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The Ten Best Science Books of 2021

From captivating memoirs by researchers to illuminating narratives by veteran science journalists, these works affected us the most this year

A squid swims in the dark waters of the Mediterranean. Billions of aquatic animals, from krill to squid, travel to surface waters each night, a migration that scientists are only beginning to fully grasp.

What Drives Aquatic Animals to Make Vertical Migrations?

Researchers are trying to shed light on what leads many water dwellers—from plankton to large fish—to commute daily from the depths to the surface

Cat owners can keep themselves, their pets, and wildlife safe by keeping their feline indoors.

Outdoor Pet Cats Are Spreading a Brain Parasite to Wildlife

It is one of the most common parasites in the world and has infected approximately one-third of people globally, including some 40 million Americans

By mating with the same partner each year, the albatross couples build trust, communication and coordination to help them raise demanding chicks successfully.

Albatrosses Mate for Life, but Climate Change Has Doubled Their 'Divorce' Rates

Food scarcity is causing the birds to return late for mating season, which decreases the chance of successfully hatching a chick

The team used morphological data and DNA testing on a male and female (pictured) specimen to describe it. 

 

A New Himalayan Snake Species Was Discovered in an Instagram Post

When Virendar Bhardwaj uploaded a photo of a snake at his home in Chamba, India, scientists realized it has yet to be described by science

An eastern barred bandicoot explores its space in the Werribee Open Range Zoo.

How Australia’s Eastern Barred Bandicoot Came Back From Extinction

With help from a captive breeding program and the watchful eyes of sheepdogs, the small mammal has been reintroduced to the country’s plains

Jeffrey Peter, of Old Crow, Yukon, cleans a caribou hide during an autumn hunt. When camping, the hide is used as a mattress; at home, it’s clothing.

For the Gwich'in People, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Isn't a Political Issue, It's Home

Journey to the far north of Alaska, where the Indigenous communities hunt caribou, the backbone of the region's ecosystem

A Magdalena River turtle hatchling

Inside the Local Movement to Recover Colombia’s River Turtles

In river basins across the country, communities are working to protect the endangered and endemic reptiles

Species like seals, sharks, seahorses and eels have found their way back to the river in recent decades.

Once Deemed 'Biologically Dead,' a New Report Shows London's River Thames Recovering

Though wildlife populations are recovering, climate change and sewage still threaten the river's health

A researcher holds a golden-crowned spadebill in Brazil. Seventy-seven rainforest bird species in the country showed a decrease in body weight over the last four decades.

Climate Change Is Transforming the Bodies of Amazonian Birds

A 40-year study found 77 species of rainforest birds weigh less on average, and many have longer wings, than they used to

The New Zealand sea lion is listed as endangered, and conservationists are working to ensure their population continues to grow. 

After Being Hunted to Near-Extinction, New Zealand Sea Lions Are Reclaiming the Mainland

These blubbery critters have made grand reappearances on golf courses, swimming pools and hiking trails, startling some New Zealanders

Real guppies respond to Robofish—a 3D-printed plastic model with a vaguely realistic paint job—as if it were a real schoolmate. Researchers used different-sized Robofish to show that guppy schools tend to follow larger fish.

How Scientists Are Using Robotic Animals to Learn About Real Ones

Biomimetic bots can teach researchers a lot about how creatures interact in the natural world

A male (left) and female (right) Nala lividipes earwig

Half of These Earwigs Use Their Right Penis. The Other Half Use Their Left Penis. Why?

Scientists mated males with females under a microscope to try and understand why some are southpaws and others are righties

A humpback whale feeds on sand lance in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Some Whales Can Eat Upwards of 16 Tons of Tiny Shrimp a Day

The giant mammals consume enormous quantities of marine organisms, three times more than previously thought, then their poop fertilizes the sea

Mosasaurus was among the largest and last of the sea-dwelling mosasaurs.

Giant Sea Lizards Ruled the Waves While T. Rex Roamed on Land

A new fossil discovery shows marine reptiles called mosasaurs lived up until the asteroid impact that killed non-avian dinosaurs

A passenger in a white truck photographs several capybaras in a yard in a gated community in Tigre.

Rodents of Unusual Size Take Over Gated Community in Argentina

Weighing up to 175 pounds and growing to four feet in length, capybaras are reclaiming habitat that once was theirs in South America

Spider silk is more than just a web for snaring prey.

Fourteen Ways That Spiders Use Their Silk

From making parachutes to building scuba tanks, the arachnids have come up with some fascinating creations

Hermit crabs are essential scavengers in the ocean. They may crawl into discarded tires looking for food or shelter, and become trapped and die of starvation.

Discarded Tires Are 'Ghost Fishing' Hermit Crabs

New research suggests these shell-swapping crustaceans are vulnerable to becoming trapped inside human debris

For the first time in 16 years, a pair of golden-headed lion tamarins were born on the morning of October 7, 2021. New mom Lola carries the new infants on her back and cradles them close to her body. 

Zoo's Historic Newborn Tamarin Twins Cling to Mom, Doing What Healthy Babies Do

Keepers worked with breeding parents Lola and Coco, who soon “become very interested in each other”

A starlit night at Joshua Tree National Park.

What Does the Future Hold for the Joshua Tree?

The beloved desert denizen is feeling the heat

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