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Daily briefing: Hummingbirds are tiny, gorgeous, aggressive war-machines

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Ruby-throated Hummingbirds fighting over a hanging feeder

Ruby-throated hummingbirdsCarolinaBirdman/Getty

Hummingbirds are bred for battle

Some species of hummingbird evolved to fight, with strong, sharp beaks that can parry and stab. They might be cute and tiny, but “the Aztecs weren’t fooled. Their god of war, Huitzilopochtli, was a hummingbird,” writes The New York Times.

The New York Times | 6 min read

Reference: Integrative Organismal Biology paper

Money for open-source meat

Lab-grown meat has attracted soaring amounts of private investment, but scientists say that there is insufficient funding for basic research into how to bring the meat to the masses. To make matters worse, the advances made by commercial firms are often protected as trade secrets. Now, open-source research in the field has been given a boost by a new US$3-million grant, to be divvied up among 14 projects on ‘clean meat’ and plant-based proteins.

Nature | 6 min read

Germans feel the pain of Elsevier’s paywall

Researchers in Germany who don’t have access to Elsevier are hitting the publisher’s paywall around 10,000 times a day. That’s because their institutions and the publisher have failed to agree on subscription deals that would also pay for open access. Some researchers are increasingly frustrated by the time it now takes them to source papers. But libraries say they’re making considerable savings, and some scientists say they are willing to suffer temporary inconvenience to eventually achieve more open science publishing.

Nature | 3 min read


The struggle to count the dead

Studies of how many people perish in conflicts and disasters are controversial, and the political and societal stakes are huge. Gruelling, emotionally exhausting work in Puerto Rico, Darfur and Iraq is giving researchers new ways of measuring mortality rates.

Nature | 16 min read

Sources: Top: Ref. 5; Bottom: Ref. 6

Rags, riches and Royal Society rebellion

Historian Rebekah Higgitt relishes a biography of “pit boy turned professor” Charles Hutton, the mathematician who calculated Earth’s density and called for scientific reform.

Nature | 6 min read

Heeding the call of home

Some scientists choose to forgo promising careers abroad to return to their countries of birth. Nature speaks to some of the researchers who have tackled the challenges and rewards of heading home.

Nature | 11 min read



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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

Updates & Corrections

  • Correction 07 February 2019: A previous version of this article included a photo of the wrong bird accompanying the story about hummingbirds. The photo has been changed, with thanks to the many readers who spotted the mistake!

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