September 21, 2019

    Barley plants contain a new type of carbohydrate, previously unknown
    New type of carbohydrate discovered in cereals - interesting science news

    A new kind of complex carbohydrate has been discovered in barley, the first discovery of this type in the last 30 years.

    The compound is a polysaccharide containing a mix of glucose and xylose. This hybrid polysaccharide behaves as a structural component of the cellular wall providing strength, but it can also be as viscous as a gel.

    The scientists behind this study claim that many potential applications of the new carbohydrate can be imagined, however further research is required to understand its potential uses.

    Read the full story: University of Adelaine
    Scientific publication: ACS Central Science


    Social media implies a social interaction, however, using it is a solitary activity
    Loneliness associated with attraction to social media - top science news stories - society news

    While everyone is nowadays on social media, one cannot overlook the lack of personal interactions when browsing online. According to a recent scientific study, the desire for using social media is associated with a preference for social isolation.

    The study involved 136 participants that were asked to rate the desirability of 40 images showing social media icons, solidarity activities, people socializing or traffic signs (as control). Participants who gave the social media images a high rating also tended to give the solitary images a higher rating.

    “Social media by design seems to be inherently social, but partaking in the activity itself may lead to greater feelings of loneliness by limiting opportunities for real-life socialization,” researcher Lauren Hill told PsyPost.

    Read the full story: PsyPost
    Scientific publication: Psychological Reports


    Touch-sensing neurons from rodents are also sensitive to sounds
    Sound and touch senses overlap in brain of rodents - daily short science news

    We have the tendency to imagine the auditory and tactile sensation as distinct senses, but according to a recent study, there is an overlap in the brain between the two.

    The study analyzed sensory neurons responsible for perceiving tactile sensations in mice and rats and tested how they respond to other stimuli such as light and sound. Although they were completely insensitive to light, the tactile neurons were activated by sounds.

    The study suggests that tactile and auditory information is processed in parallel in the barrel cortex (the region of the brain studied). This combination of tactile and auditory cues may offer a survival advantage to rodents, for example in dark environments. It remains to see if the same is true for humans and how this would be advantageous for us.

    Read the full story: Nara Institue for Science and Technology
    Scientific publication: PLOS One


    In spring, the protein VRN2 breaks down, allowing another protein, PRC2, to initiate flowering
    How memory of flowering plants works - life short science news

    Plants can sense and remember changes in their environment through the formation and segregation of a protein complex.

    Now, scientists have discovered that one protein in this complex, a protein called VRN2, is extremely unstable, and breaks down when temperatures are high and oxygen is plentiful. It becomes stable when temperatures and oxygen are low, for instance when the winter sets in or during flooding. When VRN2 is broken down when spring arrives, another protein PRC2 becomes available to trigger flowering.

    These proteins might be new targets that could support the development of new plant varieties that are resistant to environmental changes, researchers say.

    Read the full story: University of Birmingham
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Researchers at the University of Washington have genetically modified a common houseplant -- pothos ivy -- to remove chloroform and benzene from the air around it. Image: Mark Stone/University of Washington
    A genetically modified plant to keep the air in your house clean - life short science news

    Scientists have genetically modified the common houseplant pothos ivy to express the protein 2E1 to clean the air in your house from the toxic substances chloroform and benzene.

    These compounds are present in small amounts in chlorinated water or in gasoline used in cars and lawn mowers.

    The plants convert chloroform and benzene into useful substances that they can use for their own growth.

    Read the full story: University of Washington
    Scientific publication: Environmental Science & Technology


    A fossil flowering plant, named Nanjinganthus, showing its ovary (bottom center), sepals and petals (on the sides) and a tree-shaped top.Image: Fu et al., 2018, eLIFE
    Evolution of blooming flowers has been advanced to the Early Jurassic era - life short science news

    A new fossil shows that plants with flowers existed already during the Early Jurassic epoch, some 174 million years ago.

    The fossil has been found in the South Xiangshan Formation, an outcrop of rocks in the Nanjing region of China, and is about 50 million years older than the now second oldest fossil of a flowering plant.

    This discovery fits with existing genetic data that suggested that flowers must have evolved earlier than previously thought.

    Read the full story: eLIFE
    Scientific publication: eLIFE


    Using bicycles for short distances could replace up to 40% of the car trips
    Can we replace cars with bicycles? - science news

    A recent study investigated the possibility of replacing car trips with more active ways of transportation, such as bicycles or even walking.

    According to the study, most people would be willing to give up their car and walk for an average distance of 1.6 km (0.99 miles) or cycle for a distance of 3.5 km (2.17 miles). This means that around 20% of car trips could be replaced by walking and 40% by bicycle.

    The study also assessed the perceived barriers in using bicycles instead of cars. Most participants evoked safety and practical issues as the main reasons for not giving up the car. The findings provide valuable information for developing measures to promote the replacement of cars by other non-motorized transport means.

    Read the full story: Polytechnic University of Madrid
    Scientific publication: Sustainability


    More than 570 million years ago, in the Ediacaran period, complex organisms including soft-bodied animals up to a meter long made their appearance in deep ocean waters.
    Origin of complex animals in deep oceans explained by stability of ambient temperature - life short science news

    How could complex animal life have started in the deep oceans, where food and oxygen are scarce? Scientists think they have found the answer: because of the stable temperature there.

    Early complex animals could not regulate their body temperature themselves, but depended on ambient temperature. In a world with low oxygen, they therefore could not have survived the many temperature swings of up to 10 °C in shallow waters.

    Stable temperatures were thus necessary for complex animals to evolve, and this was only found in the deep oceans.

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


    Bacterial resistance to antibiotics might develop slower when the bacteria are exposed to a stressor at the same time
    Bacteria show slower evolution when facing two stressors at the same time - life short science news

    Bacteria can adapt relatively quickly to altered living conditions, but they are much less efficient in doing so when they are facing two stressors at the same time. New research has shown that predator stress and antibiotics applied together slowed the development of protection and resistance.

    Genetic analyses revealed that predation and antibiotics each induced a unique set of mutations when applied alone, but when combined, also mutate other genes and thus slow down adaptation processes.

    Such slower bacterial evolution when two stressors are presented might lead to strategies to interfere with the development of antibiotics resistance, which represents a growing problem in human health care.

    Read the full story: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
    Scientific publication: Nature Ecology and Evolution


    Scientists obtained a new sex chromosome in fish. Credit: the researchers via the University of Konstanz
    Experimental hybridization created a new sex chromosome in swordtail fish - science news headlines

    Fishes, unlike mammals that use the standard XX, XY chromosomal mechanism, have a wide variety of sex determination systems. Why this is the case, is currently unknown.

    The better understand sex chromosomes in fish, scientists performed hybridization experiments with swordtail fish with different sex chromosome systems. After more than 100 generations of fish, spanning over 30 years, an evolutionary new sex chromosome was obtained.

    The work shows that hybridization can speed up the evolution of sex chromosomes. Moreover, the study offers new insights into the genomic consequences of the long-term experimental hybridization in fish.

    Read the full story: University of Konstanz
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Scientists scrutinized the painting “Incoronazione della Virgine
    A rich ecosystem of microorganisms found in old painting - science news

    A painting completed in 1620 was analyzed by scientists looking to understand what microorganisms live in such an environment. Using microscopy and microbiology techniques, the researchers concluded that a wide range of bacteria and fungi may live on old paintings.

    Interestingly, while some of them incur damage to the painting, other microorganisms may be used to protect the artwork. The study tested a decontamination formula containing spores of three Bacillus bacteria. It was found to be effective, inhibiting the growth of both the bacteria and the fungi found on the painting.

    It is important to classify the microorganisms involved in biodeterioration of art pieces. Moreover, it is interesting that the study showed that some microorganisms can actually protect paintings.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: PLOS One


    PIN is only found in the upper end of each cell and marks polarity (magenta). Image: Matouš Glanc
    Plant cells know where is up and down thanks to their mother cell - life short science news

    For plants, it is important to know where is up and where is down, so that roots can grow down into the soil, and the rest of the plant can grow up to the light. Which each cell division as the plant grows, polarity in one of the two daughter cells is lost.

    Biologists have now found that polarity is reestablished through a signal from the mother cell (i.e. from the cell that divided into two new cells), and is not signaled by neighboring cells. This signal depends on enzymatic activity and leads to the proper location of certain proteins such as PIN (a plant hormone transporter) that signal polarity.

    Such signaling makes it possible that plants grow in the correct way.

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


    In rural areas, children tend to prefer spending time in front of screens instead of going outside
    Kids in rural regions spend less time outdoors - short science news headlines

    A troubling trend is revealed by a new study, showing that even kids from rural areas now spend more time in front of screens and less time outside.

    The study investigated children from rural South Carolina, USA. The results of the study show that screen time was higher than outdoor time for almost all groups tested.

    This change in the behavior of the youth may have profound negative implications for their development. Moreover, it is likely that the same trend occurs currently all over the world.

    Read the full story: PsyPost
    Scientific publication: Environment and Behavior


    Scientists developed an algorithm to measure how influential a film is
    This is the most “influential” film ever, according to science - science news

    An original study investigated over 47,000 films listed on the internet movie database IMDb to understand which one is the most influential film of all times. The top criterion was the number of times one particular movie has been referenced to by subsequent films, similar to how the impact of a scientific paper is measured.

    According to the researches, the most influential film ever was “The Wizard of Oz”, followed by “Star Wars” and “Psycho”. All the films found in the top 20 were produced before 1980. The algorithm used to rank the movies provides an alternative to the standard box office rankings.

    The same algorithm was also used to rank directors and actors. When applied to actors, Samuel L. Jackson, Clint Eastwood and Tom Cruise ranked as the top three.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Applied Network Science


    The manta ray fish has two strange horns, but how did they appear?
    Why does the manta ray have horns - daily science news

    The manta ray has two fleshy horns on its head which earned it the name of “devil ray”. The question is how did these horns appear in the evolution of the species?

    To investigate this, researchers studied genetic material from the embryos of the cownose rays, a close relative of the “devil”. The results showed that the horns are in fact the foremost bit of fin, which was modified in time, to serve a different purpose.

    This confirms a theory popular among evolutionary scientists claiming that novel features, often strange ones, can appear in nature from minor evolutionary twists.

    Read the full story: San Francisco State University
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution


    Flounders in Boston Harbor are now free of liver cancer following a massive environmental cleanup. Image: Chris Pickerell, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County
    Environmental cleaning pays off: no more flounders with liver cancer in Boston Harbor - life short science news

    Long-term environmental cleanup efforts of Boston Harbor, once one of the most polluted harbors in America, has led to the disappearance of liver cancer in flounders.

    Back in 1985, 75% of the flounders caught here suffered from this disease, but measures to reduce sewage sludge, nutrients and toxins in the harbor, including the construction of an outflow discharge tunnel completed in 2000, dramatically increased flounder health.

    The last flounder with cancer was caught in 2004, indicating that the staggering cleaning efforts have resulted in cleaner water bearing less risk for human health.

    Read the full story: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
    Scientific publication: Diseases of Aquatic Organisms


    The adult stage of the newly discovered parastic Zatypota sp. Image: Philippe Fernandez-Fournier
    Newly discovered wasp turns a social spider into a wandering zombie - life short science news

    A new species of parasitic wasp has been discovered in Ecuador that uses a social spider for the development of its larvae. in a rather extreme way, never observed before.

    A female wasp lays an egg on the abdomen of the spider, the larva hatches, and attaches itself to the spider. It probably feeds on the spider’s haemolymph (resembling our blood), grows, and takes over the spider’s body.

    The spider is now under control of the wasp larva, exits the colony and spins a cocoon, before the larva kills and eats it. The well-fed larva enters the cocoon and develops into an adult wasp in nine to eleven days.

    Read the full story: University of British Columbia
    Scientific publication: Ecological Entomology


    Similar to humans, giraffes prefer to look for food and eat together with a friend
    Giraffes prefer the company of friends - science news headlines

    The social behavior of giraffes is complex and, in some aspects, similar to ours. According to a new study, giraffes prefer the company of their friends, a preferred individual from the group, when searching for food and eating.

    The researchers identified giraffes using photos and observed them in a wide variety of habitats and situations. After two years, they discovered that a given giraffe prefers to eat with a certain individual, a “friend”.

    This behavior offers several benefits. A friend is more reliable at alarming you about a dangerous situation. Moreover, when the eating behavior is compatible it is easier for friends to cooperate when searching for food.

    Read the full story: University of Bristol
    Scientific publication: Animal Behaviour


    The populations of microbes living in our mouth have changed since the medieval era. Credit: Liam Lanigan
    Medieval teeth reveal how oral bacteria changed - latest science news daily

    A new study analyzed medieval human remains from Denmark to uncover how bacteria living in the human mouth changed over time.

    The dental plaque found on the teeth suggest that oral microbiomes from those times were very different compared to modern times. Most likely this is due to the changes in our lifestyles. Present diets include much more variety than medieval diets. Moreover, today we have antibiotics which, together with other environmental factors, have an impact on out microbes.

    Interestingly, many species of bacteria identified in the medieval samples are associated with higher risk of tooth and gum disease, suggesting, as expected, that the health status was not great in the past.

    Read the full story: ArsTechnica
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    When exposed to a dangerous virus, frogs respond by breeding younger. Credit: Bernie, via Wikimedia Commons
    Frogs reproduce younger to escape virus - science news headlines daily

    Ranaviruses affect frogs (Rana temporaria) but no information is available about how they affect population demographic structure. Now, a group of researchers showed that frogs are breeding at a younger age when exposed to the viruses.

    The study was performed in the UK and it compares populations of frogs exposed to the virus with unaffected groups. While the youngest breeding frogs in disease-free populations are four years old, frogs in virus-exposed groups breed as young as two.

    The decrease in breeding age is a mechanism to beat the virus however, it increases the risk of local extinction. The ranavirus can cause severe skin sores and internal bleeding. It is usually fatal.

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


    Salmon are shrinking and this has genetic basis
    Salmon are shrinking and mature faster - life short science news

    By studying scales, collected over a 40 years period, biologists have found that male salmon are becoming smaller. It appeared that the reduced body size has a genetic basis, such that the genotype for larger body size is now less common than the genotype for smaller body size. This change in the genes shows that the change in body size reflects “evolution in action”. It seems that salmon mature faster, i.e. at a younger age, and therefore don’t grow as big as they used to do. It is not clear as to what the evolutionary benefit might be of smaller body size, but biologists hypothesize that salmon are more likely to die during their time at sea, and would thus be better off returning to the rivers to spawn earlier.

    Read the full story: University of Helsinki
    Scientific publication: Nature Ecology & Evolution


    Scientists developed a test to predict the ability of people to handle emotions at work
    New emotional intelligence test can predict employee’s abilities - latest science news in short

    Researchers developed an emotional intelligence test claimed to accurately predict the abilities of an employee for social interactions and leadership capabilities. Emotional intelligence is one’s ability to understand, recognize and manage emotions.

    The test, titled the Geneva Emotion Competence Test (GECO), consists of four different sections evaluating different aspects: understanding emotions, recognizing emotions, regulating one’s own emotions and managing other people’s emotions.

    The questionnaire was designed based on inputs from 40 managers. Then, the test was validated on more than 1,000 individuals. The importance of emotional intelligence is widely acknowledged and soon hiring managers could use this test in addition to evaluating the training and career history of a candidate.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Journal of Applied Psychology


    Scientists come out with recommendations for improving work meetings
    The secrets behind better workplace meetings, according to science - short daily science news

    Meetings are frequent in work organizations, whether we like it or not. However, not all of them are useful and valuable. A group of scientists analyzed almost 200 studies about workplace meetings and came out with a set of guidelines for the perfect meeting.

    In short, there are several things that need to be taken care of before, during and after a meeting. To see all the recommendations, please read the long version following the link below.

    Under ideal circumstances, meetings can provide a place for creative thinking, problem-solving, discussion, and idea generation. In reality, many employees are unhappy with them and the research showed that they spend up to 6 hours per week in meetings.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Current Directions in Psychological Science


    Our ancestors had many skeletal anomalies, likely due to inbreeding. Credit: Erik Trinkaus
    Why early humans had skeletal abnormalities - science news

    The anatomy of ancient skeletons suggests that early humans had an unusually high number of birth defects affecting the skeleton. A recent study supports the idea that this is because of frequent inbreeding among small groups, although other explanations are also possible.

    The human bones described in the study date between 2.5 million to 9,700 years B.C.E. and come from various regions around the globe. They had a very high incidence of abnormalities, many of them induced by known genetic mutations, suggesting that some of those ancient people were somehow related.

    Inbreeding could have promoted the spreading of harmful genetic mutations within the populations. Evidence based on genetic analysis of early humans also supports this hypothesis.

    Read the full story: Sciencemag
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


    Two religious complexes from antique Chile offer clues about the early local civilization. Credit: copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd.
    Ancient ceremonial complexes discovered in Atacama Desert - scienc news in short - archeology

    The world’s driest desert, Atacama, offered archeologists a nice surprise in the form of two ancient ceremonial complexes one kilometer (0.62 miles) apart. The oldest of them is believed to be 5000 years old.

    The discovery shows that in the past people flourished in such harsh places, likely in regions called “eco-refuges”, places that had basic resources like water and plants. One of the sites contained impressive treasures: massive stone monuments, offerings of gold and rare materials, and infant burials.

    The discoveries suggest that early monumentalism in the Atacama may reflect the emergence of complex social organization among late hunter-gatherers.

    Read the full story: LiveScience
    Scientific publication: Antiquity


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