Rabu, 22 Desember 2010

ScienceDaily Environment Headlines

for Wednesday, December 22, 2010

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Being good moms couldn't save the woolly mammoth (December 21, 2010) -- Woolly mammoths living north of the Arctic Circle during the Pleistocene Epoch (approx. 150,000 to 40,000 years ago) began weaning infants up to three years later than modern day African elephants due to prolonged hours of darkness, new research suggests. This adapted nursing pattern could have contributed to the prehistoric elephant's eventual extinction. ... > full story

Biomagnification of nanomaterials in simple food chain demonstrated (December 21, 2010) -- Researchers have produced a groundbreaking study of how nanoparticles are able to biomagnify in a simple microbial food chain. ... > full story

Fruit fly study digs deeper into poorly understood details of forming embryos (December 21, 2010) -- Using fruit flies as a model to study embryo formation, scientists report that molecular breakdown of a protein called Bicoid is vital to normal head-to-tail patterning of the insect's offspring. The study shows how Bicoid is targeted for molecular degradation by a newly identified protein the researchers named Fates-shifted (Fsd). Without the interaction between Bicoid and Fsd, fruit fly embryos are improperly formed. ... > full story

Meat-eating dinosaurs not so carnivorous after all (December 21, 2010) -- Scientists used statistical analyses to determine the diet of 90 species of theropod dinosaurs. Their results challenge the conventional view that nearly all theropods hunted prey, especially those closest to the ancestors of birds. ... > full story

Mexico quake studies uncover surprises for California (December 21, 2010) -- New technologies developed by NASA and other agencies are revealing surprising insights into a major earthquake that rocked parts of the American Southwest and Mexico in April, including increased potential for more large earthquakes in Southern California. ... > full story

Raindrops reveal how a wave of mountains moved south across the country (December 21, 2010) -- Analyzing the isotope ratios of ancient raindrops preserved in soils and lake sediments, researchers have shown that a wave of mountain building began in British Columbia, Canada about 49 million years ago and rolled south to Mexico. The finding helps put to rest the idea that there was once a Tibet-like plateau across the western US that collapsed and eroded into the mountains we see today. ... > full story

Link between depression and inflammatory response found in mice: New treatments for mood disorders? (December 21, 2010) -- Researchers may have found a clue to the blues that can come with the flu -- depression may be triggered by the same mechanisms that enable the immune system to respond to infection. In a new study, scientists activated the immune system in mice to produce "despair-like" behavior that has similarities to depression in humans. ... > full story

Novel weight-loss therapies? Scientists identify cells in mice that can transform into energy-burning brown fat (December 21, 2010) -- In some adults, the white fat cells that we all stockpile so readily are supplemented by a very different form of fat -- brown fat cells, which can offer the neat trick of burning energy rather than storing it. Researchers have now have identified progenitor cells in mouse white fat tissue and skeletal muscle that can be transformed into brown fat cells. ... > full story

Globalization burdens future generations with biological invasions, study finds (December 21, 2010) -- The consequences of the current high levels of socio-economic activity on the extent of biological invasions will probably not be completely realized until decades into the future, according to new research. ... > full story

Ocean acidification changes nitrogen cycling in world seas (December 21, 2010) -- Increasing acidity in the sea's waters may fundamentally change how nitrogen is cycled in them, say marine scientists. Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients in the oceans. All organisms, from tiny microbes to blue whales, use nitrogen to make proteins and other important compounds. ... > full story

Comprehensive wind info collected to improve renewable energy (December 21, 2010) -- Scientists are researching how radar weather instruments can help improve predictions on when and how strongly winds will blow. They're testing the instruments from a working wind farm in southeastern Washington State with the goal of helping power grid operators better manage the intermittent stress that spinning wind turbines put on the electrical grid. ... > full story

Free radicals good for you? Banned herbicide makes worms live longer (December 20, 2010) -- It sounds like science fiction -- scientists tested the current "free radical theory of aging" by creating mutant worms that had increased production of free radicals, predicting they would be short-lived. But they lived even longer than regular worms! Moreover, their enhanced longevity was abolished when they were treated with antioxidants such as vitamin C. ... > full story

Water pathways from the deep sea to volcanoes (December 20, 2010) -- Oceanic plates take up a lot of water when submerged into the Earths' interior at continental margins. This water plays a central role in plate boundary volcanism. Scientists have, for the first time, tracked the pathway of the water up to 120 kilometers in depth. This is an important piece in the puzzle to understand the highly active volcanoes in Pacific "ring of fire". ... > full story

Satellites give an eagle eye on thunderstorms (December 20, 2010) -- It's one of the more frustrating parts of summer. You check the weather forecast, see nothing dramatic, and go hiking or biking. Then, four hours later, a thunderstorm appears out of nowhere and ruins your afternoon. Additional data, taken from a satellite, could greatly improve the accuracy of thunderstorm prediction a few hours out. ... > full story

Genetic basis of brain diseases: Set of proteins account for over 130 brain diseases (December 20, 2010) -- Scientists have isolated a set of proteins that accounts for over 130 brain diseases, including diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, epilepsies and forms of autism and learning disability. They showed that the protein machinery has changed relatively little during evolution, suggesting that the behaviors governed by and the diseases associated with these proteins have not changed significantly over many millions of years. The findings open several new paths toward tackling these diseases. ... > full story

Study supports gluten-free diet in potential celiac disease patients (December 20, 2010) -- Findings from a new study of 141 adults add to an ongoing medical debate over which patients with symptoms of celiac disease should go on a gluten-free diet. The study concludes that people currently diagnosed as "potential" celiac disease patients and not advised to follow a gluten-free diet may not be "potential" patients at all. Rather, the scientists found that these patients have the same distinctive metabolic fingerprint as patients with full-blown disease who do benefit from gluten-free diets. ... > full story

Warning lights mark shellfish that aren't safe to eat (December 20, 2010) -- Red tides and similar blooms can render some seafood unsafe to eat, though it can be difficult to tell whether a particular batch harbors toxins that cause food poisoning. A new kind of marker makes it easier to see if shellfish are filled with toxin-producing organisms. ... > full story

Zebrafish provide new hope for cancer treatment (December 20, 2010) -- The imaging of tumor growth in zebrafish has revealed for the first time how newly formed cancer cells have the capacity to co-opt the immune system into spreading the disease, leading the way for investigations into potential therapies for eliminating early stage cancer in humans. ... > full story

Trace amounts of water created oceans on Earth and other terrestrial planets, study suggests (December 20, 2010) -- Study suggests that trace amounts of water created oceans on Earth and other terrestrial planets, including those outside the solar system. ... > full story

Three billion-year-old genomic fossils deciphered (December 20, 2010) -- Scientists traced thousands of genes from modern genomes back to those genes' first appearance on Earth to create a genomic fossil telling when genes came into being and which ancient microbes possessed them. They found that the collective genome underwent an expansion between 3.3 and 2.8 billion years ago, during which time 27 percent of all presently existing gene families came into being. Many are oxygen related, an early indicator of the Great Oxidation Event. ... > full story

Efficient phosphorus use by phytoplankton (December 20, 2010) -- Rapid turnover and remodelling of lipid membranes could help phytoplankton cope with nutrient scarcity in the open ocean. ... > full story

Pathogenic attacks on host plants examined (December 20, 2010) -- Researchers focusing on rice genetics are providing a better understanding of how pathogens take over a plant's nutrients. Their research provides insight into ways of reducing crop losses or developing new avenues for medicinal research. ... > full story

Overindulgence is not the green option (December 20, 2010) -- At this time of year, indulgence is the buzzword. Luxury goods to buy, roaring fires to relax by, jetting off to sunnier climes, visiting distant friends and family. But, how does this festive spirit align with environmental obligations and our attitudes to going green? Researchers in Norway suggest we are deluding ourselves that overindulgence is the environmentally friendly option. ... > full story

First measurement of magnetic field in Earth's core (December 19, 2010) -- Measurements of the magnetic field at the earth's surface can tell only so much about the dynamo producing it in the planet's core. Geophysicists have now used precise astronomical position data to calculate tidal damping in the core and determine for the first time the magnetic field in the center of the planet. The magnetic field strength is 25 Gauss, or 50 times stronger than the magnetic field at the surface that makes compass needles align north-south. ... > full story

Construction of the world's largest neutrino observatory completed: Antarctica's IceCube (December 19, 2010) -- Culminating a decade of planning, innovation and testing, construction of the world's largest neutrino observatory, installed in the ice of the Antarctic plateau at the geographic South Pole, was successfully completed Dec. 18, 2010, New Zealand time. The last of 86 holes had been drilled and a total of 5,160 optical sensors are now installed to form the main detector -- a cubic kilometer of instrumented ice -- of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, located at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. From its vantage point at the end of the world, IceCube provides an innovative means to investigate the properties of fundamental particles that originate in some of the most spectacular phenomena in the universe. ... > full story

How plants counteract against the shade of larger neighbours (December 19, 2010) -- Plants that "lose the battle" during competitiveness for light because they are shaded by larger neighbours, counteract. They adapt by rapid shoot elongation and stretch their leaves towards the sun. The molecular basis of this so-called shade avoidance syndrome had been unclarified to date. Research scientists from the Utrecht University in the Netherlands and the Ruhr University in Bochum have now been able to unravel a regulation pathway. A specific transport protein (PIN3) enables the accumulation of the plant hormone auxin, which plays an important role during this adaptation process, in the outer cell layers of the plants, thus enhancing the growth process. The international group of researchers, which includes the plant hormone specialist Prof. Stephan Pollmann from the RUB, has published its observations in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science PNAS. ... > full story

Rise in oxygen drove evolution of animal life 550 million years ago (December 18, 2010) -- Researchers have uncovered a clue that may help to explain why the earliest evidence of complex multicellular animal life appears around 550 million years ago, when atmospheric oxygen levels on the planet rose sharply from 3 percent to their modern day level of 21 percent. ... > full story

Wind turbines help crops by channelling beneficial breezes over nearby plants (December 18, 2010) -- Researchers have found that wind turbines benefit nearby crops, keeping them cooler and drier and boosting the uptake of carbon dioxide. ... > full story

Using digitized books as 'cultural genome,' researchers unveil quantitative approach to humanities (December 18, 2010) -- Researchers have created a powerful new approach to scholarship, using approximately 4 percent of all books ever published as a digital "fossil record" of human culture. By tracking the frequency with which words appear in books over time, scholars can now precisely quantify a wide variety of cultural and historical trends. ... > full story

Prions mutate and adapt to host environment (December 18, 2010) -- Scientists have shown that prions, bits of infectious protein that can cause fatal neurodegenerative disease such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or "mad cow disease," have the ability to adapt to survive in a new host environment. ... > full story

As earthquakes take their toll, engineers look at enhancing building designs (December 18, 2010) -- A next generation of design criteria for buildings located in geographic regions where earthquakes are known to occur, either rarely or frequently, is under development. ... > full story

Researchers develop mouse model to help find how a gene mutation leads to autism (December 18, 2010) -- Researchers have found that when one copy of the SHANK3 gene in mice is missing, nerve cells do not effectively communicate and do not show cellular properties associated with normal learning. This discovery may explain how mutations affecting SHANK3 may lead to autism spectrum disorders. ... > full story

Circadian rhythm: Clock-controlled genes discovered in C. elegans (December 18, 2010) -- It's just a worm, a tiny soil-dwelling nematode worm -- but the implications are big for biomedicine and circadian biology as shown in a recent study. Researchers have now discovered clock-controlled genes in C. elegans. ... > full story

Small islands in the Pacific: Duel between freshwater and sea water (December 17, 2010) -- It is said that the first refugees of climate change will come from the Pacific. In the midst of this ocean’s tropical regions are scattered 50,000 small islands, 8,000 of them inhabited. They are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming. These effects include rising sea-water levels, drought and diminishing stocks of freshwater. ... > full story

More than 100 new species described by California Academy of Sciences in 2010 (December 17, 2010) -- In an effort to address the critical need for data about the diversity of life on Earth, scientists from the California Academy of Sciences have spent the past year exploring some of the planet's most diverse habitats, searching for new species and creating comprehensive biodiversity maps. In 2010, they have added 113 new relatives to our family tree: 83 arthropods, 20 fishes, four corals, two sea slugs, two plants, one reptile, and one fossil mammal. ... > full story

Beetroot juice could help people live more active lives (December 17, 2010) -- New research into the health benefits of beetroot juice suggests it's not only athletes who can benefit from its performance enhancing properties -- its physiological effects could help the elderly or people with heart or lung-conditions enjoy more active lives. ... > full story

An answer to green energy could be in the air (December 17, 2010) -- In Mark Moore's world, long nanotubes reach into the clouds, serving at once to tether a turbine-vehicle flying at 2,000 feet, or 10,000 feet, or 30,000 feet (610, 3,050 and 9,150 meters); and also to conduct the power that vehicle can harvest from the wind back to Earth. Aloft might be a funnel-shaped blimp with a turbine at its back; or a balloon with vanes that rotate; a truss-braced wing; a parachute; a kite. Any and all of them are ideas being considered by nascent renewable energy industry that is flexing its imagination. ... > full story

Proximity to freeway associated with autism (December 17, 2010) -- Living near a freeway may be associated with increased risk of autism, according to a new study. The study examined the locations where the children's families' lived during the first, second and third trimesters of their mothers' pregnancies, and at the time of the baby's birth and looked at the proximity of these homes to a major road or freeway. ... > full story

Molecular fossil: Crystal structure shows how RNA, one of biology's oldest catalysts, is made (December 17, 2010) -- In today's world of sophisticated organisms proteins are the stars. But long, long ago ribonucleic acid (RNA) reigned supreme. Now researchers have produced an atomic picture that shows how two of these very old molecules interact with each other. The scientists are the first to show the atomic details of how ribonuclease P recognizes, binds and cleaves transfer RNA. ... > full story

Tiny 3-D images shed light on origin of Earth's core (December 17, 2010) -- A new method of capturing detailed, three-dimensional images of minute samples of material under extreme pressures is shedding light how Earth's interior evolved. Early results suggest that the early Earth did not have to be entirely molten to separate into the rocky crust and iron-rich core it has today. ... > full story

High-tech software, umanned planes allow scientists to keep tabs on Arctic seals (December 17, 2010) -- A novel project using cameras mounted on unmanned aircraft flying over the Arctic is serving double duty by assessing the characteristics of declining sea ice and using the same aerial photos to pinpoint seals that have hauled up on ice floes. ... > full story

Why humans are more sensitive to certain viruses: Primate immune system differences identified (December 17, 2010) -- The greater susceptibility of humans to certain infectious diseases when compared to other primates could be explained by species-specific changes in immune signaling pathways, a new study finds. The first genome-wide, functional comparison of genes regulated by the innate immune system in three primate species discovers potential mediators of differences in disease susceptibility among primates. ... > full story

Snail fever: Scientists pinpoint key defense against parasite infection (December 17, 2010) -- Scientists have made a significant discovery about how the body defends itself against snail fever, a parasitic worm infection common in developing countries. ... > full story

How pollinators sculpt flowers (December 17, 2010) -- For the past 10 years, researchers in Spain have used complex geometric analysis to study how insect pollinators influence the evolution of flower shape. ... > full story

Faster method of engineering zinc-finger nucleases developed (December 17, 2010) -- Researchers have developed a faster way to engineer synthetic enzymes that target specific DNA sequences for inactivation, repair or alteration. The method is a highly effective but less labor-intensive way to generate powerful tools called zinc-finger nucleases. ... > full story

Organ size is determined by p53 protein (December 16, 2010) -- In studies conducted on the fruit fly, researchers have revealed that organs have the molecular mechanisms to control their proportions. In this process the protein p53 plays a crucial role. ... > full story

How foot-and-mouth disease virus begins infection in cattle (December 16, 2010) -- Scientists have identified the primary site where the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease begins infection in cattle. ... > full story

Age doesn't matter: New genes are as essential as ancient ones (December 16, 2010) -- New genes that have evolved in species as little as one million years ago -- a virtual blink in evolutionary history -- can be just as essential for life as ancient genes, startling new research has discovered. The study challenges evolutionary biology assumptions about the importance of new genes in development. ... > full story

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