ScienceDaily: Top Environment News: Broad-scale genome tinkering with help of an RNA guide: Biotechnology tool borrowed from pathogenic bacteria

Jay Owen Nature/Biomimicry

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Broad-scale genome tinkering with help of an RNA guide: Biotechnology tool borrowed from pathogenic bacteria

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 12:21 PM PDT

Researchers have devised a way to quickly and easily target and tinker with any gene in the human genome. The new tool, which builds on an RNA-guided enzyme they borrowed from bacteria, is being made freely available to researchers who may now apply it to the next round of genome discovery.

Mechanism behind squids’ and octopuses’ ability to change color revealed

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 11:17 AM PDT

Color in living organisms can be formed two ways: Pigmentation or anatomical structure. Structural colors arise from the physical interaction of light with biological nanostructures. A wide range of organisms possess this ability, but the biological mechanisms underlying the process have been poorly understood. Now researchers have delved deeper to uncover the mechanism responsible for the dramatic changes in color used by such creatures as squids and octopuses.

Microbial who-done-it for biofuels

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 09:54 AM PDT

Scientists have developed a promising technique for identifying microbial enzymes that can effectively deconstruct biomass into fuel sugars under refinery processing conditions.

Computer can infer rules of the forest

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 09:54 AM PDT

Researchers have devised a computer algorithm that takes intermittent samples — for example, the number of prey and predating species in a forest once a year, or the concentration of different species in a chemical bath once an hour — and infer the likely reactions that led to that result. They’re working backward from traditional stochastic modeling, which they say could help unravel the hidden laws in fields as diverse as molecular biology to population ecology to basic chemistry.

Secret of plant geometry revealed: How plants set the angles of their branches

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 09:53 AM PDT

Researchers have discovered how plants set the angles of their branches relative to gravity. While the other principle features governing the architecture of plants such as the control of the number of branches and positioning around the main shoot are now well understood, scientists have long puzzled over how plants set and maintain the angle of their lateral branches relative to gravity.

World-changing technology enables crops to take nitrogen from the air

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 09:50 AM PDT

A major new technology enables all of the world’s crops to take nitrogen from the air rather than expensive and environmentally damaging fertilizers. Nitrogen fixation, the process by which nitrogen is converted to ammonia, is vital for plants to survive and grow. However, only a very small number of plants, most notably legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils) have the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere with the help of nitrogen fixing bacteria. The vast majority of plants have to obtain nitrogen from the soil, and for most crops currently being grown across the world, this also means a reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.

Deciphering the air-sea communication: Ocean significantly affects long-term climate fluctuations

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 07:48 AM PDT

Scientists have investigated the role of heat exchange between ocean and atmosphere in long-term climate variability in the Atlantic. The scientists analyzed meteorological measurements and sea surface temperatures over the past 130 years. It was found that the ocean significantly affects long term climate fluctuations, while the seemingly chaotic atmosphere is mainly responsible for the shorter-term, year-to-year changes.

Pigeons fly home with a map in their heads

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 06:11 AM PDT

It is a fascinating phenomenon that homing pigeons always find their way home. Researchers have now carried out experiments demonstrating that pigeons have a spatial map and thus possess cognitive capabilities. In unknown territories, they recognize where they are in relation to their loft and are able to choose their targets themselves.

Molluscs vs. bacteria: New finding on marine natural products biosynthesis

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 06:11 AM PDT

The gastropod mollusc Scaphander lignarius — a marine invertebrate found in North Atlantic and Mediterranean water — is the first organism, besides bacteria, in which the biosynthesis of lignarenones, organic molecules involved in organism’s chemical defence, has been identified.