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The spectacular image above shows the tiny tooth-like spikes that cover the skin of small-spotted catsharks (Scyliorhinus canicula). Researchers have found that in the developing embryo, these denticles, which help to reduce drag as the shark swims, distribute themselves in a Turing-like pattern, a process first proposed by British mathematician Alan Turing in 1952. The pattern is known to drive how feathers develop in birds, but the shark discovery hints at a common evolutionary origin much farther down the tree of life, up to 450 million years ago. See more of the month’s most eye-opening images selected by Nature’s photo team.
Parts of Iran’s capital city, home to 13 million people, are subsiding by 25 centimetres each year. Detailed satellite images reveal the extent of the problem, which is thought to be linked to the depletion of groundwater aquifers.
Early in the New Year, if all goes well, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-4 will arrive where no craft has been before: the far side of the Moon. A rover will investigate the lunar surface and the lander will map low-frequency radiation in the sky that is usually blocked by Earth’s atmosphere. Because the far side of the Moon never faces Earth, the China National Space Administration had to launch a special communications satellite to beyond the Moon to relay communications.
And the country isn't alone. Half a century after the original space race, there has been a resurgence of interest in Earth’s satellite, sparking talk of a renaissance of Moon exploration and science.
FEATURES & OPINION
Bees’ midnight chats and fly’s brain waves are consciousness-like phenomena that have inspired scientists to reconsider whether insects have thoughts. “Perhaps the problem is not that insects lack an inner life, but that they don’t have a way to communicate it in terms we can understand,” write behavioural ecologist Lars Chittka and philosopher Catherine Wilson.
The Fourth National Climate Assessment contains a detailed analysis of how climate change is predicted to affect the United States, from Alaska to the Caribbean. Grist offers a jaunty tour through the extreme weather, flooding and food-supply issues predicted in the ten regions covered by the report.
A collaboration between geneticists and an artist invites us into a speculative future where our lives are touched by life-extending gene editing.