May 26, 2019

    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: pexels.com
    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


    Religious men are less inclined to engage in negative sexual behaviors, including aggression and coerce others into performing unwanted sexual acts
    Religiosity decrease sexually aggressive and coercive behaviors in men - science news in short

    New research shows that college men involved in religious activities are less likely to be sexually aggressive and to engage in coercive behaviors. The researchers surveyed 795 men at a large public university in their first, second, third, and fourth years of college. They found that religiosity had an influence on peer norms, pornography consumption, and promiscuity. In turn, these factors had an influence on sexual aggression and sexually coercive behavior. Although the study has some limitations, it suggests that colleges should be open to allowing students to participate in religious activities as this may have positive outcomes.

    Read the full story: PsyPost
    Scientific publication: Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion


    Global warming makes barnacle geese travel faster to their Arctic breeding grounds
    Barnacle geese adjust migration to global warming - life science news

    Barnacle geese have been found to travel faster from their temperate wintering to their Arctic breeding grounds to be in time for the polar spring. The Arctic spring advances in time due to global warming, so that the geese have to change their timing of arrival for successful reproduction. As they migrate faster, they eat and rest less on the way, so that the geese have to recover first before they can lay their eggs. Thus, their faster travelling does not advance the timing of breeding, so that fewer chicks survive until fledgling. These observations are important to assess how animals adapt their behavior to rapidly changing climate conditions.

    Read the full story: Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics – University of Amsterdam
    Scientific publication: Current Biology


    Three-dimensional shapes of modern plants have been made possible by new proteins that are absent in plants' early ancestors
    Plant evolution: from simple 2D to complex 3D shapes with new proteins - life science news

    Plants find their origin in water, in string-like (2D), aquatic green algae to be precise. Their transition to land has been made possible by a genetic novelty, genes that are not found in algae but only in modern, 3D plants. The genes code for CLAVATA, proteins that cause cell divisions at the tips of plant stems to rotate. This spiral development of plants makes the formation of three-dimensional structures possible, and has been instrumental for plants advancing onto land.

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


    Auxin (here visualized in green) is produced and accumulates in the maternal tissue close to the young embryo. Image: Chulmin Park.
    Mother plants steer development of the embryo by the hormone auxin - life science news

    Just as mammalian embryos develop on the basis of a whole battery of signals from the mother, plant embryos need a hormone, called auxin, to develop properly, a new study found. When researchers blocked the synthesis of auxin in the mother, the embryo did not develop properly. Also, when only the embryo could make auxin, but not the mother, the embryo had the same malformations, proving that auxin that controls plant embryo development comes from the mother. This study has resolved a question that had been outstanding for decades.

    Read the full story: Institute of Science and Technology Austria
    Scientific publication: Nature Plants


    The herbicide molecule (top), which inhibits an enzyme (bottom) that plants need for their survival. Image: Tang Research Group / UCLA Samueli
    Discovery of natural herbicide - life science news

    By studying the mechanisms microorganisms use to protect themselves from toxic effects of the chemicals it secretes to kill plants, researchers have found a compound that inhibits the function of an enzyme that is necessary for the plant’s survival. The enzyme catalyses an important metabolic pathway that makes essential amino acids. When this enzyme doesn’t work properly anymore, the plant dies. This pathway does not exist in mammals nor in humans, making it a safe compound to be used as a new class of herbicides.

    Read the full story: University of California – Samueli School of Engineering
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Artistic 3D rendering of the dual spindle in the mammalian zygote. Image: Cartasiova/Hoissan/Reichmann/Ellenberg/EMBL
    Embryo’s first cell division keeps paternal and maternal chromosomes apart - life science news

    Using the recently developed light-sheet microscopy technique, scientists have for the very first time observed that the fertilized egg cell forms two spindles one for the paternal, and one for the maternal chromosomes. In other words, the genetic information from each parent is kept apart during the first cell division. While this was already known for insects, researchers were surprised to see the same now in mouse embryos. Thus, mammalian life starts differently than we thought, and textbooks have to be updated.

    Parental genomes, one in pink and one in blue, remain separated during the first cell division.

    Read the full story: European Molecular Biology Laboratory
    Scientific publication: Science


    Males of Drosophila melanogaster are excited, and those of Drosophila simulans are put off, by female melanogaster pheromones. Image: Katja Schulz through Creative Commons
    Evolution of same-species partner selection lies in the brain - life science news

    As for most animals, mating in flies only occurs between individuals of the same species. But how do male flies discriminate between pheromones from females from the same and from a closely related species? New research shows that male fruit flies from Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans detect pheromones secreted by females from both species, but that this gives opposite responses in the brain. Whereas Drosophila melanogaster pheromones stimulate neurons in the Drosophila melanogaster males, the same pheromones inhibit neurons in the male Drosophila simulans brain. Thus, the evolution for partner selection within the same species is found in the brain, and not in the receptors on the insects’ legs that scent the pheromones.

    Read the full story: Rockefeller University
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Remembering the location of flowers is impaired by pesticides in honey bees
    Pesticides disturb learning and memory in honey bees - life science news

    Even low doses of pesticides that occur in fields with crops reduce learning and memory abilities of honey bees, a new study reports. Learning and memory are crucial for these insects to communicate the whereabouts of nourishing flowers to their conspecifics. Honey bees are important pollinators of plants that are useful to humans, and reduced learning and memory may therefore lead to reduced plant reproduction as well. In Europe, neonicotinoid pesticides will be banned as from December this year, but policy makers should be aware of the devastating effects of other pesticides as well, as shown in this study.

    Read the full story: British Ecological Society
    Scientific publication: Journal of Applied Ecology


    Humans and mice share over 40 genes involved in aggressivity and violence
    Genes involved in aggressivity identified - science news and science communication

    Violent behavior is determined by multiple factors, including genetic ones. A new study has looked into this in detail and has identified 40 genes in humans, but also in mice, that are involved in aggressive behavior. Humans and mice share a common genetic base regarding violent behavior. Interestingly, the study reveals a shared genetic base between the aggressiveness in children and adults and the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and the aggressiveness in adults and major depression. The results could contribute to shaping future pharmacological targets to treat aggressiveness.

    Read the full story: University of Barcelona
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry


    Elevated ambient carbon dioxide puts the protection of monarch butterflies against predators and parasites at risk
    Rising carbon dioxide levels are bad news for monarch butterflies - life science news

    Rising carbon dioxide levels can threat life in more ways than just warming up global temperature, a new study found. Carbon dioxide lowers the amount of cardenolides in the milkweed plants the caterpillars eat. Cardenolides are bitter tasting, toxic, substances that protect the caterpillars from being eaten by predators or invaded by parasites. Thus, by reducing the medicinal properties of the milkweed plants, carbon dioxide negatively influences host-parasite interactions in this emblematic insect. Whether medicinal properties of other plants, that are useful for humans, are affected is not known at present.

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


    Australian monotremes did not receive a jumping gene that all other mammals have. This gives insight into mammalian evolution.
    Genes jump from species to species - life science news

    Genes are not only transferred from parent to child, but also at a large scale from species to species, a new study found. These genes are known as jumping genes, or transposable elements, and copy and paste themselves in the genome of the host and in genomes of other species. How they are being transferred from one species to another is not known, but viruses, ticks and insects may play a role in this. The genes can jump from plants to animals, and are important for evolution as they introduce new DNA in the genome of a species. Often, they paste themselves in a gene, which might become dysfunctional. Therefore, some jumping genes have been associated with neurological disorders and cancers.

    Read the full story: University of Adelaide
    Scientific publication: Genome Biology


    The new insect is found in the extremely diverse transitional zone between the Andes and the Amazonian lowland rainforest. Credit: University of Turku
    New wasp species has a massive stinger - science news in brief

    Amazonia is a region known for its diversity. Now, it has surprised scientists again, with the discovery of a new species of wasps that have an incredibly massive stinger. The stinger of the new parasitoid wasp called Clistopyga crassicaudata is not only long but also very wide, in comparison with the size of its body. The new insect uses its stinger both for laying eggs and injecting venom.

    Read the full story: University of Turku
    Scientific publication: Zootaxa


    The first dogs arriving in the Americas came from Siberia, and disappeared upon contact with European colonists
    History of dogs in the Americas documented - life science news

    Genetic studies on old dog skeletons have revealed that the first dogs to reach the Americas came from Siberia, together with ancient humans, over a land bridge that once connected Siberia with Alaska. These dogs were not domesticated American wolves, as has been thought before. They were already man’s best friends before coming to the Americas. This first lineage of dogs, however, disappeared upon contact with European settlers. Their only “living” legacy is a canine transmissible venereal tumor that can still be found in the European dogs that replaced them.

    Read the full story: University of Illinois
    Scientific publication: Science


    The Galapagos penguins are an unusual and endangered species, the only penguins to live in an equatorial region
    Beak size indicate the sex of Galapagos penguins - science news in short

    Researchers studying the Galapagos penguins must collect a blood sample in order to accurately determine the sex of an individual. This method is, of course, invasive and time-consuming, so scientists have looked for a better way to discriminate male from female penguins. Now, a new study shows that this can be achieved by measuring the size of the beak. This is almost a perfect indicator (>95% accuracy) of whether a bird is male or female. This knowledge will allow scientist s to quickly and accurately determine the sex of penguins in the wild.

    Read the full story: University of Washington
    Scientific publication: Endangered Species Research


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