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Thursday, December 11, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Water vapor on Rosetta's target comet significantly different from that found on Earth

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 05:47 PM PST

ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has found the water vapor from its target comet to be significantly different to that found on Earth. The discovery fuels the debate on the origin of our planet's oceans. One of the leading hypotheses on Earth's formation is that it was so hot when it formed 4.6 billion years ago that any original water content should have boiled off. But, today, two thirds of the surface is covered in water, so where did it come from? In this scenario, it should have been delivered after our planet had cooled down, most likely from collisions with comets and asteroids.

New insights into the origins of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 05:45 PM PST

The cereal crops that humans rely on today as staple foods result from plant breeding decisions our ancestors made more than 10,000 years ago. Now, a series of intriguing experiments has revealed why those first arable farmers chose to domesticate some cereals and not others. The results could help today's plant breeders improve tomorrow's crops.

First images of historic San Francisco shipwreck, SS City of Rio de Janeiro

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 02:17 PM PST

Researchers released 3-D sonar maps and images of an immigrant steamship lost more than 100 years ago in what many consider the worst maritime disaster in San Francisco history. On Feb. 22, 1901, in a dense morning fog, the SS City of Rio de Janeiro struck jagged rocks near the present site of the Golden Gate Bridge and sank almost immediately, killing 128 of the 210 passengers and crew aboard the ship.

NASA study shows 13-year record of drying Amazon caused vegetation declines

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 02:17 PM PST

A 13-year decline in vegetation in the eastern and southeastern Amazon has been linked to a decade-long rainfall decline in the region. With global climate models projecting further drying over the Amazon in the future, the potential loss of vegetation and the associated loss of carbon storage may speed up global climate change.

Thyroid hormones reduce animal cardiac arrhythmias

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 11:08 AM PST

Rats that received thyroid hormones had a reduced risk for dangerous heart arrhythmias following a heart attack, according to a new study. The research team found that thyroid hormone replacement therapy significantly reduced the incidence of atrial fibrillation -- a specific kind of irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia -- in the rats, compared to a control group that did not receive the hormones.

Scientists estimate total weight of plastic floating in world's oceans: Nearly 269,000 tons of plastic pollution floating in the ocean

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 11:08 AM PST

Nearly 269,000 tons of plastic pollution may be floating in the world's oceans, according to a new study. Microplastic pollution is found in varying concentrations throughout the oceans, but estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics, both micro and macroplastic, lack sufficient data to support them. To better estimate the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world's oceans, scientists from six countries contributed data from 24 expeditions collected over a six-year period from 2007-2013 across all five sub-tropical gyres, coastal Australia, Bay of Bengal, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Oldest horned dinosaur species in North America found in Montana: Hooked beak, sharply pointed cheeks distinguishes neoceratopsian species

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 11:08 AM PST

Scientists have named the first definite horned dinosaur species from the Early Cretaceous in North America. The limited fossil record for neoceratopsian--or horned dinosaurs--from the Early Cretaceous in North America restricts scientists' ability to reconstruct the early evolution of this group.

Prenatal exposure to common household chemicals linked with substantial drop in child IQ

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 11:08 AM PST

Children exposed during pregnancy to elevated levels of two common chemicals found in the home -- di-n-butyl phthalate and di-isobutyl phthalate -- had an IQ score, on average, more than six points lower than children exposed at lower levels, according to researchers. The study is the first to report a link between prenatal exposure to phthalates and IQ in school-age children. While avoiding all phthalates in the United States is for now impossible, the researchers recommend that pregnant women take steps to limit exposure by not microwaving food in plastics, avoiding scented products as much as possible, including air fresheners, and dryer sheets, and not using recyclable plastics labeled as 3, 6, or 7.

Predator versus prey: California sheephead's role along Pacific Coast

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 10:13 AM PST

California sheephead plays a vital role in the food web of kelp forests along the Pacific coast. Commonly found in the waters from Baja California to Point Conception -- although they can sometimes be found as far north as Monterey Bay -- sheephead feed on sea urchins, whose grazing habits can wreak havoc on community composition in kelp forests.

Fungus-growing ants selectively cultivate their crops

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 10:13 AM PST

Ever since agriculture evolved ca 10,000 years ago, plants have been artificially selected to become the fast growing and highly productive varieties we know today. However, humans were not the first to see merit in cultivating their own food, as ants have been doing this for 50 million years.

No laughing matter: Nitrous oxide rose at end of last ice age

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 10:13 AM PST

Nitrous oxide is an important greenhouse gas that doesn't receive as much notoriety as carbon dioxide or methane, but a new study confirms that atmospheric levels of N2O rose significantly as the Earth came out of the last ice age and addresses the cause.

Dragonflies on the hunt display complex choreography

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 10:10 AM PST

The dragonfly is a swift and efficient hunter. Once it spots its prey, it takes about half a second to swoop beneath an unsuspecting insect and snatch it from the air. Researchers have used motion-capture technology to reveal new insight into the sophisticated information processing and acrobatic skills of dragonflies on the hunt.

Breakthrough solves centuries-old animal evolution mystery

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 10:10 AM PST

Researchers have developed a method for spying on the activity of every gene within a cell at once. The breakthrough allows them to determine the order in which the three layers of cells in animal embryos evolved. Other applications include cancer research.

How long can Ebola live? No one really knows

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 09:14 AM PST

The Ebola virus travels from person to person through direct contact with infected body fluids. But how long can the virus survive on glass surfaces or countertops? How long can it live in wastewater when liquid wastes from a patient end up in the sewage system? A new article reviews the latest research to find answers to these questions.

New study measures methane emissions from natural gas production and offers insights into two large sources

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 09:14 AM PST

A small subset of natural gas wells are responsible for the majority of methane emissions from two major sources -- liquid unloadings and pneumatic controller equipment -- at natural gas production sites. With natural gas production in the United States expected to continue to increase during the next few decades, there is a need for a better understanding of methane emissions during natural gas production.

Climate change projected to drive species northward

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 09:14 AM PST

Anticipated changes in climate will push West Coast marine species from sharks to salmon northward an average of 30 kilometers per decade, shaking up fish communities and shifting fishing grounds, according to a new study.

Honeybee hive sealant promotes hair growth in mice

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 08:43 AM PST

Hair loss can be devastating for the millions of men and women who experience it. Now scientists are reporting that a substance from honeybee hives might contain clues for developing a potential new therapy. They found that the material, called propolis, encouraged hair growth in mice.

Phenomenal fossil and detailed analysis reveal details about enigmatic fossil mammals

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 08:43 AM PST

Mammals that lived during the time of the dinosaurs are often portrayed as innocuous, small-bodied creatures, scurrying under the feet of the huge reptiles. In reality, this wasn't the case, and a new fossil from Madagascar further underscores this point, revealing fascinating perspectives on the growing diversity of Mesozoic mammals.

Analogues of a natural product are drug candidates against malaria

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 08:43 AM PST

Two analogues of borrelidin were found to cure 100 percent of infected mice and produce immunological memory in these animals, a property not previously observed in an antimalarial drug. Growing resistance to current treatment for malaria increases the need for new drug candidates.

Ancient creature discovered in the depths of the Arctic Ocean

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 08:43 AM PST

An extraordinary animal has been discovered more than 1.5 miles (2.5 km) below the ocean surface off the coast of northern Alaska, USA. The new species is a type of bivalve mollusk (clams, mussels, oysters etc.). Age estimates place the new clam as living more than 1.8 million years ago to the near present, but scientists can't discount that it might still be alive today.

With experience, people can tell bears apart

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 07:00 AM PST

Studying the social interaction of bears through the use of camera traps and visual observations requires that humans be able to tell individuals apart. A study done using volunteers to study the vulnerable Andean bear indicates that people can learn to identify individual bears, given a little practice.

Carbon soot particles, dust blamed for discoloring India’s Taj Mahal

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 06:58 AM PST

The Taj Mahal's iconic marble dome and soaring minarets require regular cleaning to maintain their dazzling appearance, and scientists now know why. Researchers are pointing the finger at airborne carbon particles and dust for giving the gleaming white landmark a brownish cast.

Researchers observe how unfolded proteins move in the cell

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 05:20 AM PST

When a large protein unfolds in transit through a cell, it slows down and can get stuck in traffic. Using a specialized microscope -- a sort of cellular traffic camera -- chemists now can watch the way the unfolded protein diffuses. Studying the relationship between protein folding and transport could provide great insight into protein-misfolding diseases such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's

Yeast are first cells known to cure themselves of prions

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 05:20 AM PST

Yeast cells can sometimes reverse the protein misfolding and clumping associated with diseases such as Alzheimer's, according to new research. The finding contradicts the idea that once prion proteins have changed into the shape that aggregates, the change is irreversible. In humans, such aggregates, called amyloids, are associated with diseases including Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's.

New model to predict the thermal performance of vegetal façades

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 05:05 AM PST

After years of monitoring different experimental buildings, a group of researchers from the School of Architecture of Universidad Politécnica de Madrid has developed a model that can estimate the thermal performance of vegetal façades regarding the traditional ones by previously studying the main characteristics of its climatology. Therefore, this model is a great tool to assess energy saving associated to vegetal façades installations in addition to having thermal benefits for the users of these buildings.

Poppies fade from Flanders fields as Europe's plant life changes

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 05:04 AM PST

One hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War, the flower that has come to symbolise the lives lost in conflict – the poppy – is disappearing from former battle fields of northern France and Belgian Flanders. Ecologists have been studying the dramatic changes that have occurred in Europe's plant biodiversity.

A dozen ways to go green for the holidays

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 04:41 AM PST

Sustainability experts have put together a list of 12 steps, big and small, that everyone can take to reduce holiday waste and make the season a little greener.

Is natural gas a 'bridge' to a hotter future?

Posted: 08 Dec 2014 11:57 AM PST

Natural gas power plants produce substantial amounts of gases that lead to global warming. Replacing old coal-fired power plants with new natural gas plants could cause climate damage to increase over the next decades, unless their methane leakage rates are very low and the new power plants are very efficient.

Solid-state proteins maximize intensity of fluorescent-protein-based lasers

Posted: 08 Dec 2014 11:57 AM PST

The same research team that developed the first laser based on a living cell has shown that use of fluorescent proteins in a solid form rather than in solution greatly increases the intensity of light produced, an accomplishment that takes advantage of natural protein structures surrounding the light-emitting portions of the protein molecules.

Bougainvillea's response to deficit irrigation tested

Posted: 08 Dec 2014 11:56 AM PST

Researchers determined effects of deficit irrigation treatments on three potted Bougainvillea varieties grown in two shapes. Shoot, total dry biomass, leaf number, leaf area, and macronutrient, phosphorus, and potassium concentration decreased in response to an increase in water stress, with the lowest values recorded in the severe deficit irrigation treatment. The researchers determined that moderate deficit irrigation treatments can be used successfully in Bougainvillea and recommended two genotypes suitable for pot plant production.

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