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Mathevon et al. 2017

A new study found male northern elephant seals produce signature rhythmic calls to communicate with their rivals — and navigate their social network.

Why it matters: These are the only non-human mammals known to use rhythm, and the evolution of this type of communication in other species helps to better understand the origins of music among humans.

How they use it: Nicolas Mathevon, one of the study's authors from Université de Lyon/Saint-Etienne in France, said elephant seals "fight [for females] very violently, even to the point of killing one another." Recognizing competitors by the rhythm in their voice allows them to "choose the right strategy" when confronting a rival during mating.

Yes, but... seals most likely use "a multitude of factors to identify each other in a group," not just their calls, according to Caroline Casey, a PhD candidate at the University of California Stanford who participated in the study.

What comes next: Casey said the team is "in the process of tracking young elephant seals throughout their vocal development to see how these individual signatures emerge over time."

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Higher education expands its climate push

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New or expanded climate initiatives are popping up at several universities, a sign of the topic's rising prominence and recognition of the threats and opportunities it creates.

Why it matters: Climate and clean energy initiatives at colleges and universities are nothing new, but it shows expanded an campus focus as the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, and the world is nowhere near the steep emissions cuts that scientists say are needed to hold future warming in check.

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The pandemic isn't slowing tech

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Thursday's deluge of Big Tech earnings reports showed one thing pretty clearly: COVID-19 may be bad in all sorts of ways, but it's not slowing down the largest tech companies. If anything, it's helping some companies, like Amazon and Apple.

Yes, but: With the pandemic once again worsening in the U.S. and Europe, it's not clear how long the tech industry's winning streak can last.

Texas early voting surpasses 2016's total turnout

Early voting in Austin earlier this month. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Texas' early and mail-in voting totals for the 2020 election have surpassed the state's total voter turnout in 2016, with 9,009,850 ballots already cast compared to 8,969,226 in the last presidential cycle.

Why it matters: The state's 38 Electoral College votes are in play — and could deliver a knockout blow for Joe Biden over President Trump — despite the fact that it hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976.