Climate change and human activity are dooming species at an unprecedented rate via a plethora of direct and indirect, often synergic, mechanisms. Among these, primary extinctions driven by environmental change could be just the tip of an enormous extinction iceberg. As our understanding of the importance of ecological interactions in shaping ecosystem identity advances, it is becoming clearer how the disappearance of consumers following the depletion of their resources — a process known as ‘co-extinction’ — is more likely the major driver of biodiversity loss.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: news.flinders.edu.au

For this study, Dr Mathilda Mommersteeg and her team at the University of Oxford studied two types of Mexican tetra fish – river-dwellers that are able to self-heal their heart tissue, and cave-dwellers that cannot. The cave fish, who once lived in the rivers of Northern Mexico, were washed into caves by floodwaters about 1.5 million years ago and evolved, losing their sight and color because of living in perpetual darkness.

 

 

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To unearth new functional regions in the human genome with potential roles in shaping clinically important traits, researchers searched for how elephants, hibernating bats, orcas, dolphins, naked mole rats, and ground squirrels changed critical parts of the human genome that are shared with most other mammals. These regions are highly conserved, but to evolve their highly distinctive traits, these seven species had to change how these conserved DNA elements work.

 

For example, elephants are the largest land mammals and were discovered to have changed several conserved regions associated with DNA repair. This discovery hints at why elephants rarely get cancer despite their large size and may provide clues to the genetics of human cancer. The study was published March 6 2018 in the journal Cell Reports.

 

 

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Spoiler alert: it won’t be nice.

 

By 2050, we could be living on a drastically different planet Earth — one that’s much harder to survive on. We’d see higher ocean levels, warmer temperatures, and more extreme weather events.

 

To demonstrate what life on the planet might be like in the future, meteorologists from countries around the world created weather reports of a day in 2050. While the reports were, of course, fictional, they were based on various scientific data. The Brazilian report included rains so heavy in South Brazil and the West Amazon that they surpassed the expected amount of rainfall for the month in a few days. Northern Brazil and the East Amazon, meanwhile, were struggling with drought. Similar, but less drastic, conditions have already occurred in Brazil. In 2014, rainfall from a series of storms over three days was three times higher than the historical average. Eleven people died in the storms.

 

 

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Pinpointing where and how the human genome is evolving can be like hunting for a needle in a haystack. Each person’s genome contains three billion building blocks called nucleotides, and researchers must compile data from thousands of people to discover patterns that signal how genes have been shaped by evolutionary pressures.

 

To find these patterns, a growing number of geneticists are turning to a form of machine learning called deep learning. Proponents of the approach say that deep-learning algorithms incorporate fewer explicit assumptions about what the genetic signatures of natural selection should look like than do conventional statistical methods.

 

 

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.nature.com

Using a new type of AI design process, engineers at software company Autodesk and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory came up with a new interplanetary lander concept that could explore distant moons like Europa and Enceladus. Its slim design weighs less than most of the landers that NASA has already sent to other planets and moons.

 

Autodesk announced its new innovative lander design today at the company’s conference in Las Vegas — revealing a spacecraft that looks like a spider woven from metal. The company says the idea to create the vehicle was sparked when Autodesk approached NASA to validate a lander prototype it had been working on. After looking at Autodesk’s work, JPL and the company decided to form a design team — comprised of five engineers from Autodesk and five from JPL — to come up with a new way to design landers.

 

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Chinese news readers may have some new competition – artificially intelligent robot anchors that can mimic human facial expressions and mannerisms while reading out reports. The AI anchor, developed by state news agency Xinhua and tech firm Sogou Inc, was on display at the World Internet Conference in the eastern Chinese town of Wuzhen, drawing in curious passers-by.

The anchor, modelled on real-life Chinese news reader Qiu Hao and sporting a black suit and red tie, is part of a major push by China to advance its prowess in AI technology, from surveillance equipment to self-driving cars.

 

 

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Reseachers from Wageningen University & Research are inspired by the ovipositor of the parasitic wasp for the development of a steerable surgical needle.

 

Flexible, ultra-thin and steerable needles would help surgeons perform operations even better. Researchers at Wageningen University & Research are therefore studying the ovipositor with which the parasitic wasp lays its eggs. Based on their findings, colleagues at Delft University of Technology have developed the first prototype of this needle which is the thinnest needle in the world. Solutions found in nature are often the source of human inventions such as self-cleaning paint and underwater robots.

 

Sourced through Scoop.it from: dialogue.wur.eu

On Monday, Oct. 1st 2018, NASA turned 60. Over the last six decades, it’s had a remarkable run of rocketeering and exploratory achievements, from the moon landings to the space shuttles, from the surface of Mars to destinations far beyond our solar system. And as space becomes just another place to do business, NASA looks to keep its edge as it is facing an identity crisis. Blame people like SpaceX‘s Elon Musk and Amazon‘s Jeff Bezos in part for that. They’re in the vanguard of a new wave of commercial activity that’s launching into what had for so long been the exclusive domain of government agencies, both in the US and abroad.

 

NASA’s 60th anniversary was an occasion to look both back to a settled past and ahead to an uncertain future. The agency long-associated with America’s scientific prowess and can-do spirit got its start in one space race. Its next challenges lie in a new race to return humans to the moon and to push onward to Mars. There’s a lot to keep track of. Here’s a handy cheat sheet to get you started, with more to come.

 

 

 

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.cnet.com