September 21, 2019

    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


    Rangeomorphs that lived during the Ediacaran over 500 million years ago grew tall to better disperse their offspring. Image: Wikimedia Commons
    Why size matters - life science news

    Why did life favor the development of big creatures? Researchers have addressed this question by studying fossil records of some of the earliest complex organisms on Earth, the rangeomorphs. These are probably some of the earliest animals to exist, appearing during the Ediacaran over 500 million years ago. They were sessile, had no mouth or organs, and look like two-meter-high fern leaves. Researchers found that it was not food that these organisms were competing for that made them big, as there was plenty about in the oceans where they lived. Rather, the bigger ones seem better possibilities to disperse their offspring. This result shows that the colonization potential may outweigh resource competition during evolution.

    Read the full story: University of Cambridge
    Scientific publication: Nature Ecology and Evolution


    The foot of a greater slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) showing a grooming claw on the second toe and flat nails on all the other toes. Credit: Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace
    How we lost our grooming claw - science news in brief

    Some primates, like lemurs and lorises, have nails plus a grooming claw on one or more toes for removing parasites. Humans, apes, and monkey don’t have these grooming claws. However, tiny fossils from a 56-million-year-old, mouse-sized animal that is the ancestor of all primates, suggest they were present in early primates. Ancient primates had a grooming claw, but it was later lost in evolution. Humans, as well as the more evolved apes, lost theirs probably due to more complex social networks and increased social grooming. We had each other to pick the lice and ticks from our hair, so the grooming claw became less important and was eventually lost.

    Read the full story: University of Berkely
    Scientific publication: Journal of Human Evolution


    Cranial reconstruction and skull of the new gibbon species. Credit: Dr Samuel Turvey and Professor Helen Chatterjee
    Extinct species of gibbon discovered in 2-millennia-old Chinese tomb - science news in short

    An ancient tomb from China revealed an unexpected surprise for zoologists: a new species of gibbon (a small type of monkey). The tomb dates back 2,300 years and it contained the remains of several animals. The gibbon was classified as a new species, that doesn’t exist today and probably went extinct around 300 years ago. The new species was baptized Junzi imperialis. The specimen from the tomb was most likely kept by a pet by a royal Chinese family.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Science


    Children are tolerant and respect other religions, even in a region with a history of religious conflicts
    Children of different faiths are unexpectedly tolerant for other’s religious beliefs - science news in brief

    Gujarat, India was the site of violent religious conflicts between Hindu and Muslims adepts in 2002. A new study looked at approximately 100 Hindu and Muslim children (9 – 15 years old), at two different schools in that region, to understand their position towards other religions. Surprisingly, the study showed that while most children prefer members of their own religion and their own religious rules, they do not think those rules should apply to members of other faiths. Instead, children indicated that members of other faiths should abide by their respective religious customs. The findings also showed that children distinguish between religious rules and universal moral rules, providing hope that tolerant attitudes and respect for other religions could be developed in a region with a history of conflict.

     Read the full story: University of California Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Child Development


    Flatworms are known for their remarkable regenerative capacity
    One cell can regenerate an entire organism - life science news

    Researchers have found a particular stem cell in flatworms that can, on its own, regenerate a complete flatworm. This amazing cell was found using a whole battery of modern techniques used in molecular biology, and turned out to be a specific type of stem cell expressing the protein TSPAN-1 on the cell membrane. This finding has important implications for the study of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, and ultimately for human health.

    Read the full story: Stowers Institute for Medical Research
    Scientific publication: Cell


    Hundreds of people in the United Stated consider scorpions more fearful than spiders
    What do you fear more: a spider or a scorpion - science news in brief

    Fear of spiders is one of the most common phobias, despite the fact that generally, spiders pose little danger for humans. It is not clear why so many people have this fear, but many researchers consider it an innate response. How about scorpions? Despite having less reputation as monsters, scorpions are more dangerous and fearing them would be justified. To test which of these two creatures are scarier, scientists asked 800 students from five universities which one they fear most. Surprisingly, the fear of scorpions was higher than the fear of spiders, even in places where scorpions are not found. For the moment it is not clear why this is the case.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: American Entomologist


    Pandoraviruses are the biggest viruses on Earth and make new genes all the time. Image: CNRS/AMU
    Pandoraviruses: giant gene factories . life science news

    The recently discovered pandoraviruses are in many ways surprising. Apart from their big size (they are the size of bacteria), they have an enormous variety of genes. Many of these genes do not have an apparent function, and no two individual viruses have the same. It seems therefore unlikely that pandoraviruses have inherited their genome from a common ancestor, but rather, that they spontaneously make the new genes by themselves. In other words, these viruses are giant gene factories. If this is confirmed by further research, this would add an new chapter to the history of evolution.

    Read the full story: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Chromosomes are not separately stored in the nucleus, but are organized in hubs where gene expression is controled
    How DNA, genes and chromosomes are organized in the nucleus - life science news

    How can a cell find quick access to genes that have to be switched on or off on six feet of DNA that is stored in the cell’s nucleus of only a micrometer in diameter? To answer this question, scientists have developed a new technique that maps out where genes and chromosomes are within the nucleus. It turned out that genes and chromosomes (the larger blocks of DNA with many genes) that should be switched off are localized together in so-called nucleoli, and those that should be switched on in nuclear speckles. These nuclear domains also contain the proteins that control the switching on and off of genes, and RNA’s that will help to build the cell’s proteins. Thus, different chromosomes and the genes they contain group together in hubs to make the regulation of gene expression extremely efficient.

    Read the full story: California Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Cell


    Conifer trees in Patagonia show variable responses to climate change
    Trees respond differently to climate change - life science news

    Trees do not respond equally to climate change, even if they are from the same species, a new study found. Researchers came to this conclusion after examining growth rings from conifer trees, Pilgerodendron uviferum, in northern, central and southern Patagonia. They observed divergence in growth after the 1950s of trees growing in the northern and southern regions, when climate changes resulted in altered dry and wet conditions. These results have important consequences for modeling the effects of climate change on tree populations in that it is not possible to base predictions on a single parameter per species to represent an entire species’ growth.

    Read the full story: Portland State University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Biogeography


    Historians scanned tens of thousands of newspaper pages from a small region in Europe in order to understand how it changes around the First World War
    Lost corner of Austrian Empire rediscovered with the help of artificial intelligence - science news in brief

    Have you heard of the Princely County of Gorizia and Gradisca? Probably not! It was a small part of the Austrian empire, now a border region divided between Italy and Slovenia. Not much is known about the recent history of this place, so in order to study it, scientists investigated 47,000 pages of newspapers published here between 1873 and 1914. To do such an enormous job they employed artificial intelligence to automatically scan the pages and extract the individual stories of thousands of people. The study provides insights into the collective trends of the population just before the First World War, during the final years of the Empire.

    Read the full story: University of Bristol
    Scientific publication: Historical Methods


    Bad news travels fast, but in the process, they become inaccurate and more negative
    Bad news are distorted by crowds becoming more negative, inaccurate and hysterical - science news in brief

    A research study investigated for the first time the way negative news are amplified and transmitted by large groups of people. The study shows that bad news (for example, about terrorism, disaster, disease outbreaks) becomes increasingly negative, inaccurate and hysterical when passed from person to person. “The more people share information, the more negative it becomes, the further it gets from the facts, and the more resistant it becomes to correction”, said Professor Thomas Hills who led the study. The research is important for understanding the proliferation and impact of news stories, fake news, and the diffusion of messages on social media.

    Read the full story: University of Warwick
    Scientific publication: Risk Analysis


    A surprising finding: bees understand the concept of zero. Until now it was thought that this was reserved exclusively to humans and some animals with large sophisticated brains. But experiments with bees, in which they were trained to choose images with the lowest number of elements, proved that even insects with their tiny brains can learn to discriminate between one and zero. Indeed, if a tiny brain is sufficient to learn the difficult concept of zero – even the Romans did not have a symbol for it! – it might be possible to use relatively simple systems to teach artificial intelligence new things, researchers suggest.

    Read the full story: RMIT University
    Scientific publication: Science


    A plant's vascular system is visible in leafs as veins
    This is how a plant cell knows it should become a phloem cell - life science news

    Botanists have discovered how a plant cell develops into a phloem cell, a cell that is part of the plant’s vascular system that supplies other plant cells with sugars. In an initial phase, the molecule auxin accumulates in the cell. At the same time, the regulator protein BRX inhibits the activity of another regulator, PAX, that transports auxin out of the cell. As auxin levels rise, BRX is inactivated and PAX is therefore disinhibited, causing auxin levels to fall. This will result in BRX activity and auxin levels rise again, and the process repeats itself. This cyclic flux of auxin seems to be important for the differentiation into phloem cells.

    Read the full story: Technical University of Munich
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Swimming in a group allows fish to move while consuming less energy
    Fish swim in schools to save energy - science news in short

    Scientists have tried to understand for quite a while now if the schooling behavior of fish enables them to gain an energetic advantage when swimming in flowing waters. A new study shows that indeed, this is the case. Researchers used a highly detailed simulation of the interactions between the swimming fish and the water moving around them. The study determined that the fish swam most energetically when they swam not one after the other, as previously suggested, but at an offset from the swimming direction of the leader. The results have applications for improving energy-efficient swimming for underwater drones or similar devices.

    The fish swimming in the back harnessed the vortices generated by the leader. They intercept them with their heads, splitting the vortex into fragments which are then guided down their bodies. The progress of these vortices supplies the fish with thrust without robbing the leader of energy. Credit: ETH Zurich

    Read the full story: ETH Zurich
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)


    Cats and dogs prefer different types of nutrients in their food
    Cats and dogs prefer different types of nutrients in their food - science news in brief

    The first factor in choosing their food, for cats and dogs, is the palatability - how good it tastes. However, when food with similar palatability, but different micronutrients composition is offered the cats and the dogs choose different things, according to a new research study. Dogs gladly go for the food rich in fats. Cats prefer aliments that have a high content of carbohydrates. This reflects the physiological needs of the two different species. The choices are dictated by the animal’s metabolism and show that contrary to popular belief, cats do not necessarily prefer a diet rich in proteins.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Experimental Biology


    The bright colors of the poison dart frogs and their arrangement make an effective camouflage when viewed from far away
    Poison dart frog’s bright colors also work as camouflage - science news in brief

    Poison dart frogs produce deadly toxins that are harmful to many animals and humans. Their skin has a specific pattern of bright colors which act as a warning signal for predators. However, this defense strategy is not always effective, as some predators have developed tolerance to the frogs’ toxins. Interestingly, according to a new study, the colors also work as camouflage, thus providing additional protection for the frogs. Although quite visible from close-by, when viewed from far away, the colors blend easily into the environment, making the frog almost invisible.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    Simple physics and techniques were used to place very heavy stone hats on the statues from Easter Island. Credit: Sean Hixon / Penn State
    How did they put 13-ton stone hats on the Easter Island statues - science news in brief

    The giant statues from the Easter Island hold many secrets, but one of them might have been solved by a new study. Scientists have been trying to understand how did the ancient builders managed to position huge stone hats, sometimes weighing 13 tonnes, on the heads of the statues. It turns out that the hats were rolled up on large ramps to the top of a standing statue using a technique called parbuckling. The study estimates that using this simple approach, a team of only 15 workers could have performed the delicate operation. After this step, the hats were sculptured into their final form, then levered and pivoted into the final position. 

    Read the full story: Pennsylvania State University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Archaeological Science


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