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  • July 25, 2013
  • 06:49 AM

Are You a Viking?

by Daniel Zadik in United Academics

In our lab we have a phone that rings several times a day. The conversation is always the same. A man from somewhere in the UK (where I’m from) is desperate to know the answer to one question: “Am I a Viking?”

An answer we could give is: “No. You don’t have a boat or a sword. You’re not a Viking.” But what they really want to know is whether their DNA points to a Scandinavian ancestry.

Maybe they could find some food for thought in a paper published in the journal PLOS Biology, which recently caught the attention of the mainstream media due to its supposedly surprising conclusion that Europeans shared common ancestors in the past 1,000 years. But re-examining this claim when you know a little about population genetics, makes it a subtle and more interesting phenomenon, but also a much less surprising one.... Read more »

Peter Ralph, & Graham Coop. (2012) The geography of recent genetic ancestry across Europe. PLoS Biology 11(5) 2013: e1001555. arXiv: 1207.3815v5

  • July 25, 2013
  • 04:13 AM

Wolves Howl Like Humans, New Voice Recognition Study Shows

by Holly Root-Gutteridgea in United Academics

Every wolf has its own distinct voice.... Read more »

Holly Root-Gutteridgea, Martin Bencsikb, Manfred Cheblib, Louise K. Gentlea, Christopher Terrell-Nieldb, Alexandra Bouritb . (2013) Identifying individual wild Eastern grey wolves (Canis lupus lycaon) using fundamental frequency and amplitude of howls. Bioacoustics: The International Journal of Animal Sound and its Recording. DOI: 10.1080/09524622.2013.817317  

  • July 24, 2013
  • 11:14 AM

Mammoth Cloning: the Ethics

by ulian Savulescu in United Academics

he display of a frozen mammoth in Japan has again raised questions as to the possibility of creating a live born clone of extinct animals.

Theoretically, mammoths could be cloned by recovering, reconstructing or synthesizing viable mammoth DNA and injecting it into the egg cell of a modern elephant whose nuclear DNA has been removed; alternatively, mammoth genetic material could be introduced into an elephant genome in order to create a mammoth-elephant hybrid or chimera.

This raises an ethical question as to whether we should start the journey down one of these paths.... Read more »

Douglas T, Powell R, & Savulescu J. (2013) Is the creation of artificial life morally significant?. Studies in history and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences. PMID: 23810562  

  • July 24, 2013
  • 09:14 AM

The Love Hormone Oxytocin: Not All Touchy-Feely

by Jeff Erlich in United Academics

Oxytocin, sometimes called ”The Love Hormone“, has emerged over the past decade as somewhat of a magical substance. It has been known for some time to be central in mother-child bonding in animals, but more recently has been implicated in human behaviors, like increasing trust in strangers. The excitement over oxytocin has encouraged scientists to better understand its effects and some studies have recently revealed a “dark side” to oxytocin, like increased anxiety.... Read more »

Guzmán YF, Tronson NC, Jovasevic V, Sato K, Guedea AL, Mizukami H, Nishimori K, & Radulovic J. (2013) Fear-enhancing effects of septal oxytocin receptors. Nature neuroscience. PMID: 23872596  

  • July 24, 2013
  • 08:27 AM

Bumblebees’ Promiscuous Behavior Affects Plant Reproduction

by Alex Reis in United Academics

For more than a decade, studies have reported a drop in the numbers of pollinator species, such as bees and butterflies, but so far computer models have predicted that plant communities would be able to recover from this cutback. However, it turns out that losing just a single bumblebee species can have a dramatic impact on plant reproduction, by changing how remaining pollinators react, says a study published in PNAS.

“I had been sceptical of the computer models that predict strong resilience of plant communities to pollinator species losses for some time”, said Dr Berry Brosi, ecologist from Emory University and first author in the study. “I was particularly dubious of the assumption that there will be no change in the interactions between plants and pollinators when you lose species from the system.”... Read more »

Brosi BJ, & Briggs HM. (2013) Single pollinator species losses reduce floral fidelity and plant reproductive function. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 23878216  

  • July 23, 2013
  • 08:32 PM

How is gender bias in science studied? II. Learning from existing data

by Terrific T in Science, I Choose You

This is part 2 of my 4-part series about studying gender bias in science (See part 1). For studies using existing data, we look at information that is already available, and learn from the information through data analysis. The difficulty in these studies is that because you are not in control of how the information […]... Read more »

Schroeder J., Dugdale H. L., Radersma R., Hinsch M., Buehler D. M., Saul J., Porter L., Liker A., De Cauwer I., & Johnson P. J. (2013) Fewer invited talks by women in evolutionary biology symposia. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. DOI: 10.1111/jeb.12198  

  • July 23, 2013
  • 11:26 AM

Antioxidant Supplements: Too Good to Be True?

by Elisabeth Buhl Thubron in United Academics

Taking antioxidant supplements when exercising could do more harm than good.... Read more »

Gliemann, L., Schmidt, J.F., Olesen, J., Biensø, S.U., Mortensen, S.P., Nyberg, M., Bangsbo, J., Pilegaard, H. and Hellsten, Y. (2013) Resveratrol blunts the positive effects of exercise training on cardiovascular health in aged men. The Journal of Physiology. DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2013.258061  

  • July 23, 2013
  • 07:33 AM

Nanotechnology: Heat to Kill Tumors

by Guillaume Cote-Maurais in United Academics

Nanoparticles heated by an alternating magnetic field could be used to treat cancers.... Read more »

  • July 23, 2013
  • 04:52 AM

Expanding Evolution to the Microbiome

by Q Dragon in United Academics

The microbes of an organism could affect the evolution of a new species.... Read more »

Robert M. Brucker and Seth R. Bordenstein. (2013) The Hologenomic Basis of Speciation: Gut Bacteria Cause Hybrid Lethality in the Genus Nasonia. Science. info:/

  • July 22, 2013
  • 05:24 AM

Albert and Adam Rewrite the Story of Human Origins

by Daniel Zadik in United Academics

The DNA of Albert Perry may change the story of human origins. Perry, an African-American, approached a DNA testing company to find out more about his ancestry. The results would have come as quite a surprise (had he lived to see them), and have raised questions for geneticists around the world.

It turns out that Perry carried a very different type of Y chromosome, never seen before. Every male has a Y chromosome, which is a piece of DNA inherited by sons from their fathers. But, unlike most DNA, the Y chromosome is not shuffled as it is passed down, and changes only slowly through mutation. Tracking these mutations allows scientists to create a genetic tree of fathers and sons going back through time.... Read more »

  • July 21, 2013
  • 08:57 AM

The Bacteria that Make it Rain

by Sedeer El-Showk in United Academics

Strange as it may seem, water doesn’t actually freeze at zero degrees. In fact, even at temperatures as cold as -10°C, water still needs help turning into ice. Living creatures of all stripes have learned to take advantage of this curious fact in different ways, though none have done so with quite as much style as bacteria.... Read more »

  • July 21, 2013
  • 07:43 AM

Caribbean Lizards Are Evolutionary Look-alikes

by Gunnar de Winter in United Academics

The famous paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould once asked what would happen if we were to ‘replay the tape of life’. How different or similar would it turn out? He himself thought it could be profoundly different. In other words, in his view evolution is unrepeatable.

However, instances of convergent evolution, where organisms of a different pedigree can evolve to look surprisingly similar, have caused some to ask whether there might not be somewhat predictable patterns or trends in the grand process that is evolution. Just think of a tuna (fish), dolphin (mammal), and ichthyosaur (reptile). Look quite similar, don’t they?... Read more »

  • July 21, 2013
  • 07:15 AM

Apple-Shaped Women More Likely to Get Breast Cancer

by Shefali Sabharanjak in United Academics

n a paper published in March 2013, Drs. Rohan, Heo, Choi and colleagues have examined the relationship between body fat and the risk for development of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. ... Read more »

Rohan TE, Heo M, Choi L, Datta M, Freudenheim JL, Kamensky V, Ochs-Balcom HM, Qi L, Thomson CA, Vitolins MZ.... (2013) Body fat and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women: a longitudinal study. Journal of cancer epidemiology, 754815. PMID: 23690776  

  • July 19, 2013
  • 08:14 AM

Animal Research – Results Too Good to Be True?

by Dyani Lewis in United Academics

The road to market for a promising new therapy can be notoriously long and treacherous. Before the first small-scale clinical trials in humans can even be contemplated, a new therapy (such as a drug or surgical procedure) must first pass muster in preclinical animal studies.... Read more »

Tsilidis KK, Panagiotou OA, Sena ES, Aretouli E, Evangelou E, Howells DW, Salman RA, Macleod MR . (2013) Evaluation of excess significance bias in animal studies of neurological diseases. PLoS Biology . DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001609  

  • July 18, 2013
  • 08:37 PM

Dog-eared books

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Hi Julie, I loved hearing from Clare Browne about her research into timing of reinforcement in our first guest post last week, and it certainly stimulated lots of great comments and questions on Facebook and Google+.  I know you've been busy Chaser-ing around (lucky ducks, both!) and there's also all those amazing conferences happening this week, what with the ISAZ, IAHAIO and AVSAB events on in Chicago, so just a very quick post from me this week! You know how we recently put together out list of top ten books for the Science Book a Day team? Well, Chaser's upcoming book release reminded me that we should put them all in one place here, so that we (or anyone else looking for a canine science book or fourteen) could find them easily if needed.  Science Book A DayIn no particular order, here they are: McGreevy (2009) A Modern Dog’s Life. A fabulous book, written with humour and insight, that offers a modern take on what challenges and motivates our dogs and how we can best meet their needs. to purchase: (2009) Inside of a Dog.What’s it like to be a dog? This book covers the science of how dogs think and perceive the world and is accompanied by personal reflections on Horowitz’s own dog’s behaviour. Get to know the umwelt of the dog. to purchase: Bradshaw (2012) Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet.This recent publication answers the very important question: “What’s good for dogs?” Exp... Read more »

  • July 18, 2013
  • 10:24 AM

Gut Microbes Help Rootworms to Adapt

by Geetanjali Yadav in United Academics

You know it’s not only you and me who are constantly evolving by adjusting to our living environment; There are millions of others too who are doing this job as efficiently as it could be. Researchers from University of Illinois have discovered that gut bacteria facilitate the adaptation of the western corn rootworm, which is basically a beetle, to crop rotation.... Read more »

Chu CC, Spencer JL, Curzi MJ, Zavala JA, & Seufferheld MJ. (2013) Gut bacteria facilitate adaptation to crop rotation in the western corn rootworm. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 23798396  

  • July 17, 2013
  • 10:40 AM

How Long Does a Neuron Live?

by Simone Munao in United Academics

Is the lifespan of a neuron is proportional to the lifespan of its species?... Read more »

Magrassi L, Leto K, . (2013) Lifespan of neurons is uncoupled from organismal lifespan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1217505110  

  • July 16, 2013
  • 05:37 AM

Feeling Sluggish? Chew Gum for a Brain Boost

by Caitlin Kirkwood in United Academics

Monday mornings. They drag. Getting the ol’ noodle back into work-mode, especially after a fun summer weekend, can be a tall order. Many of us head straight for the classic boost – a cup of Joe – to help combat a case of the Monday’s but some new studies suggest that chewing gum could also provide some relief by enhancing our brain’s arousal, alertness, and attention.

In a recent study published in the British Journal of Psychology, Morgan and colleagues assessed the performance of 40 psychology undergraduate students on an auditory vigilance task while chomping on a wad of gum.... Read more »

Morgan K., Johnson A.J. . (2013) Chewing gum moderates the vigilance decrement. British Journal of Psychology. DOI: 10.1111/bjop.12025  

Hirano Y., Obata T., Takahashi H., Tachibana A., Kuroiwa D., Takahashi T., Ikehira H. . (2013) Effects of chewing on cognitive processing speed. Brain and cognition. DOI: 10.1016/j.bandc.2012.12.002  

  • July 15, 2013
  • 06:07 AM

Accumulated Injustices in Trayvon Martin Case

by David Smith in United Academics

The criminal justice system has always been at the sharp end of race relations in the United States. Not only have African Americans been treated more harshly than whites as suspects and offenders, they have been taken less seriously as victims.... Read more »

Tushar Kansal. (2005) RACIAL DISPARITY IN SENTENCING: A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE. The Sentencing Project. info:/

  • July 12, 2013
  • 08:24 AM

Probiotic Yogurt Counteracts Fast Food Diet

by Dyani Lewis in United Academics

The Western lifestyle, with its abundant fast food, is wreaking havoc with our waistlines and sending many of us to early graves. A high fat, high salt, low cost diet has been fuelling an obesity epidemic in industrialised nations and, increasingly, in developing countries. While the consequences of obesity, such as an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver, arthritis and cancer are well known, public health solutions are thin on the ground.... Read more »

Poutahidis T, Kleinewietfeld M, Smillie C, Levkovich T, Perrotta A et al. (2013) Microbial reprogramming inhibits Western diet-associated obesity. PLoS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068596  

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