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Plants & Animals In the News ...

It's now or never: Visual events have 100 milliseconds to hit brain target or go unnoticed
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

Researchers have defined a crucial window of time that mice need to key in on visual events.

Common coronaviruses are highly seasonal, with most cases peaking in winter months
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

Of the seven coronaviruses known to infect people, four cause common respiratory infections that are sharply seasonal and appear to transmit similarly to influenza, according to a new study.

How forest loss leads to spread of disease
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

In Uganda, loss of forested habitat increases the likelihood of interactions between disease-carrying wild primates and humans. The findings suggest the emergence and spread of viruses, such as the one that causes COVID-19, will become more common as the conversion of natural habitats into farmland continues worldwide.

The evolution of color: How butterfly wings can shift in hue
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

A selective mating experiment by a curious butterfly breeder has led scientists to a deeper understanding of how butterfly wing color is created and evolves.

Protecting the high seas: Identify biodiversity hotspots
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

Researchers use big data to identify biodiversity hotspots that could become the first generation of high seas marine protected areas.

Statement on chest imaging and COVID-19
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

A multinational consensus statement on the role of chest imaging in the management of patients with COVID-19 has just been published.

How wallflowers evolved a complementary pair of plant defenses
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

A pair of chemicals used by wallflowers and their kin to ward off predators have evolved to complement each other, with one targeting generalist herbivores and the other targeting specialized herbivores that have become resistant to the generalist defense.

Researchers suggest a special diet against asthma
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

Can a special diet help in certain cases of asthma? A new study at least points to this conclusion. According to the study, mice that were switched to a so-called ketogenic diet showed significantly reduced inflammation of the respiratory tract.

What type of cells does the novel coronavirus attack?
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

Scientists have examined samples from non-virus infected patients to determine which cells of the lungs and bronchi are targets for novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) infection.

Some flowers have learned to bounce back after injury
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

Some flowers have a remarkable and previously unknown ability to bounce back after injury, according to a new study.

Climate change triggers Great Barrier Reef bleaching
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

The Great Barrier Reef is suffering through its worst bleaching event. This is the third bleaching within the space of five years.

Scientists develop new way to identify the sex of sea turtle hatchlings
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

A new minimally invasive technique greatly enhances the ability to measure neonate turtle sex ratios. This is the first time that differences in sex-specific protein expression patterns have been identified in blood samples of hatchlings with temperature-dependent sex determination. The technique is a crucial step in assessing the impact of climate change on imperiled turtle species and will enable more accurate estimates of hatchling sex ratios at a population level and on a global scale.

New genetic tools expand capacity to investigate microbes
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

A team of international scientists has developed a suite of more than 200 new genetic techniques for using marine microbes to investigate a host of questions in biology. The new tools are an essential step forward in understanding the cellular instructions that underpin microbial life in the sea.

Engineered virus might be able to block coronavirus infections, mouse study shows
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

No vaccines exist that protect people against infections by coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, or the ones that cause SARS and MERS. As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc, many labs around the world have developed a laser-like focus on understanding the virus and finding the best strategy for stopping it. Researchers now suggest that the approach they took for a MERS virus vaccine may also work against SARS-CoV-2.

Stream pollution from mountaintop mining doesn't stay put in the water
Posted on Tuesday April 07, 2020

Since the 1980s, a mountaintop mine in West Virginia has been leaching selenium into nearby streams at levels deemed unsafe for aquatic life. Now, even though the mine is closed, a new study finds high concentrations of selenium in emerging stream insects and the spiders that eat them along the banks, an indication that the contaminant moves from water to land as it moves up the food chain.

Scientists' warning to humanity on insect extinctions
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

As the human race continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have found that the planet's insects are also facing a crisis after accelerating rates of extinction have led to a worldwide fall in insect numbers.

Chemists working on drugs to treat COVID-19
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

In the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, chemists have focused on searching for drugs to treat COVID-19. One group identified the antiviral drug remdesivir as a viable medicine to treat COVID-19 in a research study published in late January. The drug was originally developed in response to the 2014 Ebola pandemic.

Lifestyle trumps geography in determining makeup of gut microbiome
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

Researchers studied the gut microbiomes of wild apes in the Republic of Congo, of captive apes in zoos in the US, and of people from around the world and discovered that lifestyle is more important than geography or even species in determining the makeup of the gut microbiome.

How understanding the dynamics of yeast prions can shed light on neurodegenerative diseases
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

Prions are a class of misfolded proteins that form aggregates called "amyloid fibrils." These aggregates are the main culprit behind severe mammalian neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. What makes them so deadly is that they are capable of transmitting their erroneous conformation to otherwise healthy proteins, causing an imbalance in cellular function. Currently, there are no effective treatments for fatal prion diseases, mainly because studying mammalian prions is challenging.

Innovative birds are less vulnerable to extinction
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

Bird species that have the capacity to express novel foraging behaviors are less vulnerable to extinction than species that do not, according to a collaborative study.

Positives in first published clinical trial of COVID-19 treatment
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

A statistician who worked on the first published large randomized clinical trial for a potential treatment for the COVID-19 virus said the study produced positive results.

Breakthrough in unlocking genetic potential of ocean microbes
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

Researchers have made a major breakthrough in developing gene-editing tools to improve our understanding of one of the most important ocean microbes on the planet. The international project unlocks the potential of the largest untapped genetic resource for the development of natural products such as novel antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parasitic and antifungal compounds.

Climate change to affect fish sizes and complex food webs
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

Global climate change will affect fish sizes in unpredictable ways and, consequently, impact complex food webs in our oceans, a new study has shown. The study analyzed three decades of data from 30,000 surveys of rocky and coral reefs around Australia.

New algorithm aims to protect surgical team members against infection with COVID-19 virus
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

Researchers have created an algorithm that aims to protect operating room team members who perform urgent and emergency operations from COVID-19.

Invasive species with charisma have it easier
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

It's the outside that counts: Their charisma has an impact on the introduction and image of alien species and can even hinder their control. An international research team have investigated the influence of charisma on the management of invasive species.

Tiny marine organisms as the key to global cycles
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

Marine microorganisms play a very important role in global cycles such as of the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, little is known about how they function. New approaches are for the first time laying the foundation for a more detailed genetic investigation of some key phytoplankton organisms.

Insect wings hold antimicrobial clues for improved medical implants
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

Some insect wings such as cicada and dragonfly possess nanopillar structures that kill bacteria upon contact. However, to date, the precise mechanisms that cause bacterial death have been unknown. Using a range of advanced imaging tools, functional assays and proteomic analyses, a study by the University of Bristol has identified new ways in which nanopillars can damage bacteria.

What is the Asian hornet invasion going to cost Europe?
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

Since its accidental introduction in 2003 in France, the yellow-legged Asian hornet Vespa velutina nigrithorax is rapidly spreading through Europe. Scientists have now tried to estimate the costs of the invasion regarding the potential damage to apiculture and pollination services.

Scientists discover legacy of past weather in stories of prairie plant restoration
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

Scientists have investigated fields of data going back 20 years to find out why some replanted prairies are healthier than others.

Cell muscle movements visualised for first time
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

The movements of cell muscles in the form of tiny filaments of proteins have been visualized at unprecedented detail.

Cold War nuclear bomb tests reveal true age of whale sharks
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

Atomic bomb tests conducted during the Cold War have helped scientists for the first time correctly determine the age of whale sharks.

Fiber consumption linked to lower breast cancer risk
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

Consuming a diet high in fiber was linked with a reduced incidence of breast cancer in an analysis of all relevant prospective studies.

Viruses don't have a metabolism; but some have the building blocks for one
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

'Giant viruses' are many times larger than typical viruses and have more complex genomes. Using publicly available metagenome data, researchers assembled genomes for more than 500 giant viruses and found a surprising number of genes for cellular metabolic cycles, including glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, and the TCA cycle. Viruses may deploy these genes to rewire their hosts' metabolism upon infection, expanding their ecological influence and blurring the distinction between viruses and cellular life.

Making biofuels cheaper by putting plants to work
Posted on Monday April 06, 2020

One strategy to make biofuels more competitive is to make plants do some of the work themselves. Scientists can engineer plants to produce valuable chemical compounds, or bioproducts, as they grow. Then the bioproducts can be extracted from the plant and the remaining plant material can be converted into fuel. But one important part of this strategy has remained unclear -- exactly how much of a particular bioproduct would plants need to make in order to make the process economically feasible?

Using sponges to wipe out cancer
Posted on Saturday April 04, 2020

Manzamine A, a natural product derived from certain groups of sponges, can block the growth of cervical cancer cells, report researchers. Manzamine A targets a protein that is highly expressed in many cancers, including cervical cancer, and is the first reported inhibitor of this protein.

Deep-sea worms and bacteria team up to harvest methane
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

Scientists uncover an unusual partnership at the bottom of the ocean.

How important is speech in transmitting coronavirus?
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

Normal speech by individuals who are asymptomatic but infected with coronavirus may produce enough aerosolized particles to transmit the infection, according to aerosol scientists. Although it's not yet known how important this is to the spread of COVID-19, it underscores the need for strict social distancing measures -- and for virologists, epidemiologists and engineers who study aerosols and droplets to work together on this and other respiratory diseases.

New temperature sensing mechanism in plants
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

Cell biologists reveal the phytochrome B molecule has unexpected dynamics activated by temperature, and behaves differently depending on the temperature and type of light. As climate change warms the world, crop growth patterns and flowering times will change. A better understanding of how phytochromes regulate the seasonal rhythms of plant growth will help scientists develop crops for optimal growth under the new climate and might shed light on cancer in animals.

Removing the novel coronavirus from the water cycle
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

Researchers have called for more research to determine the best ways to keep SARS-CoV-19 out of the water cycle. They also suggest that developed nations should finance water treatment systems in the developing world to help prevent future COVID-19 pandemics.

Wearing surgical masks in public could help slow COVID-19 pandemic's advance
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

Surgical masks may help prevent infected people from making others sick with seasonal viruses, including coronaviruses, according to new research. In laboratory experiments, the masks significantly reduced the amounts of various airborne viruses coming from infected patients, measured using the breath-capturing 'Gesundheit II machine.'

COVID-19 pandemic may exacerbate childhood obesity
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

Public health scientists predict that school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic will exacerbate the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States. Researchers expect that COVID-19-related school closures will double out-of-school time this year for many children in the US and will exacerbate risk factors for weight gain associated with summer recess.

An antibiotic masquerading as a natural compound in the Giant Madeiran Squill
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

A previous study has shown that a type of squill growing in Madeira produces a chemical compound that may be useful as a medicinal drug. But a new study has shown that this is probably not true: instead, the plant had likely accumulated antibiotics from contaminated soil.

Changes to drylands with future climate change
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

While drylands around the world will expand at an accelerated rate because of future climate change, their average productivity will likely be reduced, according to a new study. These regions, which primarily include savannas, grasslands and shrublands, are important for grazing and non-irrigated croplands. They are also a critical part of the global carbon cycle and make up 41% of Earth's land surface and support 38% of its population.

Coronavirus: Virological findings from patients treated in a Munich hospital
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

New research has detailed the clinical course and treatment of Germany's first group of COVID-19 patients. Criteria may now be developed to determine the earliest point at which COVID-19 patients treated in hospitals with limited bed capacity can be safely discharged.

Possible coronavirus drug identified
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

A new study has shown that an anti-parasitic drug already available around the world can kill the virus within 48 hours. Scientists found that a single dose of the drug, Ivermectin, could stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus growing in cell culture. The next steps are to determine the correct human dosage -- ensuring the doses shown to effectively treat the virus in vitro are safe for humans.

Plant root hairs key to reducing soil erosion
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

The tiny hairs found on plant roots play a pivotal role in helping reduce soil erosion, a new study has found. The research provides compelling evidence that when root hairs interact with the surrounding soil they reduce soil erosion and increase soil cohesion by binding soil particles.

Northern peatlands will lose some of their CO2 sink capacity under a warmer climate
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

A study sheds new light on the role of northern peatlands in regulating the regional climate. According to the researchers, peatlands will remain carbon sinks until the end of this century, but their sink capacity will be substantially reduced after 2050, if the climate warms significantly.

Tooth be told: Earless seals existed in ancient Australia
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

A fossilised seal tooth, dating back approximately three million years, found on a Victorian beach proves earless seals existed in Australia in prehistoric times. Known as monachines, the seals became extinct due to rapid changes in sea level.

Clues to COVID-19 coronavirus's vulnerability emerge from an antibody against SARS
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

An antibody recovered from a survivor of the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s has revealed a potential vulnerability of the new coronavirus at the root of COVID-19.

Do urban fish exhibit impaired sleep?
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

Melatonin controls the body clock -- high melatonin levels make us feel tired in the evening. However, the hormone also plays an important role in animals' biological rhythms. Artificial light at night -- light pollution -- can suppress the production of melatonin in fish, even at very low light intensities, a finding established by researchers.

To divide or not to divide? The mother cell may decide
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

Researchers have found that it's actually the mother cell that determines if its daughter cells will divide. The finding sheds new light on the cell cycle using modern imaging technologies, and could have implications for cancer drug therapy treatments.

Scientists discover a new class of taste receptors
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

Evolution is a tinkerer, not an engineer. 'Evolution does not produce novelties from scratch. It works with what already exists,' wrote Nobel laureate François Jacob in 1977, and biologists continue to find this to be true. Case in point: A team of scientists has discovered that multiple opsin proteins, known for decades to be required for vision, also function as taste receptors. The finding represents a light-independent function for opsins, and raises questions about the purpose these proteins served in ancient organisms.

Coastal pollution reduces genetic diversity of corals, reef resilience
Posted on Friday April 03, 2020

A new study found that human-induced environmental stressors have a large effect on the genetic composition of coral reef populations in Hawai'i. They confirmed that there is an ongoing loss of sensitive genotypes in nearshore coral populations due to stressors resulting from poor land-use practices and coastal pollution. This reduced genetic diversity compromises reef resilience. 

Gardening helps to grow positive body image
Posted on Thursday April 02, 2020

New research has found that allotment gardening promotes positive body image, which measures someone's appreciation of their own body and its functions, and an acceptance of bodily imperfections.

Limited supply may scupper proposals to use antimalarials to ward off Covid-19
Posted on Thursday April 02, 2020

Limited global supplies may scupper proposals to use the antimalarial drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, to lessen the symptoms of Covid-19 infection or ward it off altogether, say Italian doctors.

Gut communicates with the entire brain through cross-talking neurons
Posted on Thursday April 02, 2020

You know that feeling in your gut? We think of it as an innate intuition that sparks deep in the belly and helps guide our actions, if we let it. It's also a metaphor for what scientists call the 'gut-brain axis,' a biological reality in which the gut and its microbial inhabitants send signals to the brain, and vice versa.

Scientists show how parasitic infection causes seizures, psychiatric illness for some
Posted on Thursday April 02, 2020

Neuroscientists describe how the common Toxoplasma gondii parasite prompts the loss of inhibitory signaling in the brain by altering the behavior of nearby cells called microglia.

Most people consider becoming vegetarian for their health
Posted on Thursday April 02, 2020

Researchers know that people are motivated to be vegetarian for different reasons -- the most common in western cultures being health, the environment and animal rights.

Trial drug can significantly block early stages of COVID-19 in engineered human tissues
Posted on Thursday April 02, 2020

An international team has found a trial drug that effectively blocks the cellular door SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect its hosts.

COVID-19 vaccine candidate shows promise, research shows
Posted on Thursday April 02, 2020

Scientists have announced a potential vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. When tested in mice, the vaccine -- delivered through a fingertip-sized patch -- produces antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 at quantities thought to be sufficient for neutralizing the virus.


 

 

 

 

 

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