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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Surviving an ice age: Mammals didn't play by the rules of modeling on where they migrated to survive last ice age

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 12:32 PM PST

Leave it to long-dead short-tailed shrew and flying squirrels to outfox climate-modelers trying to predict future habitats. Evidence from the fossil record shows that gluttonous insect-eating shrew didn't live where a species distribution technique drawn by biologists put it 20,000 years ago to survive the reach of glaciers. The shrew is not alone.

Salamanders a more abundant food source in forest ecosystems than previously thought

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 11:18 AM PST

In the 1970s, ecologists published results from one of the first whole-forest ecosystem studies ever conducted. Scientists reported that salamanders represent one of the largest sources of biomass, or food, of all vertebrates in the forest. Now, using new techniques, a study has estimated that the population of salamanders in forested regions may be on average 10 times higher than previously thought.

Were Neanderthals a sub-species of modern humans? New research says no

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 11:16 AM PST

Researchers have identified new evidence supporting the growing belief that Neanderthals were a distinct species separate from modern humans (Homo sapiens), and not a subspecies of modern humans.

Shift in gut bacteria observed in fiber supplement study may offer good news for weight loss

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 09:55 AM PST

Most Americans don't get the daily recommended amount of fiber in their diet, though research has shown that dietary fiber can cause a shift in the gut toward beneficial bacteria, reducing the risk of colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases. A new study shows that two specific functional fibers may also have the potential to assist in weight loss when made part of a long-term, daily diet.

A bird's-eye view of the protein universe: First global picture of the evolutionary origins of proteins

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 09:55 AM PST

How exactly did proteins first come to be? Do they all share a single common ancestor, or did proteins evolve from many different origins? Forming a global picture of the protein universe is crucial to addressing these and other important questions. Now, new research is providing a first step toward piecing together a global picture of the protein universe that may answer these questions and suggest strategies for the design of new proteins.

Jurassic climate of large swath of western U.S. was more complex than previously known: Unexpected abrupt change from arid to wet

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 09:54 AM PST

Climate over a large swath of the western US was more complex during the Jurassic than previously known, according to new research. Instead of a gradual transition from dry to wetter, chemical analysis of ancient soils reveals an unexpected abrupt change, say paleontologists. Samples were from the Morrison Formation, a massive rock unit sprawling across 13 states and Canada that's produced significant dinosaur discoveries for over 100 years.

Using science to open way to 'blue economy'

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 09:54 AM PST

New science and software make Belize coastal zone management plan better for people and the environment. With historic expansion of coastal and ocean development, ecosystems like coral reefs and mangrove forests are put at unprecedented risk. Yet, planners often lack good information about how human activities will impact shoreline and ocean habitats now and in the future. This study developed the information the Belizean government sought to make informed management decisions.

As elephants go, so go the trees

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 09:45 AM PST

Overhunting has been disastrous for elephants, but their forest habitats have also been caught in the crossfire. A first-of-its-kind study shows that the dramatic loss of elephants, which disperse seeds after eating vegetation, is leading to the local extinction of a dominant tree species, with likely cascading effects for other forest life.

Age matters: Young larvae boost pollen foraging in honey bees

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 08:00 AM PST

Adult bees foraging for food use the changing pheromone signals of the young to adjust what nutritional resources they collect. Honey bees return to the hive with one and one half times more protein-rich pollen, when exposed to young larvae as compared to old larvae. The researchers also discovered that significantly fewer foragers return home empty -- a finding that could have an impact in agricultural enterprises.

Spice up your memory: Just one gram of turmeric a day could boost memory

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 08:00 AM PST

Adding just one gram of turmeric to breakfast could help improve the memory of people who are in the very early stages of diabetes and at risk of cognitive impairment.

Biologists explore link between memory deficit and misfiring circadian clock in Siberian hamsters

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 08:00 AM PST

By disrupting Siberian hamsters' circadian rhythms, scientists have identified a part of the brain that, when misfiring, inhibits memory. The work could lead to therapies for neurodegenerative diseases in humans.

Viking fortress discovery: Archaeological dating results

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 07:56 AM PST

In September 2014, archaeologists announced the discovery of a Viking fortress in a field belonging to Vallø Manor, located west of Køge on the east coast of Sealand. This was the first discovery of its kind in Denmark in over 60 years. Since then, archaeologists have been waiting impatiently for the results of the dating of the fortress. Now the first results are available.

History's lesson reveals depth of fish catch decline

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 07:54 AM PST

Scientists in Australia have used historic media to measure the decline in Queensland's pink snapper fishery, highlighting a drop of almost 90 percent in catch rates since the 19th century.

Some flu viruses potentially more dangerous than others

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 07:54 AM PST

Certain subtypes of avian influenza viruses have the potential to cause more severe disease in humans than other avian influenza subtypes and should be monitored carefully to prevent spread of disease, according to a study.

Trans fat consumption linked to diminished memory in working-aged adults

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 07:54 AM PST

Trans fat consumption is adversely linked to memory sharpness in young to middle-aged men. Men under 45 years old who ate higher amounts of trans fats, which are found in processed foods, had significantly reduced ability to recall words. Further studies need to determine whether these effects extend to women under 45 years old.

Helping wheat defend itself against damaging viruses

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 07:48 AM PST

A patent-pending technology has built resistance to certain viruses in wheat plants. These viruses can be an economic drain to wheat farmers by costing them 5 to 10 percent or more in yield reductions per crop. Although the technology involves genetic engineering, which is not an option for wheat in today's market, the research has extended to building this resistance in non-genetically engineered wheat lines as well.

Protected area expansion target: Is a huge promise lost due to land conversion?

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 06:16 AM PST

By expanding the protected area network to 17 percent of land, countries could triple the present protection levels of terrestrial vertebrates. Globally coordinated protected area network expansion could deliver a result 50 percent more efficient compared to countries looking only at biodiversity within their own area. Land conversion is, however, fast degrading options for conservation.

Using sewage sludge to obtain bioenergy

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 06:16 AM PST

Researchers have found a way to increase biomass production by using sewage sludge as energy crop fertilizers. The usage of sewage sludge to fertilize energy crops could be an opportunity to release residues since these plantations are not intended for food industry.

'Probiotics' for plants boost detox abilities; untreated plants overdose and die

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 06:13 AM PST

Scientists using a microbe that occurs naturally in eastern cottonwood trees have boosted the ability of willow and lawn grass to withstand the withering effects of the nasty industrial pollutant phenanthrene.

Going against the flow: Targeting bacterial motility to combat disease

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 04:27 AM PST

The ability to move enables many bacteria to reach a specific niche or to leave hostile environments. The bacterium Mycoplasma gallisepticum is a poultry pathogen that is capable of gliding over solid surfaces. Scientists have now identified the proteins responsible for this gliding mechanism. Interrupting the gliding mechanism could be a way to make the bacteria less virulent, but it could also help in the development of vaccines against the pathogen, experts say.

Recycling Styrofoam into rigid plastic

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 04:26 AM PST

Mexican entrepreneurs designed the first national machine capable of recycling Styrofoam (expanded polystyrene) and transform it into a raw material used in the manufacture of transparent hard plastic.

Unexpected cross-species contamination in genome sequencing projects

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 04:26 AM PST

As genome sequencing has gotten faster and cheaper, the pace of whole-genome sequencing has accelerated, dramatically increasing the number of genomes deposited in public archives. Although these genomes are a valuable resource, problems can arise when researchers misapply computational methods to assemble them, or accidentally introduce unnoticed contaminations during sequencing.

Viruses impaired if their targets have diverse genes

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 04:25 AM PST

When a viral infection spread through five genetically identical mice in a row, the virus replicated faster and became more virulent or severe. But when the infection spread one-by-one through five genetically diverse mice, the virus had trouble adapting and became less virulent. A new study suggests that increased genetic diversity should be promoted in livestock and in captive-bred endangered species so as to limit their risk of getting deadly infections.

Nothing fishy about health benefits of plant-based omega-3 fatty acid

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 02:45 PM PST

Increasing the amount of omega-3s in your diet, whether from fish or flax, will likely decrease your risk of getting heart disease, according to nutritionists. A substantial amount of evidence exists supporting the heart-health benefits of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA), marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids. However, much less evidence exists to demonstrate the positive effects of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid.

Overhaul in tropical forest research needed

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 01:43 PM PST

New work shows the limitations of long-used research methods in tropical rainforest ecology and points to new technological approaches for understanding forest structures and systems on large geographic scales.

Climate change was not to blame for the collapse of the Bronze Age

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 01:41 PM PST

Scientists will have to find alternative explanations for a huge population collapse in Europe at the end of the Bronze Age as researchers prove definitively that climate change -- commonly assumed to be responsible -- could not have been the culprit.

Subtle shifts in the Earth could forecast earthquakes, tsunamis

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 01:41 PM PST

Earthquakes and tsunamis can be giant disasters no one sees coming, but now an international team of scientists has found that subtle shifts in Earth's offshore plates can be a harbinger of the size of the disaster.

Tornados of fire: Examining the fire whirl phenomenon

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 01:26 PM PST

Meteorology meets fire science in a recent article exploring the violent whirlwinds that are known to wreak havoc in the nation's west.

The 'dirty' side of soap: Triclosan, a common antimicrobial in personal hygiene products, causes liver fibrosis and cancer in mice

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 12:46 PM PST

Triclosan is an antimicrobial commonly found in soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and many other household items. Despite its widespread use, researchers report potentially serious consequences of long-term exposure to the chemical.

Advances in electron microscopy reveal secrets of HIV and other viruses

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 10:24 AM PST

Researchers are getting a new look at the workings of HIV and other viruses thanks to new techniques in electron microscopy. Making a vaccine against HIV has always been difficult, at least partly because the proteins on the surface of the virus change so rapidly. Better understanding the structure of the gp120/Env trimer could help in finding less-variable areas of these proteins, not usually exposed to the immune system, which might be targets for a vaccine.

Worldwide ship traffic up 300 percent since 1992

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 10:08 AM PST

Maritime traffic on the world's oceans has increased four-fold over the past 20 years, likely causing more water, air and noise pollution on the open seas, according to a new study quantifying global ship traffic. The research used satellite data to estimate the number of vessels on the ocean every year between 1992 and 2012. The number of ships traversing the oceans grew by 60 percent between 1992 and 2002. Shipping traffic grew even faster during the second decade of the study, peaking at rate of increase of 10 percent per year in 2011.

Ten ways remote sensing can contribute to conservation

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 09:56 AM PST

Scientists are recognizing contribution of satellites to biodiversity conservation. Addressing global questions requires global datasets that are enabled by satellite remote sensing; a new article highlights the way in which continuous observations of the Earth's surface and atmosphere can advance our understanding of how and why the Earth is changing and inform actions that can be taken to halt the degradation of planet's natural systems.

Young bar patrons more likely to smoke and use multiple tobacco products

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 08:12 AM PST

Smoking prevalence among young adults who frequent bars is at least twice the rate of smoking found among young adults in the general population, according to new research.

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