These twisting, subterranean caverns can be home to secrets and tall tales, and lead to pirate treasure or a vampire lair — if you’ve seen 1980s movies like The Goonies or The Lost Boys.
Many of these hidden, natural networks and the wonders within remain unexplored because they are dangerous and sometimes inaccessible.
Technological advances can help scientists explore these subterranean coping systems and tackle challenges beyond. In our quest to search for life beyond Earth, extraterrestrial caves may hold just the evidence we hope to find.
A robot called ReachBot could be the first explorer to crawl into Martian caves in search of microbes.
The bot will connect to a surface rover that can provide power, analyze cave samples and transmit photos back to Earth.
The ReachBot team received funding to build and test a prototype in caves on Earth similar to those found on Mars.
secrets of the ocean
Stretching more than 600 miles (965.6 kilometers) from Mexico to Honduras, the reef provides food and a rich habitat for marine life. However, the endangered species that use this reef to travel north and south can swim directly into danger and become victims of illegal fishing practices.
Now, sharks using this route have unlikely new allies in local communities along the reef – fishermen determined to protect the vital ecosystem.
We are family
Fossils of early human ancestors found in South Africa’s Sterkfontein Caves are 1 million years older than previously thought.
The fossils originally belonged to the genus Australopithecus, an ancient hominin believed to have lived 2-2.6 million years ago. Researchers now believe these ancient ancestors were around 3.4 million to 3.6 million years ago.
Across the universe
Soon we will be able to see the universe in a whole new way.
The images are expected to reveal how galaxies interact and grow, the violent life cycles of stars, and even a colorful look at the spectrum of an exoplanet, or how wavelengths of light reveal the properties of other worlds.
Giant pandas have a taste for bamboo, but that wasn’t always the case. The ancestors of rare bears had a more varied diet, including even meat.
Pandas have evolved digits to help them cling to the woody stems of plants.
The fossil also revealed the secret of the thumb that evolved for giant pandas.
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