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'Unequivocal' evidence that global warming is man-made


‘Shells contain elements trapped within them that can be extracted and used as indicators as to what was happening at a certain time in our past.

‘When we then compare that information with modern specimens, it shows us, for example, that as the seawater temperature increases, so do levels of magnesium.

‘We have a 50-year-old giant clam that, rather like the rings of a tree trunk, is particularly good at revealing seasonality and how things responded to climate change.’

Museum botanist Dr Mark Spencer, who specialises in orchids, said that because most scientific research focuses on the physics of climate change, it’s vital to work further on understanding its affect on biodiversity.

‘There are big gaps in our knowledge, which impacts on vital issues such as food security, sustainability of ecosystems in terms of human wellbeing and biodiversity,’ he said.

Another important aspect of the Museum collection is that new techniques are now available to study specimens.

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New Species October 2013

Scientists discover cocoa frog and 60 other new species in remote Suriname




“Suriname is one of the last places where an opportunity still exists to conserve massive tracts of untouched forest and pristine rivers where biodiversity is thriving,” says Trond Larsen, the Director of the Rapid Assessment Program at Conservation International. “Ensuring the preservation of these ecosystems is not only vital for the Surinamese people, but may help the world to meet its growing demand for food and water as well as reducing the impacts of climate change.”

The biologists visited four sites along the upper Palumeu River watershed, including mountains to lowlands. They catalogued 1,378 species in total (an average of 86 per researcher), of which about sixty are thought new to science.

Suriname is one of the most-heavily forested countries in the world: around 91 percent of the country is still covered in forest according the FAO, while the small country’s population remains small. However, mining, hydropower, and other industries are beginning to take their toll. In fact, the team measured high levels of mercury in the river despite being far from mining sites, but Larsen says the mercury is likely coming from mining and energy operations in other countries.


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Selectively erasing unwanted memories


Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have been able to erase dangerous drug-associated memories in mice and rats without affecting other more benign memories.

The surprising discovery points to a clear and workable method to disrupt unwanted memories while leaving the rest intact, the scientists say.

For recovering addicts and individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), unwanted memories can be devastating. Former meth addicts, for instance, report intense drug cravings triggered by associations with cigarettes, money, even gum (used to relieve dry mouth), pushing them back into the addiction they so desperately want to leave.

As in the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (a couple undergo a procedure to erase each other from their memories when their relationship turns sour), “we’re looking for strategies to selectively eliminate evidence of past experiences related to drug abuse or a traumatic event.

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A Natural Example of a Functioning Gear Mechanism Discovered in an Insect


Previously believed to be only man-made, a natural example of a functioning gear mechanism has been discovered in a common insect – showing that evolution developed interlocking cogs long before we did.

The juvenile Issus – a plant-hopping insect found in gardens across Europe – has hind-leg joints with curved cog-like strips of opposing ‘teeth’ that intermesh, rotating like mechanical gears to synchronise the animal’s legs when it launches into a jump.

The finding demonstrates that gear mechanisms previously thought to be solely man-made have an evolutionary precedent. Scientists say this is the “first observation of mechanical gearing in a biological structure”.

Through a combination of anatomical analysis and high-speed video capture of normal Issus movements, scientists from the University of Cambridge have been able to reveal these functioning natural gears for the first time. The findings are reported in the latest issue of the journal Science

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Reuters Investigates: The Child Exchange

Inside America’s Underground Market for Adopted Children


About the series

Reuters investigative reporter Megan Twohey spent 18 months examining how American parents use the Internet to find new families for children they regret adopting. Reporters identified eight online bulletin boards where participants advertised unwanted children, often international adoptees, as part of an informal practice that’s called “private re-homing.” Reuters data journalist Ryan McNeill worked with Twohey and reporter Robin Respaut to analyze 5,029 posts from one of the bulletin boards, a Yahoo group called Adopting-from-Disruption.

Separately, Reuters examined almost two dozen cases from across the United States in which adopted children were privately re-homed. Twohey reviewed thousands of pages of records, many of them confidential, from law enforcement and child welfare agencies. In scores of interviews, reporters talked with parents who gave away or took in children, the facilitators who helped them, organizations that participated in re-homing, and experts concerned about the risks posed to the children and the legality of the custody transfers. Twohey also interviewed children themselves. They talked about being brought to America, discarded by their adoptive parents and moved from home to home.

KIEL, Wisconsin – Todd and Melissa Puchalla struggled for more than two years to raise Quita, the troubled teenager they’d adopted from Liberia. When they decided to give her up, they found new parents to take her in less than two days – by posting an ad on the Internet.

Nicole and Calvin Eason, an Illinois couple in their 30s, saw the ad and a picture of the smiling 16-year-old. They were eager to take Quita, even though the ad warned that she had been diagnosed with severe health and behavioral problems. In emails, Nicole Eason assured Melissa Puchalla that she could handle the girl.

“People that are around me think I am awesome with kids,” Eason wrote.

A few weeks later, on Oct. 4, 2008, the Puchallas drove six hours from their Wisconsin home to Westville, Illinois. The handoff took place at the Country Aire Mobile Home Park, where the Easons lived in a trailer.

No attorneys or child welfare officials came with them. The Puchallas simply signed a notarized statement declaring these virtual strangers to be Quita’s guardians. The visit lasted just a few hours. It was the first and the last time the couples would meet.

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This article was a real eye-opener for me. I’ve heard of children being kidnapped and forced into prostitution and with the recent case of the three hostages held in Ohio the ease in which people were able to acquire children in this article was astonishing. It is a tough read, emotionally, but the subject matter is something that needs to be exposed and regulated.

Dark Energy Survey begins five-year mission to map southern sky in tremendous detail


Tonight, as the sun sinks below the horizon, the world’s most powerful digital camera will once again turn its gleaming eye skyward. Tonight, and for hundreds of nights over the next five years, a team of physicists and astronomers from around the globe will use this remarkable machine to try to answer some of the most fundamental questions about our universe.

 On Aug. 31, the Dark Energy Survey (DES) officially began. Scientists on the survey team will systematically map one-eighth of the sky (5000 square degrees) in unprecedented detail. The start of the survey is the culmination of 10 years of planning, building and testing by scientists from 25 institutions in six countries.

The survey’s goal is to find out why the is speeding up, instead of slowing down due to gravity, and to probe the mystery of , the force believed to be causing that acceleration.

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Self-powered nanoparticles instantly deliver healing drugs to bones


A novel method for finding and delivering healing drugs to newly formed microcracks in bones has been invented by a team of chemists and bioengineers at Penn State University and Boston University.

The method involves the targeted delivery of the drugs, directly to the cracks, on the backs of tiny self-powered nanoparticles. The energy that revs the motors of the nanoparticles and sends them rushing toward the crack comes from a surprising source — the crack itself.

“When a crack occurs in a bone, it disrupts the minerals in the bone, which leach out as charged particles — as ions — that create an electric field, which pulls the negatively charged nanoparticles toward the crack,” said Penn State Professor of Chemistry Ayusman Sen, a co-leader of the research team.

“Our experiments have shown that a biocompatible particle can quickly and naturally deliver an osteoporosis drug directly to a newly cracked bone.”

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Turning genes on and off in cells by reprogramming an RNA sequence


MIT researchers have shown that they can turn genes on or off inside yeast and human cells by controlling when DNA is copied into messenger RNA — an advance that could allow scientists to better understand the function of those genes.

The technique could also make it easier to engineer cells that can monitor their environment, produce a drug or detect disease, says Timothy Lu, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science and biological engineering and the senior author of a paper describing the new approach in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology.

“I think it’s going to make it a lot easier to build synthetic circuits,” says Lu, a member of MIT’s Synthetic Biology Center. “It should increase the scale and the speed at which we can build a variety of synthetic circuits in yeast cells and mammalian cells.”

The new method is based on a system of viral proteins that have been exploited recently to edit the genomes of bacterial and human cells. The original system, called CRISPR, consists of two components: a protein that binds to and slices DNA, and a short strand of RNA that guides the protein to the right location on the genome.

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Long-held assumption about emergence of new species questioned


“We found no evidence that these things are related. The rate at which genetic reproductive barriers arise does not predict the rate at which new species form in nature,” Rabosky said. “If these results are true more generally—which we would not yet claim but do suspect—it would imply that our understanding of species formation is extremely incomplete because we’ve spent so long studying the wrong things, due to this erroneous assumption that the main cause of species formation is the formation of barriers to reproduction.

“To be clear, reproductive barriers are still important on some level. All sorts of plants and animals live together in the same place, which couldn’t happen without reproductive barriers. But our results question whether genetic reproductive barriers played a major role in how those species formed in the first place.”

While speciation is often defined as the evolution of reproductive isolation, the new findings suggest that a broader definition may be needed, Rabosky and Matute conclude.

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