ScienceDaily: Top Environment News: All teeth and claws? New study sheds light on dinosaur claw function

Jay Owen Earth Systems Science


All teeth and claws? New study sheds light on dinosaur claw function

Posted: 06 May 2014 05:41 PM PDT

How claw form and function changed during the evolution from dinosaurs to birds is explored in a new study into the claws of a group of theropod dinosaurs known as therizinosaurs. Theropod dinosaurs, a group which includes such famous species as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor, are often regarded as carnivorous and predatory animals, using their sharp teeth and claws to capture and dispatch prey. However, a detailed look at the claws on their forelimbs revealed that the form and shape of theropod claws are highly variable and might also have been used for other tasks.

Shrinking helped dinosaurs and birds to keep evolving

Posted: 06 May 2014 04:07 PM PDT

Although most dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, one dinosaur lineage survived and lives on today as a major evolutionary success story – the birds. A study that has ‘weighed’ hundreds of dinosaurs suggests that shrinking their bodies may have helped the group that became birds to continue exploiting new ecological niches throughout their evolution, and become hugely successful today.

Water from improved sources (such as piped water and bore holes) is not consistently safe

Posted: 06 May 2014 04:07 PM PDT

Although water from improved sources (such as piped water and bore holes) is less likely to contain fecal contamination than water from unimproved sources, improved sources in low- and middle-income countries are not consistently safe, according to a new study.

Examining broken bones in 150 million-year-old predatory dinosaur

Posted: 06 May 2014 04:06 PM PDT

Scientists have used state-of-the-art imaging techniques to examine the cracks, fractures and breaks in the bones of a 150 million-year-old predatory dinosaur. The research sheds new light, literally, on the healing process that took place when these magnificent animals were still alive.

Climate change is affecting every region of the U.S. and key sectors of the economy, federal report finds

Posted: 06 May 2014 02:23 PM PDT

The U.S. Global Change Research Program has released the Third National Climate Assessment, the most comprehensive, authoritative, transparent scientific report on U.S. climate change impacts ever generated. The report confirms that climate change is affecting every region of the country and key sectors of the U.S. economy and society, underscoring the need to combat the threats climate change presents and increase the preparedness and resilience of American communities.

Dolphin whistle warnings: Remotely monitoring acoustical changes in dolphin whistles may be powerful new tool for conservation

Posted: 06 May 2014 01:12 PM PDT

A team of researchers has demonstrated that remotely monitoring the acoustical structures of dolphin vocalizations can effectively detect “evolutionarily significant units” of the mammal — distinct populations that may be tracked for prioritizing and planning conservation efforts.

Small birds capitalize on weather patterns during epic migrations

Posted: 06 May 2014 10:55 AM PDT

In one of the greatest feats of endurance in the biological world, millions of tiny songbirds — many weighing less than an ounce — migrate thousands of miles to Central and South America each year. Now scientists are finding out how these featherweights do it: using elliptical routes that take advantage of prevailing wind patterns to save calories.

Ban cigarette filters to save environment, suggest researchers

Posted: 06 May 2014 10:05 AM PDT

Ban cigarette filters. Start a deposit-return scheme for used butts. Hold manufacturers responsible for clean-ups. Place warnings on packets about the impact of simply flicking one’s used cigarettes away. These are among the policy measures that researchers advocate to curb the environmental harm done through the large-scale littering of cigarette butts, packaging and matches.

The Red Sea: An ocean like all others, after all

Posted: 06 May 2014 10:04 AM PDT

The Red Sea has turned out to be an ideal study object for marine geologists. There they can observe the formation of an ocean in its early phase. However, the Red Sea seemed to go through a different birthing process than the other oceans. Now, scientists have been able to show that salt glaciers have distorted the previous models.

Substantial improvements made in EPA’s IRIS Program, report says

Posted: 06 May 2014 10:04 AM PDT

Changes EPA has proposed and implemented into its Integrated Risk Information System process are ‘substantial improvements’, according to a new report. While acknowledging the progress made to date, the report offers further guidance and recommendations to improve the overall scientific and technical performance of the program, which is used to assess the hazards posed by environmental contaminants.

One step closer to cell reprogramming

Posted: 06 May 2014 10:04 AM PDT

Researchers have discovered the essential role played by the Wnt pathway in the cell reprogramming process. The work enables a better understanding of the reprogramming process, as well as how to efficiently induce the pluripotency of reprogrammed cells.

Redescription of the oldest-known dolphin skull sheds light on their origins and evolution

Posted: 06 May 2014 10:04 AM PDT

Dolphins are the most diverse family of living marine mammals and include species such as the bottlenose dolphin and the killer whale. However, their early evolution and fossil record has been steeped in mystery due to lack of good specimens. A new article re-describes the oldest species of dolphin with a new name: Eodelphis kabatensis.

Looking ‘inside the box’ for sustainable solution for intestinal parasites

Posted: 06 May 2014 09:02 AM PDT

Finding sustainable solutions for controlling soil-transmitted helminths infections has been challenging to date. According to the World Health Organization, more than 450 million people worldwide, primarily children and pregnant women, suffer illness from soil-transmitted helminths (STH), intestinal parasites that live in humans and other animals. One expert proposes a new emphasis on sustainable, long-term investments in sanitation-based approaches. He promotes the use of improved latrines (the “box”) to provide bottom-up, culturally appropriate, and economically desirable solutions to control STH in endemic areas.

International team maps nearly 200,000 global glaciers in quest for sea rise answers

Posted: 06 May 2014 09:02 AM PDT

Glaciologists have mapped virtually all of the world’s glaciers — including their locations and sizes — allowing for calculations of their volumes and ongoing contributions to global sea rise as the world warms.

As kids age, snacking quality appears to decline

Posted: 06 May 2014 09:02 AM PDT

While snacks uniformly contribute to energy intake in both children and adolescents, the effect of snacking on diet quality differs by age group, researchers say. Findings suggest that snacks improve diet quality in elementary school-aged children, whereas they detract from diet quality in adolescents.

New expert guidelines aim to focus hospitals’ infectious diarrhea prevention efforts

Posted: 06 May 2014 09:02 AM PDT

With rates of Clostridium difficile now rivaling drug-resistant Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus as the most common bacteria to cause healthcare-associated infections, new expert guidance encourages healthcare institutions to implement and prioritize prevention efforts for this infectious diarrhea.

Expert guidance strengthens strategies to prevent most common and costly infection

Posted: 06 May 2014 09:02 AM PDT

Surgical site infections are the most common and costly healthcare-associated infection in the United States. New evidence-based recommendations provide a framework for healthcare institutions to prioritize and implement strategies to reduce the number of infections. SSIs occur in as many as five percent of patients undergoing inpatient surgery, amounting to approximately 160,000-300,000 SSI cases each year in the U.S. However, as many as 60 percent of SSIs are preventable by using evidence-based guidelines.

How have changing sea-levels influenced evolution on the Galapagos Islands?

Posted: 06 May 2014 09:02 AM PDT

The Galapagos Islands have an iconic status in the history of evolutionary study, now new research shows that the islands’ own geological past may have influenced the evolution of the chain’s native species.

$200 bird scaring line for trawlers can cut albatross deaths by over 90 percent

Posted: 06 May 2014 09:02 AM PDT

The sight of seabirds following trawlers in order to feast from discarded fish is a common maritime sight, but each year many thousands of seabirds are killed by overhanging cables or in nets. New research assesses mortality figures from South Africa to show that a simple bird scaring line can reduce the mortality rate by over 90 percent.

Scientists challenge FIFA: Save the 3-banded armadillo

Posted: 06 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

New research asks FIFA to follow through with its environmental claims. The 2014 FIFA World Cup will be played in Brazil. In an article published in the upcoming issue, researchers challenge the role that FIFA and the Brazilian government play in protecting the environment, asking both to: protect 1,000 hectares of the critically endangered Caatinga ecosystem — the natural habitat for its World Cup mascot, Fuelco — for each goal scored in the World Cup.

Snacking contributes to fatty liver, abdominal obesity

Posted: 06 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Snacking on high-fat and high-sugar foods was independently associated with abdominal fat and fatty liver (hepatic steatosis) research has shown. According to the study, hypercaloric diet with frequent meals increases intrahepatic triglyceride content and fat around the waist, but increasing meal size did not.

Molecular switches for age-related memory decline? A genetic variant protects against brain aging

Posted: 06 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Even among the healthiest individuals, memory and cognitive abilities decline with age. This aspect of normal aging can affect an individual’s quality of life and capability to live independently, but the rate of decline is variable across individuals. There are many factors that can influence this trajectory, but perhaps none more importantly than genetics.

Chimpanzees Show Similar Personality Traits to Humans

Posted: 06 May 2014 08:56 AM PDT

Chimpanzees have almost the same personality traits as humans, and they are structured almost identically, according to new work. The research also shows some of those traits have a neurobiological basis, and that those traits vary according to the biological sex of the individual chimpanzee.

Predator-prey made simple: Simplifying studies of predator-prey interactions and other ‘bistable’ systems

Posted: 06 May 2014 08:56 AM PDT

Scientists have developed a way to dramatically reduce the complexity of modeling “bistable” systems which involve the interaction of two evolving species where one changes faster than the other (“slow-fast systems”). The work paves the way for easier computational simulations and predictions involving such systems, which are found in fields as diverse as chemistry, biology and ecology.

Novel antioxidant makes old arteries seem young again, study shows

Posted: 06 May 2014 06:49 AM PDT

An antioxidant that targets specific cell structures — mitochondria — may be able to reverse some of the negative effects of aging on arteries, reducing the risk of heart disease, according to a new study. When the research team gave old mice — the equivalent of 70- to 80-year-old humans — water containing an antioxidant known as MitoQ for four weeks, their arteries functioned as well as the arteries of mice with an equivalent human age of just 25 to 35 years.

Hotspots of climate change impacts in Africa: Making sense of uncertainties

Posted: 06 May 2014 06:48 AM PDT

Overlapping impacts of climate change such as drought or flooding, declining crop yields or ecosystem damages create hotspots of risk in specific parts of Africa. These are for the first time identified in a new study. The uncertainties in assessing the impacts do not necessarily hamper but can inform development strategies, according to the scientists. Likelihood and potential severity of impacts can be weighed to decide on suitable adaptation measures.

New face of tofu: Quick, easy, keeps you trim

Posted: 06 May 2014 06:48 AM PDT

Many young American women prepare tofu because they want something that’s quick, easy to cook and that can help keep them trim. These researchers also found that the best way to encourage others to try tofu is by showing them that it is low cost and easy to cook; as such, they may be up to 50 percent more likely to try cooking with tofu at home.

Clean before you clean: What’s on your toothbrush just might surprise you

Posted: 06 May 2014 06:44 AM PDT

Do you know Staphylococci, coliforms, pseudomonads, yeasts, intestinal bacteria and — yes — even fecal germs may be on your toothbrush? Appropriate toothbrush storage and care are important to achieving personal oral hygiene and optimally effective plaque removal. Appropriate toothbrush storage and care are important to achieving personal oral hygiene and optimally effective plaque removal

Distinct avian influenza viruses found in Antarctic penguins

Posted: 06 May 2014 04:47 AM PDT

Researchers have, for the first time, identified an avian influenza virus in a group of Adelie penguins from Antarctica. The virus was found to be unlike any other circulating avian flu.

A bird’s eye view of fish farms: Drones making major advance into aquaculture industry

Posted: 06 May 2014 04:46 AM PDT

Is a facility adequately anchored? Are the wet-well vessels in the right place at the right time? Do the net pens have weaknesses which can result in escapes? It’s now possible, with the help of a couple of key strokes and techno assistance from above, literally to obtain an overview of all these issues.

Design of new foods should focus particularly on healthy gastro-intestinal tract

Posted: 06 May 2014 04:45 AM PDT

New foods should be designed -– more than has been the case up to now -– with human health in mind, and especially the health of the gastro-intestinal tract. There is a need for a new generation of products known as functional foods, which are beneficial to bowel health and which are also regarded as such by consumers. A researcher believes his own scientific discipline should help to reduce the high percentage of failures involved in introducing new products.

Nanocellulose sponges to combat oil spills

Posted: 06 May 2014 04:45 AM PDT

A new, absorbent material could be of assistance in future oil spill accidents: a chemically modified nanocellulose sponge. The light material absorbs the oil spill, remains floating on the surface and can then be recovered. The absorbent can be produced in an environmentally-friendly manner from recycled paper, wood or agricultural by-products.

Sports, energy drink consumption linked to negative behaviors

Posted: 06 May 2014 04:42 AM PDT

Weekly consumption of sports drinks and energy drinks among adolescents is significantly associated with higher consumption of other sugar-sweetened beverages, cigarette smoking, and screen media use, according to a study conducted by researchers. Although national data have shown a decline in the prevalence of soft drink and fruit drink consumption, sports and energy drink consumption has tripled among adolescents in recent years. The high caffeine content of energy drinks, as well as the high sugar and calorie content of many sports and energy drinks, has drawn much concern from health professionals.

Lots of fruits, vegetables, but lots of high-fat snacks: Home food environment of overweight women

Posted: 06 May 2014 04:42 AM PDT

The home is an important microenvironment in models of obesity and can trigger behaviors both positively and negatively associated with weight status. With this in mind, a group of researchers sought to examine the home food environment and determine which aspects are associated with healthy eating in low-income overweight and obese women who receive healthcare through local federally-qualified community health centers.

Tracking turtles through time, study may resolve evolutionary debate

Posted: 05 May 2014 10:05 AM PDT

Turtles are more closely related to birds and crocodilians than to lizards and snakes, according to a study that examines one of the most contentious questions in evolutionary biology. The research team looked at how the major groups of living reptiles, which number more than 20,000 species, are interrelated. The relationships of some reptile groups are well understood — birds are most closely related to crocodilians among living reptiles, while snakes, lizards and New Zealand’s tuatara form a natural group. But the question of how turtles fit into this evolutionary picture has remained unclear.


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