Top stories: A seal’s humpback savior, a nasal antibiotic, and a wolf that’s not really a wolf

(Left to right): Konstantin Chagin/shutterstock; Roland Seitre/Minden Pictures; John Durban/NOAA

Top stories: A seal’s humpback savior, a nasal antibiotic, and a wolf that’s not really a wolf

Why did a humpback whale just save this seal's life?

At first it seemed like the usual clever attack. Several killer whales were trying to catch a Weddell seal that had taken refuge atop a drifting patch of Antarctic ice. The orcas swam alongside each other, creating a wave that knocked the hapless pinniped into the water. Death seemed certain. Then something amazing happened: A pair of humpback whales turned up and pushed the seal to safety. Scientists aren’t sure why this—and similar rescues—are taking place, but they suspect that it might be due to inadvertent altruism.

New antibiotic found in human nose

You may have heard about drugs disappearing into people's noses. But at a meeting in the United Kingdom this week, scientists proposed the opposite: a new antibiotic that has, quite literally, emerged from the human nose. The compound is produced by one species of nose-dwelling bacterium to kill another microbe—Staphylococcus aureus—which kills thousands of people every year.

How do you save a wolf that’s not really a wolf?

When is a wolf a wolf? For more than 30 years, the question has dogged scientists, conservationists, and policymakers attempting to restore and protect the large wild canids that once roamed North America. Now, a study of the complete genomes of 28 canids reveals that despite differences in body size and behavior, North American gray wolves and coyotes are far more closely related than previously believed, and only recently split into two lineages. 

Gender lawsuit stimulates discussion of ways to improve undergraduate science

A lawsuit against the University of Cincinnati in Ohio for allegedly segregating students by sex in a physics lab course points to widespread confusion among academics over how to increase women’s participation in science. Devi Shastri reports on the lab practice that triggered the recent legal action.

Neurons get fresh ‘batteries’ after stroke

If your car’s battery dies, you might call on roadside assistance—or a benevolent bystander—for a jump. When damaged neurons lose their “batteries,” energy-generating mitochondria, they call on a different class of brain cells, astrocytes, for a boost, a new study suggests. These cells respond by donating extra mitochondria to the floundering neurons. The finding, still preliminary, might lead to novel ways to help people recover from stroke or other brain injuries, scientists say.

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