Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Tarantula venom illuminates electrical activity in live cells

Date:
October 21, 2014

Source:
University of California - Davis Health System

Summary:
A cellular probe that combines a tarantula toxin with a fluorescent compound has been developed to help scientists observe electrical activity in neurons and other cells. This is the first time researchers have been able to visually observe these electrical signaling proteins turn on without genetic modification.


Did Mammals Sleep Through Cosmic Impact That Ended Dinosaurs?

y Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor | October 22, 2014 07:25am ET

A shrewlike creature in Madagascar that can hibernate for at least nine months of the year without waking may help reveal how mammals survived the cataclysm that ended the age of dinosaurs, researchers suggest.

These findings could also help lead to a way to put astronauts in a state of suspended animation on journeys in deep space and for victims of medical emergencies, scientists added.

The disaster that killed off all dinosaurs except birds about 67 million years ago, the so-called end-Cretaceous extinction event, was probably a giant cosmic impact that struck near what is now Chicxulub, Mexico. To find out how the ancestors of today's mammals survived this catastrophe to inherit the Earth when so many other, more dominant groups of animals did not, researchers investigated the life of "Shrëwdinger" — a virtual example, developed in a prior study, of the small, insect-eating, furry-tailed creature that was the likely forerunner of most living mammals. 

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. Gillian Orr charts the other species on the brink


Wednesday 22 October 2014

While routinely checking on the four northern white rhinos that roam the 90,000 acres at Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy the rangers found that one of their males, Suni, had died of natural causes.

At 34, Suni had managed to reach the same age as his father before him, and it is not considered a particularly premature age to go. But while there was great relief that this "gentle giant" hadn't fallen prey to poachers, news of his death on Friday has catastrophic implications: there are now only six of this particular subspecies of rhino in existence. Even more worryingly, Suni was considered to be the last breeder. The only other male, Sudan, who is also at Ol Pejeta, is too old and weak to mate.

Physicists solve longstanding puzzle of how moths find distant mates

(Phys.org) —The way in which male moths locate females flying hundreds of meters away has long been a mystery to scientists.

Researchers know the moths use pheromones to locate their mates. Yet when these chemical odors are widely dispersed in a windy, turbulent atmosphere, the insects still manage to fly in the right direction over hundreds of meters with only random puffs of their mates' pheromones spaced tens of seconds apart to guide them.
Physicists solve longstanding puzzle of how moths find distant mates
Moths from the species Bombyx mori were used for the study
"The male moths are flying toward females integrating all of this information along the way and somehow getting to them," said Massimo Vergassola, a professor of physics at UC San Diego. "French naturalists reported this behavior over a century ago and it has continued to be a puzzle to entomologists, neuroscientists and physicists."




Kung fu stegosaur: Lethal fighters when necessary

Date:
October 21, 2014

Source:
Geological Society of America

Summary:
Stegosaurs might be portrayed as lumbering plant eaters, but they were lethal fighters when necessary, according to paleontologists who have uncovered new evidence of a casualty of stegosaurian combat. The evidence is a fatal stab wound in the pubis bone of a predatory allosaur. The wound -- in the conical shape of a stegosaur tail spike -- would have required great dexterity to inflict and shows clear signs of having cut short the allosaur's life.


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