Top Environment News -- ScienceDaily

Top stories featured on ScienceDaily's Plants & Animals, Earth & Climate, and Fossils & Ruins sections.

05/23/2017 10:43 AM
Mystery of butterflies iridescent wing scales resolved
Who is not fascinated by the wonderful iridescent colours of butterfly wings? Those who want to find out more about this phenomenon will realise that often the colour is not generated by pigments, rather by periodic structures made of chitin, a structure-forming polysaccharide. These so-called photonic crystals give rise to structural colour by only reflecting specific wavelengths of the incoming solar spectrum. The resulting colour is not random, it serves as camouflage or signalling. But how do millions of these photonic crystals form within the tiny scales of butterfly wings? The opinions of scientists differ in this matter.

05/23/2017 09:50 AM
Two missing World War II B-25 bombers documented by Project Recover off Papua New Guinea
Two B-25 bombers associated with American servicemen missing in action from World War II were recently documented in the waters off Papua New Guinea by Project Recover -- a collaborative team of marine scientists, archaeologists and volunteers who have combined efforts to locate aircraft and associated MIAs from World War II.

05/23/2017 09:50 AM
'Pregnant' housefly males demonstrate the evolution of sex determination
Biologists have discovered the gene that determines the male sex in houseflies. Surprisingly, the sex-determining mechanisms are not the same for all houseflies -- they depend on where the insects live. This knowledge not only helps us better understand the evolution of sex determination, but also aids in the control of agricultural pests or carriers of disease.

05/23/2017 09:50 AM
'Yellow crazy ant' workers lay eggs as a food source
The 'yellow crazy ant' lays trophic eggs to provide nutrition to their larvae.

05/23/2017 08:42 AM
Solar cells more efficient thanks to new material standing on edge
Researchers have designed a new structural organization using the promising solar cell material perovskite. The study shows that solar cells increase in efficiency thanks to the material’s ability to self-organize by standing on edge.

05/23/2017 08:35 AM
7.2-million-year-old pre-human remains found in the Balkans
Scientists analyzing 7.2 million-year-old fossils uncovered in modern-day Greece and Bulgaria suggest a new hypothesis about the origins of humankind, placing it in the Eastern Mediterranean and not -- as customarily assumed -- in Africa, and earlier than currently accepted. The researchers conclude that Graecopithecus freybergi represents the first pre-humans to exist following the split from the last chimpanzee-human common ancestor.

05/23/2017 08:35 AM
3.3-million-year-old fossil reveals origins of the human spine
Analysis of a 3.3 million-year-old fossil skeleton reveals the most complete spinal column of any early human relative, including vertebrae, neck and rib cage. The findings indicate that portions of the human spinal structure that enable efficient walking motions were established millions of years earlier than previously thought.

05/23/2017 08:32 AM
Hottest lavas that erupted in past 2.5 billion years revealed
Deep portions of Earth's mantle might be as hot as it was more than 2.5 billion years ago, an international team of researchers has recently discovered.

05/23/2017 08:25 AM
Rare tooth find reveals horned dinosaurs in eastern North America
A chance discovery in Mississippi provides the first evidence of an animal closely related to Triceratops in eastern North America. The fossil, a tooth from rocks between 68 and 66 million years old, shows that two halves of the continent previously thought to be separated by seaway were probably connected before the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.

05/23/2017 08:20 AM
Weathering of rocks a poor regulator of global temperatures
Evidence from the age of the dinosaurs to today shows that chemical weathering of rocks is less sensitive to global temperature, and may depend on the steepness of the surface. The results call into question the role of rocks in setting our planet's temperature over millions of years.

05/23/2017 08:20 AM
Rethinking role of viruses in coral reef ecosystems
Viruses are thought to frequently kill their host bacteria, especially at high microbial density. A state called lysogeny, in which viruses lie dormant but don't kill their hosts, has been thought to be relatively rare , mostly occurring at low bacterial concentrations. A new study suggests lysogeny might be much more common than previously believed. These findings could lead to a better understanding of degraded coral reef ecosystems and how to preserve them.

05/23/2017 08:19 AM
Eating beans instead of beef would sharply reduce greenhouse gasses
If Americans would eat beans instead of beef, the United States would immediately realize approximately 50 to 75 percent of its GHG reduction targets for the year 2020.

05/23/2017 08:19 AM
Supercomputing helps researchers understand Earth's interior
Geologists have created a computer model of tectonic activity so effective that they believe it has potential to predict where earthquakes and volcanoes will occur. Scientists focused on the deep mantle and its relationship to plate tectonics.

05/23/2017 08:19 AM
Sunflower genome sequence to provide roadmap for more resilient crops
Researchers have completed the first sunflower genome sequence. This new resource will assist future research programs using genetic tools to improve crop resilience and oil production.

05/22/2017 09:10 AM
Modified experimental vaccine protects monkeys from deadly malaria
Researchers have modified an experimental malaria vaccine and showed that it completely protected four of eight monkeys that received it against challenge with the virulent Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite. In three of the remaining four monkeys, the vaccine delayed when parasites first appeared in the blood by more than 25 days.

05/22/2017 09:10 AM
Two new proteins connected to plant development discovered by scientists
The discovery of two new proteins could lead to better ways to regulate plant structure and the ability to resist crop stresses such as drought, thus improving agriculture productivity.

05/22/2017 08:09 AM
Rapid smell source localization: Mechanism discovered
Fundamental insights into the mechanism of smell localization have now been gained by researchers. This marks an important step in unraveling the entire neural odor localization mechanism, which is highly valuable to the study of memory diseases such as Alzheimer's. The team used mice for the experiment, which are smell identification champions. Using a novel non-invasive technique based on infrared technology, they revealed that localizing odors is achieved by comparing information gathered from the left and right nostril.

05/22/2017 08:08 AM
Air pollution may disrupt sleep
High levels of air pollution over time may get in the way of a good night's sleep, according to new research.

05/19/2017 05:23 PM
Why more juvenile sharks off California's coast is a good thing
Young great white sharks are using California’s coasts as a sort of nursery, suggests new research.

05/19/2017 03:35 PM
Triple play boosting value of renewable fuel could tip market in favor of biomass
A new process triples the fraction of biomass converted to high-value products to nearly 80 percent, also tripling the expected rate of return for an investment in the technology from roughly 10 percent (for one end product) to 30 percent.

05/19/2017 03:35 PM
Traffic-related air pollution linked to DNA damage in children
Children and teens exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution have evidence of a specific type of DNA damage called telomere shortening, reports a new study.

05/19/2017 03:14 PM
Insects resist genetic methods to control disease spread, study finds
Insects possess a naturally occurring resistance to the use of gene-editing technology to prevent diseases such as malaria, new research shows.

05/19/2017 01:18 PM
Top 10 new species for 2017
A spider and an ant with names drawn from popular books, a pink katydid and an omnivorous rat made ESF's list of the Top 10 New Species for 2017. Also listed: a freshwater stingray, a bush tomato that appears to "bleed," a devilish-looking orchid, a millipede with more than 400 legs, an amphibious centipede and a marine worm.

05/19/2017 01:16 PM
Kamchatkan volcanic ash travels half the world
Geochemical fingerprinting links microscopic ash found on the bottom of a Svalbard lake to volcanic event happening 7,000 years ago and 5,000 km away.

05/19/2017 01:16 PM
Environmental pollutants in large Norwegian lakes
Scientists have discovered the presence of contaminants in the pelagic food chains in the lakes Mjøsa, Randsfjorden and Femunden in Norway, and in supplementary material of fish from Tyrifjorden and Vansjø, sampled in 2015. Mercury and persistent organic pollutants (cVMS, PCBs, PBDEs, PFAS) were analyzed in samples of fish from all lakes, as well as pelagic crustaceans in Mjøsa.

05/19/2017 12:40 PM
Engineered protein enlisted to battle the MERS virus
Researchers converted a staple human ubiquitin protein into an anti-viral tool. Through subtle tweaks, they created an engineered version of the ubiquitin that binds more tightly and paralyzes a key enzyme in MERS to halt viral replication in cells. Other synthetic forms of ubiquitin can be quickly generated to target a diverse range of pathogens.

05/19/2017 12:40 PM
Researchers develop protocol to analyze many cells at once
With the new FISH-Flow protocol, researchers are able to evaluate multitudes of cells at once for telltale mRNA species and proteins. The blended procedure provides a chance to see how multiple kinds of immune cells are responding to a foreign substance, making it possible to detect the presence of disease faster and earlier.

05/19/2017 12:40 PM
Fueling the future
New research investigated the full life cycle impact of one promising 'second-generation biofuel' produced from short-rotation oak. The study found that second-generation biofuels made from managed trees and perennial grasses may provide a sustainable fuel resource.

05/19/2017 10:04 AM
Using seaweed to kill invasive ants
Scientists have developed an inexpensive, biodegradable, seaweed-based ant bait that can help homeowners and farmers control invasive Argentine ant populations.

05/19/2017 10:04 AM
Herpetologists describe an elf frog from the elfin forests in southern Vietnam
Going under the common name of Elfin mountain toad, a new amphibian is recognized as one of the smallest representative of its group. The new species was identified from the highland wet forests of Langbian Plateau, Southern Vietnam. The discoverers gave it this name that derives from German and Celtic folklore because of the resemblance they found between the tiny delicate amphibians and elves - small magic creatures. Furthermore, their habitat is known as elfin forests.

05/19/2017 08:44 AM
Life in the Precambrian may have been much livelier than previously thought
The strange creatures that lived in the Garden of the Ediacaran more than 540 million years ago, before animals came on the scene, may have been much more dynamic than experts have thought.

05/19/2017 08:41 AM
Scientists to test Zika virus on brain tumors
In a revolutionary first, scientists will test whether the Zika virus can destroy brain tumor cells, potentially leading to new treatments for one of the hardest to treat cancers.  

05/19/2017 08:38 AM
Nutritional properties of mushrooms are better preserved when they are grilled or microwaved
Culinary treatments (boiling, microwaving, grilling, and deep frying) influence on proximate composition and antioxidant capacity of most cultivated mushrooms worlwide. A study has shown that microwaving and grilling are the best processes to maintain the nutritional profile of mushrooms.

05/19/2017 08:36 AM
How RNA formed at the origins of life
A single process for how a group of molecules called nucleotides were made on the early Earth, before life began, has been suggested by a team of researchers.

05/19/2017 08:36 AM
Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus could simultaneously transmit other viruses
Aedes aegypti, the primary mosquito that carries Zika virus, might also transmit chikungunya and dengue viruses with one bite, scientists report.

05/19/2017 08:36 AM
Sea level as a metronome of Earth's history
Sedimentary layers contain stratigraphic cycles and patterns that precisely reveal the succession of climatic and tectonic conditions that have occurred over millennia. Researchers have been working on an analytical method that combines observing deep-water sedimentary strata and measuring in them the isotopic ratio between heavy and light carbon. They have discovered that the cycles that punctuate these sedimentary successions are ascribable to sea level changes.

05/19/2017 08:36 AM
Iron deficiency restrains marine microbes
Iron is a critical nutrient in the ocean. Its importance for algae and the nitrogen cycle has already been investigated in detail. Now a new discovery shows that microbes also need iron to process phosphorus. A team of researchers has completed a study showing that iron can limit phosphorus acquisition in the ocean. Their study contributes to knowledge of nutrient cycling in the ocean.

05/18/2017 03:38 PM
Insight into enzyme's 3-D structure could cut biofuel costs
Using neutron crystallography, research team has mapped the three-dimensional structure of a protein that breaks down polysaccharides, such as the fibrous cellulose of grasses and woody plants, a finding that could help bring down the cost of creating biofuels.

05/18/2017 02:38 PM
Newly discovered brain network offers clues to social cognition
By studying rhesus monkeys, researchers have identified a brain network dedicated to processing social interactions -- a discovery that offers tantalizing clues to the origins of our ability to understand what other people are thinking.

05/18/2017 02:38 PM
New coral reef fish species shows rare parental care behavior
The vast majority of coral reef fish produce large numbers of young that disperse into the ocean as larvae, drifting with the currents before settling down on a reef. A few reef fish, however keep their broods on the reef, protecting the young until they are big enough to fend for themselves. On a recent trip to the Philippines, researchers discovered a new species of damselfish that exhibits this unusual parental care behavior.

05/18/2017 02:38 PM
Smoking out sources of in-home air pollution
An ambitious study has investigated various factors that contribute to air pollution inside the house. Not surprisingly, cigarette smoke emerged as a major source of airborne particles in homes with smokers, but cleaning products, candles, frying food and marijuana smoking also jumped out as in-home air polluters. It's the first study to identify marijuana as a significant source of in-home air pollution.

05/18/2017 02:38 PM
Resurrecting identities in the Andes
Ancient people were complex just like you, but until recently, archaeologists' understanding of human identities from the past were limited to broad labels like gender and social status. A new model is combining biological and cultural data to look at the lives of people living in ancient Chile. By studying individuals, researchers are gaining better insight into cultural shifts that took place over generations.

05/18/2017 02:38 PM
Natural resistance to malaria linked to variation in human red blood cell receptors
Researchers have discovered that protection from the most severe form of malaria is linked with natural variation in human red blood cell genes. A study has identified a genetic rearrangement of red blood cell glycophorin receptors that confers a 40 percent reduced risk from severe malaria. This opens a new avenue of research for malarial therapeutics.

05/18/2017 02:38 PM
Fake caterpillar study reveals global pattern in predation
A new study revealing the world's prime insect predation hotspots, achieved its landmark findings using an unusual aid: plasticine 'dummy caterpillars.' The new study has revealed a global pattern of predation on insect herbivores. The trends observed were surprising, revealing that predatory behavior in the tropics is not driven by birds or mammals but by ants and other small arthropods.

05/18/2017 02:03 PM
Antarctic has seen widespread change in last 50 years, moss study reveals
In 2013, researchers studying mosses and microbes growing at the southern end of the Antarctic Peninsula documented unprecedented ecological change over the last 50 years, driven by warming temperatures. Now, the same research group has confirmed that those striking changes in the Antarctic are widespread, occurring all across the Peninsula.

05/18/2017 02:03 PM
Untangling the genetic legacy of tomato domestication
Favorable mutations that went along with increased fruit size and other beneficial traits in tomato plants do not always play well together. A study published in Cell found that natural mutations in two important tomato genes that were selected for different purposes in breeding can cause extreme branching and reduce fruit yield when they occur in the same plant. The researchers used those genes to create a tomato plant that grows more tomatoes.

05/18/2017 02:03 PM
First human antibodies to work against all ebolaviruses
After analyzing the blood of a survivor of the 2013-16 Ebola outbreak, a team of scientists from academia, industry and the government has discovered the first natural human antibodies that can neutralize and protect animals against all three major disease-causing ebolaviruses. The findings could lead to the first broadly effective ebolavirus therapies and vaccines.

05/18/2017 02:03 PM
Tooth truth: Human teeth tell the story of humanity through our fragile relationship with the sun
Researchers have developed a new method to read imperfections in teeth caused by a lack of sunlight, creating a powerful tool to trace events ranging from human evolution and migration out of Africa to the silent damage of vitamin D deficiency that continues to affect 1 billion worldwide.

05/18/2017 02:03 PM
Evolution in butterfly eye dependent on sex, scientists find
By analyzing both the genes that control color detecting photoreceptors and the structural components of the eye itself, evolutionary biologists have discovered male and female butterflies of one particular species have the unique ability to see the world differently from each another because of sex-related evolutionary traits.

05/18/2017 02:02 PM
Water efficiency in rural areas is getting worse, even as it improves in urban centers
A nationwide analysis of water use over the past 30 years finds that there is a disconnect between rural and urban areas, with most urban areas becoming more water efficient and most rural areas becoming less and less efficient over time.

05/18/2017 02:02 PM
Cell mechanism that transforms electrical signals into chemical ones explained
Freiburg scientists explain the cell mechanism that transforms electrical signals into chemical ones.

05/18/2017 02:02 PM
Brain blood vessel lesions tied to intestinal bacteria
Bacteria in the gut can influence the structure of the brain's blood vessels, and may be responsible for producing malformations that can lead to stroke or epilepsy, new research suggests. The study adds to an emerging picture that connects intestinal microbes and disorders of the nervous system.

05/18/2017 02:02 PM
Recommendations for certifying emotional support animals
Little consensus exists when it comes to the certification of 'emotional support animals' (ESAs). These animals usually have little or no specific training, which poses a challenge for mental health professionals who are asked to certify them. Now, researchers have conducted a survey to examine what techniques and instruments mental health professionals are using to aid in their determinations of whether certification of an ESA is appropriate.

05/18/2017 02:02 PM
Impact of invasive plants can linger long after eradication
It is easy to assume that getting rid of invasive plants will allow a local ecosystem to return to its natural state, with native vegetation flourishing once again. However, the impact of weedy invaders can linger for years, a new report outlines.

05/18/2017 10:41 AM
Warm-bloodedness possibly much older than previously thought
Warm-bloodedness in land animals could have evolved much earlier than previously thought, suggests a study of the bones of the long-extinct mammal predecessor Ophiacodon.

05/18/2017 10:41 AM
First direct exploration of magnetic fields in the upper solar atmosphere
Scientists have explored the magnetic field in upper solar atmosphere by observing the polarization of ultraviolet light with the CLASP sounding rocket experiment during its 5-minute flight in space on Sept. 3, 2015. The data show that the structures of the solar chromosphere and transition region are more complicated than expected. It is proven that ultraviolet spectropolarimetry can be used in future investigations of the magnetic fields in upper solar chromosphere and transition region.

05/18/2017 10:41 AM
Even non-migratory birds use a magnetic compass
Not only migratory birds use a built-in magnetic compass to navigate correctly. A new study shows that non-migratory birds also are able to use a built-in compass to orient themselves using the Earth's magnetic field.

05/18/2017 10:41 AM
A recipe for concrete that can withstand road salt deterioration
Engineers have known for some time that calcium chloride salt, commonly used as deicer, reacts with the calcium hydroxide in concrete to form a chemical byproduct that causes roadways to crumble. A civil engineer is working on a new recipe for concrete, using cast-off products from furnaces, that can hold its own against the forces of chemical erosion.

05/18/2017 10:41 AM
Tiger breakthrough: Camera trap time stamps provide valuable data for conservationist
Spatial capture-recapture model analysis is often used to estimate tiger abundance. A new study, however, finds that dates and times of animal detections are often not factored into the analysis. This is despite the fact that this data is available when using 'continuous-time' recorders such as camera-traps.

05/18/2017 10:41 AM
Groundwater loss tracked during drought in California's Central Valley
Significant groundwater loss in California's Central Valley during the recent drought and sparks questions of sustainability for the important agricultural area, a new study reveals.