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Blue-green Algae Linked to Motor Neuron Disease

September 26, 2013 12:22 pm | News | Comments

A recently identified link between a toxic amino acid found in blue-green algae and several motor neuron diseases could help researchers devise a therapy for the fatal conditions. Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), most often associated with nutrient runoff in coastal waters, produce a neurotoxic amino acid called β-methylamino-L-alanine, or BMAA.

Current Generation Lives Two Years Longer than Last

September 13, 2013 12:14 pm | News | Comments

Average Americans today can look forward to two more years of healthy life than they could have just a generation ago, researchers have found. By synthesizing the data collected in government-sponsored health surveys conducted over recent decades, researchers were able to measure how the quality-adjusted life expectancy (QALE) of Americans has changed over time.

Functioning Gears Found in Nature for the First Time

September 13, 2013 11:17 am | Videos | Comments

Previously believed to be only man-made, a natural example of a functioning gear mechanism has been discovered in a common insect- showing that evolution developed interlocking cogs long before we did. The juvenile Issus has hind-leg joints with curved cog-like strips of opposing “teeth” that intermesh, rotating like mechanical gears to synchronize the animal’s legs when it launches into a jump.

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Substance that Gives Grapefruit Its Flavor and Aroma Could Give Insects the Boot

September 11, 2013 11:55 am | News | Comments

The citrus flavor and aroma of grapefruit—already used in fruit juices, citrus-flavored beverages, and prestige perfumes and colognes—may be heading for a new use in battling mosquitoes, ticks, head lice and bedbugs thanks to a less expensive way of making large amounts of the once rare and pricey ingredient

Ozone Linked to Heart Disease Deaths

September 6, 2013 9:50 am | News | Comments

Chronic exposure to ground level ozone, a powerful greenhouse gas and a widespread air pollutant in many major cities, is linked to premature death from cardiovascular disease, finds a new study. The analysis also found a strong link between nitrogen dioxide, a marker for traffic pollution, and increased risk of death from lung cancer.

Autonomous Deep-sea Explorer Searches for New Forms of Microbial Life

August 14, 2013 11:14 am | News | Comments

Scientists are reporting “a significant step forward” in proving the feasibility of launching fleets of autonomous robots that search Earth’s deep oceans for exotic new life forms. They describe the successful deployment of the trailblazer for such a project—an autonomous seafloor lander equipped with a mini-laboratory the size of a kitchen trash can that is able to detect minute traces of DNA in the deep ocean.

Monogamy Evolved as Mating Strategy

July 30, 2013 10:28 am | News | Comments

Social monogamy, where one breeding female and one breeding male are closely associated with each other over several breeding seasons, appears to have evolved as a mating strategy, new research reveals. It was previously suspected that social monogamy resulted from a need for extra parental care by the father.

Biomaterials Can Benefit from 'Mussel' Strength

July 24, 2013 10:56 am | News | Comments

Researchers have unraveled the secret to byssus threads, the tiny natural bungee cords that mussels use to dangle loosely from rocks, piers or ships. Byssus threads, they found, are composed of a well-designed combination of soft, stretchy material on one end and much stiffer material on the other.

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Microbes Influence Evolution of Their Hosts

July 18, 2013 3:42 pm | News | Comments

Contrary to current scientific understanding, it also appears that our microbial companions play an important role in evolution. A new study has provided direct evidence that these microbes can contribute to the origin of new species by reducing the viability of hybrids produced between males and females of different species.

Mammals 'Choose' Sex of Offspring

July 11, 2013 11:27 am | News | Comments

A new study shows that mammalian species can "choose" the sex of their offspring in order to beat the odds and produce extra grandchildren. In analyzing 90 years of breeding records, the researchers were able to prove what has been a fundamental theory of evolutionary biology: that mammals rely on some unknown mechanism to manipulate the sex ratios of their offspring as part of a highly adaptive evolutionary strategy.

Detecting DNA in Space

July 9, 2013 11:07 am | News | Comments

In a step toward the goal of sending a DNA sequencer to Mars, where it can analyze soil and ice samples for traces of DNA and other genetic material, researchers have created a DNA-sequencing microchip that can survive space radiation. 

Air Pollution Cut Lifespans in China

July 8, 2013 3:53 pm | by LOUISE WATT - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

A new study links heavy air pollution from coal burning to shorter lives in northern China. Researchers estimate that the half-billion people alive there in the 1990s will live an average of 5½ years less than their southern counterparts because they breathed dirtier air.

Competing Sensory Cells Control Salt Preference

June 14, 2013 9:47 am | News | Comments

Researchers report that in fruit flies, at least, that the process of how our tongues and brains can tell when the saltiness of our food has crossed the line from yummy to yucky is controlled by competing input from two different types of taste-sensing cells.

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Genetic Mutations Crucial to Evolution

June 14, 2013 8:49 am | News | Comments

A new study offers further proof that the divergence of humans from chimpanzees some 4 million to 6 million years ago was profoundly influenced by mutations to DNA sequences that play roles in turning genes on and off. The study provides evidence for a 40-year-old hypothesis that regulation of genes must play an important role in evolution.

Alkaline Spring Creature Linked to Better Biofuels

June 11, 2013 10:27 am | News | Comments

The only truly practical biofuels will be those made from abundant feedstocks like switchgrass, wheat straw and other woody plants, whose cell walls consist of lignocellulose. After pretreatment to remove or reduce the lignin, the sugary remains of cellulose and hemicellulose are fermented by microorganisms to yield the biofuel.

The Fire of Life

June 7, 2013 11:08 am | by Skip Derra | Articles | Comments

Forest fires are powerful, highly destructive events that while being life altering also have come to be appreciated for their clearing effects, from which explosive new forest growth evolves. But why does the forest respond in this way to such a dramatic event, and what triggers the natural growth that follows? Is there some sort of communication among plants to signal that the coast is clear for growth?

Newly Discovered Primate is Ancient Human Cousin

June 5, 2013 1:17 pm | by SETH BORENSTEIN - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

New fossil evidence of the earliest complete skeleton of an ancient primate suggests it was a hyperactive, wide-eyed creature so small you could hold a couple of them in your hand — if only they would stay still long enough. The 55 million-year-old fossil dug up in central China is one of our...

Fuels from Woody Biomass Can Reduce Emissions

May 31, 2013 10:38 am | News | Comments

Two processes that turn woody biomass into transportation fuels have the potential to exceed current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements for renewable fuels, according to new research. The EPA’s standard for emissions from wood-based transportation fuels requires a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to using fossil fuels.

Frozen Mammoth Carcass Contains Liquid Blood

May 30, 2013 2:04 pm | by BY VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV - ASSOCIATED PRESS | News | Comments

A perfectly preserved woolly mammoth carcass with liquid blood has been found on a remote Arctic island, fueling hopes of cloning the Ice Age animal, Russian scientists say. The carcass was in such good shape because its lower part was stuck in pure ice, said Semyon Grigoryev, the head of the Mammoth Museum, who led the expedition into the Lyakhovsky Islands off the Siberian coast.

Unapproved, GM Wheat Found in Oregon Field

May 30, 2013 4:21 am | by MARY CLARE JALONICK - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Field workers at an Eastern Oregon wheat farm were clearing acres for the bare offseason when they came across a patch of wheat that didn't belong. The workers sprayed it and sprayed it, but the wheat wouldn't die. Their confused boss grabbed a few stalks and sent it to a university lab in early May.

New Study Restores Famed Fossil to 'Bird' Branch

May 29, 2013 3:49 pm | by ALICIA CHANG - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A raven-sized creature that lived about 150 million years ago is back on its perch, a new study says. Widely pegged as the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx's status was called into question two years ago by Chinese scientists. They proposed yanking the prehistoric creature off the "bird" branch of the evolutionary family tree and moving it onto a closely related lineage of birdlike dinosaurs.

Liquid-repelling Paper May Yield New Biomedical Diagnostics

May 29, 2013 10:35 am | News | Comments

Paper is known for its ability to absorb liquids, making it ideal for products such as paper towels. But by modifying the underlying network of cellulose fibers, etching off surface “fluff” and applying a thin chemical coating, researchers have created a new type of paper that repels a wide variety of liquids– including water and oil.

Smartphones Become Handheld Biosensors

May 24, 2013 9:43 am | News | Comments

Researchers and physicians in the field could soon run on-the-spot tests for environmental toxins, medical diagnostics, food safety and more with their smartphones. Researchers have developed a cradle and app for the iPhone that uses the phone’s built-in camera and processing power as a biosensor to detect toxins, proteins, bacteria, viruses and other molecules.

Scientists Announce Top 10 New Species

May 24, 2013 9:11 am | News | Comments

An amazing glow-in-the-dark cockroach, a harp-shaped carnivorous sponge and the smallest vertebrate on Earth are just three of the newly discovered top 10 species selected by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.

Biochemical Transformations Were Possible on Early Earth

May 20, 2013 10:50 am | News | Comments

The study shows that RNA is capable of catalyzing electron transfer under conditions similar to those of the early Earth. Because electron transfer, the moving of an electron from one chemical species to another, is involved in many biological processes, the study’s findings suggest that complex biochemical transformations may have been possible when life began.

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