4-30-15 US 'will not fund research for modifying embryo DNA'
US 'will not fund research for modifying embryo DNA'
Modifying the DNA of embryos is a "line that should not be crossed", a leading figure in US research says. Dr Francis Collins, National Institutes of Health director, was responding to reports that the first embryos had been modified in China. He argued there were "serious and unquantifiable safety issues", big ethical questions and no compelling medical reason to do it. He said the NIH would not fund such research in the US. The advent of "Crispr technology" - which is a more precise way of editing DNA than anything that has come before - has spurred huge progress in genetics. But there had been growing concern these tremendous advances were making the modification of human embryos more likely. (Webmaster's comment: Preventing the use of human knowledge has never worked in the past, and it won't work now.)
4-29-15 Human gene editing has arrived – here's why it matters
Human gene editing has arrived – here's why it matters
It's becoming possible to edit our genes to treat and prevent conditions like HIV and sickle cell disease or, more controversially, create designer babies. GENE editing is here. The first work attempting to edit human embryos grabbed headlines last week. And another study showed how gene editing might prevent children inheriting disease. It could be decades before it is safe to snip out and replace stretches of DNA to genetically engineer babies – even if it is deemed ethically acceptable. But the approach is already being tested for treating disease in adults and could soon be used to treat a wide range of disorders.
4-29-15 s dinosaur had wings like a bat, but did it fly like one?
s dinosaur had wings like a bat, but did it fly like one?
A fossil from China may have had unique membrane-like wings to glide or even fly, suggesting dinosaurs dabbled in flight before evolving into birds.
4-28-15 Antarctica's Blood Falls are a sign of life below ground
Antarctica's Blood Falls are a sign of life below ground
A vast underground network of aquifers storing water – and potentially teeming with microbes - may be linked to Antarctica's bleeding glacier. The iron in the water – which oxidises to give the falls their vivid red colour – comes from the weathering of the bedrock beneath the ice, a process enhanced by microbial action.
4-25-15 The first complex life on Earth got eaten to extinction
The first complex life on Earth got eaten to extinction
Fossil evidence suggests it wasn't climate change that killed off the enigmatic Ediacarans, Earth's first complex life, but competition from Cambrian life forms. Strange and largely immobile organisms made of tubes were the first complex life on Earth. Appearing 579 million years ago, they thrived on the seafloor for some 37 million years, then vanished. New fossil evidence from Namibia suggests that the Ediacarans had their world turned upside by an explosion of life forms at the beginning of the Cambrian period 541 million years ago. Some of these may have evolved to eat their enigmatic predecessors and to bioengineer the environment in ways that left little hope for the passive Ediacarans.
4-23-15 Mammoth genome sequence completed
Mammoth genome sequence completed
Swedish scientists have decoded the DNA of woolly mammoths raising the possibility of recreating the now extinct creatures. An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. A US team is already attempting to study the animals' characteristics by inserting mammoth genes into elephant stem cells. They want to find out what made the mammoths different from their modern relatives and how their adaptations helped them survive the ice ages.
4-22-15 Caribbean super-rat history extracted from DNA
Caribbean super-rat history extracted from DNA
Scientists have pieced together the evolutionary history of a fascinating group of extinct Caribbean rats, some of which grew to the size of cats. The diversity of this group of rodents had been greatly underappreciated. They were driven to oblivion by the activities of European settlers.
4-21-15 New mass extinction event proposed by geologists
New mass extinction event proposed by geologists
Over the past 450 million years, life on Earth has been devastated by five mass extinction events that are widely recognized by geologists. Now, an international team of researchers proposes adding a sixth mass extinction to the list. The team believes it has accumulated sufficient evidence to promote the Capitanian event to the rank of mass extinction. The extinction occurred approximately 262 million years ago.
4-20-15 New species of lizards, bats and plants are discoverd
New species of lizards, bats and plants are discoverd
An expedition to a wildlife haven on Papua New Guinea islands covers new species of frogs, bats, lizards and plants. (Webmaster's comment: Evolution is at work all the time filling all environmental niches with life forms best adapted for those enviroments.)
4-20-15 Patrick Matthew: The first natural selection proponent
Patrick Matthew: The first natural selection proponent
Horticulturist Patrick Matthew developed a concept of evolution by natural selection that pre-dates Charles Darwin's by 27 years. King's College London geneticist Michael Weale suggests Matthew should be given more recognition for his work.
4-16-15 Dogs tap into human bonding system to get close to our hearts
Dogs tap into human bonding system to get close to our hearts
Exchanging gazes with dogs boosts levels of a bonding hormone in both them and us, suggesting they evolved to hijack a uniquely human way of bonding. Knock-on chemical and behavioural effects occur when humans bond: eye contact leads to release of the "love hormone" oxytocin, which elicits caring behaviour, and this in turn causes the release of more oxytocin. This loop has been shown to be important for human bonding, for example between mothers and their children. But when she and her colleagues got a bunch of dog owners to gaze into their pets' eyes, they found that oxytocin levels rose not just in the humans – but in the pooches too.
4-16-15 Dogs bond with humans like babies
Dogs bond with humans like babies
Gazing into a dog's eyes can stimulate the same bonding process that occurs between mother and child. Eye contact between a mother and her baby strengthens their attachment by activating the so-called 'love hormone' – oxytocin – in the mother’s brain. This drives emotional bonding between parent and offspring by encouraging both nurturing and interactive behaviours. Studies have shown that stroking or making eye contact with a dog can trigger a similar release of oxytocin in a human’s brain.
4-15-15 Women may have pioneered hunting with weapons
Women may have pioneered hunting with weapons
Most chimps that use jabbing weapons to hunt prey are female, a pattern of behaviour that may also have been true of the first humans. Women could have been the first humans to use weapons to hunt. An analysis of spear-wielding chimps, most of which are females, suggests the idea may not be as eccentric as it might sound.
4-13-15 Your own personal placebo: Genes reveal response to sugar pill
Your own personal placebo: Genes reveal response to sugar pill
There are tremendous differences in the placebo effect between individuals, says Kathryn Hall of Harvard Medical School. "It can vary from no measurable response to someone getting significantly better." Having drawn together all the studies carried out so far, Hall says there is reasonable evidence for at least 11 genes that influence a person's susceptibility.
4-13-15 Are there some animals that have stopped evolving?
Are there some animals that have stopped evolving?
Some modern animals look just like their long-extinct ancestors. Have these "living fossils" really not changed in millions of years? (Webmaster's comment: If an animal has succesfully adapted such that it survives and breeds successfully regardless of the changing environments, what evolutionary pressure is there to change what works so well?
4-10-15 Did neurons evolve more than once on Earth?
Did neurons evolve more than once on Earth?
TRANSLUCENT comb jellies are some of the most primitive animals on Earth, yet they have remarkable nervous systems. Controversial data discussed at a meeting in London last month proposes that their neurons are unlike any others on Earth. This could be evidence that neurons evolved more than once in the history of animal life.
4-9-15 Acidic oceans helped fuel extinction
Acidic oceans helped fuel extinction
Acidic oceans helped fuel the biggest mass extinction in the history of life on Earth, a study says. Two separate pulses of CO2 into the atmosphere - a "one-two punch" - may have helped fuel the die-off, new research suggests. Changes to ocean acidity would have been one of the consequences, according to the study in Science journal. Computer models suggested that this CO2 may have been released by massive bouts of volcanism from the Siberian Traps, now represented as a large region of volcanic rock in northern Eurasia. The Permian-Triassic mass extinction, which took place 252 million years ago, wiped out more than 90% of marine species and more than two-thirds of the animals living on land. The event is thought to have played out over a 60,000-year period and acidification of the oceans lasted for about 10,000 years.
4-9-15 Extreme inbreeding is no big deal for mountain gorillas
Extreme inbreeding is no big deal for mountain gorillas
The most endangered gorillas seem to have been interbreeding for thousands of years, and they've purged themselves of potentially fatal mutations.
4-9-15 Sparks of consciousness mapped in most detail yet
Sparks of consciousness mapped in most detail yet
The hallmark of consciousness is a stable response to sensory input – a detailed look at this signature could be used to gauge a person's level of awareness. HOLD that thought. When it comes to consciousness, the brain may be doing just that. It now seems that conscious perception requires brain activity to hold steady for hundreds of milliseconds. This signature in the pattern of brainwaves can be used to distinguish between levels of impaired consciousness in people with brain injury.
4-8-15 Sexy men make others take bigger risks with money
Sexy men make others take bigger risks with money
Watch out. Men might be tricked into taking risky bets when they are shown images of men they view as more attractive than themselves.
4-8-15 Life below Antarctic ice survives on ancient forests
Life below Antarctic ice survives on ancient forests
The fossils of marine organisms and Antarctica's former forests are today supporting the extreme microbial community of a subglacial lake.
4-8-15 Cave crustaceans 'losing visual brain'
Cave crustaceans 'losing visual brain'
A study of blind crustaceans living in deep, dark caves has revealed that evolution is rapidly withering the visual parts of their brain.
4-6-15 Development of chins linked to cooking
Development of chins linked to cooking
Researchers have been trying to work out why humans appear to be the only mammals with chins and now think it may be down to the fact that humans started cooking food. Dr James Pampush, from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Florida, says he couldn't link it with any natural selection and thinks it is connected to teeth shrinking as our early ancestors started cooking food and large teeth were no longer needed.
Animal Facts: Humans have 5 million olfactory receptors, dogs have 220 million, 44 times more than humans. Dogs literally "see" the world through their nose.
Dolphins communicate, and see the world using echolocation, with frequencies up to 150,000 hertz. We are limited to 22,000 hertz. We can not hear them talk, we can not image what they see. They can "see" (echolocate) a tennis ball a football field away in murky water. A task hard for many of us even in clean air. (Webmaster's comment: Animals adapt in ways (evolve abilities) that would best help them survive and breed. In the case of dogs it's the sense of smell. In dolphins it's sensing and using sound. A dolphin has a larger brain than a human. It's thought that a lot of that "extra" brain size is needed to process echolocation signals so that the animal can "see" using them.)