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A ringed caecilian amphibian with newborn babies.

The worm-like caecilian Siphonops annulatus is the first amphibian described to produce ‘milk’ for offspring hatched outside its body.Credit: Carlos Jared

A species of amphibian is the first observed to nourish its young with a milk-like product, which it squirts from the cloaca, a combined rear opening for its reproductive and digestive systems. Siphonops annulatus is a blind, worm-like caecilian that lives underground. Lactation is considered a key characteristic of mammals, but a handful of other animals — including some birds, fish, insects and even spiders — produce nutrient-rich liquid for their offspring.

Nature | 3 min read

Reference: Science paper

At its annual meeting this week, China’s legislative body, the National People’s Congress, promised to increase government funding for science by 10% in 2024. It’s the largest boost to funding in five years. The increase comes as the Chinese economy struggles to meet growth targets and is locked in a race for technological supremacy with the United States. “To win this game, China has to invest in science and technology, especially in basic research,” says Marina Zhang, who studies innovation with a focus on China.

Nature | 3 min read

New president Javier Milei hasn’t outright shut down Argentina’s main national science agency, CONICET, as he pledged during his presidential campaign. But by keeping its budget unchanged — in a country where annual inflation stands at more than 250% — he is making it impossible for some laboratories to stay open, say critics. On Wednesday, 68 Nobel prizewinners in chemistry, economics, medicine and physics delivered a letter to Milei expressing their concerns. “We watch as the Argentinian system of science and technology approaches a dangerous precipice, and despair at the consequences that this situation could have for both the Argentine people and the world,” it says.

Nature | 5 min read

Stone tools found in western Ukraine date to roughly 1.4 million years ago, making them the oldest known artefacts in Europe made by ancient humans. The findings support the theory that our early relatives — probably of the versatile species Homo erectus — first entered Europe from the east and spread west. The type of tools, and the location where they were found, hint that the first Europeans might have moved westwards along the valleys of the Danube River.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: Nature paper

Close up view of a stone tool possibly from Layer VII at Korolevo I.

A stone tool from the archaeological site of Korolevo in western Ukraine.Credit: Roman Garba

Features & opinion

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Researchers suggest that an imbalance in the intestinal microbiota might cause the gut to send signals to the brain that promote addiction behaviours. Even before a person’s first contact with alcohol or drugs, the imbalance could give rise to traits such as impulsivity, susceptibility to stress or anxiety, and sensation-seeking, creating a vulnerability that can lead to addiction. If that’s true, it could open the door to new treatments — but it’s not going to be simple to address disorders that are associated with many risk factors, including mental-health conditions and genetics. “People have asked me, ‘Can someone just eat yogurt and cure their addiction?’” says Drew Kiraly, a psychiatrist and physician. “It’s going to be much, much more complicated than that.”

Nature | 10 min read

This editorially independent article is part of Nature Outlook: The human microbiome, a supplement produced with financial support from Yakult.

There are four cognitive ‘traps’ that researchers should consider carefully before embedding AI tools in their research, say anthropologist Lisa Misseri and cognitive scientist Molly Crockett. They characterized these AI mindsets or ‘visions’ — ‘AI as Oracle’, ‘AI as Arbiter’, ‘AI as Quant’ and ‘AI as Surrogate’ — after reviewing 100 peer-reviewed papers, preprints, conference proceedings and books. In general, they warn researchers against imbuing AI systems with ‘superhuman’ abilities. “There’s a risk that we forget that there are certain questions we just can’t answer about human beings using AI tools,” says Crockett.

Nature | 44 min read

Read more: Why scientists trust AI too much — and what to do about it (Nature editorial | 6 min read)

Reference: Nature paper

Author Preston Grassmann weaves a world outside the “consensual hallucination” of cyberspace in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 6 min read

One behaviour that was thought to be unique to humans is the ability to learn something from your predecessors that you couldn’t figure out on your own. Now researchers have shown that bumblebees are also capable of this ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ approach to learning. Bees taught how to complete a puzzle too difficult to solve on their own were able to share this knowledge with other bees, raising the possibility that this ability could be widespread among animals.

Nature Podcast | 36 min listen

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Quote of the day

Gender-equality researcher Susanne Täuber was dismissed from her job after blowing the whistle on bias. Her advice for others concerned about their workplace: trust your gut feeling. (Nature | 5 min read)

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