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In one of the deepest layers of Earth’s crust ever explored, researchers are finding life. An analysis of rock samples from the bottom of the Indian Ocean has revealed microbes adapted to life within nutrient-poor hairline fractures in the Earth. Researchers found several species of bacteria, fungi and archaea that live in the rocks and feed on carbon from fragments of amino acids and other organic molecules carried in deep ocean currents.
The European and Russian space agencies have pushed back the launch of a rover that will search for signs of life on Mars. The Rosalind Franklin probe was meant to launch in July but will now depart in 2022 to allow key tests to take place. The space agencies also cited the global coronavirus pandemic as a reason for the delay. The epidemiological situation in Europe has “left our experts practically no possibility to proceed with travels to partner industries”, said Dmitry Rogozin, director-general of Roscosmos.
Researchers in China have developed an experimental vaccine that can protect pigs for life from a lethal virus that has wiped out 40% of the country’s 440 million pigs. Virologists say the vaccine still requires clinical trials and large-scale vaccine production. The country has suffered huge economic losses as a result of the virus since it appeared in 2018, although it is mostly under control now.
Heavy rains, war and a lack of funding have been hampering efforts to control the biggest locust outbreak in more than a quarter of a century. Locust monitoring in Africa is severely underfunded, with many countries facing unpaid bills to the organization that provides a locust early-warning system and helps to control outbreaks. In Yemen, the ongoing war and the humanitarian crisis it has caused put the country in no position to deal with the pests. The United Nations has appealed for urgent funding as scientists scramble to model outbreaks and find safe countermeasures.
Features & opinion
Who was Marie Skłodowska Curie, and how did she become the only person ever to win Nobel prizes in two scientific disciplines? A new biopic, Radioactive, gives only a partial answer, writes reviewer Georgina Ferry. By falling into the ‘lone heroes’ trap, the film gives little insight into Curie’s own motivations or her respected place in the international scientific community.
A skull found perfectly preserved in amber might belong to the world’s smallest dinosaur — and reveal a whole new lineage of birds. Hear more in this week’s Nature Podcast.
Where I work
Biologist Rose Marks scales a 100-metre quartzite cliff in South Africa to measure and take samples of the ‘resurrection’ plant (Myrothamnus flabellifolia), which can survive for years in a completely desiccated state. “Understanding what makes these plants so resilient could help us to develop crops that will survive drought,” says Marks. (Nature | 3 min read)
For music lovers, disco icon Gloria Gaynor shows us how to achieve the full 20-second hand wash to the tune of her classic hit ‘I Will Survive’. And the Seattle Symphony is publishing free videos of “performances that provide strength, comfort and joy” while their hall is closed owing to the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state.
Today I socially distanced myself by replacing public transport with a 15-kilometre bike ride, and it was pretty great. Wish me a pleasant pedal home — and please send me any feedback on this newsletter — at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And if you’re not finding any silver linings, or you are facing difficulties, you have my very best wishes.)
Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing