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.
Volcanic eruptions may explain Denmark's giant mystery crystals
Researchers have long been stumped for an explanation of how tens of millions of years-old giant crystals known as glendonites came to be on the Danish islands of Fur and Mors. A recent study from the University of Copenhagen offers a possible explanation to the conundrum: major volcanic eruptions resulted in episodes of much cooler prehistoric climates than once thought.
'Honey bee, it's me'
Honey bees rely on chemical cues related to their shared gut microbial communities, instead of genetic relatedness, to identify members of their colony. This new work is significant in part because it shows an integral role for the microbiome in the essential, everyday social interactions of honey bees, the Earth's most important pollinators, researchers said.
Mapping out rest stops for migrating birds
A team of researchers have developed a new metric called the stopover-to-passage ratio that can help determine if a majority of birds are flying over a particular site or stopping at the site to refuel or rest. The answer to this question can have important implications for what action is ultimately taken on the ground to help migratory birds.
Whitebark pine declines may unravel the tree's mutualism with Clark's Nutcracker
A new study suggests inequality in the whitebark pine-Clark's Nutcracker mutualism may make this partnership vulnerable when the population of one partner declines. Whitebark populations are declining due to factors including blister rust disease, mountain pine beetle infestations and climate change. The study suggests that nutcrackers leave areas where whitebark is less abundant and seek resources elsewhere, which might mean that declining seed dispersal should be added to the list of current threats to whitebark.
A Clark's Nutcracker perches in a whitebark pine. Photo by Frank D. Lospalluto/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Credit: Photo by Frank D. Lospalluto/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Modern humans took detours on their way to Europe
Climate conditions shaped the geography of settlement by Homo sapiens in the Levant 43,000 years ago / findings of Collaborative Research Centre 806 'Our Way to Europe' published in 'PLOS ONE'
Fossil footprints tell story of prehistoric parent's journey
Hungry giant predators, treacherous mud and a tired, probably cranky toddler -- more than 10,000 years ago, that was the stuff of every parent's nightmare. Evidence of that type of frightening trek was recently uncovered, and at nearly a mile it is the longest known trackway of early-human footprints ever found.
Nerves that sense touch may play role in autism
Autism is considered a disorder of the brain. But a new study suggests that the peripheral nervous system, the nerves that control our sense of touch, pain and other sensations, may play a role as well. The exploratory study is published in the October 14, 2020, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
From the news media: