February 18, 2019

    The cryo-EM structure of the NAD(P)H dehydrogenase-like complex (NDH), a protein complex crucial for photosynthesis. Thomas Laughlin/UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab
    Molecular image of key enzyme in photosynthesis obtained - life short science news

    With the aid of the recently developed direct electron counting camera, researchers have succeeded in obtaining a molecular blueprint of a protein complex called NADH dehydrogenase-like complex from cyanobacteria.

    This complex plays an important role in photosynthesis, but its precise functions in the process of transforming sunlight into sugar can only now be explored in more detail.

    The current study could therefore have important implications for the production of bioproducts, such as plastic alternatives and biofuel.

    Read the full story: Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Asymmetical pollen patterns are favored by nature over symmetrical pollen patterns. Image: SEM images: Asja Radja; Simulations: Asja Radja and Maxim Lavrentovich.
    Asymmetrical pollen grains are preferred by nature - life short science news

    Plants favor the production of uneven, asymmetrical patterns on the surface of pollen grains over more symmetrical patterns, a new study shows.

    It seems that pollen evolve into asymmetrical pattern because of kinetic arrest of pattern evolution, which would lead to symmetrical forms when pattern evolution is completed.

    This interpretation was made possible with a biophysical model that researchers hope to refine to shed more light on pollen evolution and to explore the possibility of designing artificial pollen.

    Read the full story: University of Tennessee
    Scientific publication: Cell


    The yellow-bellied sea snake (Hydrophis platurus) is the only reptile in the order Squamata that lives on the open sea. Image: Mark Sandfoss, University of Florida
    Sea snakes do not drink seawater - life short science news

    In contrast to what biologists had always assumed, sea water snakes do not drink seawater, and need freshwater in order not to dehydrate.

    Now it turns out that sea snakes can drink freshwater after heavy rains, when the rainwater forms lenses or patches on the surface of the seawater.

    This is of a low enough salinity for the sea snakes to drink.

    Read the full story: University of Florida
    Scientific publication: PLoS ONE


    Bacteria underwent a boost in evolution in the Paleozoic Era
    Hidden history of bacteria evolution revealed - latest science news stories

    Since bacteria is not well represented in fossil records it is difficult for science to understand how different groups evolved. Now, researchers have devised a new approach to pinpoint evolutionary milestones for these microorganisms.

    Using the new approach, scientists discovered that around 450 to 350 million years ago, several groups of soil bacteria acquired a new gene from fungi. This allowed them to digest chitin, a hard material found in fungi and insects. This allowed the bacteria to thrive in a chitin-rich environment.

    This evolutionary step occurred at the same time with the diversification of land animals including chitin-producing arthropods as shown by fossil records.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: BMC Evolutionary Biology


    The Chinese giant salamander is a delicacy and under threat of extinction. Image: J. Patrick Fischer [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
    We are eating large animals to extinction - life short science news

    Scientists report that 143 species of large animals are decreasing in number, and 171 are under threat of extinction.

    The major cause of the decline of large animals appears consumption by humans. Together with habitat destruction and increased risk for accidents (like getting caught in a net or trap), especially large animals are under threat.

    Preserving the large fauna might be difficult to achieve, due to economic and cultural objections.

    Read the full story: Oregon State University
    Scientific publication: Conservation Letters


    Could Scandinavian invaders, know as the Vikings, have introduced leprosy to Ireland?
    Leprosy brought to Ireland by Vikings, according to new evidence - science news articles with summaries

    Little is known about leprosy in medieval Ireland, therefore a team of scientists studied the skeletons of five ancient humans with leprosy, from cemeteries around Dublin, to understand more.

    The scientists performed genetic analyses of the leprosy bacterium (M. leprae) strains and discovered that the subjects had probably two different strains of leprosy, one originating in Scandinavia and one from the Middle East, but also present in Scandinavia.

    From the five individuals, two grew up in Scandinavia and the remaining three did not seem to have been locals from Dublin. The researchers concluded that all evidence points towards Vikings introducing leprosy to Ireland.

    Read the full story: University of Southampton
    Scientific publication: PLoS ONE


    An orange-and-white clownfish peeks out from the folds of a mostly-red anemone to spot predators. Image: Stefan Andrews
    On the ecology of anemones and fish - life short science news

    While it was known that smaller fish hide between anemones, marine biologists have found that bigger fish do the same thing, but only as juveniles.

    Fish do this to avoid predation. In return for providing protection, the anemones get access to nutrition and better aeration of the water.

    This mutual relationship, driven by predation, gives more information about the ecosystem of coral reefs as a whole.

    Read the full story: University of Delaware
    Scientific publication: Ecology Letters


    Mudskippers are fish, but spend most of their time out of the water
    Fish science explained: meet ten of the weirdest fishes - life short science news

    Most people know fish from the dinner table, or from their aquarium. Not many people know that fish form an extremely diverse group of animals and have evolved into many species that are as different from each other as night and day.

    Many of them have unique ways to see the world around them or to hunt prey. Others change their appearance or their physiology so dramatically over their lifespan, that it is hard to imagine that one is looking at the same fish at different phases of its life cycle.

    Read in our special "Science explained" article all about the weirdest properties of fishes, and find out how they have adapted to the different aquatic environments they live in!

    Read the full story: Science explained: Top ten fabulous fishes


    Birds see much more contrast in a green environment such as forests than we do
    Seeing the world through a bird’s eye - life short science news

    While the human eye use the primary colors red, green and blue for color vision, birds use in addition a fourth color, invisible to the human eye : ultraviolet.

    With the aid of a special camera and advanced calculations, biologists have been able to figure out what the world looks like through the eyes of birds. It appears that birds perceive the upper sides of leaves much lighter than we do, and from below the leaves appear very dark.

    This enhances contrast dramatically, so that birds can navigate and forage easily in forests, and do not see the forest as a uniform green wall as we do.

    Read the full story: Lund University
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    The green fluorescence emitted by corals. Image: NIBB
    Corals attract symbiotic algae with fluorescent green light - life short science news

    Reef-building corals can only live in nutrition-poor waters because they have a symbiotic relationship with dinoflagellates (zooxanthellae, a group of algae).

    It now appears that corals attract these algae by emission of green fluorescent light.

    The attraction of zooxanthellae by corals may help corals to recover from bleaching following periods of high temperatures.

    Read the full story: National Institutes of Natural Sciences
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA


    A new snake species was found in the stomach of a coral snake (shown) in 1976, and has only now been described
    New snake species discovered ….. in the stomach of another snake - life short science news

    A snake that had been found in the stomach of a Central American coral snake Southern Mexico in 1976 turns out to be a new species. Researchers have baptized it Cenaspis aenigma (something like « mysterious dinner snake).

    It has quite a few characteristics that are unknown to other snakes, prompting the researchers to place it in a new genus.

    Based on some physical features, it seems likely that Cenaspis aenigma feeds on insects and spiders and lives in burrows. This might explain why, surprisingly, this newly-descibed snake has never been observed in the wild.

    Read the full story: University of Texas – Arlington
    Scientific publication: Journal of Herpetology


    Biodiversity around apple orchards attracts more bee species for pollination
    Why biodiversity is economically important for the production of food - life short science news

    Orchards surrounded by agricultural land are visited by a few bee species, and this leads to relatively poor pollination and production, a new study shows.

    In contrast, natural habitats in the immediate vicinity harbor a rich diversity of bee species that each help to pollinate.

    Thus, this study shows the importance of biodiversity for productivity in agriculture.

    Read the full story: Cornell University
    Scientific publication: Science


    In this electron micrograph, a parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, is wedged between the abdominal plates of a honey bee's exoskeleton. Image: UMD/USDA/PNAS
    Parasitic mite of honeybees does not feed on blood, but on fat - life short science news

    The honeybee parasitic mite Varroa destructor does not feed on blood, as previously thought, but consumes an organ called the fat body.

    This organ not only serves many of the same vital functions carried out by our liver, but also stores food and contributes to the bees’ immune systems. As Varroa eats away the fat body, the bees lose their ability to fight pesticides and stored food.

    Now that it is understood how mites do their damage to bees, effective treatments can be developed.

    Read the full story: University of Maryland
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences oft he USA


    Bird wars commenced due to climate change Credit: Maurice van Laar
    Climate change sparks deadly war between two bird species - interesting science news

    As the European winters are getting warmer, the pied flycatchers flying from Africa to Netherlands for breeding, are finding that the resident great tits are already claiming all the nesting sites of the season.

    This has resulted in a dramatic increase in flycatchers being killed in great tit nests. Another reason for this is that both bird species rely on a short available burst in food source, which are the caterpillars to raise their young birds.

    However, interestingly, there is no consequence on the both bird population since the birds mostly dying are the surplus males (males who arrive late and hence unlikely to mate). However, this doesn’t bode well for the future if the surplus male population diminishes.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Current Biology


    Oysters could be following the lunar cycles
    Werewolves respond to moonlight and Who else? Oysters it seems - interesting science news

    In addition to having a circadian clock and a tidal clock, oysters also have a lunar clock which influences the opening and shutting of the shells. Researchers tracked the behavior of 12 Pacific oysters submerged in France over three and a half lunar cycle for study this phenomenon.

    They found that oysters are most open in the presence of a new moon and least open as the moon entered the first quarter and full phase indicating that they can sense the moonlight even if it has less intensity compared to sun rays.

    The scientists further indicate that moonlight levels might influence the possibility of more food being available during low light levels.

    Read the full story: Gaurdian
    Scientific publication: Biology Letters


    The venomous Green Bush Viper (Atheris squamigera) from Cameroon. Image: Benjamin Tapley
    Why some snakes are deadlier than others - life science news

    Scientists have found out why some snakes have highly poisonous venom, whereas others do not, and why there are such huge differences in the quantities of venom stored in the venom glands.

    Following analyses of over 100 snake species, it appeared that venoms evolved to become more potent against animals that are closely related to the prey the snakes typically eat. Also, the difference in venom storage may be related to the probability a snake will encounter a prey. Therefore, storage is particularly important in the big terrestrial species, and less so in aquatic or species or species living in trees that frequently encounter prey.

    Thus, snake venom evolved in the context of the prey they eat and the environment they live in.

    Read the full story: Trinity College Dublin
    Scientific publication: Ecology Letters


    Barley plants contain a new type of carbohydrate, previously unknown
    New type of carbohydrate discovered in cereals - interesting science news

    A new kind of complex carbohydrate has been discovered in barley, the first discovery of this type in the last 30 years.

    The compound is a polysaccharide containing a mix of glucose and xylose. This hybrid polysaccharide behaves as a structural component of the cellular wall providing strength, but it can also be as viscous as a gel.

    The scientists behind this study claim that many potential applications of the new carbohydrate can be imagined, however further research is required to understand its potential uses.

    Read the full story: University of Adelaine
    Scientific publication: ACS Central Science


    Social media implies a social interaction, however, using it is a solitary activity
    Loneliness associated with attraction to social media - top science news stories - society news

    While everyone is nowadays on social media, one cannot overlook the lack of personal interactions when browsing online. According to a recent scientific study, the desire for using social media is associated with a preference for social isolation.

    The study involved 136 participants that were asked to rate the desirability of 40 images showing social media icons, solidarity activities, people socializing or traffic signs (as control). Participants who gave the social media images a high rating also tended to give the solitary images a higher rating.

    “Social media by design seems to be inherently social, but partaking in the activity itself may lead to greater feelings of loneliness by limiting opportunities for real-life socialization,” researcher Lauren Hill told PsyPost.

    Read the full story: PsyPost
    Scientific publication: Psychological Reports


    Touch-sensing neurons from rodents are also sensitive to sounds
    Sound and touch senses overlap in brain of rodents - daily short science news

    We have the tendency to imagine the auditory and tactile sensation as distinct senses, but according to a recent study, there is an overlap in the brain between the two.

    The study analyzed sensory neurons responsible for perceiving tactile sensations in mice and rats and tested how they respond to other stimuli such as light and sound. Although they were completely insensitive to light, the tactile neurons were activated by sounds.

    The study suggests that tactile and auditory information is processed in parallel in the barrel cortex (the region of the brain studied). This combination of tactile and auditory cues may offer a survival advantage to rodents, for example in dark environments. It remains to see if the same is true for humans and how this would be advantageous for us.

    Read the full story: Nara Institue for Science and Technology
    Scientific publication: PLOS One


    In spring, the protein VRN2 breaks down, allowing another protein, PRC2, to initiate flowering
    How memory of flowering plants works - life short science news

    Plants can sense and remember changes in their environment through the formation and segregation of a protein complex.

    Now, scientists have discovered that one protein in this complex, a protein called VRN2, is extremely unstable, and breaks down when temperatures are high and oxygen is plentiful. It becomes stable when temperatures and oxygen are low, for instance when the winter sets in or during flooding. When VRN2 is broken down when spring arrives, another protein PRC2 becomes available to trigger flowering.

    These proteins might be new targets that could support the development of new plant varieties that are resistant to environmental changes, researchers say.

    Read the full story: University of Birmingham
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Researchers at the University of Washington have genetically modified a common houseplant -- pothos ivy -- to remove chloroform and benzene from the air around it. Image: Mark Stone/University of Washington
    A genetically modified plant to keep the air in your house clean - life short science news

    Scientists have genetically modified the common houseplant pothos ivy to express the protein 2E1 to clean the air in your house from the toxic substances chloroform and benzene.

    These compounds are present in small amounts in chlorinated water or in gasoline used in cars and lawn mowers.

    The plants convert chloroform and benzene into useful substances that they can use for their own growth.

    Read the full story: University of Washington
    Scientific publication: Environmental Science & Technology


    A fossil flowering plant, named Nanjinganthus, showing its ovary (bottom center), sepals and petals (on the sides) and a tree-shaped top.Image: Fu et al., 2018, eLIFE
    Evolution of blooming flowers has been advanced to the Early Jurassic era - life short science news

    A new fossil shows that plants with flowers existed already during the Early Jurassic epoch, some 174 million years ago.

    The fossil has been found in the South Xiangshan Formation, an outcrop of rocks in the Nanjing region of China, and is about 50 million years older than the now second oldest fossil of a flowering plant.

    This discovery fits with existing genetic data that suggested that flowers must have evolved earlier than previously thought.

    Read the full story: eLIFE
    Scientific publication: eLIFE


    Using bicycles for short distances could replace up to 40% of the car trips
    Can we replace cars with bicycles? - science news

    A recent study investigated the possibility of replacing car trips with more active ways of transportation, such as bicycles or even walking.

    According to the study, most people would be willing to give up their car and walk for an average distance of 1.6 km (0.99 miles) or cycle for a distance of 3.5 km (2.17 miles). This means that around 20% of car trips could be replaced by walking and 40% by bicycle.

    The study also assessed the perceived barriers in using bicycles instead of cars. Most participants evoked safety and practical issues as the main reasons for not giving up the car. The findings provide valuable information for developing measures to promote the replacement of cars by other non-motorized transport means.

    Read the full story: Polytechnic University of Madrid
    Scientific publication: Sustainability


    More than 570 million years ago, in the Ediacaran period, complex organisms including soft-bodied animals up to a meter long made their appearance in deep ocean waters.
    Origin of complex animals in deep oceans explained by stability of ambient temperature - life short science news

    How could complex animal life have started in the deep oceans, where food and oxygen are scarce? Scientists think they have found the answer: because of the stable temperature there.

    Early complex animals could not regulate their body temperature themselves, but depended on ambient temperature. In a world with low oxygen, they therefore could not have survived the many temperature swings of up to 10 °C in shallow waters.

    Stable temperatures were thus necessary for complex animals to evolve, and this was only found in the deep oceans.

    Read the full story: Stanford University
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the Royal Society B


    Bacterial resistance to antibiotics might develop slower when the bacteria are exposed to a stressor at the same time
    Bacteria show slower evolution when facing two stressors at the same time - life short science news

    Bacteria can adapt relatively quickly to altered living conditions, but they are much less efficient in doing so when they are facing two stressors at the same time. New research has shown that predator stress and antibiotics applied together slowed the development of protection and resistance.

    Genetic analyses revealed that predation and antibiotics each induced a unique set of mutations when applied alone, but when combined, also mutate other genes and thus slow down adaptation processes.

    Such slower bacterial evolution when two stressors are presented might lead to strategies to interfere with the development of antibiotics resistance, which represents a growing problem in human health care.

    Read the full story: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
    Scientific publication: Nature Ecology and Evolution


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