Of mice and melodies: Research on language gene seeks to uncover the origins of the singing mouse

Of mice and melodies: Research on language gene seeks to uncover the origins of the singing mouse

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 04:37 PM PDT

Singing mice are unique rodents that use song to communicate. An important underlying gene that is thought to influence the singing behavior is a transcription factor called FOXP2, sometimes called the ‘language gene’ because it has been linked to speech disorders in humans. This information could help researchers find areas of the human FOXP2 gene that are associated with autism.

Study of fruit fly chromosomes improves understanding of evolution and fertility

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 11:47 AM PDT

New research explores the evolution of sperm structure and function, through an analysis of Drosophila genes and gene products. The research has important implications for the study of human infertility as well.

USDA: Ongoing drought causes significant crop yield declines

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 11:06 AM PDT

Corn production will drop 13 percent to a six-year low, the U.S. Agriculture Department said Aug. 10, confirming what many farmers already knew — they are having a very bad year.

NOAA raises hurricane season prediction despite expected El Niño

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 10:45 AM PDT

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season got off to a busy start, with 6 named storms to date, and may have a busy second half, according to the updated hurricane season outlook issued Aug. 9, 2012 by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. The updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.

50-year decline found in some Los Angeles vehicle-related pollutants

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 10:41 AM PDT

In California’s Los Angeles Basin, levels of some vehicle-related air pollutants have decreased by about 98 percent since the 1960s, even as area residents now burn three times as much gasoline and diesel fuel. Between 2002 and 2010 alone, the concentration of air pollutants called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) dropped by half, according to a new study by NOAA scientists and colleagues.

Why do organisms build tissues they seemingly never use?

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 10:31 AM PDT

Why, after millions of years of evolution, do organisms build structures that seemingly serve no purpose? A new study investigates the evolutionary reasons why organisms go through developmental stages that appear unnecessary.

Earthquake risk in Europe detailed

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 10:31 AM PDT

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in setting up a harmonized catalog of earthquakes for Europe and the Mediterranean for the last thousand years. This catalog consists of about 45000 earthquakes.

Mission discovers record depth for Lophelia coral on Gulf of Mexico energy platforms

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 10:06 AM PDT

A team of federal and university scientists on a 10-day expedition in the Gulf of Mexico has discovered Lophelia coral growing deeper than previously seen anywhere in the Gulf. Newly available information on Lophelia’s growth rate and conditions will inform future environmental review and decision-making for the protection of deep-water coral habitats.

Summer storm spins over Arctic

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 09:59 AM PDT

An unusually strong storm formed off the coast of Alaska on August 5 and tracked into the center of the Arctic Ocean, where it slowly dissipated over the next several days. Arctic storms such as this one can have a large impact on the sea ice, causing it to melt rapidly through many mechanisms, such as tearing off large swaths of ice and pushing them to warmer sites, churning the ice and making it slushier, or lifting warmer waters from the depths of the Arctic Ocean.

‘Selfish’ DNA in animal mitochondria offers possible tool to study aging

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 08:29 AM PDT

Researchers have discovered, for the first time in any animal species, a type of “selfish” mitochondrial DNA that is actually hurting the organism and lessening its chance to survive – and bears a strong similarity to some damage done to human cells as they age. It could provide an important new model to study human aging.

New regulatory mechanism discovered in cell system for eliminating unneeded proteins

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 08:29 AM PDT

A faulty gene linked to a rare blood vessel disorder has led investigators to discover a mechanism involved in determining the fate of possibly thousands of proteins working inside cells.

How much nitrogen is fixed in the ocean?

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 08:28 AM PDT

In order to predict how the Earth’s climate develops scientists have to know which gases and trace elements are naturally bound and released by the ocean and in which quantities. For nitrogen, an essential element for the production of biomass, there are many unanswered questions. Scientists have now published a research study showing that widely applied methods are part of the problem.

North American freshwater fishes race to extinction: Rate of loss of species exceeds that of terrestrial animals

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 05:37 AM PDT

The rate of extinction of freshwater fishes in North America is estimated to be 877 times the historical background rate. Thirty-nine species have gone extinct since the end of the 19th Century. Between 53 and 86 species are likely to have gone extinct by 2050, according to new estimates.

Populations survive despite many deleterious mutations: Evolutionary model of Muller’s ratchet explored

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 05:36 AM PDT

From protozoans to mammals, evolution has created more and more complex structures and better-adapted organisms. This is all the more astonishing as most genetic mutations are deleterious. Especially in small asexual populations that do not recombine their genes, unfavourable mutations can accumulate. This process is known as Muller’s ratchet in evolutionary biology. The ratchet, proposed by the American geneticist Hermann Joseph Muller, predicts that the genome deteriorates irreversibly, leaving populations on a one-way street to extinction.

Cichlid fish: How does the swim bladder affect hearing?

Posted: 08 Aug 2012 09:18 AM PDT

In bony fish the swim bladder primarily serves for buoyancy. Moreover, in many species it also possesses acoustic functions: it plays a role in sound production and improves hearing in numerous ways. Biologists have investigated for the first time differences in the the morphology of the swim bladder in cichlid fishes and how it affects their hearing.

Do beavers benefit Scottish wild salmon?

Posted: 08 Aug 2012 09:16 AM PDT

Reintroduced European beavers could have an overall positive impact on wild salmon populations in Scotland, according to a new study. Representatives of recreational fisheries interests north and south of the border are concerned that beavers can harm economically important fish stocks due to their dam building activities and potential to block migratory life phases. However, results of a new study indicate that beavers can also have substantial beneficial effects which may outweigh those that are negative.

Actual water pollution often vastly higher than calculated, European research on pesticide approvals shows

Posted: 08 Aug 2012 05:13 AM PDT

The current process of the EU for the approval of pesticides, in particular against insect infestation, is based upon inadequate evaluation models, new research shows. The study indicates that the concentrations of insecticides actually found in water resources are frequently higher than the theoretically calculated values forming the basis of the approval process. The adequate protection of surface waters requires that the procedure be completely re-examined and revised.