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Environmental oxygen triggers loss of webbed digits

African clawed frog (stock image). Credit: © Nathan / Adobe Stock Free fingers have many obvious advantages on land, such as in locomotion and grasping, while webbed fingers are typical of aquatic or gliding animals. But both amphibians and amniotes -- which include mammals, reptiles, and birds -- can have webbed digits. In new research…

Artificial intelligence yields new antibiotic

Bacterial colony in dish (stock image). Credit: © motorolka / Adobe Stock Using a machine-learning algorithm, MIT researchers have identified a powerful new antibiotic compound. In laboratory tests, the drug killed many of the world's most problematic disease-causing bacteria, including some strains that are resistant to all known antibiotics. It also cleared infections in two…

Origins of immune system mapped, opening doors for new cancer immunotherapies

Human thymus illustration (stock image). Credit: © nerthuz / Adobe Stock A first cell atlas of the human thymus gland could lead to new immune therapies to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases. Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Newcastle University and Ghent University, Belgium, mapped thymus tissue through the human lifespan to understand how it…

What birdsong tells us about brain cells and learning

Zebra finch (stock image). Credit: © thawats / Adobe Stock Most scientists who study the brain believe that memories are stored through networks of synapses, or connections that form between neurons. Learning takes place as neurons form new connections and strengthen or weaken existing ones, giving the brain its so-called synaptic plasticity. There is growing…

Earliest interbreeding event between ancient human populations discovered

Neanderthal and modern human skulls (stock image). Credit: © Bruder / Adobe Stock For three years, anthropologist Alan Rogers has attempted to solve an evolutionary puzzle. His research untangles millions of years of human evolution by analyzing DNA strands from ancient human species known as hominins. Like many evolutionary geneticists, Rogers compares hominin genomes looking…

Earthquakes disrupt sperm whales’ ability to find food

Tail of sperm whale off coast of New Zealand (stock image). Credit: © Erik_AJV / Adobe Stock Otago scientists studying sperm whales off the coast of Kaikōura discovered earthquakes affect their ability to find food for at least a year. The University of Otago-led research is the first to examine the impact of a large…

Journey to the center of Mars

Mars illustration (stock image; elements furnished by NASA). Credit: © Vadimsadovski / Adobe Stock While InSight's seismometer has been patiently waiting for the next big marsquake to illuminate its interior and define its crust-mantle-core structure, two scientists, Takashi Yoshizaki (Tohoku University) and Bill McDonough (Tohoku University and University of Maryland, College Park) have built a…

How newborn stars prepare for the birth of planets

VANDAM survey: ALMA and the VLA observed more than 300 protostars and their young protoplanetary disks in Orion. This image shows a subset of stars, including a few binaries. The ALMA and VLA data compliment each other: ALMA sees the outer disk structure (visualized in blue), and the VLA observes the inner disks and star…

Earth formed much faster than previously thought, new study shows

Illustration of protoplanetary disk (stock image). Credit: © Peter Jurik / Adobe Stock The precursor of our planet, the proto-Earth, formed within a time span of approximately five million years, shows a new study from the Centre for Star and Planet Formation (StarPlan) at the Globe Institute at the University of Copenhagen. On an astronomical…

Think all BPA-free products are safe? Not so fast, scientists warn

Plastic bottles (stock image). Credit: © / Adobe Stock Using "BPA-free" plastic products could be as harmful to human health -- including a developing brain -- as those products that contain the controversial chemical, suggest scientists in a new study led by the University of Missouri and published in the Proceedings of the National…

Empathy can be detected in people whose brains are at rest

Empathy concept, holding hands (stock image). Credit: © fizkes / Adobe Stock UCLA researchers have found that it is possible to assess a person's ability to feel empathy by studying their brain activity while they are resting rather than while they are engaged in specific tasks. Traditionally, empathy is assessed through the use of questionnaires…

Simple, fuel-efficient rocket engine could enable cheaper, lighter spacecraft

Rocket engines firing (stock image; elements furnished by NASA). Credit: © elen31 / Adobe Stock It takes a lot of fuel to launch something into space. Sending NASA's Space Shuttle into orbit required more than 3.5 million pounds of fuel, which is about 15 times heavier than a blue whale. But a new type of…

Bacteria on the International Space Station no more dangerous than earthbound strains

Illustration of International Space Station orbiting Earth (stock image). Credit: © 3dsculptor / Adobe Stock Two particularly tenacious species of bacteria have colonized the potable water dispenser aboard the International Space Station (ISS), but a new study suggests that they are no more dangerous than closely related strains on Earth. Aubrie O'Rourke of the J.…

Methane emitted by humans vastly underestimated

Methane molecules illustration (stock image). Credit: © vchalup / Adobe Stock Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and large contributor to global warming. Methane emissions to the atmosphere have increased by approximately 150 percent over the past three centuries, but it has been difficult for researchers to determine exactly where these emissions originate; heat-trapping gases…

Reproductive genome from the laboratory

DNA illustration (stock image). Credit: © / Adobe Stock The field of synthetic biology does not only observe and describe processes of life but also mimics them. A key characteristic of life is the ability to ability for replication, which means the maintenance of a chemical system. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of…

New technologies, strategies expanding search for extraterrestrial life

Radio telescope array (stock image). Credit: © Zack Frank / Adobe Stock Emerging technologies and new strategies are opening a revitalized era in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). New discovery capabilities, along with the rapidly-expanding number of known planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, are spurring innovative approaches by both government and private…

ESO telescope sees surface of dim Betelgeuse

This comparison image shows the star Betelgeuse before and after its unprecedented dimming. The observations, taken with the SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope in January and December 2019, show how much the star has faded and how its apparent shape has changed. Credit: © ESO/M. Montargès et al. / Adobe Stock Using ESO's…

Seeding oceans with iron may not impact climate change

Phytoplankton (stock image). Credit: © tonaquatic / Adobe Stock Historically, the oceans have done much of the planet's heavy lifting when it comes to sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Microscopic organisms known collectively as phytoplankton, which grow throughout the sunlit surface oceans and absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, are a key player. To help…

Researchers Were Not Right About Left Brains, Study Suggests

Left and right sides of brain illustration (stock image). Credit: © nerthuz / Adobe Stock The left and right side of the brain are involved in different tasks. This functional lateralization and associated brain asymmetry are well documented in humans, but little is known about brain asymmetry in our closest living relatives, the great apes.…

Discovery at ‘flower burial’ site could unravel mystery of Neanderthal death rites

Illustration of primitive man in cave (stock image). Credit: © Kovalenko I / Adobe Stock The first articulated Neanderthal skeleton to come out of the ground for over 20 years has been unearthed at one of the most important sites of mid-20th century archaeology: Shanidar Cave, in the foothills of Iraqi Kurdistan. Researchers say the…

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