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  • Early human ancestor did not have the jaws of a nutcracker
    [NEWS] South Africa's Australopithecus sediba, discovered in 2008 at the renowned archaeological site of Malapa in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, is again helping us to study and understand the origins of humans. Research published in 2012 garnered international attention by suggesting that this possible early human ancestor had lived on a diverse woodland diet including hard foods mixed in with tree bark, fruit, leaves and other plant products. <p…
  • Ocean acidification makes coralline algae less robust
    [NEWS] Ocean acidification (the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth's oceans, caused by the uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere), is affecting the formation of the skeleton of coralline algae which play an important part in marine biodiversity, new research from the University of Bristol, UK has found. Coralline red algae form maerl beds which provide important habitat in shallow waters, including the UK coastal shelf. Maerl hosts a high diversity of organisms by provid…
  • Charisma counts: Focus on great apes creates glaring research gaps in tropical Africa and Asia
    [NEWS] ANN ARBOR—Large national parks that are home to gorillas, chimpanzees and other great apes are focal points for much of the field research conducted in tropical Africa and Asia, resulting in crucial knowledge gaps and a biased view of broader conservation needs in those regions. Those are key findings from a new study by University of Michigan anthropologist Andrew Marshall and several colleagues. They used Google Scholar to determine what effect the presence of great apes ha…
  • Severe drought no longer caused just by nature
    [NEWS] Scientists at the University of Birmingham are calling on drought researchers and managers around the world to consider both human activity and natural phenomena in their battle to preserve increasingly scarce global water supplies. The experts say that severe droughts experienced recently in countries such as China, Brazil and the United States can no longer be seen as purely natural hazards. Changes to the way people use the water and the landscape contribute to extreme wate…
  • Unprecedented: Expedition recovers mantle rocks with signs of life
    [NEWS] An international team of scientists - recently returned from a 47-day research expedition to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean - have collected an unprecedented sequence of rock samples from the shallow mantle of the ocean crust that bear signs of life, unique carbon cycling, and ocean crust movement. Led by Co-Chief Scientists Dr. Gretchen Früh-Green (ETH Zurich, Switzerland) and Dr. Beth Orcutt (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, USA), the team collected these u…



  • Our Ears Help Us See

    Image: graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Researchers have discovered that the visual cortex in the brain uses auditory information to help create visual images. Sound waves detected by the ears and visual clues processed by the eyes are used to create visual images in order to predict what may happen in the future.

    According to lead researcher Lars Muckli, "Sounds create visual imagery, mental images, and automatic projections. So, for example, if you are in a street and you hear the sound of an approaching motorbike, you expect to see a motorbike coming around the corner. If it turned out to be a horse, you'd be very surprised." The researchers monitored brain activity in the early visual cortex of participants in the study. The individuals were asked to listen to sounds without being able to see anything. It was discovered that the early visual cortex was being activated in the absence of visual stimulation.

    Learn more about this study:

    Our Ears Help Us See originally appeared on About.com Biology on Thursday, May 29th, 2014 at 15:33:18.

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  • Red Wine Could Help Prevent Cavities

    Credit: John Kasawa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Could red wine help prevent cavities? A recent study presented in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that red wine and grape seed extract are effective at destroying bacteria biofilm. Biofilm is a slimy substance that protects bacteria from antibiotics, chemicals, and other substances that are hazardous to the microbes. As bacteria feed on sugars present in the mouth, they produce acid which destroys tooth enamel and creates cavities.

    In the study, the researchers exposed cavity producing bacteria biofilms to red wine with and without alcohol, as well as to red wine with grape seed extract. The results showed that all three solutions were effective at killing bacteria. The researchers state that while brushing with toothpaste does get rid of cavity causing bacteria, its effects are limited.

    Learn more about this study:

    Red Wine Could Help Prevent Cavities originally appeared on About.com Biology on Monday, May 26th, 2014 at 14:06:44.

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  • How Pathogenic Bacteria Colonize Vegetables

    E. coli Bacteria
    Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

    James Hutton Institute researchers have identified the process by which E. coli bacteria infect plant products. An E. coli O157:H7 bacterium uses its flagellum, a long protrusion used for movement, to pierce through the plant cell wall. The attached bacterium is then able to colonize the surface of the vegetable. Eating these infected plants could cause food poisoning.

    According to researcher Dr. Nicola Holden, "This work shows the fine detail of how the bacteria bind to plants. We think this mechanism is common to many food-borne bacteria and shows that they can exploit common factors found in both plants and animals to help them grow." Bacteria that remain on the surface of the plant can be removed by washing, however some bacteria are also able to gain access to the internal portions of the plant. The researchers contend that this information is valuable as it demonstrates that E. coli O157:H7 don't just move passively through the food chain, but aggressively interact with plants and animals.

    Learn more about this study:

    How Pathogenic Bacteria Colonize Vegetables originally appeared on About.com Biology on Friday, May 23rd, 2014 at 15:11:19.

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  • Dangerous Bacteria on Aircraft Cabin Surfaces

    Image Credit: Vera Kratochvil / Public Domain Images

    Two dangerous types of bacteria, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli, are able to survive on airplane cabin surfaces for as long as a week. Researchers tested several surfaces including armrests, plastic tray tables, and cloth and leather seat pockets. When the surfaces were exposed to bacteria under conditions similar to those on an airplane, the bacteria were able to survive for days.

    According to researcher Kiril Vaglenov, "Our data show that both of these bacteria can survive for days on the selected types of surfaces independent of the type of simulated body fluid present, and those pose a risk of transmission via skin contact." MRSA and E. coli can cause serious illness if a person becomes infected by these germs. This study underscores the importance of developing and applying effective disinfection techniques in aircraft cabins.

    Learn more about this study:

    Dangerous Bacteria on Aircraft Cabin Surfaces originally appeared on About.com Biology on Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 at 19:11:55.

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  • Why Octopuses Don't Get Tangled in Their Tentacles

    Octopus
    Albert Kok/Wikimedia Commons

    Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers have made an interesting discovery that helps answer the question of why an octopus doesn't get tangled up in its tentacles. Unlike the human brain, the octopus brain does not map out the coordinates of its appendages. As a result, octopuses don't know where their arms are exactly. To prevent the octopus's arms from grabbing the octopus, its suckers will not attach to the octopus itself. The researchers state that an octopus produces a chemical in its skin that temporarily prevents the suckers from grabbing.

    According to the researchers, "The results so far show, and for the first time, that the skin of the octopus prevents octopus arms from attaching to each other or to themselves in a reflexive manner. The drastic reduction in the response to the skin crude extract suggests that a specific chemical signal in the skin mediates the inhibition of sucker grabbing." It was also discovered that an octopus can override this mechanism when necessary, as evidenced by its ability to grab an amputated octopus arm.

    Learn more about this study:

    Why Octopuses Don't Get Tangled in Their Tentacles originally appeared on About.com Biology on Friday, May 16th, 2014 at 08:26:35.

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