DNA analysis reveals there are no wild horses left in the world

February 23, 2018 by  
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Researchers are examining the DNA of horses – and what they’ve discovered upends everything we thought we knew. A new study claims the last “ wild ” horses on the planet are actually descendants of horses domesticated in Kazakhstan 5,500 years ago by people of the Botai culture. This also means that today’s domesticated horses don’t come from the Botai, as previously thought. In fact, the origins of domesticated horses are now a mystery. Przewalski’s horses, thought to be the last truly wild horses on Earth, are actually descended from domesticated horses, which means that the last wild horses probably went extinct hundreds or thousands of years ago. Przewalski’s horses nearly went extinct, but 15 individuals were rounded up and protected a century ago. It is these horses that all modern Przewalski’s horses descend from. Until now, scientists believed that modern domesticated horses descended from horses bred by the Botai people. But if Przewalski’s horses come from the Botai, it means that modern domesticated horses don’t. That leaves scientists scratching their heads about where domesticated horses descend from. Related: These are the last truly wild horses on Earth From a research standpoint, this finding is both exciting and disappointing. It points to a huge loss in biodiversity, and it means that all the information we’ve been gathering on “wild horses” is actually information on feral animals. The findings were recently published in the journal Science by Sandra Olsen from the University of Kansas and Ludovic Orlando from the National Center for Scientific Research . + Science Via Gizmodo Images via NCSR and Flickr

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DNA analysis reveals there are no wild horses left in the world

Neanderthals, not homo sapiens, responsible for 64,000-year-old cave art

February 23, 2018 by  
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Researchers have discovered that Neanderthals, not  homo sapiens , created a series of 64,000 year-old cave drawings in Spain . Published in the journal  Science , this study marks the first time that Neanderthals have been credited as cave painters – and it deems the works of art the oldest known cave paintings. Utilizing advanced radioactive dating, the scientists determined that paintings made in three separate caves are far older than originally thought – they were created 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in the area. The Neanderthal’s reputation as a bulkier, dumber kind of human seems to be misinformed. “It’s impossible to say that one is more clever than the other,” archaeology professor Marie Soressi told the Verge . An earlier theory speculated that Neanderthals only developed a culture after the arrival of modern humans in Europe between 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. The Neanderthal cave artwork proves that the species were creative and maintained their own culture and accompanying art. Neanderthals are also known to have used eagle claws and shells in their clothing as well as pigments to add color. Related: Incredible fossil discovery rewrites the history of human migration out of Africa Previous efforts to determine the age of cave art were complicated by dating technology limitations. The most common method works exclusively with organic matter; using uranium ‘s radioactive decay as a metric requires a great deal of material to be dated, something that is not possible in rare, delicate discoveries like early human cave art. The scientists used a new method of dating in which they scrapped off only the crust of the cave painting, samples which are then dated in a laboratory. Via The Verge Images via D.L. Hoffman, C.D. Standish, et al.

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Neanderthals, not homo sapiens, responsible for 64,000-year-old cave art

What the ‘world’s loneliest tree’ tells us about humanity’s impact on Earth

February 21, 2018 by  
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Over 170 miles away from a single other tree , the ‘world’s loneliest tree’ rests on Campbell Island. New Zealand governor Lord Ranfurly planted the Sitka spruce on the island around 400 miles south of the country sometime in the early 20th century, and researchers now believe it holds clues about the Anthropocene Epoch . After completing a thorough analysis of the tree, researchers have set a potential start date for the geological age in which humans are the dominant influence on the environment . In a piece for The Conversation , Chris Turney and Jonathan Palmer of the University of New South Wales and Mark Maslin of University College London shared work revealing how the world’s loneliest tree might help us determine a potential start date for the Anthropocene. The wood of the tree recorded the radiocarbon generated by above-ground atomic bomb tests, and its layers reveal a peak in 1965, according to the scientists. Related: New report shows humans change climate 170 times quicker than natural forces The spike in radioactive elements generated from those thermonuclear bomb tests has been a contender for defining the Anthropocene’s beginning, according to the scientists, but until now most of the records have been collected in the Northern Hemisphere. They said, “To demonstrate a truly global human impact requires a signal from a remote, pristine location in the Southern Hemisphere that occurs at the same time as the north.” The world’s loneliest tree helped provide that signal. Detailed study of the tree’s year-by-year growth reveals a spike in radioactive elements between October and December 1965. The scientists said, “This spruce has demonstrated unequivocally that humans have left an impact on the planet, even in the most pristine of environments, that will be preserved in the geological record for tens of millennia and beyond.” In other words, according to this research, the Anthropocene officially began in 1965. The journal Scientific Reports published the research online this week; scientists at institutions in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany contributed. Via The Conversation Images via Turney, Chris S.M., et al./Scientific Reports

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What the ‘world’s loneliest tree’ tells us about humanity’s impact on Earth

How farming with rocks could improve global food security

February 20, 2018 by  
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Scientists at the University of Sheffield have learned that farming with crushed silicate rocks mixed into the soil could improve global food security, increase crop yields, promote soil health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Human societies have long known that volcanic plains are fertile, ideal places for growing crops without adverse human health effects,” study lead author David Beerling told Phys.org , “but until now there has been little consideration for how adding further rocks to soils might capture carbon.” As the rocks slowly dissolve in the soil, they release nutrients while absorbing carbon dioxide. Most importantly, crushed silicate rocks can be amended into existing farmland, offering a non-disruptive, less intensive carbon capture service. The research published in the journal Nature Plants  could have a dramatic applied impact on farming throughout the world. “This study has transformed how we think about managing our croplands for climate, food and soil security,” said Beerling. “It helps move the debate forward for an under-researched strategy of CO2 removal from the atmosphere – enhanced rock weathering – and highlights supplementary benefits for food and soils .” Through enhanced rock weathering, carbon absorption can be achieved without competing for additional land and water. The crushed rock method also reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides and decreases the cost of food production. Related: 6 places where soil-less farming is revolutionizing how we grow food Farming with crushed silicate rocks offers a simple but powerful action to improve environmental health. “The magnitude of future climate change could be moderated by immediately reducing the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere as a result of energy generation,” explained Beerling. “Adopting strategies like this new research that actively remove CO2 from it can have a massive impact and be adapted very quickly.” Via Phys.org Images via Depositphotos (1)  

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How farming with rocks could improve global food security

Hedgehog highways make London friendlier for the adorable spiny mammals

February 20, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

Urban areas don’t tend to be too kind for hedgehogs . As they’re declining in Britain , some people are trying to help. Enter Michel Birkenwald , a jeweler Atlas Obscura described as “one of London’s most enthusiastic engineers of infrastructure for animals .” Birkenwald builds hedgehog highways — and they’re pretty darn adorable. Hedgehogs have declined by around 50 percent in the UK and by one third in urban areas, according to Emily Wilson of hedgehog advocacy group Hedgehog Street . The organization is working to spur people towards saving the small spiny mammals — and they say the most crucial action people can take is make sure the animals can pass through their gardens . Hedgehogs travel about one mile each night to seek out a mate or food, but fences stop them, and Hedgehog Street said our walls becoming more secure is one of the main reasons for hedgehog decline. Related: This sweet animation aims to help save the British hedgehog Successful day yesterday 15 new holes opened up @barneshedgehogs #richmond #london #uk #wildlife A post shared by Barnes hedgehogs (@barneshedgehogs) on Feb 18, 2018 at 10:59pm PST Birkenwald describes himself as “just an average guy who decided to help one of our most adorable mammals” to Atlas Obscura. He started Barnes Hedgehogs around four years ago, to drill the hedgehog crossings — small holes in walls around the size of a CD — for free. It can take around an hour to drill the passageways in sturdy Victorian bricks in London. First hole of the day drilled by Robin senior technical officer @barneshedgehogs sponsored by Zac Goldsmith MP #richmond #uk #london A post shared by Barnes hedgehogs (@barneshedgehogs) on Feb 18, 2018 at 1:59am PST Other people want to help out too – at least 47,544, in fact. Those are the people who have registered with Hedgehog Street to become Hedgehog Champions, ambassadors for the little mammals in their areas. The organization has other information on how you can help hedgehogs here . This Sunday @barneshedgehogs we are drilling approx 20 holes in timber and brick walls sponsored by Zac Goldsmith MP , get your garden ready for spring and cut a hole in your fences for our favourite mammal #wildlife #richmond #london #uk #spring A post shared by Barnes hedgehogs (@barneshedgehogs) on Feb 13, 2018 at 1:36am PST Birkenwald marks the crossings with small Hedgehog Highway signs that are available through the Hedgehog Street website ; the signs are comprised of recycled plastic and cost about £3, or just over $4, each. + Barnes Hedgehogs + Hedgehog Street + Hedgehog Street Hedgehog Highways Via Atlas Obscura Image via Pixabay

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Hedgehog highways make London friendlier for the adorable spiny mammals

Tesla Roadster in space could collide with Venus or Earth

February 19, 2018 by  
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Elon Musk isn’t the only person amused by a Tesla in space — scientists at the University of Toronto and Charles University have devoted their attention to figuring out just what might happen to the Roadster officially classified by NASA as a celestial object . Researchers think the space-traveling car could ultimately crash into Venus or Earth — but don’t panic yet. University of Toronto Scarborough assistant professor Hanno Rein and his team think the red Tesla Roadster could collide with our planet or Venus, but probably not for millions of years. They ran several simulations with “sophisticated software that can track the motion of objects in space,” according to the University of Toronto . Related: Elon Musk releases historic video of Starman cruising through space in a Tesla Roadster The probability that Musk’s Tesla will collide with Earth during the next one million years is six percent, and 2.5 percent for Venus. The scientists ran simulations for the first three million years of the Tesla’s journey in outer space , although Rein said the most likely outcome is that the car will crash into either Earth or Venus in the next 10 million years. If the car does crash into Earth, any future people probably won’t need to be too concerned because most or all of the Tesla will probably burn up in our planet’s atmosphere . The vehicle is on “a Mars and Earth crossing orbit, meaning it will travel on an elliptical path that repeatedly carries it beyond Mars and then back to Earth’s orbital distance from the sun,” according to the press release. If you happen to be alive in 2091, the scientists think that year will mark the first close encounter of the Tesla with Earth, when the car will pass within a few hundred thousand kilometers. Those Earth encounters will likely impact the Tesla’s journey. University of Toronto Scarborough postdoctoral fellow Daniel Tamayo said in a statement, “Each time it passes the Earth, the car will get a gravitational kick. Depending on the details of these encounters, the Tesla can be kicked onto a wider or smaller orbit , so it’s random. Over time the orbit will undergo what’s called a random walk, similar to the fluctuations we see in the stock market, that will allow it to wander the inner solar system .” The scientists submitted their research for publication to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ; a preprint is available here . Rein and Tamayo were joined by David Vokrouhlicky of Charles University. The university’s press release did not say what might happen to the Roadster’s passenger, Starman . + University of Toronto Images via Elon Musk on Instagram and Ken Jones

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Tesla Roadster in space could collide with Venus or Earth

Your shampoo and deodorant are as bad for you as car exhaust

February 16, 2018 by  
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That stuff you use to get ready in the morning? It could be as bad for your health and the planet as car pollution. A new study shows that half of the volatile organic compounds ( VOCs ) in our air come from products like shampoo, perfume, deodorant, as well as household products like paint, bleach and pesticides. Every time you wash your hair, paint your house, clean the toilet, put on deodorant or paint your nails, you are making the air quality in your home and city worse – not to mention the impact on your health. A new study published in Science shows that VOCs from household products has emerged as the “largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions.” The study was done in Los Angeles, but researchers believe that the data can apply to other cities and suburbs as well. It may not seem like it, but this is partially good news. The reason that household products make up such a large part of the VOCs in the air is because we’ve reduced the amount of pollution in the air from cars. The bad news is that air pollution kills up to 29,000 people per year in the UK alone. Air pollution doesn’t discriminate between sources when it comes to harming your health. Related: 7 indoor plants that purify the air around you naturally Pound for pound, cleaning and grooming products actually have a more severe impact on the environment than those coming from cars. That’s because fuel is combusted more efficiently than household products; very little pollution makes it into the air compared to, say, a puff of perfume. “Volatile chemical products used in common solvents and personal care products are literally designed to evaporate. You wear perfume or use scented products so that you or your neighbour can enjoy the aroma. You don’t do this with gasoline,” the HuffPo UK summarized . As if that wasn’t enough to cause you to panic, a new study from Norwegian scientists shows that household cleaning products could be damaging our lungs as much as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Bottom line: as we push for cleaner cars, we also need to be focusing on cleaning up our household products. via Science News images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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Your shampoo and deodorant are as bad for you as car exhaust

Breast cancer spread connected to amino acid in asparagus

February 16, 2018 by  
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Scientists have linked the spread of the disease breast cancer in mice to a compound that’s in asparagus and several other foods, The Guardian reported . Studies with mice revealed asparagine drives the advance of the cancer , and when researchers reduced asparagine, the amount of “secondary tumors in other tissues” dropped. Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute director Greg Hannon told The Guardian, “This is a very promising lead and one of the very few instances where there is a scientific rationale for a dietary modification influencing cancer.” Research with mice showed the amino acid asparagine is important for breast cancer to spread, and scientists think the process could be similar in humans. Researchers found that blocking the amino acid hampered the spread of the cancer. Hannon said in a statement , “It could be that manipulating levels of asparagine in the body might be used as a way to boost a patients’ cancer treatment.” Related: Many anti-aging products contain ingredients that can cause breast cancer The researchers blocked asparagine in mice tested, which had an aggressive type of breast cancer, to reduce the cancer’s ability to spread with the drug L-asparaginase. Giving the mice a low-asparagine diet worked to a lesser extent, according to The Guardian. There’s still a lot work to be done. The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute cautioned research is in the early stages and “doesn’t form the basis for DIY diets at home.” This work also doesn’t seem to offer a cure for cancer; per the press release, “So far the story suggests that lowering asparagine levels blunts the ability of cancer cells to spread in mice, but doesn’t affect the original tumor.” Lowering asparagine didn’t prevent breast tumors from forming, the researchers found. Hannon said, “The difficulty is finding ways to study this in the lab that are relevant to patients. It’s a challenge, but I think it’s worth pursuing.” The journal Nature published the research online this week . 21 scientists at institutions in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States contributed. + Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute + Nature Via The Guardian Images via Stephanie Studer on Unsplash and Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr

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Pepsi launches new drink option with reusable bottle

February 16, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Green, Recycle

Soda is struggling, with sales of non-diet soda dropping by over 25 percent during the last 20 years, according to Co.Design . In response, PepsiCo is trying something new: a product they’re calling Drinkfinity with reusable, BPA-free bottles . Users mix the contents of ingredient Pods into water to create beverages that Drinkfinity’s website boasts are “unapologetically less sweet.” PepsiCo piloted Drinkfinity in 2014 in Brazil, and now they’re launching the product in the United States. Users choose flavors like Mango Chia Flow or Elderflower Chill in Pods they place over the top of the reusable bottle, which they call a Vessel, and press down to release the flavor inside and mix it with water inside the bottle. The company says they don’t use artificial flavors or sweeteners. Related: New study finds PET bottles of five huge soda brands contain harmful heavy metals Vice President of Global Business Innovation Hernan Marina said in a statement , “Drinkfinity was made to do more than just hydrate — it was created with a simple vision to make a beverage that connects the dots between wellness and versatility, while trying to balance the needs of both people and the planet.” What about the waste from the Pods? PepsiCo’s press release says the Pods use up around 65 percent less plastic than a 20 ounce bottle. But Co.Design pointed out the Pods themselves can’t be recycled easily. When checking out from Drinkfinity, a consumer can obtain a postage-paid envelope to send 30 Pods to a company for recycling. An average recycling facility won’t be able to process them, according to Co.Design, because they contain materials that aren’t generally recycled together. Marina hopes in a few years they can offer Pods that are more easily recyclable, according to Co.Design. The Drinkfinity reusable bottle, which is dishwasher-safe, costs $20. Pods come in packs of four and cost between $5 and $6.50. As of now, the products are available only online, according to the press release. Drinkfinity plans to donate $1 for every purchase in the United States in 2018 to Water.org , up to $100,000, to provide clean water for people in developing countries . + Drinkfinity + Drinkfinity press release Via Co.Design Images via Drinkfinity/PepsiCo

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"We are not prepared" for climate changescientists issue bleak warning

February 16, 2018 by  
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Researchers have determined that countries around the world are failing to fulfill their greenhouse gas reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement , inevitably subjecting the world to unpredictable extreme weather. In a study published in the  journal  Science   Advances ,  scientists concluded that extreme weather, such as drought, flooding, or heat waves, will increase across 90 percent of North America, Europe and East Asia if countries maintain their current pace of climate action. “We are not prepared for today’s climate, let alone for another degree of global warming ,” study author Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford University professor of earth system science, told Time . The Paris Agreement aims to keep global temperature rise below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, with an ideal goal of less than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. That extra 0.9 degrees will make a significant difference in how extreme weather manifests in the coming decades. The study documents the specific differences built into that temperature divergence, including the number of record warm or wet days. Following an extraordinary hurricane season in North America and a year that was once again dubbed the hottest on record, the urgency to address this challenge is clearer than ever. Related: Trump budget proposes huge cut to EPA and climate research Unfortunately, the Paris Agreement has a math problem. Each country in the agreement was encouraged to create their own pledges individually tailored to their political and economic situations. Though the goal remains less than 3.6 degrees of warming, the cumulative impact of all these pledges, if they were all fulfilled, would still result in a global temperature of 5.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Even the modest pledges made in the agreement are proving difficult to achieve. Some countries, most prominently the United States , have expressed interest in ignoring the consequences of climate change and are actively encouraging the growth of fossil fuels . In the meantime, greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb while the weather gets weirder. Via Time Images via Depositphotos (1)

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