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  • Arctic found to play unexpectedly large role in removing nitrogen
    [NEWS] Areas of the Arctic play a larger role than previously thought in the global nitrogen cycle—the process responsible for keeping a critical element necessary for life flowing between the atmosphere, the land and oceans. The finding is reported in a new study of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications. In the new study, marine chemists and biologists from The University of Texas at Austin discovered that seabed microbes remove substa...
  • New species of extremely leggy millipede discovered in a cave in California
    [NEWS] IMAGE: The new species (Illacme tobini) of extremely leggy millipede from a Sequoia National Park cave.  Credit: Paul Marek, Virginia Tech Along with many spiders, pseudoscorpions, and flies discovered and catalogued by the cave explorers, ...
  • New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground
    [NEWS] IMAGE: All the known major bacterial groups are represented by wedges in this circular 'tree of life.' The bigger wedges are more diverse groups.  Credit: Banfield Group One of the most detailed genomic studies of any ecosystem to date has r...
  • How plants make friends with fungi
    [NEWS] Many fungi damage or even kill plants. But there are also plant-friendly fungi: Most land plants live in close community with arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi (AM fungi) that stimulate their growth. Researchers of the “Molecular Phytopathology” Group of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) study the development of this symbiosis. The scientists have now identified a gene that is specifically activated by AM fungi and influences the development of the plant root: The GRA...
  • Algae discovery offers potential for sustainable biofuels
    [NEWS] James Umen, Ph.D., associate member at Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and colleagues have discovered a way to make algae better oil producers without sacrificing growth. The findings were published September 6, in a paper titled, “Synergism between inositol polyphosphates and TOR kinase signaling in nutrient sensing, growth control and lipid metabolism in Chlamydomonas,” in The Plant Cell. Umen and his team including lead...

  • 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

    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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