Jumat, 04 Februari 2011

ScienceDaily Environment Headlines

for Friday, February 4, 2011

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Microbiologists aim to optimize bio-ethanol production (February 4, 2011) -- Researchers are working to resolve an emerging "food versus fuel" rivalry: they are investigating how to most effectively utilize residual field crop material for industrial production of bio-ethanol. Getting a handle on the full "toolbox" that soil bacteria use to transform cellulose into sugar could help to optimize combinations of enzymes for industrial use, potentially leading to development of a specialized degradation tool for every kind of plant waste containing cellulose. ... > full story

The 'death switch' in sepsis also promotes survival (February 4, 2011) -- Researchers have identified a protein that plays a dual role in the liver during sepsis. The protein, known as RIP1, acts both as a "death switch" and as a pro-survival mechanism. The ability to identify the triggers for these functions may play a key role in treating sepsis in the future. ... > full story

Underwater ridges impact ocean's flow of warm water; Findings to improve climate models (February 4, 2011) -- New discoveries on how underwater ridges impact the ocean's circulation system will help improve climate projections. An underwater ridge can trap the flow of cold, dense water at the bottom of the ocean. Without the ridge, deepwater can flow freely and speed up the ocean circulation pattern, which generally increases the flow of warm surface water. Warm water on the ocean's surface makes the formation of sea ice difficult. With less ice present to reflect the sun, surface water will absorb more sunlight and continue to warm. ... > full story

Rare insect fossil reveals 100 million years of evolutionary stasis (February 4, 2011) -- Researchers have discovered the 100 million-year-old ancestor of a group of large, carnivorous, cricket-like insects that still live today in southern Asia, northern Indochina and Africa. The new find corrects the mistaken classification of another fossil of this type and reveals that the genus has undergone very little evolutionary change since the Early Cretaceous Period, a time of dinosaurs just before the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana. ... > full story

Communication pathways within proteins may yield new drug targets to stop superbugs (February 3, 2011) -- A biophysicist has developed a new method to identify communication pathways connecting distant regions within proteins. With this tool, the researcher has identified a mechanism for cooperative behavior within an entire molecule, a finding that suggests that in the future it may be possible to design drugs that target anywhere along the length of a molecule's communication pathway rather than only in a single location as they do today. ... > full story

Wolverine population threatened by climate change (February 3, 2011) -- Wolverine habitat in the northwestern United States is likely to warm dramatically if society continues to emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, according to new computer model simulations. The study found that climate change is likely to imperil the wolverine in two ways: reducing or eliminating the springtime snow cover that wolverines rely on to protect and shelter newborn kits, and increasing August temperatures well beyond what the species may be able to tolerate. ... > full story

Two severe Amazon droughts in five years alarms scientists (February 3, 2011) -- New research shows that the 2010 Amazon drought may have been even more devastating to the region's rainforests than the unusual 2005 drought, which was previously billed as a one-in-100 year event. ... > full story

Coffee, energy drinkers beware: Many mega-sized drinks loaded with sugar, nutrition expert says (February 3, 2011) -- Americans should be wary of extra calories and sugar in the quest for bigger, bolder drinks, according to a nutrition expert. ... > full story

Water flea: First crustacean genome is sequenced (February 3, 2011) -- The ubiquitous freshwater "water flea," Daphnia pulex, is a valuable "sentinel species" for the presence of toxins and pollutants in the environment. ... > full story

Lampreys give clues to evolution of immune system (February 3, 2011) -- Biologists have discovered that primitive, predatory lampreys have structures within their gills that play the same role as the thymus, the organ where immune cells called T cells develop in mammals, birds and fish. The finding suggests that in vertebrate evolution, having two separate organs for immune cell development -- the bone marrow for B cells and the thymus for T cells -- may have preceded the appearance of the particular features that mark those cells, such as antibodies and T cell receptors. ... > full story

New drought record from long-lived Mexican trees may illuminate fates of past civilizations (February 3, 2011) -- A new, detailed record of rainfall fluctuations in ancient Mexico that spans more than twelve centuries promises to improve our understanding of the role drought played in the rise and fall of pre-Hispanic civilizations. ... > full story

'Red mud' disaster's main threat to crops is not toxic metals, but instead high alkalinity (February 3, 2011) -- As farmers in Hungary ponder spring planting on hundreds of acres of farmland affected by last October's red mud disaster, scientists are reporting that high alkalinity is the main threat to a bountiful harvest, not toxic metals. In a new study, they also describe an inexpensive decontamination strategy using the mineral gypsum, an ingredient in plaster. ... > full story

Roasting coffee beans a dark brown produces valued antioxidants, scientists find (February 3, 2011) -- Food scientists have been able to pinpoint more of the complex chemistry behind coffee's much touted antioxidant benefits, tracing valuable compounds to the roasting process. ... > full story

First new C. difficile drug in a generation superior to existing treatments (February 3, 2011) -- Clostridium difficile infection is a significant problem in hospitals, but no new drugs to treat the condition have been developed in several decades. However, a large-scale, Phase 3 trial shows that the new antibiotic Fidaxomicin is superior to existing treatments, demonstrating a 45 percent reduction in recurrences vs. the existing licensed treatment. ... > full story

Giant virus, tiny protein crystals show X-ray laser's power and potential (February 3, 2011) -- Two new studies demonstrate how the unique capabilities of the world's first hard X-ray free-electron laser could revolutionize the study of life. In one study, researchers used the laser to demonstrate a shortcut for determining the 3-D structures of proteins. In a separate paper, the same team reported making the first single-shot images of intact viruses, paving the way for snapshots and movies of molecules, viruses and live microbes in action. ... > full story

Sea urchin embryos could be used to evaluate quality of marine environment, researcher proposes (February 3, 2011) -- Estuaries are highly appropriate systems for evaluating contamination. They are areas of accumulation of sediments and, effectively, numerous contaminants are found associated with these sedimentary particles. In order to study the effects of such contaminants in the environment, a researcher has proposed exposing sea urchin embryos to sediments suspected of being contaminated, in order to quantify any biological response from the organisms. ... > full story

Sentinel of change: Waterflea genome to improve environmental monitoring capabilities (February 3, 2011) -- A tiny crustacean that has been used for decades to develop and monitor environmental regulations is the first of its kind to have its genetic code sequenced and analyzed -- revealing the most gene-packed animal characterized to date. The information deciphered could help researchers develop and conduct real-time monitoring systems of the effects of environmental remediation efforts. ... > full story

Animal with the most genes? A tiny crustacean (February 3, 2011) -- Complexity ever in the eye of its beholders, the animal with the most genes -- about 31,000 -- is the near-microscopic freshwater crustacean Daphnia pulex, or water flea. By comparison, humans have about 23,000 genes. Daphnia is the first crustacean to have its genome sequenced. The findings are part of a comprehensive report in this week's Science by members of the Daphnia Genomics Consortium, an international network of scientists. ... > full story

Current use of biodiesel no more harmful than regular diesel, Norwegian study finds (February 3, 2011) -- Up to 7 percent biodiesel blended in regular diesel will presumably not cause greater health risks for the population than the use of pure fossil diesel, according to a new Norwegian assessment. ... > full story

Primitive vertebrates with an adaptive immune system (February 3, 2011) -- A key organ found in our adaptive immune system is more common than previously assumed: Researchers demonstrate the presence of thymus-like structures in the primitive lamprey. ... > full story

Ice cores yield rich history of climate change (February 2, 2011) -- On Friday, Jan. 28 in Antarctica, a research team investigating the last 100,000 years of Earth's climate history reached an important milestone completing the main ice core to a depth of 3,331 meters (10,928 feet) at West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide. The project will be completed over the next two years with some additional coring and borehole logging to obtain additional information and samples of the ice for the study of the climate record contained in the core. ... > full story

NASA Aqua Satellite sees powerful Cyclone Yasi make landfall in Queensland, Australia (February 2, 2011) -- NASA's Aqua satellite captured visible and infrared imagery of powerful Cyclone Yasi as it was making landfall in Queensland. The center of the monster cyclone Yasi made landfall on Australia's northeastern coast early Thursday (Australia local time) bringing heavy rainfall, severe winds and storm surge. ... > full story

Road may disrupt migration, ruin Serengeti, study finds (February 2, 2011) -- A new study finds that building a proposed highway through Serengeti National Park may devastate one of the world's last large-scale herd migrations and the region's ecosystem. ... > full story

In tiny fruit flies, researchers identify metabolic 'switch' that links normal growth to cancer (February 2, 2011) -- Until now, researchers have known nothing about the metabolic state that occurs when cells divide during early development. Human genetics researchers show in a new study that this cell division in Drosophila depends on a metabolic state much like when cells run amok to form cancerous tumors. ... > full story

Anthropologists discover earliest cemetery in Middle East (February 2, 2011) -- Anthropologists have discovered the oldest cemetery in the Middle East at a 16,500-year-old site in northern Jordan. The cemetery includes graves containing human remains buried alongside those of a red fox, suggesting that the animal was possibly kept as a pet by humans long before dogs ever were. ... > full story

Ritalin may ease early iron deficiency damage (February 2, 2011) -- Ritalin may help improve brain function in adolescent rats that were iron deficient during infancy, according to a neuroscientists. This may have implications for iron-deficient human infants as well. ... > full story

Rain in Spain is on the decline, research finds (February 2, 2011) -- A new study has studied precipitation trends in Spain's 10 hydrological basins over the 1946 to 2005 period. The results show that precipitation has declined overall between the months of March and June, reducing the length of the rainy season. The rains are heavier in October in the north west of the country. ... > full story

'Air laser' may sniff bombs, pollutants from a distance (February 2, 2011) -- Engineers have developed a new laser sensing technology that may allow soldiers to detect hidden bombs from a distance and scientists to better measure airborne environmental pollutants and greenhouse gasses. ... > full story

NASA satellite captures U.S. 'Big Chill' (February 2, 2011) -- The current winter storm system blasting much of the United States is depicted in a new NASA satellite image from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite. ... > full story

Arctic mercury mystery: Meterological conditions in the spring and summer to blame? (February 2, 2011) -- More mercury is deposited in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet. Researchers think one explanation for this may lie in the meteorological conditions in the Arctic spring and summer. ... > full story

Monster cyclone Yasi eyes Australia in NASA image (February 2, 2011) -- Mass evacuations are underway in the northeastern Australian state of Queensland in anticipation of what forecasters expect will be the largest cyclone ever to hit the continent. ... > full story

Do chimpanzees mourn their dead infants? (February 2, 2011) -- For the first time, researchers report in detail how a chimpanzee mother responds to the death of her infant. The chimpanzee mother shows behaviors not typically seen directed toward live infants, such as placing her fingers against the neck and laying the infant's body on the ground to watch it from a distance. The observations provide unique insights into how chimpanzees, one of humans' closest primate relatives, learn about death. ... > full story

Earth's life support systems discussed in an open-access special issue (February 2, 2011) -- In the search for life on Mars or any planet, there is much more than the presence of carbon and oxygen to consider. Using Earth's biogeochemical cycles as a reference point, elements like nitrogen, iron and sulfur are just as important for supporting life. As explored in studies published in February's open-access Special Issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the most basic elements work together to support an extraordinary diversity of life. ... > full story

NASA satellite tracks menacing Australian cyclone (February 1, 2011) -- Fresh on the heels of a series of crippling floods that began in December 2010, and a small tropical cyclone, Anthony, this past weekend, the northeastern Australian state of Queensland is now bracing for what could become one of the largest tropical cyclones the state has ever seen. ... > full story

Intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in children and insecticide-treated bednets reduce prevalence of infection by up to 85 percent (February 1, 2011) -- Two separate studies -- carried out in Burkina Faso and Mali -- have found that combining intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in children with insecticide-treated bednets can substantially reduce the incidence of severe malaria. ... > full story

Technology protects cotton from caterpillar's appetite (February 1, 2011) -- To demonstrate tiny cotton-eating caterpillars' destructive power, entomologists planted two cotton varieties -- one genetically modified to provide protection and one not -- in a demonstration field. ... > full story

Bacteria in the gut may influence brain development (February 1, 2011) -- Scientists have found that gut bacteria may influence mammalian brain development and adult behavior. ... > full story

Biologists discover 'control center' for sperm production; Study uncovers genetic hierarchy in plant sperm formation (February 1, 2011) -- Biologists have published results of a new study into the intricacies of sex in flowering plants. They have found that a gene in plants, called DUO1, acts as a master switch to ensure twin fertile sperm cells are made in each pollen grain. ... > full story

NASA satellites capture data on monster winter storm affecting 30 U.S. states (February 1, 2011) -- One of the largest winter storms since the 1950s is affecting 30 U.S. states with snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain. NASA satellites have gathering data on the storm that stretches from Texas and the Rockies to the New England states. ... > full story

Seeking social genes: Researchers compare insect genomes to hone in on genes associated with complex social structure (February 1, 2011) -- In order understand the evolution of complex societies, researchers are sequencing the genomes of social insects. The most recent data come from several species of ants, including the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus. ... > full story

Where has all the Gulf spill oil gone? (February 1, 2011) -- Many questions remain about the fate and environmental impact of the marine oil caused by the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform. ... > full story

Cluster encounters 'natural particle accelerator' above Earth's atmosphere: How northern and southern lights are generated (February 1, 2011) -- The European Space Agency's Cluster satellites have flown through a natural particle accelerator just above Earth's atmosphere. The data they collected are unlocking how most of the dramatic displays of the northern and southern lights are generated. ... > full story

Clean streets and intact road surfaces help to keep the air clean (February 1, 2011) -- Road traffic is one of the main sources of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere, above all when the weather situation favors the creation of winter smog. Vehicle tailpipe emissions are responsible for just less than half of the fine particles, however. The majority of this pollutant is produced by mechanical wear and resuspension of dust due to air turbulence from passing vehicles, as a study by atmospheric scientists has shown. ... > full story

Newly discovered dinosaur likely father of Triceratops (February 1, 2011) -- Triceratops and Torosaurus have long been considered the kings of the horned dinosaurs. But a new discovery traces the giants' family tree further back in time, when a newly discovered species called Titanoceratops appears to have reigned long before its more well-known descendants, making it the earliest known member of its family. ... > full story

New probiotic combats inflammatory bowel disease (February 1, 2011) -- You know the probiotics in your peach yogurt are healthful, but now it appears they may also be a powerful treatment for disease. A genetically tweaked version of a common probiotic in yogurt and cheese appears to be an effective therapy for inflammatory bowel diseases including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Researchers found the novel probiotic significantly halted disease progression in a preclinical study. It may also be useful in treating colon cancer, researchers suggest. ... > full story

Dogs can accurately sniff out early stage bowel cancer (February 1, 2011) -- Dogs can sniff out bowel cancer in breath and stool samples, with a very high degree of accuracy -- even in the early stages of the disease -- reveals new research. ... > full story

Argentine ant genome sheds light on a successful pest (February 1, 2011) -- Researchers have unlocked the genetic code of the highly invasive Argentine ant, providing clues as to why this species has been so successful. ... > full story

Bugs might convert biodiesel waste into new fuel (February 1, 2011) -- A strain of bacteria found in soil is being studied for its ability to convert waste from a promising alternative fuel into several useful materials, including another alternative fuel. ... > full story

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