[Photo: Rising Sun, a 1917 shipwreck in Lake Michigan, US Coast Guard]
Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! I missed Science Tuesday last week, so we have a couple weeks of science news to get through. Let’s get to it!
Diverse, drug-resistant bacteria found on isolated Amazon villagers: Bacteria living in and on villagers of a remote area of the Amazon rainforest are highly diverse and may be resistant to antibiotics and synthetic drugs, according to a study published in Science Advances.
Body’s internal clock affected by color changes, study suggests: Color changes in the sky may affect the body’s internal clock, according to a study published in PLOS Biology.
Arctic sea ice measured with ESA’s Cryosat spacecraft: Arctic sea ice is a little thicker this year, according to measurements taken by the European Space Agency’s Cryosat spacecraft, but scientists say the trend is still downward.
Scientists find strange, massive supervoid 1.8 billion light-years wide: A massive supervoid has been discovered in space about 3 billion light-years from Earth, according to a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The area, about 1.8 billion light-years wide, is chillier than others and shouldn’t even exist at such a large size, scientists say.
Sea snails adapt to acidic conditions by getting smaller, study suggests: Tiny sea snails found living near volcanic seeps in the Mediterranean Sea are giving scientists a glimpse of what might happen to sea life if oceans became more acidic, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change. Researchers say that as the ocean becomes more acidic, creatures in it will become smaller to adapt to the dwindling oxygen.
Unique mating cycle may give vampire squid longevity: The mating cycle of the vampire squid may help the cephalopods live much longer lives that other kinds of squid or octopi, according to research published in Current Biology.
Old shipwrecks found in Lake Michigan by Coast Guard helicopter: A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter on patrol over northern Lake Michigan last week spotted the remains of numerous old shipwrecks resting deep in the chilly waters. Local historians helped identify some of the wrecks by studying the photos, including the James McBride, which sank in 1857, and the Rising Sun, which sank in 1917. Around 2,000 ships are resting at the bottom of Lake Michigan, the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association reports, and only about 300 have been found.
Metal detector finds artifact-filled grave dating to Roman era in U.K.: Well-preserved Roman-era artifacts were uncovered last fall in a small English village by a man with a metal detector.
Electromagnetic radiation seen coming off single electron, physicists say: Electromagnetic radiation has been detected coming off a lone electron for the first time, according to findings published in Physical Review Letters.
Latest atomic clock can discern extremely small changes in time: Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have developed an atomic clock that is so accurate, it can discern tiny changes in time between positions just centimeters apart.
Study looks at young marmosets to understand how human language evolved: Scientists are studying the calls of marmosets to learn more about how human language evolved, according to a study published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Ancient documents found in Egypt describe treatments, including hangover cure: A 1,900-year-old text written in Greek and found among more than half a million such documents unearthed in an ancient Egyptian village has revealed a remedy for hangovers, according to researchers.
Study links timing of solid food introduction to leukemia risk: A study found that late consumption of solid foods among infants was associated with a greater risk of acute lymphocytic leukemia.
Tamed form of HIV used to treat boys with deadly genetic disease: Scientists have used a tamed form of HIV to treat six boys with the deadly Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, a genetic condition that makes victims susceptible to infections and bleeding.
Scientists in China alter gene of human embryos: Scientists in China have genetically altered human embryos in an attempt to modify a gene that causes a dangerous blood disorder, according to a study published in Protein & Cell.
Studies examine effects of nicotine-based pesticides on bees: Bees may be becoming addicted to nicotine left on plants by pesticides and those neonicotinoids may have a negative effect on reproduction, according to a pair of studies in Nature.
Researchers break down how grebes run across water: Diving birds known as grebes use their lobed feet to run several meters on the surface of water to woo their mates, according to researchers examining how they manage that feat.
Genetically targeting protein may lead to macular degeneration remedy: Scientists in France have discovered a protein that contributes to the excessive growth of blood vessels in the retina that results in age-related macular degeneration, which can cause blindness.
Diagram shows newly-found giant magma reservoir underneath Yellowstone: A huge reservoir of mostly solid hot rock has been found underneath a magma chamber beneath Yellowstone National Park, part of the vast volcanic plumbing of the area diagrammed in a study published in Science. This system has been there for about 17 million years, and scientists are keeping an eye on it because an eruption there would be unlike anything ever witnessed by humans.
Ancient teeth may be evidence humans played role in Neanderthals’ demise: An ancient pair of teeth found in Italy belonged to a modern human and may be evidence that humans played a role in the extinction of Neanderthals.
Complete genome of woolly mammoth sequenced: The complete genome of the woolly mammoth has been sequenced, according to a study published in Current Biology.
Hubble telescope marks 25 years in space, plans for more: The Hubble Space Telescope marked its silver anniversary in orbit Thursday, still functioning and sending back astonishing imagery long after its projected useful life. The plan is to keep the scope’s infrared sensors operating through 2020.
Nepal more vulnerable to massive quakes due to ancient land collision: A massive collision of two land masses more than 25 million years ago resulting in a continued crash at a rate of 1.5 to 2 inches, or 3.81 to 5.08 centimeters, per year has made Nepal prone to massive earthquakes like the one that struck Saturday, experts say.
Scientists find second small pocket shark: A tiny, young pocket shark measuring 5.5 inches, or 14 centimeters, long was found in the Gulf of Mexico, only the second such creature ever to be discovered and identified. The first pocket shark, an adult female, was discovered three decades ago off the coast of Peru.
New technique allows researchers to genetically tell identical twins apart: Researchers have found a way to genetically differentiate between identical twins quickly and cheaply, a finding that has implications in law enforcement, according to a study published in Analytical Biochemistry.
Malaria vaccine study yields promising results: A vaccine for malaria could be available as early as the end of this year because of promising results, according to findings published in the Lancet. <–This would be amazing!
RNA-based Ebola therapy shows positive results in monkeys: An RNA-based treatment protected three rhesus monkeys from Ebola when administered 72 hours after infection, raising hopes for a therapy for humans, according to a study published in Nature.
Study assesses parasite drugs against MRSA infection: Researchers found that tapeworm drug niclosamide, in combination with veterinary parasite drug oxyclozanide, was able to treat and save 90% of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus-infected nematode worms.
Theropod species a patchwork of different dinosaur parts: A new species of theropod, a group of dinosaurs that includes the carnivorous Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus, has perplexed researchers who say the parts of the rare vegetarian resemble those of completely different groups of dinosaurs, as a platypus resembles a duck and a beaver. Chilesaurus diegosuarezi “can be considered a ‘platypus’ dinosaur because different parts of its body resemble those of other dinosaur groups due to mosaic convergent evolution. In this process, a region or regions of an organism resemble others of unrelated species because of a similar mode of life and evolutionary pressures,” said Martin Ezcurra, lead author of the study published in Nature.
Feline seizures set off by various sounds, study suggests: Myriad sounds have been found to cause seizures in cats, according to research published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. Feline audiogenic reflex seizures are triggered by such sounds as the tapping of spoons on bowls and glasses, and crinkling tinfoil, paper or plastic bags. The seizures are most common in older cats between 10 and 19 years of age.
NASA brings together scientists to search planets for signs of life: NASA is bringing together researchers from many areas of science to help search for alien life as part of Nexus for Exoplanet System Science. “This interdisciplinary endeavor connects top research teams and provides a synthesized approach in the search for planets with the greatest potential for signs of life. The hunt for exoplanets is not only a priority for astronomers, it’s of keen interest to planetary and climate scientists as well,” said NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green.
Extensive briny subsurface aquifer system found in Antarctica: Interconnected subsurface aquifers filled with briny liquid have been found deep in Antarctica, giving scientists clues about not only extreme habitats on Earth, but also possible life on other planets, according to a study published in Nature Communications.
Dawn’s study of Ceres begins in earnest: The Dawn space probe has officially begun its study of the dwarf planet Ceres. Using a series of increasingly closer orbits, Dawn will examine Ceres to get details about its surface, what it’s made of and other mysteries. The mission is due to end June 30, 2016.
Song changes detected in mountain chickadees depending on elevation: Male mountain chickadees in the Sierra Nevada mountain range have a different accent, so to speak, depending on what elevation they are calling from, according to a study published in Royal Society Open Science. Researchers studied the birds’ mating calls, and suspect that the females use the breeding song changes to tell the local males from strangers.
Fla. invasive pythons thrive in just about any environment: The invasive Burmese python is at home just about anywhere in the Florida Everglades, according to tracking data. Researchers tagged 19 of the reptiles to find out more about where they were living as a way to determine how to eliminate them, but what they’ve found is just how adaptable these creatures can be. “They can live in the freshwater environment and be fine, and they can live in the saltwater environment and be fine,” said U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist Kris Hart.
Sparrow-size dinosaur had wings like a bat’s: A tiny, feathered flying dinosaur whose fossil was found in China had wings similar to those of a bat and was about the size of a sparrow, according to a report in Nature.
New Horizons images suggest Pluto could have a polar ice cap: NASA’s New Horizons space probe has offered up images that indicate Pluto may have a polar ice cap.
Brains give up on making sense of bizarre dreams, study suggests: Our brains don’t bother to make sense of bizarre dreams, according to a study in the Journal of Sleep Research. Researchers in Italy asked volunteers to record their dreams, then, after a month, researchers monitored the volunteers’ brain activity as their strange dreams were read back to them. It was found that activity in one hemisphere of the brain decreased as the dream stories became more bizarre.
I guess I’m never finding out what last night’s dream was about then. Silly orca in the parking lot.
NASA’s Messenger mission ends with crash landing on Mercury: NASA’s Messenger probe crashed into the surface of Mercury, possibly creating a 52-foot-wide crater, officials said Thursday. The spacecraft had been orbiting the planet, the first to do so, since 2011, and ran out of fuel. During its mission, the probe mapped Mercury and discovered water ice there.
Bats snatch prey in midair with help of unique wing sensors: Bats use a set of special sensors in their wings to help them grab prey in midair, according to Columbia University researchers.
Bombardier beetles’ explosive internal defense mechanism explained: Bombardier beetles experience internal chemical explosions to produce a defense spray deadly to enemy ants, scientists at MIT have observed in real-time using X-ray imaging.
Satellite spots shifts in Kathmandu elevation due to quake: A satellite that detects elevation changes on Earth indicates the city of Kathmandu has risen between about 3 to 6 feet, or about 1 to 2 meters, after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that rocked Nepal on April 25. The Sentinal-1, a European Space Agency satellite, noted a significant horizontal shift as well.
Study analyzes brain activity during out-of-body illusion: Researchers created an illusion that gave volunteers the impression they were having an out-of-body experience to study what happens in their brains, research published in Current Biology explains. Researchers saw activity in the hippocampus and the posterior cingulate cortex.
Radiation from long space flights could affect astronauts’ brains: Long-term exposure to radiation during lengthy trips to deep space, such as a mission to Mars, may have an adverse effect on astronauts’ brains, according to a study in Science Advances.
Sorry, Mark Watney ;)
Newfound giant exoplanet baffles astronomers: A newly discovered exoplanet about 500 light years from Earth is challenging astronomers’ beliefs about how planets are created. “We have found a small star with a giant planet the size of Jupiter orbiting very closely,” said Research School of Astrophysics and Astronomy’s George Zhou. “It must have formed further out and migrated in, but our theories can’t explain how this happened,” he said.
Monitors indicate eruption of undersea volcano near Ore.: A volcano deep in the ocean off the coast of Oregon is showing signs of a significant eruption, researchers monitoring the action say.
Medieval girl buried face down in Italy probably had scurvy: A teenage girl who lived in medieval Italy and was buried in a way that indicated she was ostracized by her community was suffering from scurvy, researchers say.
Researchers find low-oxygen dead zones in open waters of Atlantic: Scientists have located so-called dead zones, lethal areas with extremely low concentrations of oxygen, in open water in the Atlantic Ocean, according to a study published in Biogeosciences. The dead zones, where marine life can die due to lack of oxygen, were located in the North Atlantic not far from the Cape Verde islands near West Africa. “It is not unlikely that an open-ocean dead zone will hit the island at some point. This could cause the coast to be flooded with low-oxygen water, which may put severe stress on the coastal ecosystems and may even provoke fish kills and the die-off of other marine life,” said Johannes Karstensen, lead author of the study.
Scientists develop “4D” airway splints for children: Three infant boys with tracheobronchomalacia were fitted with 3D-printed airway splints that scientists are describing as “4D” because they will adapt as the children grow. The biodegradable splints are made of hollow, porous tubes that were sutured around the affected airways to hold them open.
U.K. researcher charts chemical path to Earth’s early life: Chemists at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. have constructed a scenario of how chemicals came together to create life on Earth about 3.8 billion years ago, according to research published in Nature Chemistry.
Genetic study suggests woolly mammoths died out on isolated island: The last woolly mammoths likely died out on an isolated island with a population hampered by inbreeding, according to researchers who have sequenced the creature’s genome.
NASA announces breakthrough in aircraft design: A new type of wing that changes shape in flight with no seams or gaps has been flight tested at Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. NASA led the project, in collaboration with the Air Force and FlexSys. NASA is calling the project a breakthrough in aircraft design.
New test finds more women with ovarian cancer than previous methods: A new screening method to detect ovarian cancer has identified more women with the deadly disease than previous tests, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
15th-century shipwreck may hold golden bounty, archaeologists say: Archaeologists say they have found the wreckage of a gold-laden ship that sank off the coast of Finland in 1468. They say the wreckage belongs to the Hanneke Wrome, a cargo ship believed to have been carrying gold coins and jewelry that could be valued at about $150 million today.
Damaged ancient village, temple still hold clues about life there: An ancient Roman temple and a nearby settlement in Lebanon dating back to about 200 A.D. are providing researchers with information about life there, despite being heavily damaged, according to a study published in Antiquity.
Strikingly well-preserved wading bird fossils found in China: Paleontologists in China have discovered a pair of amazingly well-preserved fossils of wading birds that date back 130 million years, suggesting that bird ancestry goes back even further than previously thought. The fossils, found with the feathers preserved, look much like birds do today, according to a description published in Nature Communications.
Graphene, carbon nanotubes help spiders spin stronger webs: Several spiders sprayed with mixtures of water and either graphene particles or carbon nanotubes went on to weave markedly stronger webs, according to researchers at the University of Trento in Italy.
Massive solar flares unlike any seen before are possible, scientists say: Scientists have spotted clues that the sun may release flares unlike any ever seen before, according to findings presented at a recent Space Weather Workshop in Colorado. Astrophysicist Kazunari Shibata said superflares are expected to occur every 10,000 years and are about 1,000 times more powerful than the strongest flares ever observed in the modern era.
Studies show new health benefits for green, black teas: Green tea could improve the image quality of MRIs, while black tea could reduce elevated blood pressure, according to scientists.
Ocean-dwelling microbes may hold clues to evolution of complex cells: Single-celled microbes dwelling in sediment close to a ridge of hydrothermal vents in the Arctic Ocean have a large number of genes capable of coding advanced cellular operations, much like eukaryotes, which make up plant, animal and fungi life, according to findings published in Nature.
Global levels of carbon dioxide highest ever recorded, NOAA says: Levels of carbon dioxide worldwide reached an average of 400.83 parts per million in March, a level that the Earth hasn’t seen in around 2 million years, and it’s continuing to rise, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Lava tubes behind recurring disappearance of Ore. lake: Oregon’s Lost Lake fills up during the fall rainy season then mysteriously disappears in the summer and becomes a meadow, all thanks to a pair of lava tubes at the lake’s bottom that act as a drain. “The lakebed begins to fill in the late fall, when the amount of rain coming in starts exceeding the ability of the lava tubes to drain off the water,” said Jude McHugh of Willamette National Forest. Where the lava tubes drain to isn’t clear, but experts suspect they move through volcanic rock cracks to become groundwater.
Flooding may have led to decline of ancient Cahokia civilization: A major flood of the Mississippi River that occurred in 1200 may have contributed to the decline of the once thriving Cahokia civilization that built mounds and plazas around what is now St. Louis, according to findings reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
System harnesses sun’s power to remove salt from water: A system developed by MIT brings water desalination to a new level. The system is completely solar-powered and small-scale, making it appropriate for use in the developing world. <–This. Is. Amazing.
Rapid telomere changes might signal risk of cancer, study finds: Telomeres, protective sequences on the ends of chromosomes, naturally shorten with age, but researchers recently found people who experienced a rapid shortening of telomeres that suddenly stopped and were likely to be diagnosed with cancer three to four years later.
Study links untreated gum disease with prostate problems: Periodontal disease treatment was linked to improvements in prostatitis symptoms in 27 men with moderate to severe gum disease, prostate gland inflammation and elevated prostate specific antigen levels, researchers report in the journal Dentistry. The participants’ prostate issues were not treated during the study, yet PSA levels decreased in 21 patients while they were receiving periodontal care.
Brushing your teeth – it’s not just for kissing anymore!
Brains of ancient arthropods give researchers clues about creatures’ evolution: Researchers are learning more about the evolution of arthropods thanks to the fossilized brains of an ancient pair of the creatures, according to a study published in Current Biology.
Silver bar found near Madagascar may be part of Captain Kidd’s booty: A silver bar believed to be part of pirate Captain William Kidd’s treasure has been found off the coast of Madagascar. “Captain’s Kidd’s treasure is the stuff of legends. People have been looking for it for 300 years,” said Barry Clifford, whose team found the bar. “There’s more down there. I know the whole bottom of the cavity where I found the silver bar is filled with metal. It’s too murky down there to see what metal, but my metal detector tells me there is metal on all sides,” he said.
Study: Enceladus geysers likely massive curtains of icy vapor, not jets: What were once thought to be jet-like geysers erupting on Saturn’s moon Enceladus may actually be optical illusions created by massive curtains of icy vapor.
Magnetic field began early on Mercury, Messenger data suggest: Mercury’s magnetic field is about 3.8 billion years old, according to data collected by the Messenger space probe, which crashed on the planet last week after running out of fuel.
NASA heartbeat-detection device helps find quake survivors in Nepal: A heartbeat-detection device developed by NASA and the Homeland Security Department was used to rescue four men buried under debris days after an earthquake struck Nepal on April 25. The FINDER, or Finding Individuals for Disaster Emergency Response, detects heartbeats using microwave radar.
U.S. working on vaccines for bird flu epidemic hitting poultry farms: The federal government is trying to develop vaccines to stop the march of a devastating avian flu epidemic plaguing poultry farms in 13 states, but vaccines may pose their own set of problems.
Study: Red wine improves good cholesterol in diabetes patients: Researchers looked at more than 220 type 2 diabetes patients following a Mediterranean diet and found that those who drank red wine with dinner had higher levels of good cholesterol, compared with those who drank white wine or mineral water.
Nascent star-making clump found in deep space: A newly formed star-making clump, seen in deep space for the first time by the Hubble Space Telescope, is giving scientists clues about star formation in the early universe. The clump, which is less than 10 million years old, is churning out stars at a quick clip, producing about 40% of the stars in its host galaxy.
Scientists: 11-billion-year-old star offers more evidence of extraterrestrial life: Astronomers say the discovery of a star more than twice as old as our solar system increases the likelihood that intelligent alien life is somewhere in the universe.
Researchers look into quake clusters in Texas: A magnitude-4 earthquake that shook Dallas last week is the latest in a series of cluster quakes that have sprung up in Texas since 2009, and officials want to know what is causing the increased seismic activity. The quakes have been linked to wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations being pumped into faults, but whether the process of fracking itself is involved is unclear, according to federal geologists.
Many ancient Egyptian animal mummies don’t contain remains, researchers find: Of the more than 800 ancient Egyptian animal mummies scanned by scientists, about a third don’t contain any animal remains at all, researchers say. Animal offerings were a huge industry in ancient Egypt, and researchers have found about 30 catacombs filled to the brim with millions of mummies of dogs, cats, crocodiles, ibis birds and monkeys or, at least, representations of them.
Bats open their mouths wide to help them navigate tight spaces: Bats adjust the opening of their mouths to help them navigate in tight quarters, according to a study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
How the microbiome affects us and how we affect our microbiome: Scientists studying the myriad microorganisms that live on and in the human body have linked gut bacteria with irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity and mental health disorders. Diet and antibiotics can significantly affect gut bacteria, and a diet high in fruits and vegetables especially might encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria while inhibiting the growth of harmful strains, integrative medicine dietitian Robin Foroutan writes.
The cellular connection between mother and child: The cells of mothers and their children intermingle when the baby is in the womb, allowing each to carry a bit of the other long after birth, according to various studies discussed by researcher Laura Sanders. “Way back when you and your mom shared a body, your cells mingled. Her cells slipped into your body and your cells circled back into her. This process, called fetal-maternal microchimerism, turns both mother and child into chimeras harboring little pieces of each other,” she writes. Studies have found fetal cells in various organs throughout a mother’s body, including the brain, liver, lungs and heart.
Happy Mother’s Day!
If you want to receive the same daily science emails I do, you can sign up for the Sigma Xi SmartBrief here.