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Friday, December 12, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Toxic nectar affects the behavior of insect pollinators

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 06:00 PM PST

Natural toxins in nectar and pollen can poison insects and affect their memory, behavior and reproductive success, researchers have found. Toxins in lupin pollen cause bumble bees to produce fewer offspring while chemicals found in rhododendron nectar are toxic to honeybees but not bumble bees, toxic effects that could be contributing to the worrying decline in pollinator species.

Citizen scientists lead the way in exciting new research

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 06:00 PM PST

From the ponds of Paris to the quintessentially English floodplain meadow, hundreds of sites are now being studied by thousands of citizen scientists across Europe. Data collected by these enthusiastic volunteers provide vital information for researchers, environmental managers and policy makers.

Preventing biodiversity loss due to ash dieback disease

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 06:00 PM PST

A new study of woodlands across the UK reveals that, as Chalara ash dieback disease progresses, encouraging the growth of other broadleaved trees as alternatives to ash could protect the almost 1000 species of plants and animals which usually use ash trees for food and habitat.

Chickens and turkeys 'closer to dinosaur ancestors' than other birds

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 11:26 AM PST

New research suggests that chickens and turkeys have experienced fewer gross genomic changes than other birds as they evolved from their dinosaur ancestor.

New method helps map species' genetic heritage

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 11:24 AM PST

Where did the songbird get its song? What branch of the bird family tree is closer to the flamingo -- the heron or the sparrow? These questions seem simple, but are actually difficult for geneticists to answer. A new, sophisticated technique called statistical binning can help researchers construct more accurate species trees detailing the lineage of genes and the relationships between species.

Cells can use dynamic patterns to pluck signals from noise

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 11:24 AM PST

Scientists have discovered a general principle for how cells could accurately transmit chemical signals despite high levels of noise in the system.

Genes tell story of birdsong and human speech

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 11:24 AM PST

A massive international effort to sequence and compare the entire genomes of 48 species of birds, representing every major order of the bird family tree, reveals that vocal learning evolved twice or maybe three times among songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds. Even more striking, the set of genes employed in each of those song innovations is remarkably similar to the genes involved in human speaking ability.

March of the penguin genomes

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 11:24 AM PST

Two penguin genomes have been sequenced and analyzed for the first time. The study reveals insights into how these birds have been able to adapt to the cold and hostile Antarctic environment.

Tooth loss in birds occurred about 116 million years ago

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 11:21 AM PST

A question that has intrigued biologists is: Were teeth lost in the common ancestor of all living birds or convergently in two or more independent lineages of birds? A research team used the degraded remnants of tooth genes in birds to determine that teeth were lost in the common ancestor of all living birds more than 100 million years ago.

Big Bang' of bird evolution mapped

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 11:21 AM PST

The first findings of the Avian Phylogenomics Consortium are being reported nearly simultaneously in 29 papers -- eight papers in a Dec. 12 special issue of Science and 21 more in Genome Biology, GigaScience and other journals. The analyses suggest some remarkable new ideas about bird evolution, including insights into vocal learning and the brain, colored plumage, sex chromosomes and the birds' relationship to dinosaurs and crocodiles.

Biologists map crocodilian genomes

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 11:18 AM PST

Understanding the crocodilian genome can help scientists better understand birds. The DNA in alligators, crocodiles and gharials is about 93 percent identical across the genome. By comparison, a human shares about 93 percent of his or her DNA with a macaque.

Human DNA shows traces of 40 million-year battle for survival between primate and pathogen

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 11:18 AM PST

Examination of DNA from 21 primate species – from squirrel monkeys to humans – exposes an evolutionary war against infectious bacteria over iron that circulates in the host's bloodstream. Supported by experimental evidence, these findings demonstrate the vital importance of an increasingly appreciated defensive strategy called nutritional immunity.

Ebola virus may replicate in an exotic way

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 11:18 AM PST

Researchers ran biochemical analysis and computer simulations of a livestock virus to discover a likely and exotic mechanism to explain the replication of related viruses such as Ebola, measles and rabies. The mechanism may be a possible target for new treatments within a decade.

Affluence, not political complexity, explains rise of moralizing world religions

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 09:45 AM PST

The ascetic and moralizing movements that spawned the world's major religious traditions -- Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Christianity -- all arose around the same time in three different regions, and researchers have now devised a statistical model based on history and human psychology that helps to explain why. The emergence of world religions, they say, was triggered by the rising standards of living in the great civilizations of Eurasia.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus unlikely to reach epidemic status, experts say

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 09:44 AM PST

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is an emerging virus, with the first case reported in 2012. It exhibits a 40% fatality rate and over 97% of the cases have occurred in the Middle East. In three new studies, researchers reported on clinical outcomes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), how long patients will shed virus during their infections, and how the Sultanate of Oman is dealing with cases that have appeared there.

Smoke flavorings, water vapor permeable bags for new fish smoking techniques

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 09:44 AM PST

A new technique based on the use of water vapor permeable bags for fish salting and smoking has been developed by researchers. This technique, which combines a "controlled salting" with the use of smoke flavorings and packaging, allows a better control of the amount of salt in the final product. Moreover, it results in better food safety as it minimizes the risk of microbial contamination caused by handling the product.

How birds get by without external ears

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 08:57 AM PST

Unlike mammals, birds have no external ears. The outer ears have an important function: they help the animal identify sounds coming from different elevations. But birds are also able to perceive whether the source of a sound is above them, below them, or at the same level. Now a research team has discovered that birds are able to localize these sounds by utilizing their entire head.

Fish use chemical camouflage from diet to hide from predators

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 08:55 AM PST

A species of small fish uses a homemade coral-scented cologne to hide from predators, a new study has shown, providing the first evidence of chemical camouflage from diet in fish.

Invasive species can dramatically alter landscapes, study shows

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 08:55 AM PST

Invasive plant and animal species can cause dramatic and enduring changes to the geography and ecology of landscapes, a study demonstrates. A review of studies on how life forms interact with and influence their surroundings concluded that invasive species can alter landscapes in myriad ways and with varying degrees of severity. These changes can be quick, large-scale and "extremely difficult" to reverse, said a study author.

Major comeback for sea turtles: Highest reported nest counts in Nicaragua

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 08:53 AM PST

Scientists noticed a dramatic increase in nesting of critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles including the highest nest counts since a conservation project began there in 2000.

Energy efficient homes linked to asthma

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 07:20 AM PST

The drive for energy efficient homes could increase asthma risks, according to new research that has found that a failure by residents to heat and ventilate retrofitted properties could lead to more people developing the respiratory condition.

Is that Ginkgo biloba supplement really what you think it is?

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 07:20 AM PST

A new study has investigated the use of DNA barcoding to test the authenticity of Ginkgo biloba, an herbal dietary supplement sold to consumers that is purported to boost cognitive capacity.

Story of bizarre deep-sea bone worm takes unexpected twist: Evolutionary reversal previously unseen in animal kingdom

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 07:18 AM PST

The saga of the Osedax "bone-eating" worms began 12 years ago, with the first discovery of these deep-sea creatures that feast on the bones of dead animals. The Osedax story grew even stranger when researchers found that the large female worms contained harems of tiny dwarf males.

How fast you age depends on your parents

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 06:06 AM PST

In the hunt for better knowledge on the aging process, researchers have now enlisted the help of small birds. A new study investigates various factors which affect whether chicks are born with long or short chromosome ends, called telomeres.

The Jaws effect: Biting review finds shark policy based on movie myths

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 06:06 AM PST

The film "Jaws" has heavily influenced Western Australia's stance on sharks, a review of over a decade of state government policy has found.

Water’s role in the rise and fall of the Roman Empire

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 06:06 AM PST

Smart agricultural practices and an extensive grain-trade network enabled the Romans to thrive in the water-limited environment of the Mediterranean, a new study shows. But the stable food supply brought about by these measures promoted population growth and urbanization, pushing the Empire closer to the limits of its food resources.

Human exposure to metal cadmium may accelerate cellular aging

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 05:15 AM PST

The metal cadmium has been the focus of new study that finds that higher human exposure can lead to significantly shorter telomeres, bits of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that are associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other diseases of old age.

Tourism poses a threat to dolphins in the Balearic Islands

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 05:11 AM PST

The rise in tourism, fishing and sea transport between the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands is compromising the wellbeing of a small population of common bottlenose dolphins living in coastal waters off the Pityusic Islands. This is the conclusion of a study which has, for the first time, counted these mammals in summer and spring, which are crucial seasons for them.

Re-discovered diaries shed new light on one of the world's most studied woods

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 05:11 AM PST

The re-discovered diaries and photographs of ecological pioneer Charles Elton have been digitised for the first time, providing a unique insight into the changing face of an Oxfordshire woodland from the second world war to the swinging sixties.

Sampling rivers for genes rather than organisms

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 05:11 AM PST

Effective environmental management depends on a detailed knowledge of the distribution of species. But taxonomists are in short supply, and some species can be difficult to identify, even for experts. Scientists are now pursuing a new approach for species identification, requiring no more than samples of DNA shed into the environment.

New way to turn genes on discovered: Technique allows rapid, large-scale studies of gene function

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 11:08 AM PST

Using a gene-editing system originally developed to delete specific genes, researchers have now shown that they can reliably turn on any gene of their choosing in living cells. The findings are expected to help researchers refine and further engineer the tool to accelerate genomic research and bring the technology closer to use in the treatment of human genetic disease.

New drug proves effective against antibiotic-resistant 'superbugs'

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 05:07 AM PST

A new treatment is far more effective than traditional antibiotics at inhibiting the growth of drug-resistant bacteria, including so-called 'superbugs' resistant to almost all existing antibiotics, which plague hospitals and nursing homes. The findings provide a needed boost to the field of antibiotic development, which has been limited in the last four decades and outpaced by the rise of drug-resistant bacterial strains.

Fructose and glucose: Brain reward circuits respond differently to two kinds of sugar

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 05:07 AM PST

New information suggests the brain responds differently to different sugars, and that one type could be connected with overeating. Brain responses to fructose, a simple sugar contained in high-fructose corn syrup, produced activation in the brain's 'reward circuit,' and increased the desire for food, according to new research. This was not true for glucose, the body's major energy source, which is produced mainly by breakdown of complex carbohydrates.

Move over smart cities, the Internet of Things is off to the country

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 05:06 AM PST

Computer scientists are investigating how the Internet of Things could work in the countryside.

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