July 23, 2019

    Feather mites are harmless, possibly even beneficial to their host birds. Image: Heather Proctor
    Feather mites help to keep the feathers of birds clean - life short science news

    Birds have found to benefit from the presence of feather mites in their plumage, and not suffer from them as previously thought.

    Scientists have reached this conclusion after studying the gut contents of these tiny creatures, which appeared to be made up of fungi spores and bacteria. The mites thus do not feed on the feathers, but rather on the pathogens that harm the plumage.

    One could argue that the relation between mites and birds is symbiotic: birds provide food to the mites, and the mites keep the birds’ feathers clean.

    Read the full story: University of Alberta
    Scientific publication: Molecular Ecology


    Bacteria were collected from this hot spring in the El Tatio region in northern Chile. Image: Yaroslav Ispolatov
    Bacteria might travel large distances by air - life short science news

    Molecular analysis of bacteria living in hot springs shows that populations living in different places share genetic markers of bacteriophage (viruses of bacteria) infections. This shows that bacteria from one location, where the infection occurred, can spread to another, even thousands of miles away.

    While animals do not approach the hot water in the springs, researchers believe that bacteria must therefore travel by air.

    If this is confirmed by measurements in the air, this would have an impact on how we think about the spread of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. They would then be expected to be able to spread across the globe much easier than previously believed.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B


    When plant cells are damaged, ATP triggers defensive reactions to protect the plant
    Immune system of plants is triggered by the energy molecule ATP - life short science news

    Scientists have discovered that the molecule known as ATP, and normally used for energy within cells, triggers defensive reactions in plants when it appears outside the cells following damage.

    ATP binds to an ATP receptor, which was already found in 2014.

    Now, it turns out that extracellular ATP acts as a damage signal, which might be used in the future to give the defense of plants and crops a boost.

    Read the full story: Washington State University
    Scientific publication: Plant Physiology


    Feathers revealed in a ~125 million-year-old fossil of a bird hatchling, found in Spain. The use of a special laser revealed the presence of feathers (figure b), invisible in the counter slab (a) and the main slab containing the fossil (c). Scale is 5mm. Image: Kaye et al. 2019
    Ancient bird could walk directly after hatching - life short science news

    A fossil of a hatching bird, dating back to the days of the dinosaurs, has puzzled scientists since its discovery. What could have possibly been the lifestyle of this bird?

    Now, by making use of modern laser technology, scientists found the remains of feathers on the body of the hatching chick. Therefore, one can conclude that the hatchling was out of the egg running.

    Thus, the chicks of these bird species could have been following their parents, or foraging by themselves and escaping from the dangers of Mesozoic life.

    Read the full story: University of Hong Kong
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    Colonization of islands by plants is often hindered by the absence of the appropriate mycorrhiza in the soil
    Fungi are necessary for plants to colonize new territory - life short science news

    Fungi determine whether plants will colonize new territory or not, a new study shows. Fungi, known as mycorrhiza, supply plants with nutrients that they have taken up from the soil. Plants pass carbohydrates on to the fungi.

    Colonization of islands by plants is often difficult, as the appropriate mycorrhiza are lacking in the soil. Plant introductions made by men often concern plants growing in soil, thus containing mycorrhiza, and are thus usually successful.

    This study shows that it takes more than geology and climate for a plant to colonize new territory.

    Read the full story: Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
    Scientific publication: Nature Ecology and Evolution


    Tobacco plants can now produce functional human proteins for the benefit of our health
    Producing functional human proteins in tobacco plants - life short science news

    Scientists have for the first time demonstrated that a functional human protein can be produced in tobacco plant cells.

    The human protein is called interleukin 37 (IL-37), which is produced in small amounts in the kidney, has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Its pharmaceutical production has been very limited until now, and could only be achieved in E. coli bacteria at tiny amounts for high costs.

    The scientists hope that using plants as green bioreactors to produce human proteins for the benefit of health will make the synthesis of pharmaceuticals more affordable than is the case with current methods.

    Read the full story: University of Western Ontario
    Scientific publication: Plant Cell Reports


    The social life of animals might hold important clues for how to save biodiversity
    Understanding animals’ social life could help save endangered species - daily short science news

    A new scientific publication supports the idea that understanding the rich social life of animals might help conservation efforts. The cultural aspects of different animals can help scientists understand what groups should be conserved and how it should be done.

    For example, understanding why some groups of chimpanzees have a culture of using stone tools and others don’t could help the evaluation of conservation strategies. The social life of animals enables young individuals to learn from the older ones. Such aspects have conservational importance.

    In practice, some populations could be characterized based on their “social capital” instead of the traditional aspects of genetic diversity or geographical isolation. This approach opens the door for innovative ways to protect the diversity of the natural world.

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


    Euglena moves efficiently even in narrow spaces and this might inspire future generations of robots
    The way unicellular aquatic organisms move might inspire robots ’mobility - daily science news

    The unicellular aquatic organisms called Euglena move in a mysterious, yet very efficient way. A new study shows that these organisms move fast and elegant even in narrow environments.

    The scientists placed Euglena cells inside progressively narrow tubes to examine their behavior. The authors showed that Euglena control their movement through peristaltic body deformations moving faster than any other crawling animal cells.

    Understanding the mechanisms behind the mobility of Euglena might have surprising applications in the field of robotics. Implementing this type of movement in soft robots might enable them to move reliably in changing and complex environments.

    Read the full story: Polytechnic University of Catalonia
    Scientific publication: Nature Physics


    The dichromatic stripes could reduce the ability of bloodsucking flies to target zebras
    This is why zebras have stripes - latest science discoveries

    The origin of the typical stripe pattern of zebras has puzzled scientists for decades. Now, a new study suggests an interesting theory: the stripes may be a defense mechanism against bloodsucking parasites.

    Using video analysis, the researchers investigated the behavior of tabanid horse flies around zebras and horses. Interestingly, they discovered that the flies failed to slow down on approach to zebras, which is essential for a successful landing.

    Basically, the flies just miss the zebras or bump into them however, this did not happen for horses. The dichromatic stripes reduced the ability of flies to land on their target. This suggests that the zebras evolved to have their typical skin pattern in order to avoid biting insects and this has implications for the horse industry.

    Read the full story: University of Bristol
    Scientific publication: PLOS ONE


    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


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