Top Stories: Stranded Whales, a Lead-Laced Ocean, and Three-Parent Embryos

Adam Metallo/Smithsonian Institution; Louisa Howard/Wikimedia Commons; 3D graphics by Steven van Heuven, courtesy Hein de Baar, Rob Middag, Abigail Noble, and Christian Schlosser

Top Stories: Stranded Whales, a Lead-Laced Ocean, and Three-Parent Embryos

Find Along Chilean Highway Suggests Mass Stranding of Whales Millions of Years Ago

In 2010, highway workers in Chile uncovered a trove of fossils, including the skeletons of at least 30 large, mostly intact baleen whales. The 9-million-year-old fossils are the first definitive examples of ancient mass strandings of whales. What killed all these whales? Scientists may finally have the answer.

3D Maps Reveal a Lead-Laced Ocean

The United States and Europe banned most uses of lead decades ago, but the pollutant’s fingerprint lingers on—as shown by remarkably detailed new maps of our oceans. The maps tell an especially sobering story of past pollution—and continuing contamination.

Middle Eastern Virus More Widespread Than Thought

It's called Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, after the region where almost all the patients have been reported. But the name may turn out to be a misnomer. A new study has found the virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting that Africa, too, harbors the pathogen. That means MERS may sicken more humans than previously thought—and perhaps be more likely to trigger a pandemic.

Getting Crops to 'Talk' to Insects

If you want to keep insects off your crops, you have a couple of options: Use pesticides or confuse the bugs with pheromones. Pheromones—chemicals used by insects to communicate—are more environmentally friendly, but manufacturing them involves harmful chemicals. Now, scientists have figured how to produce pheromones from plants themselves, a safer and potentially cheaper approach.

U.S. and U.K. Weigh In on Controversial IVF Technique

A new in vitro fertilization technique that has provoked controversy because it involves combining genetic material from two different women’s egg cells has been assessed by both the United States and the United Kingdom this week.

The U.K. government has issued proposed regulations that would allow researchers to try the controversial technique in patients. Across the pond in the United States, however, experts reached a different conclusion. Advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have concluded that mitochondrial transfer is in fact not yet ready for human clinical trials.

The World's Forests at Your Fingertips

A new electronic tool called Global Forest Watch (GFW) offers the public, policymakers, and scientists near-real-time data on Earth’s forests through an interactive website. Launched last week by the World Resources Institute, GFW allows users to track deforestation over time, find recently clear-cut areas and current fires, and receive alerts when there are changes to specific tracts of interest.