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The birds' beauty belies their often menacing and destructive nature 

Naked truths at an orgy of recrimination

Atomised by Michel Houellebecq, trans Frank Wynne (Heinemann, £12.99, 379pp)

Hot Spot: Shrewsbury, Shropshire

A natural selection

Chink discovered in armour of the common cold

SCIENTISTS HAVE discovered a vital chink in the armour of the common cold virus that they say could one day lead to a cure for the infection.

Mystery of mutant toadflax solved at last

A BOTANICAL mystery that nearly inspired a theory of evolution more than a century before Charles Darwin came up with the idea has been solved by biologists.

Books: The dog days of Darwinism

Almost Like a Whale by Steve Jones Doubleday pounds 20

Books: Back on the Beagle

Almost Like a Whale: The Origin of Species updated by Steve Jones Doubleday, pounds 20, 402pp; Can a science writer now - however good - add to a timeless classic?

Letter: God and Darwin

Sir: Why is it that so many pro-God scientists are physicists and those against are often biologists?

He was the original Action Man. He packed a gun and explored the world. And he opened a can of worms when he suggested man was descended from the apes. 140 years on he's still a publishing super star. And now the greatest brains in science want (that's Charles Darwin, stupid) recognised as the Man of the Millennium

He rode with the toughest gauchos of the Argentine pampas, learnt to bring flightless birds down with swinging bolas, slept rough for weeks on end, and enthusiastically scaled the highest peaks of the Andes. But although Charles Darwin was an action man, a swashbuckling adventurer who packed a pistol in his waistcoat and a cosh up his sleeve, he was also a towering intellect whose theory of evolution is shaping up as the Idea of the Millennium.

Striped rabbit found in Laos

BIOLOGISTS HAVE identified an unknown species of striped rabbit with a red rump in the mountain forests of Laos and Vietnam, an area that has already seen the discovery of a range of previously unrecorded mammals in recent years.

Serendipity: Nature's error- correction

CHANCE meetings between researchers from different backgrounds, one of them unwittingly holding the missing piece of the other's jigsaw, can result in significant discoveries. Just such a meeting occurred in a bar at Bradford University, between Dr Simon Shepherd and Professor Terry Baker.

Genetic Notes: Embarrassment of the neo-Darwinists

FIFTY YEARS before Charles Darwin's seminal Origin of Species the French biologist Jean Baptiste de Lamarck published his view on how animals evolved. A core idea, uniformly accepted by his peers, was that organisms adapting to a changing environment altered their bodily and behavioural characteristics and passed these acquired characteristics to their progeny. This is Lamarckian inheritance and is probably one of the most emotive issues in contemporary science (apart from the metaphysical issue of whether an all- powerful "God" exists).

Science: The memory of molecules

Can molecules communicate with each other, exchanging information without being in physical contact? French biologist Jacques Benveniste believes so, but his scientific peers are still sceptical.
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