Senin, 07 Februari 2011

ScienceDaily Environment Headlines

for Monday, February 7, 2011

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Jumping genes caught in the act: New evidence that the genome contains many mobile elements (February 7, 2011) -- An ambitious hunt for actively "jumping genes" in humans has yielded compelling new evidence that the genome, anything but static, contains numerous pesky mobile elements that may help to explain why people have such a variety of physical traits and disease risks. ... > full story

Secret life of bees now a little less secret (February 6, 2011) -- Many plants produce toxic chemicals to protect themselves against plant-eating animals, and many flowering plants have evolved flower structures that prevent pollinators such as bees from taking too much pollen. Now ecologists have produced experimental evidence that flowering plants might also use chemical defenses to protect their pollen from some bees. ... > full story

Air pollutants from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves raise health concerns (February 6, 2011) -- Danish scientists have found that the invisible particles inhaled into the lungs from breathing wood smoke from fireplaces have multiple adverse effects. ... > full story

Heads or tails: Cells' electricity decides what to regenerate (February 6, 2011) -- For the first time, scientists have shown that specific changes in cell membrane voltage and ion flow are a key determinant in whether an organism regenerates a head or a tail. Biologists were able to control the shape of tissue regenerated by amputated planarian (flatworm) segments by manipulating the natural electrical signals that determine head-tail identity in the worms. ... > full story

Rare meteorites reveal Mars collision caused water flow (February 6, 2011) -- Exactly a century after the first discovery of a rare meteorite sample, a research team has used it to reveal new insights into water on the red planet. Rare fragments of Martian meteorites have been investigated, revealing one of the ways water flowed near the surface of Mars. ... > full story

Geographer recreates ‘The Great Louisiana Hurricane of 1812’ (February 6, 2011) -- Nearly 200 years before Hurricane Katrina, a major storm hit the coast of Louisiana just west of New Orleans. Because the War of 1812 was simultaneously raging, the hurricane's strength, direction and other historically significant details were quickly forgotten or never recorded. But now a geographer has reconstructed the storm, using maritime records, and has uncovered new information about its intensity, how it was formed and the track it took. ... > full story

Discovery of jumping gene cluster tangles tree of life (February 5, 2011) -- Since the days of Darwin, the "tree of life" has been the preeminent metaphor for the process of evolution, reflecting the gradual branching and changing of individual species. The discovery that a large cluster of genes appears to have jumped directly from one species of fungus to another, however, significantly strengthens the argument that a different metaphor, such as a mosaic, may be more appropriate. ... > full story

How the body’s frontline defense mechanism determines if a substance is a microbe (February 5, 2011) -- Researchers have now described how the first line of defense of the human immune system distinguishes between microbes and the body's own structures. The basis of this recognition mechanism has been unclear since the key protein components were discovered over 30 years ago -- and has now finally been cracked. ... > full story

Death in the bat caves: Disease wiping out hibernating bats (February 5, 2011) -- Conservationists across the United States are racing to discover a solution to white-nose syndrome, a disease that is threatening to wipe out bat species across North America. Although WNS has already killed one million bats, there are critical knowledge gaps preventing researchers from combating the disease. ... > full story

Blenny bonanza: Seven new species of fish revealed by genetic analysis (February 5, 2011) -- Things are not always what they seem when it comes to fish -- something scientists are finding out. Using modern genetic analysis, combined with traditional examination of morphology, scientists discovered that what were once thought to be three species of blenny in the genus Starksia are actually 10 distinct species. ... > full story

New twist on the electron beam (February 5, 2011) -- Researchers have found a novel, and potentially widely applicable, method to expand the capabilities of conventional transmission electron microscopes by adding a new twist to their electron beams. ... > full story

Gas stations pollute their immediate surroundings, Spanish study finds (February 5, 2011) -- In Spain, it is relatively common to come across gas stations surrounded by houses, particularly in urban areas. Researchers have studied the effects of contamination at gas stations that is potentially harmful to health, which can be noted in buildings less than 100 meters from the service stations. ... > full story

Cross-species strategy might be a powerful tool for studying human disease (February 4, 2011) -- A new study takes advantage of genetic similarities between mammals and fruit flies by coupling a complex genetic screening technique in humans with functional validation of the results in flies. The new strategy has the potential to be an effective approach for unraveling genetically complex human disorders and providing valuable insights into human disease. ... > full story

Part of New Zealand's submerged 'Pink Terraces' found (February 4, 2011) -- Scientists have located portions of the long-lost Pink Terraces near New Zealand. They were called the Eighth Wonder of the World. Until the late 19th century, New Zealand's Pink and White Terraces along Lake Rotomahana on the North Island, attracted tourists from around the world, interested in seeing the beautiful natural formations created by a large geothermal system. But the eruption of Mt. Tarawera on June 10, 1886, buried the terraces in sediment and caused the lake basin to enlarge, engulfing the land where the terraces stood. For more than a century, people have speculated whether any part of the Pink and White Terraces survived the eruption. ... > full story

Boosting body's immune response may hold key to HIV cure (February 4, 2011) -- Scientists have successfully cleared a HIV-like infection from mice by boosting the function of cells vital to the immune response. Researchers showed that a cell signaling hormone called interleukin-7 reinvigorates the immune response to chronic viral infection, allowing the host to completely clear virus. ... > full story

Oil in Gulf of Mexico: Biologists cite need for critical data to determine ecological consequences (February 4, 2011) -- Twenty years after biologists attempted to determine the ecological damages to marine life from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, scientists dealing with the BP disaster find themselves with the same problem: the lack of critical data to determine the ecological consequences of human-induced environmental disasters. ... > full story

Want more efficient muscles? Eat your spinach (February 4, 2011) -- After taking a small dose of inorganic nitrate for three days, healthy people consume less oxygen while riding an exercise bike. A new study traces that improved performance to increased efficiency of the mitochondria that power our cells. The researchers aren't recommending anyone begin taking inorganic nitrate supplements based on the new findings. Rather, they say that the results may offer one explanation for the well-known health benefits of fruits and vegetables, and leafy green vegetables in particular. ... > full story

Oysters at risk: Gastronomes' delight disappearing globally (February 4, 2011) -- Oysters are in "poor" condition globally, according to a new global assessment. In most of the "bays" and ecoregions where the mollusks were once abundant, reefs are at less than 10 percent of their former extent, the victims of over-exploitation exacerbated by disease. Sustainable management of oyster fisheries could help some populations recover, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the few places in the world where there are still extensive reefs in fair condition. ... > full story

Helping feed the world without polluting its waters (February 4, 2011) -- Farmers around the world rely, at least in part on phosphorus-based fertilizers in order to sustain and improve crop yields. But the overuse of phosphorus can lead to freshwater pollution and the development of a host of problems, such as the spread of blue-green algae in lakes. Now, researchers have produced a detailed global map showing imbalances in the way that phosphorus, an essential plant nutrient, is being used around the world. ... > full story

Ants have big impact on environment as 'ecosystem engineers' (February 4, 2011) -- Research on the impact of ants on their local environment has revealed they play an important role. They have a dual effect on their local ecosystem which affects both the density and diversity of other species around them, including animals much higher up the food chain. ... > full story

Deadly tool discovered in Salmonella's bag of tricks (February 4, 2011) -- The potentially deadly bacterium Salmonella possesses a molecular machine that marshals the proteins it needs to hijack cellular mechanisms and infect millions worldwide. Researchers have discovered how Salmonella, a major cause of food poisoning and typhoid fever, is able to make these proteins line in up in just the right sequence to invade host cells. ... > full story

Powerful new methodology for stabilizing proteins developed (February 4, 2011) -- Scientists have discovered a new way to stabilize proteins — the workhorse biological macromolecules found in all organisms. Proteins serve as the functional basis of many types of biologic drugs used to treat everything from arthritis, anemia, and diabetes to cancer. ... > full story

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

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