Science Tuesday: Earth Evolved Quicker, Anti-Aging Mouse Blood, and No More Processed Meat.

Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! I’m sure you already heard the news about processed meat and cancer, so I put that link all the way at the bottom today. Goodbye bacon, I never liked you much anyway (except Benton bacon, which is heavenly). First we’ll get to the rest of the science news before we mourn the loss of sausages (like the boudin noir above).

11th-century mummy’s genes show signs of natural antibiotic resistance: An analysis of an 11th-century mummy from the Incan empire capital of Cuzco has revealed the presence of genes linked to antibiotic resistance, suggesting that resistance may not always be tied to antibiotic overuse, according to a study published in PLOS ONE. Researchers studying the mummy’s microbiome found that many modern-day antibiotics would not have been effective in treating the woman’s case of Chagas’ disease because of the antibiotic-resistant genes present in her body. “The finding has practical implications in modern medicine and helps understand the evolution of pathogens,” said study co-author Gino Fornaciari.

Unusual eating habits turn subordinate naked mole rats into nannies: Infertile subordinate naked mole rats assume the care of their queen’s pups after they absorb estrogen by feeding on the queen’s feces, according to findings presented at the Society for Neuroscience conference. Naked mole rats reside in eusocial colonies much like bees, with a queen; some males capable of impregnating her; and subordinates that forage for the group, protect the nest, and care for the queen and her babies. The subordinates have no mature sex organs or hormones but pick up estrogen by eating the pregnant queen’s feces, researchers found.

Amphibious fish cools itself by jumping onto land: An amphibious fish found in warm areas from Brazil to Florida likes to cool itself off by jumping out of hot water onto land, according to researchers’ observations published in Biology Letters. The mangrove rivulus can get overheated in its home waters, which can reach up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 38 degrees Celsius, so it jumps out to lower its body temperature before wiggling its way back.

Sunscreen contributes to coral reef damage, study suggests: Chemicals in sunscreen may be contributing to the global epidemic of coral bleaching, a new study suggests. Researchers say just a small amount of sunscreen can damage the fragile coral reefs, and it doesn’t have to be used by people at beaches. “The most direct evidence we have is from beaches with a large amount of people in the water. But another way is through the wastewater streams. People come inside and step into the shower. People forget it goes somewhere,” said John Fauth, co-author of the study published in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

Early morning skies to light up with Orionid meteor shower Thursday: The skies are expected to light up Thursday morning with the Orionid meteor shower. The shower is expected to reach its peak just before sunrise, around 5 a.m. local time, when about 20 to 25 meteors might be seen per hour in clear, dark skies, experts say.

Other intelligent life may not have caught up to Earth yet, study suggests: We may not be hearing from other intelligent life-forms on other planets because Earth evolved more quickly, according to a new study about the likely evolution of habitable planets. “Our main motivation was understanding the Earth’s place in the context of the rest of the universe. Compared to all the planets that will ever form in the universe, the Earth is actually quite early,” said researcher Peter Behroozi. The scientists used data collected by the Hubble and Kepler space telescopes to reach their findings.

I suppose someone has to be first. Go Earth!

New species of giant tortoise found in Galapagos: A new species of giant tortoise has been found on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands, according to a study published in PLOS ONE. Scientists used two kinds of genetic tests to differentiate 250 Chelonoidis donfaustoi from a larger group of tortoises on the island in what was once thought to be a single species. The newly discovered tortoise species lives on a drier portion of the island and has a different shell shape.

Crocodiles keep one eye open while sleeping, study finds: Wary crocodiles likely sleep with one brain hemisphere at a time, allowing them to keep one eye open to scan for possible threats, a new study suggests. The crocodiles’ one-eyed slumber hints that they use unihemispheric sleep like other creatures with this ability, including some birds and aquatic mammals, but more precise testing is needed. “Ultimately we would require electrophysiological recordings — so you’d have to look at brain waves in both hemispheres of a sleeping crocodile, to say: is one hemisphere awake while the other is asleep,” said John Lesku, senior author of the study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Researchers say protein found in young mouse blood has anti-aging properties: A specific protein in the blood of young mice has an anti-aging effect when injected into old mice, a new study published in Circulation Research suggests. Harvard scientists argue that the protein GDF11 reversed age-related heart thickening to some degree in elderly mice, and in earlier studies the protein was shown to revitalize brains and muscles.

Rats given ability to sense infrared light via brain implants: An implant placed in the brains of rats allows them to sense infrared light, according to findings presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting. Sensors were placed in the rats’ visual cortexes, spaced out evenly to allow for infrared perception of 360 degrees.

Study detects presence of carbon nanotubes in lungs: Carbon nanotubes have been found in the lungs of asthma patients in Paris, suggesting the man-made molecules are becoming common in air pollution, a study has found. The nanotubes, which several industries use due to their unique physical properties, can be inadvertently created by catalytic converters in automobiles. Researchers did not find any direct link between the nanotubes and asthma, but since nanotubes were present in all of the samples they collected, the scientists believe it’s likely everyone has some in their lungs.

Magnetic brain stimulation may help stroke patients move paralyzed arms: Transcranial magnetic stimulation, in which pulses of magnetic energy are sent into an area of the brain, may one day help stroke victims regain some use of their paralyzed arms, according to findings presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting. In tests, the magnetic stimulation improved motor function and suggested that a new area of the brain might be taught to move a paralyzed arm. “Stimulating this area repeatedly may force the brain to use this latent area,” said researcher Rachael Harrington.

Near-100% probability of large quake in L.A. within 3 years, study finds: An earthquake of magnitude 5 or greater has nearly a 100% probability of occurring in the Los Angeles area by April 1, 2018, according to a new NASA-led study. Researchers used GPS and in-air radar measurements to examine the Earth’s crust within a 62-mile radius of La Habra, Calif., where a magnitude-5.1 temblor struck last March, and calculated the strain on deep, locked faults that remain there. The scientists say the probability of a quake with a magnitude of 6 or larger is much less, about 35%, and note that their calculations are not predictions but statistical probability.

Evidence of plague found in Bronze Age skeletons: DNA testing of Bronze Age skeletons has found evidence of a plague outbreak that occurred thousands of years before the Black Death that devastated Europe in the 1300s. Researchers found enough Yersinia pestis DNA in skeletons that tested positive for the bacteria to produce complete genome sequences, according to a study published in Cell. The scientists found, however, that the disease did not spread as readily as the later outbreak, likely because it lacked a gene that makes it easier for fleas to transmit it.

Fungus plays key role in health of bee larvae, study suggests: Bees are providing additional food for their larvae by farming fungus, a new study published in Current Biology has found. Researchers who tried to raise bees on pollen alone discovered that the survival rate of bee larvae dropped significantly when the fungus wasn’t present. The exact role the fungus plays has yet to be determined, but the finding could have implications for agricultural use of fungicides.

Study links activity of navigational brain cells with Alzheimer’s: How a person navigates a virtual maze could indicate if they will develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to research published in Science. The activity level of a network of navigational brain cells, called grid cells, is lower in those with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s, the study suggests.

Study uncovers molecular roots of leukemia: Using next-generation exomic sequencing, scientists identified 44 gene mutations and 11 genes with an abnormal number of copies that might play a role in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Two of the genes with CLL-linked mutations, RPS15 and IKZF3, have not been linked with human cancer in other studies. The results are reported in the journal Nature.

Compounds needed for life were on Earth from beginning: The presence of 21 complex organic molecules in the wake of Comet Lovejoy, which passed close to the sun this year, suggests the chemicals needed for life on Earth existed from the start, according to a study published in Science Advances. Scientists say several of the carbon-carrying mixtures have been detected near sun-like stars as they began to form. “This suggests that our proto-planetary nebula was already enriched in complex organic molecules (as disk models suggested) when comets and planets formed,” said Nicolas Biver, lead author of the study.

Small piece of space debris expected to fall in Indian Ocean next month: A bit of space junk will drop into the Indian Ocean near Sri Lanka on Nov. 13, affording scientists a rare opportunity to track its path and test their plans should a larger, more dangerous object one day fall back to Earth. WT1190F, which could be from a recent moon mission or one of the Apollo missions, was spotted this month, and scientists swiftly calculated its trajectory. Most, if not all, of the object will burn up when it enters Earth’s atmosphere.

Skygazers in for pre-Halloween treat as Jupiter, Mars and Venus line up: Jupiter, Mars and Venus have aligned in a celestial light show visible until about Thursday. It’s a rare occurrence that won’t happen again until 2021 because of their different orbits around the sun. The planets, arrayed in what’s called a planetary trio, are best viewed in the eastern sky in the hours just before dawn.

Polymer made from orange, industrial waste products may clean up mercury: A polymer made from orange peels and industrial byproducts may help remove mercury from both soil and water. The nontoxic polymer was developed by researchers at Flinders University as a cost-efficient way to combat mercury pollution. “Not only is this new polymer good for solving the problem of mercury pollution, but it also has the added environmental bonus of putting this waste material to good use while converting them into a form that is much easier to store so that once the material is ‘full’ it can easily be removed and replaced,” said researcher Justin Chalker.

New studies look into brain’s immune cells: Microglia, the brain’s immune cells, may play a role in neurodegenerative and developmental disorders, and may also play a larger role in brain development than once thought, according to findings discussed at the Society for Neuroscience conference in Chicago. New studies suggest that microglia are key to pruning excess synapses, and that protective tags may help keep them in check so they don’t remove too many synapses. Other studies have found increased microglia activity in those with autism and schizophrenia, but what role they play is unclear.

Allergic sensitization tied to secondhand smoke exposure: Secondhand smoke exposure in infancy, but not while inside the womb, was associated with an increased risk of food sensitization in children who were tested at ages 4, 8 and 16, Swedish researchers reported in the journal Allergy. The findings, based on 3,316 children who were followed from birth up to age 16, also showed an association between secondhand smoke exposure in infancy and an overall increased risk of eczema in combination with sensitization.

Rich tomb of ancient warrior may hold clues to Greece’s cultural transition: Archaeologists have found the opulent tomb of an ancient warrior who died around 1500 B.C. on Greece’s southwest coast. Researchers hope the find can help them better understand how the Minoan culture of Crete influenced the Mycenaean civilization on the mainland since the tomb holds numerous artifacts from Crete. “I think these objects were not just loot but had a meaning already for the guy buried in this grave. This is the critical period when religious ideas were being transferred from Crete to the mainland,” said Jack Davis, part of the team that found the grave this spring.

Researchers hope to learn more about early settlers of Americas by studying DNA: DNA recovered from the skeletons of children who lived more than 11,000 years ago in Alaska may offer scientists new clues about the first settlers in the Americas, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The skeletons were found in Beringia, near the Bering Strait, and the mitochondrial DNA collected from them is among the oldest genetic material ever found in the Americas, researchers said.

Large number of early galaxies seen by Hubble Space Telescope: The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a large cluster of galaxies that existed in the early days of the universe. “The faintest galaxies detected in these Hubble observations are fainter than any other yet uncovered in the deepest Hubble observations,” said the Observatoire de Lyon’s Johan Richard. A study on the find is slated to be published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Germs thriving on space station, study suggests: Infectious germs are thriving on the International Space Station, according to a new study published in Microbiome. The germs would be mostly innocuous on Earth, but they find the conditions in space a prime breeding ground, researchers say. The findings may lead to a more rigorous cleaning routine for ISS astronauts if they want to avoid skin problems caused by Actinobacteria, which is associated with human skin and which was found during an analysis of dust on the space station.

Computer models show how ancient hypercarnivores kept large herbivores in check: Large ancient hypercarnivores like cave hyenas and saber-toothed cats helped keep megaherbivores like mammoths and mastodons in check during the Pleistocene period, new computer models have shown. “The group sizes of predators were considerably larger in the past than they are today, which would have made it easier for them to take down large prey,” said evolutionary biologist Blaire Van Valkenburgh, lead author of the study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

New microscope gives researchers unique view of living biological processes: A new light microscope can give researchers an unprecedented 3D view of biological processes in entire large specimens that are not transparent, thanks to better spatial resolution. Researchers used the microscope to watch nervous systems develop in living fruit fly larvae. The IsoView is described in Nature Methods.

Trained dogs can detect hypoglycemia by their owner’s sweat: A study in Diabetes Therapy revealed that diabetes alert dogs had an 87.5% accuracy rate in detecting spot hypoglycemia sweat samples. Researchers tested six trained dogs, which were made to sniff sweat samples taken from patients during a hypoglycemic episode and during times of steady blood glucose levels, and note that the study shows dogs can use smell alone, without behavioral clues, to detect hypoglycemia.

WHO agency says processed meats raise cancer risk: The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer put processed meats such as hot dogs and bacon into its group 1 list of products that have sufficient evidence linking them to cancer. It put red meat, including beef, lamb and pork, in group 2A, classifying them as probable carcinogens. The IARC’s Kurt Straif said individual risk of developing colorectal cancer from eating processed meat is small but rises with increased consumption.


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Published by

Rebecca Enzor

Rebecca Enzor is a chemist in Charleston, SC who writes Young Adult and New Adult Fantasy and Magical Realism. Repped by Eric Smith of P.S. Literary. Her debut novel, SPEAK THE OCEAN, comes out with Reuts Pub in Fall 2018!

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