Top Environment News -- ScienceDaily

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

06/23/2017 03:55 PM
Genes, ozone, and autism
Exposure to ozone in the environment puts individuals with high levels of genetic variation at an even higher risk for developing autism than would be expected just by adding the two risk factors together, a new analysis shows. The study is the first to look at the combined effects of genome-wide genetic change and environmental risk factors for autism.

06/23/2017 01:15 PM
Fungal toxins easily become airborne, creating potential indoor health risk
Toxins produced by three different species of fungus growing indoors on wallpaper may become aerosolized, and easily inhaled. The findings likely have implications for 'sick building syndrome.

06/23/2017 11:05 AM
Scientists recreate Californian Indian water bottles to study ancient exposure to chemicals
Water bottles replicated in the traditional method used by Native Californian Indians reveal that the manufacturing process may have been detrimental to the health of these people.

06/23/2017 11:05 AM
Sweet bribes for ants are key to crops bearing fruit, study shows
Some flowering crops, such as beans and cotton, carefully manage the amount and sweetness of nectar produced on their flowers and leaves, to recruit colonizing ants which deter herbivores. This strategy balances their needs for defense and reproduction.

06/23/2017 10:07 AM
Scientists work to develop heat-resistant 'cow of the future'
More than half the cattle in the world live in hot and humid environments, including about 40 percent of beef cows in the United States. By using genomic tools, researchers aim to produce an animal with superior ability to adapt to hot living conditions and produce top-quality beef.

06/23/2017 10:06 AM
Tropical viruses: Coming soon to Europe?
The mosquito-borne viral disease Chikungunya is usually found in tropical areas. Researchers have now discovered how climate change is facilitating the spread of the Chikungunya virus. Even if climate change only progresses moderately – as scientists are currently observing – the risk of infection will continue to increase in many regions of the world through the end of the 21st century. If climate change continues unchecked, the virus could even spread to southern Europe and the United States.

06/23/2017 10:06 AM
Dune ecosystem modelling
Acacia longifolia, which is native to Australia, is a species which was cultivated in Portugal primarily to stabilize dunes and as an ornamental plant; now it has spread out uncontrollably in Portugal and into many ecosystems around the world. Using the acacia as an example, researchers show that the location has an effect on interaction with other species.

06/23/2017 10:04 AM
Turtle go-slow zone extensions needed
Mmarine scientists are calling for an extension of go-slow zones in turtle habitats to reduce boat strikes on the threatened creatures.

06/23/2017 10:04 AM
Lowering health risks of cannabis use with new public health guidelines
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks. The guidelines are based on a scientific review by an international team of experts.

06/23/2017 10:04 AM
Tipping points are real: Gradual changes in CO2 levels can induce abrupt climate changes
During the last glacial period, within only a few decades the influence of atmospheric CO2 on the North Atlantic circulation resulted in temperature increases of up to 10 degrees Celsius in Greenland -- as indicated by new climate calculations.

06/23/2017 08:50 AM
Plants sacrifice 'daughters' to survive chilly weather
Plants adopt different strategies to survive the changing temperatures of their natural environments. This is most evident in temperate regions where forest trees shed their leaves to conserve energy during the cold season. In a new study, a team of plant biologists found that some plants may selectively kill part of their roots to survive under cold weather conditions.

06/23/2017 08:50 AM
Protein mingling under blue light
One of the current challenges in biology is to understand rapidly-changing phenomena. Interestingly, only a small fraction of them is due to proteins acting in isolation, the majority of biological events are regulated by proteins acting together in clusters. Researchers have developed a new tool, called "CRY2clust", to trigger protein cluster formation in response to blue light. This new technique has a much faster response rate and higher sensitivity to light than existent methods.

06/22/2017 06:28 PM
How a single chemical bond balances cells between life and death
With SLAC's X-ray laser and synchrotron, scientists measured exactly how much energy goes into keeping a crucial chemical bond from triggering a cell's death spiral.

06/22/2017 02:31 PM
How pheromones trigger female sexual behavior
A new study showed how a male pheromone in mice enhances sexual behaviors in females -- and how it may enhance a different behavior, aggression, in males -- by identifying distinct neural circuits and neurons that generate a particular behavioral response to specific chemical signals. The findings point to a model for further investigating how sex-specific innate behaviors in living things are controlled.

06/22/2017 02:30 PM
How eggs got their shapes
The evolution of the amniotic egg -- complete with membrane and shell -- was key to vertebrates leaving the oceans and colonizing the land and air but how bird eggs evolved into so many different shapes and sizes has long been a mystery. Now, an international team of scientists took a quantitative approach to that question and found that adaptations for flight may have been critical drivers of egg-shape variation in birds.

06/22/2017 02:30 PM
Catalyst mimics the z-scheme of photosynthesis
A new study demonstrates a process with great potential for developing technologies for reducing CO2 levels.

06/22/2017 02:30 PM
Previously unknown pine marten diversity discovered
The elusive American pine marten, a little-studied member of the weasel family, might be more diverse than originally thought, according to new research.

06/22/2017 02:30 PM
How do genes get new jobs? Wasp venom offers new insights
A new study describes how four closely related species of parasitic wasps change their venoms rapidly in order to adapt to new hosts, and proposes that co-option of single copy genes may be a common but relatively understudied mechanism of evolution for new gene functions, particularly under conditions of rapid evolutionary change.

06/22/2017 02:30 PM
A rising star: Researchers dissect the process by which blood vessels shrink, which could have important implications for human health
It's a tiny marine invertebrate, no more than 3 millimeters in size. But closely related to humans, Botryllus schlosseri might hold the key to new treatments for cancer and a host of vascular diseases.

06/22/2017 02:30 PM
First Chikungunya-infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes found in Brazil
While more than 13,000 cases of Chikungunya viral disease were reported in Brazil in 2015, scientists had never before detected the virus in a captured mosquito in this country. Now, researchers have identified a mosquito -- caught in the Brazilian city of Aracaju -- that's naturally infected with the East-Central-South-African (ECSA) genotype of Chikungunya.

06/22/2017 02:30 PM
Simulated honeybees can use simple brain circuits for complex learning
Honeybees may not need key brain structures known as mushroom bodies in order to learn complex associations between odors and rewards, according to new research.

06/22/2017 02:29 PM
New efficient, low-temperature catalyst for hydrogen production
Scientists have developed a new low-temperature catalyst for producing high-purity hydrogen gas while simultaneously using up carbon monoxide (CO). The discovery could improve the performance of fuel cells that run on hydrogen fuel but can be poisoned by CO.

06/22/2017 02:29 PM
How bacterial organelles assemble
Scientists are providing the clearest view yet of an intact bacterial microcompartment, revealing at atomic-level resolution the structure and assembly of the organelle's protein shell. This work could benefit research in bioenergy and pathogenesis, and it could lead to new methods of bioengineering bacteria for beneficial purposes.

06/22/2017 02:29 PM
Switchable DNA mini-machines store information
Biomedical engineers have built simple machines out of DNA, consisting of arrays whose units switch reversibly between two different shapes. The arrays' inventors say they could be harnessed to make nanotech sensors or amplifiers. Potentially, they could be combined to form logic gates, the parts of a molecular computer.

06/22/2017 02:29 PM
Ancient Egyptians to modern humans: Coronary artery disease genes benefit reproduction
Researchers have found that genes for coronary heart disease (CAD) also influence reproduction, so in order to reproduce successfully, the genes for heart disease will also be inherited.

06/22/2017 12:20 PM
UV-sensing protein in brain of marine annelid zooplankton
Larvae of a marine ragworm Platynereis dumerilii have been studied as a zooplankton model, and possess photoreceptor cells in the brain to regulate circadian swimming behavior. This study revealed that a photoreceptive protein in the brain photoreceptor cells is UV (ultra-violet) sensitive. Since avoidance of UV irradiation is a major cause of a large-scale daily movement of zooplankton, the UV sensor in the brain would be important for physiology and ecology of the zooplankton model.

06/22/2017 12:20 PM
Cells in fish's spinal discs repair themselves
A unique repair mechanism has been discovered in the developing backbone of zebrafish that could give insight into why spinal discs of longer-lived organisms like humans degenerate with age. The repair mechanism protects fluid-filled cells of the notochord, the precursor of the spine, from mechanical stress. Notochord cells eventually form the gelatinous center of intervertebral discs, the structures that often degenerate with age to cause back and neck pain.

06/22/2017 12:19 PM
Select memories can be erased, leaving others intact
Different types of memories stored in the same neuron of the marine snail Aplysia can be selectively erased, according to a new study.

06/22/2017 12:19 PM
Satellite data to map endangered monkey populations on Earth
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, a research team can map multiple indicators of monkey distribution, including human activity zones as inferred from roads and settlements, direct detections from mosquito-derived iDNA, animal sound recordings, plus detections of other species that are usually found when monkeys are present, such as other large vertebrates.

06/22/2017 12:19 PM
Ecology insights improve plant biomass degradation by microorganisms
Microbes are widely used to break down plant biomass into sugars, which can be used as sustainable building blocks for novel biocompounds. Getting the right microbial community for this process is still a matter of trial and error. New insights by ecologists could make a rational design possible.

06/22/2017 12:19 PM
How pythons regenerate their organs and other secrets of the snake genome
Snakes exhibit incredible evolutionary adaptations, including the ability to rapidly regenerate their organs and produce venom. Scientists studied these adaptations using genetic sequencing and advanced computing. Supercomputers helped the team identify a number of genes associated with organ growth in Burmese pythons, study secondary contact in related rattlesnake species, and develop tools to recognize evolutionary changes caused by natural selection.

06/22/2017 11:04 AM
Sea sponges stay put with anchors that bend but don't break
The anchors that hold Venus' flower basket sea sponges to the ocean floor have an internal architecture that increases their ability to bend, according to a new study. Understanding that natural architecture could inform future human-made materials.

06/22/2017 10:40 AM
Lessons from whale population collapse could help future species at risk
There were warning signs that populations of commercially harvested whales were heading for global collapse up to 40 years before the event, a study of historic whaling records has revealed.

06/22/2017 10:40 AM
Critical gaps in our knowledge of where infectious diseases occur
Scientists have called for action to a serious lack of data on the worldwide distribution of disease-causing organisms. Without this knowledge, predicting where and when the next disease outbreak will emerge is hardly possible. Macroecologists hold the expertise to create the needed data network and close the knowledge gaps.

06/22/2017 10:40 AM
Moth eyes inspire new screen coating, making reading in sunlight a lot easier
Screens on even the newest phones and tablets can be hard to read outside in bright sunlight. Inspired by the nanostructures found on moth eyes, researchers have developed a new antireflection film that could keep people from having to run to the shade to look at their mobile devices.

06/22/2017 10:40 AM
Australian origin likely for iconic New Zealand tree
Ancestors of the iconic New Zealand Christmas Tree, Phutukawa, may have originated in Australia, new fossil research suggests.

06/22/2017 10:40 AM
New insight into a central biological dogma on ion transport
New research results show how active transport of potassium can be achieved by a membrane protein complex that has roots in both ion pump and ion channel super-families. The results shed new light on what define channels and pumps.

06/22/2017 10:40 AM
'Star dust' wasp is a new extinct species named after David Bowie's alter ego
During her study on fossil insects at China's Capitol Normal University, a student visited the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, USA, carrying two unidentified wasp specimens that were exceptionally well-preserved and 100 million years old. Close examination revealed that both were species new to science. Furthermore, one of them was found to belong to a genus of modern wasps.

06/22/2017 10:38 AM
The two faces of rot fungi
Yogurt, beer, bread and specialties such as tasty blue cheeses or good wine -- special microorganisms and refining processes first produce the pleasant flavors and enticing aromas of many foodstuffs. Researchers have now investigated the formation of rot in grapes and have shown that when this is caused by certain kinds of mold fungi, the resultant wine can have not only moldy but also floral aromas.

06/22/2017 10:38 AM
Bug spray accumulation in the home
Pyrethroids, a common household pesticide known to cause skin irritation, headache, dizziness and nausea, persists in the home for up over one year, a new investigation has found.

06/22/2017 08:33 AM
Look inside your own pantry or fridge to find the top culprit of food waste
Did you know you throw out about 20 pounds of food every month? Nearly 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. goes to waste. Experts have tips for reducing waste at home, and look at how the food service industry is working to do the same.

06/22/2017 08:33 AM
Biologist develops new method to calculate populations of elusive species
An innovative new method of estimating the density of snake populations without employing the capture-mark-recapture technique has been created by a biologist.

06/22/2017 08:29 AM
Can animal diet mitigate greenhouse emissions?
The inclusion of agroindustrial by-products in pig feed can reduce the nitrous oxide emissions (N2O) of the slurry used as manures up to 65%, suggests new research.

06/22/2017 08:28 AM
Dogs to sniff out chemicals that identify human remains
New research to help improve accuracy of criminal investigations involves a partnership between humans and their canine coworkers.

06/22/2017 08:27 AM
Pathogen that causes sleeping sickness: Promising new target
The life-threatening African trypanosomiasis, also called sleeping sickness, is caused by protozoa of the species Trypanosoma brucei. A team of researchers has studied the pathogens and reported exciting news: The trypanosomes have a so far unknown enzyme which does not exist in humans and other vertebrates. This makes it a promising target for therapy.

06/21/2017 07:00 PM
African leopards revealed: Study documents minute-to-minute behavior of elusive cats
The elusive behavior of the African leopard has been revealed in great detail for the first time as part of a sophisticated study that links the majestic cat's caloric demands and its drive to kill.

06/21/2017 07:00 PM
Pollinator extinctions alter structure of ecological networks
The absence of a single dominant bumblebee species from an ecosystem disrupts foraging patterns among a broad range of remaining pollinators in the system -- from other bees to butterflies, beetles and more, field experiments show.

06/21/2017 04:59 PM
Algae: The final frontier
Algae dominate the oceans that cover nearly three-quarters of our planet, and produce half of the oxygen that we breathe. And yet fewer than 10 percent of the algae have been formally described in the scientific literature, as noted in a new review.

06/21/2017 04:59 PM
Fossil holds new insights into how fish evolved onto land
The fossil of an early snake-like animal -- called Lethiscus stocki -- has kept its evolutionary secrets for the last 340-million years. Now, an international team of researchers has revealed new insights into the ancient Scottish fossil that dramatically challenge our understanding of the early evolution of tetrapods, or four-limbed animals with backbones.

06/21/2017 03:15 PM
Trash-picking seagulls excrete tons of nutrients
At least 1.4 million seagulls feed at landfills in North America. Aside from the nuisance they pose, a study finds their nutrient-rich feces may threaten the health of nearby waters. The study estimates North American gulls deposit 240 tons of nitrogen and 39 tons of phosphorus into nearby lakes and reservoirs each year, fertilizing algae and weeds and costing local governments about $100 million in nutrient offset costs.

06/21/2017 02:51 PM
Reconstruction of ancient chromosomes offers insight into mammalian evolution
Researchers have gone back in time, at least virtually, computationally recreating the chromosomes of the first eutherian mammal, the long-extinct, shrewlike ancestor of all placental mammals.

06/21/2017 02:51 PM
New research leverages big data to predict severe weather
Every year, severe weather endangers millions of people and causes billions of dollars in damage worldwide. But new research has found a way to better predict some of these threats by harnessing the power of big data.

06/21/2017 02:21 PM
How did bird babysitting co-ops evolve?
It's easy to make up a story to explain an evolved trait; proving that's what happened is much harder. Here scientists test ideas about cooperative breeding in birds and find a solution that resolves earlier disagreements.

06/21/2017 01:34 PM
Mystery of unexplained 'bright nights' solved
Dating back to the first century, scientists, philosophers and reporters have noted the occasional occurrence of 'bright nights,' when an unexplained glow in the night sky lets observers see distant mountains, read a newspaper or check their watch. A new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, uses satellite data to present a possible explanation for these puzzling historical phenomena.

06/21/2017 01:34 PM
Role aerosols play in climate change unlocked by spectacular Icelandic volcanic eruption
A spectacular six-month Icelandic lava field eruption could provide the crucial key for scientists to unlock the role aerosols play in climate change, through their interactions with clouds.

06/21/2017 01:29 PM
New mechanism for genome regulation discovered
The mechanisms that separate mixtures of oil and water may also help the organization of a part of our DNA called heterochromatin, according to a new study. Researchers found that liquid-liquid phase separation helps heterochromatin organize large parts of the genome into specific regions of the nucleus. The work addresses a long-standing question about how DNA functions are organized in space and time, including how genes are silenced or expressed.

06/21/2017 12:54 PM
Zika: Studying the 'rebound virus'
Scientists are investigating how the Zika virus is able to find a safe harbor in an infected host's tissue and stage a rebound weeks after the virus was seemingly cleared by the immune system.

06/21/2017 12:53 PM
Fish mercury levels after burns: Burn without concern
Forest services can continue to use controlled burns without worrying about fish health in associated watersheds, new research suggests.

06/21/2017 12:53 PM
Piglets prefer new toys, behavior study shows
We can't help but be tempted by new things. We see it in a child's eyes when she opens a new toy, and feel it every time a new version of the iPhone is released. It turns out our preference for shiny, new things is pretty universal throughout the animal kingdom. Yes, even piglets prefer new toys.

06/21/2017 12:05 PM
Understanding how pain is bugging you
Gut bacteria play a key role in regulating abdominal pain and its associated changes in the brain and spinal cord, at least in mice, report scientists.