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A young Geoffroy's spider monkey, also known as the black-handed spider monkey.

Primates with tails lack a certain DNA insertion in a gene called TBXT.Credit: Mark Newman/Getty

Researchers have shown that humans and other apes carry a DNA insertion in a gene called TBXT that other primates with tails, such as monkeys, don’t have. And mice carrying similar alterations to their genomes have short or absent tails. “They clearly show that this change contributes to tail loss. But it’s not the only one,” says human geneticist Malte Spielmann. Apes aren’t the only primates without tails, suggesting that the trait evolved multiple times. “Probably, there are multiple ways of losing a tail during development. Our ancestors chose this way,” says co-author Bo Xia.

Nature | 4 min read

Read an expert analysis by geneticist Miriam Konkel and neuroscientist Emily Casanova in the Nature News & Views article (8 min read, Nature paywall)

Reference: Nature paper

Astronomers have used the James Webb Space Telescope to show that faint miniature galaxies swept away a fog of atomic hydrogen in the early Universe — allowing starlight to shine through the cosmos for the first time. Dwarf galaxies roughly 100 times smaller than the Milky Way triggered the process, known as reionization. “It’s because of reionization that we are able to see distant galaxies,” says astrophysicist Hakim Atek.

Nature | 3 min read

Editing the epigenome in mice can lower cholesterol levels by reducing the activity of a specific gene. The method changes the chemical tags that are bound to DNA, sidestepping some of the risks that come with irreversibly altering strands of DNA in conventional genome editing. “This can alter the expression of genes that are involved in disease — and potentially provide a cure — without changing DNA,” says epigeneticist Henriette O’Geen.

Nature | 4 min read

After a very bumpy landing on the Moon on 22 February, the private Moon lander Odysseus is being hailed a success, despite breaking a leg and landing on its side. It carried 12 payloads that reached the surface, including six NASA instruments — five of which have already collected data. Like the Japanese Moon lander SLIM, which woke briefly on Tuesday after landing upside-down, the solar panels on Odysseus are not oriented to receive enough sunlight, and it is not expected to survive the harsh lunar night. Mission controllers will try to wake Odysseus again in a few weeks, when the Sun is overhead.

Nature | 5 min read

Features & opinion

Table of Contents

Successful trials of two new antimicrobial drugs — zoliflodacin for drug-resistant gonorrhoea and an antifungal, fosravuconazole — were conducted by non-profit organizations that were founded specifically to bring such drugs to the market. Most legacy pharmaceutical firms have withdrawn from the field, and many of the small biotechnology companies that picked up the torch have gone bankrupt. These two latest achievements suggest that non-profits could help to solve the problem of drug access, while fending off the rise of drug-resistant microbes, which contribute to almost five million deaths per year.

Nature | 10 min read

ANTIMICROBIAL MARKET FAILURE: chart showing the number of antimicrobial drugs being developed by different companies.

Source: D. Thomas & C. Wessel The State of Innovation in Antibacterial Therapeutics (BIO, 2022)

Since its release in November 2022, OpenAI’s chatbot has helped scientists boost their productivity when it comes to writing papers or grant applications. But increasing the throughput of publications could stretch editors and reviewers even thinner than they already are. And, while many authors acknowledge their AI use, some quietly use chatbots to churn out low-value research. “We have to go back and look at what the reward system is in academia,” says computer scientist Debora Weber-Wulff. What might be needed is a shift from a ‘publish or perish’ culture to a system that prioritizes quality over quantity.

Nature | 7 min read

Two years into the Russian invasion, lecturers and students in Ukraine have adapted to power cuts, air strikes, bereavement and isolation, writes education researcher Inna Makhovych. She regularly uses gamified platforms such as Quizlet and Kahoot to teach students who have been driven away from classrooms. She also studies the effects of online education and a stressful environment on the quality of learning. “We deserve support and offers of collaboration from institutions abroad,” writes Makhovych. “We have shown that education is possible in any situation.”

Nature | 5 min read

Quote of the day

Data scientist Alexander Boxer finds pleasure in the idea that the calendar is the product of many civilizations’ efforts to understand time. Happy leap day! (NPR | 9 min read)

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