Science News in Brief

Global Warming Threatens Biodiversity In Australia’s Wet Tropics:

“There is a common, though incorrect, perception that the impacts of climate change will be worse in temperate regions than in the tropics,” said Williams, principal investigator of the Earthwatch-supported Climate Change in the Rainforest project. “Global warming can have a particularly strong impact on mountainous regions like Australia’s Wet Tropics, where the mountaintops and higher tablelands exist as cool islands in a sea of warmer climates. Almost all plants and animals unique to this region are adapted to these cooler uplands.”
Williams states that climate change in the Wet Tropics will likely result in species ranges shifting up mountains, to maintain their habitat needs. However, the mountains are not very high and many animals are already restricted to the mountaintops. There is no room for latitudinal movement as there is no rainforest for hundreds of kilometers to the north or south.

Researchers discover new type of cricket:

In addition to the possible new genus of cricket, four new species of crickets have been identified from the spring samples. A barklouse also was found in the caves. Though common in South America, this was the first one discovered in North America, Voyles said.
Previous cave trips yielded two new species of millipedes within three miles of each other.
What makes the yet-to-be-named new genus of cricket special is that it has pincers on its hind end. The pincers are functional, but it is not known why they have them nor what purpose they serve.

Type? Why not say “genus” in the title?
Homing instinct of bees surprises:

Bumblebees can navigate their way home over distances of up to 13km (eight miles), a UK research team has shown.
The study also found only worker bees seemed to have this homing ability.

Gene Breakthrough Heralds Better Prospect For Malaria Solution:

Scientists have made a major breakthrough in understanding the genetics of the insect parasite that is being targeted by researchers as a way of preventing the spread of malaria.
Wolbachia bacteria are parasites that infect as many as 80 per cent of the world’s insects and manipulate reproduction in their hosts in order to improve their own transmission.

It is actually a work on fruit-flies. The whole Wollbachia story is amazing and this study is excelent, but malaria is many steps removed from it, almost as an afterthought – so why is it in the title?
‘Friend’ Protein Keeps Nerve Signals In Check:

Among the many thousands of proteins in the cell, some are essential players while some are “hangers-on.” The neuronal protein syntaxin is essential. Without it, you die. A more recently discovered protein called tomosyn hangs on, or binds, to syntaxin. Its Japanese discoverers named it tomosyn by combining tomo — “friend” in Japanese — with “syn” for syntaxin, to mean “friend of syntaxin.”
Now a U.S.-based research team reports this friendly protein appears to play a key role in regulating the synaptic release of neurotransmitter chemicals, which suggests that it may also play a role in learning and memory.

When Biology Gets ‘Quirky,’ Scientists Turn To Math:

Based on the number of connections and how they overlap, Feinberg and Craciun can tell with a glance whether a reaction is predictable, or whether it might be what they call “quirky” — prone to the switching behavior that occasionally produces strange results. They created a theorem that lays out mathematical rules that researchers can use to make the same judgment.
As it turns out, many of the graphs that describe biological reactions are quirky.
“Some of the graphs that come from classical biological reactions — even simple ones — indicate that these reactions might behave in very quirky ways,” Feinberg said.
“This behavior may be essential to biology itself.”

I’d like to know more about this – can a math-blogger give a step-by-step explanation of their paper?

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One response to “Science News in Brief

  1. Pardon my rant, but the global warming story reminded me of a famous picture from the vicinity of the moon and what it meant.
    And how we seem to have forgotten, or at least tolerate a government that has completely forgotten and trashes the idea of protecting the planet, all the while pursuing a mad and dangerous neocon fantasy to remake the Middle East.
    Bush to planet Earth: Drop dead!