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Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), South Male Atoll, Indian Ocean, Maldives.

The shell of the endangered hawksbill sea turtle (pictured) is prized for trinkets and jewellery.Credit: Reinhard Dirscherl/SPL

Sea-turtle poaching is on the wane

The first worldwide estimate of the number of adult sea turtles moved on the black market suggests that 1.1 million of the reptiles were illegally harvested between 1990 and 2020. But poaching is dropping sharply, and most populations worldwide are doing well. “The silver lining is that, despite the seemingly large illegal take, exploitation is not having a negative impact on sea-turtle populations on a global scale. This is really good news,” says co-author and marine conservation scientist Jesse Senko.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Global Change Biology paper

China’s weather challenged scientists

Many parts of China are just emerging from an extreme heatwave that was followed by a severe drought and out-of-season wildfires. Some 360 million people experienced temperatures above 40 °C at some point during the two-month-long heatwave. And the Yangtze River basin, home to nearly one-third of China’s population, received up to 80% less rain than the 30-year average for that period. “We did not predict that the intensity would be so high,” says climatologist Sun Shao. Scientists say the severity of these events shows how important it is becoming to study several extreme weather events together.

Nature | 5 min read

Features & opinion

Embryo tests make controversial promises

Some companies offer tests that rank embryos generated by in vitro fertilization (IVF) on the basis of their risk of developing complex diseases, such as schizophrenia or heart disease. Scientists use the genetic contributions of hundreds, thousands or even millions of single-DNA-letter changes in the genome to calculate a ‘polygenic risk score’, which estimates someone’s likelihood of getting a disease. Critics say the tests don't have adequate predictive power for many conditions and that the results are ripe for misinterpretation. And some warn that these tests are unethical, putting pressure on parents to make a ‘perfect’ baby, narrowing our view of what is acceptable in a child and further entrenching health inequities.

Nature | 12 min read

How fireflies flash in sync

Growing up, computational biologist Orit Peleg had never even seen a firefly. But as a student, she read about them as an example of how simple systems achieve synchrony. “It’s just so beautiful that it somehow stuck in my head for many, many years,” she says. Her group has captured the first comprehensive, global real-world data about the insects — and found that real firefly swarms don’t match up with mathematical idealizations.

Quanta | 12 min read

The mother of all queues

At its longest, the queue to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state was 16 kilometres long and took 24 hours to traverse. “Nobody’s ever seen a queue as long as this before,” says crowd-safety consultant Andy Hollinson, who helped to plan the events following the queen’s death. Crowd scientists outline how infrastructure, modelling and the psychology of British people combined to make a queue fit for a queen.

Wired | 7 min read

Infographic of the week

Coloured circles represent the number of SARS-CoV-2 infections in animals, overlaid on a map of the world.

Researchers have created the most comprehensive global dataset yet of SARS-CoV-2 infections in animals — and a dashboard to help navigate it. In this screenshot, it shows 2,007 infections and exposures, confirmed by laboratory tests, in animals including white-tailed deer (pink), dogs (blue), cats (orange) and mink (dark green). The data are open access, and researchers have committed to updating it weekly for at least one year. “Although animals do not appear to play a significant role in the spread of COVID-19 among people currently, One Health tools that enable the integrative analysis and visualization of SARS-CoV-2 events are critical,” says Amélie Desvars-Larrive, an epidemiologist and veterinary researcher who led the work. (Complexity Science Hub Vienna press release | 3 min read)Reference: Scientific Data paper (CSH Vienna)

Quote of the day

“Republicans and Democrats overestimate the extent to which the other side dehumanizes them by 50–300%, and debunking these misperceptions can reduce rates of animosity.”

Correcting misconceptions about how we are seen by the ‘other side’ is one intervention that can successfully reduce extreme political sectarianism, write 12 psychologists and political scientists. (Nature Human Behaviour paper | 46 min read)