Kamis, 13 Januari 2011

ScienceDaily Environment Headlines

for Thursday, January 13, 2011

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Antifreeze proteins: How one gene becomes two (with different functions) (January 13, 2011) -- Researchers report that they are the first to show in molecular detail how one gene evolved two competing functions that eventually split up -- via gene duplication -- to pursue their separate destinies. The study validates a decades-old hypothesis about a key mechanism of evolution. The study also confirms the ancestry of a family of "antifreeze proteins" that helps the Antarctic eelpout survive in the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean. ... > full story

How seabirds share their habitat (January 13, 2011) -- When different species of seabirds share a habitat with limited sources of food, they must differ in their feeding habits. This specialization is known by biologists as an “ecological niche”. Researchers have investigated how flexible these ecological niches really are. They discovered that the preying habits of diving seabirds are very different, both in location and timing, within species as well as between different species. ... > full story

Earth is twice as dusty as in 19th century, research shows (January 12, 2011) -- If the house seems dustier than it used to be, it may not be a reflection on your housekeeping skills. The amount of dust in the Earth's atmosphere has doubled over the last century, according to a new study; and the dramatic increase is influencing climate and ecology around the world. ... > full story

Under pressure: Stormy weather sensor for hurricane forecasting (January 12, 2011) -- It's hard to believe that, in this day and age, we don't have a way to measure sea-level air pressure during hurricanes. NASA researchers, however, are working on a system that will improve forecasting of severe ocean weather by doing just that. The device measures sea-level air pressure, a critical component of hurricane formation -- and one that has been extremely difficult to capture. ... > full story

Virus killer gets supercharged: Discovery greatly improves common disinfectant (January 12, 2011) -- Researchers report that adding silicone to titanium dioxide, a common disinfectant, dramatically increases its ability to degrade aerosol- and water-borne viruses. ... > full story

Chemical analysis confirms discovery of oldest wine-making equipment ever found (January 12, 2011) -- Scientists have discovered and dated the oldest complete wine production facility ever found, including grape seeds, withered grape vines, remains of pressed grapes, a rudimentary wine press, a clay vat apparently used for fermentation, wine-soaked potsherds and even cups. Dating 1,000 years before the earliest comparable find, the 4100 B.C. discovery was made in the same mysterious Armenian cave complex as an ancient leather shoe announced last summer. ... > full story

Parents give boys preferential treatment when there is a chronic food shortage (January 12, 2011) -- In situations of chronic food shortage, parents are inclined to give boys a preferential treatment, despite the fact that the health of their daughters suffers more from food insecurity, according to new research. ... > full story

Winter sports threaten indigenous European mountain birds, research finds (January 12, 2011) -- In the winter months, the mountain ranges of central Europe attract thousands of tourists for skiing, snowboarding and other outdoor sports, but conservationists fear this annual invasion may threaten indigenous bird species, including the Capercaillie. New research reveals how the growth of human recreation may be a key factor in the rapidly declining population of these iconic alpine birds. ... > full story

Wake up and smell the willow: 'Pre-roasted' plant matter could be burned in coal-fired power stations (January 12, 2011) -- More plant matter could be burned in coal-fired power stations if this "green" fuel was delivered pre-roasted like coffee beans, according to researchers from UK. ... > full story

New research aims to shut down viral assembly line (January 12, 2011) -- Scientists are studying the intricate formation of coronaviruses. The research may provide fresh insights leading to antiviral agents against viral pathogens like SARS. ... > full story

Study estimates land available for biofuel crops (January 12, 2011) -- Using detailed land analysis, researchers have found that biofuel crops cultivated on available land could produce up to half of the world's current fuel consumption -- without affecting food crops or pastureland. Focusing on marginal land, the team assessed land availability from a physical perspective to identify land around the globe available to produce grass crops for biofuels, with minimal impact on agriculture or the environment. ... > full story

Species loss tied to ecosystem collapse and recovery (January 12, 2011) -- Geologists have a cautionary tale: Lose enough species in the oceans, and the entire ecosystem could collapse. Looking at two of the greatest mass extinctions in Earth's history, the scientists attribute the ecosystems' collapse to a loss in the variety of species sharing the same space. It took up to 10 million years after the mass extinctions for the ecosystem to stabilize. ... > full story

NASA image shows La Niña-caused woes down under (January 12, 2011) -- The current La Niña in the Pacific Ocean, one of the strongest in the past 50 years, continues to exert a powerful influence on weather around the world, affecting rainfall and temperatures in varying ways in different locations. For Australia, La Niña typically means above-average rains, and the current La Niña is no exception. Heavy rains that began in late December led to the continent's worst flooding in nearly a half century, at its peak inundating an area the size of Germany and France combined. ... > full story

NASA's Fermi catches thunderstorms hurling antimatter into space (January 11, 2011) -- Scientists have detected beams of antimatter produced above thunderstorms on Earth -- a phenomenon never seen before. Scientists think the antimatter particles were formed in a terrestrial gamma-ray flash (TGF), a brief burst produced inside thunderstorms and shown to be associated with lightning. It is estimated that about 500 TGFs occur daily worldwide, but most go undetected. ... > full story

Wildlife biologists use dogs' scat-sniffing talents for good (January 11, 2011) -- Biologists have harnessed a dog's natural talent for sniffing out the scat of other animals for a good cause. Researchers are fine-tuning the use of dogs as a non-invasive tool for wildlife studies and management. ... > full story

Hard-to-find fish reveals shared developmental toolbox of evolution (January 11, 2011) -- A SCUBA expedition in Australia and New Zealand to find the rare embryos of an unusual shark cousin enabled American and British researchers to confirm new developmental similarities between fish and mammals. The study confirms that organisms separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution share similar genetic programs for body formation. ... > full story

Smoking around your kindergartner could raise their blood pressure (January 11, 2011) -- Kindergartners whose parents smoke have higher blood pressure than those with non-smoking parents, according to new research. The study of more than 4,000 pre-school children in Germany is the first to show that exposure to nicotine increases the blood pressure of children as young as 4 or 5. Since childhood blood pressure tracks into adult life, researchers said youngsters exposed to cigarette smoke could have a higher risk of heart disease later in life. ... > full story

Viral evasion gene reveals new targets for eliminating chronic infections (January 11, 2011) -- Researchers in Australia have discovered how a key viral gene helps viruses evade early detection by the immune system. Their finding is providing new insights into how viruses are able to establish chronic infections, leading scientists to reevaluate their approaches to viral vaccine development. ... > full story

Shellfish safer to eat, thanks to biosensor technology (January 11, 2011) -- New technology promises to make shellfish safer to eat. A new test not only ensures shellfish are free of toxins before they reach the food chain but is likely to revolutionize the global fishing industry. While the current process for monitoring potentially dangerous toxins in shellfish takes up to two days, the new test slashes the testing time to just 30 minutes using new biosensor technology and provides a much more reliable result. ... > full story

Mountain glacier melt to contribute 12 centimeters to world sea-level increases by 2100 (January 11, 2011) -- Melt off from small mountain glaciers and ice caps will contribute about 12 centimeters to world sea-level increases by 2100, according to new research. ... > full story

New drug target for prion diseases, 'mad cow' (January 11, 2011) -- Scientists have discovered that plasminogen, a protein used by the body to break up blood clots, speeds up the progress of prion diseases such as mad cow disease. ... > full story

Energy limits global economic growth, study finds (January 11, 2011) -- A new study establishes macroecological correlations across countries and over time between per capita gross domestic product and per capita energy use. The authors infer a causal linkage. Correlations between these same two measures and measures of lifestyle quality lead the authors to believe that energy production would have to increase several-fold to support a still-growing world population in the current US lifestyle. ... > full story

H1N1 pandemic flu points to vaccine strategy for multiple flu strains (January 11, 2011) -- Using blood samples from patients infected with the 2009 H1N1 strain, researchers developed antibodies that could bind H1N1 viruses from the last decade, as well as the 1918 flu virus and even H5N1. Some of the antibodies protected mice from a lethal viral dose, even 60 hours post-infection. The antibodies could help researchers in designing a vaccine against a wide spectrum of flu viruses. ... > full story

Catfish study reveals multiplicity of species (January 11, 2011) -- An extensive investigation of South American Corydoras catfish, reveals that catfish communities, although containing almost identically colored and patterned fish, could actually contain three or more different species. Establishing for the first time that many species are mimetic, this discovery suggests that in many cases the number of Corydoras catfish species may be higher than previously recognized, with consequent implications for environmentalists charged with protecting environmental diversity and safeguarding the species. ... > full story

Mosquito nets do not work everytime, researchers find (January 10, 2011) -- Long-lasting insecticidal nets have yielded an important breakthrough in malaria prevention, but this does not automatically mean they always work against diseases transmitted by insect bites. Against the transmission of kala-azar disease in India and Nepal, they did not have an effect, researchers have found. ... > full story

Cancer in a single catastrophe: Chromosome crisis common in cancer causation (January 10, 2011) -- Cancer is most often considered to be the result of accumulation of mutations over time -- often over years. Researchers have found that in one in 40 cases, chromosomes explode in a single event, creating hundreds of fragments and many mutations. The new process is particularly common in bone cancers. Although the cause of the shattered chromosomes is not known, the team suggest possible mechanisms to be studied. ... > full story

Induced pluripotent stem cells from fetal skin cells and embryonic stem cells display comparable potential for derivation of hepatocytes (January 10, 2011) -- Numerous patients suffering from chronic liver diseases are currently receiving inadequate treatment due to the lack of organs donated for transplantation. However, hepatocytes derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) could offer an alternative for the future. Scientists compared hepatocytes from embryonic stem cells with hepatocytes from iPS cells and found that their gene expression is very similar. ... > full story

Extreme obesity associated with higher risk of death for 2009 H1N1 patients (January 10, 2011) -- For those infected with the 2009 pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus, extreme obesity was a powerful risk factor for death, according to an analysis of a public health surveillance database. In a new study, researchers associated extreme obesity with a nearly three-fold increased odds of death from 2009 H1N1 influenza. Half of Californians greater than 20 years of age hospitalized with 2009 H1N1 were obese. ... > full story

When less is more: How mitochondrial signals extend lifespan (January 10, 2011) -- In making your pro-longevity resolutions, like drinking more red wine and maintaining a vibrant social network, here's one you likely forgot: dialing down your mitochondria. It turns out that slowing the engines of these tiny cellular factories could extend your life-an observation relevant not only to aging research but to our understanding of how cells communicate with each another. ... > full story

Epic journeys of turtles revealed via satellite tracking (January 10, 2011) -- The epic ocean-spanning journeys of the gigantic leatherback turtle in the South Atlantic have been revealed for the first time thanks to groundbreaking research using satellite tracking. Experts in the UK led a five-year study to find out more about these increasingly rare creatures and inform conservation efforts. ... > full story

Atmosphere's self-cleaning capacity surprisingly stable (January 10, 2011) -- The atmosphere's capacity for cleansing itself of air pollutants is more stable than previously thought, according to a new study ... > full story

Double doses of chicken pox vaccine most effective, researchers find (January 10, 2011) -- When vaccinating children against varicella (chicken pox), researchers have found, two doses are better than one. In fact, the odds of developing chicken pox were 95 percent lower in children who had received two doses of the vaccine compared with those who had received only one dose. ... > full story

Antibiotic resistance is not just genetic (January 10, 2011) -- Genetic resistance to antibiotics is not the only trick bacteria use to resist eradication -- they also have a second defense strategy known as persistence that can kick in. Researchers have now demonstrated for the first time that interplay occurs between the two mechanisms to aid bacterial survival. The findings could lead to novel, effective approaches to treat multi-drug resistant infections. ... > full story

Blame the 'chaperone': Mutation in gene essential for correct protein-processing identified (January 10, 2011) -- Scientists have identified a mutation in a gene that's essential for correct protein-processing in cells. Defects in protein folding are associated with a variety of abnormalities and diseases. ... > full story

Grape ingredient resveratrol increases beneficial fat hormone (January 10, 2011) -- Researchers have identified a novel way in which resveratrol, a substance in grapes, exerts positive health effects. ... > full story

Extracting cellular 'engines' may aid in understanding mitochondrial diseases (January 10, 2011) -- Medical researchers who crave a means of exploring the genetic culprits behind a host of neuromuscular disorders may have just had their wish granted by a research team that has performed surgery on single cells to extract and examine their mitochondria. ... > full story

Climate change to continue to year 3000 in best case scenarios, research predicts (January 10, 2011) -- New research indicates the impact of rising carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere will cause unstoppable effects to the climate for at least the next 1,000 years. ... > full story

Measles viral protein movement described (January 10, 2011) -- Researchers have shown that proteins on the surface of a cell twist a viral protein into position, allowing the virus to start infection and cause disease, all in a movement as graceful as a ballroom dance. ... > full story

Herpes virus' tactical maneuver visualized in 3-D (January 10, 2011) -- For the first time, researchers have developed a 3-D picture of a herpes virus protein interacting with a key part of the human cellular machinery, enhancing our understanding of how it hijacks human cells to spread infection and opening up new possibilities for stepping in to prevent or treat infection. This discovery uncovers one of the many tactical maneuvers employed by the virus. ... > full story

Cellular power plants' 'import business' revealed (January 10, 2011) -- Scientists in Germany have discovered a new signaling path in cells: a mechanism which enables the transport of proteins into mitochondria to be adjusted depending on the current metabolic state of the cell. ... > full story

Biofuel grasslands better for birds than ethanol staple corn, researchers find (January 10, 2011) -- Developing biofuel from native perennials instead of corn in the Midwest's rolling grasslands would better protect threatened bird populations, research suggests. Federal mandates and market forces both are expected to promote rising biofuel production, but the environmental consequences of turning more acreage over to row crops for fuel are a serious concern. ... > full story

The 'mad' Egyptian scholar who proved Aristotle wrong (January 10, 2011) -- Ibn al-Haytham's 11th-century Book of Optics, which was published exactly 1000 years ago, is often cited alongside Newton's Principia as one of the most influential books in physics. Yet very little is known about the writer, considered by many to be the father of modern optics. ... > full story

When it's cool, female butterflies chase males in sex role reversal (January 9, 2011) -- If you want to be surrounded by females on the prowl, it pays to be cool, at least if you are a male butterfly. In an unusual example of sex role reversals, females actively court males after being exposed to cool, dry temperatures as caterpillars, researchers report. Raised in the moist and warmer season as larvae, males take up the traditional roles of suitor, displaying their wing designs to females who do the choosing. ... > full story

Proteins need chaperones: Newly discovered processes in production of proteins described (January 9, 2011) -- Why does a chaperone sitting at the end of the ribosomal tunnel need to possess characteristics that can influence the chromatin structure in the nucleus? Scientists are now a step closer to answering this question. ... > full story

Edible insects produce smaller quantities of greenhouse gasses than cattle (January 9, 2011) -- Insects produce much smaller quantities of greenhouse gases per kilogram of meat than cattle and pigs. Insect meat could therefore form an alternative to more conventional types of meat. ... > full story

Origin of life on Earth: 'Natural' asymmetry of biological molecules may have come from space (January 7, 2011) -- Certain molecules do exist in two forms which are symmetrical mirror images of each other: they are known as chiral molecules. On Earth, the chiral molecules of life, especially amino acids and sugars, exist in only one form, either left-handed or right-handed. Why is it that life has initially chosen one form over the other? Now researchers have for the first time obtained an excess of left-handed molecules (and then an excess of right-handedones) under conditions that reproduce those found in interstellar space. This result therefore supports the hypothesis that the asymmetry of biological molecules on Earth has a cosmic origin. The researchers also suggest that the solar nebula formed in a region of massive stars. ... > full story

Packaging that knows when food is going bad (January 7, 2011) -- Packaging that alerts consumers to food which is starting to go bad is being developed by researchers in the UK. ... > full story

What carbon cycle? College students lack scientific literacy, study finds (January 7, 2011) -- Most college students in the United States do not grasp the scientific basis of the carbon cycle -- an essential skill in understanding the causes and consequences of climate change, according to new research. ... > full story

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