Scientists may have just found the chemical "missing link" for the origins of life on Earth

November 7, 2017 by  
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In attempting to recreate the conditions of Earth circa billions of years ago, a research team may have uncovered a key “missing link” in our knowledge of the origin of life on Earth. The discovery of diamidophosphate (DAP), a compound that may have been present in early Earth, is an exciting step forward in understanding how early life emerged from various ingredients and conditions. “It reminds me of the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, who waves a wand and ‘poof,’ ‘poof,’ ‘poof,’ everything simple is transformed into something more complex and interesting,” said Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy , senior author of the study published in  Nature Chemistry  and chemist at the Scripps Research Institute in California. The key to DAP’s “magic” is its ability to facilitate a process called phosphorylation, an essential process in the function of chemicals from neurotransmitters to proteins , and the linking of a particular compound with a phosphate. This process is very common in biochemistry and enables proteins, neurotransmitters and countless other chemicals to function within organic systems. To determine DAP’s fitness to facilitate the origins of life, the team checked DAP’s ability to phosphorylate with several crucial organic compounds. These included RNA, which is essential for the decoding and messaging of genetic information as well as protein synthesis, fatty acids, which make up cell membranes, and amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Related: Researchers shocked to discover protein that conducts electricity All of the tested organic chemicals, when mixed with water and an additional chemical thought to be found on early Earth, successfully reacted with the DAP. While scientists lack the ability to truly know what early Earth was like, or whether the origin of life involved DAP, these experiments show one feasible path through which life could have developed. Via Newsweek Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Scientists may have just found the chemical "missing link" for the origins of life on Earth

Wolves return to Rome’s periphery for the first time in 100 years

September 26, 2017 by  
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The wolf , an animal that has served as a symbol of Rome since ancient times, has returned to the historic Italian city for the first time in a century. The alpha predators were recently sighted in a nature preserve at Castel di Guido, only a short distance from Leonardo DiVinci international airport and the perimeter highway encircling the capital of Italy. Scientists estimate that there are at least four wolves, two cubs and two adults, that reside in the area. According to Roman mythology, Romulus, Rome’s founder, and his brother Remus were suckled by a female wolf in a cave after being abandoned on the Tiber River. This episode is represented throughout Roman iconography, including the seal for Rome’s soccer club, AS Roma. The return of this iconic species to Rome is welcomed by the locals. “We’re very pleased that they are back,” said Alessia De Lorenzis, a professor whose work involves tracking and documenting the wolf pack. Related: American Coywolf is a fascinating hybrid species with supercharged adaptation Wolves were originally hunted in Europe and North America, nearly to extinction, in part due to their predation of livestock animals. The modern wolves of Rome seem to pose little threat to livestock as an analysis of their feces has demonstrated that they rely almost entirely on a diet of wild boar, a plentiful animal in the region. In Italy, the killing of wolves was promoted until the 1970s, a time when the Italian wolf population had fallen to about 100 animals. Wolves received protected status in 1971 and the population has since recovered to about 1,500-2,000 individuals, with a particularly robust population in the mountainous region on the border of France . Via The Telegraph Images via  the Italian League for Bird Protection

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Wolves return to Rome’s periphery for the first time in 100 years

Beach plastic audit in the Philippines reveals which businesses are the worst polluters

September 26, 2017 by  
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1.88 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic litters the Philippines every year. Greenpeace Philippines and the #breakfreefromplastic group decided to clean up some of that junk at Freedom Island, and discern the businesses most responsible for the pollution . Nestlé topped the list, followed by Unilever and Indonesian company PT Torabika Mayora. The Philippines is the third worst polluter of Earth’s oceans , according to Greenpeace. They spent a week cleaning up the beach and performing an audit, which they said was the first one of its kind in the Philippines. There, the organizations picked up 54,260 pieces of trash. They found single-use items like plastic straws and bags, and trash like footwear and styrofoam. Related: Could France-sized ocean garbage patch become 196th nation? Most of the garbage included sachets, small plastic parcels used largely in developing countries allowing people with low-incomes to buy quality products . But the single-use sachets typically make their way into landfills and the ocean instead of being recycled . In order, these are the companies most responsible for plastic pollution at Freedom Island according to Greenpeace: Nestlé, Unilever, PT Torabika Mayora, Universal Robina Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Nutri-Asia, Monde Nissin, Zesto, Colgate Palmolive, and Liwayway. Greenpeace called for companies to rethink packaging and delivery practices. Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Abigail Aguilar said in a statement, “They could for instance practice extended producer responsibility where companies substitute non-reusable and non-recyclable products with new systems, such as refillables – prevention instead of end-of-pipe waste management …Citizens are burdened with the social and environmental impacts of plastic waste, rather than those that are responsible.” China is the worst ocean polluter. Greenpeace cited a study which found Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam join China and the Philippines in the top 10 countries with the most poorly managed plastic trash. All that garbage is costing them; the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation estimated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region, the cost to fishing , shipping, and tourism industries was $1.2 billion. + Greenpeace Philippines + #breakfreefromplastic + #plasticpolluters Images © Daniel Müller/Greenpeace

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Beach plastic audit in the Philippines reveals which businesses are the worst polluters

8-year-old’s fossil discovery reveals how turtles got their shells

July 20, 2016 by  
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If you ask most people to guess why turtles first developed shells, you’ll usually get one answer: the hard shells protect them from predators. That’s the theory scientists have been working with for decades, however a new study suggests everything we know about the evolution of the turtle is probably wrong — and it’s all thanks to a fossil discovered by one 8-year-old boy from South Africa. The study examines the remains of 47 different ancient proto-turtles from a species called Eunotosaurus africanus which had developed partial shells. One fossil in particular helped crack the case: a 6-inch-long specimen uncovered by 8-year-old Kobus Snyman. Compared to the other fossils in the collection, this 260-million-year-old specimen was remarkably complete, containing almost all of the skeleton, as well as the hands and feet of the ancient reptile. After discovering the fossil, the boy immediately turned it over to his local museum in Prince Albert, South Africa. It was this discovery that allowed scientists from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to finally understand the purpose of the proto-turtle’s broadened ribs and stiffened torso. It wasn’t for protection, as first thought: rather, these reptiles developed partial shells in order to more easily burrow underground. The modified ribcage gave these creatures a more stable base when digging. Related: Amphibious Ichthyosaur Fossil Found in China Fills Evolutionary “Missing Link” This explains one of the most enduring questions that’s puzzled researchers for decades: why would turtles evolve shells in the first place? While it’s true they offer protection, they also make the turtle much slower and make it more difficult for the animals to breathe. Most other species on the planet have maintained narrower, more flexible ribs for exactly these reasons. Now that scientists know the early versions of shells served a very specific purpose, the adaptation makes more sense. The full finding have been published in the journal Current Biology . + Denver Museum of Nature and Science Via LiveScience Images via the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

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8-year-old’s fossil discovery reveals how turtles got their shells

New research shows plants respond to touch

May 31, 2016 by  
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Researchers have long speculated about whether plants are capable of interacting with humans and each other. In one study, it emerged they sometimes ‘talk’ to each other through the soil. Now scientists from the University of Western Australia (UWA) have discovered an intriguing new aspect of plant life: they appear to respond to touch. There’s no visible sign that plants respond to touch, according to the scientists, who recently released their research in the journal Plant Physiology . Instead, the researchers noticed how plant genes expressed themselves differently after being sprayed with water. The gene changes happened minutes after they were sprayed and only lasted for around half an hour. The scientists determined there were no ‘ active compounds ‘ that might trigger a change; demonstrating that the plants changed in response to their external environment . Related: Researchers believe trees may have their own living Internet Gene changes in the plants happened not only when they were sprayed with water, but when humans touched them with fingers or tweezers and even when shade fell across them. Lead researcher Olivier Van Aken said it could happen naturally when it rains, when the wind blows, or when a bug skitters across a plant. Van Aken said , “Although people generally assume plants don’t feel when they are being touched, this shows that they are actually very sensitive to it and can redirect gene expression, defense, and potentially their metabolism because of it.” Why might plants respond this way? It appears they may be protecting themselves or even adapting to environmental conditions , such as increased water or light. Van Aken said , “Unlike animals, plants are unable to run away from harmful conditions. Instead, plants appear to have developed intricate stress defense systems to sense their environment and help them detect danger and respond appropriately. The findings may cause us to think differently about our interactions with the plants around us. While plants don’t appear to complain when we pinch a flower , step on them, or just brush by them while going for a walk, they are fully aware of this contact and are rapidly responding to our treatment of them.” Via Motherboard Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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New research shows plants respond to touch

Tree of Life redesigned to reflect thousands of new species

April 13, 2016 by  
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Bacteria fill the Earth, and a new scientific study reveals just how prevalent they are. Scientists led by biologist Laura Hug, who currently teaches at the University of Waterloo , mapped a new Tree of Life diagram that contradicts past images. The Tree of Life used to highlight our visible environment, including mainly animals and plants, but the new Tree of Life draws attention to the most massive invisible population on our globe: bacteria. Read the rest of Tree of Life redesigned to reflect thousands of new species

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Tree of Life redesigned to reflect thousands of new species

Blu Homes launches 16 new affordable prefab home designs, including new tiny homes

April 13, 2016 by  
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As a dynamic force in the prefabricated green building industry , Blu Homes has consistently been pushing the boundaries of prefab home design for many years. That’s why we’re excited to announce that the California-based prefab home manufacturer is unveiling a bunch of new house designs in a wider variety of sizes and at dramatically lower price points than ever before, including some new tiny homes and a charming prefab farmhouse. Inhabitat visited their historic 250,000 square-foot factory in Vallejo, Northern California to get the scoop. Read on for the exclusive details. Read the rest of Blu Homes launches 16 new affordable prefab home designs, including new tiny homes

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Creepy Transparent Mice Help Scientists Conduct “Whole-Organism Mapping”

August 1, 2014 by  
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Yes, that’s a see-through mouse you are looking at. And yes, it’s pretty gross, but thankfully, no, it’s not alive . The transparent mouse represents a breakthrough for scientists at the California Institute of Technology who say that it will lead to a better understanding of the relationships between nervous systems and organs through “whole-organism mapping.” Despite the queasiness factor, the technique has the potential to aid research into a variety of health issues, including autism, chronic pain and the development of cancerous cells. Read the rest of Creepy Transparent Mice Help Scientists Conduct “Whole-Organism Mapping” Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: animal testing , autism , biology , California Institute of Technology , cancer , cell , lab animals , lab testing , Nervous System , science , scientific breakthrough , see-through mouse , transparent mouse

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Creepy Transparent Mice Help Scientists Conduct “Whole-Organism Mapping”

Sea Slug Can Throw Away Penis and Grow a New One

February 13, 2013 by  
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Image ©shutterstock Red and white sea slugs that roam the warm waters of Southeast Asia just may be the envy of the animal world given their ability to discard and re-grow a penis again and again. The Chromodoris reticulata is a hermaphroditic slug that, once mating is complete, can cast off its penis into the water. And then twenty-four hours later, a new, fledgling penis unfurls from inside the slug, replacing the discarded one. Read the rest of Sea Slug Can Throw Away Penis and Grow a New One Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: biology , Chromodoris reticulata , conservation , disposable penis , eco design , green design , hermaphrodite organisms , Nature , regenerative penis , science , sea slug , sustainable design , throw away penis

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Sea Slug Can Throw Away Penis and Grow a New One

Yale Students Discover Rare Plastic-Eating Fungus in the Ecuadorian Rainforest

March 26, 2012 by  
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Plastics represent one of the biggest waste problems in the world because they take a really, really long time to break down. But a recent discovery by a group of Yale students could help speed the process. On an expedition to the rainforest of Ecuador, students from Yale’s Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry discovered a previously unknown fungus that has a healthy appetite for polyurethane. According to Fast Company , the fungus is the first one that is known to survive on polyurethane alone, and it can do so in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment, which suggests that it could be used at the bottom of landfills. Read the rest of Yale Students Discover Rare Plastic-Eating Fungus in the Ecuadorian Rainforest Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: biology , ecuador , fungi , fungus , landfills , microbes , Pestalotiopsis microspora , plastic , polymers , polyurethane , Yale , Yale University

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