These twisting, subterranean caverns can hold secrets and grand stories, and lead to pirate treasures or a nest of vampires – if you’ve ever seen 1980s movies like The Goonies or The Lost Boys.
However, many of these hidden, natural networks and the wonders they contain remain unexplored because they are dangerous and sometimes inaccessible.
Technological advances could help scientists meet the challenges of studying these subterranean systems – and beyond. In our search for life beyond Earth, extraterrestrial caves may contain just the evidence we hope to find.
A robot named ReachBot could become the first explorer, crawling into Martian caves to look for microbes.
The bot would connect to a surface rover that could provide power, analyze cave samples and send photos back to Earth.
The ReachBot team has received funding to build and test a prototype in caves on Earth, similar to what might be found on Mars.
Mysteries of the Ocean
Stretching more than 600 miles (965.6 kilometers) from Mexico to Honduras, the reef provides food and rich habitat for marine life. But the endangered creatures that use this reef to navigate north and south can swim directly into danger and fall prey to illegal fishing practices.
Now, sharks using this route have unlikely new allies in local communities along the reef – fishermen determined to protect the vital ecosystem.
We are a family
Fossils of early human ancestors found in South Africa’s Sterkfontein Caves are 1 million years older than previously thought.
The fossils belong to the genus Australopithecus, an ancient hominin originally thought to have lived between 2 and 2.6 million years ago. Now researchers believe these ancient ancestors lived around 3.4 million to 3.6 million years ago.
through the universe
Soon we will be able to see the universe in a whole new way.
The images are intended to show how galaxies interact and grow, provide a glimpse into the vast life cycle of stars and even a colorful glimpse into the spectrum of an exoplanet – or how light wavelengths reveal properties of other worlds.
Giant pandas have a fondness for bamboo, but it wasn’t always like this. Rare bears’ ancestors had a much more varied diet that even included meat.
Pandas evolved the finger to help them hold on to the plant’s woody stems.
The fossil also revealed a mystery surrounding the thumb, which turned out to be an evolutionary compromise for the giant pandas.
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