‘RoboClam’ replicates a clam’s ability to burrow while using little energy

The Atlantic razor clam uses very little energy to burrow into undersea soil at high speed. Now a detailed insight into how the animal digs has led to the development of a robotic clam that can perform the same trick.The device, known as “RoboClam,” could be used to dig itself into the ground to bury anchors or destroy underwater mines, according to its developer, Amos Winter, the Robert N. Noyce Career Development Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT.Despite its rigid shell, the Atlantic razor clam (Ensis directus) can move through soil at a speed of 1 centimeter per second. What’s more, the animal is able to dig up to 0.5 kilometers using only the amount of energy contained in a AA battery. “The clam’s trick is to move its shells in such a way as to liquefy the soil around its body, reducing the drag acting upon it,” Winter says. “This means it requires much less force to pull its shell into the soil than it would when moving through static soil.”To develop a robot that can perform the same trick, Winter and his co-developer, Anette Hosoi, professor of mechanical engineering and applied mathematics at MIT, needed to understand how the clam’s movement causes the soil to liquefy, or turn into quicksand, around its shell. Now, in a paper to be published in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, the researchers reveal for the first time the mechanics behind this process, and describe how their robot is able to mimic this action.Mechanics of quicksandWhen the razor clam begins to dig, it first retracts its shell, releasing the stress between its body and the soil around it. This causes the soil to begin collapsing, creating a localized landslide around the animal. As the clam continues to contract, reducing its own volume, it sucks water into this region of failing soil. The water and sand particles mix, creating a fluidized substrate — quicksand.But the timing is crucial. …

Read more

Experiment opens the door to multi-party quantum communication

In the world of quantum science, Alice and Bob have been talking to one another for years. Charlie joined the conversation a few years ago, but now with spacelike separation, scientists have measured that their communication occurs faster than the speed of light.For the first time, physicists at the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo have demonstrated the distribution of three entangled photons at three different locations (Alice, Bob and Charlie) several hundreds of metres apart, proving quantum nonlocality for more than two entangled photons.The findings of the experiment, Experimental Three-Particle Quantum Nonlocality under Strict Locality Conditions, are published in Nature Photonics today.Once described by Einstein as “spooky action at a distance,” this three-photon entanglement leads to interesting possibilities for multi-party quantum communication.Nonlocality describes the ability of particles to instantaneously know about each other’s state, even when separated by large distances. In the quantum world, this means it might be possible to transfer information instantaneously — faster than the speed of light. This contravenes what Einstein called the “principle of local action,” the rule that distant objects cannot have direct influence on one another, and that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings.To truly test that the hidden local variables are not responsible for the correlation between the three photons, IQC scientists needed the experiment to close what is known as the locality loophole. They achieved this separation of the entangled photons in a way that did not allow for a signal to coordinate the behaviour of the photons, but beaming the entangled photons to trailers parked in fields several hundred meters from their lab.”Correlations measured from quantum systems can tell us a lot about nature at the most fundamental level,” said co-author Professor Kevin Resch, Canada Research Chair in Optical Quantum Technologies and recent winner of the E.W.R. Steacie Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). “Three-particle entanglement is more complex than that of pairs. We can exploit the complex behaviour to rule out certain descriptions of nature or as a resource for new quantum technologies.”The project team studied the correlations of three photons in a Greenberger-Horne-Zeilinger (GHZ) state — a type of entangled quantum state involving at least three particles.First, photon triplets were generated in Resch’s lab — the Alice in the experiment. Then, the first photon was delayed in a 580m optical fibre in the lab while the two other photons travelled up 85m of optical fibre to the rooftop where they were sent through two telescopes. Both photons were then sent to two trailers, Bob and Charlie, about 700m away from the source and from each other.To maintain the spacelike separate in the experiment, a fourth party, Randy, located in a third trailer randomly selected each of the measurements that Alice was to perform on her photons in the lab.Each trailer contained detectors, time-tagging devices developed by IQC spin off company Universal Quantum Devices (UQD), and quantum random number generators. …

Read more

Workplace flexibility still a myth for most

Workplace flexibility — it’s a phrase that might be appealing to job seekers or make a company look good, but a new study by the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College shows flexible work options are out of reach for most employees and that when they are offered, arrangements are limited in size and scope.”While large percentages of employers report that they have at least some workplace flexibility, the number of options is usually limited and they are typically not available to the entire workforce,” says Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Ph.D., Director of the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College and one of the researchers of the study. “We’re trying to help employers understand that flexible work initiatives work best if their organizations offer a comprehensive set of options. Employers who implement limited programs might become frustrated if they don’t see the outcomes they had hoped for saying, ‘Gosh, this didn’t help us at all’ or, ‘it didn’t help us with recruitment’ or ‘it didn’t help us with retention.’ In fact, it may not be that the flexible work options didn’t work. Rather, that the companies didn’t offer a sufficient range of options to the employees.”The study, published in the journal, Community, Work, and Family, examined the flexible work arrangements of 545 U.S. employers and found most arrangements center around allowing employees to move where they work and when they report in, but didn’t include reduction of work or temporary leaves from jobs. Additionally, any flexibility options that are available aren’t being made to the majority of a company’s employees.”We should probably set our standards and expectations a little higher,” says Dr. Pitt-Catsouphes. “Business leaders as well as academics have been trying to promote the adoption of quality flexible work initiatives for the past three decades. We have come to realize how important it is for employers to offer different types of flexibilities so that employees and their supervisors have some choice and control over when, where and how much they work. Employers and employees are better able to reap the benefits of workplace flexibility when the initiatives are comprehensive and well aligned with business priorities.”The study, co-authored by Stephen Sweet of Ithaca College, Elyssa Besen of the Center for Disability Research, Lonnie Golden of Penn State Abington along with Boston College’s Pitt-Catsouphes, found only one in five companies offered more than one approach to workplace flexibility, despite the fact that different employees need different options.”What we’re saying is flexibility can work if you make a commitment to making it work,” says Pitt-Catsouphes. …

Read more

Omnivorous species are more resistant to fire effects

A study published on the journal PLOS ONE demonstrates that omnivorous species are the most resistant to fire.The main authors of the article are researchers Eduardo Mateos, from the Department of Animal Biology of the University of Barcelona (UB), and Xavier Santos, from the Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources of the University of Porto. The article is also signed by experts Antoni Serra, from the Department of Animal Biology of UB; Teresa Saura and Ramon Vallejo, from the Department of Plant Biology of UB, and Santiago Sabat, from the Department of Ecology of UB and the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF).The study analyses changes in composition and abundance in 274 species after the fire that happened in August 2003 in Sant Lloren del Munt i l’Obac Natural Park. It was developed within the monitoring of fauna recolonization developed in the burnt area after the fire.After the fireIt is the first time that a study compares different responses of a set of animal organisms to fire (snails, spiders, beetles, ants, grasshoppers, bugs, birds and reptiles). The study also enabled to analyse some causes that could explain species response, for instance dietary and mobility patterns.According to authors, omnivorous species are more resilient to fire probably due to their ability to adapt their dietary habits to available food resources, which vary between burnt and unburnt areas. Surprisingly, the study also demonstrates that high-mobility species — such as birds that move to unburnt areas — and low-mobility species — like snails that cannot hide and die by burning — are the ones that show more changes in composition.Professor Eduardo Mateos affirms that “postfire management practices must consider the strong relationship between animal and plant communities. If the main objective of is to maximize biodiversity, habitat management may provide mosaics to preserve heterogeneity; the study proves that this would be the best management practice.”Even if it seems to go against general opinion, results support the idea that fire may play a critical role for some threatened species, as the elimination of some species enables the appearance of certain species that can be more interesting regarding conservation. This would be the case of snail Xerocrassa montserratensis and Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa, two interesting species which appeared after the fire in the area.Other researchers and technicians also collaborated in the study. They belong to several institutions such as the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the University of Girona, the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF), the Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia (CTFC), the Natural History Museum of Barcelona, the Estacin Experimental de les Zonas ridas, the Mediterranean Centre for Environmental Studies (CEAM), the Oficina Tcnica de Parcs Naturals of the Barcelona Provincial Council and the Directorate General for the Environment and Biodiversity of the Goverment of Catalonia.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Universidad de Barcelona. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Genes play key role in parenting: Children also shape parents’ behavior

Scientists have presented the most conclusive evidence yet that genes play a significant role in parenting.A study by two Michigan State University psychologists refutes the popular theory that how adults parent their children is strictly a function of the way they were themselves parented when they were children.While environmental factors do play a role in parenting, so do a person’s genes, said S. Alexandra Burt, associate professor of psychology and co-author of a study led by doctoral student Ashlea M. Klahr.”The way we parent is not solely a function of the way we were parented as children,” Burt said. “There also appears to be genetic influences on parenting.”Klahr and Burt conducted a statistical analysis of 56 scientific studies from around the world on the origins of parenting behavior, including some of their own. The comprehensive analysis, involving more than 20,000 families from Australia to Japan to the United States, found that genetic influences in the parents account for 23 percent to 40 percent of parental warmth, control and negativity towards their children.”What’s still not clear, however, is whether genes directly influence parenting or do so indirectly, through parent personality for example,” Klahr said.The study sheds light on another misconception: that parenting is solely a top-down process from parent to child. While parents certainly seem to shape child behavior, parenting also is influenced by the child’s behavior — in other words, parenting is both a cause and a consequence of child behavior.”One of the most consistent and striking findings to emerge from this study was the important role that children’s characteristics play in shaping all aspects of parenting,” the authors write.Ultimately, parenting styles stem from many factors.”Parents have their own experiences when they were children, their own personalities, their own genes. On top of that, they are also responding to their child’s behaviors and stage of development,” Burt said. “Basically, there are a lot of influences happening simultaneously. Long story short, though, we need to be sensitive to the fact that this is a two-way process between parent and child that is both environmental and genetic.”The study is published in Psychological Bulletin, a research journal of the American Psychological Association.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

True value of cover crops to farmers, environment

Planting cover crops in rotation between cash crops — widely agreed to be ecologically beneficial — is even more valuable than previously thought, according to a team of agronomists, entomologists, agroecologists, horticulturists and biogeochemists from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.”As society places increasing demands on agricultural land beyond food production to include ecosystem services, we needed a new way to evaluate ‘success’ in agriculture,” said Jason Kaye, professor of biogeochemistry. “This research presents a framework for considering a suite of ecosystem services that could be derived from agricultural land, and how cover crops affect that suite of services.”Cover cropping is one of the most rapidly growing soil and water conservation strategies in the Chesapeake Bay region and one we are really counting on for future improvements in water quality in the bay. Our analysis shows how the effort to improve water quality with cover crops will affect other ecosystem services that we expect from agricultural land.”The research, published in the March issue of Agricultural Systems, quantified the benefits offered by cover crops across more than 10 ecosystem services. Benefits included increased carbon and nitrogen in soils, erosion prevention, more mycorrhizal colonization — beneficial soil fungus that helps plants absorb nutrients — and weed suppression.Lead researcher Meagan Schipanski explained that commonly used measurements of ecosystem services can be misleading due to the episodic nature of some services and the time sensitivity of management windows.”For example, nutrient-retention benefits occur primarily during cover crop growth, weed-suppression benefits occur during cash-crop growth through a cover crop legacy effect, and soil-carbon benefits accrue slowly over decades,” she said. “By integrating a suite of ecosystem services into a unified analytical framework, we highlighted the potential for cover crops to influence a wide array of ecosystem services. We estimated that cover crops increased eight of 11 ecosystem services. In addition, we demonstrated the importance of considering temporal dynamics when assessing management system effects on ecosystem services.”Trade-offs occurred between economic metrics and environmental benefits, said Schipanski, who was a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State when she led the cover crop study. Now an assistant professor in the department of soil and crop sciences at Colorado State University, she noted that the planting of cover crops will become more attractive if fertilizer prices rise or if modest cost-sharing programs like the one currently in place in Maryland are developed.Researchers simulated a three-year, soybean-wheat-corn rotation with and without cover crops in central Pennsylvania, which presented agroecological conditions broadly representative of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. The cover crop rotation included red clover, frost-seeded into winter wheat in March, and winter rye, planted after corn was harvested in the fall. The research, funded by the U.S. …

Read more

New approach makes cancer cells explode

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have discovered that a substance called Vacquinol-1 makes cells from glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain tumour, literally explode. When mice were given the substance, which can be given in tablet form, tumour growth was reversed and survival was prolonged. The findings are published in the journal Cell.The established treatments that are available for glioblastoma include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. But even if this treatment is given the average survival is just 15 months. It is therefore critical to find better treatments for malignant brain tumours.Researchers at Karolinska Institutet and colleagues at Uppsala University have discovered an entirely new mechanism to kill tumour cells in glioblastoma. Researchers in an initial stage have exposed tumour cells to a wide range of molecules. If the cancer cells died, the molecule was considered of interest for further studies, which initially applied to over 200 kinds of molecules. Following extensive studies, a single molecule has been identified as being of particular interest. The researchers wanted to find out why it caused cancer cell death.It was found that the molecule gave the cancer cells an uncontrolled vacuolization, a process in which the cell carries substances from outside the cell into its interior. This carrying process is made via the vacuoles, which can roughly be described as blisters or bags consisting of cell membranes. …

Read more

Amazon inhales more carbon than it emits, NASA finds

A new NASA-led study seven years in the making has confirmed that natural forests in the Amazon remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit, therefore reducing global warming. This finding resolves a long-standing debate about a key component of the overall carbon balance of the Amazon basin.The Amazon’s carbon balance is a matter of life and death: living trees take carbon dioxide out of the air as they grow, and dead trees put the greenhouse gas back into the air as they decompose. The new study, published in Nature Communications on March 18, is the first to measure tree deaths caused by natural processes throughout the Amazon forest, even in remote areas where no data have been collected at ground level.Fernando Esprito-Santo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., lead author of the study, created new techniques to analyze satellite and other data. He found that each year, dead Amazonian trees emit an estimated 1.9 billion tons (1.7 billion metric tons) of carbon to the atmosphere. To compare this with Amazon carbon absorption, the researchers used censuses of forest growth and different modeling scenarios that accounted for uncertainties. In every scenario, carbon absorption by living trees outweighed emissions from the dead ones, indicating that the prevailing effect in natural forests of the Amazon is absorption.Until now, scientists had only been able to estimate the Amazon’s carbon balance from limited observations in small forest areas called plots. On these plots, the forest removes more carbon than it emits, but the scientific community has been vigorously debating how well the plots represent all the natural processes in the huge Amazon region. That debate began with the discovery in the 1990s that large areas of the forest can be killed off by intense storms in events called blowdowns.Esprito-Santo said that the idea for the study arose from a 2006 workshop where scientists from several nations came together to identify NASA satellite instruments that might help them better understand the carbon cycle of the Amazon. In the years since then, he worked with 21 coauthors in five nations to measure the carbon impacts of tree deaths in the Amazon from all natural causes — from large-area blowdowns to single trees that died of old age. He used airborne lidar data, satellite images, and a 10-year set of plot measurements collected by the University of Leeds, England, under the leadership of Emanuel Gloor and Oliver Phillips. …

Read more

Bees capable of learning feats with tasty prize in sight

They may have tiny brains, but bumblebees are capable of some remarkable learning feats, especially when they might get a tasty reward, according to two studies by University of Guelph researchers.PhD student Hamida Mirwan and Prof. Peter Kevan, School of Environmental Sciences, are studying bees’ ability to learn by themselves and from each other.In the first study, published in February in Animal Cognition, the researchers found bees capable of learning to solve increasingly complex problems.The researchers presented bees with a series of artificial flowers that required ever-more challenging strategies, such as moving objects aside or upwards, to gain a sugar syrup reward.When inexperienced bees encountered the most complex flower first, they were unable to access the syrup reward and stopped trying. Bees allowed to progress through increasingly complex flowers were able to navigate the most difficult ones.”Bees with experience are able to solve new problems that they encounter, while bees with no experience just give up,” said Mirwan.She and Kevan consider the study an example of scaffold learning, a concept normally restricted to human psychology in which learners move through increasingly complex steps.In a second study recently published in Psyche,the researchers found bees learned by watching and communicating with other bees, a process called social learning.Mirwan made artificial flowers requiring the bees to walk on the underside of a disk to get a sugar syrup reward. These experienced bees foraged on the artificial flowers for several days until they became accustomed to feeding at them.To see whether other bees could learn from the experienced foragers, Mirwan confined inexperienced bees in a mesh container near the artificial flowers where they could observe the experienced bees. When the nave bees were allowed to forage on the artificial flowers, they took just 70 seconds to get the reward.Control bees that had not observed the experienced bees could not access the syrup.”Social learning in animals usually involves one individual observing and imitating another, although other kinds of communication can also be involved,” said Mirwan.”They could try for up to 30 minutes, but most gave up before then.”In a final test, Mirwan placed experienced bees in a hive with naive bees. When the naive bees were allowed to forage on the artificial flowers, they gained the syrup in just 3.5 minutes.Behavioural scientists usually assume that observation and imitation are at the heart of social learning, but social insects such as bees can also transmit information through touch, vibration and smell.The researchers said the communication method used by the bees is still a mystery.”We can’t quite explain how bees that had never even seen an artificial flower were able to become adept so quickly at foraging on them, but clearly some in-hive communication took place,” said Kevan.”It suggests that social learning in bumblebees is even more complex than we first expected.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Guelph. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Flexible electronics: Flexible carbon nanotube circuits more reliable and power efficient

Engineers would love to create flexible electronic devices, such as e-readers that could be folded to fit into a pocket. One approach they are trying involves designing circuits based on electronic fibers, known as carbon nanotubes (CNTs), instead of rigid silicon chips.But reliability is essential. Most silicon chips are based on a type of circuit design that allows them to function flawlessly even when the device experiences power fluctuations. However, it is much more challenging to do so with CNT circuits.Now a team at Stanford has developed a process to create flexible chips that can tolerate power fluctuations in much the same way as silicon circuitry.”This is the first time anyone has designed a flexible CNT circuits that have both high immunity to electrical noise and low power consumption, ” said Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford with a courtesy appointment in Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering.The group reported its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Huiliang (Evan) Wang, a graduate student in Bao’s lab, and Peng Wei, a previous postdoc in Bao’s lab, were the lead authors of the paper. Bao’s team also included Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science at Stanford, and Hye Ryoung Lee, a graduate student in his lab.In principle, CNTs should be ideal for making flexible electronic circuitry. These ultra thin carbon filaments have the physical strength to take the wear and tear of bending, and the electrical conductivity to perform any electronic task.But until this recent work from the Stanford team, flexible CNTs circuits didn’t have the reliability and power-efficiency of rigid silicon chips.Here’s the reason. Over time, engineers have discovered that electricity can travel through semiconductors in two different ways. It can jump from positive hole to positive hole, or it can push through a bunch of negative electronic like a beaded necklace. The first type of semiconductor is called a P-type, the second is called and N-type.Most importantly, engineers discovered that circuits based on a combination of P-type and N-type transistors perform reliably even when power fluctuations occur, and they also consume much less power. …

Read more

Serpentine ecosystems shed light on nature of plant adaptation, speciation

Plants that live in unusual soils, such as those that are extremely low in essential nutrients, provide insight into the mechanisms of adaptation, natural selection, and endemism. A seminal paper by Arthur Kruckeberg from 1951 on serpentine plant endemism has served as a solid bedrock foundation for future research on the link between natural selection and speciation. A recent article in the American Journal of Botany focuses on how this paper has influenced subsequent research on local adaptation, evolutionary pathways, and the relationship between climate, soils, and endemism.In the latest in a series of AJB Centennial Review papers, AJB Anacker (University of California, Davis) examines the impact that Kruckeberg’s 1951 AJB paper has had on our subsequent understanding of plant evolution and ecology.Kruckeberg’s classic paper reported on reciprocal transplant experiments, in which he made several generalizations about plant competition, local adaptation, and speciation. Kruckeberg showed that the strong selective pressures of serpentine soils — characterized by low amounts of essential nutrients and water, and high in heavy metals — can lead to the formation of soil ecotypes (genetically distinct plant varieties), representing a possible first step in the evolution of serpentine endemism (e.g., plants that are only found on serpentine type soils). These important initial findings spurred subsequent research on determining plant traits (from molecular to organismal) that underlie serpentine adaptation.Anacker draws attention to a second significant contribution of Kruckeberg’s paper — researching the historic origins of endemic species, such as those found in serpentine soils. Anacker explains that endemic species are thought to originate in two ways: neoendemics are species that have formed relatively recently via nearby progenitor taxa, and paleoendemics are species that formed following habitat-specific population extirpation. Kruckeberg viewed serpentine ecotypes as representing the first step along the path of paleoendemism. While this stimulated much research in this area, Anacker points out that several serpentine endemics appear to have arisen from nearby progenitor taxa, and thus the neoendemic pathway is also likely important.Interestingly, Kruckeberg’s experiments also showed that many serpentine ecotypes actually performed better on the non-serpentine soils than on serpentine soils, which begs the question of why serpentine-adapted plants are not also found on non-serpentine soils. Anacker points out that Kruckeberg was one of the first to indicate that competition may play a key role in serpentine specialization. He also highlights recent research indicating that serpentine species are typically slow-growing stress tolerators rather than fast-growing competitive dominants, and their adaptations for being more drought-tolerant puts them at a disadvantage in soils where water and nutrients are not limiting.While serpentine ecosystems are special and unique environments, Kruckeberg and subsequent researchers have shown how important these systems are for shedding light on broader aspects of plant ecology and evolution.The 1951 paper can be accessed online at: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2438248?uid=3739448&uid=2&uid=3737720&uid=4&sid=21103728973903Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American Journal of Botany. …

Read more

Do elephants call ‘human!’? Low rumble alarm call in response to the sound of human voices

African elephants make a specific alarm call in response to the danger of humans, according to a new study of wild elephants in Kenya.Researchers from Oxford University, Save the Elephants, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom carried out a series of audio experiments in which recordings of the voices of the Samburu, a local tribe from North Kenya, were played to resting elephants. The elephants quickly reacted, becoming more vigilant and running away from the sound whilst emitting a distinctive low rumble.When the team, having recorded this rumble, played it back to a group of elephants they reacted in a similar way to the sound of the Samburu voices; running away and becoming very vigilant, perhaps searching for the potentially lethal threat of human hunters.The new research, recently reported in PLOS ONE, builds on previous Oxford University research showing that elephants call ‘bee-ware’ and run away from the sound of angry bees. Whilst the ‘bee’ and ‘human’ rumbling alarm calls might sound similar to our ears there are important differences at low (infrasonic) frequencies that elephants can hear but humans can’t.’Elephants appear to be able to manipulate their vocal tract (mouth, tongue, trunk and so on) to shape the sounds of their rumbles to make different alarm calls,’ said Dr Lucy King of Save the Elephants and Oxford University who led the study with Dr Joseph Soltis, a bioacoustics expert from Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and colleagues.’We concede the possibility that these alarm calls are simply a by-product of elephants running away, that is, just an emotional response to the threat that other elephants pick up on,’ Lucy tells me. ‘On the other hand, we think it is also possible that the rumble alarms are akin to words in human language, and that elephants voluntarily and purposefully make those alarm calls to warn others about specific threats. Our research results here show that African elephant alarm calls can differentiate between two types of threat and reflect the level of urgency of that threat.’Elephant ‘human’ alarm call rumbleSignificantly, the reaction to the human alarm call included none of the head-shaking behaviour displayed by elephants hearing the bee alarm. When threatened by bees elephants shake their heads in an effort to knock the insects away as well as running — despite their thick hides adult elephants can be stung around their eyes or up their trunks, whilst calves could potentially be killed by a swarm of stinging bees as they have yet to develop a thick protective skin.Lucy explains: ‘Interestingly, the acoustic analysis done by Joseph Soltis at his Disney laboratory showed that the difference between the ”bee alarm rumble” and the ”human alarm rumble” is the same as a vowel-change in human language, which can change the meaning of words (think of ”boo” and ”bee”). Elephants use similar vowel-like changes in their rumbles to differentiate the type of threat they experience, and so give specific warnings to other elephants who can decipher the sounds.’This collaborative research on how elephants react to and communicate about honeybees and humans is being used to reduce human-elephant conflict in Kenya. Armed with the knowledge that elephants are afraid of bees, Lucy and Save the Elephants have built scores of ‘beehive fences’ around local farms that protect precious fields from crop-raiding elephants.’In this way, local farmers can protect their families and livelihoods without direct conflict with elephants, and they can harvest the honey too for extra income,’ says Lucy. ‘Learning more about how elephants react to threats such as bees and humans will help us design strategies to reduce human-elephant conflict and protect people and elephants.’Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. The original article was written by Pete Wilton. …

Read more

Fish species unique to Hawaii dominate deep coral reefs in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Deep coral reefs in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (PMNM) may contain the highest percentage of fish species found nowhere else on Earth, according to a study by NOAA scientists published in the Bulletin of Marine Science. Part of the largest protected area in the United States, the islands, atolls and submerged habitats of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) harbor unprecedented levels of biological diversity, underscoring the value in protecting this area, scientists said.Hawaii is known for its high abundance of endemic species — that is, species not found anywhere else on Earth. Previous studies, based on scuba surveys in water less than 100 feet, determined that on average 21 percent of coral reef fish species in Hawaii are unique to the Hawaiian Archipelago.However, in waters 100 to 300 feet deep, nearly 50 percent of the fish scientists observed over a two-year period in the monument were unique to Hawaii, a level higher than any other marine ecosystem in the world. The study also found that on some of PMNM’s deeper reefs, more than 90 percent of fish were unique to the region. These habitats can only be accessed by highly trained divers using advanced technical diving methods.”The richness of unique species in the NWHI validates the need to protect this area with the highest conservation measures available,” said Randy Kosaki, PMNM’s deputy superintendent and co-author of the study. “These findings also highlight the need for further survey work on the monument’s deeper reefs, ecosystems that remain largely unexplored.”Data for the study was collected during two research expeditions to the NWHI aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai in the summers of 2010 and 2012. Some of the unique fish species that were observed include: Redtail Wrasse (Anampses chrysocephalus), Thompson’s Anthias (Pseudanthias thompsoni), Potter’s Angelfish (Centropyge potteri), Hawaiian Squirrelfish (Sargocentron xantherythrum), Chocolate Dip Chromis (Chromis hanui), Masked Angelfish (Genicanthus personatus), and Blueline Butterflyfish (Chaetodon fremblii).Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by NOAA Headquarters. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Older adults: Build muscle and you’ll live longer

New UCLA research suggests that the more muscle mass older Americans have, the less likely they are to die prematurely. The findings add to the growing evidence that overall body composition — and not the widely used body mass index, or BMI — is a better predictor of all-cause mortality.The study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, is the culmination of previous UCLA research led by Dr. Preethi Srikanthan, an assistant clinical professor in the endocrinology division at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, that found that building muscle mass is important in decreasing metabolic risk.”As there is no gold-standard measure of body composition, several studies have addressed this question using different measurement techniques and have obtained different results,” Srikanthan said. “So many studies on the mortality impact of obesity focus on BMI. Our study indicates that clinicians need to be focusing on ways to improve body composition, rather than on BMI alone, when counseling older adults on preventative health behaviors.”The researchers analyzed data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III, conducted between 1988 and 1994. They focused on a group of 3,659 individuals that included men who were 55 or older and women who were 65 or older at the time of the survey. The authors then determined how many of those individuals had died from natural causes based on a follow-up survey done in 2004.The body composition of the study subjects was measured using bioelectrical impedance, which involves running an electrical current through the body. Muscle allows the current to pass more easily than fat does, due to muscle’s water content. In this way, the researchers could determine a muscle mass index — the amount of muscle relative to height — similar to a body mass index. They looked at how this muscle mass index was related to the risk of death. …

Read more

Healthy eating may reduce the risk of preterm delivery

In the study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sahlgrenska University Hospital and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the participants completed a scientifically evaluated questionnaire about what they had been eating and drinking since becoming pregnant.The researchers also had access to information about the women’s general lifestyle e.g. level of education, living conditions, income, weight, physical activity, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, number of children and medical factors such as history of preterm delivery.15% lower riskThe results show that the group of women with the ‘healthiest’ pregnancy diet had a roughly 15% lower risk of preterm delivery compared with those with the most unhealthy diet. The correlation remained after controlling for ten other known risk factors for preterm delivery.’Pregnant women have many reasons to choose a healthy diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grain products and some types of fish, but this is the first time we can statistically link healthy eating habits to reduced risk of preterm delivery,’ says Linda Englund-gge, researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.Associated with complicationsPreterm delivery, defined as spontaneous or induced delivery before the end of gestational week 37, can be associated with acute and long-term complications and is a major problem in modern maternity care. Measures to prevent preterm delivery are therefore of high priority.Should this lead to revised dietary recommendations for pregnant women?’No, and it is not harmful to occasionally eat something unhealthy. But our study shows that the dietary recommendations given to pregnant women are important,’ says Englund-gge:’Dietary studies can be very complex. Any given food item may contain a wide range of substances and is usually consumed together with other foods. This makes it difficult to find out its exact effects of one single food. We show that there is a statistically established link between a healthy diet and reduced risk of preterm delivery, but our study wasn’t designed to identify any underlying mechanisms.Encourage healthy eating habitsEnglund-gge says that studies of the overall dietary pattern and the total quality of the foods consumed are important complements to coming studies of how single food items affect the risk of preterm delivery. The researchers are hoping that the study will inspire doctors, midwives and others who work with pregnant women to encourage healthy eating habits.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Gothenburg. The original article was written by Krister Svahn. …

Read more

Combined use of oxytocin and human chorionic gonadotropin in intractable pain patients

Two hormones credited with reducing pain and need for opioid analgesics when released naturally during pregnancy and childbirth worked similarly when administered simultaneously to patients with intractable pain, research shows.Following doses of oxytocin (OT) and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), 7 of 9 patients reported a 30% to 40% reduction in opioid use and baseline pain, in results reported today at the 30th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. In addition, the patients reported less intense pain flares, which are sudden exacerbations of pain that occur against a background of persistent pain, and longer periods between flares.Study author Forest Tennant, MD, said side effects were remarkably few, probably because the hormones are natural, bio-identical compounds. Dr. Tennant is an internist and addictionologist who specializes in research and treatment of intractable pain at the Veract Intractable Pain Clinics he founded in West Covina, Calif.”The benefit that these patients mostly talk about is somewhat subjective but relates to what patients routinely call a ‘feeling of well-being,’ ‘more alive,’ or [increasing] ‘will to live,” Dr. Tennant said. “They also believe the combination is one they want to continue.”Sometimes referred to as the “bonding hormone,” OT exerts powerful action in the neuroanatomy of intimacy and also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. HCG supports the development of the fetus during pregnancy among other roles.Both hormones surge during and after childbirth, and pregnant women have frequently exhibited reduced pain and need for opioids. Dr. Tennant has conducted previous small open-label studies that confirmed a similar effect for both hormones when administered separately in patients who suffer from intractable pain. However, no one had tested the effect of administering both hormones simultaneously until now.The study, which was cleared by the facility’s Institutional Review Board, included 9 patients with intractable pain who were being maintained on 1 or more long- and short-acting opioids. …

Read more

New class of antibiotics discovered by chemists

A team of University of Notre Dame researchers led by Mayland Chang and Shahriar Mobashery have discovered a new class of antibiotics to fight bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other drug-resistant bacteria that threaten public health. Their research is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in an article titled “Discovery of a New Class of Non-beta-lactam Inhibitors of Penicillin-Binding Proteins with Gram-Positive Antibacterial Activity.”The new class, called oxadiazoles, was discovered in silico (by computer) screening and has shown promise in the treatment of MRSA in mouse models of infection. Researchers who screened 1.2 million compounds found that the oxadiazole inhibits a penicillin-binding protein, PBP2a, and the biosynthesis of the cell wall that enables MRSA to resist other drugs. The oxadiazoles are also effective when taken orally. This is an important feature as there is only one marketed antibiotic for MRSA that can be taken orally.MRSA has become a global public-health problem since the 1960s because of its resistance to antibiotics. In the United States alone, 278,000 people are hospitalized and 19,000 die each year from infections caused by MRSA. Only three drugs currently are effective treatments, and resistance to each of those drugs already exists.The researchers have been seeking a solution to MRSA for years. “Professor Mobashery has been working on the mechanisms of resistance in MRSA for a very long time,” Chang said. “As we understand what the mechanisms are, we can devise strategies to develop compounds against MRSA.””Mayland Chang and Shahriar Mobashery’s discovery of a class of compounds that combat drug resistant bacteria such as MRSA could save thousands of lives around the world. We are grateful for their leadership and persistence in fighting drug resistance,” said Greg Crawford, dean of the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Notre Dame. …

Read more

Warmer temperatures push malaria to higher elevations

Researchers have debated for more than two decades the likely impacts, if any, of global warming on the worldwide incidence of malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that infects more than 300 million people each year.Now, University of Michigan ecologists and their colleagues are reporting the first hard evidence that malaria does — as had long been predicted — creep to higher elevations during warmer years and back down to lower altitudes when temperatures cool.The study, based on an analysis of records from highland regions of Ethiopia and Colombia, suggests that future climate warming will result in a significant increase in malaria cases in densely populated regions of Africa and South America, unless disease monitoring and control efforts are boosted and sustained.”We saw an upward expansion of malaria cases to higher altitudes in warmer years, which is a clear signal of a response by highland malaria to changes in climate,” said U-M theoretical ecologist Mercedes Pascual, senior author of a paper scheduled for online publication in Science on March 6.”This is indisputable evidence of a climate effect,” said Pascual, the Rosemary Grant Collegiate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. “The main implication is that with warmer temperatures, we expect to see a higher number of people exposed to the risk of malaria in tropical highland areas like these.”More than 20 years ago, malaria was identified as a disease expected to be especially sensitive to climate change, because both the Plasmodium parasites that cause it and the Anopheles mosquitoes that spread it thrive as temperatures warm.Some early studies concluded that climate change would lead to a big increase in malaria cases as the disease expanded its range into higher elevations, but some of the assumptions behind those predictions were later criticized. More recently, some researchers have argued that improved socioeconomic conditions and more aggressive mosquito-control efforts will likely exert a far greater influence over the extent and intensity of malaria worldwide than climatic factors.What’s been missing in this debate has been an analysis of regional records with sufficient resolution to determine how the spatial distribution of malaria cases has changed in response to year-to-year temperature variations, especially in countries of East Africa and South America with densely populated highlands that have historically provided havens from the disease.Pascual and her colleagues looked for evidence of a changing spatial distribution of malaria with varying temperature in the highlands of Ethiopia and Colombia. They examined malaria case records from the Antioquia region of western Colombia from 1990 to 2005 and from the Debre Zeit area of central Ethiopia from 1993 to 2005.By focusing solely on the altitudinal response to year-to-year temperature changes, they were able to exclude other variables that can influence malaria case numbers, such as mosquito-control programs, resistance to anti-malarial drugs and fluctuations in rainfall amounts.They found that the median altitude of malaria cases shifted to higher elevations in warmer years and back to lower elevations in cooler years. The relatively simple analysis yielded a clear, unambiguous signal that can only be explained by temperature changes, they said.”Our latest research suggests that with progressive global warming, malaria will creep up the mountains and spread to new high-altitude areas. And because these populations lack protective immunity, they will be particularly vulnerable to severe morbidity and mortality,” said co-author Menno Bouma, honorary senior clinical lecturer at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.In addition, the study results suggest that climate change can explain malaria trends in both the highland regions in recent decades.In the Debre Zeit region of Ethiopia, at an elevation range of between 5,280 feet and 7,920 feet, about 37 million people (roughly 43 percent of the country’s population) live in rural areas at risk of higher malaria exposure under a warming climate.In a previous study, the researchers estimated that a 1 degree Celsius temperature increase could result in an additional 3 million malaria cases annually in Ethiopia in the under-15 population, unless control efforts are strengthened.”Our findings here underscore the size of the problem and emphasize the need for sustained intervention efforts in these regions, especially in Africa,” Pascual said.

Read more

Utilizzando il sito, accetti l'utilizzo dei cookie da parte nostra. maggiori informazioni

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close