Biodiversity of the Southern Ocean charted | Ancient tools found in Saudi Arabia similar to ones in Africa, researchers say | Nearby supernova gives researchers clues about the massive explosions
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August 28, 2014
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Biodiversity of the Southern Ocean charted
The biodiversity of the Southern Ocean has been comprehensively mapped, describing more than 9,000 species living there, from tiny microbes to massive whales. "The Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean" can help researchers determine the effects of changes to the waters on ocean life. "How do we know if things are changing, and whether they're changing naturally or not, unless we know what's there?" said Australian Antarctic Division's Graham Hosie, who contributed to the project. New Scientist (8/27)
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Science in the News
Ancient tools found in Saudi Arabia similar to ones in Africa, researchers say
Stone tools from excavations in Saudi Arabia dating back to between 70,000 and 125,000 years ago are similar to those about the same age found in Africa, offering researchers clues about how modern humans migrated from Africa. Just how and when humans left Africa has been debated for many years, but without skeletal remains found nearby, it's not known how the tools got there or who made them. "Understanding how we originated and colonized the world remains one of the most fascinating and enduring questions," said University of Bordeaux archaeologist Eleanor Scerri, the study's lead author. (8/26)
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Nearby supernova gives researchers clues about the massive explosions
An type IA supernova spotted early this year in M82, the Cigar galaxy, has given researchers direct evidence that the massive star explosions are, indeed, thermonuclear detonations, where a white dwarf reaches critical mass and explodes. The SN 2014J supernova is the nearest such event to occur in quite some time at 11.4 million light-years away. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany detected the signature of a thermonuclear explosion in the gamma rays of SN 2014J using the INTEGRAL gamma-ray telescope. New Scientist (8/27)
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Solar neutrinos measured for the first time
Solar neutrinos have been detected for the first time by an international group of scientists using the Borexino detector in Italy. The Borexino detector allows researchers to measure the difficult-to-detect particles. "This measurement directly confirms what we know about fusion processes in the sun from higher energy neutrinos and what we see from the surface of the sun," said University of Massachusetts' Andrea Pocar, a member of the Borexino team. (8/27)
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Walking fish physically adapts when raised on land, study suggests
The bichir, a fish that has lungs as well as gills, can walk on land and adapts to better walking when raised on land, according to a study published in Nature. Researchers noted that bichirs raised in a damp, land-locked environment underwent actual physical changes that improved their walking ability. The discovery could offer clues to how ancient fish species crawled onto land and evolved into terrestrial creatures. Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model)/Science Now (8/27)
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Study: Good, bad memories swapped in mice
Scientists have transposed good and bad memories in genetically engineered mice, according to a study in Nature. "The assumption here is that memories are formed between neurons that are active at the same time. So if this is right, we should be forcing the neurons associated with fear to begin with to link up with the new neurons" expressing pleasure, said Howard Hughes Medical Institute postdoc at MIT and study co-author Roger Redondo. It's a long way off, but researchers may one day be able to translate the process to humans. The Washington Post (tiered subscription model) (8/27)
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U.K. researchers produce spinal cord stem cells
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have generated human neuromesodermal progenitor cells, which are capable of developing into spinal cord, bone and muscle tissue. The study in the journal PLOS Biology represents a step forward in the quest for regenerative treatments for spinal illnesses and injuries. "We can't yet produce the tissues themselves, but this is a really big step. It's like being able to make the bricks and raw materials but not yet build the house," researcher James Briscoe said. The Independent (London) (tiered subscription model) (8/26), Medical News Today (8/27)
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Proteins keep HIV, Ebola cells from releasing viral particles
T cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain proteins, which promote entry of viruses such as HIV and Ebola into cells, can also block the release of viral particles from the infected cell, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As the viral particles escape the cell, the TIM-family proteins on the cell surface attach to the lipid on the surface of the viral particle called phosphatidylserine, keeping them latched on to the cell surface rather than being released to infect other cells. The Economic Times (India)/Press Trust of India (8/26)
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Funding Watch
8 states share $280K to study white-nose syndrome in bats
Eight Midwestern states will share more than $280,000 in grants to study white-nose syndrome in bats. The funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be divided among agencies in Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Illinois to monitor bats and detect the deadly disease, which causes a white fungus to form on bats' noses. The State Journal-Register (Springfield, Ill.)/The Associated Press (8/27)
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Grant goes toward study of hepatitis C in N.M.
The Department of Health and Human Services has given the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center a $1.3 million grant to study the increased incidence of hepatitis C infections in rural areas of the state. University researchers will work with the New Mexico Department of Health to develop methods to prevent, detect and treat the infections. The Washington Times/The Associated Press (8/27)
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