May 26, 2019

    Phidippus audax spider, with its principle eyes and two lateral eyes clearly visible. Image: Beth Jakob
    One set of spider eyes helps the other - life science news

    Biologists have figured out that spiders use their two forward-facing principle eyes can only track stimuli in their environment efficiently if they are helped by the six secondary eyes, the anteriolateral eyes. They came to this conclusion after completing experiments with a specially designed eyetracker, a tool normally used by psychiatrists to see where people are gazing while reading, driving, or watching moving objects on a screen. After gently and reversibly blinding the secondary eyes, it turned out that the principle eyes function like a torch light to see objects with great precision in a rather restricted area, so that the stimulus had to be right in front of the spider to track it. The secondary eyes direct the principle eyes to quickly locate and very accurately track disks moving at different speeds. This configuration of the visual system, in which one set of eyes depends on another set of eyes, is highly unusual and has not been observed in any animal before.

    Read the full story: UMassAmhurst
    Scientific publication: Current Biology

    Reintroduction of wolves has made Yellowstone's ecosystem dynamic and complex
    Yellowstone has benefited from the reintroduction of wolves - ecology science news

    The reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park in 1995 has made the park’s ecosystem very complex and heterogeneous, a new study shows. While human interventions in the park are kept minimal, the presence of wolves led to the recovery of a variety of plants and trees, and bison have replaced elk as the dominant herbivore in the Northern Range of the park. Yellowstone has thus benefited from the reintroduction of wolves in the park, but this success is not easy to recapitulate in other areas where the influence of human activity (agriculture, hunting, livestock) is dominant.

    Read the full story: University of Alberta
    Scientific publication: Journal of Mammalogy

    3D anatomical modeling of wheat, sunflower and tomato leaves. Image: University of Sydney/ANU
    Imaging the 3D structure of leaves - life science news

    Scientists have succeeded in imaging leaves in their three-dimensional structure by using new technology. The images are created from biological specimens, by integrating two-dimensional measurements to create the 3D pictures. The images reveal the complexity of leaves in much more detail than traditional 2D images used until now, and make it possible to better understand how water and gases flow through leaves, or how photosynthesis precisely works.

    Read the full story: University of Sydney
    Scientific publication: Trends in Plant Science

    A comparison of shells assessed during the research, with the top shell taken from waters with present-day CO22 levels and the bottom one from waters with future predicted levels. Image: Ben Harvey/University of Tsukuba
    Dissolving snails due to acidification of seawater - life science news

    Biologists have found that increased CO2 levels in seawater harms the shell of the snail Charonia lampas, or triton shell. The research was conducted off the coast of Shikinejima in Japan, where CO2 bubbles up from the seabed. This allowed the scientists to assess the effects of future high CO2 levels. The snails living in this CO2-rich area were one third smaller than the snails living in other parts of the ocean nearby, where CO2 levels are still normal. Further, high CO2 levels negatively influenced thickness, density, and structure of the shells. These effects are caused by increased stress imposed by acidification of the water, which reduces the snails’ ability to control the calcification process. The researchers conclude that increased acidification of the oceans will impact on shellfish fisheries and marine ecosystems.

    Read the full story: University of Plymouth
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Marine Science

    A new study shows for the first time that the Atlantic salmon uses magnetic fields for navigation. Credit: Oregon State University
    Atlantic salmon uses Earth’s magnetic field for navigation - science news

    Similar to their relatives, the Pacific salmon, the Atlantic salmon uses Earth’s magnetic field as a navigational tool, according to a new study.

    Interestingly, the study showed that the fish do not lose the ability to use the magnetic field as a GPS through several generations, even after they have been transplanted into a land-locked lake.

    The use of the magnetic field explains, in part, how salmon can find the way to their river of origin. This ability does not seem to be lost when not used, as in the case of the fish confined to a small space.

    Read the full story: Oregon State University
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Education equips people with better abilities to make high-quality choices
    Education improves economic decision-making - life science news

    Education support and laboratory experiments that mimicked real-life situations improved economic decision-making in a group of nearly 3,000 girls in secondary schools in Malawi. The students received one year of financial support, and the effects on economic choices the students made were assessed four years later. It turned out that students tried to obtain the greatest value possible from an economic decision, which is a criterion for economic rationality. Thus, education is a tool for enhancing and individual’s economic decision-making quality.

    Read the full story: Cornell University
    Scientific publication: Science

    We inherited DNA from Neanderthals that helps us to fight viral infections. Image: Claire Scully
    Our viral defenses are inherited from Neanderthals - life science news

    New research has shown that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred and exchanged viruses. The Neanderthal DNA ended up in our DNA, and helps us to protect ourselves against viruses. This DNA-based adaptation was particularly strong against RNA viruses in Europeans. Thus, before vanishing from the globe, Neanderthals gave us the genetic tools to fight viral infections.

    Read the full story: Stanford University
    Scientific publication: Cell

    Embryos created from stem cells could open new possibilities for developmental biology. Seven-day old gastruloid. Credit: Mehmet Girgin, EPFL
    Pseud-embryos from stem cells created in the lab - science news
    A new research study reports that mouse stem cells have the ability to produce pseudo-embryos, similar in many aspects to real embryos of 6 to 10 days.

    The study showed that the three main embryonic axes were formed using around 300 stem cells, according to a gene expression program similar to that of normal embryos.

    This new approach has great potential for the study of the early stages of development in mammals and could one day replace the use of real embryos in research.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Studies on Lasioglossum baleicum, or sweat bee, revealed the importance of cooperation to increase fitness. Image: Norihiro Yagi
    Genetics do not contribute much to forming a social society - life science news

    Research in sweat bees (Lasioglossum baleicum) revealed that social behavior is relatively independent of genetic similarities between the individuals. Fitness, i.e. an organism’s reproductive success and propagation of its genes, is rather determined by cooperative behavior. This finding contradicts an earlier theory that stated that forming of social groups is determined by genetic relationships between individuals. Sweat bees can live both in groups with many female workers and a single queen, or as individual mothers. Individual females in social nests had a higher fitness than single mothers, and 92% of this difference could be attributed to cooperative behavior while living in a group, and only 8% to genetics. Thus, this study helps to better understand the evolution of living together in social groups, including in humans.

    Read the full story: Hokkaido University
    Scientific publication: Science Advances

    The pattern of spots is transmitted from mother giraffes to their babies
    How do baby giraffes get their spots? From their mothers! - science news headlines - animals

    The spotted pattern of a giraffe is complex and important, ensuring efficient camouflage and protection from predators. But what determines the shape of the spots?

    A new study showed that their shape is, at least in part, inhered. More precisely, most features are transmitted from mothers to calves.

    Moreover, the researchers discovered that giraffes with larger spots have increased chances of survival, thus making a link between the pattern and the efficacy of the camouflage.

    Read the full story: University of Zurich
    Scientific publication: Peer J - Life and Environment

    Ground cherries might become easier to grow after gene editing
    Making wild groundcherry suitable for agriculture by DNA editing - life science news

    To make wild groundcherry suitable for agriculture, scientists have edited its genome with the CRISPR technique to incorporate some characteristics of tomatoes. This makes the groundcherry grow in a more “organized” way so that they are easier to culture, and the plants produce more fruit. While still other changes have to be made, especially preventing the dropping of fruit to the ground before ripening, researchers think that groundcherries will soon be the next superfood, full with vitamin B and C, antioxidants, and other healthy molecules, and that groundcherries will be cultured on a larger scale in the US in the future.

    Read the full story: Boyce Thompson Institute
    Scientific publication: Nature Plants

    Cell structure of Picochlorum, isolated from the San Elijo Lagoon in California. Image: Susanne Ruemmele
    Gene stealing algae may survive climate change - life science news

    Some green algae appear to have taken genes from bacteria, which allows them to survive hostile and fluctuating conditions in salt marshes. These algae, known as Picochlorum, are expected to survive climate change as well, thanks to the bacterial genes they acquired. Such natural genetic modifications may provide important information for the engineering of algae that could one day be used as biofuels, researchers think.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Molecular Biology and Evolution

    Coral reef grow over restoration structures in Indonesia. Image: Christine Sur / UC Davis
    Finally some good news for corals: reefs can be rehabilitated - life science news

    Researchers have attached coral fragment to hexagonal structures called “spiders” in the center of Indonesia’s Coral Triangle to test whether it is possible to restore coral reefs. Indeed, live coral cover increased from less than 10% to more than 60%, at a cost of about $25 per square meter. Importantly, while massive coral bleaching occurred between 2014 and 2016, bleaching in the rehabilitation area was less than 5%, despite warm water conditions known to stress corals. Thus, this technique protects and rehabilitates coral reefs, giving the reefs a chance to adapt to worsening ocean conditions.

    Read the full story: University of California – Davis
    Scientific publication: Restoration Ecology

    Killer whale populations are likely to collapse due to persistent PCB contamination. Image: Audun Rikardsen
    Collapse of killer whales from PCBs expected - life science news

    Scientists found that killer whales are amongst the most highly polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) contaminated mammals in the world. PCB contamination affects reproduction and immune function, and threatens viability of killer whale populates. PCBs have been banned in most countries already more than 30 years ago, but their presence in the environment is persistent and accumulate in the tissues of top predators. The current study shows that especially the killer whale populations living near industrialized regions , or feeding at high trophic levels independent of location are at high risk of collapse.

    Read the full story: Aarhus University
    Scientific publication: Science

    A protein ensures that plants flower at the correct moment
    How does a plant know when to flower - science news - biology

    Correct timing for flowering is extremely important for pollination and reproduction of plants. But, how does a plant know when it is the best moment to produce flowers? A component of the sunlight, called the UV-B radiation (the one that gives us sunburns), is responsible for inducing flowering. However, UV-B can be present before the correct timing, so to prevent premature flowering, plants rely on a protein called RUP2. The protein inhibits flowers from emerging, but when the day get longer and more light is available, the RUP2 becomes less effective and flowering occurs.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Genes & Development

    Populations of the yellow spotted salamander are on the decline. Image: Brad Glorioso/US Geologic Survey
    Climate change not the main culprit of amphibian decline - life science news

    Years worth of data collected in the US and Canada show that climate change is not the main factor that is causing the worldwide decline of amphibian populations. While it is true that local effects of climate change can have dramatic effects, these can be compensated by other, for amphibians favorable, changes somewhere else. Rather, researchers think that other factors play a role, such as habitat destruction and spread of new pathogens by human activities.

    Read the full story: PennState
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Anopheles gambiae mosquito, the vector of malaria parasites, feeding. Image: CDC/ James Gathany / Public Health Image Library
    Gene drive technique eradicates malaria mosquito population in the laboratory - biotechnology science news

    Scientists are well on their way to specifically change the genome of malaria mosquitos to bring about their extinction. By introducing a mutation by the CRISPR – Cas9 gene drive technique in a part of the gene that determines that is responsible for female development, mosquitos showed both male and female characteristics, failed to bite and did not lay eggs. After eight generations in the laboratory, no more females were produced, and the population collapsed as no reproduction could occur anymore. Thus, although more experiments are needed, it seems that molecular biology could be an efficient tool to eliminate mosquitos that carry malaria, probably in five to ten years from now, researchers think.

    Read the full story: Imperial College London
    Scientific publication: Nature Biotechnology

    Glyphosate kills microbiota in the bee's intestines, leading to bee death following pathogen infection
    Glyphosate, a common herbicide, contributes to the dying of bees - life science news

    The commonly used herbicide glyphosate has been found in a new study to have a profound effect on the microbiota living the intestines of honeybees. At least four out of eight common bacteria species are severely affected. These bacteria are important for digestion, and defense against pathogens. Indeed, of the bees that have been exposed to glyphosate, only 10% survives infection with the common pathogen Serratia marcescens, whereas this is 50% for bees that have not been in contact with glyphosate. Thus, this study shows that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, contributes to the decline in bee populations, and gives reason to reconsider legislation concerning glyphosate use.

    Read the full story: University of Texas at Austin
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

    Nocturnal light pollution makes guppies more courageous during the day
    Light pollution makes fish more courageous during the day - life short science news

    Artificial light at night alters the behavior of fish (guppies) during the day, a new study shows. Fish leave their shelter faster, and spend more time in open, potentially dangerous, waters. It thus seems that fish are taking more risk, exposing themselves more to predators. Researchers think that increased risk taking is caused by the stress that is imposed by light pollution at night.

    Read the full story: IGB - Berlin
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports

    Maternal use of marijuana leads to children starting smoking themselves at a younger age
    Children more likely to try marijuana younger if their mothers smoke it - science news

    A new study showed a correlation between mothers using marijuana during the first 12 years of their child's life and the age at which the children start using cannabis themselves. Maternal marihuana use was associated with children trying it at an earlier age. "Early initiation is one of the strongest predictors of the likelihood of experiencing health consequences from marijuana use”, said lead author Natasha A. Sokol. Although marijuana is generally considered less dangerous than other drugs, the risk of getting health problems is linked to the age of initiation. Earlier initiation is associated with increased risk of anxiety and depressive disorders.

    Read the full story: Brown School of Public Health
    Scientific publication: American Journal of Preventive Medicine

    The but-brain connection is not only hormonal, but also neural, new research shows. There is a direct communication from the gut to the brain via the vagal nerve, carrying sensory information about food and nutrition to the brain in less than a second. This connection uses glutamate as a messenger molecule, just as other sensory organs do. The direct line between the gut and the brain complements the slow signaling that is mediated by hormones, such as those that signal satiety or hunger, and suggests that the gut is our sixth sense that informs the brain about food content and perhaps calories in the stomach.

    Read the full story: Duke University
    Scientific publication: Science

    Scientific research can also be funny
    The effects of cursing while driving and other 2018 Ig Nobel Prize winners - science news Ig Noble prizes 2018

    Sometimes science is too serious. Or so it seems! However, some scientists dare to venture into questions and research that “make people laugh then make them think”. This kind of unconventional studies are awarded every year with the Ig Nobel Prize and it is worth taking a look at this year’s winners.

    The Medicine Prize went to a group of scientists for using roller coaster rides to try to hasten the passage of kidney stones. Anthropology received a reward for a study showing that chimpanzees imitate humans about as often, and about as well, as humans imitate chimpanzees. Amazingly, one study showed that wine experts can reliably identify, by smell, the presence of a single fly in a glass of wine, and for this, the authors received the Biology Prize. You might already know, from personal experience, that most people who use complicated products do not read the instruction manual. This study received the Literature Prize. We will mention only one more, the Peace Prize awarded for measuring the frequency, motivation, and effects of shouting and cursing while driving an automobile. To see the entire list of winners for the 2018 Ig Noble prizes please click the link below.

    Read the full story: Improbable Research

    Listeria bacteria transport electrons through their cell wall into the environment as tiny currents, assisted by ubiquitous flavin molecules (yellow dots). Image: Amy Cao graphic, UC Berkeley.
    Bacteria in our guts produce electricity - life science news

    Bacteria are pumping out electrons through their membrane, as many as 100,000 per second per cell. This electric current needs flavin, a derivative of vitamin B2 and abundant in the intestines. Bacteria generate electricity to remove electrons produced during metabolism and support energy production (comparable to how we use oxygen in our cells). Researchers think that bacteria produce electricity under conditions of low oxygen levels, such as in our intestines.

    Read the full story: UC Berkely
    Scientific publication: Nature

    A benevolance-dominant leadership style improves employee performance
    Be nice to your employees, and they perform better - management science news

    A new study revealed that showing compassion to subordinates almost always pays off, especially when combined with the enforcement of clear goals. Employees work better if they feel that their leaders or bosses actually care about their wellbeing. These results were found in a group of nearly 1,000 members of the Taiwanese army, and almost 200 Americans with a full time job. It might be surprising to see the same results in two culturally very different groups. Apparently, culture and work place do not influence the way employees look at their leaders.

    Read the full story: Binghamton University
    Scientific publication: The Leadership Quarterly

    Only one gene determines whether an ant will become a queen or a worker
    One gene, one queen in the ant world - life science news

    The protein insulin-like peptide 2 (ILP2) has been found to be made in large quantities only in queens, not in workers, in ant colonies. ILP2 is synthesized in 12 to 15 brain cells only, and turns an ant into an egg-laying machine. Injections of ILP2 in ants from colonies where there is no queen, but where each individual undergoes a cycle of reproduction by cloning and brood care, induce queen-like characteristics, such as slightly bigger body size, and start egg laying. Good quality nutrition stimulates the formation of ILP2, which seems to suggest that the evolution of sociality in insects may have started with imbalanced food distribution among colony members.

    Read the full story: Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz
    Scientific publication: Science

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