14 June, 2012 – This Week in Science


Dating Caves, Good Old Dad, The Human Bacteriome, Love A Bat Today, Poison For Toads, Bonobo You, B For Better, A Courage Pill, And Much More…

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World’s Oldest Cave Art now even Older!
Cave art found in Northern Spain has been dated to 10,000 years previous to what was previously thought to be the lest cave art, found in France. As there was no organic pigment with which to use radiocarbon dating, they instead tested the radioactive decay on Uranium in the stalactites formed over the painting. It also looks like the cave was visited and contributed to multiple times, and by different species lines. It’s an interspecies art show!

Dads – they are best old
Children with older fathers and grandfather can live longer. Telomeres, the repeating segments at the end of chromosomes that essentially protect from genetic decay in old age are significantly longer in those with older fathers and grandfathers. It appears that these segments grow in sperm at the same rate as they decay in the man, but further research is needed to identify if these longer telomeres are actually just compensating for other genetic problems that come with old age.

Mapping the Human Microbiome
Microbes outnumber human cells in your body 10 to 1, but that’s actually a good thing. After five years, the Human Microbiome Project can tell us the answer to two fundamental questions: Who’s in here, and what are they doing? We each have our own individual “microbiomes” inside us, with varying inhabitants with similarities along culture or geographical lines.

Blair’s Animal Corner
Killing Vampire Bats does not reduce rabies cases
Until now, it was understood that culling bats was the best way to control the spread of rabies in South America. In fact, there appeared to be no link between the colony size and the proportion of bats who carried rabies. What’s even worse, researchers saw an increase in the proportion of bats with rabies in many of the areas that were subjected to regular culls, and the colonies that had never been culled showed the lowest rates of all. Maybe it’s time for us to butt out of this one…

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Using cane toad’s poison against them
Cane Toads, or Marine Toads, have been running amuck in Australia since 1935, but it our own fault. New research shows that by placing some of the paralytic poison they secrete in traps in ponds we can catch and eliminate tadpoles before they turn into giant ravenous toads. Another plus: native fishes and insects aren’t attracted to the poison. Perhaps this research hold the key to removing this injurious invasive species once and for all!

Bonobo Genome Decoded
The Bonobo genome has some interesting information hidden inside: Chimpanzees and Bonobos, though closely related, appear to show a clean split of family lines- almost no interbreeding occurred once there was divergence, which would explain their vastly different lifestyles. Additionally, Chimps and Bonobos share about 3% of their DNA with humans, but the interesting thing is that almost none of that 3% is the same between the two, that is, they share a different 3% with us from one another.

Hidden Vitamin in Milk makes Mighty Mice!
A vitamin B3 relative found exclusively in milk makes stronger, faster, and leaner mice. Essentially this vitamin gives the benefit of good diet and exercise without good diet or exercise! Nicotinamide riocide essentially improves mitochondrial function, the cell’s energy center. Not nearly enough of this newly discovered vitamin occurs naturally in milk for dairy to be beneficial, but perhaps there will soon be a new diet pill on the market, that actually works!

A Courage Pill?
Duke University and the National Institute of Health have developed a drug that calms anxious mice. Fatty Acid Hydrolase, or FAAH, is a gene-encoding enzyme that has a similar anxiety reducing effect on the brain to marijuana, and this new drug helps it to function more effectively. Besides fabricating a “courage pill,” this drug could be used to treat anxiety disorders, including PTSD. You can’t help but wonder – what would the world be like without fear?

Childhood Seizures linked to Viral Infection
A third of children who suffered from seizures also suffer from new or reactivated roseola virus. This virus can cause limbic encephalitis, but can also just cause a rash. What’s more, it is possible that this viral infection could cause full-blown epilepsy in adults. Anti-Virals to treat seizures, you say?

Japanese Physicists Predict Blockbusters
Equations that measure advertising and word-of-mouth exposure for an upcoming movie could effectively predict which films would be successful. It does’t matter how good the script was, who is in it, or how much money you spent, it really just boils down to exposure.

Pitcher Plant uses Rain to get Food
Pitcher plants have a special wax on the underside of their upper rim that allow tiny invertebrates to gain safe passage during a downpour, or so they would lead you to believe. Instead, the vibrations from rain droplets make the tiny prey lose their footing and fall into the digestive enzymes below! Tricky pitcher plants…

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