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Vera, a painting by Santiago Giralda, whose work is on view at Galerie Isa, in Mumbai, India. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Isa, Mumbai, India

Vera, a painting by Santiago Giralda, whose work is on view at Galerie Isa, in Mumbai, India. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Isa, Mumbai, India

Life expectancy in the United States declined between 2018 and 2020 by 3.88 years for Hispanics, 3.25 years for blacks, and 1.36 years for non-Hispanic whites; in peer countries, the average overall decline was 0.22 years. Banded mongoose societies distribute resources equally because parents do not know who their children are. A study of ninety-eight fruit fly societies populated with clones demonstrated that the same clones consistently became the most popular flies. Hunger causes male fruit flies to fight among themselves. A single female worker Cape honey bee who cloned herself in 1990 has hundreds of millions of clone descendants, some of whom became queens. The introduction of an assassin bug among broad-horned flour beetles reversed sexual selection and led to fitter females. Dragon Man (Homo longi), a species with square eye sockets and large teeth, was proposed to be the closest relative of Homo sapiens. Iceberg scours in the Florida Keys were dated to 29,000 bc. The Maori may have reached Antarctica in the seventh century. An analysis of pottery residues from ninth- to twelfth-century Palermo suggested that fish was unpopular in medieval Islamic cuisine. British chickens from the Iron Age through the Saxon period tended to live long lives because they were sacred. An Egyptian vulture was seen in Britain for the first time since 1868. A plague of bunions in Cambridge at the turn of the fourteenth century was blamed on a craze for pointy shoes.

In Indonesia, where coral growth patterns indicated that a thirty-two-year earthquake had preceded the Sumatra earthquake of 1861, a meteor appeared to have fallen into an active volcano. Evidence grew stronger that the Younger Dryas Impact spurred the formation of sedentary human civilization. A survey of spiders who prey on snakes found that the victims can be up to a meter long and noted that tarantulas eat fer-de-lance and golden silk orb-weaver spiders eat eyelash vipers. Snakes will decline to attack if they are running low on venom. Pharmacologists were optimistic about treating irritable bowel syndrome with tarantula venom. A single dose of laughing gas can alleviate treatment-resistant depression. Childhood trauma makes morphine more pleasurable, SSRIs make crayfish too outgoing, and marijuana makes lobsters slower but does not significantly alter their response to being boiled alive.

The twenty-eight Tasmanian devils introduced to Maria Island in an effort to save them from facial cancer were found to have killed three thousand pairs of little penguins. The feathers of Australian red-backed fairy wrens have gotten duller to blend in with wildfire-scorched habitats. Monarch butterflies raised in captivity can still figure out how to migrate south. Female seahorses will move on to mate with new males if they become unable to smell their current mates. Marine biologists spent five years training snowflake moray eels to slither up a ramp, demonstrating that the eels’ second set of jaws works equally well on land. Nuclear-blast detectors picked up the signature of a new population of pygmy blue whales and the infrasonic rumblings of 1,001 rocket launches. Worms and Jeff Bezos were to be sent into space. Scientists worried that humans could take advantage of benevolent AI and suggested that an autonomous robot could re-create Earth’s primordial soup. Researchers from fourteen countries agreed that we are all going to die.

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August 2023

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