Πέμπτη, 19 Ιουνίου 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News


Evolution depends on rare chance events, 'molecular time travel' experiments show

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 07:05 PM PDT

Historians can only speculate on what might have been, but a team of evolutionary biologists studying ancient proteins has turned speculation into experiment. They resurrected an ancient ancestor of an important human protein as it existed hundreds of millions of years ago and then used biochemical methods to generate and characterize a huge number of alternative histories that could have ensued from that ancient starting point.

Quest for education creating graying ghost towns at top of the world

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 03:46 PM PDT

Ethnic Tibetan communities in Nepal's highlands are rapidly shrinking as more parents send their children away for a better education and modern careers, a trend that threatens to create a region of graying ghost towns at the top of the world, according to a new study.

Fish-eating spiders discovered in all parts of the world

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 03:46 PM PDT

Spiders are traditionally viewed as predators of insects. Zoologists from Switzerland and Australia have now published a study that shows: spiders all over the world also prey on fish.

Studying magma formation beneath Mount St. Helens

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 01:39 PM PDT

Scientists are embarking on a research expedition to improve volcanic eruption forecasting by learning more about how a deep-underground feeder system creates and supplies magma to Mount St. Helens. They hope the research will produce science that will lead to better understanding of eruptions, which in turn could lead to greater public safety.

Maybe birds can have it all: Dazzling colors and pretty songs

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 11:26 AM PDT

A study of one of the world's largest and most colorful bird families has dispelled a long-held notion, first proposed by Charles Darwin, that animals are limited in their options to evolve showiness. "Animals have limited resources, and they have to spend those in order to develop showy plumage or precision singing that help them attract mates and defend territories," said the paper's lead author. "So it seems to make sense that you can't have both. But our study took a more detailed look and suggests that actually, some species can."

Genetic code for diabetes in Greenland broken by scientists

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 11:00 AM PDT

New ground-breaking genetics research explains the high incidence of type 2 diabetes in the Greenlandic population, based on blood samples from 5,000 people or approximately 10% of the population. "Several epidemiological studies have looked at the health implications of the transition from life as sealers and hunters in small isolated communities to a modern lifestyle with appreciable dietary changes. Perhaps the gene variant which has been identified can be interpreted as a sign of natural selection as the traditional Greenlandic diet consisted primarily of protein and fat from sea animals," one researcher said.

Achilles' heel in antibiotic-resistant bacteria discovered

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 11:00 AM PDT

A breakthrough in the race to solve antibiotic resistance has been made by scientists. New research reveals an Achilles' heel in the defensive barrier that surrounds drug-resistant bacterial cells. The findings pave the way for a new wave of drugs that kill superbugs by bringing down their defensive walls rather than attacking the bacteria itself. It means that in future, bacteria may not develop drug-resistance at all.

Evolutionary biology: Why cattle, pigs only have two toes

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 10:19 AM PDT

During evolutionary diversification of vertebrate limbs, the number of toes in even-toed ungulates such as cattle and pigs was reduced and transformed into paired hooves. Scientists have identified a gene regulatory switch that was key to evolutionary adaption of limbs in ungulates. The study provides insights into the molecular history of evolution.

How genetic mutation causes early brain damage

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 10:19 AM PDT

Scientists have shed light on how a specific kind of genetic mutation can cause damage during early brain development that results in lifelong learning and behavioral disabilities. The study focuses on the role of a gene known as Syngap1. In humans, mutations in Syngap1 are known to cause devastating forms of intellectual disability and epilepsy.

Nature's chem lab: How microorganisms manufacture drugs

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 10:19 AM PDT

The first three-dimensional snapshots of the "assembly line" within microorganisms that naturally produces antibiotics and other drugs have been captured by researchers. Understanding the complete structure and movement within the molecular factory gives investigators a solid blueprint for redesigning the microbial assembly line to produce novel drugs of high medicinal value.

Nanoparticles from dietary supplement drinks likely to reach environment: Potentially harmful substances

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 09:23 AM PDT

Nanoparticles are becoming ubiquitous in food packaging, personal care products and are even being added to food directly. But the health and environmental effects of these tiny additives have remained largely unknown. A new study now suggests that nanomaterials in food and drinks could interfere with digestive cells and lead to the release of the potentially harmful substances to the environment.

Litter-dwelling thrips live mainly in tropical and subtropical regions

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 09:23 AM PDT

Chinese zoologists have documented the effect of latitudinal change on the species diversity of litter-dwelling thrips. Litter samples were taken from six natural reserves located respectively in the temperate, subtropical and tropical zones, along a 4100 km latitudinal gradient in East China.

New method to identify inks could help preserve historical documents

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 09:22 AM PDT

The inks on historical documents can hold many secrets. Its ingredients can help trace trade routes and help understand a work's historical significance. And knowing how the ink breaks down can help cultural heritage scientists preserve valuable treasures. Researchers report the development of a new, non-destructive method that can identify many types of inks on various papers and other surfaces.

Ban on pavement sealant lowered levels of potentially harmful compounds in lake

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 09:22 AM PDT

In 2006, Austin, Texas, became the first city in the country to ban a commonly used pavement sealant over concerns that it was a major source of cancer-causing compounds in the environment. Eight years later, the city's action seems to have made a big dent in the targeted compounds' levels -- researchers now report that the concentrations have dropped significantly.

Helping growers mitigate costly droughts

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 09:20 AM PDT

The Agricultural Reference Index for Drought, or ARID, used more than 100 years of climate data to reasonably predict drought levels in crops on several farms in Florida and Georgia. Scientists say its implications are far wider. If growers know when their crops need the most water, they can plant accordingly, said one researcher.

Trap-jaw ants spreading in southeastern United States

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 08:18 AM PDT

Trap-jaw ant species are active hunters with venomous stings and jaws powerful enough to fling themselves through the air. According to new research, they are also spreading into new territory in the southeastern United States. A new paper is designed to help scientists identify which species of trap-jaw ants they're dealing with. While the paper draws on previously published research, it also includes new findings.

New horned dinosaur reveals unique wing-shaped headgear

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 08:18 AM PDT

A new species of horned dinosaur has been named Mercuriceratops gemini: Mercuriceratops (Mercuri + ceratops) means "Mercury horned-face," referring to the wing-like ornamentation on its head that resembles the wings on the helmet of the Roman god, Mercury. The name "gemini" refers to the almost identical twin specimens found in north central Montana and the Dinosaur Provincial Park, in Alberta, Canada. The dinosaur had a parrot-like beak and probably had two long brow horns above its eyes. It was a plant-eating dinosaur.

Food poisoning cases underreported, food safety specialist says

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 08:16 AM PDT

There are distinct symptoms for food poisoning and reporting it to your doctor is an important step in improving food safety, a food safety specialist says. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19,056 cases of infection were reported in 2013 in the United States. However, it is expected that many people don't report getting sick from contaminated food because they don't realize they have food poisoning.

Identifying opposite patterns of climate change: Hydrologic seesaw over the past 550,000 years

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 07:06 AM PDT

New research overturns common ideas about the different types of climate changes between the middle latitude areas of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

A call to better protect Antarctica: Human activity threatening continent

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 07:06 AM PDT

With visitor numbers surging, Antarctica's ice-free land needs better protection from human activities, leading environmental scientists say. The new study found that all 55 areas designated for protection lie close to sites of human activity. Antarctica has over 40,000 visitors a year, and more and more research facilities are being built in the continent's tiny ice-free area. Most of the Antarctic wildlife and plants live in the ice-free areas -- and this is also where people most visit.

Satellite data provides picture of underground water

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 07:06 AM PDT

Scientists demonstrate that satellite-collected data can accurately measure aquifer levels, a finding with potentially huge implications for management of precious global water sources.

The noisy world of mud crabs: Predatory fish sounds can alter crab behavior

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 07:06 AM PDT

Marine crabs are capable of hearing, researchers show for the first time, and their auditory ability plays an important role in their response to fish predators. In a new paper, they show that sound plays at least as much of a role in mud crabs' reaction to fish behavior as other widely studied cues -- and possibly more.

Fishing resources mapped to assist land managers, anglers

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 07:05 AM PDT

Researchers mapped a cultural ecosystem service by identifying the key features that influence anglers' enjoyment, such as environmental quality, accessibility, and fish abundance. Freshwater recreational fishing generates income, jobs, and funding for conservation. In 2011, more than 27 million people fished U.S. freshwaters, and Americans spent more than $41 billion on fishing-related equipment, licenses, transportation, and other activities. As a result, every state spends substantial public funds annually to support and manage freshwater recreational fishing.

Supplements of calcium, vitamin D may have too much for some older women

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 04:20 AM PDT

Calcium and vitamin D are commonly recommended for older women, but the usual supplements may send calcium excretion and blood levels too high for some of them, shows a new study. The good news in this study is that the investigators found a way to predict which women were likely to develop these excess levels.

No evidence that soy food protects against endometrial cancer, study finds

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 04:20 AM PDT

No evidence of a protective association between soy food and endometrial cancer risk has been found, concludes a new study. Soy foods are an almost exclusive dietary source of isoflavones, a plant-derived estrogen. Some studies have highlighted their potential cancer protective properties, however, research looking at the link to endometrial cancer has been inconsistent.

Animals conceal sickness symptoms in certain social situations

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 04:19 AM PDT

Animals have the ability to conceal their sickness in certain social situations. According to a new review, when given the opportunity to mate or in the presence of their young, sick animals will behave as though they were healthy. The research has implications for our understanding of the spread of infectious diseases.

Spanish slug: Busting an invasion myth

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 04:19 AM PDT

Spanish slugs (Arion lusitanicus) are one of the most common slug species in Central Europe. The animals sometimes nicknamed "killer slugs" are known to do their fair share of damage in fields and gardens. The slug was thought to have originated in Southern Europe. However researchers have now found out that the prime example of an invasive species is originally from Central Europe and thus no "immigrant" after all.

Energy-optimized buildings: Keeping a cool head at the workplace

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 04:17 AM PDT

A new climate chamber has been built to study what it is like to work in a comfortable air-conditioned room at high temperatures. The study focused on comfort and user behavior at office workplaces in energy-optimized buildings, with a focus on the effect of ceiling fans under summer conditions. The result: The fan enhances comfort only if it has a cooling effect, and users feel that their control power over the fan is effective.

World’s first light technology to control proteins in living cells

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 04:17 AM PDT

The world's first technology to control specific protein functions in living cells by using lights has been developed, which may be useful in future cancer cell research. The research group has found that this technology allows scientists to inactivate critical biological phenomena, including cell migration and cell division, by using only lights, and without the assistance of chemical drug treatments or genetic modification.

Finland to become a model country for sustainable transport by 2020

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 04:17 AM PDT

Roads in Finland in 2020 will hum to the sound of low-emission vehicles running on renewable energy, electricity, hydrogen and sustainable biofuels. The share of public transport and car pooling in densely populated urban areas will increase. Mobility arranged through easy-to-use services will become a viable alternative to buying a private car.

Birds evolve 'signature' patterns to distinguish cuckoo eggs from their own

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 04:17 AM PDT

For some birds, recognizing their own eggs can be a matter of life or death. In a new study, scientists have shown that many birds affected by the parasitic Common Cuckoo -- which lays its lethal offspring in other birds' nests -- have evolved distinctive patterns on their eggs in order to distinguish them from those laid by a cuckoo cheat.

Fireworks, construction, marching bands can cause permanent hearing loss

Posted: 17 Jun 2014 01:42 PM PDT

One in 10 Americans has hearing loss that affects their ability to understand normal speech. Exposure to excessive noise also can damage hearing in higher pitches. "Hearing loss due to excessive noise is totally preventable, unlike hearing loss due to old age or a medical condition," one expert says.

In wild yak society, moms are the real climbers

Posted: 17 Jun 2014 07:25 AM PDT

In wild yak societies, mothers with young venture on steeper terrain and slightly higher elevation than either males or females without young a new study shows. The study reported that wild yak females are found on mountainous slopes averaging 15,994 feet and in groups of about 30 whereas males were more frequently in valley bottoms and groups of just two.

More frequent extreme, adverse weather conditions threaten Europe's wheat production

Posted: 17 Jun 2014 06:28 AM PDT

European wheat production areas have to prepare for greater harvest losses in the future when global warming will lead to increased drought and heat waves in southern Europe, and wet and cool conditions in the north, especially at the time of sowing, researchers warn. More frequent extreme weather conditions in Europe also threaten global food security since it produces almost a third of the world's wheat.

Tests confirm that beloved hawk succumbed to multiple rat poisons

Posted: 17 Jun 2014 06:17 AM PDT

A red-tailed hawk named Ruby captured the imagination of many Massachusetts residents who watched Ruby and her mate, Buzz, bear offspring and have daily adventures from their perch near Fresh Pond in Cambridge, Mass. When Ruby died suddenly in April from apparently ingesting rat poison, it was a local tragedy as well as a national warning about the serious dangers these chemicals pose to wildlife. Now, the Tufts Wildlife Clinic has established the Ruby Memorial Research Fund to monitor the health effects of rodenticides on birds of prey.

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