November 22, 2018

    Cell structure of Picochlorum, isolated from the San Elijo Lagoon in California. Image: Susanne Ruemmele
    Gene stealing algae may survive climate change - life science news

    Some green algae appear to have taken genes from bacteria, which allows them to survive hostile and fluctuating conditions in salt marshes. These algae, known as Picochlorum, are expected to survive climate change as well, thanks to the bacterial genes they acquired. Such natural genetic modifications may provide important information for the engineering of algae that could one day be used as biofuels, researchers think.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Molecular Biology and Evolution

    Coral reef grow over restoration structures in Indonesia. Image: Christine Sur / UC Davis
    Finally some good news for corals: reefs can be rehabilitated - life science news

    Researchers have attached coral fragment to hexagonal structures called “spiders” in the center of Indonesia’s Coral Triangle to test whether it is possible to restore coral reefs. Indeed, live coral cover increased from less than 10% to more than 60%, at a cost of about $25 per square meter. Importantly, while massive coral bleaching occurred between 2014 and 2016, bleaching in the rehabilitation area was less than 5%, despite warm water conditions known to stress corals. Thus, this technique protects and rehabilitates coral reefs, giving the reefs a chance to adapt to worsening ocean conditions.

    Read the full story: University of California – Davis
    Scientific publication: Restoration Ecology

    Killer whale populations are likely to collapse due to persistent PCB contamination. Image: Audun Rikardsen
    Collapse of killer whales from PCBs expected - life science news

    Scientists found that killer whales are amongst the most highly polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) contaminated mammals in the world. PCB contamination affects reproduction and immune function, and threatens viability of killer whale populates. PCBs have been banned in most countries already more than 30 years ago, but their presence in the environment is persistent and accumulate in the tissues of top predators. The current study shows that especially the killer whale populations living near industrialized regions , or feeding at high trophic levels independent of location are at high risk of collapse.

    Read the full story: Aarhus University
    Scientific publication: Science

    A protein ensures that plants flower at the correct moment
    How does a plant know when to flower - science news - biology

    Correct timing for flowering is extremely important for pollination and reproduction of plants. But, how does a plant know when it is the best moment to produce flowers? A component of the sunlight, called the UV-B radiation (the one that gives us sunburns), is responsible for inducing flowering. However, UV-B can be present before the correct timing, so to prevent premature flowering, plants rely on a protein called RUP2. The protein inhibits flowers from emerging, but when the day get longer and more light is available, the RUP2 becomes less effective and flowering occurs.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Genes & Development

    Populations of the yellow spotted salamander are on the decline. Image: Brad Glorioso/US Geologic Survey
    Climate change not the main culprit of amphibian decline - life science news

    Years worth of data collected in the US and Canada show that climate change is not the main factor that is causing the worldwide decline of amphibian populations. While it is true that local effects of climate change can have dramatic effects, these can be compensated by other, for amphibians favorable, changes somewhere else. Rather, researchers think that other factors play a role, such as habitat destruction and spread of new pathogens by human activities.

    Read the full story: PennState
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Anopheles gambiae mosquito, the vector of malaria parasites, feeding. Image: CDC/ James Gathany / Public Health Image Library
    Gene drive technique eradicates malaria mosquito population in the laboratory - biotechnology science news

    Scientists are well on their way to specifically change the genome of malaria mosquitos to bring about their extinction. By introducing a mutation by the CRISPR – Cas9 gene drive technique in a part of the gene that determines that is responsible for female development, mosquitos showed both male and female characteristics, failed to bite and did not lay eggs. After eight generations in the laboratory, no more females were produced, and the population collapsed as no reproduction could occur anymore. Thus, although more experiments are needed, it seems that molecular biology could be an efficient tool to eliminate mosquitos that carry malaria, probably in five to ten years from now, researchers think.

    Read the full story: Imperial College London
    Scientific publication: Nature Biotechnology

    Glyphosate kills microbiota in the bee's intestines, leading to bee death following pathogen infection
    Glyphosate, a common herbicide, contributes to the dying of bees - life science news

    The commonly used herbicide glyphosate has been found in a new study to have a profound effect on the microbiota living the intestines of honeybees. At least four out of eight common bacteria species are severely affected. These bacteria are important for digestion, and defense against pathogens. Indeed, of the bees that have been exposed to glyphosate, only 10% survives infection with the common pathogen Serratia marcescens, whereas this is 50% for bees that have not been in contact with glyphosate. Thus, this study shows that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, contributes to the decline in bee populations, and gives reason to reconsider legislation concerning glyphosate use.

    Read the full story: University of Texas at Austin
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

    Nocturnal light pollution makes guppies more courageous during the day
    Light pollution makes fish more courageous during the day - life short science news

    Artificial light at night alters the behavior of fish (guppies) during the day, a new study shows. Fish leave their shelter faster, and spend more time in open, potentially dangerous, waters. It thus seems that fish are taking more risk, exposing themselves more to predators. Researchers think that increased risk taking is caused by the stress that is imposed by light pollution at night.

    Read the full story: IGB - Berlin
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports

    Maternal use of marijuana leads to children starting smoking themselves at a younger age
    Children more likely to try marijuana younger if their mothers smoke it - science news

    A new study showed a correlation between mothers using marijuana during the first 12 years of their child's life and the age at which the children start using cannabis themselves. Maternal marihuana use was associated with children trying it at an earlier age. "Early initiation is one of the strongest predictors of the likelihood of experiencing health consequences from marijuana use”, said lead author Natasha A. Sokol. Although marijuana is generally considered less dangerous than other drugs, the risk of getting health problems is linked to the age of initiation. Earlier initiation is associated with increased risk of anxiety and depressive disorders.

    Read the full story: Brown School of Public Health
    Scientific publication: American Journal of Preventive Medicine

    The but-brain connection is not only hormonal, but also neural, new research shows. There is a direct communication from the gut to the brain via the vagal nerve, carrying sensory information about food and nutrition to the brain in less than a second. This connection uses glutamate as a messenger molecule, just as other sensory organs do. The direct line between the gut and the brain complements the slow signaling that is mediated by hormones, such as those that signal satiety or hunger, and suggests that the gut is our sixth sense that informs the brain about food content and perhaps calories in the stomach.

    Read the full story: Duke University
    Scientific publication: Science

    Scientific research can also be funny
    The effects of cursing while driving and other 2018 Ig Nobel Prize winners - science news Ig Noble prizes 2018

    Sometimes science is too serious. Or so it seems! However, some scientists dare to venture into questions and research that “make people laugh then make them think”. This kind of unconventional studies are awarded every year with the Ig Nobel Prize and it is worth taking a look at this year’s winners.

    The Medicine Prize went to a group of scientists for using roller coaster rides to try to hasten the passage of kidney stones. Anthropology received a reward for a study showing that chimpanzees imitate humans about as often, and about as well, as humans imitate chimpanzees. Amazingly, one study showed that wine experts can reliably identify, by smell, the presence of a single fly in a glass of wine, and for this, the authors received the Biology Prize. You might already know, from personal experience, that most people who use complicated products do not read the instruction manual. This study received the Literature Prize. We will mention only one more, the Peace Prize awarded for measuring the frequency, motivation, and effects of shouting and cursing while driving an automobile. To see the entire list of winners for the 2018 Ig Noble prizes please click the link below.

    Read the full story: Improbable Research

    Listeria bacteria transport electrons through their cell wall into the environment as tiny currents, assisted by ubiquitous flavin molecules (yellow dots). Image: Amy Cao graphic, UC Berkeley.
    Bacteria in our guts produce electricity - life science news

    Bacteria are pumping out electrons through their membrane, as many as 100,000 per second per cell. This electric current needs flavin, a derivative of vitamin B2 and abundant in the intestines. Bacteria generate electricity to remove electrons produced during metabolism and support energy production (comparable to how we use oxygen in our cells). Researchers think that bacteria produce electricity under conditions of low oxygen levels, such as in our intestines.

    Read the full story: UC Berkely
    Scientific publication: Nature

    A benevolance-dominant leadership style improves employee performance
    Be nice to your employees, and they perform better - management science news

    A new study revealed that showing compassion to subordinates almost always pays off, especially when combined with the enforcement of clear goals. Employees work better if they feel that their leaders or bosses actually care about their wellbeing. These results were found in a group of nearly 1,000 members of the Taiwanese army, and almost 200 Americans with a full time job. It might be surprising to see the same results in two culturally very different groups. Apparently, culture and work place do not influence the way employees look at their leaders.

    Read the full story: Binghamton University
    Scientific publication: The Leadership Quarterly

    Only one gene determines whether an ant will become a queen or a worker
    One gene, one queen in the ant world - life science news

    The protein insulin-like peptide 2 (ILP2) has been found to be made in large quantities only in queens, not in workers, in ant colonies. ILP2 is synthesized in 12 to 15 brain cells only, and turns an ant into an egg-laying machine. Injections of ILP2 in ants from colonies where there is no queen, but where each individual undergoes a cycle of reproduction by cloning and brood care, induce queen-like characteristics, such as slightly bigger body size, and start egg laying. Good quality nutrition stimulates the formation of ILP2, which seems to suggest that the evolution of sociality in insects may have started with imbalanced food distribution among colony members.

    Read the full story: Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz
    Scientific publication: Science

    Artist rendering of what the ancient species might have looked like. Painting on marble by Randwulph
    Three new ancient primates identified - evolution science news

    In what is now San Diego county, all sorts of primats lived in lush tropical forests between 42 and 46 million years ago. Biological anthropologists have now identified three previously unknown species on the basis of fossilized teeth. These primates were between 113 and 796 grams, depending on the species. The newly identified primates shed more light on the live and evolution of primates during the Eocene.

    Read the full story: University of Texas at Austin
    Scientific publication: Journal of Human Evolution

    Tunicates, or sea squirts, have an intestinal barrier against bacteria that is intermediate between insects and vertebrates
    Evolution of the gut’s protection against bacteria - life science news

    Tunicates, or sea squirts, have been found to be the missing link between insects, that have an intestinal lining of chitin, and mammals that rely on a mucosal barrier. Chitin is a protein that is found in many animals (insects and crabs for example), and provides a physical barrier to microbes. Tunicates have both chitin and mucous in their intestine, and if chitin is removed, the tunicates die unless they are treated with antibiotics. As tunicates are related to vertebrates, it thus appears that during evolution chitin was lost in the first vertebrates, leaving us with a mucosal layer in our intestines to protect us against microbes.

    Read the full story: Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    This bone fragment ('Denisova 11') was found in 2012 at Denisova Cave in Russia by Russian archaeologists and represents the daughter of a Neandertal mother and a Denisovan father. Image: T. Higham, University of Oxford
    It's a girl! From a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father - ancient history science news

    Genome sequencing of an ancient hominid from Siberia revealed that it had a Neanderthal mother, and a Denisovan father. This ancient individual is only represented by a long bone, and was a girl of at least 13 years old. The bone was found in the Denisova cave by Russian archaeologists in 2012, and then sequenced in Germany. Further analysis showed that the Denisovan father had a Neanderthal ancestor further back in his family tree. The two hominid species must therefore have interacted at various occasions, perhaps more often than has assumed until now.

    Read the full story: Max Planck Gesellschaft
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Plants make terpenoids in small amounts, and we use them in pharmaceuticals and fragrances
    Turning on and off fragrance production in plants - plant science news

    Researchers have identified the key enzymes that switch on and off the production of terpenoids, carbon-rich compounds that are used in fragrances, flavorings, biofuels and pharmaceuticals. These for us useful compounds are made in low quantities by plants, and extracting the mis costly and impractical. Now that the metabolic pathways that control the production of terpenoids in plants is known, researchers believe that it will become possible to develop efficient methods to obtain sufficient amounts of these useful compounds.

    Read the full story: Salk Institute
    Scientific publication: Nature Plants

    A parasitic plant feeds off these wasp's galls. Image: Mattheau Comerford/Rice University
    A parasitic plant attacking a parasitic insect - life science news

    Biologists have found a new type of trophic interaction between two species: a parasitic plant (love vine) feeding off a parasitic insect (gall wasps). The two share a host plant, the insect for laying its eggs, and the plant for attacking the plant’s tumor-like growths, the galls, and killing the wasps in the process. Galls are made by the plant, but are induced by the wasp to ensure nourishment for the developing larva inside. Ultimately, like cancer, galls are harmful to the plant. Biologists now ask what the biological mechanisms are that the love vine uses to attack the galls, and whether they could potentially help to fight cancers.

    Read the full story: Rice University
    Scientific publication: Current Biology

    Urban ants adapt to higher ambient temperatures in 20 generations. Image: Lauren Nichols, Case Western Reserve University
    Rapid evolution of ants living in the city - life science news

    Acorn-dwelling ants living in big American cities (Cleveland and Knoxville) appear to become more heat-tolerant to adapt to their warmer environment, whereas their conspecifics living in the country nearby do not. Their increased tolerance for higher temperatures helps these ants to live in cities. Researchers believe they are witnessing fast paced evolution in action, as the city ants change in only 20 generations. However, this sort of fast evolution did not happen in another city, Cincinnati. While the exact biological mechanisms underlying temperature acclimation are thus still obscure, these observations give nevertheless more insight into how animals might evolve as a consequence of global warming.

    Read the full story: Case Western Reserve University
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

    Lizards can regrow their tail, but the regrown tails are much simpler than the original one
    Why salamanders can regrow organs and lizards cannot - life science news

    Researchers have found that neural stem cells in the spinal cord ensure that salamanders can regrow proper tails. When transplanting these cells into lizards, that can also regenerate the tail to some extent, these animals were also able to regrow a proper tail. It appeared that the neural stem cells in the lizard can only differentiate into glial cells (cells with a supporting function), but not into neurons that should steer the whole regneration process. As lizards are the closest relatives to mammals that can regrow a part of the body, they may serve as an intermediate to study the molecular mechanisms underlying regeneration.

    Read the full story: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

    Men increased their care hours as much as women did, resulting in similar levels of care when their partner became ill. Credit:
    Men take care of their spouses just as much as women do - science news

    A new study suggests that men respond to their spouse’s illness just as much as women do and as a result are better caregivers in later life than previous research suggests, according to a new Oxford University collaboration. This is good news for an increasingly stretched adult care services, which have become more reliant on patients’ family and spouses for support. The research sits in contrast to previous studies on spousal caregiving, which found that female caregivers tend to be more responsive. However, the new results reveal that men are just as responsive to a partner’s illness, as women.

    Read the full story: Oxford University
    Scientific publication: Journals of Gerontology, Series B

    Incivility in the workplace associated with more negative parenting behaviors at home, study says
    When rude to your co-workers their children suffer - science news

    According to a group of scientists, when people are rude to their co-workers or treat them badly, they don’t realize the unintended could be the coworkers’ children. Women who experience incivility in the workplace are more likely to engage in stricter, more authoritarian parenting practices that can have a negative impact on their children. Workplace incivility is any behavior that is rude, disrespectful, impolite, etc. “This research tells us much about the nature and scope of workplace incivility, specifically its detrimental impact on mothering well-being and specific negative parenting behavior”, said researcher Angela Dionisi.

    Read the full story: American Psychological Association
    Scientific publication: Annual convention of the American Psychological Association

    A germinating seed must turn into a small plant before its reserves have exhausted
    A germinating seed has only 48 hours to become a plant and survive - science news

    A germinating seed has only two days to become a young seedling capable of photosynthesis otherwise, the plant will not survive. During these first 48 hours, it relies solely on its internal reserves, which are quickly consumed. If photosynthesis doesn’t start immediately after, the plant will die. A new study showed that this process is controlled by a key mechanism that direct the formation of chloroplasts from proplastids, hitherto poorly studied organelles. This mechanism ensures a rapid transition to autonomous growth, as soon as the seed decides to germinate.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Current Biology

    How are biological principles organized that determine where an embryonic cell should go during development?
    Want to know where a cell should go? Ask a mathematician! - life science news

    Scientists have long puzzled over the question of how the position of each cell is correctly specified, so that limbs, arms and other organs grow at the correct place. Biologists and mathematicians have now joined forces to provide a mathematical model of how cell positioning is organized. They studied a relatively simple organism, the fruit fly, and assessed the importance of a cell in a so-called egg chamber, a collection of 16 cells from one of which will become the fertilizable egg. These 16 cells are formed through incomplete cell division, resulting in cytoplasmic bridges connecting cells. On the basis of these observations it was possible to identify the mathematical principles that govern the packing of cells in the egg chamber. As incomplete cell division has also been observed in other organisms, including amphibians and even mammals, it seems possible that the same mathematic principles apply to the development of animals that are more complex than fruit flies, and even control cell positioning during embryonic development in humans.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Nature Physics

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