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Saturday, November 8, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Origin of the unique ventilatory apparatus of turtles: How the tortoise's ribs got embedded in its shell

Posted: 07 Nov 2014 08:10 AM PST

Through the careful study of modern and early fossil tortoise, researchers now have a better understanding of how tortoises breathe and the evolutionary processes that helped shape their unique breathing apparatus and tortoise shell.

Ebola in Democratic Republic of the Congo: A new strain of the virus

Posted: 07 Nov 2014 08:10 AM PST

While an Ebola epidemic has been raging in West Africa since March 2014, an outbreak of this hemorrhagic fever occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in August, leaving fears over the virus' spread to Central Africa.  A new study confirms that it is an Ebola epidemic. However, this particular epidemic is due to a local strain of the virus, different from the one rife in the West of the continent. While this result shows the two epidemics are not linked, it illustrates the speed at which the disease has emerged. It is therefore urgent that we understand just how the disease is spread.

Offshore islands amplify, rather than dissipate, a tsunami's power

Posted: 07 Nov 2014 06:18 AM PST

A long-held belief that offshore islands protect the mainland from tsunamis turns out to be the exact opposite of the truth, according to a new study.

Genes contribute to behavior differences between fierce and friendly rats

Posted: 07 Nov 2014 06:16 AM PST

After many generations, rats bred for their bad attitude behave differently from those selected for a calm demeanor around humans. Researchers have now identified gene regions that contribute to differences between nasty and nice rats in their behavior and the activity of genes in the brain. These results may provide important clues as to which genes make tame animals like dogs behave so differently from their wild ancestors.

New Zealand's moa were exterminated by an extremely low-density human population

Posted: 07 Nov 2014 06:16 AM PST

A new study suggests that the flightless birds named moa were completely extinct by the time New Zealand's human population had grown to two and half thousand people at most.

Scientists examine mysterious tar mounds in the West African deep ocean

Posted: 07 Nov 2014 06:15 AM PST

More than two thousand mounds of asphalt harboring a wealth of deep-water creatures have been discovered up to two kilometers deep, off the coast of Angola. Scientists have been examining the images and data captured at the site to build an intriguing picture of the life and geology of this underwater area. The naturally-occurring asphalt mounds are made up of the same substance that covers our roads.

The power of the power nap: Scientists uncover secrets of hibernation

Posted: 07 Nov 2014 06:14 AM PST

For hibernating mammals, the pre-winter months are a race against time to accumulate enough energy reserves to last until spring. Offspring born late in the year have much less time to achieve this. Scientists have now discovered that power-napping can help late-born garden dormice overcome these unfavorable odds. The scientists also found a link between time spent at higher temperatures and aging.

Understanding the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in an urban context

Posted: 07 Nov 2014 06:14 AM PST

In an urban environment, the effect of a major earthquake such as the 17 Oct. 1989 Loma Prieta event can be pieced together by the infrastructure damaged or destroyed. This study details the effects of the Loma Prieta earthquake still detectable 25 years on and sheds light on the potential damage to infrastructure from future earthquakes along the San Andreas fault or the neighboring Foothills thrust belt.

Life in Earth’s primordial sea was starved for sulfate

Posted: 07 Nov 2014 06:14 AM PST

Earth's ancient oceans held much lower concentrations of sulfate -- a key biological nutrient -- than previously recognized, according to new research. The findings paint a new portrait of our planet's early biosphere and primitive marine life. Organisms require sulfur as a nutrient, and it plays a central role in regulating atmospheric chemistry and global climate.

The tiger beetle: Too fast to see: Biologist looks into how the speedy predator pursues prey

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 12:29 PM PST

Speed is an asset for a predator. Except when that predator runs so fast that it essentially blinds itself.

Who will come to your bird feeder in 2075?

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 11:38 AM PST

The distribution of birds in the United States today will probably look very different in 60 years as a result of climate, land use and land cover changes.

Hungry bats compete for prey by jamming sonar

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 11:37 AM PST

In their nightly forays, bats hunting for insects compete with as many as one million hungry roost-mates. Now scientists have discovered that Mexican free-tailed bats jam the sonar of competitors to gain advantage in aerial foraging contests.

Ancient DNA shows earliest European genomes weathered the Ice Age: Neanderthal interbreeding clues and a mystery human lineage

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 11:37 AM PST

A genome taken from a 36,000 skeleton reveals an early divergence of Eurasians once they had left Africa, and allows scientists to better assess the point at which 'admixture' -- or interbreeding -- between Eurasians and Neanderthals occurred. The latest research also points to a previously unknown population lineage as old as the first population separations since humans dispersed out of Africa.

Discovering the undiscovered: Advancing new tools to fill in the microbial tree of life

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 11:37 AM PST

Scientists suggest why the time is right to apply genomic technologies to discover new life on Earth. 'Nature has been tinkering with life for at least three billion years and we now have a new set of ways to look for novel forms of life that have so far eluded discovery.'

New laws threaten Brazil's unique ecosystems

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 11:37 AM PST

Brazil's globally significant ecosystems could be exposed to mining and dams if proposals currently being debated by the Brazilian Congress go ahead, according to new research.

Rare 2.5-billion-year-old rocks reveal hot spot of sulfur-breathing bacteria: Sulfur-dependent life forms thrived in oceans

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 11:37 AM PST

Biogeochemical signals in 2.5-billion-year-old carbonate rocks from Brazil reveal that sulfur-consuming bacteria were active at a time when ocean sulfur levels were low. Geologists focused on sulfur isotopes in ancient carbonate rocks. The study sheds light on Earth's early atmospheric chemistry.

Landmark study on the evolution of insects

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 11:37 AM PST

An international team of more than 100 researchers has published the first modern roadmap of insect evolution. Understanding how insects are related uncovers their true ecological, economic, and medical importance, and, until now, has been largely unknown. The unprecedented results reconstruct the insect 'tree of life' and answer longstanding questions about the origins and evolution of insects.

Nutrients that feed red tide 'under the microscope' in major study

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 10:23 AM PST

The 'food' sources that support Florida red tides are more diverse and complex than previously realized, according to five years' worth of research on red tide and nutrients. The microbiology, physiology, ecology and physical oceanography factors affecting red tides were documented in new detail and suggestions for resource managers addressing red tide in the coastal waters of southwest Florida were offered.

Koala study reveals clues about origins of the human genome

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 10:23 AM PST

Eight percent of your genome derives from retroviruses that inserted themselves into human sex cells millions of years ago. In a recent study, scientists discovered that 39 different koala retroviruses in a koala's genome were all endogenous, which means passed down to the koala from one parent or the other; one of the koala retroviruses was found in both parents.

Denying problems when we don't like the political solutions: Why conservatives, liberals disagree so vehemently

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 10:23 AM PST

There may be a scientific answer for why conservatives and liberals disagree so vehemently over the existence of issues like climate change and specific types of crime. A new study finds that people will evaluate scientific evidence based on whether they view its policy implications as politically desirable. If they don't, then they tend to deny the problem even exists.

Synthetic biology for space exploration

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 10:23 AM PST

Synthetic biology may hold the key to long-termed manned explorations of Mars and the Moon. Researchers have shown that biomanufacturing based on microbes could to make travel to and settlement of extraterrestrial locations more practical and bearable.

Research resolves contradiction over protein's role at telomeres

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 10:22 AM PST

A puzzling discrepancy has surrounded one component of the protective complex that forms at telomeres, at the end of chromosomes. Studies of its role in mice versus humans had turned up contradictory results. Now researchers have figured out what's really going on.

SCNT derived cells, IPS cells are similar, study finds

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 10:22 AM PST

A team of scientists compared induced pluripotent stem cells and embryonic stem cells created using somatic cell nuclear transfer. They found that the cells derived from these two methods resulted in cells with highly similar gene expression and DNA methylation patterns. Both methods also resulted in stem cells with similar amounts of DNA mutations, showing that the process of turning an adult cell into a stem cell introduces mutations independent of the specific method used.

Human stem cell-derived neuron transplants reduce seizures in mice

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 10:22 AM PST

Scientists have new evidence that stem cell transplantation could be a worthwhile strategy to help epileptics who do not respond to anti-seizure drugs. Most epileptic patients can be treated with anti-seizure drugs, which contain molecules that can inhibit electrical symptoms, similar to the normal function of interneurons. But about one-third do not benefit from existing medication.

Body weight heavily influenced by gut microbes: Genes shape body weight by affecting gut microbes

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 10:22 AM PST

Our genetic makeup influences whether we are fat or thin by shaping which types of microbes thrive in our body, according to a new study. Scientists identified a specific, little known bacterial family that is highly heritable and more common in individuals with low body weight. This microbe also protected against weight gain when transplanted into mice. The results could pave the way for personalized probiotic therapies that are optimized to reduce the risk of obesity-related diseases based on an individual's genetic make-up.

A cause of age-related inflammation found

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 10:22 AM PST

As animals age, their immune systems gradually deteriorate, a process called immunosenescence. It is associated with systemic inflammation and chronic inflammatory disorders, as well as with many cancers. The causes underlying this age-associated inflammation, and how it leads to diseases, are poorly understood. New work sheds light on one protein's involvement in suppressing immune responses in aging fruit flies.

Images of a nearly invisible mouse

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 10:18 AM PST

A method that combines tissue decolorization and light-sheet fluorescent microscopy has been developed to take extremely detailed images of the interior of individual organs and even entire organisms. The work opens new possibilities for understanding the way life works -- the ultimate dream of systems biology -- by allowing scientists to make tissues and whole organisms transparent and then image them at extremely precise, single-cell resolution.

From single cells to multicellular life: Researchers capture the emergence of multicellular life in real-time experiments

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 08:33 AM PST

All multicellular creatures are descended from single-celled organisms. The leap from unicellularity to multicellularity is possible only if the originally independent cells collaborate. So-called cheating cells that exploit the cooperation of others are considered a major obstacle. Now, researchers capture the emergence of multicellular life in real-time experiments.

Biodiversity offsets need national strategy to succeed

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 08:33 AM PST

Biodiversity offset projects are failing to prevent the widespread decline of gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos, and could be trading the life of one ape for another, experts say.

Future air quality could put plants, people at risk

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 08:33 AM PST

Future ozone levels could be high enough to cause serious damage to plants and crops, even if emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced, says new research. And without sufficient reductions in emissions, ozone levels could also pose a risk to human health.

Complete 9,000-year-old frozen bison mummy found in Siberia

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 08:32 AM PST

Many large charismatic mammals went extinct at the end of the Ice Age -- approximately 11,000 years ago, including the Steppe bison, Bison priscus. A recent find in Eastern Siberia has uncovered one of these bison, literally, frozen in time.

The dodo: New insights into an old bird

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 08:32 AM PST

The dodo is among the most famous extinct creatures, and a poster child for human-caused extinction events. Despite its notoriety, and the fact that the species was alive during recorded human history, little is known about how it lived, looked, and behaved. A new study of the only known complete skeleton from a single bird takes advantage of modern 3-D laser scanning technology to open a new window into the life of this famous extinct bird.

New research adds spice to curcumin's health-promoting benefits

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 08:32 AM PST

The health benefits of over-the-counter curcumin supplements might not get past your gut, but new research shows that a modified formulation of the spice releases its anti-inflammatory goodness throughout the body.

Diversity outbred mice better predict potential human responses to chemical exposures

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 07:17 AM PST

A genetically diverse mouse model is able to predict the range of response to chemical exposures that might be observed in human populations, researchers have found. Like humans, each Diversity Outbred mouse is genetically unique, and the extent of genetic variability among these mice is similar to the genetic variation seen among humans.

Rabbit-proof hoof: Ungulates suppressed lagomorph evolution

Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:29 AM PST

Rodents and rabbits are sister groups, but while rodents have diversified to over 2,000 living species and an enormous range of body sizes, lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, and pikas) are limited to fewer than 100 relatively small species. A new study shows, surprisingly, that competition with ungulates -- hoofed mammals -- intensified by climate change, are to blame for the lagomorphs' limited diversity.

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