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Thursday, October 30, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Pair bonding reinforced in the brain: Zebra finches use their specialized song system for simple communication

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 11:57 AM PDT

In addition to their song, songbirds also have an extensive repertoire of calls. While the species-specific song must be learned as a young bird, most calls are, as in the case of all other birds, innate. Researchers have now discovered that in zebra finches the song control system in the brain is also active during simple communication calls. This relationship between unlearned calls and an area of the brain responsible for learned vocalizations is important for understanding the evolution of song learning in songbirds.

Glacier song: Studying how water moves through glaciers

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 11:55 AM PDT

Mountain glaciers represent one of the largest repositories of fresh water in alpine regions. However, little is known about the processes by which water moves through these systems. Scientists used seismic recordings collected near Lake Gornersee in the Swiss Alps to look for signs of water moving through fractures near the glacier bed. Analysis of these recordings reveals, for the first time, that harmonic tremor occurs within mountain glaciers and that individual icequakes at the glacier base can exhibit harmonic properties. These observations suggest that there is a complex network of fluid-induced fracture processes at the glacier base. Because glacial lake drainage events can occur with little or no warning, there is the potential for damaging floods in valleys below the glacier. Unfortunately, because the water moves under and through the glacier, surface observations alone cannot predict lake drainage events.

Giant tortoises gain a foothold on a Galapagos island

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 11:54 AM PDT

A population of endangered giant tortoises has recovered on the Galapagos island of EspaƱola, a finding described as "a true story of success and hope in conservation."

Governments should take active lead to create healthy food environments to prevent cardiovascular disease

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 10:00 AM PDT

Canadian health organizations are calling upon governments to take a leadership role in creating healthy food environments. They say that implementing strategies that facilitate access to affordable healthy foods and beverages in places where Canadians work, live, and play could play a key role in preventing diet-related disease and health risk such as obesity and hypertension, and ultimately improve cardiovascular health.

Improving breast cancer chemo by testing patient's tumors in a dish

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 09:59 AM PDT

A technique that monitors the response of 3D chunks of a patient's tumor has been developed to determine how effective different anti-cancer drugs will be before starting chemotherapy. In a new article, the engineers describe applying the technique to the three major forms of breast cancer. They report that the test can detect significant drops in the metabolic activity levels of all three types of tumors within 72 hours when exposed to an effective drug whereas tumors that were resistant to a drug show no change.

Mushroom extract, AHCC, helpful in treating HPV

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 09:24 AM PDT

A Japanese mushroom extract appears to be effective for the eradication of human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a pilot clinical trial. Ten HPV-positive women were treated orally with the extract, AHCC (active hexose correlated compound) once daily for up to six months. Five achieved a negative HPV test result -- three with confirmed eradication after stopping AHCC -- with the remaining two responders continuing on the study.

Ciliopathies: New insights into development

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 08:48 AM PDT

Cilia are anchored by the basal bodies to the plasma membrane and like many other organelles must be localized to a specific position in a cell. Diseases of the sensory or motile cilia play a key role in lung diseases or diabetes. Scientists have now discovered the protein Flattop. It regulates the asymmetric positioning of cilia. Malfunctions in this process lead to different clinical phenotypes, the experts say.

Ancient auditory illusions reflected in prehistoric art?

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 08:47 AM PDT

Some of humankind's earliest and most mysterious artistic achievements -- including prehistoric cave paintings, canyon petroglyphs and megalithic structures such as Stonehenge -- may have been inspired by the behaviors of sound waves being misinterpreted as "supernatural."

Co-opting bacterial immune system to turn off specific genes

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 07:48 AM PDT

A technique that co-opts an immune system already present in bacteria and archaea to turn off specific genes or sets of genes -- creating a powerful tool for future research on genetics and related fields -- has been developed by researchers. "This should not only expedite scientific discovery, but help us better engineer microbial organisms to further biotechnology and medicine," says a senior author of a paper on the work. "For example, this could help us develop bacterial strains that are more efficient at converting plant biomass into liquid fuels."

Replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat linked with lower risk of heart disease

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 07:16 AM PDT

People who swap 5 percent of the calories they consume from saturated fat sources such as red meat and butter with foods containing linoleic acid -- the main polyunsaturated fat found in vegetable oil, nuts, and seeds -- lowered their risk of coronary heart disease events by 9 percent and their risk of death from CHD by 13 percent, according to a new study.

Chimps plan ahead for a good breakfast

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 07:16 AM PDT

New research shows that chimpanzees plan ahead, and sometimes take dangerous risks, to get to the best breakfast buffet early.

Rare bush frog breeds in bamboo, researchers discover

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 07:12 AM PDT

Researchers have discovered a new reproductive mode in frogs and toads -- breeding and laying direct developing eggs in live bamboo with narrow openings -- which was observed in the white spotted bush frog (Raorchestes chalazodes). This critically endangered frog is currently only one of two species known to adopt this novel reproductive strategy.

How did complex life evolve? The answer could be inside out

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 05:26 AM PDT

A new idea about the origin of complex life turns current theories inside out. Scientists explain their 'inside-out' theory of how eukaryotic cells, which all multicellular life -- including us -- are formed of, might have evolved.

Variation in antibiotic bacteria in tropical forest soils may play a role in diversity

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 05:26 AM PDT

Variation in antibiotic-producing microbes in tropical forest soils has been discovered by scientists, who not that this research represents a step toward better understanding of the role they play in diversity.

What's in a name? Everything, if you're a fruit fly

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 05:26 AM PDT

This study confirms that four of the world's most destructive agricultural pests, the Oriental, Philippine, Invasive and Asian Papaya fruit flies, are actually one and the same. The study took a multidisciplinary and integrated approach involving over 40 researchers from more than 20 countries and has major implications for global plant biosecurity, including reduced barriers to international trade, improved fundamental research and enhanced food security for some of the world's poorest nations.

World losing 2,000 hectares of farm soil daily to salt damage

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 05:26 AM PDT

Every day for more than 20 years, an average of 2,000 hectares of irrigated land in arid and semi-arid areas across 75 countries have been degraded by salt, according to a study. Today an area the size of France is affected -- about 62 million hectares (20 percent) of the world's irrigated lands, up from 45 million hectares in the early 1990s.

Tea, citrus products could lower ovarian cancer risk, new research finds

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 05:25 AM PDT

Tea and citrus fruits and juices are associated with a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer, according to new research. The research reveals that women who consume foods containing flavonols and flavanones (both subclasses of dietary flavonoids) significantly decrease their risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer, the fifth-leading cause of cancer death among women.

Fish 'personality' linked to vulnerability to angling

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 05:23 AM PDT

Individual differences in moving activity in a novel environment are linked to individual differences in vulnerability to angling, according to an experimental study. The study used novel, long-term observations of individual behavior in groups and authentic angling trials to analyze if behaviors predict the vulnerability to fishing in brown trout reared in traditional and enriched hatchery rearing environments. Based on the results, it can be predicted that fishing modifies the heritable behavioral traits of fish by favoring cautious fish.

Evolutionary biologists observe parallel, repeated evolution of cichlid fish in Nicaragua

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 05:23 AM PDT

If one would rewind the tape of life, would evolution result in the same outcome? An evolutionary biologist came up with this famous question. He suggested that evolution would not repeat itself: the role of random processes in the origin of biodiversity was too important and hence evolution was not predictable. Evolutionary biologists have now described parallel evolution of two closely related, but geographically isolated populations of cichlid fish in Nicaraguan crater lakes.

Radiation exposure linked to aggressive thyroid cancers, researchers confirm for the first time

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 05:21 AM PDT

Exposure to radioactive iodine is associated with more aggressive forms of thyroid cancer, according to a careful study of nearly 12,000 people in Belarus who were exposed when they were children or adolescents to fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.

Future-focused women stand up to global warming with taxes, checkbook

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 03:29 PM PDT

Politicians who discredit global warming risk losing a big chunk of the female vote. A new study found women who consider the long-term consequences of their actions are more likely to adopt a liberal political orientation and take consumer and political steps to reduce global warming. Jeff Joireman, associate professor of marketing at Washington State University, demonstrated that 'future-oriented' women are the voting bloc most strongly motivated to invest money, time and taxes toward reducing global warming.

Agave nectar, placebo both perceived better than doing nothing for cough in kids

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 03:28 PM PDT

Pasteurized agave nectar and placebo were both perceived to be better by parents for treating nighttime cough and the resulting sleep difficulty in infants and toddlers than doing nothing at all, according to a study.

Viral switches share a shape, research finds

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 03:27 PM PDT

A hinge in the RNA genome of the virus that causes hepatitis C works like a switch that can be flipped to prevent it from replicating in infected cells. Scientists have discovered that this shape is shared by several other viruses -- among them one that kills cancer cells.

Prompt isolation of symptomatic patients is key to eliminating Ebola, study suggests

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 11:51 AM PDT

Currently, West Africa is in the midst of the largest and deadliest Ebola epidemic ever recorded. Researchers have developed a random transmission model to determine how disease progression and case fatality affect transmission and how patient isolation could achieve disease elimination. They found that the risk for transmitting Ebola depends on the magnitude of viral load in an infected individual and the number of people with which the infected individual interacts.

'Sticky' ends start synthetic collagen growth

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 11:48 AM PDT

Researchers detail how synthetic collagen helices self-assemble into fibers and gels. The discovery could lead to better synthetic materials for medical applications, they say. Collagen is the most common protein in mammals, a major component of bone and the fibrous tissues that support cells and hold organs together. Discovering its secrets may lead to better synthetic collagen for tissue engineering and cosmetic and reconstructive medicine.

Imaging the genome: Cataloguing fundamental processes of life

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 11:47 AM PDT

A new study has allowed researchers to peer into unexplored regions of the genome and understand for the first time the role played by more than 250 genes key to cell growth and development.

Odor molecules monitor pest that spreads devastating citrus disease

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 11:47 AM PDT

The Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) is an efficient vector of a bacterium that causes huanglongbing, one of the most destructive diseases of citrus worldwide. A research team has targeted the olfactory system of the psyllid, and identified a suite of odor molecules that the ACP olfactory system detects. Some of these odorants can modify the behavior of ACP, leading to the development of tools to tackle its spread worldwide.

Discovery of how newborn mice repair bone fractures could improve treatments

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 11:47 AM PDT

Severe fractures in infants can heal on their own through a process that has eluded scientists. A study now reveals that a fractured arm bone in newborn mice can rapidly realign through a previously unknown mechanism involving bone growth and muscle contraction. The findings provide new insights into how human infants and other young vertebrates may repair broken bones and pave the way for more effective treatment strategies.

Lethal virus more threatening to public health than Ebola: Influenza

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 11:45 AM PDT

With Americans on edge about the potential spread of Ebola, it is easy to overlook another virus to which we have long been accustomed – influenza. According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu takes anywhere from 3,000 to 48,000 lives a year in this country, depending on the severity of the disease in a given flu season. An infectious disease physician says getting an annual flu shot is far more important than many people realize.

Taxi GPS data helps researchers study Hurricane Sandy's effect on NYC traffic

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 09:04 AM PDT

The largest Atlantic hurricane on record, Hurricane Sandy, offered a chance for researchers to try out a new computational method they developed that promises to help municipalities quantify the resilience of their transportation systems to extreme events using only GPS data from taxis.

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