NATURE BRIEFING

Fish in the sunless depths of the ocean can see in colour, how Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán crushed Central European University and a scientific and poetic journey underground.

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A male baboon (Papio Hamadryas) in a zoo near Tel Aviv, Israel A male baboon (Papio Hamadryas) in a zoo near Tel Aviv, Israel

Baboons are one of the non-human primate species scientists in the US use for research.Credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) will need to reduce its use of non-human primates in research, if a bill proposed by US lawmakers wins approval from the House of Representatives, the Senate and President Donald Trump. In 2017, US researchers experimented on 75,825 non-human primates, 22% more than in 2015. The NIH says that these animals are increasingly important for work on HIV and in neuroscience.

Nature | 2 min read

Fish in the sunless depths of the ocean can see in colour — an ability they evolved independently of colour-sensitive creatures up above. The finding overturns our understanding of the value of colour vision and how it arose. “There’s a lot more complexity in the interplay between light and evolution in the deep sea than we realized,” says evolutionary biologist Megan Porter.

Science | 6 min read

Reference: Science paper

Giant pandas were once much more widespread — and more genetically diverse — than they are today. Researchers sequenced the DNA of a roughly 5,000-year-old bone from an ancient species of panda. found in an area well south of the animal’s current habitat in central China. They found traces of interbreeding with modern pandas, implying that giant pandas were more genetically diverse before their range shrank in size.

Nature Research Highlights | 1 min read

Reference: Current Biology paper

Get more of Nature’s Research Highlights: short picks from the latest papers.

FEATURES & OPINION

From a secretive space facility to plans for new telescopes, South America is starting to see the scientific impacts of the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global infrastructure expansion. Some governments see the initiative as a chance to complete long-desired infrastructure projects for which they lack funds. But conservationists and some scientists fear that the construction of roads, railways and dams will spell disaster for fragile ecosystems such as those of the Amazon rainforest.

Nature | 10 min read

Source: K. P. Gallagher & M. Myers. China–Latin America Finance Database (Inter-American Dialogue, 2019).

The prestigious Central European University in Budapest was seemingly secure under the wing of its founder, US-Hungarian billionaire George Soros, and safe in the hands of its rector, Canadian intellectual and politician Michael Ignatieff. Then came Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his authoritarian government. The Atlantic tracks how Orbán, Soros and Ignatieff battled over the future of the university — which was eventually forced to relocated to Austria — and what it means for the future of intellectual life in Hungary.

The Atlantic | 32 min read

The factors that contribute to obesity — such as junk food and sedentary lifestyles — have long been linked to city living. But the levels of obesity in rural areas will soon match, if not exceed, those in urban areas, say researchers in this week’s Nature Podcast — and so public-health interventions must aim to reach beyond the city, too.

Nature Podcast | 21 min listen

Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on iTunes or Google Podcasts.

BOOKS & ARTS

Interior of the Skocjan Caves, Green Karst, Slovenia Interior of the Skocjan Caves, Green Karst, Slovenia

The Škocjan Caves in Slovenia’s Karst Plateau contain one of the world’s largest known underground canyons.Credit: Juan Carlos Munoz/Nature Picture Library

From forest fungal networks to the fringes of the melting Greenland Ice Sheet, a new book by landscape writer Robert Macfarlane explores the fascinating and terrifying worlds beneath our feet. This poetic and penetrating book inspires thoughts about ‘deep time’ and our place within it, says reviewer Huw Lewis-Jones.

Nature | 5 min read

Music inspired by the early formation of the Universe, embryonic fly development and protein folding were among six pieces performed in Paris as part of the Muse-IC project. Discover how composers were inspired by scientific concepts and images to create compelling collaborative works.

Nature | 6 min read

Nature’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes the science of magic, dung beetles on parade, and the unexplored depths.

Nature | 2 min read

INFOGRAPHIC OF THE WEEK

This map of the world’s rivers shows that only 37% of those longer than 1,000 kilometres flow freely along their entire length. Most of these rivers are restricted to remote parts of the Arctic, and to the Amazon and Congo basins. Human-made obstructions have altered the natural flow of rivers, adversely affecting biodiversity and access to clean drinking water, inland fisheries and seasonal floods that rivers supply to agriculture. Read more in this in-depth News & Views article (or read the full Nature paper).

SCIENTIFIC LIFE

From writing a great paper to finding funding, Nature offers nine bite-sized guides to the working world of science for early-career researchers.

Nature | 9 short articles

Scientists are pushing back against the kind of university social-media guidelines that stifle their voices and bury the “power of the individual”, says geneticist Piero Carninci. Rather than opt out altogether, try this neat guide to help scientists — as well as their higher-ups — get over the Twitter jitters.

Nature Index | 6 min read

Chromatin biology is having a watershed moment: new techniques are revealing that the DNA–protein complex has not just one form but many. Discover the tools that are probing these highly variable structures, and what it might mean for our understanding of the functioning of the genome.

Nature | 7 min read

IMAGE OF THE WEEK

An aerial view of a group of hippos An aerial view of a group of hippos

Credit: Martin Sanchez @zekedrone/SkyPixel

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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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