Likes of Western U.S. drought not seen in 850 years | Remains of underwater volcano found in South Pacific | Wild marmosets learn from videotaped instructions, study finds
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September 4, 2014
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Likes of Western U.S. drought not seen in 850 years
The drought that has locked onto California in recent years is part of a larger pattern throughout the whole Western U.S. that hasn't been seen in more than 850 years, and the area may face its greatest test in the resulting fight for diminishing resources. The past 15 years of drought conditions in the West constitutes a megadrought, which Cornell University scientist Toby Ault said is the "great white sharks of climate: powerful, dangerous and hard to detect before it's too late. They have happened in the past, and they are still out there, lurking in what is possible for the future, even without climate change." USA Today (9/3), The New York Times (tiered subscription model)/Dot Earth blog (9/3)
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Science in the News
Remains of underwater volcano found in South Pacific
The mountainous remnants of an extinct underwater volcano have been found in near Jarvis Island in a remote part of the South Pacific Ocean, according to the NOAA Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center at the University of New Hampshire. Researchers used sonar technology to map the seamount, which is about two-thirds of a mile, or about 1.1 kilometers, high and sits about 3.2 miles, or 5.2 kilometers, under the ocean. "These seamounts are very common, but we don't know about them, because most of the places that we go out and map have never been mapped before," said James Gardner, a professor at the university. (9/3)
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Wild marmosets learn from videotaped instructions, study finds
Wild marmosets can learn from videotaped cousins, researchers have found. The wild animals in a Brazilian forest were shown a video of a lab marmoset opening a device to retrieve a treat. Young wild marmosets, especially, were drawn to the video, watching it and copying the behavior to get a treat from a similar device placed near the video box. "We didn't know if wild marmosets would be frightened of the video box, but actually they were all attracted to it," said Tina Gunhold of the University of Vienna. New Scientist (9/3)
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Newly discovered mushroom-shaped sea creature a challenge to classify
A strange mushroom-shaped deep-sea creature might be in a phylum by itself, as researchers struggle to categorize it. Two species of the tiny creature, named Dendrogamma, were found on the ocean floor near Tasmania and have been described in a study published in PLOS ONE. "They are at the base of the Tree of Life together with Cnidaria and Ctenophora, but they lack the defining characteristics of those two major Phylae," said study co-author Jean Just of the University of Copenhagen. Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model)/Science Now (9/3)
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Study: Ancient relatives of mammals showed signs of nocturnal lifestyles
Ancient relatives of mammals that lived around 320 million years ago may have been nocturnal creatures, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Researchers studied small ring-shaped bones called scleral ossicles in the eyes of synapsids, finding that many prowled the night or the twilight. Previously, it was believed that nocturnal lifestyles didn't emerge until about 200 million years ago. Reuters (9/3)
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Remains of young dinosaurs, possible caretaker found in China
The remains of 24 baby dinosaurs and one older one, dating back about 120 million years, have been found on a rock slab in China, offering researchers clues to the creatures' complex social structure. Scientists suggest that the larger Psittacosaur, not old enough to be a parent, was a caretaker or babysitter for the younger dinosaurs, though researchers acknowledge that more study is needed to confirm that hypothesis. (9/3)
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Cosmic map puts Milky Way in a larger supercluster called Laniakea
Astronomers at the University of Hawaii have redrawn the map of the local universe by charting the flow and density of galaxies within the supercluster of galaxies that contains our own Milky Way, finding that the supercluster is 100 times larger in mass and volume than previously thought. Previously, scientists put the Milky Way in the Virgo Supercluster, but the new study puts it in a larger area the researchers are calling Laniakea, which means "immeasurable heaven" in Hawaiian. Nature (free content) (9/3)
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Study: Skin cells can be converted into pulmonary valves for children
In a study published in the journal Annals of Thoracic Surgery, researchers created a tissue-engineered pulmonary valve through skin cells taken from a child's biopsy. Since the valve is capable of growing with the patient, it curbs children's odds of undergoing valve replacements later in life. HealthDay News (9/3)
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Funding Watch
Ore. researchers get $25M from Gates Foundation for HIV vaccine
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded Oregon Health & Science University researchers a $25 million grant to develop a vaccine to prevent HIV from establishing itself in exposed, uninfected people and to clear it from those already infected. The team led by Louis Picker will use the grant to study whether the vaccine can be used in clinical trials on humans and to develop a vaccine appropriate for large-scale use. Reuters (9/3)
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