Πέμπτη, 27 Μαρτίου 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Canal between ears helps alligators pinpoint sound

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:22 PM PDT

Alligators can accurately pinpoint the source of sounds. But it wasn't clear exactly how they did it because they lack external auditory structures. A new study shows that the alligator's ear is strongly directional because of large, air-filled channels connecting the two middle ears. This configuration is similar in birds, which have an interaural canal that increases directionality.

Core skin bacterial community in humpback whales

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:22 PM PDT

Bacteria are invisible to the naked eye, but they reside on nearly every surface humans encounter -- including the skin. Uncovering the role these microorganisms play in human health is a major focus of research in skin microbiology, but little is known about the identity or function of skin bacteria in other mammals. Researchers have now identified a core skin bacterial community that humpback whales share across populations, which could point to a way to assess the overall health of these endangered marine mammals.

No correlation between medical marijuana legalization, crime increase: Legalization may reduce homicide, assault rates

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:20 PM PDT

A professor of criminology found that legalization of medical marijuana is not an indicator of increased crime. It actually may be related to reductions in certain types of violent crime. The study tracked crime rates across all 50 states between 1990 and 2006, when 11 states legalized marijuana for medical use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Since the time period the study covered, 20 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for medical use.

Crows understand water displacement at the level of a small child: Show causal understanding of a 5- to 7-year-old child

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:20 PM PDT

New Caledonian crows may understand how to displace water to receive a reward, with the causal understanding level of a 5- to 7-year-old child. Understanding causal relationships between actions is a key feature of human cognition. However, the extent to which non-human animals are capable of understanding causal relationships is not well understood. Scientists used the Aesop's fable riddle -- in which subjects drop stones into water to raise the water level and obtain an out-of reach-reward -- to assess New Caledonian crows' causal understanding of water displacement.

Cuvier's beaked whales set new breath-hold diving records: Whales dive to nearly two miles depth, for over two hours

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:20 PM PDT

Scientists monitored Cuvier's beaked whales' record-breaking dives to depths of nearly two miles below the ocean surface and some dives lasted for over two hours.

Bamboo-loving giant pandas also have a sweet tooth

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 03:19 PM PDT

Despite the popular conception of giant pandas as continually chomping on bamboo, new research reveals that this highly endangered species also has a sweet tooth. Behavioral and molecular genetic studies demonstrate that the panda possesses functional sweet taste receptors and shows a strong preference for natural sweeteners.

Engineered bacteria produce biofuel alternative for high-energy rocket fuel

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 01:09 PM PDT

Researchers have engineered a bacterium to synthesize pinene, a hydrocarbon produced by trees that could potentially replace high-energy fuels, such as JP-10, in missiles and other aerospace applications. By inserting enzymes from trees into the bacterium scientists have boosted pinene production six-fold over earlier bioengineering efforts.

Nitrogen source determined significant for inflorescence development in Phalaenopsis

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 01:09 PM PDT

Researchers investigated the accumulation and use of fertilizer nitrogen (N) during the vegetative and reproductive growth stages of Phalaenopsis related to inflorescence development. Experiments showed that inflorescence is a major nitrogen sink during the reproductive stage of Phalaenopsis. Fertilizer applied during the reproductive stage was found to be a significant N source for inflorescence development of the orchid, while additional experiments indicated the importance of providing ample N fertilization at all growth stages.

Major increase in West Antarctic glacial loss

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 12:37 PM PDT

Six massive glaciers in West Antarctica are moving faster than they did 40 years ago, causing more ice to discharge into the ocean and global sea level to rise, according to new research.

Coal plant closure in China led to improvements in children's health

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:23 AM PDT

Decreased exposure to air pollution in utero is linked with improved childhood developmental and higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a key protein for brain development, according to a study of looking at the closure of coal-burning power plant in China.

Tumor suppressor gene linked to stem cells, cancer biologists report

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:23 AM PDT

Just as archeologists try to decipher ancient tablets to discern their meaning, cancer biologists are working to decode the purpose of an ancient gene considered one of the most important in cancer research. The p53 gene appears to be involved in signaling other cells instrumental in stopping tumor development. But the p53 gene predates cancer, so scientists are, for now, uncertain what its original function is.

Resistance is not futile: Researchers engineer resistance to ionic liquids in biofuel microbes

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:22 AM PDT

Researchers have identified the genetic origins of a microbial resistance to ionic liquids and successfully introduced this resistance into a strain of E. coli bacteria for the production of advanced biofuels.

Ancient sea creatures filtered food like modern whales

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:22 AM PDT

Ancient, giant marine animals used bizarre facial appendages to filter food from the ocean, according to new fossils discovered in northern Greenland. The new study describes how the strange species, called Tamisiocaris, used these huge, specialized appendages to filter plankton, similar to the way modern blue whales feed today.

Untrained volunteers may do harm as well as good during disasters

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:16 AM PDT

In the immediate aftermath of hurricanes, floods and other disasters, it's not uncommon for people to turn out in large numbers to assist victims, clear debris and chip in on dozens of other tasks to get a community back on its feet. Their altruism is inspiring, but results of a study suggest these unsolicited or "spontaneous" volunteers may be putting themselves and others at risk for injury and, in rare cases, death as a result of their lack of training in safe and proper disaster response.

Should whole-genome sequencing become part of newborn screening?

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 11:16 AM PDT

The possibility of making whole-genome sequencing part of routine screening programs for newborns raises ethical, legal and social issues that should be weighed carefully, according to researchers. The question is likely to stir debate in coming years in many of the more-than-60 countries that provide newborn screening, as whole-genome sequencing (WGS) becomes increasingly affordable and reliable.

Significant progress toward creating 'benchtop human' reported

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 10:53 AM PDT

Scientists are reporting significant progress toward creating "homo minutus" -- a benchtop human. Researchers have successfully developed and analyzed a liver human organ construct that responds to exposure to a toxic chemical much like a real liver.

Cereal flake size influences calorie intake

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 08:46 AM PDT

People eat more breakfast cereal, by weight, when flake size is reduced, according to researchers, who showed that when flakes are reduced by crushing, people pour a smaller volume of cereal into their bowls, but still take a greater amount by weight and calories.

Anaerobic treatment of wastewater: A step towards sustainable energy

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 08:45 AM PDT

Until recently, most of the world's energy supplies have come from coal, oil and gas. Scarcity of natural resources, surging energy prices and global warming had focused attention on renewable energy, and consequently, alternative approaches to producing bio-energy. Over the last five years, one particular technology for the production of biocoal - Hydrothermal Carbonization (HTC) - has undergone significant development and has become a subject of major scientific interest.

Secret to cutting sugary drink use by teens found by new study

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 08:43 AM PDT

A new study shows that teenagers can be persuaded to cut back on sugary soft drinks -- especially with a little help from their friends. A 30-day challenge encouraging teens to reduce sugar-sweetened drink use lowered their overall consumption substantially and increased by two-thirds the percentage of high-school students who shunned sugary drinks altogether.

Mosquito season unpredictable; year-round heartworm prevention is best

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 08:43 AM PDT

Mosquito season is as unpredictable as Kansas's weather. A veterinarian warns that year-round heartworm prevention is only safe way to protect pets. It only takes one or two worms to cause significant harm to a cat and unlike dogs, there is no treatment for heartworm once cats are infected, the veterinarian states.

Beer marinade could reduce levels of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:27 AM PDT

The smells of summer -- the sweet fragrance of newly opened flowers, the scent of freshly cut grass and the aroma of meats cooking on the backyard grill -- will soon be upon us. Now, researchers are reporting that the very same beer that many people enjoy at backyard barbeques could, when used as a marinade, help reduce the formation of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats.

Using PET scanning to evaluate therapies of Menkes disease

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:26 AM PDT

PET imaging to visualize the distribution in the body of copper, which is deregulated in Menkes disease, a genetic disorder, has been used by scientists in a mouse model. This study lays the groundwork for PET imaging studies on human Menkes disease patients to identify new therapy options.

Sugary drinks weigh heavily on teenage obesity

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:26 AM PDT

New research shows sugary drinks are the worst offenders in the fight against youth obesity, and recommends that B.C. schools fully implement healthy eating guidelines to reduce their consumption. "This study adds to the mounting literature that shows the high concentration of sugar in soft drinks contributes to obesity in adolescents," says the lead author.

Invasive species in waterways on rise due to climate change

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 07:15 AM PDT

One of the most serious threats to global biodiversity and the leisure and tourism industries is set to increase with climate change according to new research. Researchers have found that certain invasive weeds, which have previously been killed off by low winter temperatures, are set to thrive as global temperatures increase.

Counting calories in the fossil record: How the biology of our modern ocean evolved

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:26 AM PDT

Why did the ancestors of clams and oysters flourish after one of the worst mass extinctions in Earth's history while another class of shelled creatures, the brachiopods, sharply decline? By using fossils to calculate the food intake of both groups, scientists are one step closer to solving one of paleontology's great mysteries and providing clues about how the biology of our modern ocean evolved.

Goats are far more clever than previously thought, and have an excellent memory

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:26 AM PDT

Goats learn how to solve complicated tasks quickly and can recall how to perform them for at least 10 months, which might explain their remarkable ability to adapt to harsh environments, say researchers. The goats' ability to remember the task was tested after one month and again at 10 months. They learned the task within 12 trials and took less than two minutes to remember the challenge.

New septic shock biomarker test could boost better interventions

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:26 AM PDT

Septic shock is a severe systemic infection and major cause of death for old and young alike. Unfortunately, researchers say testing new drugs to stop the infection is confounded because clinical trials include patients who are either too sick to be saved by experimental therapies or not sick enough to warrant the treatments. A new study reports a new blood test helps solve the dilemma by identifying low-risk and high-risk patients.

Altruistic side of aggressive greed

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:26 AM PDT

In many group-living species, high-rank individuals bully their group-mates to get what they want, but their contribution is key to success in conflict with other groups, according to a study that sheds new light on the evolutionary roots of cooperation and group conflict. In a series of mathematical models, researchers uncovered a mechanism for explaining how between-group conflict influences within-group cooperation and how genes for this behavior might be maintained in the population by natural selection.

Genetics can explain why infections can trigger onset of different types of rheumatoid arthritis

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:23 AM PDT

A new international study has revealed how genetics could explain why different environmental exposures can trigger the onset of different forms of rheumatoid arthritis. The findings could have important implications for the way that rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed and treated. Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious inflammatory form of arthritis that causes painful, swollen joints, and in severe cases, considerable disability. It is known to have strong genetic and environmental components.

West Virginia chemical spill into Elk River contaminating air and water quality

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 06:20 AM PDT

The complexities and implications of the chemical spill into West Virginia's Elk River keep growing, according to a new study. The lack of data motivated researchers to take on essential odor-related research that went beyond their National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research grant to better understand the properties of the chemical mixture called crude 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, the major component in the crude mix of the spilled chemicals into the Elk River. It is used in the separation and cleaning of coal products.

Landslide in Washington State: USGS is working with partners to provide up-to-date information

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 10:26 PM PDT

A large landslide occurred in northwest Washington at about 11:00 am PDT on Saturday, March 22, 2014. Recent rain conditions and soil saturation led to the onset of the landslide. Landslide debris covered about 30 houses and 0.8 miles of State Route 530. Flow also dammed and partially blocked the North Fork Stillaguamish River, creating a potential for flooding at the blockage.

Male Eurasian jays know that their female partners' desires can differ from their own

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 06:06 PM PDT

Researchers investigated the extent to which males could disengage from their own current desires to feed the female what she wants. The behavior suggests the potential for 'state-attribution' in these birds -- the ability to recognize and understand the internal life and psychological states of others.

Penicillin prescriptions risk under-dosing children, say experts

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 06:06 PM PDT

Millions of children in the UK are potentially receiving penicillin prescriptions below the recommended dose for common infections, according to new research. The authors are calling for an urgent review of penicillin dosing guidelines for children -- which at the time of study had not changed in over 50 years -- after discovering wide variation in current prescribing practice.

Study yields 'Genghis Khan' of brown bears, and brown and polar bear evolution

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 06:06 PM PDT

By mining the genome of a recently sequenced polar bear, researchers developed Y chromosome-specific markers, and analyzed several regions of the Y chromosome from a broad geographic sample of 130 brown and polar bears. "This pattern in brown bears covers even larger geographic areas than analogous findings from humans, where the Y-chromosomal lineage of Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire, was spread across much of Asia," said experts.

Million suns shed light on fossilized plant

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 06:04 PM PDT

Scientists have used one of the brightest lights in the Universe to expose the biochemical structure of a 50 million-year-old fossil plant to stunning visual effect. The team of palaeontologists, geochemists and physicists investigated the chemistry of exceptionally preserved fossil leaves from the Eocene-aged 'Green River Formation' of the western United States by bombarding the fossils with X-rays brighter than a million suns produced by synchrotron particle accelerators.

X-rays film inside live flying insects -- in 3-D

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 04:08 PM PDT

Scientists have used a particle accelerator to obtain high-speed 3-D x-ray visualizations of flight muscles in flies. The team developed a CT scanning technique to allow them to film inside live flying insects.

Clean cooking fuel and improved kitchen ventilation linked to less lung disease

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 04:08 PM PDT

Improving cooking fuels and kitchen ventilation is associated with better lung function and reduced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to new research. The study followed 996 villagers from southern China for nine years to examine the effects of cleaner fuels and better kitchen ventilation on lung function and disease.

Salamanders shrinking as their mountain havens heat up

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 12:42 PM PDT

Salamanders in some of North America's best habitat are shrinking fast as their surroundings get warmer and drier, forcing them to burn more energy. A new article examines specimens caught in the Appalachian Mountains from 1957 to 2007 and wild salamanders caught at the same sites in 2011-2012. Animals measured after 1980 averaged 8 percent smaller -- one of the fastest rates of changing body size ever recorded.

Understanding plant-soil interaction could lead to new ways to combat weeds

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 10:35 AM PDT

Using high-powered DNA-based tools, a recent study identified soil microbes that negatively affect ragweed and provided a new understanding of the complex relationships going on beneath the soil surface between plants and microorganisms. The study allowed researchers to observe how three generations of ragweed and sunflower interacted with the microbial community in the soil. The plants interact with each other indirectly due to the differing effects they each have on the microbes in the soil.

Model now capable of street-level storm-tide predictions

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 10:35 AM PDT

A new modeling study demonstrates the ability to predict a hurricane's storm tide at a much finer scale than current operational methods. The water that surged into the intersection of New York City's Canal and Hudson streets during Hurricane Sandy -- to choose just one flood-ravaged locale -- was ultimately driven ashore by forces swirling hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic. That simple fact shows not only the scale and power of a tropical cyclone, but the difficulty of modeling and forecasting its potential for coastal flooding on the fine scale needed to most effectively prepare a response.

Malaysian microjewels going extinct as they are discovered

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 08:32 AM PDT

A Malaysian-Dutch team of biologists has cataloged 31 species of Asian Plectostoma snail, among which ten new to science. These bizarrely shaped minuscule land snails live only on limestone hills, many of which are threatened by quarrying. One species is already extinct and another, discovered and described in the new article, will probably be gone by the end of 2014.

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