November 19, 2018

    Trees show subtle movements of their branches at night
    Trees are very busy at night - life science news

    Trees appear to display cycles of subtle canopy movements that are different from species to species. They drop their branches up to 10 cm when they are in a resting state, and then start to pump up water in the active state. This causes tree branches and leaves to move, essentially invisible to the human eye, but researchers have managed to capture the movements by laser scanning. The results show that plants are not static, passive organisms, and monitoring their movements might be used as an indicator for their wellbeing in the future.

    Read the full story: Aarhus University (in Danish)
    Scientific publication: Journal of Plant Signaling and Behavior


    Advanced civilizations should leave a mark after their disappearance. But are we able to detect it after millions of years?
    Could we tell if an advanced civilization lived on Earth millions of years ago - short science news

    Let us imagine the following scenario: millions of years ago Earth was dominated by an advanced civilization that survived for thousands of years until they mysteriously vanished. If this was true, could we find traces and clues for their existence? This is exactly what scientist tried to understand in a recently published study. They show that the chances of finding direct evidence (artifacts, fossils) for civilizations older than 4 million years are extremely small. However, clues could be provided by geological records (due to the industrial impact on the planet), stable isotopes anomalies, non-natural elements and etc. The paper makes for a very interesting reading and it shows us what to look for in the search for previous civilizations on Earth, or on other planets.

     Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: International Journal of Astrobiology


    Members of the Bajau people in Indonesia carry a gene variant that leads to a bigger spleen, supplying extra red blood cells when they go fishing and collecting sea cucumbers or black coral under water, for hours per day. The Bajau have thus adapted to extreme conditions imposed by low oxygen conditions, experienced from generation to generation. It thus seems that natural selection, similar to what evolutionary biologists found in people living at high altitudes in a low oxygen environment, continues to work on human populations.

    Read the full story: Science Magazine
    Scientific publication: Cell


    All 70,000 cells of a flatworm can now be analyzed separately
    Single-cell database for biological studies - life science news

    Scientists have analysed the transcription of genes in each and every of the 70,000 cells in flatworms, and have put the data in a publicly available database to make further studies possible. The analysis has already revealed new cell types, characteristics of cell maturation, and the identity of new genes that could impart positional cues from muscle cells. The latter is important for the study of tissue regeneration, for which flatworms are a model organism as they can regrow parts of their body following injury.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Science


    Human DNA shows signs of negative selection
    Evolution continues….. also in humans - life science news

    Geneticists found traces of negative selection through analysis of the genome of more than 125,000 people. Negative selection is a natural mechanism that makes sure that bad DNA mutations do spread in the population. Negative selection was especially evident for traits related to cardiovascular function and fertility. These observations show that evolution is still at work, also in people.

    Read the full story: University of Queensland
    Scientific publication: Nature Genetics


    In the times when an amputation was a death sentence, a man not only survived for decades, but he also replaced his lost hand with a long knife (orange color in the picture)! Credit: Micarelli et al. 2018; Journal of Anthropological Sciences. CC by 4.0
    Anthropologists analyze medieval skeleton with knife-prosthetic arm - short science news - anthropology news

    One of the most interesting human remains from the medieval times has been thoroughly studied by scientists. The 1500 years old skeleton comes from Italy and it has a missing arm. Scientists concluded the man probably lost the arm in battle or after a medical intervention. Impressively, in an era when no antibiotics were available, the man was able to survive the amputation and lived up to his 50s. Even more interesting, the available information suggests that the man had a prosthetic arm instead of the lost hand which ended with a long iron knife. A sort of Captain Hook, if you wish; he must have been quite a popular character in his times!

    Read the full story: LiveScience
    Scientific publication: Journal of Anthropological Sciences


    A group of about 100 octopuses, normally a solitary species, was found deep in the ocean
    Huge group of octopus moms discovered two miles under the ocean - short science news - life news

    A deep-sea expedition made an incredible discovery close to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It found a giant group of octopus females nearly two miles below the ocean, at a depth where it was believed they cannot survive. The octopuses were an unknown species of the genus Muusoctopus and most of them were moms, protecting their eggs. The animals were found in hot waters close to an underwater volcano and scientists believe they were in the wrong habitat. However, the big numbers suggest a large population of octopuses could be living nearby.

    Read the full story: National Science Foundation
    Scientific publication: Deep Sea Research Part I


    Bacteria might help bees to feed their larvae
    Newly discovered bacteria might preserve pollen - life science news

    Researchers have discovered three new species of bacteria (Lactobacillus sp.) on flowers as well as on the bees that pollinate them. We use Lactobacillus bacteria to preserve food, and it could very well be that the bacteria serve a similar role in the nests of bees where they might preserve nectar and pollen, the food for bee larvae. As it takes more than a week for a larva to hatch and eat through the pollen and nectar, it is important to prevent the growth of fungi inside the pollen during this long period of time, and the Lactobacillus bacteria may just to that.

    Read the full story: University of California, Riverside
    Scientific publication: International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology


    Dinosaurs own their success, but also their disappearance, to mass extinction events
    Dinosaurs ruled thanks to a global mass extinction event - short science news - paleontology

    Most people are aware that dinosaurs disappeared due to a catastrophic meteorite impact that triggered a mass extinction. But how did they get there and why were they so successful is less understood. A new study shows that the expansion of dinosaurs was triggered by another mass extinction event that occurred 232 million years ago. Although dinosaurs originated much earlier, they were very rare until this catastrophe caused the disappearance of most other species. This was the opportunity that allowed them to conquer the Earth, until the unfortunate encounter with a meteorite 66 million years ago.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    DNA contains the genes that are switched on or off by transcription factors. Then RNA and proteins are formed.
    How new life forms are created during evolution - life science news

    Evolution is driven by changes in the regulation of the turning on or off genes, a process known as gene transcription, a new study found. Regulation of the stability of messenger RNA (formed after gene transcription has taken place) through RNA binding proteins does not seem to contribute much. The DNA sequence where gene transcription regulators bind are highly important for evolution, because DNA changes (mutations) here often create binding sites for other gene regulatory factors. This influences gene expression and can lead to new variation in what an organism looks like or how it behaves.

    Read the full story: Santa Fe Institute
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA


    Ants turn left most of the times in a behavior test that allows them to choose the direction. Credit: Edmund Hunt, University of Bristol
    Ants prefer to turn left due to asymmetric vision - short science news - biology and life

    When given the choice, rock ants (Temnothorax albipennis) prefer to turn left, researchers discovered. In the attempt to explain this behavior, they realized that these ants, in general, see slightly better with their right eye. The ants are naturally trying to walk with their “bad” eye towards a wall, so when they come to a branch they follow the wall along to the left. This study is the first one to report a link between lateralization of behavior and asymmetries in the eyes, in insects.

     

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    Shonisaurus – the giant ichthyosaur. Credit: Nobumichi Tamura
    Fossil ichthyosaur discovered – one of the largest animal that ever lived  - short science news - paleonthology

    The remains of a gigantic marine reptile have been discovered in England. Dating back 205 million years, the fossils belonged to an ichthyosaur that was close in size to a blue whale (almost 26 meters / 85 feet). Most known species of ichthyosaur were much smaller and the discovery suggests creatures bigger than a whale could have populated the oceans millions of years ago. The bones belong to a new species and settle a 150 years old mystery about several “dinosaur” bones found in different places in the UK.

    Read the full story: National Geographic
    Scientific publication: PLOS ONE


    New butterfly discovered after spending 60 years in a museum collection. Thomas Emmel with the set of Cyllopsis tomemmeli that he collected as a 17-year-old. Credit: Kristen Grace, Florida Museum
    New species of butterfly discovered after spending 60 years in museum -short science news - biology, entomology

    About sixty years ago, somewhere in Mexico, 13 light brown colored butterflies were collected and ended up in a museum collection. Now, after all these years, they have been studied and recognized as a new species. The species was named Cyllopsis tomemmeli in the honor of Thomas Emmel, the lepidopterist that captured them in 1959. Interestingly, these butterflies are very difficult to spot in the wild. Finding a new species in a museum, years after its collection, shows the value of museum collections.

    Read the full story: Florida Museum
    Scientific publication: Zootaxa


    Viruses have existed on Earth for millions of years and they have evolved together with the vertebrates, their hosts
    Study reveals insights about the origins of viruses - short science news

    A recent study analyzed the viruses infecting 186 vertebrate species in a quest to understand their origin. The research discovered over 200 new RNA viruses in apparently healthy animals. Many of them are relatives of mammal viruses, such as Ebola and influenza. The results show that viruses have existed from the beginning of the evolution of vertebrates, and it provides clues about the evolution of the viruses. Moreover, it shows that they are extremely diverse and common, with probably millions of them still to be discovered.

    Read the full story: Eureka Alert
    Scientific publication: Nature


    A lizard that lived 48 million years ago is the only known jawed vertebrate with four eyes. Credit: Smokeybjb, via Wikimedia Commons
    Extinct lizard had four eyes - short science news - paleontology news

    Saniwa ensidens, a fossil lizard, is the first jawed vertebrate known to have four eyes. A team of researchers showed evidence that this extinct species had two extra photosensitive organs: the pineal and parapineal glands. Although they function differently than normal eyes, these organs are able to sense light. For example, they can determine the polarization of light (helping with orientation) and play roles in circadian and annual cycles. Some species living today (fishes and frogs) possess a pineal gland and this study will help scientist understand how it evolved and what is its functions.

    Read the full story: Sciencemag
    Scientific publication: Current Biology


    The subject of the study was the zebra finch. It helped scientists understand how the FoxP2 gene controls bird singing
    How birds can help us better understand human speech disorders - short science news - life science news

    Investigating how birds sing may provide valuable clues about the ways humans speak and about speech disorders. One recent study discovered that the activity of a gene, called FoxP2, declines in birds when they sing. This process happens in a particular brain region, Area X, important for singing. Interestingly, FoxP2 gene also plays a role in human speech. These findings could help develop new treatments for speech disorders, but this will require further studies.

    Read the full story: University of California, Los Angeles
    Scientific publication: eLIFE


    Educational level correlates with use of genes, similar to smoking
    Education leaves its marks on DNA

    In a genetic assessment of chemical markers on the DNA in white blood cells, researchers found that Dutch people with lower education use their genetic code differently from those with higher education. The analysis of the chemical markers, that act as switches to turn on and off our genes, revealed that people with lower education use their genes in a similar way as smokers do. However, other environmental influences such as air pollution also contribute to the differences related to educational level. Whether the observed differences on the DNA are the cause or consequence of educational level and smoking remains to be determined.

    Read the full story: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
    Scientific publication: npj science of learning


    Chance plays an important role in the survival of competing species
    What does a species need to survive? Luck! - short science news - ecology

    When two similar species compete for resources in the same habitat it is very likely that one species will overcome and eliminate the other. In an extensive study, scientists investigated the role of chance in this process. It turns out that chance (or luck, if you wish) has a significant contribution to the mechanisms that determine if a species dies out or not. Due to this, it is very difficult to predict which species will die and which will survive. The results are important for conservation efforts of endangered species.

    Read the full story: Lund University
    Scientific publication: The American naturalist


    Will this dragonfly species survive competition with a closely related species occupying the same niche? Make your bet!
    The chance factor of survival of a species

    Researchers found that for two species occupying the same ecological niche, it is impossible to predict which one will thrive, and which one will get locally extinct. Local survival of a species seems therefore to depend, to a certain extent, on chance. Counteracting chance is negative frequency-dependence, meaning that, as one of the two species becomes rare, the few survivors will face less competition or aggression from conspecifics, allowing them to reproduce, and the species becomes more common again. Sometimes, this mechanism fails, and the rare species dies out.

    Read the full story: Lund University
    Scientific publication: The American Naturalist


    A new receptor protein can trigger distinct developmental pathways in plants.
     New mechanism by which protein controls plant development discovered - short science news

    Some years ago, new protein was identified in the stem cells of plants, with a role in development. Now, researchers discovered that it mediates a unique mechanism that dictates how a plant develops. Interestingly, this protein instructs the plant to grow differently, based on the type of signals (peptides) that it perceives. Different peptides induce different growth rates and developmental directions. Scientists say this discovery has applications in crop production: by manipulating the receptor, the production of plants such as tomatoes or corn could be increased.

    Read the full story: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
    Scientific publication: eLife


    Curly hair may be curled due to the variations in the length of the cells inside
    New Zealand sheep helps scientist why curly hair is curved - short science news

    Currently, it is unknown why curly hair looks the way it does. To understand what gives the curly hair its particular appearance, scientists studied the hairs from the wool of the Merino sheep, from New Zeeland. This particular breed has very fine, natural curly hair that is easier to study compared to human hair. The researchers found that curly hairs have a biological particularity: the cells from the outside of the curl are significantly longer than the ones located on the inside. Conversely, in straight hair, the cells are similar in length. This may explain why sheep have curly hair but it remains to be seen if the same is true for the human hair.

    Read the full story: New York Times
    Scientific publication: Journal of Experimental Biology


    Mexican cave fish have a diabetes-like physiology as an adaptation to limited access to food
    Cave fish are insulin-resistant and live happily

    New research has revealed that cave fish living in Mexico have high blood sugar levels and are insulin-resistant, a condition very similar indeed to diabetes type II. While human diabetics can develop serious health problems, the cave fish are not bothered by the sugar, and instead use it to their advantage. As they live in caves that receive only new fresh water in spring, they eat as much as they can to fatten up. They use their reserves during the rest of the year. Thus, these fish have adapted their physiology to extreme living conditions with limited access to food, and have for that reason a type II diabetes-like energy system. Further research should show why these animals do not develop diabetes-related health problems, such as damaged nerves or blood vessels.

    Read the full story: Harvard Medical School
    Scientific publication: nature


    The secret for the survival of the American cockroach is in its genes
    The genome of the cockroach was sequenced and it reveals why these insects can survive anything - short science news

    The genome of the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) has been sequenced for the first time. The scientists concluded that cockroaches have more genes related to detoxification, taste, and smell, compared to other insects. This increases the ability to detect and avoid toxic compounds. The detoxification genes help cockroach destroy dangerous chemicals, such as insecticides. Moreover, the cockroaches have a large set of genes dedicated to immunity and to development. Understanding their genome may contribute to the development of new ways to control these type of pest species.

    Read the full story: Live Science
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    The rariphotic is a new ocean zone recently defined by scientists, rich in many species of reef fish. Credit: Patrick Colin, C. C. Baldwin and D. R. Robertson, Smithsonian
    The rariphotic: a new ocean zone discovered - short environment science news

    After surveying a southern Caribbean reef system in Curaçao, scientists realized they discovered a new life-zone in the ocean. Baptized the rariphotic, the new zone spreads between 130 and 309 meters (427 – 1014 feet) below the surface. It is a refuge zone for reef fish after the destruction of their habitats. The new zone is rich in biodiversity, with an impressive number of previously unknown species. “About one in every five fish we’re finding in the rariphotic of the Caribbean is a new species,” said D. Ross Robertson, marine biologist at STRI and a co-author of the study.

    Read the full story: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    Lipid bilayers separate the interior of a cell from the outside world
    Old life recreated

    To better understand what the first forms of life looked like, researchers have created a new life form from normal E. coli gut bacteria. This new life form, probably resembling the oldest one on Earth, has a mixed lipid membrane resembling partially that of bacteria and partially that of all other forms of life. These newly created cells had a stable membrane, thus challenging the commonly held view that instability of membranes has led to the differentiation between bacteria and other life forms. On a technical note, the study may lead to the engineering of industrial production microorganisms with optimised cell membranes and stability.

    Read the full story: University of Groningen
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA


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