Top stories: Brazilian museum burns, DNA from the high seas, and multicultural medieval warriors

‘It was a foretold tragedy’—fire destroys Brazil’s National Museum and its prized science collections

A fire last Sunday at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro destroyed one of the country’s most important scientific collections. No one was injured, but the blaze ravaged its massive archives and collections, numbering about 20 million items by some estimates. The interior of the museum was mostly wood and had no sprinkler system, and many scientists blamed chronic government underfunding for the disaster.

U.N. talks to tackle tough question: Who should benefit from DNA collected from the high seas?

United Nations negotiators are meeting in New York City this week to begin formally discussing an international agreement to protect the high seas. A north-south split has developed on the issue of bioprospecting, the race to discover and patent valuable genes, most of which come from bacteria and other life found on the sea floor. Developing countries want to create a pact that forces richer, developed countries—generally those that do the bioprospecting—to pay into a global fund that would compensate other nations. That’s not going down well with countries like the United States, Russia, and Japan.

1400-year-old warrior burial ground reveals German fighters came from near and far

New analysis has shed some light on a 1400-year-old burial site filled with ornate grave goods and the bodies of 13 warriors and children discovered more than 50 years ago by German construction workers. By studying the chemical traces in the bones, researchers found the medieval warriors were surprisingly cosmopolitan, with some born locally and others hailing from far-off parts of Europe. One possibility, though unproven, is that some of these outsiders were child hostages.

European science funders ban grantees from publishing in paywalled journals

 Frustrated with the slow transition toward open access in scientific publishing, 11 national funding organizations in Europe turned up the pressure this week. As of 2020, the informal group will require every paper resulting from research funded by its members to be freely available from the moment of publication. They will no longer allow the 6- or 12-month delays that many subscription journals now require, and they will ban publication in so-called hybrid journals.

To grow bigger antlers, these elk risk life and limb

For female elk, there’s nothing sexier than two 250-kilogram male suitors tussling for her favor, their 1.2-meter-tall antlers locked in a battle of strength and determination. But growing such powerful racks is risky, according to a new study, because males must shed their previous headgear early in the season to do so—putting them at risk of being killed by wolves.