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Illustration of Thylacoleo carnifex stalking the forest floor in search of prey

Australia’s marsupial lion (illustration) has been the subject of much debate.Credit: Peter Schouten

Did climate change kill off Australia’s fierce marsupial lion?

Australia’s largest-ever marsupial predator, the marsupial lion, probably dined on creatures from densely forested environments, according to a new analysis of fossilized teeth. That would have made it vulnerable as increasingly dry conditions in Australia shrunk the continent’s forests, reducing the creature’s food supply and leading to its eventual extinction 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Nature | 4 min read

Faulty rabies vaccines lands Chinese firm multi-billion yuan fines

A Chinese pharmaceutical company caught producing faulty rabies vaccines has been fined more than 7 billion yuan (US$1 billion). Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology was found to have broken multiple laws when it produced batches of the vaccine, and the total fines from national and local agencies are almost double the firm’s reported assets in 2017.

Nature | 2 min read

World’s ‘oldest intact shipwreck’ found

A team of maritime archaeologists say they’ve found what seems to be a complete Greek trading ship at the bottom of the Black Sea, where it has lain undisturbed, preserved by a lack of oxygen, for more than 2,400 years. The Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project team has already made a two-hour film about the expedition, but it has yet to publish the details of its research.

The Guardian | 2 min read

Italian earthquake data could help to forecast ‘sequence quakes’

Seismologists are excited about a new analysis that suggests we might be able to produce useful forecasts for earthquakes that follow a particular type of quake. In these ‘sequence quakes’, energy is released in a stop-start manner, with several large quakes interspersed by smaller aftershocks. The new research describes an underlying arrangement of cross-cutting fault lines, which act as barriers and prevent the earthquake strain in the larger, major fault from being released in one go. The arrival of underground water and gas seems to release the barriers — and tracking the movement of these underground fluids could help to provide warnings of subsequent quakes.

Nature | 5 min read

Nobel laureates’ Brexit warning

Nobel-prizewinning scientists and mathematicians have urged UK and EU leaders to maintain the “closest possible cooperation” on science after Brexit, warning that barriers to scientific collaboration in Europe will be to the detriment of all. The high-profile call from the research community features 29 Nobel laureates and 6 winners of the prestigious Fields Medal for mathematics among its signatories. Meanwhile, some of Britain’s leading universities are preparing for Brexit by establishing alliances with counterparts in other European countries — a move that might allow them to keep drawing on the EU’s science funds, even in the case of a 'no-deal' divorce from the bloc.

Nature | 3 min read

Read more: British universities set up European outposts as Brexit looms


Asylum genetics

What can the archives of mental-health asylums reveal about the history of human heredity and the evolution of genetics?

Aeon | 14 min read

How many space stations do we need?

Writer Kenneth Chang reports on the uncertain readiness of commercial space outposts that might take the place of the International Space Station (ISS) if NASA pulls its funding in the mid-2020s. Firms such as Bigelow Aerospace, NanoRacks and Axiom Space are touting private space stations that they say will be cheaper to operate and could make money from tourists. But not everyone is convinced that the business case adds up; the private enterprises have yet to find any customers for their services.

The New York Times | 11 min read

Use the patent system to regulate gene editing

It’s been three years since the first international summit on human gene editing. In that time, researchers have applied CRISPR-Cas9 technology in many domains, from crop enhancement to human disease. But governments have struggled to develop viable regulations for tackling the thorny ethical, economic and environmental questions raised by gene-editing. According to Shobita Parthasarathy, a crucial part of the arsenal for shaping the future of gene editing is hiding in plain sight: the patent system.

Nature | 7 min read


"This is the kind of Faustian bargain that a lot of scientists have to figure out right now."

Andrew Rosenberg of the Union of Concerned Scientists discusses whether scientists who might be interested in new climate-science jobs being advertised by the US Department of the Interior would be able to do their work under the Trump administration. (E&E News)