Photoreceptors preserved in 300M-year-old fish fossil | NASA envisions hovering city above Venus' clouds | Researchers find 98 new beetle species in Indonesia
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December 24, 2014
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Photoreceptors preserved in 300M-year-old fish fossil
Scientists have gotten a unique look inside the eyeballs of an ancient fish that's so well preserved, rods and cones are still visible using a scanning electron microscope, according to a study published in Nature Communications. According to the finding, fish have been able to see in color for at least 300 million years, the age of the fossilized Acanthodes bridgei found in a Kansas quarry that once was a shallow lagoon. The study says this is the first time fossilized photoreceptors have been found in a vertebrate's eye. Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model)/Science Now blog (12/23)
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Science in the News
NASA envisions hovering city above Venus' clouds
NASA has developed a concept cloud city that could help solve the problem of researching the inhospitable Venus. A team at the Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate at the Langley Research Center is working on the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept, a super-light rocket that would hover just above Venus' acidic clouds for about 30 days collecting data, with an end goal of creating a floating city of astronauts. CNET (12/21)
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Researchers find 98 new beetle species in Indonesia
Researchers have discovered 98 new species of beetle in Indonesia. The beetles are all members of the genus Trigonopterus, according to scientists from the Indonesian Research Center of Biology as well as Germany. One of the beetles was named for famed naturalist David Attenborough: Trigonopterus attenboroughi. The Washington Post (tiered subscription model)/Speaking of Science blog (12/22)
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More sedentary lifestyle tied to drop in modern humans' bone density
A shift from hunting to farming resulted in the evolution of a lighter skeleton in modern humans about 12,000 years ago, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Much to our surprise, throughout our deep past, we see that our human ancestors and relatives, who lived in natural settings, had very dense bone. ... But this density drastically drops off in more recent times, when we started to use agricultural tools to grow food and settle in one place," said Brian Richmond, co-author of the study. (12/23)
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Rock ants lean left when exploring new spaces
Rock ants prefer to stay to the left when exploring strange crevices, according to University of Bristol researchers. Scientists sent Temnothorax albipennis ants into an unfamiliar dark nest, with most showing a directional bias to the left. The findings were published in Biology Letters. Science News (12/23)
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Funding Watch
NIH awards $2.45M to Idaho school for biomedical research
The National Institutes of Health's IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence has awarded a $2.45 million grant to the College of Idaho. The five-year grant will be distributed to several research projects, including a study of the medical properties of sagebrush, and another on the use of small molecule inhibitors in fighting pathogenic microorganisms. Idaho State Journal (Pocatello) (tiered subscription model)/The Associated Press (12/23)
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Up to $4M in grants available to small businesses for cell research
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences will offer up to $4 million in grants to small businesses studying cells through the organization's Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. The focus of the grants will be on the development of cell-based toxicant tests. "The goal is to find reliable predictive tests so researchers can quickly prioritize which chemical compounds warrant further toxicity testing," said NIEHS health scientist administrator Daniel Shaughnessy. The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.) (free registration) (12/23)
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SmartBrief will not publish Thursday
In observance of Christmas, SmartBrief will not publish Thursday. Publication will resume Friday.
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