What evolutionary purposes do sloths serve?

Zoology How the sloth got its long neck

... this has now been discovered by an international team of zoologists. Depending on the species, sloths have eight to ten cervical vertebrae - in contrast to almost all other mammals, which normally only have seven of these bones. To solve the mystery of surplus vertebrae, the scientists examined sloth embryos and found that the lowest cervical vertebrae formed around the same time in development that the uppermost thoracic vertebrae formed in mammals. The sloth's surplus cervical vertebrae therefore correspond to these thoracic vertebrae, but do not carry any ribs. They have changed their appearance in the course of evolution because a long neck apparently offers the animal advantages in its environment, the researchers write in the journal "PNAS". // [reu] //

Source: PNAS, NY Times, idw online

Medicine One should help against all

US researchers have found a vaccine that works against three different strains of flu. They hope that with this they have taken an important step towards creating a universal vaccine against flu. Because the surface of the pathogen changes so quickly, the flu vaccines have to be reassembled every year. The scientists from New York have now produced a molecule that resembles a part of the virus that is difficult to access and that changes its appearance relatively rarely. If it is injected into patients, the body's own immune system can learn how to recognize the real pathogens. The vaccine does not have to be cultivated in chicken eggs, but can be made quickly in the chemistry laboratory. So far, however, it has only been tested on mice. // [reu] //

Source: PNAS, Technology Review

Biology The European Commission wants to temporarily prohibit the cloning of animals for the production of food.

This ban will initially apply for five years. This is what the EU Commission proposed in Brussels today. Cloning for research purposes, to save endangered species and to manufacture pharmaceuticals should, however, remain permitted. The proposals now have to be approved by the member states and the European Parliament. // [reu] //

Energie London cancels alternative power plant

The British Department of Energy has stopped plans for a tidal power plant on the west coast of England for the time being. Instead, it has set eight new locations for nuclear power plants. The barrage in the mouth of the River Severn should have cost the equivalent of 26 billion euros. The construction is still a longer-term option, the Ministry announced yesterday in London. // [reu] //

Environment Oil spill has decimated tuna

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has hit the Atlantic bluefin tuna hard. This is the result of a study that the European Space Agency ESA presented today. In it, the experts estimate that 20 percent of the young fish died as a result of the oil. The ESA also relies on data collected by earth observation satellites. The experts compared how far the spawning areas of the tuna overlap with the oil slick. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in April, during the main tuna spawning season. // [reu] //

Space travel The space shuttle has a leak

At the space shuttle Discovery, NASA experts discovered a leak in the fuel line. The shuttle is currently being prepared for a flight to the ISS. The engineers at Cape Canaveral are now working to repair the damage to a flange. According to NASA, the planned launch on November 1 is not in danger. The "Discovery" is supposed to bring spare parts and a logistics module into orbit. The last mission so far is planned for February 2011. // [reu] //

Climate The wind is weaker

Scientists from the French Research Center for Climate and Environment LSCE in Gif-sur-Yvette report in the journal "Nature Geoscience" in the northern hemisphere in the past 30 years the strength of the wind close to the ground has decreased by 5 to 15 percent. Part of this effect can be attributed to the increasing development of areas. Changes in vegetation and agriculture also played a role. For example, the south-west of Russia is less used for agriculture and more trees are growing there again. The researchers fear that the decreasing ground winds could impair electricity production with wind turbines, at least on land - even if the decrease in wind strength at the height of the rotors of the wind turbines is significantly less than on the ground. // [mawi] //

Source: Nature Geoscience-Online

Archeology Archaeologists discover an official grave next to the pyramids of Giza

The grave for a court official from the 5th dynasty was dug around 4400 years ago. It is decorated with colored scenes from agriculture. The wall paintings showed, among other things, the milking of a cow and the birth of a calf, announced the Egyptian antiquity administration. The court official was apparently responsible for the cult of the dead in the temple of the pyramid of Pharaoh Chephren, who lived about 2570 to 2530 before our time. // [mawi] //

Medicine A biological dimmer could also cause depression

American researchers have discovered that depression can be triggered when too much of an enzyme called MKP-1 is produced in the brain. It works like a biological dimmer. It dampens a molecular signal system and can thus disrupt the normal function of brain cells. The scientists were able to detect about twice as much inhibitory MKP-1 enzyme in the brains of severely depressed people as in healthy people, the researchers write in the magazine "Nature Medicine". In experiments with mice, excess protein led to depressive behavior. Trapping or blocking the MKP-1 could be a promising way to effectively treat depression, the scientists said. // [mawi] //

Source: Natur Medicine Online

Zoology Mice can smell light

Researchers at Harvard University in Cambridge report in the journal Nature Neuroscience that they have genetically modified mice so that they react to brightness stimuli as if they were aromas. The genetically modified mice are said to make research into the sense of smell easier. The light stimuli could now specifically stimulate individual fragrance receptors. It is now possible to study how the brain processes a single stimulus and how it differentiates between different smells. // [mawi] //

Source: Nature Neuroscience

Environment Funnel bromeliads release methane in the rainforest

German scientists have measured an increased methane gas concentration over the bromeliads in the mountain rainforest of Ecuador, as they report in the magazine "Nature Geoscience". Rainwater and organic matter collect in the leaves of the plants. This means that bacteria that produce methane can also survive in the small water biotopes. The bromeliads absorb the gas through the water and release it again through their leaves. Methane increases the greenhouse effect and thus contributes to climate change. Half of the world's methane emissions are of natural origin. // [mawi] //

Source: Nature Geoscience-Online

Paleontology T-Rex was a cannibal

Tyrannosaurus rex not only ate other dinosaurs, but also other dinosaurs. This is what researchers from the USA and Canada assume after analyzing bite marks on T-Rex bones. In the journal "Plos ONE", the researchers report that they examined several dozen animals in various museums and found evidence of cannibalism in four specimens. The bite marks by no means came from pure turf wars. But it is conceivable that the winner of such a fight would have eaten the other afterwards. Today's large predators did this too. It is a convenient way to defend the territory and at the same time get food. // [mawi] //

Source: Plos ONE-Online

Biology The white of the windmills attracts bats and birds.

Researchers at Loughborough University in Great Britain are convinced of this. The scientists wanted to know why bats and birds fly near wind turbines, where they are then killed by the rotors. The researchers discovered that the prey of the flying animals, the insects, collect on the plants. Obviously, flies, beetles, moths or butterflies prefer the white or light gray of the wind turbines, especially if it also reflects ultraviolet light. A different color could help make the wind turbines unattractive to insects, the scientists suspect. Tests had shown that very few insects fly purple. However, the researchers point out that they had only examined one aspect and that there could be other reasons for the popularity of wind turbines among insects. // [gät] //

Source: BBC

Climate Carbon dioxide acts like the thermostat of the greenhouse effect.

It regulates the temperature - and without CO2 there is also no greenhouse effect. Researchers at NASA's Goddard Institute are convinced of this. In the journal "Science" they justify their conviction with a computer experiment: They had a climate computer determine the temperatures of the world if there were no CO2 in the atmosphere. Theoretically, there should still be a greenhouse effect because humidity and clouds also warm the earth. In fact, however, the model showed that the water cycles would quickly freeze and come to a standstill. Apparently, according to the scientists, the greenhouse effect would not work without carbon dioxide. // [gät] //

Source: Science

Veterinary medicine The rinderpest has been eradicated.

The World Food Organization FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health OIE are convinced of this. This is the second time that the world has successfully eradicated an infectious disease. Rinderpest was caused by a virus that belongs to the same family as the measles virus. Seven out of ten sick animals died. The result was famine because the farmers and their cattle lacked the workhorses for plowing, among other things. After developing a vaccine, the two world organizations decided in 1994 to eradicate the disease, the last time it broke out nine years ago. The FAO has now initiated a three-stage process, at the end of which the disease is to be officially declared eradicated at a conference in June 2011. // [gät] //

Source: FAO / OIE

Geography The three-dimensional surveying of the world can begin.

The two German radar satellites Tandem-X and Terrasar-X have been flying side by side around the earth for the first time since Thursday, at a distance of only 350 meters. Tandem-X was launched in June 2010, Terrasar-X as early as 2007. Last week, the scientists at the German Aerospace Center changed the orbits of the satellites so that they now circle the earth together, including the surface scan stereoscopically. From now on, the two satellites respond synchronously to control commands. The three-dimensional images obtained are so detailed that differences in height of the earth's surface are correctly reproduced up to two meters. Scientists from the German Aerospace Center then want to put the individual 3D images together to create a world map. It is intended, for example, to make air traffic safer or to identify the floodplains of rivers. The satellites are to orbit the earth together for three years. // [gät] //

Source: IDW

Biology There is more sex in troubled times.

According to their own statements, biologists from Cologne have found an answer to the question of how sexual intercourse evolved. As they write together with Canadian researchers in the journal "Nature", they have carried out experiments with tens of thousands of rotifers. These tiny multicellular cells can reproduce sexually or asexually. The scientists saw that sexuality offers an advantage as soon as the environmental conditions constantly change. By mixing the genetic make-up, there are statistically more individuals who are optimally adapted to the new environmental conditions. If the researchers let the animals live in stable conditions again, asexual reproduction increased again in the following generations. // [mst] //

Source: Nature

Psychology Passion hardens.

People who have just fallen in love are more resistant to pain than those who are not in love, as regions of their brains that are responsible for reward are activated. US researchers from California were able to prove this connection in tests with students and report on it in the journal "Public Library of Science" - PLoS. According to this, love does not act as a distraction from the pain stimulus, but has a similar effect as opium, cocaine or pain reliever medication. The new data, however, do not offer an alternative to conventional pain therapy, but merely deepen knowledge in basic research, according to the researchers. // [mst] //

Source: PLoS

Medicine Doctors are developing a new vaccine against tuberculosis.

Researchers achieved this by combining four proteins that are effective against tuberculosis into one protein. The mice and guinea pigs treated with this vaccine were immune to the infectious disease. The new vaccine is active into adulthood and also fights the tuberculosis bacteria, which are already immune to certain vaccines, write the doctors in the journal "Science Translational Medicine". The next thing they want to do is develop the vaccine for human testing. According to the World Health Organization, two million people died of tuberculosis in 2009. // [mst] //

Source: Science Translational Medicine

Astronomy galaxies can also grow without colliding.

An international team of astronomers was able to demonstrate this directly for the first time using the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. According to this, young galaxies suck up cool gas from their environment and use it as a starting material for the formation of many new stars. This discovery is an important step towards understanding the development of the universe from the Big Bang to the present day, the researchers write in the British journal "Nature". // [mst] //

Source: Nature

Medicine The World Health Organization calls for better control of tropical diseases.

According to the WHO, around one billion people suffer from tropical diseases, the control of which is neglected by the large pharmaceutical companies. As these diseases are often linked to poverty, they offer little incentive for industry to invest in the development of new and better drugs, according to the WHO report on 17 tropical diseases presented in Geneva today. The diseases that kill more than 500,000 people each year include dengue fever, leprosy, and schistosomiasis. According to its own information, the WHO is sticking to its goal of bringing tropical diseases completely under control by 2015. // [mst] //

Source: WHO

Biology Bumblebees use striped petals as runways.

Those who want to increase the pollination rate in their garden should plant flowers with red and striped blooms. This is what British biologists report in the journal "New Phytologist". During experiments, the researchers from Norwich saw that at least bumblebees clearly prefer these plants when searching for nectar. The stripes along the flower veins help the insects approach and serve as a kind of landing strip, according to the researchers, [mst]

Source: New Phytologist / John Inns Center

Biology Humpback whales love to travel.

That is at least true for a female that an international team of researchers was able to prove to have traveled at least 9,800 kilometers. The humpback whale thus holds the record for the longest distance ever traveled by a mammal. As the scientists report in the "Biology Letters" of the British Royal Society, the humpback whale swam on its two-year journey from the Brazilian coast to Madagascar. The marine mammal crossed almost 90 degrees of longitude. Why the whale traveled such a long distance is unclear. Perhaps the female wanted to explore new habitats; however, it could also have gotten lost, the researchers speculate. The results definitely show how flexible humpback whales are. [mst]

Source: Biology Letters

Biology Decaying fish are supposed to shed light on evolution.

Researchers at the University of Leicester in the UK have watched the hagfish and lampreys decay over a period of six months. In doing so, they documented which soft tissues of the fish decomposed when. Body parts that the animals acquired late in the course of evolution were the first to dissolve. In the lampreys, parts of the brain and mouth began to rot within 24 hours. Since soft tissues are rarely preserved as fossils, fossilized vertebrates have so far been considered more primitive than they are according to the new findings, the researchers write in the communications of the British Royal Society. [mst]

Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society / Eurekalert!

Geophysics Warm water reduces ice formation in the Arctic.

More and more warm water is penetrating the so-called ice kitchen of the Arctic, so that less and less ice is being produced there.This is what German and Russian researchers discovered during a five-week expedition to the Laptev Sea, which borders on northern Siberia. The Kiel Leibniz Institute for Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) announced that possible consequences cannot yet be foreseen. The Arctic has a major impact on the world's climate. Global warming is felt strongly there. For example, the sea ice cover in summer has decreased by almost 40 percent over the past 30 years, according to the researchers. [mst]

Source: IFM GEOMAR

Astronomy Astronomers discover a hooded supernova.

When a heavy star collapses, it doesn't have to lead to a blazing bright explosion. This is reported by an international team of researchers in "The Astrophysical Journal". The supernova SN 2007va he discovered with the help of the Spitzer space telescope revealed itself only in the form of a hot spot in a distant galaxy - presumably because the actual inferno was covered by a thick veil of dust. The researchers suspect, however, that these veils of dust were produced by the dying star itself. When it collapsed in 2007, the star released more energy in six months than the sun could produce in its entire life. [mst]

Source: The Astrophysical Journal / Science Daily

Medicine A baby developed from an embryo frozen for 20 years.

A 42-year-old woman gave birth to a boy in the United States who grew from an embryo that had been frozen for almost 20 years. For that long no embryo has been frozen and successfully implanted after thawing, doctors report in the journal "Fertility and Sterility". A couple who remained anonymous had donated several embryos, two were implanted by the woman's doctors, and one developed as desired. The baby was born in May. [mst]

Source: Fertility and Sterility

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