24 Apr 2014

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Blood in Gourd Didn't Belong to Louis XVI, New DNA Study Finds

Blood in Gourd Didn't Belong to Louis XVI, New DNA Study FindsNew genetic evidence casts further doubt on the authenticity of a grisly French relic: a gourd long believed to be stained with the blood of Louis XVI. Scientists sequenced the genome from dried blood inside the 200-year-old gourd and found that it didn't match with the DNA signatures of the king's ancestry, nor did it seem to carry the code for Louis XVI's celebrated traits, like his imposing height and blue eyes. Deposed during the French Revolution, Louis XVI was executed by guillotine in January 1793, months before his wife, Marie Antoinette, fell victim to the Reign of Terror, too. Last year, a group of scientists compared the DNA signatures from blood found in the gourd with the DNA of three modern male relatives of Louis XVI from different branches of the Bourbon line.


24 Apr 2014 10:52pm GMT

Utah sperm swap 'unacceptable' but still unexplained -university docs

A University of Utah committee investigating reports that a Salt Lake City fertility clinic worker artificially inseminated a patient with his own sperm called the action "unacceptable" on Thursday, but said it could not determine whether the switch was intentional. Practices at two now-closed Salt Lake-area clinics came into question last year when Pamela Branum, who was artificially inseminated at Reproductive Medical Technologies Inc, claimed genetic testing revealed that, instead of her husband, a lab technician had fathered their daughter in the early 1990s. The technician, Tom Lippert, has since died. He was also a registered sperm donor at the clinics and frequently supplied samples.

24 Apr 2014 10:23pm GMT

Pet Bearded Dragons Linked to Salmonella Outbreak in US

Pet Bearded Dragons Linked to Salmonella Outbreak in USA salmonella outbreak that has so far sickened 132 people in 31 states over the last two years has now been traced to a source - pet lizards called bearded dragons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bearded dragons were purchased from multiple stores in different states, the CDC researchers said today (April 24). The CDC is continuing to watch for other cases that may be part of this outbreak. Bearded dragons are popular pet lizards.


24 Apr 2014 9:56pm GMT

Ancient flying reptile from China fills evolutionary gap

Illustration of fragmentary remains of Kryptodrakon progenitor found in ChinaThe newly identified Jurassic period creature, a species named Kryptodrakon progenitor that was unearthed in the Gobi desert in northwestern China, was modest in size, with a wingspan of perhaps 4-1/2 feet. But later members of its branch of the flying reptiles known as pterosaurs were truly colossal, including Quetzalcoatlus, whose wingspan of about 35 feet was roughly the same as that of an F-16 fighter. Roughly 220 million years ago, pterosaurs became the first flying vertebrates to appear on Earth, with birds - first appearing about 150 million years ago - and bats - appearing about 50 million years ago - coming much later. Pterosaurs arose during the Triassic period not long after their cousins, the dinosaurs, also made their debut.


24 Apr 2014 9:15pm GMT

'Losing the Dark': Video Illuminates Threat of Light Pollution

'Losing the Dark': Video Illuminates Threat of Light PollutionA short video seeks to stem the rising tide of light pollution, which is robbing Earth of its dark night skies. Light pollution doesn't just make it more difficult for professional and backyard astronomers to observe the heavens, according to the 6.5-minute film, which is called "Losing the Dark." The loss of darkness also disrupts wildlife, wastes resources and adversely impacts human health. "Exposure to light at night disrupts the circadian rhythms that regulate our sleep cycles," narrator Carolyn Collins Petersen says in the video, which was created by the International Dark Sky Association in collaboration with Loch Ness Productions as a public service announcement. But we are not powerless in the face of ever-encroaching light pollution, the video asserts.


24 Apr 2014 8:12pm GMT

Venus and the Moon Shine Together at Dawn This Week: Where to Look

Venus and the Moon Shine Together at Dawn This Week: Where to LookIf your skies are clear before dawn on Friday and Saturday (April 25 and 26), check out the sky low to the east-southeast horizon about 60 to 90 minutes before sunrise for a view of the two brightest objects in the nighttime sky: the moon and the dazzling planet Venus. This "dynamic duo" will make for an eye-catching array in the brightening dawn twilight. Early Friday morning, you will see a lovely crescent moon, about 17 percent illuminated, situated well above and to the right of Venus. They will be widely separated (by about 6 to 7 degrees), but their great brightness will still make them quite attractive. Of course, the moon is about 380 times closer to Earth than Venus, and as such appears to move against the background stars much more quickly than Venus. The moon will pass closest to Venus at 5 p.m. ET tomorrow afternoon at a distance of just over 4 degrees - but of course at that hour it's daytime. [Amazing Night Sky Photos by Stargazers (April 2014)]


24 Apr 2014 8:09pm GMT

Coral Species May Adapt to Warmer Waters (Video)

Coral reefs tend to be vulnerable to damage from warmer waters, but at least one coral species may be able to adapt to the higher ocean temperatures that may come with climate change. This shows that corals that live in warmer waters do develop a better ability than cooler-water corals to survive rising temperatures - a sign that corals can adapt over time to a changing environment, according to the researchers. "We found that [all] these coral colonies can adjust their physiology to become more heat-tolerant," said study author Stephen Palumbi, a professor at Stanford University. "They [corals] do even better after they adjust their physiology if they have the right genes, but even if they don't have the right genes, their physiological adjustment gets them a nice bump in heat tolerance," Palumbi told Live Science.

24 Apr 2014 6:56pm GMT

Scientists discover new rare genetic brain disorder

By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - International teams of researchers using advanced gene sequencing technology have uncovered a single genetic mutation responsible for a rare brain disorder that may have stricken families in Turkey for some 400 years. The discovery of this genetic disorder, reported in two papers in the journal Cell, demonstrates the growing power of new tools to uncover the causes of diseases that previously stumped doctors. Besides bringing relief to affected families, who can now go through prenatal genetic testing in order to have children without the disorder, the discovery helps lend insight into more common neurodegenerative disorders, such as ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, the researchers said. The reports come from two independent teams of scientists, one led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and the other by Yale University, the University of California, San Diego, and the Academic Medical Center in the Netherlands.

24 Apr 2014 6:36pm GMT

Study links California drought to global warming

WASHINGTON (AP) - While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it's not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought and the polar vortex blamed for a harsh winter that mercifully has just ended in many places.

24 Apr 2014 6:34pm GMT

To Fight Sleeping Sickness, Tsetse Fly Genome Decoded

To Fight Sleeping Sickness, Tsetse Fly Genome DecodedScientists have sequenced the full genome of the tsetse fly, the blood-sucking pest that spreads deadly sleeping sickness in sub-Saharan Africa. "Our goal is to enhance the toolbox that will be available to scientists and communities who are under the pressure of dealing with this disease," lead researcher Serap Aksoy, an epidemiologist at Yale University, told Live Science. Sleeping sickness (also called nagana when it affects cattle) tends to come in epidemics, the last of which occurred during the 1990s, Aksoy said. A major goal, Aksoy said, was to bring together scientists from sub-Saharan Africa and train younger researchers to use the blueprint to fight the disease.


24 Apr 2014 6:32pm GMT

With genome deciphered, experts aim to swat dreaded tsetse fly

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An international team of scientists has deciphered the genetic code of the tsetse fly, the bloodsucking insect that spreads deadly African sleeping sickness, with the hope that its biological secrets can be exploited to eradicate this malady. The findings announced on Thursday were the culmination of a multimillion dollar, decade-long effort involving more than 140 scientists from 78 research institutions in 18 countries. The fly's bite carries a parasitic microorganism that causes sleeping sickness in people in sub-Saharan Africa and a form of the disease in animals that can devastate livestock herds. Sequencing the tsetse fly's genome exposed the molecular underpinnings of its weird biology: it gives live birth to young rather than laying eggs like other insects;

24 Apr 2014 6:25pm GMT

With genome deciphered, experts aim to swat dreaded tsetse fly

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An international team of scientists has deciphered the genetic code of the tsetse fly, the bloodsucking insect that spreads deadly African sleeping sickness, with the hope that its biological secrets can be exploited to eradicate this malady. The findings announced on Thursday were the culmination of a multimillion dollar, decade-long effort involving more than 140 scientists from 78 research institutions in 18 countries. The fly's bite carries a parasitic microorganism that causes sleeping sickness in people in sub-Saharan Africa and a form of the disease in animals that can devastate livestock herds. Sequencing the tsetse fly's genome exposed the molecular underpinnings of its weird biology: it gives live birth to young rather than laying eggs like other insects;

24 Apr 2014 6:17pm GMT

'Hidden Dragon' Beast Gave Rise to Fearsome Flying Reptiles

'Hidden Dragon' Beast Gave Rise to Fearsome Flying Reptiles"This guy is the very first pterodactyloid - he has the last features that changed before the group radiated and took over the world," said paleontologist Brian Andres of the University of South Florida, a co-author of the study detailed today (April 24) in the journal Current Biology. (Researchers avoid calling pterodactyloids "pterodactyls," because the term is sometimes used to mean all pterosaurs and sometimes to mean just pterodactyloids, which include members of one of two suborders of pterosaurs.) The finding extends the fossil record of pterodactyloids by at least 5 million years, to the Middle-Upper Jurassic boundary 163million years ago, Andres told Live Science. Pterodactyloids are not ancestors of modern birds, which evolved from feathered dinosaurs.


24 Apr 2014 4:26pm GMT

NASA tries space kits to engage kids in science and space

LittleBits chief executive and founder, Ayah Bdeir, poses at her company's headquarters in New YorkBy Sarah McBride NEW YORK (Reuters) - Making mini satellite dishes that collect signals or building remote-controlled mini Rovers such as the kind NASA has used on Mars are the types of activities that could interest kids in science, but their complexity can derail all but the most enthusiastic hobbyist. Now, NASA, the U.S. space agency, hopes it has found a workaround through new space kits and a collaboration with a New York-based startup called LittleBits. NASA, through its Aura mission to study the Earth's ozone layer and climate, is working with LittleBits to develop activities around a new $189 space kit, announced on Thursday. Using electronic modules such as motors and dimmers that snap together, the creations will perform functions that normally might require hours of tedious tinkering or piles of electronics components.


24 Apr 2014 4:00pm GMT

Videos of Live Embryos, Cancer Cell Win 'Small World' Awards

A scientist who made a stunning time-lapse video of a growing quail embryo took home top honors in Nikon's 2013 Small World in Motion Competition, a contest that treats photomicrographs - pictures often used by scientists - as objects of art. Using a technique known as optical tomography, Gabriel G. Martins, a researcher at Portugal's University of Lisbon, stitched together 1,000 separate images to create a 3D reconstruction of the whole embryo, which measures just less an inch (23 millimeters) in length. The second-place prize went to Michael Weber, a researcher at Germany's Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, for his video that peers into another kind of embryo - that of a zebrafish just two days into its development. Lin Shao, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia, came in third place for a video showing a twitching cell from the immortal line of HeLa cancer cells, the first cancer cells to replicate continuously in culture.

24 Apr 2014 11:49am GMT

23 Apr 2014

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Drop in population of Gulf of Maine baby lobsters puzzles scientists

The number of baby lobsters in the Gulf of Maine has dropped by half since 2007, a phenomenon that has puzzled scientists as the population of adult lobsters remains near a record high, contributing to robust catches. Scientists note that baby lobsters take eight years to reach harvestable size, meaning the dip could yet be felt by the state's 4,200 lobstermen, who last year hauled in a record catch worth $365 million, representing nearly 70 percent of Maine's total seafood harvest. Despite the record hauls, scientists, including University of Maine researcher Rick Wahle, who founded the baby lobster study in 1989, contend over-fishing is not likely the culprit. The lobster industry, they note, is among the country's most closely regulated.

23 Apr 2014 9:54pm GMT