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Top stories: reef-supporting fish, plastic-munching microbes, and Burmese amber’s ethical minefield

These tiny, mysterious fish may be key to solving coral reef ‘paradox’

If a snorkeler or scuba diver is lucky enough to spy a cryptobenthic fish—named for its elusive nature—all they may glimpse is a brief flash of color. But these tiny swimmers may be a cornerstone of coral reefs, making it possible for bigger, more charismatic fish and many invertebrates to thrive, according to a new study.

These tiny microbes are munching away at plastic waste in the ocean

Plastic makes up nearly 70% of all ocean litter, putting countless aquatic species at risk. But there is a tiny bit of hope—a teeny, tiny one to be precise: Scientists have discovered that microscopic marine microbes are eating away at the plastic, causing trash to slowly break down.

Fossils in Burmese amber offer an exquisite view of dinosaur times—and an ethical minefield

Chinese paleontologists are currently building a detailed chronicle of life in a tropical forest 100 million years ago, using amber mined across the border in Myanmar. Hundreds of scientific papers have emerged from the amber finds, and Chinese scientists hint at many more to come. But the fossils’ origins present scientists with an ethical minefield. Much of the amber comes from the conflict-ridden state of Kachin, where amber profits finance armed conflict and are leading to human rights violations.

EPA plan to end funding for children’s health research leaves scientists scrambling

Despite repeatedly expressing public support for children’s health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is ending funding for a network of research centers focused on environmental threats to children, imperiling several long-running studies of pollutants’ effects on child development. The move, critics say, is part of a broader effort by President Donald Trump’s administration to downplay science that could lead to stricter regulations on polluting industries.

Ship spies largest underwater eruption ever

Last week, Marc Chaussidon, director of the Institute of Geophysics in Paris, looked at seafloor maps from a recently concluded mission and saw a new mountain. Rising from the Indian Ocean floor between Africa and Madagascar was a giant edifice 800 meters high and 5 kilometers across. In previous maps, there had been nothing. His team, along with scientists from the French national research agency CNRS and other institutes, had seen the birth of a mysterious submarine volcano, the largest such underwater event ever witnessed.