Researchers from the University of Eldoret in Kenya, the University of Innsbruck and the Leibniz-IGB have therefore taken a closer look at the dung of hippopotamus and cattle.
Hippos in the Mara River in Kenya.
Credit: Gabriel Singer
Mangroves at risk of collapse if emissions not reduced by 2050, international scientists predict
Support drives fate of protected gold nanoclusters as catalysts
Scientists discover a long-sought-after nitrogen allotrope in black phosphorus structure
The smallest motor in the world
A research team from Empa and EPFL has developed a molecular motor which consists of only 16 atoms and rotates reliably in one direction. It could allow energy harvesting at the atomic level. The special feature of the motor is that it moves exactly at the boundary between classical motion and quantum tunneling -- and has revealed puzzling phenomena to researchers in the quantum realm.
A new family of nanocars ready for the next nano Grand Prix
Flushing toilets create clouds of virus-containing particles
Solution: close the lid (problem: there may not be a lid)
Seafood helped prehistoric people migrate out of Africa, study reveals
What do 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Macbeth,' and a list of Facebook friends all have in common?
A new study shows how vastly complex communication networks can efficiently convey large amounts of information to the human brain. Researcher found that works of literature, musical pieces, and social networks have a similar underlying structure that allows them to share information rapidly and effectively.
From the news media: