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Genetic analysis has shed light on the notoriously bizarre mating ritual of the anglerfish. When these deep-sea fish mate, the male fuses its tissues with those of the much-larger female. For decades, scientists have been puzzled about how individuals are able to merge without triggering an immune response. Now, genetic tests on museum specimens and preserved anglerfish have shown that species that fuse to their mates lack genes that are important for the formation of key parts of the immune system. “It’s been an enigma, and it’s wonderful to think that we’ve finally got an answer,” says evolutionary biologist Ted Pietsch.
Over 250 papers published between 2013 and 2019 resulted from collaborations between US researchers and scientists affiliated with Chinese institutions for military research, according to a report published by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. The collaborations, which covered topics from naval engineering to materials science, involved Chinese institutions linked to the People’s Liberation Army. The report’s authors say that such collaborations “compromised US national and economic security, and undermined the integrity of US research”. The Chinese institutions involved in the collaborations do not have names indicating their military affiliations — and, in some cases, researchers tried to hide the military ties, the report says.
Reference: Hoover Institution report
Features & opinion
The technology to enable a car to complete a journey without human input is advancing rapidly. But there are still fundamental challenges to be overcome. Software engineer John McDermid explains five of the biggest remaining obstacles to producing safe, fully autonomous vehicles. These include the thorny issues of regulation and social acceptability as well as technical challenges. “There is, of course, a race to be the first company to introduce a fully self-driving car,” McDermid says. “But without collaboration on how we make the car safe, provide evidence of that safety, and work with regulators and the public to get a ‘stamp of approval’, these cars will remain on the test track for years to come.”
For decades it’s been known that stretching skin causes more skin to grow, but the reasons why have been a mystery. On this week’s Nature Podcast, we hear from researchers who have uncovered a mechanism to explain the phenomenon.
Where I work
Experimental physicist Sheila Rowan works with laser beams and suspended mirrors to sharpen the detection of collapsing stars and other celestial events. “Here, in my laboratory at the University of Glasgow, UK, I’m reflected in a mirror attached to glass fibres,” she says. “By measuring how laser light at two different frequencies reflects off the interface between the mirror and the glass, just as my image does off the mirror, we can work out the thickness of the bond and other properties that are important for designing optical systems.” (Nature | 3 min read)
This week, Leif Penguinson is paying a visit to this pile of coconuts on the island of La Digue in the Seychelles. Can you spot the penguin?
The answer will be in Monday’s e-mail, all thanks to Briefing photo editor and penguin wrangler Tom Houghton.
With contributions by Nicky Phillips and David Cyranoski