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Adult Egyptian fruit bat appearing to smile as it flies out of its' cave to forage

Egyptian fruit bats that roost together host the same fur bacteria, which may help group members to recognize one another by smell. Credit: Jens Rydell

Microbiome

How snuggling close affects bats’ microbiome

Members of a bat colony pass fur bacteria to each other.

Egyptian fruit bats share the microbes living in their fur with their neighbours.

Colonies of the Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) include several dozen to many thousands of animals. The bats hang from cave ceilings in tightly packed, noisy masses, which sometimes erupt into squabbles, complete with screeching and cuffing.

Yossi Yovel at Tel Aviv University and his colleagues studied ten bats from a captive colony and four from a wild colony. For 13 weeks, the researchers collected weekly samples of the bats’ fur and gut secretions, and analysed them for bacteria.

The bacteria in the gut differed between individual bats. However, colony members tended to have the same combination of bacterial species in their fur, probably because the bats share fur bacteria by touching one another.

The mix of bacterial species on the animals’ pelts changed over time, suggesting that the bat’s microbiome is influenced by the environment, the authors say.

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Vast bush fires that swept across Australia at the end of 2019 and the start of 2020 filled the skies with enough smoke to warm a portion of the atmosphere. Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty

Atmospheric science

Smoke from Australian fires turned up the heat in the southern sky

The catastrophic wildfires of late 2019 and early 2020 triggered a lingering temperature rise in a section of Earth’s lower atmosphere.
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Optics and photonics

One screen, three images — some invisible in ordinary light

A graphene-based device can display several images simultaneously using a range of wavelengths.
Woman harvesting teff, Ethiopia

A farmer in Ethiopia harvests teff, a cereal. Small farms tend to have more-diverse landscapes than do sprawling industrial operations. Credit: Andia/Universal Images Group/Getty

Environmental sciences

Small farms outdo big ones on biodiversity — and crop yields

Large-scale farms account for most of the global food supply, but smallholdings protect species and are just as profitable.
Diagram of the nuclear composition and electron configuration of an atom of xenon-132.

A xenon atom’s electrons (grey circles; illustration) have been observed and even manipulated as they shifted their position. Credit: Carlos Clarivan/Science Photo Library

Atomic and molecular physics

An atom shuffles its electrons at ultrahigh speed — and is caught in the act

Scientists capture the movement of electrons in a xenon atom, a phenomenon that lasts for a fraction of one-billionth of a second.
A canal running alongside banks of earth.

An irrigation canal in the dry and intensively farmed San Joaquin Valley of California. Solar panels over such canals are more efficient than those on dry land. Credit: Citizens of the Planet/Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty

Renewable energy

Solar panels that throw shade on canals are an environmental win–win

Placing solar arrays over canals would prevent water loss and improve panels’ energy harvest.
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