Top stories: Coronavirus’ next phase, glowing newts, and Japan’s cruise ship fiasco
The global march of COVID-19 is beginning to look unstoppable. In just the past week, a countrywide outbreak surfaced in Iran, spawning additional cases in Iraq, Oman, and Bahrain. Italy put 10 towns in the north on lockdown after the virus rapidly spread there. And more than a dozen other countries have reported their first cases. The World Health Organization still says the burgeoning outbreak shouldn’t be called a pandemic, but many scientists say that regardless of what it’s called, the window for containment is now almost certainly shut.
At first glance, most salamanders don’t stand out: Their mottled, earth-toned skin helps them blend into the background of forests and streams around the world. But shine the right type of light at them, and they will light up like glow sticks.
All but a handful of passengers aboard the disease-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship berthed in Yokohama have disembarked. But for Japan, the saga is far from over. Much of the crew remains on board, enduring another 14 days of quarantine—although this time under conditions that Japanese officials hope will prevent additional infections. But there has been another worrisome development: As of Tuesday, eight public servants who worked on the ship to support the quarantine have tested positive for COVID-19, and more may follow.
Some people travel across oceans to seek warm, healing waters in spas or coastal resorts. It turns out that whales are likely making their annual migrations for much the same reason: to maintain healthy skin, according to a new study out this week.
New evidence suggests relations between two great Mesoamerican cultures—the cosmopolitan metropolis of Teotihuacan, near modern-day Mexico City, and the Maya—were more tightly entwined, and possibly more contentious, than thought. Written records and defaced Mayan art in Teotihuacan point to a takeover of the Maya city of Tikal around the year 378 C.E., perhaps part of an empire grab that included several other cities. But in part because those narratives could have been part of an ancient propaganda campaign, doubts persist about who was the real victor.