Dutch impressionist Vincent van Gogh obsessed himself with sunflowers until his death in 1890, later earning avid collectors tens of millions of dollars for single paintings. These days researchers have developed their own sunflower obsession: Solving the genetic origin of mutant “teddy bear” sunflowers depicted in van Gogh’s ochre-splashed canvases.
Scientists conducting deep-sea dives around the Galapagos Islands have identified a new species of shark. Part of a family known as a catsharks, the new species is about 1.3 feet long, roughly the same size as a typical housecat.
Buried beneath the leathery skin of an elephant’s foot lies one of anatomy’s unappreciated mysteries. Three hundred years ago, a surgeon claimed elephants had six toes instead of the usual five, setting off a debate about whether an extra digit was really possible. Modern anatomists scoffed at the idea, insisting instead that the extra toe was really just a big lump of cartilage. Now a study of scores of elephant feet shows that the lump really does turn into bone. The digit is not a true toe ¿ it’s more like a panda’s faux thumb. But it nonetheless helps support the pachyderm’s mighty girth.