This week in science

Mauna Loa eruption and more: Understand the world through 7 images

A giant awakens on the Big Island.

Andrew Richard Hara/Getty Images News/Getty Images

NASA

NASA’s Orion spacecraft reached a record distance from Earth the week of November 2330, as the world’s largest volcano erupted for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Here are the biggest science stories of the week, told in 7 incredible images.

Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

7. Outside the box

Alan Rockefeller

November 23

Researchers identified a new class of mushrooms, Lichinomycetes, which descended from a single ancestor 300 million years ago. The 600 “oddball” mushrooms previously categorized in disparate groups all have a limited genome and live in symbiosis with other species because they lack important metabolic abilities.

Alan Rockefeller

6. Big brains

Nir Friedman

November 25

Researchers discovered octopuses’ complex brains likely developed because they contain the most microRNA, a gene expression regulating molecule, of any invertebrate. Neural microRNA is also responsible for complex brain development in humans.

Nir Friedman

5. Lava flow

L. Gallant/USGS

November 27

Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on Earth, erupted for the first time since 1984. Located on the Big Island of Hawai’i, Mauna Loa is still spewing lava toward the island’s main highway, but it doesn’t pose a danger to people yet.

L. Gallant/USGS

4. Far from home

NASA

November 28

NASA’s Orion spacecraft reached its farthest distance from Earth — 268,563 miles — before it returns home later this month. The milestone came on Flight Day 13 of the Artemis I mission, surpassing the record set during the Apollo 13 mission.

NASA

3. Got Milk?

Daniel Kronauer

November 30

Research revealed that ant pupae secrete a kind of “milk” that sustains larvae but must also be eaten by adults because it can harbor infections that will kill the pupae. This never-before-seen behavior shows one more way that ant colonies are completely interdependent for survival.

Daniel Kronauer

2. Ancient adaptation

Dr Juan Benito and Dr Daniel Field, University of Cambridge

November 30

Researchers found fossil evidence that the mobile beak seen in modern birds evolved before the extinction of dinosaurs. That overturns a foundational assumption that mobile beaks evolved after dinosaurs, and suggests that birds like emus reverted to fixed beaks later.

Phillip Krzeminski

1. Stress response

Long Li, PhD

November 30

Researchers identified neurons in mice that become hyperactivated following social trauma, leading to avoidance of even non-threatening juveniles. The researchers plan to study how the finding could provide insight into the treatment of humans after trauma.

Long Li, PhD