Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Theory of Extinction

A new theory of the Permian/Triassic extinction 250 million years ago suggests that halogenated gases resulting from giant salt lakes altered the atmosphere enough to affect land-based vegetation.

Cat CNS Repairs Itself

The central nervous system of cats has extensive abilities to repair neurological disorders through the restoration of myelin, the fatty insulator of nerve cells.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Termites Reproduce Asexually

Certain termite "primary" queens have been found to reproduce both sexually and asexually during their lifetimes to maintain the genetic diversity within their colony.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Asteroid Tracked to Earth

For the first time, astronomers have tracked an Earth-bound asteroid from its origin in space and as it entered the atmosphere, and recovered its remnants in the desert of Sudan.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Species Discovered

Many new animal species that include 50 spiders, three frogs and a gecko have been discovered recently in a scientific survey of the remote mountains of Papua New Guinea.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Game Theory Predicts Behavior

For the first time, scientists have used the mathematics of modern game theory to predict the behavior of a group of juvenile ravens in North Wales.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Enzyme for Cancer Metastasis

Researchers have discovered that a specific enzyme called LOX (lysyl oxidase) is crucial in promoting cancer metastasis, and that drugs to block this enzyme may keep cancer from spreading throughout the body.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Earliest Domesticated Horses

Evidence for the earliest known domestication of the horse has been found with the Botai Culture of Kazakhstan, who both milked and used bridles on the ancestors of modern horses some 5500 years ago.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Great Red Spot Shrinking

A storm raging in Jupiter's atmosphere for at least 300 years, the Great Red Spot is slowly shrinking in response to two other nearby storm systems that have recently emerged.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Yellowstone Algae Detoxifies Arsenic

A species of algae named Cyanidioschyzon with the ability to detoxify arsenic has been discovered living in the extremely toxic environment of the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Miniature Fish with Fangs of Bone

A tiny fish has been discovered in Burmese waters with prominent fangs made of bone, similar to tusks in larger animals.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

New "Spin Battery" Developed

A new type of battery has been developed that holds a charge by not by chemical potential but applying a strong magnetic field to nano-magnets in what is known as a magnetic tunnel junction.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Transparent Metal at High Pressure

Researchers at have discovered that the metallic element sodium turns colorless and transparent as glass under extremely high pressures reaching about 3 million atmospheres (3 Mbar).

Friday, March 13, 2009

Crab Claws Include Durable Bromine-Rich Biomaterial

Researchers at the University of Oregon have found that the crab's claws contain a bromine-rich biomaterial that is 1.5 times harder than acrylic glass.

The translucent material containing bromine is extremely resistant to fracture and is found in the claw tips of striped shore crabs (Pachygrapsus cassipes) as well as the legs of Dungeness crabs (Cancer magister). The material is present in the parts of a crab's body that require strength or durability such as those for grasping prey or clinging to a perch, functions that would leave the animal vulnerable if dulled or fractured.

This bromine-rich material is part of a newly discovered class of biomaterials that incorporate heavy metals like zinc, iodine and iron. Why heavy metals are used is not clear, but it is believed they may dampen vibrations that lead to material failure. Typically, heavy-element biomaterials have only been found in smaller organisms such as insects. Insight into these exotic biomaterials may help in the design and manufacture of microtechnology applications.

These results were published in a recent edition of the Journal of Structural Biology.

Source: ScienceDaily

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Unknown Source of Distant Gamma Rays Detected

An international team of astronomers working with the Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) telescope have detected very high energy gamma rays originating from two distant galaxies with unknown sources.

Scanning the galaxies 3C 66A and 3C 66B, the MAGIC telescope spent 50 hours analyzing a very strong source of gamma rays of over 150 billion eV. Gamma rays are significant because they are associated with violent astrophysical phenomena such as supernovae or black holes. The location and strength of this gamma ray signal, designated MAGIC J0223+430, does not correspond with bodies believed to exist in either of these galaxies.

Possibilities for such a signal range from unknown characteristics of the quasar 3C 66A, a celestial object known for being a strong source of radiation; that the source is actually located in galaxy 3C66B, a much closer origin and one with a source that is not directly aligned at Earth; or a previously undiscovered stellar phenomenon yet to be explained.

These results were published in the latest edition of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Source: ScienceDaily

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Binary Black Hole System Discovered

Astronomers at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory have found evidence of two black holes orbiting each other, the first confirmation that such a theoretical arrangement exists.

As matter falls into a black hole, it emits a particular wavelength of light that is characteristic of which way the black hole is moving. For a binary system, two wavelengths should be detected very close to each other, which matches a pair identified from more than 17,500 spectra of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

The two black holes are estimated to be less than a third of a light year apart, relatively close by astronomical standards, and orbit each other about once every 100 years. The black holes themselves are thought to be between 20 million and one billion times more massive than our Sun.

These results were published in a recent edition of Nature.

Source: BBC News

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Moon Discovered Hidden in Saturn's Ring

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have discovered a previously unknown moon hidden in the outer ring of Saturn.

Only a third of a mile wide, the new moonlet was spotted by the Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn. The moon was found buried within the outer G ring, and the moon is believed to have played a major part in that ring's formation. The size of the moon is too small to be resolved directly by Cassini's cameras, but its size was estimated by comparing its brightness to other moons of Saturn. Prior to this discovery, the G ring was the only ring of Saturn not associated with a moon.

The newly discovered moon may not be alone within the G ring, as previous measurements by Cassini hint at the existence of many bodies less than several hundred feet in diameter. Collisions among these moonlets is believed to create the smaller dust and ice particles that make up the ring arc.

This discovery was announced on March 3rd by the International Astronomical Union.

Source: ScienceDaily

Monday, March 9, 2009

Engineered Viruses Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University have engineered a virus that attacks bacterial defense systems, strengthening the effects of antibiotics.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are an increasing health risk, and the development of new antibiotics is slow and expensive. But researchers have developed another solution by engineering existing bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) to attack specific bacterial targets. The engineered viruses attack the SOS system, the DNA repair system that activates when bacteria are exposed to antibiotics that damage DNA. Used with conventional antibiotics, the new viruses undermine the natural defenses of bacteria and prevent them from repairing the damage and surviving to become resistant.

The engineered bacteriophages were tested with three families of antibiotics (quinolones, beta-lactams and aminoglyclosides) in mice and had promising results with all three. The possibility exists of developing an entire "library" of customized bacteriophages to be used in conjunction with existing antibiotics.

These results were published in the March 2nd issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: ScienceDaily

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Oldest Fossilized Brain Discovered in Kansas

Scientists at the American Museum of Natural History have discovered a 300-million-year-old fossilized brain in the fossils of a fish found in Kansas.

Paleontologists sent the fossil of an iniopterygian, an extinct species related to modern ratfishes or ghost sharks, to the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility for scanning of its interior. Using a technique known as x-ray holotomography, what the scans revealed was a fossilized brain intact within the braincase of the fish as well as parts of the cerebellum, spinal cord and optic lobes, making it the oldest vertebrate brain ever discovered.

Unlike bones, soft tissue is rarely found in fossil records but examples do exist. Further analysis revealed that the brain contains a high level of calcium phosphate whereas the surrounding matrix contains calcium carbonate. Researchers theorize that bacteria covered the brain before it could decay and induced its chemical phosphatization, preserving its structure.

These results were published in the March 2nd edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Source: ScienceDaily

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Global Survey of Oral Microbes Completed

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have completed the first in-depth study of the global diversity of the human oral microbiome.

More than 600 different species of bacteria were found to live in human saliva, with the composition of each person's oral microbiome as unique as a fingerprint. Samples were studied from six geographic areas around the globe and the microbiome of each was found not to vary significantly, regardless of location, ethnicity or diet. This research is part of a recent initiative to study the microbiomes of several areas of the human body, with previous work focusing on the intestines and skin.

The human body harbors ten times more foreign microorganisms than body cells. As the mouth is the ideal gateway for foreign entry into the body, an easily obtained saliva sample is valuable for the study of the health effects disease, diet or cultural factors. It could also lead to the analysis of human migrations and populations around the world.

These results were published in the February 27th edition of Genome Research.

Source: ScienceDaily

Friday, March 6, 2009

Earliest Human Footprints Found in Kenya

Scientists from Bournemouth University have discovered fossil evidence of the oldest "modern" human footprints near Ileret in northern Kenya.

Estimated to be 1.5 million years old, these Homo erectus footprints are not the oldest found belonging to the human lineage. However, these Kenyan footprints are the oldest to display the shape and gait of modern humans, having a pronounced arch and short, aligned toes. Older footprints display relatively flat feet and a gap between the big toe and the others, a foot more designed for grasping instead of walking.

The footprints also reveal clues as to how Homo erectus walked, with a heavy landing on the heel, transferring weight to the outer edge of the foot and then pushing off with the toes. This method is very much like our modern gait and very different from older Australopithecus footprint records. The fossil record is distinctly lacking in feet and hands, as the smaller bones are easily eaten or destroyed by carnivores and scavengers.

These results were published in a recent edition of Science.

Source: BBC News

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Clovis-Age Tools Found at Colorado Home

Landscapers working at a private home in Boulder, Colorado, have unearthed a cache of 13,000-year-old tools dating to the Clovis ice-age hunter-gatherers.

Scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder confirmed the age of the 83 items discovered in the front yard of a suburban homeowner. Biochemical analysis of blood and proteins found on the tools revealed that the tools were used to butcher camels, horses, sheep and bears, providing previously unknown content about the diet of the Clovis people.

These tools present a surprising level of sophistication for the Clovis people, and were possibly intentionally buried for use at a later time. Named after their first discovery in Clovis, New Mexico, these people are believed to be the first inhabitants of the New World and ancestors of all the indigenous people of the Americas. This cache of tools is one of only a handful of Clovis-era artifacts found in North America.

These results were reported on February 26th by the Associated Press. The homeowner has plans to donate most of the items to museums and rebury a few of the artifacts where they were originally found.

Source: Yahoo!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

E-Waste Recycled for Stronger Asphalt

Researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University have developed a technique for recycling electronic waste ("e-waste") from discarded electronic devices to use in making stronger paving material.

E-waste presents an environmental and health problem due to toxic metals such as mercury or lead present in printed circuit boards from discarded cell phones, computers and other electronic devices. The researchers developed a method for quickly separating these toxic metals from circuit boards, which are then ground into a fine metal-free powder.

The glass fibers and plastic resins inherent in the circuit boards make the ideal modifier for developing super-durable asphalt. In laboratory tests, the additive provides a substructure for the new asphalt mixture, called non-metal-modified asphalt (NMA), that makes it stronger and less likely to soften at high temperatures.

These results were published in a recent edition of Environmental Science & Technology.

Source: ScienceDaily

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Unusual Life Found in American Great Lakes

Scientists at Grand Valley State University have discovered some unusual species in the waters of Lake Huron, life forms more suited to extreme environments than freshwater lakes.

In underwater sinkholes 66 feet below the surface made by dissolving parts of an underlying seabed exist large purple mats of cyanobacteria and streamers of other microbial life living in massive physical colonies. The water in these sinkholes is oxygen-free and salty, similar to unfriendlier environments such as hydrothermal vents or the bottom of permanently frozen lakebeds in Antarctica. Such water composition is hostile to most forms of marine life.

These sinkholes act as basins to catch dead and decaying plant and animal matter, providing a microenvironment for life such as cyanobacteria to thrive. In this environment, microorganisms use chemical means rather than photosynthesis to break down sulfur compounds for food.

These results were published in a recent edition of Eos.

Source: LiveScience

Monday, March 2, 2009

New Fish Species Discovered in Indonesia

Scientists at the University of Washington have classified a newly discovered frogfish found in the waters off the coast of eastern Indonesia as a new species.

Initially discovered a year ago, this fish has the fins typical of frogfish on either side of the body that it uses to push itself along the bottom of the shallow waters. However, it also has a few features not found in other frogfish, such as expelling water from gills each time they push off with their fins to jet themselves forward and an off-centered tail that causes them to bounce around in a bizarre and unpredictable manner.

Formerly named Histiophryne psychedelica for its psychedelic swirling tan and peach zebra stripes, the new species also has two forward-facing eyes, unique among the frogfish. The position of the eyes leads researchers to believe it may possess binocular vision, something rare among fish species. DNA analysis confirmed it as a member of the Histiophryne family but its particular traits merited distinction as a new species.

These results were released on February 24th by the University of Washington and will be published in the next edition of

Source: Yahoo!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fish Fossils Reveal Internal Sexual Reproduction

Scientists at Museum Victoria in Melbourne and the Natural History Museum in London have discovered internal sexual reproduction in early fish fossils, some 30 million years earlier than previously believed.

Fossils of the 380 million-year-old fish Incisoscutum richiei, or armored placoderm fish, revealed females carrying fossilized embryos. This provides the earliest evidence for internal sexual reproduction and internal incubation of offspring that included bearing live young. Subsequent analysis of the male of the species also uncovered a previously overlooked pelvic fin not present on the female, supposedly used to grip the female during reproduction.

Researchers expected prehistoric fish to have a much more simple reproductive strategy, similar to the external fertilization of today's fish species where sperm and egg combine in the water and embryos develop outside the body. The fossilized fish and embryos are from the Gogo dig site in Western Australia and are the oldest known evidence of a vertebrate mother.

These results were published in the February 26th edition of Nature.

Source: Yahoo!