ScienceDaily: Top Environment News: One gene, many mutations: Key that controls coat color in mice evolved nine times

Jay Owen Earth Systems Science

One gene, many mutations: Key that controls coat color in mice evolved nine times

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 03:03 PM PDT

Scientists have shown that changes in coat color in mice are the result not of a single mutation, but many separate mutations, all within a single gene. The results start to answer one of the fundamental questions about evolution: does evolution proceed by huge leaps — single mutations that result in dramatic change in an organism — or is it the result of many smaller changes that accumulate over time?

DNA study clarifies how polar bears and brown bears are related

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 02:56 PM PDT

A new genetic study of polar bears and brown bears upends prevailing ideas about the evolutionary history of the two species.

Dinosaur-era climate change study suggests reasons for turtle disappearance

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 11:43 AM PDT

Dramatic climate change was previously proposed to be responsible for the disappearance of turtles 71-million-years ago, because they were considered to be “climate-sensitive” animals. Results of this research, however, show that the disappearance of turtles came before the climate cooled and instead closely corresponds to habitat disturbances, which was the disappearance of wetlands.

Life deep within oceanic crust sustained by energy from interior of Earth

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 11:43 AM PDT

The Earth’s oceanic crust covers an enormous expanse, and is mostly buried beneath a thick layer of mud that cuts it off from the surface world. Scientists now document life deep within the oceanic crust that appears to be sustained by energy released from chemical reactions of rocks with water.

Mitigating climate change? Guiding responsible research in geoengineering

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 11:10 AM PDT

Geoengineering, the use of human technologies to alter the Earth’s climate system — such as injecting reflective particles into the upper atmosphere to scatter incoming sunlight back to space — has emerged as a potentially promising way to mitigate the impacts of climate change. But such efforts could present unforeseen new risks. Scientists outline how the current deadlock on governance of geoengineering research poses real threats to the sound management of climate risk. Their article advances concrete and actionable proposals for allowing further research — but not deployment — and for creating scientific and legal guidance, as well as addressing public concerns.

‘Dirty blizzard’ in Gulf of Mexico may account for missing Deepwater Horizon oil

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 11:09 AM PDT

Oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill acted as a catalyst for plankton and other surface materials to clump together and fall to the sea floor in a massive sedimentation event that researchers are calling a “dirty blizzard.”

Five-million-year-old saber-toothed cat in newly discovered genus discovered in Florida

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 11:09 AM PDT

A new genus and species of extinct saber-toothed cat has been discovered in Polk County, Florida. The 5-million-year-old fossils belong to the same lineage as the famous Smilodon fatalis from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, a large, carnivorous apex predator with elongated upper canine teeth. Previous research suggested the group of saber-toothed cats known as Smilodontini originated in the Old World and then migrated to North America, but the age of the new species indicates the group likely originated in North America.

Fluorescent neural cells from monkey skin mature into several types of brain cells in monkeys

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 09:46 AM PDT

For the first time, scientists have transplanted neural cells derived from a monkey’s skin into its brain and watched the cells develop into several types of mature brain cells, according to a new study. After six months, the cells looked entirely normal, and were only detectable because they initially were tagged with a fluorescent protein.

Mass strandings of pilot whales may not be driven by kinship, DNA profiles show

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 09:46 AM PDT

Recent research has shed some light on whether family relationships play a role in beachings of otherwise healthy whales. Investigators used genetic data to describe the kinship of individual long-finned pilot whales involved in mass strandings. The study found that stranded groups are not necessarily members of one extended family, contradicting the hypothesis that stranding groups all descend from a single ancestral mother. Further, many stranded calves were found with no mother in evidence.

Bootstrapping biotechnology: Engineers cooperate to realize precision grammar for programming cells

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 08:18 AM PDT

DNA sequences and statistical models have been unveiled that greatly increase the reliability and precision by which microbes can be engineered.

New beautifully colored long-horned beetle from Yunnan, China

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 08:18 AM PDT

A new beautifully colored long-horned beetle species, Schwarzerium yunnanum, has been discovered in the Yunnan province, China. Additionally, seven already known representatives of the Cerambycidae family have been reported for the first time from the region.

What do American bullfrogs eat when they’re away from home? Practically everything

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 08:16 AM PDT

A control program on southern Vancouver Island provided the carcasses of over 5,000 adult and juvenile invasive alien American bullfrogs. Examination of their stomach contents confirms that bullfrogs eat virtually any organism that can fit into their large mouths, whether it be under water, at the surface, on land, even when it can defend itself with stingers, spines, or claws. So native ecosystems beware!

Discards ban could impact seabird populations

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 08:16 AM PDT

Species of seabirds could successfully return to their natural foraging habits following changes to European fisheries policies, scientists have suggested.

Hovering is a bother for bees: Fast flight is more stable

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 08:06 AM PDT

Bumblebees are much more unstable when they hover than when they fly fast, according to new research. Scientists used a mathematical model to analyze the way bumblebees fly at different speeds, showing that the bumblebee is unstable when it hovers and flies slowly, and becomes neutral or weakly stable at medium and high flight speeds.

Scientists map genome of fungus that causes Dutch elm disease

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 08:02 AM PDT

Researchers have successfully mapped the genes in the fungus that causes Dutch elm disease. The researchers believe this is the first time the 30 million DNA letters for the fungus Ophiostoma ulmi have been mapped. The findings could help scientists figure out how to prevent the fungus from destroying elm trees in the future.

Social bees mark dangerous flowers with chemical signals

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 05:51 AM PDT

Scientists already knew that some social bee species warn their conspecifics when detecting the presence of a predator near their hive, which in turn causes an attack response to the possible predator. Researchers have now demonstrated that they also use chemical signals to mark those flowers where they have previously been attacked.

One of world’s oldest sun dial dug up in Kings’ Valley, Upper Egypt

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 05:50 AM PDT

During archaeological excavations in the Kings’ Valley in Upper Egypt a team of researchers from the University of Basel found one of the world’s oldest ancient Egyptian sun dials. The team of the Egyptological Seminar under the direction of Prof. Susanne Bickel made the significant discovery while clearing the entrance to one of the tombs.

Whale’s streaming baleen tangles to trap food

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 03:21 PM PDT

Many whales filter food from water using racks of baleen plates in their mouths, but no one had ever investigated how baleen behaves in real life. According to an expert, baleen was viewed as a static material, however, he discovered that baleen streams in water just like long hair and fringes from adjacent baleen plates tangle to form the perfect net for trapping food at natural whale swimming speeds.