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Thursday, February 12, 2015

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

A gene that shaped the evolution of Darwin's finches

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 12:39 PM PST

Researchers have identified a gene in Galápagos finches studied by English naturalist Charles Darwin that influences beak shape and that played a role in the birds' evolution from a common ancestor. The study illustrates the genetic foundation of evolution, including how genes can flow from one species to another, and how different versions of a gene within a species can contribute to the formation of new species.

How CBD, a component in marijuana, works within cells

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 11:09 AM PST

Researchers have identified fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs) as intracellular transporters for two ingredients in marijuana, THC and CBD (cannabidiol). The finding is significant because it helps explain how CBD works within the cells. Recent clinical findings have shown that CBD may help reduce seizures and could be a potential new medicine to treat pediatric treatment-resistant epilepsy.

Apes prefer the glass half full: Nearest primate relatives also susceptible to marketing spin

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 10:21 AM PST

Humans aren't the only species to be influenced by spin. Our closest primate relatives are susceptible, too. For example, people rate a burger as more tasty when it is described as "75 percent lean" than when it is described as "25 percent fat," even though that's the same thing. A new study finds that positive and negative framing make a big difference for chimpanzees and bonobos too.

Carbon release from ocean helped end the Ice Age

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 10:20 AM PST

A release of carbon dioxide from the deep ocean helped bring an end to the last Ice Age, according to new research. The study shows that carbon stored in an isolated reservoir deep in the Southern Ocean re-connected with the atmosphere, driving a rise in atmospheric CO2 and an increase in global temperatures. The finding gives scientists an insight into how the ocean affects the carbon cycle and climate change.

Unraveling the complex web of global food trade

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 10:18 AM PST

Growing global trade is critically important for providing food when and where it's needed -- but it makes it harder to link the benefits of food and the environmental burden of its production. A new study proposes to extend the way we characterize global food trade to include nutritional value and resource consumption alongside more conventional measures of trade's value.

Oldest fur seal identified, ending 5-million-year 'ghost lineage'

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 09:40 AM PST

The oldest known fur seal has been discovered by a Geology PhD student at New Zealand's University of Otago, providing a missing link that helps to resolve a more than 5-million-year gap in fur seal and sea lion evolutionary history.

Plant extract fights brain tumor

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 09:40 AM PST

Silibinin from milk thistle seeds could be a novel, non-invasive treatment strategy for Cushing Disease. Cushing Disease, not to be confused with Cushing's Syndrome, is caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland in the brain.

What makes the feather soar

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 09:36 AM PST

Bird species have adapted to so many ecological niches in large part because of the variety of ways feathers lend them a competitive advantage. New research shows that one key to the feather's manifold manifestations is the dynamic evolution of a protein family that first appeared some 150 million years ago: the beta-keratins.

Fluorescing food dyes as probes to improve food quality

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 09:25 AM PST

Food dyes can give cakes, candy and sodas brilliant colors of the rainbow. Now a team of food scientists has found that food coloring may be able to play more than its traditional esthetic role in food presentation.

Extreme mechano-sensitive neurons of tactile-foraging ducks fit the bill for touch research

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 09:25 AM PST

Mechanosensation is one of our fundamental physiological processes, on par with sight and smell, but how it works on a cellular level remains poorly understood, holding back development of effective treatments for mechanosensory disorders like chronic pain. Now, a team of researchers has identified a new model organism that may help elucidate the cellular mechanisms behind mechanosensation: the ordinary duck.

Better batteries inspired by lowly snail shells

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 09:25 AM PST

Researchers have isolated a peptide, a type of biological molecule, which binds strongly to lithium manganese nickel oxide (LMNO), a material that can be used to make the cathode in high performance batteries. The peptide can latch onto nanosized particles of LMNO and connect them to conductive components of a battery electrode, improving the potential power and stability of the electrode.

A new variant of the rabbit hemorrhagic disease endangers the Iberian lynx

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 07:19 AM PST

A new study demonstrates the effects that a new variant of the hemorrhagic disease virus RHDV has on wild rabbits on the Iberian Peninsula. The virus threatens the survival of its predator, the Iberian lynx. Scientists have identified a new variant of the rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) throughout the entire Iberian Peninsula, including the areas where the Iberian lynx lives, such as the Sierra Morena mountains.

Scientists take first X-ray portraits of living bacteria

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 05:29 AM PST

Researchers have captured the first X-ray portraits of living bacteria. This milestone is a first step toward possible X-ray explorations of the molecular machinery at work in viral infections, cell division, photosynthesis and other processes that are important to biology, human health and our environment.

Want to save the planet? Neighbors better allies than family

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 05:29 AM PST

Socializing with neighbors leads to more planet-friendly behaviors than spending time with friends or family, research finds. That's due to the diversity of neighbors and overwhelming similarity of loved ones, researchers say. So be kind to your neighbors: they may hold the secret to greater action on climate change.

Unwanted impact of antibiotics broader, more complex than previously known

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 06:26 PM PST

Researchers have discovered that antibiotics have an unwanted impact on the microorganisms that live in an animal's gut that's more broad and complex than previously known. A study has helped to explain these processes, which are now believed to affect everything from the immune system to glucose metabolism, food absorption, obesity, stress and behavior.

Predicting plant responses to drought

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 06:26 PM PST

A new study shows how plants' vulnerability to drought varies across the landscape; factors such as plant structure and soil type where the plant is growing can either make them more vulnerable or protect them from declines.

Advent of geoengineering may help lower temperature of debate over climate change

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 06:26 PM PST

Geoengineering, an emerging technology aimed at counteracting the effects of human-caused climate change, also has the potential to counteract political polarization over global warming, according to a new study.

Crocodiles just wanna have fun, too

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 06:20 PM PST

Crocodilians engage in all three main types of play distinguished by behavior specialists: locomotor play, play with objects and social play. Crocodiles have also been seen playing with other animals. In rare cases, individual crocodilians have been known to bond so strongly with people that they become playmates for years.

Methane emissions vary at natural gas gathering and processing facilities

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 05:59 PM PST

A new study found wide variations in the amount of methane being emitted at U.S. natural gas gathering facilities and processing plants. Their findings indicate facility-level methane emissions ranged from less than 1 kilogram per hour to 698 kilograms per hour, while loss rates ranged from less than 0.01 percent to greater than 10 percent.

Cancer researchers may inspire new area of research in cellular biology

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 10:32 AM PST

New research has some scientists wondering if the entire study of cellular biology needs to be adjusted. Researchers made the discovery that mitochondria are capable of passing through the healthy membrane of a host cell into defective tumor cells, possibly kicking off the rapid proliferation of tumour cells which is the hallmark of cancer. Until now each cell was believed to be a unique entity, with mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) bound within the cell membrane. New research has found this mtDNA is capable of moving from a healthy cell to a dysfunctional tumor cell.

When is a Pollock not a Pollock? Computer analysis verifies authenticity of Jackson Pollock's drip painting

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 10:32 AM PST

Abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock was perhaps most famous for his 'drip painting' technique. His legacy, however, is plagued by fake 'Pollocks' and even experts often have trouble distinguishing the genuine from the counterfeit. Now, a machine vision approach has demonstrated 93 percent accuracy in spotting true Pollocks.

Engineered insulin could offer better diabetes control

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 10:05 AM PST

Engineers hope to improve treatment for diabetes patients with a new type of engineered insulin. In tests in mice, the researchers showed that their modified insulin can circulate in the bloodstream for at least 10 hours, and that it responds rapidly to changes in blood-sugar levels.

First humanized mouse model of Sjögren’s syndrome opens door to study other autoimmune diseases

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 05:35 AM PST

Despite the prevalence of Sjögren's syndrome – an autoimmune disease most commonly known for causing dry eyes and mouth - a lack of knowledge about how the condition starts has stalled the development of new treatments. Researchers have now developed a specialized animal model of Sjögren's that engrafts human cells into mice, allowing scientists to track various factors that affect disease development and discover potential new therapies.

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