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Friday, January 23, 2015

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Treatment restores sociability in autism mouse model

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 12:48 PM PST

Researchers have treated mice that mimic human autism with a neuropeptide called oxytocin, and have found that it restores normal social behavior. In addition, the findings suggest that giving oxytocin as early as possible in the animal's life leads to more lasting effects in adults and adolescents.

Early human ancestors used their hands like modern humans

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 11:54 AM PST

New research suggests pre-Homo human ancestral species, such as Australopithecus africanus, used human-like hand postures much earlier than was previously thought. The distinctly human ability for forceful precision (e.g. when turning a key) and power "squeeze" gripping (e.g. when using a hammer) is linked to two key evolutionary transitions in hand use: a reduction in arboreal climbing and the manufacture and use of stone tools. However, it is unclear when these locomotory and manipulative transitions occurred.

New research re-creates planet formation, super-Earths and giant planets in the laboratory

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 11:54 AM PST

New laser-driven compression experiments reproduce the conditions deep inside exotic super-Earths and giant planet cores, and the conditions during the violent birth of Earth-like planets, documenting the material properties that determined planets' formation and evolution processes.

Going with the flow: Is river basin management misguided?

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 10:32 AM PST

Millions of Americans live in flood-prone areas. In 2012 alone, the cost of direct flood damage hit nearly half a billion dollars. However, because the factors contributing to flood risk are not fully understood, river basin management -- and even the calculation of flood insurance premiums -- may be misguided.

When it comes to variations in crop yield, climate has a big say

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 10:32 AM PST

What impact will future climate change have on food supply? That depends in part on the extent to which variations in crop yield are attributable to variations in climate. A new report has found that climate variability historically accounts for one-third of yield variability for maize, rice, wheat and soybeans worldwide -- the equivalent of 36 million metric tons of food each year.

Reducing Myc gene activity extends healthy lifespan in mice

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 10:31 AM PST

Mice with one rather than the normal two copies of the gene Myc (also found in humans) lived 15 percent longer and had considerably healthier lives than normal mice, according to a new Brown University-led study in Cell.

Major breakthrough in reading ancient scrolls

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 08:44 AM PST

Revolutionary software is making a breakthrough in reading 2,000-year old Herculaneum scrolls, computer scientists report. After working for more than 10 years on unlocking an ancient piece of history, what lies inside damaged Herculaneum scrolls, one researcher will accomplish the next step in allowing the world to read the scrolls, which cannot be physically opened.

Antibiotics, bacteria, resistance genes found in dust from feedlots

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 08:43 AM PST

Researchers are beginning to understand how antibiotic-resistant bacteria travel aerially. "Everyone is fairly certain antibiotic resistance comes from extensive use of antibiotics in animal-based agriculture. About 70 percent of all antibiotics used are for animal agricultural purposes. Overuse contributes to antibiotic resistance. But how does it happen? How does it get from where the drugs are used into the human environment and natural environment?" authors asked.

Soils could keep contaminants in wastewater from reaching groundwater, streams

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 07:36 AM PST

With endocrine-disrupting compounds affecting fish populations in rivers as close as Pennsylvania's Susquehanna and as far away as Israel's Jordan, a new research study shows that soils can filter out and break down at least some of these emerging contaminants. The results suggest that water pollution can be diminished by spraying treated wastewater on land rather than discharging it directly into streams, according to researchers.

Study projects unprecedented loss of corals in Great Barrier Reef due to warming

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 07:32 AM PST

The coverage of living corals on Australia's Great Barrier Reef could decline to less than 10 percent if ocean warming continues, according to a new study that explores the short- and long-term consequences of environmental changes to the reef.

New animal models faithfully reproduce human tumors

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 07:32 AM PST

New animal models that reproduce faithfully the evolution and malignancy of different human tumors have been developed by researchers. This facilitates parallel tumor progression in patients suffering from the disease in an animal laboratory mice in this case; and predict possible relapses and anticipate what will be most effective treatments.

Small drop in sea level had big impact on southern Great Barrier Reef

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 07:32 AM PST

A small drop in sea level 2000 years ago on the southern Greater Barrier Reef led to a dramatic slowdown in the coral reef's growth, research shows. The researchers analyzed samples from One Tree Reef in the southern Great Barrier Reef. They radiocarbon dated sediment cores from the lagoons of the coral reef to calculate sand infilling. Sea level change was calculated by dating fossil samples from micro-atolls.

Snack attack: Bears munch on ants and help plants grow

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 07:26 AM PST

Tiny ants may seem like an odd food source for black bears, but the protein-packed bugs are a major part of some bears' diets and a crucial part of the food web that not only affects other bugs, but plants too.

One fish, two fish: Camera counts freshwater fish, which could help combat hydrilla

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 06:22 AM PST

The study of a graduate student includes the draining of ponds to verify fish counted on video. This leads to findings that can help fisheries managers control the invasive hydrilla.

New forensic entomology observations expand knowledge of decomposition ecology

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 05:48 AM PST

Insects that have not been previously associated with human corpses actually interact with dead human bodies, which may provide clues for forensic entomologists in the future, new research suggests.

Doubt cast on global firestorm generated by dino-killing asteroid

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 05:48 AM PST

Pioneering new research has debunked the theory that the asteroid that is thought to have led to the extinction of dinosaurs also caused vast global firestorms that ravaged planet Earth. Scientists recreated the immense energy released from an extra-terrestrial collision with Earth that occurred around the time that dinosaurs became extinct. They found that the intense but short-lived heat near the impact site could not have ignited live plants, challenging the idea that the impact led to global firestorms.

Cell's recycling team helps sound alarm on pathogens

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 05:48 AM PST

Autophagy recycles materials in the cell and is also an efficient method of eliminating viruses, bacteria, and parasites. However, for fungal invaders, researchers have found that the cleanup crew takes a less straightforward approach. Rather than killing fungal invaders directly, autophagy is used to chew up a molecule that would otherwise hold back the immune response. It's sort of like breaking the glass on an alarm to allow the button to be pushed.

Fine motor skills for robotic hands

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 05:45 AM PST

Tying shoelaces, stirring coffee, writing letters, playing the piano. From the usual daily routine to demanding activities: Our hands are used more frequently than any other body part. Through our highly developed fine motor skills, we are able to perform grasping movements with variable precision and power distribution. This ability is a fundamental characteristic of the hand of primates. Until now, it was unclear how hand movements are planned in the brain. Neuroscientists can now predict grip movements of the hand by measuring brain cell activity.

Fossils survive volcanic eruption to tell us about the origin of the Canary Islands

Posted: 22 Jan 2015 05:45 AM PST

The most recent eruption on the Canary Islands – at El Hierro in 2011 – produced spectacularly enigmatic white "floating rocks" that originated from the layers of oceanic sedimentary rock underneath the island. An international team of researchers used microscopic fossils found in the rocks to shed new light on the long-standing puzzle about the origin of the Canary Islands. Despite being violently transported through the volcano, some of the rocks produced by the El Hierro eruption contain microscopic fossils of delicate single-celled marine organisms, making the survival of these fossils all the more extraordinary.

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