May 26, 2019

    The sea slug Elysia chlorotica that lives on the East coast of Canada and the United States “steals” chloroplasts from algae, stores them in its body, and uses photosynthesis to produce energy that it can live from without further feeding. This is quite remarkable, as it was assumed until now that chloroplasts need the cell nucleus of the algae to function properly. While this is apparently not the case, researchers believe that this might provide a new opportunity to develop solar panels based on artificial photosynthesis for the production of energy. 

    Read the full story: Rutgers - State University of New Jersey
    Scientific publication: Molecular Biology and Evolution

    Mosquitos not only bite to lay eggs, but also when they are thirsty
    Mosquitos bite when they are thirsty - life science news

    Mosquitos have been found not only to bite to get blood for the development of the eggs, but also when they are simply thirsty. Mosquitos that had not had access to water for three hours become more aggressive and start to bite, whereas mosquitos that had been drinking remained calm and did not bite. Researchers say that these observations are worrisome, because with rising global temperatures and expected droughts, mosquitos are more likely to come to humans to drink and spread diseases in the process.

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

    This Australian marsupial eliminates competition to have more food. Image by Gernot Heiser through Wikimedia Commons
    This lesser hairy-footed dunnart eats its competitors - life science news

    Researchers from the University of Sydney have found that the lesser hairy-footed dunnart (Sminthopsis youngsoni, Dasyuridae) consume unexpectedly large quantities of wolf spiders. Further observations indicated that both the dunnart and the wolf spiders hunt the same prey, ants, and they do so during the night. In times of prey scarcity, the larger predator (in this case the dunnart) eats its smaller competitor (the wolf spiders) to reduce competition for food. This phenomenon is known as “intraguild predation”, and the current study is first one to show that this occurs between taxa that are extremely disparate. 

    Read the full story:
    Scientific publication: Royal Society Open Source

    Horses have emotional memory
    Horses can remember your facial expressions - life science news

    Experiments have revealed that horses understand human facial expressions and can even memorise them. In the morning, the horses were shown pictures of people looking either angry or happy. A few hours later the horses met the people from the photos in person, but this time the human participants had a neutral expression on their faces. It turned out that the horses looked at people with angry faces on the photo with their left eye, consistent with the idea that animals use their right hemisphere for threat processing. Horses could therefore assess whether a person might represents danger or not by assessing human emotions.

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

    The European Union is planning to ban insecticides that are dangerous for bees
    EU to ban use of pesticides responsible for killing bees - short science news - environment

    The European Union has announced plans to completely ban the outdoor use of some insecticides that have been show to severely impact bee populations. These are the neonicotinoid insecticides which are some of the most widely used insecticides in the world. They are chemically similar to nicotine, which research has shown is one of the most powerful insecticides. In the case of insecticides that have been shown to pose a reduced risk for bees, like Acetamiprid, no ban will be imposed.

    Read the full story: European Commision

    Some microorganisms communicate with each other in a group in order to protect themselves against antibiotics
    Bacteria communicate with each other to escape antibiotics - short science news - microbiology

    Little is known about how some pathogen bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, interact in a group in the presence of antibiotics. In a new research study, scientists discovered that these microorganisms communicate with each other, releasing distress signals when threatened by antibiotics. The chemical released is called alkyl hydroquinolone and it may trigger protective mechanisms that contribute to antibiotic resistance. It is the first time this type of behavior is identified.

    Read the full story: University of Notre Dame
    Scientific publication: Journal of Biological Chemsitry

    This zebrafish with all its different cell types developed from a single cell, the fertilised egg
    From fertilised egg to many specialised cells - life science news

    Each new life starts with one cell, a fertilised egg, which will divide and produce more cells that each will take on a particular identity to form a brain, heart or muscle cell. A new study shows that finding cell identity not only depends on genetics, but also on signals from the environment of a cell that can be so strong that developing cells leave their migration path on the way to their final destination, and follow another path to e.g. another organ, thus taking on a new identity. These results, obtained in zebrafish embryos, contradict the idea that cells follow a fixed path to maturity and identity. Instead cellular differentiation appears to be more flexible than previously thought.

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

    One whale shark set the world record for the longest migration for this species, going from the eastern Pacific to the western Indo-Pacific
    Whale shark sets amazing record for the longest migration ever - science news

    Her name is Anne and she is a whale shark (Rhincodon typus) that marine biologists are following in the ocean. Using tagging technology, the scientist tracked the migration route of Anne, as she crossed the Pacific in what is now the world’s record for the longest migration of a whale shark. The distance of the migration reached the gigantic value of 20,142 km (12,500 miles)! The study is part of a long-term project in which 45 additional sharks around Panama are tagged and monitored. Interestingly, the reason for the migration of whale sharks is still a mystery for scientists!

    Read the full story: Smithsonian
    Scientific publication: Marine Biodiversity Records

    After an established nesting area is destroyed birds have the ability to adapt by dispersing to nearby colonies and colonizing new habitats
    Scientists discover how birds survive volcano eruptions - short science news

    When a volcano erupts the habitat of the birds nearby is destroyed. But, what happens to the birds? To understand this, biologists studied the impact of the 2008 eruption of the Kasatochi volcano, in the Aleutian archipelago. Surprisingly, the birds were extremely adaptable when their colonies were abruptly destroyed. After the eruption, the birds quickly found a new close by habitat and created a new colony that flourished only four years after the cataclysm. The study provides valuable insight into the habitat shifting and adaptative abilities of seabirds.

    Read the full story: American Ornithological Society Publications Office
    Scientific publication: American Ornithological Society

    Have complex molecules neccesary for life been built in space?
    How complex molecules necessary for life might be built in space - life science news

    Under laboratory conditions that mimic astrophysiological conditions, scientists have created a complex molecule knows as glycine. They achieved this using an electron gun to irradiate thin sheets of ice covered in simple molecules that are important ingredients for complex molecules necessary for life. Indeed, the single glycine molecule that formed is an amino acid, a building block of proteins. The study suggests that it is possible that complex molecules can be built from simple ones in space

    Read the full story: Université de Sherbrooke
    Scientific publication: Journal of Chemical Physics


    Most living organisms reproduce sexually, an efficient way to exchange and shuffle genes, leading to evolution. How about organisms that do not have sex?
    How do animals evolve without having sex - short science news

    How do animals that do not have sex evolve, since no genetic transfer occurs in the reproductive process? A new study looked into this dilemma using the Bdelloid rotifers as animal models. They are all females and they reproduce by cloning, however, they successfully evolved into more than 500 species. The study proved incorrect a previous theory that claimed that rotifers evolve through genetic mechanisms occurring after periods of dehydration. Alternative solutions to this problem could be the transfer of genetic material from other species, or even the presence of males (although they have never been discovered). For the moment the mystery of these animals remains unsolved.

    Read the full story: Imperial College London
    Scientific publication: PLOS Biology

    During the last ice age, a mutation spread in some human populations. The mutation increased the delivery of milk during breast feeding. The figure depicts the region where the studied population lived (shrub tundra). Credit: the researchers, via PNAS
    The last ice age and breast feeding, what is the relationship - short science news

    According to a new study, the last ice age could have had an unexpected impact on breast feeding in native Americans. Starting from the study of teeth in archeological populations, scientists discovered that a genetic mutation occurred around 20,000 years ago, during the last ice age, in East Asians and Native Americans. The mutation affected the shape of the teeth but also increases the branching density of mammary ducts in the breasts. The latter change probably increased the efficacy of breast feeding in order to provide more fat and vitamin D to infants that were not receiving enough sunlight. The genetic mutation could have spread in the population trough natural selection.

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

    Trees show subtle movements of their branches at night
    Trees are very busy at night - life science news

    Trees appear to display cycles of subtle canopy movements that are different from species to species. They drop their branches up to 10 cm when they are in a resting state, and then start to pump up water in the active state. This causes tree branches and leaves to move, essentially invisible to the human eye, but researchers have managed to capture the movements by laser scanning. The results show that plants are not static, passive organisms, and monitoring their movements might be used as an indicator for their wellbeing in the future.

    Read the full story: Aarhus University (in Danish)
    Scientific publication: Journal of Plant Signaling and Behavior

    Advanced civilizations should leave a mark after their disappearance. But are we able to detect it after millions of years?
    Could we tell if an advanced civilization lived on Earth millions of years ago - short science news

    Let us imagine the following scenario: millions of years ago Earth was dominated by an advanced civilization that survived for thousands of years until they mysteriously vanished. If this was true, could we find traces and clues for their existence? This is exactly what scientist tried to understand in a recently published study. They show that the chances of finding direct evidence (artifacts, fossils) for civilizations older than 4 million years are extremely small. However, clues could be provided by geological records (due to the industrial impact on the planet), stable isotopes anomalies, non-natural elements and etc. The paper makes for a very interesting reading and it shows us what to look for in the search for previous civilizations on Earth, or on other planets.

     Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: International Journal of Astrobiology

    Members of the Bajau people in Indonesia carry a gene variant that leads to a bigger spleen, supplying extra red blood cells when they go fishing and collecting sea cucumbers or black coral under water, for hours per day. The Bajau have thus adapted to extreme conditions imposed by low oxygen conditions, experienced from generation to generation. It thus seems that natural selection, similar to what evolutionary biologists found in people living at high altitudes in a low oxygen environment, continues to work on human populations.

    Read the full story: Science Magazine
    Scientific publication: Cell

    All 70,000 cells of a flatworm can now be analyzed separately
    Single-cell database for biological studies - life science news

    Scientists have analysed the transcription of genes in each and every of the 70,000 cells in flatworms, and have put the data in a publicly available database to make further studies possible. The analysis has already revealed new cell types, characteristics of cell maturation, and the identity of new genes that could impart positional cues from muscle cells. The latter is important for the study of tissue regeneration, for which flatworms are a model organism as they can regrow parts of their body following injury.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Science

    Human DNA shows signs of negative selection
    Evolution continues….. also in humans - life science news

    Geneticists found traces of negative selection through analysis of the genome of more than 125,000 people. Negative selection is a natural mechanism that makes sure that bad DNA mutations do spread in the population. Negative selection was especially evident for traits related to cardiovascular function and fertility. These observations show that evolution is still at work, also in people.

    Read the full story: University of Queensland
    Scientific publication: Nature Genetics

    In the times when an amputation was a death sentence, a man not only survived for decades, but he also replaced his lost hand with a long knife (orange color in the picture)! Credit: Micarelli et al. 2018; Journal of Anthropological Sciences. CC by 4.0
    Anthropologists analyze medieval skeleton with knife-prosthetic arm - short science news - anthropology news

    One of the most interesting human remains from the medieval times has been thoroughly studied by scientists. The 1500 years old skeleton comes from Italy and it has a missing arm. Scientists concluded the man probably lost the arm in battle or after a medical intervention. Impressively, in an era when no antibiotics were available, the man was able to survive the amputation and lived up to his 50s. Even more interesting, the available information suggests that the man had a prosthetic arm instead of the lost hand which ended with a long iron knife. A sort of Captain Hook, if you wish; he must have been quite a popular character in his times!

    Read the full story: LiveScience
    Scientific publication: Journal of Anthropological Sciences

    A group of about 100 octopuses, normally a solitary species, was found deep in the ocean
    Huge group of octopus moms discovered two miles under the ocean - short science news - life news

    A deep-sea expedition made an incredible discovery close to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It found a giant group of octopus females nearly two miles below the ocean, at a depth where it was believed they cannot survive. The octopuses were an unknown species of the genus Muusoctopus and most of them were moms, protecting their eggs. The animals were found in hot waters close to an underwater volcano and scientists believe they were in the wrong habitat. However, the big numbers suggest a large population of octopuses could be living nearby.

    Read the full story: National Science Foundation
    Scientific publication: Deep Sea Research Part I

    Bacteria might help bees to feed their larvae
    Newly discovered bacteria might preserve pollen - life science news

    Researchers have discovered three new species of bacteria (Lactobacillus sp.) on flowers as well as on the bees that pollinate them. We use Lactobacillus bacteria to preserve food, and it could very well be that the bacteria serve a similar role in the nests of bees where they might preserve nectar and pollen, the food for bee larvae. As it takes more than a week for a larva to hatch and eat through the pollen and nectar, it is important to prevent the growth of fungi inside the pollen during this long period of time, and the Lactobacillus bacteria may just to that.

    Read the full story: University of California, Riverside
    Scientific publication: International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology

    Dinosaurs own their success, but also their disappearance, to mass extinction events
    Dinosaurs ruled thanks to a global mass extinction event - short science news - paleontology

    Most people are aware that dinosaurs disappeared due to a catastrophic meteorite impact that triggered a mass extinction. But how did they get there and why were they so successful is less understood. A new study shows that the expansion of dinosaurs was triggered by another mass extinction event that occurred 232 million years ago. Although dinosaurs originated much earlier, they were very rare until this catastrophe caused the disappearance of most other species. This was the opportunity that allowed them to conquer the Earth, until the unfortunate encounter with a meteorite 66 million years ago.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    DNA contains the genes that are switched on or off by transcription factors. Then RNA and proteins are formed.
    How new life forms are created during evolution - life science news

    Evolution is driven by changes in the regulation of the turning on or off genes, a process known as gene transcription, a new study found. Regulation of the stability of messenger RNA (formed after gene transcription has taken place) through RNA binding proteins does not seem to contribute much. The DNA sequence where gene transcription regulators bind are highly important for evolution, because DNA changes (mutations) here often create binding sites for other gene regulatory factors. This influences gene expression and can lead to new variation in what an organism looks like or how it behaves.

    Read the full story: Santa Fe Institute
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

    Ants turn left most of the times in a behavior test that allows them to choose the direction. Credit: Edmund Hunt, University of Bristol
    Ants prefer to turn left due to asymmetric vision - short science news - biology and life

    When given the choice, rock ants (Temnothorax albipennis) prefer to turn left, researchers discovered. In the attempt to explain this behavior, they realized that these ants, in general, see slightly better with their right eye. The ants are naturally trying to walk with their “bad” eye towards a wall, so when they come to a branch they follow the wall along to the left. This study is the first one to report a link between lateralization of behavior and asymmetries in the eyes, in insects.


    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports

    Shonisaurus – the giant ichthyosaur. Credit: Nobumichi Tamura
    Fossil ichthyosaur discovered – one of the largest animal that ever lived  - short science news - paleonthology

    The remains of a gigantic marine reptile have been discovered in England. Dating back 205 million years, the fossils belonged to an ichthyosaur that was close in size to a blue whale (almost 26 meters / 85 feet). Most known species of ichthyosaur were much smaller and the discovery suggests creatures bigger than a whale could have populated the oceans millions of years ago. The bones belong to a new species and settle a 150 years old mystery about several “dinosaur” bones found in different places in the UK.

    Read the full story: National Geographic
    Scientific publication: PLOS ONE

    New butterfly discovered after spending 60 years in a museum collection. Thomas Emmel with the set of Cyllopsis tomemmeli that he collected as a 17-year-old. Credit: Kristen Grace, Florida Museum
    New species of butterfly discovered after spending 60 years in museum -short science news - biology, entomology

    About sixty years ago, somewhere in Mexico, 13 light brown colored butterflies were collected and ended up in a museum collection. Now, after all these years, they have been studied and recognized as a new species. The species was named Cyllopsis tomemmeli in the honor of Thomas Emmel, the lepidopterist that captured them in 1959. Interestingly, these butterflies are very difficult to spot in the wild. Finding a new species in a museum, years after its collection, shows the value of museum collections.

    Read the full story: Florida Museum
    Scientific publication: Zootaxa

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