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Gentiana ligustica plant species

No reason to feel blue: plants with azure blooms (such as Gentiana ligustica, above) get preferential treatment from researchers. Credit: M. Adamo et al./Nature Plants

Plant sciences

Flashy plants draw outsize share of scientists’ attention

Blue-flowered plants get the most scientific love; those with green or brown flowers, not so much.

Balconies and gardens are not the only places full of pretty flowers. An analysis of dozens of scholarly articles suggests that visually appealing plants are featured more often in scientific studies than are their nondescript relatives.

Martino Adamo at the University of Torino in Italy and his colleagues analysed 280 studies, published between 1975 and 2020, that focused on plant species typical of the southwestern Alps. The researchers found that eye-catching plants, rather than rare or endangered ones, tended to attract scientists’ attention.

Plants with blue flowers were the most studied, and plants with white, red or pink blossoms were investigated more often than were those with brown or green flowers. Scientists also tended to examine plants with taller stems — probably because their flowering parts are more easily accessible than are those of plants with shorter stems.

This ‘aesthetic bias’ could sway conservation efforts in favour of attractive plants, resulting in a lack of interest in less charming, yet often more endangered, species, the authors say.

More Research Highlights...

Camera-trap image of Dendrohyrax interfluvialis

Some tree hyraxes scream in the night, but the newly identified Dendrohyrax interfluvialis (above, camera-trap image) utters a complex series of squawks, rattles and barks. Credit: J. F. Oates et al./Zool. J. Linn. Soc.

Zoology

A bark in the dark reveals a hidden hyrax

Its neighbours scream, but a new species of tree hyrax — a cousin of the elephant — unleashes a rattling bark.
Plastic and other debris floats underwater in blue water

Plastic detritus from snacks and meals floats in the Red Sea. Marine sampling shows that food waste accounts for nearly 90% of plastic pollution at some locales. Credit: Andrey Nekrasov/Barcroft Media/Getty

Ocean sciences

Humanity’s fast-food habit is filling the ocean with plastic

Food bags, drink bottles and similar items account for the biggest share of plastic waste near the shore.
Conceptual artwork of a pair of entangled quantum particles.

An artist’s impression of ‘entangled’ particles, which share properties even at a distance. Entangled photons can be used to help secure a multi-party video meeting. Credit: Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library

Quantum information

Quantum keys dial up tamper-proof conference calls

A new experiment efficiently distributes the highly secure keys to four parties instead of the typical two.
Farmers harvest pineapples in a field.

Workers harvest pineapples in Lingao County, China. Less than one-third of the money spent on food eaten at home reaches farmers. Credit: Yuan Chen/VCG/Getty

Economics

Poor harvest: farmers earn a pitiful fraction of the money spent on food

The bulk of consumer food spending around the world ends up in the coffers of distributors, processors and other parties beyond the farm gate.
A woman wearing a protective face mask splashes her hands in a jet of water

A pedestrian seeks relief from searing temperatures in Spain, where a high proportion of heat-related deaths have been linked to climate change. Credit: SALAS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Climate change

More than one-third of heat deaths blamed on climate change

Warming resulting from human activities accounts for a high percentage of heat-related deaths, especially in southern Asia and South America.
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