May 26, 2019

    Young mongooses learn from each from a single adult, not the parents
    Inheriting learning not from the parents, but from role models - life science news

    A new study shows that young mongooses learn their eating behavior from role models and not from their parents. This is considered as cultural inheritance, or the transmission of socially learned behavior across generations. In humans, cultural inheritance has a huge influence on human behavior. Humans do not behave on the basis of genetics, but by learning from parents, teachers and cultural role models. While it might be expected that cultural learning leads to uniformity, this is actually not the case, as each mongoose learns from a different individual, and behavioral diversity is maintained.

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


    Sharks helped marine biologists to discover a new oceanic region, full of life, in an area considered to be deserted
    Sharks lead scientist to new, rich and diverse oceanic area - science news - marine biology

    After following sharks from the coast of North America for more than 20 years, scientists discovered that they are frequently going to a place located a thousand miles off the coast of Baja California in Mexico. Satellite images suggested that area is an underwater desert, so why do the sharks go there? This mystery triggered more research that involved tagging more than 30 sharks and following them in the ocean. Surprisingly, scientists discovered that the marine region in question was full of life, not at all a desert. It hosts many animals that attract and support large predators, like the sharks. The scientists didn’t know this area existed until sharks led them there. 

    Read the full story: NPR
    More about the marine biology research of the Schmidt Ocean Institute


    Tracking devices provide information about how efficient storks fly and this, in turn, predicts how far they will migrate
    After only 10 minutes of flight, scientists predict if storks migrate to Africa or stay in Europe - science news in brief

    Not all the storks migrate to the warm lands from Africa during the winter. Some of them stop in the south of Europe. Is it possible to predict which birds will travel one way or the other? Now, scientists developed a way to predict if a particular stork will migrate to Western Africa or spend the winter in southern Europe. To understand this, they equipped storks with devices that can track the bird’s location and its acceleration. The prediction is made based on the way the birds fly: efficient fliers migrate to West Africa, while the others will remain in Europe. This is part of an ongoing study that follows over 60 storks on their migration.

    This video shows the different flapping behavior of 27 individual storks. Some of them flap their wings many times (red color) and others fly more efficiently and flap their wings less (blue color). The more efficient flyers are able to exploit favorable air thermals and they will most likely migrate to Africa for the winter. Credit: Max Plank Society. 

    Read the full story: Max Plank Gesellschaft
    Scientific publication: Science


    Aphids live in symbiosis with Buchnera sp., a microorganism that helps the insects produce amino acids
    High-sugar diet – how do insects live on it - science news in brief

    For humans, a diet rich in sugars is very bad for health. However, some insects, like aphids, live almost exclusively by eating sugars from plants and they do very well, despite the inability of their cells to produce important nutrients (like amino acids). So, how does that work? A new study shows that aphids have a symbiotic relationship with some bacteria that live inside their cells. The symbionts stimulate the production of amino acids (essential for building proteins), helping the aphids to survive. Interestingly, the cells that house the symbiotic bacteria have different DNA methylation patterns depending on what type of plant sap the aphid is consuming.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Genes, Genomes, Genetics


    An early mammal relative could have had enough time to spread across continents, as a new study suggests the separation occurred later than previously believed. Credit Jorge A. Gonzalez
    Fossil provides evidence that mammals had more time to spread across continents - science news - paleonthology

    The study of a 130-million-years fossil provided valuable insights into the spread of mammals on different continents. The fossil is evidence that the super-continental split likely occurred much more recently than scientists had previously thought. It suggests that the separation of the ancient landmass Pangea continued much longer, and it was completed about 15 million years later than current estimates. Thus, migrations and spread of wildlife could have occurred for a longer time. The fossil belongs to a new group of early mammal relatives that migrated from Asia to Europe, into North America and further onto major southern continents.

    Read the full story: University of Chicago Medicine
    Scientific publication: Nature


    6-weeks old human embryo, 3D illustration
    How human embryos take shape - life science news

    How do early human embryos know which cell type they should become? To answer this question, scientists have studied human embryonic cells in a petridish, and found that some of them became so-called organizers: cells that send biochemical signals to instruct other cells into which cell type they should differentiate. Then, they transplanted early human embryo cells to early chicken embryos, and observed that the chicken embryo started to from a second spinal column of human origin, but that the nervous system developing with it was from chicken origin. These results show that early decisions in the developing embryo use the same cell types (organizers) and signaling molecules in chicken and humans, and make the study of early fetal life possible.

     Read the full story: Rockefeller University
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Dividing breast cancer cells
    To divide nor not to divide, that’s a cell’s question - life science news

    How does a cell know when it is time to divide? While it was already known that cells need to grow to a certain size before they will divide, scientists have now discovered that this is necessary to accommodate the synthesis of four key proteins in sufficient quantity. These proteins are transcription factors that have to saturate the binding sites of 200 genes to start the cell division’s program. These results are important to for the understanding of the balance between cell growth and cell division, which is implicated in, for instance, cancer.

    Read the full story: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    Scientific publication: Cell Systems


    Variegated fairy wrens recognize and cooperate with individuals from other wren species
    Cooperation by birds from different species - life science news

    While it has long been thought that birds of closely related species compete with each other for territory and food, this turned out not always to be the case. In fact, researchers have found that individuals from two different species of Australian fairy-wrens recognize each other, and even form stable partnerships that help them forage and defend their shared territory as a group. Thus, sociality in birds not only applies to conspecifics, but also to individuals from other species, and this to the benefit of the entire group.

    Read the full story: The University of Chicago Medicine
    Scientific publication: Behavioral Ecology


    When predators are close, giraffes do not group together, as the other animals do
    Giraffes’ group behavior doesn’t follow common sense - science news in brief

    When predators pose a risk, animals gather in larger groups to protect themselves. However, a study showed that this is not true for giraffes. The size of giraffe groups is not influenced by the presence of predators. It is the first time that scientists discover this behavior in animals, opposite to what is normally expected, and it is not clear why they behave like this. This shows how little we know about giraffes, a group of animals listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation in Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. 

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Journal of Zoology


    The study suggests that a chimp’s bed is (surprisingly) cleaner than a human bed
    Who has the filthiest beds: humans or chimpanzees - science news in brief

    A new study analyzed how dirty the “beds” of chimpanzees are by collecting samples and analyzing the number and types of microorganisms and other tiny animals. Only 3.5% of the bacteria found in the beds came from the chimps themselves (the rest comes from the surrounding environment). The bad news is that in a human bed, this number is double! Human beds are full of microorganisms from saliva, skin and even feces. When it comes to parasites (fleas and lice) chimps didn’t have too many. It was surprising how clean the sleeping place of chimps was. On the other hand, it seems that our beds are not as clean as we would like to think…

    Read the full story: Smithsonian
    Scientific publication: Royal Society Open Science


    Humans and other mammals have the genes required for digesting insects
    Why do we have genes for digesting insects? - science news in brief

    Humans and all other mammals contain genes for chitinases, enzymes involved in digesting the hard outer shell of insects. In most cases, these genes are inactive, but why do we have them in the first place? A new study shows that they are inherited from a common insect-eating ancestor of the present mammals. The scientists found five different chitinase enzyme genes in the genomes of big mammals. This discovery could answer some interesting questions about animal evolution.

    Read the full story: University of California, Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Science Advances


    Coffee plants may be endangered by tiny worms and scientists developed a quick way to identify these damaging organisms
    Scientists declare war against microscopic worm attacking coffee plants - science news in brief

    The coffee farms around the world are attacked and damaged by microscopic worms from the Pratylenchus and Meloidogyne nematode species. The need for an easy and fast way of detecting this worm is increasing and now, a new study shows that this aim can be achieved. Researchers collected soil samples from coffee plantations from Brazil, Vietnam, and Indonesia and tested them for the DNA of the worms. Using PCR, a reliable technique for detecting and amplifying DNA, they were able to accurately identify the presence of the worms. The bad news was that the study found the nematodes to be extremely common, finding them in all the samples analyzed.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Phytopathology


    A new method for replicating RNA might have helped RNA-based primordial life forms to multiply. The figure shows the different structures of DNA (left) and RNA (right).
    Experimental RNA replication system provides clues about how primordial life might have multiplied - science news in brief

    A new type of laboratory-created genetic replication system, not known to exist in nature, offered some clues about how the primordial life might have reproduced. It is likely that the first life forms on Earth were based on RNA, a molecule similar to DNA. There is, however, a problem with the replication of RNA molecules, because they are often folded and this blocks the process. Now scientists managed to create a biological system called a ribozyme that is able to overcome this problem and replicate RNA (including itself). Scientists believe that the “primordial soup” contained some RNA molecules that were able to replicate using a similar mechanism, providing clues about the beginnings of life on our planet.

    Read the full story: Medical Research Council
    Scientific publication: eLife


    For a turtle called the red-eared slider, a hatchling’s sex depends on the temperature in the nest. Cooler temperatures give mostly males, and higher temperature females
    A boy or a girl? Temperature-dependent molecular biology decides in turtles - life science news

    While gender is encoded by our chromosomes, turtles and some other reptiles let temperature decide whether the next generation will be boys or girls. In a new study, biologists have discovered how this works. At low temperature (26 oC), a protein is active that will stimulate the expression of genes that promote the growth of the testes and will thus give male offspring. At high temperature (32 oC), this protein is inactive, no testes are formed, and the offspring will be female. Importantly, the researchers knocked out the gene in embryos that were kept at 26 oC, and female gonads developed where normally testes would be expected to occur. Thus, the determination of gender by temperature is not encoded in the genome, but by a protein that switches on the genetic program for the development of testes.

    Read the full story: Duke University
    Scientific publication: Science


    Artist representation of Magyarosuchus, the five-meter long ancestor of modern crocodiles. Credit: Márton Szabó
    Large-bodied fossil monster is missing link in crocodile evolution - science news paleontology in brief

    A fossil found hidden in the mountain of Hungary, in 1996, provided valuable information about how crocodiles evolved, according to a new study. The prehistoric animal was five meters long and it lived 180 million years ago, during the Jurassic. It shares features with two families of prehistoric crocodiles: it had a heavy armor, but also a tail fin. These anatomical details identify it as a very likely candidate for the missing link between the two groups. The newly identified species was baptized Magyarosuchus.

    Read the full story: University of Edinburgh
    Scientific publication: PeerJ


    The DNA of ancient and medieval hepatitis B virus has been analyzed by scientists
    What we learned from 7000 years old hepatitis B virus - science news in brief

    Scientists managed to successfully isolate and reconstruct the DNA of the hepatitis B viruses that infected people about 7000 years ago (Neolithic). They also studied the DNA of medieval viruses extracted from human bones. The study discovered that the ancient viruses were similar to the modern ones, however, they come from a distinct lineage that is now extinct. In fact, the old extinct virus was very similar to chimpanzee and gorilla viruses. The DNA of the Neolithic virus is the oldest virus genomes reconstructed to date.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: eLife


    To discover the secrets of animal movement, scientists have trained a spider to jump on command while filming it with a high-speed camera. The spider can jump over a distance of six times its body length (compare this with maximally 1.5 body lengths for humans!), either using a spring-like mechanism of the muscles or using internal fluid pressure. The first strategy is energetically costly, but brings the necessary precision for capturing prey. The internal fluid pressure system is more economic and used for travelling longer distances to move about in rough terrain. These results may help in the development of a new class of micro-robots with these kinds of movements.

    Read the full story: University of Manchester
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    If scientists succeed to rejuvenate dogs, humans will be next
    Startup wants to reverse aging in dogs - science news - aging gene theraphy

    The startup Rejuvenate Bio has an ambitious goal: to make old dogs young again! The company, which has already run preliminary tests, says they will use gene therapy to reverse aging. The approach is based on positive results reported by studies on more primitive animals such as flatworms or fruit flies. It is not clear how advanced the company’s research is but, if they will succeed in rejuvenating dogs, this will have major implications for humans too. How knows, maybe in the future, you will be 100 in the body of a 30-year-old, playing with your very active dog that is much older than it should be! 

    Read the full story: MIT Technology Review
    Grant application proposal (accepted): SBIR-STTR


    Alligators extend their habitat from the swamps to include the beach
    Conservation measures pay off: big predators recolonise their original habitats - life science news

    Many predators show up in funny places, as they return to their original habitats where they lived before they became endangered. Alligators, for example, appear to live on the beach and not only in the swamps where they found their last refuge. Killer whales swim up the rivers, and sea otters can live outside the kelp fields where they had retreated to escape from extinction. Now that their numbers are increasing, as a result of wild life conservation, they are on their way to recolonise their long-lost habitats, showing that these animals have huge adaptive capabilities and can take up once again their role in their original ecosystems.

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


    A rendition of what the Hyneria lindae might have looked like. By Jason Poole of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
    Now we know how this 365 million years old aquatic predator looked like - paleontology science news in brief

    In 1968 a new extinct aquatic predator was first described. Known as Hyneria lindae, the animal remained quite a mystery for a long time, due to the lack of fossils. Now, after 25 years of collecting fossils, scientists have completed the picture of the elusive fish. According to the new study, the animal was a 3.6 meters (12 foot) long and lived during the Devonian era. It was a fierce predator with small eyes and a sensory system that allowed him to find the prey using pressure waves.

    Read the full story: Drexel University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology


    Passing by sharks leave their DNA in the water and this can be used to identify the species from an ecosystem
    DNA traces in the water give away the identity of sharks - short science news - biodiversity and environment

    The biodiversity of sharks is impressive and often scientists are not able to count all species in a give area. A team of scientists compared three different methods for sampling sharks in the New Caledonian archipelago: sending divers to identify and count species, video camera recordings, and analyzing the DNA left in the seawater. The winner was the DNA analysis. It identified 13 species, six of which were missed by the two other approaches. Analyzing environmental DNA could be the next step for species identification; however, it can not provide information about the number of individuals in a habitat.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Science Advances


    A microorganism has been killing male embryos of fruit flies and now we know why
    The mysterious killer of male fruit flies finally identified - short science news

    Since 1950s scientists have tried to solve a mystery: what kills male fruit flies embryos (Drosophila), without affecting the females? Some time ago it was discovered that the cause was a bacteria called Spiroplasma poulsonii however, it was not clear why it kills only the males. Now, a new study revealed the molecular mechanisms behind the mystery. The culprit is a protein called Spaid which interferes with a male-specific genetic process, thus explaining why the bacteria only kills the males. “To our knowledge, Spaid is the first bacterial effector protein identified to date that affects host cellular machinery in a sex-specific manner,” says Dr. Toshiyuki Harumoto, one of the authors of the paper.

    Read the full story: EPFL
    Scientific publication: Nature


    The first beak to evolve was a horn-covered pincer tip at the end of the jaw of an animal that takes a place in the transition from reptiles to birds. This animal, Ichthyornis dispar, lived in North America nearly 100 million years ago and probably looked like a sea gull. It would have used its beak as a precision grasping instrument to replace its paws and hands that had already transformed into wings. Also, Ichtyornis had a brain like modern birds, but the skull was still dinosaur, showing that the brain transformed before the skull in the transition from reptiles to birds. These discoveries give new insights in the origin of birds.

    Read the full story: Yale University
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Scientists have grown embryos from stem cells to blastocysts that successfully implanted into the uterus
    Creation of embryos without egg or sperm - life science news

    Dutch scientists have created mouse embryos from stem cells, thus without fertilizing an egg with sperm cells. The embryos resemble natural ones in the sense that they implant into the uterus and initiate pregnancy. Using stem cells to create embryos is a radically new approach to study the first phases of development, infertility or the onset of diseases. Also, this new method can be used for screening of new medical techniques and pharmacological compounds for the treatment of disease.

    Read the full story: Hubrecht Institute
    Scientific publication: Nature


    The mantis shrimp has an extraordinary color vision despite rolling their eyes permanently.
    Mantis shrimp has the most extreme eyes in the animal kingdom - short science news

    The Mantis shrimp has amazing vision in many aspects. Also, they have the most mobile eyes in the animal world. In a new study, scientists investigated how vision works in these animals. Normally the eyes have to stop moving in order to see clearly, but the eyes of the Mantis shrimp roll constantly, without decreasing their vision. Moreover, the eyes move independently of each other. Their visual system seems immune to the effects of rolling the eyes. The shrimps can still tell which side is up or down even when the eyes are rolled, which is unusual in other animals. Science still has to figure out why the shrimps move their eyes and how are they still able to preserve such sharp vision.

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


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