Fungi have recently been found to comprise a significant part of the deep biosphere in oceanic sediments and crustal rocks. Fossils occupying fractures and pores in Phanerozoic volcanics indicate that this habitat is at least 400 million years old, but its origin may be considerably older. A 2.4-billion-year-old basalt from the Palaeoproterozoic Ongeluk Formation in South Africa contains filamentous fossils in vesicles and fractures. The filaments form mycelium-like structures growing from a basal film attached to the internal rock surfaces.

The social brain hypothesis posits that social complexity is the primary driver of primate cognitive complexity, and that social pressures ultimately led to the evolution of the large human brain. Although this idea has been supported by studies indicating positive relationships between relative brain and/or neocortex size and group size, reported effects of different social and mating systems are highly conflicting.

The legacy and reach of anthropogenic influence is most clearly evidenced by its impact on the most remote and inaccessible habitats on Earth. Here we identify extraordinary levels of persistent organic pollutants in the endemic amphipod fauna from two of the deepest ocean trenches (>10,000 metres). Contaminant levels were considerably higher than documented for nearby regions of heavy industrialization, indicating bioaccumulation of anthropogenic contamination and inferring that these pollutants are pervasive across the world’s oceans and to full ocean depth.

Islands are ideal systems to model temporal changes in biodiversity and reveal the influence of humans on natural communities. Although theory predicts biodiversity on islands tends towards an equilibrium value, the recent extinction of large proportions of island biotas complicates testing this model. The well-preserved subfossil record of Caribbean bats—involving multiple insular radiations—provides a rare opportunity to model diversity dynamics in an insular community.

A new study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, locates hotspots of threats to wildlife and describes how they are related to consumers' demand in other parts of the world.

Identifying hotspots of species threat has been a successful approach for setting conservation priorities. One important challenge in conservation is that, in many hotspots, export industries continue to drive overexploitation.