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Maine Forest Service ACF via AP

Scientists discovered not only that plants can trigger cannibalistic behavior in pests by releasing a specific chemical, but that harvesting the chemical could potentially protect them, per Nature.

  • How it works: Tomato plants were exposed to an airborne chemical, methyl jasmonate (MeJA), that caused them to release toxins that decreased their nutritional value for caterpillars. The insects then began feeding on each other, something herbivorous insects do often when food is poor or limited.
  • The benefits: If the plant triggers those toxins early enough, less of the plant will be touched by the insects. Anurag Agrawal, a researcher of plant-animal relations at Cornell University, suggested cannibalism could be fostered as a pest-management strategy.
  • Caution: The cannibalistic caterpillars may be more fit than non-cannibals but it's important to avoid "encouraging super-pests" by allowing the weaker insects to be killed off by larger, stronger ones.

Go deeper

13 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.