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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

New feather findings get scientists in a flap

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 06:06 PM PDT

Scientists have revealed that feather shafts are made of a multi-layered fibrous composite material, much like carbon fiber, which allows the feather to bend and twist to cope with the stresses of flight. Since their appearance over 150 million years ago, feather shafts (rachises) have evolved to be some of the lightest, strongest and most fatigue resistant natural structures.

Genome editing technique advanced by researchers

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 11:17 AM PDT

Customized genome editing -- the ability to edit desired DNA sequences to add, delete, activate or suppress specific genes -- has major potential for application in medicine, biotechnology, food and agriculture. Now researchers examine six key molecular elements that help drive this genome editing system, which is known as CRISPR-Cas.

Let there be light: Evolution of complex bioluminescent traits may be predictable

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 10:50 AM PDT

A longstanding question among scientists is whether evolution is predictable. A team of researchers from University of California Santa Barbara may have found a preliminary answer. The genetic underpinnings of complex traits in cephalopods may in fact be predictable because they evolved in the same way in two distinct species of squid.

Predicting the predator threatening a squirrel by analyzing its sounds and tail movements

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 09:59 AM PDT

Biologists found the could quite accurately predict what type of predator was threatening a squirrel by analyzing its sounds and tail movements.

Two vessels from WWII convoy battle off North Carolina discovered: German U-boat 576 and freighter Bluefields found within 240 yards

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 09:59 AM PDT

Scientists have discovered two significant vessels from World War II's Battle of the Atlantic. The German U-boat 576 and the freighter Bluefields were found approximately 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Lost for more than 70 years, the discovery of the two vessels, in an area known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, is a rare window into a historic military battle and the underwater battlefield landscape of WWII.

Ancient Europeans intolerant to lactose for 5,000 years after they adopted agriculture

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 09:59 AM PDT

By analyzing DNA from petrous bones of ancient Europeans, scientists have identified these peoples remained intolerant to lactose (natural sugar in the milk of mammals) for 5,000 years after they adopted agricultural practices. The scientific team examined nuclear ancient DNA extracted from thirteen individuals from burials from archaeological sites in the Great Hungarian Plain. The skeletons sampled date from 5,700 BC (Early Neolithic) to 800 BC (Iron Age).

Fight against Alzheimer's disease: New research on walnuts

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 09:57 AM PDT

An new animal study reveals potential brain-health benefits of a walnut-enriched diet. Researchers suggest that a diet including walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, slowing the progression of, or preventing Alzheimer's disease.

Animal therapy reduces anxiety, loneliness symptoms in college students

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 09:56 AM PDT

Animal-assisted therapy can reduce symptoms of anxiety and loneliness among college students, according to researchers who provided animal-assisted therapy to 55 students in a group setting at a small arts college. They found a 60 percent decrease in self-reported anxiety and loneliness symptoms following animal-assisted therapy, in which a registered therapy dog was under the supervision of a licensed mental health practitioner.

Rising above the risk: America's first tsunami refuge

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 08:53 AM PDT

Washington's coast is so close to the seismically active Cascadia Subduction Zone that if a megathrust earthquake were to occur, a tsunami would hit the Washington shoreline in just 25 minutes. One coastal community is preparing for such a disaster by starting construction on the nation's first tsunami evacuation refuge, large enough to shelter more than 1,000 people who are within 20-minute walking distance.

Kung fu stegosaur: Lethal fighters when necessary

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 08:49 AM PDT

Stegosaurs might be portrayed as lumbering plant eaters, but they were lethal fighters when necessary, according to paleontologists who have uncovered new evidence of a casualty of stegosaurian combat. The evidence is a fatal stab wound in the pubis bone of a predatory allosaur. The wound -- in the conical shape of a stegosaur tail spike -- would have required great dexterity to inflict and shows clear signs of having cut short the allosaur's life.

Getting the salt out: Electrodialysis can provide cost-effective treatment of salty water from fracked wells

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 08:14 AM PDT

The boom in oil and gas produced through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is seen as a boon for meeting U.S. energy needs. But one byproduct of the process is millions of gallons of water that's much saltier than seawater, after leaching salts from rocks deep below the surface. Now researchers say they have found an economical solution for removing the salt from this water.

Beyond LOL cats, social networks could become trove of biodiversity data

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 08:14 AM PDT

Social networks can be a viable source for photo-vouchered biodiversity records, especially those that clarify which species exist in what places within developing nations, one expert suggests.

Backpack physics: Smaller hikers carry heavier loads

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 08:12 AM PDT

Hikers are generally advised that the weight of the packs they carry should correspond to their own size, with smaller individuals carrying lighter loads. Although petite backpackers might appreciate the excuse to hand off heavier gear to the larger members of the group, it turns out that they may not need the help.

BOFFFFs (big, old, fat, fertile, female fish) sustain fisheries

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 07:16 AM PDT

A new compilation of research from around the world now shows that big, old, fat, fertile, female fish -- known as BOFFFFs to scientists -- are essential for ensuring that fishery stocks remain sustainable.

Hungry or not, kids will eat treats

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 07:16 AM PDT

Even though they are not hungry, children as young as three will find high-energy treats too tempting to refuse, new research has confirmed. In a study of three and four year olds, 100 per cent of children opted for a sweet or savory snack despite eating a filling healthy lunch only 15 minutes prior.

A global surge of great earthquakes from 2004-2014 and implications for Cascadia

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 07:16 AM PDT

The last ten years have been a remarkable time for great earthquakes. Since December 2004 there have been no less than 18 quakes of Mw8.0 or greater -- a rate of more than twice that seen from 1900 to mid-2004. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and massive damage has resulted from these great earthquakes.

Physicists solve longstanding puzzle of how moths find distant mates

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 07:16 AM PDT

Physicists have come up with a mathematical explanation for moths' remarkable ability to find mates in the dark hundreds of meters away. The researchers said the results could also be applied widely in agriculture or robotics. By controlling the behaviors of insects exposed to pheromones, they said, researchers could limit the ability of invasive or disease-carrying pests to mate.

Coordination between gut bacteria, biological clocks may be crucial for preventing obesity, glucose intolerance

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 07:15 AM PDT

Proper coordination between our gut bacteria and our biological clocks may be crucial for preventing obesity and glucose intolerance, scientists say. "Our gut bacteria's ability to coordinate their functions with our biological clock demonstrates, once again, the ties that bind us to our bacterial population and the fact that disturbances in these ties can have consequences for our health," a researcher notes.

Ocean's living carbon pumps: When viruses attack giant algal blooms, global carbon cycles are affected

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 07:15 AM PDT

By some estimates, almost half of the world's organic carbon is fixed by marine organisms called phytoplankton -- single-celled photosynthetic organisms that account for less than one percent of the total photosynthetic biomass on Earth. When giant algal blooms get viral infections, global carbon cycles are affected, scientists have now discovered.

Peanut in house dust linked to peanut allergy in children with skin gene mutation

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 07:11 AM PDT

A strong link between exposure to peanut protein in household dust during infancy and the development of peanut allergy in children genetically predisposed to a skin barrier defect has been discovered by researchers.

Norovirus stomach bug: Scientists take step towards drug to treat

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 07:11 AM PDT

An experimental drug currently being trialled for influenza and Ebola viruses could have a new target: norovirus, often known as the winter vomiting virus. A team of researchers has shown that the drug, favipiravir, is effective at reducing -- and in some cases eliminating -- norovirus infection in mice.

Bite to the death: Sugarbag bees launch all-conquering raids

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 07:11 AM PDT

An Australian native stingless bee species declares war on its neighbors by launching swarms of bees that lock hive-defenders in a death grip with their jaws so that both combatants die.

Tarantula venom illuminates electrical activity in live cells

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 07:11 AM PDT

A cellular probe that combines a tarantula toxin with a fluorescent compound has been developed to help scientists observe electrical activity in neurons and other cells. This is the first time researchers have been able to visually observe these electrical signaling proteins turn on without genetic modification.

New methods to calculate risk of floods

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 07:10 AM PDT

New methods to more accurately estimate long-term flood risk are being devised by researchers. The researchers are examining the possible causes of floods and how they interact with each other. This information is being used to create sophisticated models which will be used by engineers to better calculate flood risks for different locations.

Once CD8 T cells take on one virus, they'll fight others too

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 05:56 AM PDT

CD8 T cells are known for becoming attuned to fight a specific pathogen ('adaptive immunity'), but a new study shows that in that process they also become first-responders that can fend off a variety of other invaders ('innate immunity'). The findings suggest that innate immunity changes with the body's experience and that the T cells are more versatile than thought.

Exposure to aluminum may impact on male fertility, research suggests

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 05:51 AM PDT

Human exposure to aluminum may be a significant factor in falling sperm counts and reduced male fertility, new research suggests. Fluorescence microscopy using an aluminum-specific stain confirmed the presence of aluminum in semen and showed aluminum inside individual sperm.

Legal trade in horn would improve rhino protection, help sustainable development

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 05:51 AM PDT

The extinction in the wild of the southern white rhino population could be prevented by letting local communities take responsibility of the animals and giving them permission to harvest horns in a controlled manner through a legal trade, experts say. Rhino horn is made of the same material as human hair and fingernails and grows back in 2–3 years.

Plant's sunburn: How plants optimize their repair

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 06:29 PM PDT

The optimal mechanism by which plants heal the botanical equivalent of a bad sunburn has been uncovered by researchers. Their work could lead to the development of crops that can repair the sun's damage more easily, improving yields and profitability.

Altering gut bacteria might mitigate lupus, study suggests

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 06:27 PM PDT

Lactobacillus species, commonly seen in yogurt cultures, correlate, in the guts of mouse models, with mitigation of lupus symptoms, while Lachnospiraceae, a type of Clostridia, correlate with worsening, according to research. 'Our results suggest that the same investigation should be performed in human subjects with lupus,' says the principal investigator.

Pharmaceuticals and the water-fish-osprey food web

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 06:26 PM PDT

Ospreys do not carry significant amounts of human pharmaceutical chemicals, despite widespread occurrence of these chemicals in water, a recent study finds. These findings represent the first published study that examines the bioaccumulation of pharmaceuticals in the water-fish-osprey food web.

No relationship between moderate adolescent cannabis use, exam results or IQ, large study shows

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 06:24 PM PDT

A large UK study has found that occasional adolescent cannabis use does not lead to poorer educational and intellectual performance, but that heavy cannabis use is associated with slightly poorer exam results at age 16.

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