The pot plants that could clean up the air in your home

They brighten up our homes and cheer up our offices. But house plants also clean up the air that we breathe.

Research has shown that popular pot plants also absorb dangerous chemicals, leaving the air cleaner for us to breathe.

One of the best ‘natural air fresheners’ is Guzmania lingulata, or the scarlet star, a colourful and tropical type of bromeliad which blooms for months indoors.

Others include the corn plant (Dracaena fragrans) which boasts long, variegated leaves that are particularly good at mopping up acetone, the pungent chemical in nail varnish remover.

The work comes amid mounting concern about the damage done by indoor air pollution, including toxins called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which released by everything from paint and printers to cleaning chemicals and dry-cleaned clothes.

Born prepared for global warming... thanks to their parents' songs

By calling to their eggs, zebra finch parents may be helping their young prepare for a hotter world brought on by climate change. Uncovering such a mechanism represents a significant advance in the effort to understand how species are adapting to a warming climate.

"Incubation calling," paired with the ability of embryos to hear external sounds, is just one of an array of prenatal guidance tools shared by many animal groups.

However, these behaviors' relation to evolutionary and survival capacities, especially in a rapidly changing environment, are understudied -- a gap that Mylene M. Mariette and Katherine L. Buchanan sought to fill by homing in on incubation calling.

Hypothesizing that these calls help the unborn offspring of zebra finches anticipate their new environment, the authors recorded the incubation calls of 61 female and 61 male "wild-derived" zebra finches nesting in outdoor aviaries during naturally changing temperatures.

Humble moss helped create our oxygen-rich atmosphere

The evolution of the first land plants including mosses may explain a long-standing mystery of how Earth's atmosphere became enriched with oxygen, according to an international study.

Oxygen in its current form first appeared in Earth's atmosphere some 2.4 billion years ago, in an incident known as the Great Oxidation Event. However, it was not until roughly 400 million years ago that this vital compound first approached modern levels in the atmosphere. This shift steered the trajectory of life on Earth and researchers have long debated how oxygen rose to modern concentrations.

In a study, Professor Tim Lenton, and his colleagues theorised that the earliest land plants, which colonised the land from 470 million years ago onwards, are responsible for the levels of oxygen that sustains our lives today. Their emergence and evolution permanently increased the flux of organic carbon into sedimentary rocks, the primary source for atmospheric oxygen, thus driving up oxygen levels in a second oxygenation event and establishing a new, stable oxygen cycle.

For birds, red means 'go': Some flowers evolved red hues favored by birds

New research has shown that certain flowers have shifted away from using insects as pollinators and evolved their flower colour to the red hues favoured by birds.

In a study, biologists have shown for the first time that native flowers exclusively pollinated by birds have evolved colour spectral signatures that are best discriminated by those birds.

Dr Adrian Dyer said previous studies had shown that flower colour evolved to attract bees as pollinators.

"We know that some flowers had evolved spectral signatures to suit bee pollinators, but the story for bird-pollinated flowers was not clear," Dr Dyer said.

Mountain environments more vulnerable to climate change than previously reported

New research Professor Solomon Dobrowski shows that organisms will face more hardships as they relocate when climate change makes their current homes uninhabitable.

Dobrowski and co-author Sean Parks, propose a new method to model how fast and where organisms will need to move to keep pace with climate change.

Mountains support roughly a quarter of the globe's terrestrial biodiversity, contain about a third of its protected areas and house nearly half of the world's biodiversity hotspots.