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Drought Research. Read where droughts are predicted, and what can be done about them.
Last updated on  May 24th, 2017
Increased protection of world's national animal symbols needed, suggests study: Click here
The snowy-feathered head and distinctive brown body of the bald eagle is a proud national symbol of the United States, adorning the country's currency and passports. The lion, known as 'King of the Beasts,' represents national strength and identity in several African countries. But, how are populations of the planet's most valued wildlife faring in the 21st century? How well are societies protecting the species they have chosen to embody their ideals and represent their national identity?
Tree-climbing goats disperse seeds by spitting: Click here
Ecologists have observed an unusual way in which treetop-grazing goats may be benefiting the trees: the goats spit out the trees' seeds.
Zika spread secrets tracked through new gene sequencing study: Click here
Scientists studying the genetics of Zika virus in Brazil and beyond has provided a new understanding of the disease and its rapid spread through space and time. The research has significant public health implications and has the potential to improve responses to future outbreaks.
Zika virus likely circulated in Americas long before detection during 2015-16 epidemic: Click here
Analysis of the largest collection of Zika genomes to date reveals the trajectory and evolution of the virus as it spread throughout the Americas, with implications for future surveillance efforts.
Zika reached Miami at least four times, Caribbean travel likely responsible: Click here
With mosquito season looming in the Northern Hemisphere, doctors and researchers are poised to take on a new round of Zika virus infections. Now a new study explains how Zika virus entered the United States via Florida in 2016 -- and how it might re-enter the country this year.
Effective restoration of aquatic ecosystems: Click here
Despite having increased human wellbeing in the past, intense modifications by multiple and interacting pressures have degraded ecosystems and the sustainability of their goods and services. For ecosystem restoration to deliver on multiple environmental and societal targets, the process of restoration must be redesigned to create a unified and scale-dependent approach that integrates natural and social sciences as well as the broader restoration community, say researchers.
Border walls may pose big challenges to biodiversity, but smaller ones to humans: Click here
Walls such as the proposed barrier along the US-Mexico border lead to habitat fragmentation and can close off animal populations by impeding movement.
Metals from Bolivian mines affect crops and pose potential health risk, study suggests: Click here
Exposure to trace metals from potatoes grown in soil irrigated with waters from the Potosi mining region in Bolivia, home to the world's largest silver deposit, may put residents at risk of non-cancer health illnesses, researchers warn.
Benefits of medical marijuana for treatment of epilepsy examined: Click here
Although cannabis had been used for many centuries for treatment of seizure disorders, medical use became prohibited in the 20th century. However, with the loosening of laws regarding medical marijuana, research and clinical use of marijuana-derived substances are increasing. This has prompted the publishing of an in-depth assessment of the potential of cannabinoids for the effective treatment of epilepsy. Cannabinoids are components of the cannabis plant.
Camelina: Where you grow what you grow: Click here
A new study looks at how three varieties of camelina perform when grown in two different regions within the Great Plains. The end goal is to find the camelina variety that performs best in each location or environment -- beyond the genetics involved.
Whales only recently evolved into giants when changing ice, oceans concentrated prey: Click here
A team of scientists have traced the evolution of whale size through more than 30 million years of history and found that very large whales appeared along several branches of the family tree about 2 to 3 million years ago. Increasing ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere during this period likely altered the way whales' food was distributed in the oceans and enhanced the benefits of a large body size, the scientists say.
Sorghum: Health food sweetener and now, clothing dye: Click here
Sorghum has long been a staple food in many parts of the world, but in the US, it's best known as a sweetener and livestock feed. As demand for the grain soars, so does the amount of waste husks. To reduce this waste, scientists report a new use for it: a wool dye that can add ultraviolet protection and fluorescence properties to clothing.
Spider venom reengineered for effective delivery of antibodies into cells: Click here
Our cells are rich in proteins which are potential targets for therapy. But study of these proteins' behavior, using externally delivered biomacromolecules, has often been stymied by the difficulty of gaining access to the interiors of living cells.
Precise insight into the depths of cells: Click here
Is it possible to watch at the level of single cells how fish embryos become trout, carp or salmon? Researchers have successfully combined two very advanced fluorescence microscopy techniques. The new high-resolution light microscope permits fascinating insights into a cell's interior.
Birds, bees and other critters have scruples, and for good reason: Click here
Humans are not the only species to show a strong work ethic and scruples. Researchers have found evidence of conscientiousness in insects, reptiles, birds, fish and other critters, such as working hard, paying attention to detail and striving to do the right thing.
Zebras follow their memory when migrating: Click here
Zebras may use memory to guide their migration each year. Memory based on past average conditions provides a clear signal that best directs zebras to their destination. In contrast, current vegetation conditions along the way are less important for the direction of the migration according to a computer simulation. The study highlights that migration routes of large terrestrial mammals such as zebras could be more inflexible than previously thought.
Wind blows young migrant birds to all corners of Africa: Click here
Migrant birds that breed in the same area in Europe spread out across all of Africa during the northern winter. A new satellite-tracking study shows that the destination of individual birds is largely determined by the wind conditions they encounter during their first migration.
Don't move: To ensure constant food supply edible dormice rather give up their favourite food: Click here
Rodents such as the edible dormouse feed preferably on high-energy seeds. But this important food source is not available every year. Edible dormice adapt to this with a pragmatic choice of territory. A long-term stud has now shown, for the first time, that they prefer areas with a balanced mix of food choices. This alternative food source allows the rodents to survive without having to move to a new territory.
Going with the flow: The forces that affect species' movements in a changing climate: Click here
Ocean currents affect how climate change impacts movements of species to cooler regions. A new study provides novel insight into how species' distributions change from the interaction between climate change and ocean currents.
Song diversity hints at thrushes' evolutionary past: Click here
The Hermit Thrush is famous for its melodiously undulating song, but we know very little about whether -- and if so, how -- its songs vary across the large swath of North America that it calls home in the summer. A new study provides the first thorough overview of geographic variation in hermit thrush song structure and hints at how isolation and adaptation shape differences in song within a species.
Lizards may be overwhelmed by fire ants and social stress combined: Click here
Lizards living in fire-ant-invaded areas are stressed. However, a team of biologists found that the lizards did not exhibit this stress as expected after extended fire ant exposure in socially stressful environments, leading to questions about stress overload.
Improve evolution education by teaching genetics first: Click here
Evolution is a difficult concept for many students at all levels, however, a study has demonstrated a simple cost-free way to significantly improve students' understanding of evolution at the secondary level: teach genetics before you teach them evolution.
Transforming how complex marine data is synthesized: Click here
Scientists are transforming how complex marine data from the Ocean Health Index is synthesized, communicated and used for coastal management.
Dietary strategy to address obesity uses component in red chili: Click here
Scientists have discovered a dietary strategy that may address obesity by reducing endotoxemia, a major contributor to chronic, low-grade inflammation (CLGI). The researchers uncovered an interaction between dietary capsaicin (CAP), the major pungent component in red chili, and gut microbiota. This novel mechanism for the anti-obesity effect of CAP acts through prevention of microbial dysbiosis.
Snakes, thought to be solitary eaters, coordinate hunts, study shows: Click here
Snakes, although as social as birds and mammals, have long been thought to be solitary hunters and eaters. A new study shows that some snakes coordinate their hunts to increase their chances of success.
Declawing linked to aggression and other abnormal behaviors in cats: Click here
Declawing increases the risk of long-term or persistent pain, manifesting as unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate elimination (soiling/urinating outside of the litter box) and aggression/biting, new research concludes.
Fall calving season may yield higher returns for southeastern beef producers: Click here
For Southeastern beef cattle producers the fall calving season, calving between mid-September and mid-November, was most profitable and had the smallest amount of variation in profits, meaning fall calving was less risky as compared to spring calving, researchers found.
Probiotic use linked to improved symptoms of depression: Click here
A new study is the first to show improved depression scores with a probiotic. It adds to the whole field of microbiota-gut-brain axis, providing evidence that bacteria affect behavior.
Mystery of butterflies iridescent wing scales resolved: Click here
Who is not fascinated by the wonderful iridescent colours of butterfly wings? Those who want to find out more about this phenomenon will realise that often the colour is not generated by pigments, rather by periodic structures made of chitin, a structure-forming polysaccharide. These so-called photonic crystals give rise to structural colour by only reflecting specific wavelengths of the incoming solar spectrum. The resulting colour is not random, it serves as camouflage or signalling. But how do millions of these photonic crystals form within the tiny scales of butterfly wings? The opinions of scientists differ in this matter.
'Pregnant' housefly males demonstrate the evolution of sex determination: Click here
Biologists have discovered the gene that determines the male sex in houseflies. Surprisingly, the sex-determining mechanisms are not the same for all houseflies -- they depend on where the insects live. This knowledge not only helps us better understand the evolution of sex determination, but also aids in the control of agricultural pests or carriers of disease.
'Yellow crazy ant' workers lay eggs as a food source: Click here
The 'yellow crazy ant' lays trophic eggs to provide nutrition to their larvae.
A possible alternative to antibiotics: Click here
A combination of metals and organic acids is an effective way to eradicate cholera, salmonella, pseudomonas, and other pathogenic bacteria, researchers report. The combination also works on bacteria that attack agricultural crops.
Wolves need space to roam to control expanding coyote populations: Click here
Wolves and other top predators need large ranges to be able to control smaller predators whose populations have expanded, according to a new study. The results were similar across three continents, showing that as top predators' ranges were cut back and fragmented, they were no longer able to control smaller predators.
7.2-million-year-old pre-human remains found in the Balkans: Click here
Scientists analyzing 7.2 million-year-old fossils uncovered in modern-day Greece and Bulgaria suggest a new hypothesis about the origins of humankind, placing it in the Eastern Mediterranean and not -- as customarily assumed -- in Africa, and earlier than currently accepted. The researchers conclude that Graecopithecus freybergi represents the first pre-humans to exist following the split from the last chimpanzee-human common ancestor.
3.3-million-year-old fossil reveals origins of the human spine: Click here
Analysis of a 3.3 million-year-old fossil skeleton reveals the most complete spinal column of any early human relative, including vertebrae, neck and rib cage. The findings indicate that portions of the human spinal structure that enable efficient walking motions were established millions of years earlier than previously thought.
Calcium dynamics regulating the timing of decision-making in C. elegans: Click here
All animals make decisions according to information, but the detailed mechanism is not known. The researchers found that, a tiny worm chooses the direction in an odor space by mathematically integrating the information of odor concentration. Moreover, they also identified a gene responsible for the integration. Because integration of information has been known to be important for decision-making of more complex experimental animals such as monkeys, the gene for integration may also be important for decision-making even in humans.
New clues emerge about how fruit flies navigate their world: Click here
Scientists have uncovered new clues about how fruit flies keep track of where they are in the world. Understanding the neural basis of navigation in flies may reveal how humans accomplish similar feats.
Neural circuit rotates a fly's internal compass: Click here
Researchers have uncovered the neurons that spin a fly's internal compass when the insect turns -- the first such mechanism identified in any animal.
Interrogating proteins: New protein structure designed: Click here
Scientists have designed a new protein structure, and are using it to understand how protein structures are stabilized.
New antibiotic resistance gene found in Salmonella from broiler chickens: Click here
A gene that confers resistance to the important broad-spectrum antibiotic, fosfomycin, has been discovered by scientists. The researchers found the gene in isolates of the pathogen, Salmonella enterica, from broiler chickens.
Intestinal fungi worsen alcoholic liver disease: Click here
Liver cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of mortality worldwide and approximately half of those deaths are due to alcohol abuse. Yet apart from alcohol abstinence, there are no specific treatments to reduce the severity of alcohol-associated liver disease. Researchers have now linked intestinal fungi to increased risk of death for patients with alcohol-related liver disease.
Rare tooth find reveals horned dinosaurs in eastern North America: Click here
A chance discovery in Mississippi provides the first evidence of an animal closely related to Triceratops in eastern North America. The fossil, a tooth from rocks between 68 and 66 million years old, shows that two halves of the continent previously thought to be separated by seaway were probably connected before the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.
Rethinking nutrition labelling: Food is not just the sum of its nutrients: Click here
The nutritional value of a food should be evaluated on the basis of the foodstuff as a whole, and not as an effect of the individual nutrients. This is the conclusion of an international expert panel of epidemiologists, physicians, food and nutrition scientists. Their conclusion reshapes our understanding of the importance of nutrients and their interaction.
Rethinking role of viruses in coral reef ecosystems: Click here
Viruses are thought to frequently kill their host bacteria, especially at high microbial density. A state called lysogeny, in which viruses lie dormant but don't kill their hosts, has been thought to be relatively rare , mostly occurring at low bacterial concentrations. A new study suggests lysogeny might be much more common than previously believed. These findings could lead to a better understanding of degraded coral reef ecosystems and how to preserve them.
Eating beans instead of beef would sharply reduce greenhouse gasses: Click here
If Americans would eat beans instead of beef, the United States would immediately realize approximately 50 to 75 percent of its GHG reduction targets for the year 2020.
Discovery of an alga's 'dictionary of genes' could lead to advances in biofuels, medicine: Click here
A team of plant biologists and biochemists has produced a gold mine of data by sequencing the genome of a tiny, single-celled green alga that could be used as a source of sustainable biofuel and has health implications.
Sunflower genome sequence to provide roadmap for more resilient crops: Click here
Researchers have completed the first sunflower genome sequence. This new resource will assist future research programs using genetic tools to improve crop resilience and oil production.
New cancer drug can prevent reactions to common airborne allergens: Click here
A cancer drug for patients with certain types of leukemia and lymphoma can also prevent reactions to some of the most common airborne allergies, according to a recent study. The promising data from this pilot study could have greater implications for adults with food allergies.
Human-induced deforestation is causing an increase in malaria cases: Click here
A new study of 67 less-developed, malaria-endemic nations finds a link between deforestation and increasing malaria rates across developing nations.
Modified experimental vaccine protects monkeys from deadly malaria: Click here
Researchers have modified an experimental malaria vaccine and showed that it completely protected four of eight monkeys that received it against challenge with the virulent Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite. In three of the remaining four monkeys, the vaccine delayed when parasites first appeared in the blood by more than 25 days.
Two new proteins connected to plant development discovered by scientists: Click here
The discovery of two new proteins could lead to better ways to regulate plant structure and the ability to resist crop stresses such as drought, thus improving agriculture productivity.
Rapid smell source localization: Mechanism discovered: Click here
Fundamental insights into the mechanism of smell localization have now been gained by researchers. This marks an important step in unraveling the entire neural odor localization mechanism, which is highly valuable to the study of memory diseases such as Alzheimer's. The team used mice for the experiment, which are smell identification champions. Using a novel non-invasive technique based on infrared technology, they revealed that localizing odors is achieved by comparing information gathered from the left and right nostril.
Why more juvenile sharks off California's coast is a good thing: Click here
Young great white sharks are using California’s coasts as a sort of nursery, suggests new research.
Triple play boosting value of renewable fuel could tip market in favor of biomass: Click here
A new process triples the fraction of biomass converted to high-value products to nearly 80 percent, also tripling the expected rate of return for an investment in the technology from roughly 10 percent (for one end product) to 30 percent.
Insects resist genetic methods to control disease spread, study finds: Click here
Insects possess a naturally occurring resistance to the use of gene-editing technology to prevent diseases such as malaria, new research shows.
Top 10 new species for 2017: Click here
A spider and an ant with names drawn from popular books, a pink katydid and an omnivorous rat made ESF's list of the Top 10 New Species for 2017. Also listed: a freshwater stingray, a bush tomato that appears to "bleed," a devilish-looking orchid, a millipede with more than 400 legs, an amphibious centipede and a marine worm.
Environmental pollutants in large Norwegian lakes: Click here
Scientists have discovered the presence of contaminants in the pelagic food chains in the lakes Mjøsa, Randsfjorden and Femunden in Norway, and in supplementary material of fish from Tyrifjorden and Vansjø, sampled in 2015. Mercury and persistent organic pollutants (cVMS, PCBs, PBDEs, PFAS) were analyzed in samples of fish from all lakes, as well as pelagic crustaceans in Mjøsa.
Engineered protein enlisted to battle the MERS virus: Click here
Researchers converted a staple human ubiquitin protein into an anti-viral tool. Through subtle tweaks, they created an engineered version of the ubiquitin that binds more tightly and paralyzes a key enzyme in MERS to halt viral replication in cells. Other synthetic forms of ubiquitin can be quickly generated to target a diverse range of pathogens.
Researchers develop protocol to analyze many cells at once: Click here
With the new FISH-Flow protocol, researchers are able to evaluate multitudes of cells at once for telltale mRNA species and proteins. The blended procedure provides a chance to see how multiple kinds of immune cells are responding to a foreign substance, making it possible to detect the presence of disease faster and earlier.
Using seaweed to kill invasive ants: Click here
Scientists have developed an inexpensive, biodegradable, seaweed-based ant bait that can help homeowners and farmers control invasive Argentine ant populations.
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