More than two years after the virus emerged in China, we still don’t know how it spread through the human population or which animal or animals harbored the virus before this pivotal event.
Humans have lived with microbes since our earliest days, but we “live now in an age of pandemics,” said epidemiologist Dr. Larry Brilliant, CEO of Pandefense Advisory, a network of experts engaged in pandemic response. Thanks to DNA analysis, however, the scientific detective work needed to understand these pathogens has come a long way, as evidenced by one of this week’s exciting findings.
Meet Katie Hunt, replacing Ashley Strickland, in this edition of Wonder Theory.
The Black Death was the most devastating plague epidemic in the world. We estimate to have killed half of Europe’s population in just seven years in the Middle Ages.
Historians and archaeologists have tried for centuries to identify the source of this pandemic, and now science has stepped up and provided an answer.
Traces of diseases that sickened our ancestors – including the plague pathogen – can be found hidden in the ancient DNA of human remains.
Sequencing the genome of the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis, found in teeth exhumed from two graves in present-day Kyrgyzstan, may have solved the riddle of the Black Death’s mysterious origins.
The life of a mastodon, an elephantine creature that roamed North America 13,000 years ago, has been shed light on a study of its tusks.
For the first few years of his life, he was a mommy’s boy – staying close to home with a female-led herd in what is now central Indiana before venturing out on his own. the juggernaut died at the ripe old age of 34, when the tip of another male behemoth’s tusk pierced the right side of his skull.
That of the creature tusks stored geochemical information absorbed by shrubs, trees and watered her consumed, allowing scientists for the first time to piece together where the animal traveled during his life.
across the universe
We now have the most comprehensive map yet of the Milky Way, our home galaxy, and it shows us some pretty cool things.
Some stars in the Milky Way have strange and unexpected “tsunami-like” starquakes, new data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia Space Telescope has revealed. The move even changed the shape of some stars.
Hubble, another space telescope that scans the skies, has discovered an equally intriguing cosmic phenomenon.
The unseen, ghostly remnants of a once-bright star are drifting through the Milky Way. It’s the first time a traveling black hole has been detected – although astronomers believe there could be 100 million such objects floating around.
The dichotomy of dominant male and docile female animals is among nature’s most persistent gender stereotypes. A new book called “Bitch: On the Female of the Species” debunks this sexist misconception and tells a fuller story about the role of females in nature.
Female creatures are just as promiscuous, competitive, aggressive and dynamic as their male counterparts and play an equal role in driving evolutionary change, according to author Lucy Cooke.
His work details the life of a painting colorful animals that will challenge your ideas of what it means to be a woman: murderous meerkat mothers, cheating bluebirds and female dolphins who have an unusual strategy in the battle of the sexes.
The climate has changed
Polar bears are losing weight and having fewer cubs due to melting sea ice in their arctic habitat, scientists say but a new discovery may offer a glimmer of hope.
A special population of polar bears living in the fjords of southeast Greenland shows how this species could survive as the climate crisis intensifies.
Unlike most polar bears, which hunt seals on sea ice and wander far, this distinct population has adapted to live in smaller habitat and hunt on the ice of freshwater glaciers.
“If you are concerned about the preservation of the species, then yes, our findings are hopeful,” said Kristin Laidre, a polar research scientist at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “But I don’t think the glacier habitat will be home to large numbers of polar bears. There just aren’t enough.”
Marvel at these stories:
— The wreckage of a warship that carried a royal VIP on its last voyage 340 years ago has been found off the coast of England.
— Scientists have discovered exactly why cats go so crazy over catnip. And it serves a more useful purpose than just making our feline friends feel intoxicated.
— The Artemis I mega lunar rocket is ready for its fourth final pre-launch test attempt. Keep those fingers crossed.
Do you like what you read? Oh, but there’s more. register here to get the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by the CNN Space and Science writer, delivered to your inbox Ashley Stricklandwho marvels at the planets beyond our solar system and the discoveries of the ancient world.