After three decades out of the public eye, a giant colony of king penguins has lost 90 percent of its population, a new study said. The colony of 500,000 breeding pairs, long considered the largest of king penguins in the world, lived on the Île aux Cochons, a French territory in the Crozet archipelago in the Indian Ocean. By examining three decades of satellite images, researchers concluded there are just 60,000 breeding pairs left on the island. “It was really a surprise for us,” said Henri Weimerskirch, a co-author. “It’s really very depressing.”

Worker ants could have been queens?

The critical factor for determining which ants become queens or workers may be as simple as some extra insulin.

In some ant species, a queen can be substantially larger and live 20 times longer than a worker, even though they are genetically identical. By looking at which genes are activated in the brains of queens and workers of different species, evolutionary biologist Daniel Kronauer and his colleagues determined that a hormone called insulin-peptide 2, or ILP2, played the most important role. “Insulin signaling — and this ILP2 version of insulin — seems to be at the core of these queen-worker differences,” he said.

There are 14,000 species of ants, all of which are believed to share the same mechanism of differentiation between queens and workers.

That’s not algae; those are worms

Between April and September, just minutes after waves splash over beaches along the eastern Atlantic coast of England, Wales, France or the Channel Islands, tiny, green worms gather in small pools. This is Symsagittifera roscoffensis, the plant-worm. If you happened to be walking where they emerge just after high tide, you would probably think they were algae.

But if you stuck around, you would see the worms accumulate, one by one, getting denser until a swirling mass forms, just more than 1 inch wide. Movement stops. The pools start drying up. And as many as 1 million worms, collected as one, become a verdurous mat. When the tide returns, the worms retreat back into the sand.