|3D Pictures Of Science Posts|
Main Science News Of 2012:
|Agni-V Missile : Indian success story on Defence Technology which poses Challenge over Country Like China|
Agni-V Missile : Indian success story on Defence Technology which poses Challenge over Country Like China
is an intercontinental ballistic missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India. It will greatly expand India's reach to strike targets up to 5,000 km away. The missile was successfully test-fired on 19 April 2012 from Wheeler Island in Odisha.Chinese experts felt that the missile
actually has the potential to reach targets 8,000 km away and that the Indian government had "deliberately downplayed the missile's capability in order to avoid causing concern to other countries".
On 19 April 2012 at 8.07 am, the Agni V was successfully test-fired by DRDO from Wheeler Island off the coast of Odisha. The test launch was made from the Launch Complex 4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Wheeler Island using a rail mobile launcher.The flight time lasted 20 minutes and the third stage fired the re-entry vehicle into the atmosphere at an altitude of 100 km. The missile re-entry vehicle subsequently impacted the pre-designated target point more than 5,000 kilometres (3,100 mi) away in the Indian Ocean. The director of the test range, S.P. Das, informed BBC that all test parameters were met. According to news reports the Agni-V was able to hit the target nearly at pin-point accuracy within a few metres of the designated target point.
The Agni-V is a three stage solid fuelled missile with composite motor casing in the third stage. In many aspects, the Agni-5 carries forward the Agni-3 pedigree. With composites used extensively to reduce weight, and a third stage added on (the Agni-3 was a two-stage missile), the Agni-5 can fly 1,500 km further than the 3,500 km range Agni-III. Two stages of this missile will be made of composite material.Advanced technologies like ring laser gyroscope and accelerometer will be used in the new missile. "You can reduce the payload and (further) increase the range of Agni-V" Saraswat told the Reuters in Feb 2010.
Major Characteristics of Agni-5
1) Length of Agni-V is 17.5 mtr ,Weight 50 thousand Kg and can carry upto one and half Tonnes .
2) Its range upto 5000 Km and can increase its range upto 20 % .It Can Carry nuclear weapon.
3) Agni-5 is first Indian Inter Continental Balistic Missile.
4) Several Parts of the continents like Africa, Part of the Europe, whole Gulf region na d major parts of Asia like Russia, China and other Indian neighbouring countries are within the range of the Agni-5 missile.
5) It can target upto Ten Cities simultaneously around its range.
6) Agni-5 Had a ability to destroy other missiles and artifitial sattelites of enemy countries.
7) India is become the Sixth Country around the World after a) America b) China c) Russia d) Britain e) France who have this kind of Missile.
8) Indian Defence system become more powerful after successful test-fire of Agni-5 than Neighbouring country like Pakistan .
|"God Particle" Found? "Historic Milestone" From Higgs Boson Hunters:|
"God Particle" Found? "Historic Milestone" From Higgs Boson Hunters:
"I think we have it. You agree?"
Speaking to a packed audience Wednesday morning in Geneva, CERN director general Rolf Heuer confirmed that two separate teams working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are more than 99 percent certain they've discovered the Higgs boson, aka the God particle—or at the least a brand-new particle exactly where they expected the Higgs to be.
The long-sought particle may complete the standard model of physics by explaining why objects in our universe have mass—and in so doing, why galaxies, planets, and even humans have any right to exist. We have a discovery," Heuer said at the seminar. "We have observed a new particle consistent with a Higgs boson."
At the meeting were four theorists who helped develop the Higgs theory in the 1960s, including Peter Higgs himself, who could be seen wiping away tears as the announcement was made.
Although preliminary, the results show a so-called five-sigma of significance, which means that there is only a one in a million chance that the Higgs-like signal the teams observed is a statistical fluke.
"It's a tremendous and exciting time," said physicist Michael Tuts, who works with the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) Experiment, one of the two Higgs-seeking LHC projects.
CERN head Heuer called today's announcement a "historic milestone" but cautioned that much work lies ahead as physicists attempt to confirm the newfound particle's identity and further probe its properties.
For example, though the teams are certain the new particle has the proper mass for the predicted Higgs boson, they still need to determine whether it behaves as the God particle is thought to behave—and therefore what its role in the creation and maintenance of the universe is. "I think we can all be proud ... but it's a beginning," Heuer said.
Ashoke Sen gets $3 mn, world's most lucrative academic prize
Great news of Pride Both For Indian as well as Bengali Scientists Community : Ashoke Sen gets $3 mn, world's most lucrative academic prize for His great contribution on String Theory in theoretical Physics. Physicists are rarely wealthy or famous, but a new prize rewarding research at the field's cutting edges has made nine of them instant multimillionaires.
The nine are recipients of the Fundamental Physics Prize, established by Yuri Milner, a Russian physics student who dropped out of graduate school in 1989 and later earned billions investing in Internet companies like Facebook and Groupon.
"It knocked me off my feet," said Alan H. Guth, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was among the winners. He came up with the idea of cosmic inflation, that there was a period of extremely rapid expansion in the first instant of the universe.
When he was told of the $3 million prize, he assumed that the money would be shared among the winners. Not so: Instead, each of this year's nine recipients will receive $3 million, the most lucrative academic prize in the world. The Nobel Prize currently comes with an award of $1.2 million, usually split by two or three people. The Templeton Prize, which honors contributions to understanding spiritual dimensions of life, has been the largest monetary award given to an individual, $1.7 million this year.
The $3 million has already appeared in Dr. Guth's bank account, one that had had a balance of $200. "Suddenly, it said, $3,000,200," he said. "The bank charged a $12 wire transfer fee, but that was easily affordable."
Mr. Milner said that he wanted to recognize advances in delving into the deepest mysteries of physics and the universe. "This intellectual quest to understand the universe really defines us as human beings," he said.
|NASA Curiosity Mars Rover Installing Smarts for Driving|
NASA Curiosity Mars Rover Installing Smarts for Driving:
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity will spend its first weekend on Mars transitioning to software better suited for tasks ahead, such as driving and using its strong robotic arm.The rover's "brain transplant," which will occur during a series of steps Aug. 10 through Aug. 13, will install a new version of software on both of the rover's redundant main computers. This software for Mars surface operations was uploaded to the rover's memory during the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft's flight from Earth.
"We designed the mission from the start to be able to upgrade the software as needed for different phases of the mission," said Ben Cichy of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., chief software engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory mission. "The flight software version Curiosity currently is using was really focused on landing the vehicle. It includes many capabilities we just don't need any more. It gives us basic capabilities for operating the rover on the surface, but we have planned all along to switch over after landing to a version of flight software that is really optimized for surface operations."
|Enigmatic Stone Found by Curiosity In Mars|
A key capability in the new version is image processing to check for obstacles. This allows for longer drives by giving the rover more autonomy to identify and avoid potential hazards and drive along a safe path the rover identifies for itself. Other new capabilities facilitate use of the tools at the end of the rover's robotic arm.
While Curiosity is completing the software transition, the mission's science team is continuing to analyze images that the rover has taken of its surroundings inside Gale Crater. Researchers are discussing which features in the scene to investigate after a few weeks of initial checkouts and observations to assess equipment on the rover and characteristics of the landing site.
The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft delivered Curiosity to its target area on Mars at 10:31:45 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5 (1:31:45 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6), which includes the 13.8 minutes needed for confirmation of the touchdown to be radioed to Earth at the speed of light.
Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on NASA's Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking rocks' elemental composition from a distance, are the first of their kind on Mars. Curiosity will use a drill and scoop, which are located at the end of its robotic arm, to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into the rover's analytical laboratory instruments.
To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The Gale Crater landing site at 4.59 degrees south, 137.44 degrees east, places the rover within driving distance of layers of the crater's interior mountain. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.Several small bits of rock and soil, which were made airborne by the rocket engines, are visible on the rover's top deck.
|Discovery of the World's First Eyeless Huntsman Spider|
And Then There Was Light! Discovery of the World's First Eyeless Huntsman Spider:
A scientist from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt has discovered the first eyeless huntsman spider in the world. The accompanying study has been published by the scientific journal Zootaxa.
With a leg span of only six centimetres and a body size of around twelve millimetres, the spider Sinopoda scurion is certainly not one of the largest representatives of the huntsman spiders, which include more than 1100 species. However, it is the first of its kind in the world without any eyes.
"I found the spider in a cave in Laos, around 100 kilometres away from the famous Xe Bang Fai cave," reports Peter Jäger, head of the arachnology section at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt. "We already knew of spiders of this genus from other caves, but they always had eyes and complete pigmentation. Sinopoda scurion is the first huntsman spider without eyes."
The regression of the eyes is attributable to living permanently without daylight. This adaptation was also observed in other cave-dwelling spider species by the Frankfurt arachnologist. "The Sinopoda species described demonstrate all kinds of transitions to cave adaptation -- from eight functioning eyes to forms with six, four and two lenses, right up to blind spiders," explains Jäger.
The spiders are in good company: fish, scorpions and crabs that have adapted to caves have already been found in the caves of Laos.
In total, the Frankfurt spider researchers have described nine new species of the genus Sinopoda. The fact that all of the species have been found in caves confirms the animals' preference for underground habitats. Because of the small-scale area in which the spider species can be found it is possible to study their adjustment to the cave as a dwelling -- the number of eyes present and the visual faculty may possibly shed light on the time of settlement. "Furthermore, the spiders can be used as indicators for the threat to their habitats. These are often endangered by tourism or the exploitation of the limestone rocks to make cement," says Jäger.
The eyeless huntsman spider was named after the Swiss company "Scurion" that makes headlamps for caves. "Sinopoda scurion is the first species that I have named after a company in the context of the Patrons for Biodiversity programme," explains Jäger. "The headlamps by Scurion help me to illuminate the darkest corners on my cave trips, and thus recognise hazards such as poisonous snakes and scorpions, but also discover very small organisms."
|Two New Owl Species Discovered in the Philippines|
Two New Owl Species Discovered in the Philippines
Two new species of owls have been discovered in the Philippines, and a Michigan State University researcher played a key role in confirming their existence.
The discovery, which is featured in the current issue of Forktail, the Journal of Asian Ornithology, took years to confirm, but it was well worth the effort, said the paper's lead author Pam Rasmussen, MSU assistant professor of zoology and assistant curator of mammalogy and ornithology at the MSU Museum."More than 15 years ago, we realized that new subspecies of Ninox hawk-owls existed in the Philippines," she said. "But it wasn't until last year that we obtained enough recordings that we could confirm that they were not just subspecies, but two new species of owls."
Announcing the finding of a single bird is rare enough. But the discovery of two new bird species in a single paper is so rare that Rasmussen and the other researchers couldn't recall the last time it happened.The first owl, the Camiguin Hawk-owl, is found only on the small island of Camiguin Sur, close to northern Mindanao. Despite being so close geographically to related owls on Mindanao, it has quite different physical characteristics and voice. At night, it gives a long solo song that builds in intensity, with a distinctive low growling tone. Pairs of owls give short barking duets that start with a growl. They also are the only owls to have blue-gray eyes.
The second new discovery was the Cebu Hawk-owl. This bird was thought to be extinct, as the forests of Cebu have almost all been lost due to deforestation. But it had never been considered a distinct form. Study of its structure and vocalizations confirmed that it was a new species. In fact, it was the unique calling or vocalizations of both owls that confirmed that the new classifications were warranted."The owls don't learn their songs, which are genetically programmed in their DNA and are used to attract mates or defend their territory; so if they're very different, they must be new species," Rasmussen said. "When we first heard the songs of both owls, we were amazed because they were so distinctly different that we realized they were new species."
The owls have avoided recognition as distinct species for so long because the group shows complex variation in appearance that had been poorly studied, and their songs were unknown. Both islands are off the beaten path for ornithologists and birders, who usually visit the larger islands that host more bird species.Sound recordings of both new owl species and those from other islands are available free on AVoCet.
Since the discovery process is both tedious and time consuming, it took a team of scientists and contributors to confirm the owls' existence. The team included individuals from BirdLife International, the Oriental Bird Club, Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. and Birdtour Asia. Additional support was provided by National Geographic.
|Is this the largest galaxy in the universe?|
Is this the largest galaxy in the universe? Newly-discovered 'Phoenix' system produces 740 new stars a year:
a) Unnamed galaxy produces more stars in a day than the Milky Way spawns in a year.
b) Thought to be about 6 billion years old, and has appeared to have 'come back to life'.
c) Scientist says the galaxy 'pushes the boundaries of what we understand'.
Scientists have found a cosmic supermom. It's a galaxy that gives births to more stars in a day than ours does in a year.
Astronomers used Nasa's Chandra X-Ray telescope to spot this distant gigantic galaxy creating about 740 new stars a year.
By comparison, our Milky Way galaxy spawns just about one new star each year.
The galaxy is about 5.7 billion light years away in the center of a recently discovered cluster of galaxies that give off the brightest X-ray glow astronomers have seen.
It is by far the biggest creation of stars that astronomers have seen for this kind of galaxy. Other types, such as colliding galaxies, can produce even more stars, astronomers said.But this is the size, type and age of galaxy that shouldn't be producing stars at such a rapid pace, said the authors of a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.'It's very extreme,' said Harvard University astronomer Ryan Foley, co-author of the study. 'It pushes the boundaries of what we understand.'
|Newly-discovered 'Phoenix' system produces 740 new stars a year:|
The unnamed galaxy - officially known by a string of letters and numbers - is about 3 trillion times the size of our sun, said study lead author Michael McDonald of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.There's another strange thing about this galaxy. It's fairly mature, maybe 6 billion years old.Usually, this kind 'don't do anything new... what we call red and dead,' McDonald said in an interview. 'It seems to have come back to life for some reason.'
Because of that back-to-life situation, the team of 85 astronomers has nicknamed the galaxy cluster Phoenix, after the bird that rises from the ashes.The galaxy that is producing the stars at a rate of two per day is the biggest and most prominent of many galaxies there.
It's 'helping us answer this basic question of how do galaxies form their stars,' said Michigan State University astronomer Megan Donahue, who wasn't part of the study but praised it.There's lots of very hot hydrogen gas between galaxies. When that gas cools to below zero, the gas can form stars, McDonald said.
But only 10 per cent of the gas in the universe becomes stars, Donahue said.That's because the energy from black holes in the center of galaxies counteract the cooling.There's a constant 'tussle between black holes and star formation,' said Sir Martin Rees, a prominent astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge in England.
He was not part of the study, but commented on it during a Nasa teleconference Wednesday In this case, the black hole in the central galaxy seems to be unusually quiet compared to other supermassive black holes, Rees said. 'So it's losing the tussle,' he said.But this massive burst of star birth is probably only temporary because there's only so much fuel and limits to how big a galaxy can get, Foley said.'It could be just a very short-lived phase that every galaxy cluster has and we just got lucky here' to see it, Foley said.
I think This newly -discovered cluster may give a scientific conclusion That " How our Universe and stars were Formed Just After Big-Bang".
|Genome of Malaria-Causing Parasite Sequenced: Even When On Different Continents, Organism Features Same Mutations:|
Genome of Malaria-Causing Parasite Sequenced: Even When On Different Continents, Organism Features Same Mutations:
Scientists at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute have discovered that the parasite that causes the most common form of malaria share the same genetic variations -- even when the organisms are separated across continents.The discovery raises concerns that mutations to resist existing medications could spread worldwide, making global eradication efforts even more difficult.
The researchers, including Cleveland-based David Serre and Peter Zimmerman, Didier Menard (Institut Pasteur-Cambodia) and Arsene Ratsimbasoa (Madagascar National Malaria Control Program) are the first to sequence the genome of the parasite Plasmodium vivax, taken from patients at coverage needed to verify genome-wide DNA sequence variation. The genome contains all of the organism's inheritable information.
The ability to sequence is crucial to understanding the hard-to-study parasite, which annually causes up to 250 million cases of malaria and places an economic burden, mostly on the poor, in excess of $1.4 billion by some estimates.The researchers report their findings in the Sept. 6 issue of the online journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
The scientists at first were surprised to find little genetic variation specific to different locations among the samples, which came from humans in Madagascar and Cambodia and South America.How can parasites, transmitted by mosquitoes, share genome-wide variations on three continents?
"The parasite's life cycle enables P. vivax to be a microbial globe-trotter," said Peter Zimmerman, professor of international health, genetics and biology in the Center for Global Health and Diseases at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
In parts of the world where Plasmodium vivax malaria is endemic, the primary infection gets into the red blood cells and makes people sick, he explained. When they feel better, people resume their normal activities and travel.But a portion of the infectious form can remain in their liver, where it may lay dormant for months or a year, then re-emerges into the blood when that person is in a different place."In that new place, local mosquitoes bite, become infected, and start spreading the P. vivax parasite and its genome in locations that can be a long distance away from where the original human infection occurred," Zimmerman, a senior author of the new study, said.
This ability for worldwide travel raises concerns among the researchers. There is no vaccine and there is only one drug that kills the parasite in the liver."If drug resistance arises, with modern travel, how long would it be before the resistance is spread over the world?" Zimmerman said. "This data suggests it could quickly become a big problem."Learning how Plasmodium vivax lives and causes malaria has been challenging because the parasite dies when removed from its host. With improvements in sequencing techniques and reductions in costs, David Serre, Assistant Professor, at the Genomic Medicine Institute, Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, and Zimmerman decided to try to see if the parasite's genome could be sequenced and what it might tell.
"Our work provides the first report on genome-wide variation of this malaria parasite and provides the malaria research community with more than 80,000 genetic markers that can now be used for trait mapping or population monitoring," Serre said. "This is a critical step to understand the biology of this parasite that cannot be studied in the laboratory yet affects millions of people each year."
Serre and Ernest R. Chan, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Genomic Medicine Institute, sequenced the genomes of parasites in blood samples taken from two P. vivax malaria patients in Madagascar and three in Cambodia, after first removing the white blood cells. For comparison, they sequenced P. vivax from a monkey that had been infected with a human strain of the parasite found in South America. The results showed the six samples extensively shared alternative forms of the same gene, called alleles.
Sequencing parasite strains straight from humans is a big step forward, Serre said. Most researchers have been studying human strains of P. vivax propagated through monkeys. This method is not as reliable as using human samples, because it introduces variability, and is limited to only about a dozen strains that have been adapted to monkeys. Far more strains have been found in humans.
The 80,000 genetic markers identified can now be used to search for links to drug-resistant malaria, a growing problem in Southeast Asia; and to study possible new treatments for P. vivax malaria.Zimmerman and Serre are seeking grants to expand their work, sequencing more samples from more locations.The researchers will use the data to perform genetic evolution studies to learn where the parasite originated, how it spreads, and how different strains are geographically distributed.
|Indian satellite GSAT-10 to be launched in 2 months: ISRO:|
Indian satellite GSAT-10 to be launched in 2 months: ISRO:
India’s 3400-kg communication satellite GSAT-10 is now ready to be shipped to the spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana for launch by European space consortium Arianespace in two months, according to Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman, K Radhakrishnan. “GSAT-10 with 30 transponders is ready to be shipped for launch. This launch is expected in middle of September,” Radhakrishnan, also Secretary in the Department of Space and Chairman of Space Commission, said on the sidelines of the 39th Scientific Assembly of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) being held here.
Officials of Bangalore-headquartered space agency said it is a three-axis body stabilised geostationary satellite based on ISRO’s three-ton structure to provide communication services/augment existing services. It carries 12 normal C band, six extended C band, 12 Ku band transponders. The satellite will have a minimum operational life of 15 years. Radhakrishnan said ISRO hopes to conduct flight testing of its Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) with indigenous cryogenic engine and stage by January next year.
GSLV flight with indigenous cryogenic engine and stage conducted by ISRO in April 2010 and the one with Russian engine and stage in December that year had failed.
“We have done a lot of studies to find out the reason for the failure and taken corrective actions. We have conducted almost 40 tests on subsystems as well as on the engine. A couple of weeks ago, flight engine was tested for 200 seconds. That’s cleared for assembly as a flight stage,” he said.
Cryogenic engine and flight stage should be ready by November. ISRO needs to conduct two more ground tests before committing the flight, which is expected by the year-end or January next year, Radhakrishnan said.
|Shy, colorful new monkey species discovered|
Shy, colorful new monkey species discovered :
A shy, brightly colored monkey species has been found living in the lush rainforests at the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a find that utterly surprised the researchers who came upon it."When I first saw it, I immediately knew it was something new and different -- I just didn't know how significant it was," said John Hart, a veteran Congo researcher who is scientific director for the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, based in Kinshasa.
In fact, the find was something of a happy accident. Hart first spied the suspect monkey in 2007 while sifting through photographs brought back from a recently concluded field expedition to a remote region of central DRC.Yet the image that caught his eye hadn't been taken in the field. It was snapped in a village, and showed a young girl named Georgette with a tiny monkey that had taken a shine to the 13-year-old
What is that?
It was a gorgeous animal, Hart said, with a blond mane and upper chest, and a bright red patch on the lower back. "I'd never seen that on any animal in the area, so right away I said, 'Hmmm,'" he told OurAmazingPlanet.Hart decided to get to the bottom of the mystery. Fast forward through five years of field work, genetic research and anatomical study, and today (Sept. 12) Hart and a list of collaborators formally introduced to the world a new primate species, dubbed Cercopithecus lomamiensis, and known locally as the lesula. Their work is announced in the online journal PLOS One.
It turned out that the little monkey that hung around Georgette's house had been brought to the area by the girl's uncle, who had found it on a hunting trip. It wasn't quite a pet, but it became known as Georgette's lesula. The young female primate passed its days running in the yard with the dogs, foraging around the village for food, and growing up into a monkey that belonged to a species nobody recognized.
Further investigation revealed the full story of the strange monkey. It turned out that C. lomamiensis, a cryptic, skittish primate, roams a swath of dense rainforest some 6,500 square miles (17,000 square kilometers)."For a big mammal to go unnoticed is pretty unusual," said Kate Detwiler, a primatologist and assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University, and an author on the paper. Yet one visit to the area that the lesula calls home reveals why the monkeys escaped scientific notice for so long, Detwiler told OurAmazingPlanet. This region of the DRC is remote and vast.
The trees tower overhead, blocking out the sun, and the forest floor -- the chief domain of the lesula -- is steeped in a permanent gloom. The forest is full of sounds. At first light, the lesulas raise a lilting chorus of booming calls, distinct from the cries of their monkey neighbors who pass their lives in the trees high above the forest floor; at dusk, the cries of African grey parrots echo through the canopy. The earth is wet and soft, and feet sink into the ground with each step. There is a gentle, steady thud as fruit falls from the trees.One gets the feeling of being on a ship very far out to sea, Detwiler said - only here, the ocean is the endless expanse of the trees. "I felt so privileged to be there," she said. "I wish everybody could have that experience."
The lesulas live in this isolated region in groups up to five strong, and feeds on fruit and leafy plants. The males weigh up to 15 pounds (7 kilograms), about twice the size of the females. They also have some rather arresting anatomical features."They have giant blue backsides," Hart said. "Bright aquamarine buttocks and testicles. What a signal! That aquamarine blue is really a bright color in forest understory." "So in terms of monkey viewing, females can definitely find males," Detwiler said."We don't really know what this means because it's very uncommon for monkeys in this lineage," she added.The only other monkey to share this feature is the lesula's closest cousin -- the owl-faced monkey, a species that lives farther east. At first it was thought the monkeys were close kin, but genetic analysis suggests the two species split from a common ancestor about 2 million years ago.
Now that the new species has been formally identified, Hart said, the next task is to save it. Although the lesula is new to science, it is a well-established sight on the dinner table.
What's for dinner
There's a thriving market for bush meat, particularly in urban areas, Hart said, and the monkeys are just one of dozens of species, from snakes to elephants to apes, that are targeted."People have disposable income, and this is the cheapest meat," he said. "Bush meat is a go-to item because it's less expensive than chicken or beef. This is not a new problem, but it's a problem that doesn't have a solution yet."Hart and his wife, Terese, are partnering with local people to try to set up a national park in the lesulas' territory, but it's still a work in progress. In the meantime, researchers have set up camera traps in the dense forest to try to better understand the habits of the shy animals.
Georgette, the girl whose lesula companion started it all, is now 18. "The animal was very attached to her," Hart said. But one day the monkey disappeared."It was suspected that somebody in town had taken it in," Hart said. "And it ended up in their cooking pot."
|Scientists Map the Genomic Blueprint of the Heart|
Scientists Map the Genomic Blueprint of the Heart:
Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have revealed the precise order and timing of hundreds of genetic "switches" required to construct a fully functional heart from embryonic heart cells -- providing new clues into the genetic basis for some forms of congenital heart disease.
In a study being published online today in the journal Cell, researchers in the laboratory of Gladstone Senior Investigator Benoit Bruneau, PhD, employed stem cell technology, next-generation DNA sequencing and computing tools to piece together the instruction manual, or "genomic blueprint" for how a heart becomes a heart. These findings offer renewed hope for combating life-threatening heart defects such as arrhythmias (irregular heart beat) and ventricular septal defects ("holes in the heart").
"Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defects -- affecting more than 35,000 newborn babies in the United States each year," said Dr. Bruneau, who is the associate director of cardiovascular research at Gladstone, an independent and nonprofit biomedical-research organization. "But how these defects develop at the genetic level has been difficult to pinpoint because research has focused on a small set of genes. Here, we approach heart formation with a wide-angle lens by looking at the entirety of the genetic material that gives heart cells their unique identity."
The news comes at a time of emerging importance for the biological process called "epigenetics," in which a non-genetic factor impacts a cell's genetic makeup early during development -- but sometimes with longer-term consequences. All of the cells in an organism contain the same DNA, but the epigenetic instructions encoded in specific DNA sequences give the cell its identity. Epigenetics is of particular interest in heart formation, as the incorrect on-and-off switching of genes during fetal development can lead to congenital heart disease -- some forms of which may not be apparent until adulthood.
In this research -- conducted in large part at Gladstone's Roddenberry Center for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine, as well as in collaboration with the laboratory of Laurie Boyer, PhD, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- the scientists took embryonic stem cells from mice and reprogrammed them into beating heart cells by mimicking embryonic development in a petri dish. Next, they extracted the DNA from developing and mature heart cells, using an advanced gene-sequencing technique called ChIP-seq that lets scientists "see" the epigenetic signatures written in the DNA.
"But simply finding these signatures was only half the battle -- we next had to decipher which aspects of heart formation they encoded," said Jeffrey Alexander, a Gladstone and UCSF graduate student and one of the paper's lead authors. "To do that, we harnessed the computing power of the Gladstone Bioinformatics Core. This allowed us to take the mountains of data collected from gene sequencing and organize it into a readable, meaningful blueprint for how a heart becomes a heart."
The team made some unexpected discoveries. They found that groups of genes appear to work together in heart cells in a coordinated fashion -- switching on and off as a group at designated times during embryonic development. The scientists not only identified a whole host of new genes involved in heart formation, but they also refined exactly how these newly discovered genes interact with previously known genes.
The human-health implications of mapping the genomic blueprint of the heart are far reaching. Now that scientists understand how these genes control the heart, they can begin to piece together how heart disease disrupts this regulation. Eventually, they can look for therapies to prevent, interrupt or counteract those disruptions in children who suffer from congenital heart disease.
"Our findings reveal new clues as to how complex genetic and epigenetic patterns are precisely regulated during heart formation," said Dr. Boyer. "In particular, our identification of key segments of the genome that contribute to this process will hopefully allow us to identify the genetic causes of many forms of congenital heart disease -- an important first step in the fight against this devastating disease."
"Next, we hope to examine the DNA of patients living with congenital heart disease, in the hopes that we can pinpoint the specific genetic disruption that caused their heart defect," said Dr. Bruneau, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, with which Gladstone is affiliated. "Once we identify that disruption, we can begin exploring ways to restore normal gene function during early heart formation -- and reduce the number of babies born with debilitating, and sometimes fatal, congenital heart defects."
|World's most powerful digital camera opens eye, records first images in hunt for dark energy|
World's most powerful digital camera opens eye, records first images in hunt for dark energy:
Eight billion years ago, rays of light from distant galaxies began their long journey to Earth. That ancient starlight has now found its way to a mountaintop in Chile, where the newly-constructed Dark Energy Camera, the most powerful sky-mapping machine ever created, has captured and recorded it for the first time. That light may hold within it the answer to one of the biggest mysteries in physics -- why the expansion of the universe is speeding up.
Scientists in the international Dark Energy Survey collaboration announced this week that the Dark Energy Camera, the product of eight years of planning and construction by scientists, engineers, and technicians on three continents, has achieved first light. The first pictures of the southern sky were taken by the 570-megapixel camera on Sept. 12.
"The achievement of first light through the Dark Energy Camera begins a significant new era in our exploration of the cosmic frontier," said James Siegrist, associate director of science for high energy physics with the U.S. Department of Energy. "The results of this survey will bring us closer to understanding the mystery of dark energy, and what it means for the universe."
The Dark Energy Camera was constructed at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, and mounted on the Victor M. Blanco telescope at the National Science Foundation's Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile, which is the southern branch of the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). With this device, roughly the size of a phone booth, astronomers and physicists will probe the mystery of dark energy, the force they believe is causing the universe to expand faster and faster.
"The Dark Energy Survey will help us understand why the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing due to gravity," said Brenna Flaugher, project manager and scientist at Fermilab. "It is extremely satisfying to see the efforts of all the people involved in this project finally come together."
The Dark Energy Camera is the most powerful survey instrument of its kind, able to see light from over 100,000 galaxies up to 8 billion light years away in each snapshot. The camera's array of 62 charged-coupled devices has an unprecedented sensitivity to very red light, and along with the Blanco telescope's large light-gathering mirror (which spans 13 feet across), will allow scientists from around the world to pursue investigations ranging from studies of asteroids in our own Solar System to the understanding of the origins and the fate of the universe.
"We're very excited to bring the Dark Energy Camera online and make it available for the astronomical community through NOAO's open access telescope allocation," said Chris Smith, director of the Cerro-Tololo Inter-American Observatory. "With it, we provide astronomers from all over the world a powerful new tool to explore the outstanding questions of our time, perhaps the most pressing of which is the nature of dark energy."
Scientists in the Dark Energy Survey collaboration will use the new camera to carry out the largest galaxy survey ever undertaken, and will use that data to carry out four probes of dark energy, studying galaxy clusters, supernovae, the large-scale clumping of galaxies and weak gravitational lensing. This will be the first time all four of these methods will be possible in a single experiment.
The Dark Energy Survey is expected to begin in December, after the camera is fully tested, and will take advantage of the excellent atmospheric conditions in the Chilean Andes to deliver pictures with the sharpest resolution seen in such a wide-field astronomy survey. In just its first few nights of testing, the camera has already delivered images with excellent and nearly uniform spatial resolution.
Over five years, the survey will create detailed color images of one-eighth of the sky, or 5,000 square degrees, to discover and measure 300 million galaxies, 100,000 galaxy clusters and 4,000 supernovae.
The Dark Energy Survey is supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy; the National Science Foundation; funding agencies in the United Kingdom, Spain, Brazil, Germany and Switzerland; and the participating DES institutions.
|NASA Rover Finds Old Streambed On Martian Surface|
NASA Rover Finds Old Streambed On Martian Surface:
NASA's Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence -- images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels -- is the first of its kind.
Scientists are studying the images of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock. The sizes and shapes of stones offer clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream's flow."From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep," said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. "Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we're actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it."
The finding site lies between the north rim of Gale Crater and the base of Mount Sharp, a mountain inside the crater. Earlier imaging of the region from Mars orbit allows for additional interpretation of the gravel-bearing conglomerate. The imagery shows an alluvial fan of material washed down from the rim, streaked by many apparent channels, sitting uphill of the new finds.The rounded shape of some stones in the conglomerate indicates long-distance transport from above the rim, where a channel named Peace Vallis feeds into the alluvial fan. The abundance of channels in the fan between the rim and conglomerate suggests flows continued or repeated over a long time, not just once or for a few years.
The discovery comes from examining two outcrops, called "Hottah" and "Link," with the telephoto capability of Curiosity's mast camera during the first 40 days after landing. Those observations followed up on earlier hints from another outcrop, which was exposed by thruster exhaust as Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory Project's rover, touched down."Hottah looks like someone jack-hammered up a slab of city sidewalk, but it's really a tilted block of an ancient streambed," said Mars Science Laboratory Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
The gravels in conglomerates at both outcrops range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Some are angular, but many are rounded."The shapes tell you they were transported and the sizes tell you they couldn't be transported by wind. They were transported by water flow," said Curiosity science co-investigator Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz.
The science team may use Curiosity to learn the elemental composition of the material, which holds the conglomerate together, revealing more characteristics of the wet environment that formed these deposits. The stones in the conglomerate provide a sampling from above the crater rim, so the team may also examine several of them to learn about broader regional geology.The slope of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater remains the rover's main destination. Clay and sulfate minerals detected there from orbit can be good preservers of carbon-based organic chemicals that are potential ingredients for life.
"A long-flowing stream can be a habitable environment," said Grotzinger. "It is not our top choice as an environment for preservation of organics, though. We're still going to Mount Sharp, but this is insurance that we have already found our first potentially habitable environment."During the two-year prime mission of the Mars Science Laboratory,esearchers will use Curiosity's 10 instruments to investigate whether areas in Gale Crater have ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech, built Curiosity and manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
|Scientists attempt to mimic black holes in US laboratory|
Scientists attempt to mimic black holes in US laboratory:
As part of a 2.35-million-pound project looking at how matter and energy interact, scientists are to mimic black holes in a laboratory on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
A team at Heriot-Watt University will be producing laser pulses whose energy is measured in trillions of watts.
They will be used to simulate conditions found around a black hole - a place where gravity is so strong that light cannot escape and the normal laws of physics break down.
"What we are creating is the same space-time structure which characterises a black hole. But we' are doing this with a light pulse, so we don't actually have the mass which is associated with black holes," the Independent quoted Daniele Faccio, the lead scientist, as saying.
"Gravitational black holes are generated by a collapsing star. We don't actually have this collapsing star, so there's no danger of being sucked into the black holes we are generating here," Faccio added
Brahmos Missile Test-Launched Successfully From Indian Navy’s Warship Ins Teg
Brahmos Missile Test-Launched Successfully From Indian Navy’s Warship Ins Teg:
India has successfully test-fired the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from INS Teg which is the Indian Navy’s latest frigate. The test-firing of BrahMos missile took place yesterday off the coast of Goa and it is the second successful test-firIng from INS Teg since its sea-trials last year.
According to BrahMos officials, the 290 km range BrahMos missile performed major manoeuvres at two given points in whIch the mission was to elude detection by enemies' radars and successfully hit the target ship at a distance of 290 kms. The target ship was successfully devastated by the BrahMos missile as planned.
The BrahMos missile system, developed jointly by Russia and India, is a two-stage missile system inducted into the Indian Navy in 2005.The supersonic cruise missile has also been inducted in the Indian Army. Besides, an air-launched and a submarine-launched version of the advanced weapon system are under development at present. The BRAHMOS missile has a flight range of up to 290 km and is capable of carrying a conventional warhead of 300 kg. The missile can cruise at a maximum speed of 2.8 Mach.
One of the salient features of BrahMos is its vertical launch configuration. This system augments the stealth capabilities of the ship as the missiles are not exposed and remain under the deck. In fact, the Universal Vertical Launcher (UVLM) being used in these ships is unique and it is designed, developed and patented by BrahMos Aerospace. This also facilitates maneuverability of the missile in any direction after launch, independent of ship movement. Besides, it greatly enhances its stealth capability and enables snoop attacks.
The BrahMos surface-to-surface missile was launched from the Russian-built Project 1135.6 class warship INS Teg. This warship was commissioned in April this year and has been fitted with an upgraded multi-role combat suite. INS Teg has been built as part of a $1.6 billion contract signed between India and Russia in 2006. Two other frigates of the class, namely INS Tarkash and INS Trikand, are at different stages of construction at Russia's Yantar shipyard.
India has decided that the three above-mentioned warships will be equipped with 8 vertical launched BRAHMOS missile system as the main strike weapon as it is capable of engaging targets at extended ranges at supersonic speed. INS Teg's weapons suite includes surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missile systems, 100 mm medium range gun, close-in weapon system, torpedo tubes and anti-submarine rockets.
|Nobel Prize Science 2012|
Nobel Prize Science 2012:
|The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012 jointly to John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent|
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012 jointly to John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent:
The Nobel Prize recognizes two scientists who discovered that mature, specialised cells can be reprogrammed to become immature cells capable of developing into all tissues of the body. Their findings have revolutionised our understanding of how cells and organisms develop.
John B. Gurdon discovered in 1962 that the specialisation of cells is reversible. In a classic experiment, he replaced the immature cell nucleus in an egg cell of a frog with the nucleus from a mature intestinal cell. This modified egg cell developed into a normal tadpole. The DNA of the mature cell still had all the information needed to develop all cells in the frog.
Shinya Yamanaka discovered more than 40 years later, in 2006, how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells. Surprisingly, by introducing only a few genes, he could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells, i.e. immature cells that are able to develop into all types of cells in the body.
These groundbreaking discoveries have completely changed our view of the development and cellular specialisation. We now understand that the mature cell does not have to be confined forever to its specialised state. Textbooks have been rewritten and new research fields have been established. By reprogramming human cells, scientists have created new opportunities to study diseases and develop methods for diagnosis and therapy.
From surprising discovery to medical use:
The discoveries of Gurdon and Yamanaka have shown that specialised cells can turn back the developmental clock under certain circumstances. Although their genome undergoes modifications during development, these modifications are not irreversible. We have obtained a new view of the development of cells and organisms.
Research during recent years has shown that iPS cells can give rise to all the different cell types of the body. These discoveries have also provided new tools for scientists around the world and led to remarkable progress in many areas of medicine. iPS cells can also be prepared from human cells.
For instance, skin cells can be obtained from patients with various diseases, reprogrammed, and examined in the laboratory to determine how they differ from cells of healthy individuals. Such cells constitute invaluable tools for understanding disease mechanisms and so provide new opportunities to develop medical therapies.
|A French-American duo Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics|
A French-American duo Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics
A French-American duo shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for inventing methods to observe the bizarre properties of the quantum world, research that has led to the construction of extremely precise clocks and helped scientists take the first steps toward building superfast computers.
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2012 was awarded jointly to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems"
Born: 1944, Casablanca, Morocco
Nobel Prize in Physics motivation: "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems" : a study about the light particles, the photons.
David J. Wineland
Born: 1944, Milwaukee, WI, USA
Nobel Prize in Physics motivation: "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems": His work has included advances in optics, specifically laser cooling of ions in Paul traps and use of trapped ions to implement quantum computing operations.
Particle Control in a Quantum World:
The Nobel Laureates have opened the door to a new era of experimentation with quantum physics by demonstrating the direct observation of individual quantum particles without destroying them. For single particles of light or matter the laws of classical physics cease to apply and quantum physics takes over. But single particles are not easily isolated from their surrounding environment and they lose their mysterious quantum properties as soon as they interact with the outside world. Thus many seemingly bizarre phenomena predicted by quantum physics could not be directly observed, and researchers could only carry out thought experiments that might in principle manifest these bizarre phenomena.
Through their ingenious laboratory methods Haroche and Wineland together with their research groups have managed to measure and control very fragile quantum states, which were previously thought inaccessible for direct observation. The new methods allow them to examine, control and count the particles.
Their methods have many things in common. David Wineland traps electrically charged atoms, or ions, controlling and measuring them with light, or photons.
Serge Haroche takes the opposite approach: he controls and measures trapped photons, or particles of light, by sending atoms through a trap.
Both Laureates work in the field of quantum optics studying the fundamental interaction between light and matter, a field which has seen considerable progress since the mid-1980s. Their ground-breaking methods have enabled this field of research to take the very first steps towards building a new type of super fast computer based on quantum physics. Perhaps the quantum computer will change our everyday lives in this century in the same radical way as the classical computer did in the last century. The research has also led to the construction of extremely precise clocks that could become the future basis for a new standard of time, with more than hundred-fold greater precision than present-day caesium clocks.
|The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 was awarded jointly to Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka "for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors"|
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 was awarded jointly to Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka "for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors".
Nobel prize in chemistry 2012 for work on cell receptors: as it happened
Americans Robert J Lefkowitz and Brian K Kobilka have won this year's chemistry Nobel for their work on G-protein-coupled receptors, which allow cells to sense light, flavour, odour and receive signals from hormones and neurotransmitters
Robert J. Lefkowitz
Born: 1943, New York, NY, USA
Prize motivation: "for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors"
Brian K. Kobilka
Born: 1955, Little Falls, MN, USA
Prize motivation: "for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors"
|Giant Harvestman Yet to Be Named: Arachnologist Discovers Another Giant of the Animal World in Laos|
Giant Harvestman Yet to Be Named: Arachnologist Discovers Another Giant of the Animal World in Laos:
A scientist at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt has discovered a harvestman with a leg span of more than 33 centimetres. The creature found during a research trip to Laos is one of the largest representatives of the entire order worldwide. Experts have so far failed to properly identify it to species level.
The reason Dr. Peter Jäger from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt (Germany) originally flew to Laos in April was to film a major TV production. "In between takes I collected spiders from the caves in the southern province of Khammouan," the Frankfurt arachnologist explains. In doing so, he made a sensational discovery. "In one of the caves I discovered a harvestman that was absolutely huge." The leg span of the gigantic male harvestman was more than 33 centimetres and therefore one of the world's largest. The current record is just over 34 centimetres leg span for a species from South America.
Initially the discovery lay hidden among other organisms and was only recognised as unique when sorted and labelled. "In attempting to categorise the creature properly, however, and give it a scientific name, I soon reached my limits," says Jäger. The Frankfurt scientist deals mainly with huntsman spiders -- harvestmen are not his particular field. Even the specialist he consulted, Ana Lucia Tourinho from the National Institute for Research of the Amazon (INPA) in Manaus, Brazil, who is currently a visiting academic at the Senckenberg Arachnology lab, could only conclude that it is probably the genus Gagrella in the Sclerosomatidae family.
"It's a shame we can't identify such an exceptional discovery correctly, i.e. its species," says Jäger, "we haven't dealt with these and related genera from China and neighbouring South East Asia before. Specialists are also unavailable due to the fact that descriptive taxonomy is no longer the main focus of research funding"
As such, the harvestmen of the Sclerosomatidae family have invaluable potential. Specimens can be found in virtually every habitat and they constitute an ecologically very important predator group in the natural food chain.
They could serve as an indicator of the ecological state of the natural and cultural scenery. These long-legged creatures are also of interest to behavioural scientists and evolutionary biologists. For example, during courtship the male presents a nuptial gift to the female, which is intended to demonstrate his fitness. Only when the female accepts it do they mate.
The Senckenberg arachnologist would now like to investigate the Sclerosomatidae family in a detailed case study using conventional and molecular methods along with his Brazilian colleague and in collaboration with other scientists in Germany, China and Japan. The findings should then be applicable to other groups and regions. "We want to avoid a situation in future where we again lack the experts to classify such unique creatures," says Jäger.
Meanwhile, Laos has turned out to be a veritable land of giants. Other arthropods with similar huge dimensions have been found in the same region -- the Laotian huntsman spider Heteropoda maxima with a leg span of up to 30 centimetres, the whip scorpion Typopeltis magnificus with a span of 26 centimetres and the predatory centipede Thereuopoda longicornis with a total span of almost 40 centimetres.
All these organisms are more or less closely linked to caves in these karst areas. "What mechanisms or factors are responsible for this frequency of gigantism is still unclear," says Jäger. One possible explanation is the potentially slower rate of growth in the caves. But the only thing that seems certain is that there is a limit to growth -- either due to the lack of oxygen supply to the long appendages or because when fleeing or catching prey long legs can no longer be moved quickly enough.
|Particle and Wave-Like Behavior of Light Measured Simultaneously|
Particle and Wave-Like Behavior of Light Measured Simultaneously:
What is light made of: waves or particles? This basic question has fascinated physicists since the early days of science. Quantum mechanics predicts that photons, particles of light, are both particles and waves simultaneously. Reporting in Science, physicists from the University of Bristol give a new demonstration of this wave-particle duality of photons, dubbed the 'one real mystery of quantum mechanics' by Nobel Prize laureate Richard Feynman.
The history of science is marked by an intense debate between the particle and wave theories of light. Isaac Newton was the main advocate of the particle theory, while James Clerk Maxwell and his greatly successful theory of electromagnetism, gave credit to the wave theory. However, things changed dramatically in 1905, when Einstein showed that it was possible to explain the photoelectric effect (which had remained a complete mystery until then) using the idea that light is made of particles: photons. This discovery had a huge impact on physics, as it greatly contributed to the development of quantum mechanics -- the most accurate scientific theory ever developed.
Despite its success, quantum mechanics presents a tremendous challenge to our everyday intuition. Indeed, the theory predicts with a remarkable accuracy the behaviour of small objects such as atoms and photons. However, when taking a closer look at these predictions, we are forced to admit that they are strikingly counter-intuitive. For instance, quantum theory predicts that a particle (for instance a photon) can be in different places at the same time. In fact it can even be in infinitely many places at the same time, exactly as a wave. Hence the notion of wave-particle duality, which is fundamental to all quantum systems.
Surprisingly, when a photon is observed, it behaves either as a particle or as a wave. But both aspects are never observed simultaneously. In fact, which behaviour it exhibits depends on the type of measurement it is presented with. These astonishing phenomena have been experimentally investigated in the last few years, using measurement devices that can be switched between wave-like and particle-like measurements.
In a paper published Nov. 1 in Science, physicists from the University of Bristol give a new twist on these ideas. Dr Alberto Peruzzo, Peter Shadbolt and Professor Jeremy O'Brien from the Centre for Quantum Photonics teamed up with quantum theorists Dr Nicolas Brunner and Professor Sandu Popescu to devise a novel type of measurement apparatus that can measure both particle and wave-like behaviour simultaneously. This new device is powered by quantum nonlocality, another strikingly counter-intuitive quantum effect.
Dr Peruzzo, Research Fellow at the Centre for Quantum Photonics, said: "The measurement apparatus detected strong nonlocality, which certified that the photon behaved simultaneously as a wave and a particle in our experiment. This represents a strong refutation of models in which the photon is either a wave or a particle."
Professor O'Brien, Director of the Centre for Quantum Photonics, said: "To conduct this research, we used a quantum photonic chip, a novel technology pioneered in Bristol. The chip is reconfigurable so it can be programmed and controlled to implement different circuits. Today this technology is a leading approach in the quest to build a quantum computer and in the future will allow for new and more sophisticated studies of fundamental aspects of quantum phenomena.
|Meet Xenoceratops: Canada's newest horned dinosaur|
Meet Xenoceratops: Canada's newest horned dinosaur:
Scientists have named a new species of horned dinosaur (ceratopsian) from Alberta, Canada. Xenoceratops foremostensis (Zee-NO-Sare-ah-tops) was identified from fossils originally collected in 1958. Approximately 20 feet long and weighing more than 2 tons, the newly identified plant-eating dinosaur represents the oldest known large-bodied horned dinosaur from Canada. Research describing the new species is published in the October 2012 issue of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.
"Starting 80 million years ago, the large-bodied horned dinosaurs in North America underwent an evolutionary explosion," said lead author Dr. Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. "Xenoceratops shows us that even the geologically oldest ceratopsids had massive spikes on their head shields and that their cranial ornamentation would only become more elaborate as new species evolved."
Xenoceratops (Xeno + ceratops) means "alien horned-face," referring to the strange pattern of horns on its head and the scarcity of horned dinosaur fossils from this part of the fossil record. It also honors the Village of Foremost, located close to where the dinosaur was discovered. Xenoceratops had a parrot-like beak with two long brow horns above its eyes. A large frill protruded from the back of its skull featuring two huge spikes.
"Xenoceratops provides new information on the early evolution of ceratopsids, the group of large-bodied horned dinosaurs that includes Triceratops," said co-author Dr. David Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum and University of Toronto. "The early fossil record of ceratopsids remains scant, and this discovery highlights just how much more there is to learn about the origin of this diverse group."
The new dinosaur is described from skull fragments from at least three individuals from the Foremost Formation originally collected by Dr. Wann Langston Jr. in the 1950s, and is currently housed in the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, Canada. Ryan and Evans stumbled upon the undescribed material more than a decade ago and recognized the bones as a new type of horned dinosaur. Evans later discovered a 50-year-old plaster field jacket at the Canadian Museum of Nature containing more skull bones from the same fossil locality and had them prepared in his lab at the Royal Ontario Museum.
This dinosaur is just the latest in a series of new finds being made by Ryan and Evans as part of their Southern Alberta Dinosaur Project, which is designed to fill in gaps in our knowledge of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs and study their evolution. This project focuses on the paleontology of some of the oldest dinosaur-bearing rocks in Alberta, which is less intensely studied than that of the famous badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park and Drumheller.
"This discovery of a previously unknown species also drives home the importance of having access to scientific collections," says co-author Kieran Shepherd, curator of paleobiology for the Canadian Museum of Nature, which holds the specimen. "The collections are an untapped source of new material for study, and offer the potential for many new discoveries."
Xenoceratops was identified by a team comprising palaeontologists Dr. Michael J. Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History; and Dr. David Evans, curator, vertebrate palaeontology of the Department of Natural History at the Royal Ontario Museum; as well as Kieran Shepherd, curator of paleobiology for the Canadian Museum of Nature.
|Neurons Made from Stem Cells Drive Brain Activity After Transplantation in Laboratory Model|
Neurons Made from Stem Cells Drive Brain Activity After Transplantation in Laboratory Model:
Researchers and patients look forward to the day when stem cells might be used to replace dying brain cells in Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. Scientists are currently able to make neurons and other brain cells from stem cells, but getting these neurons to properly function when transplanted to the host has proven to be more difficult. Now, researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute have found a way to stimulate stem cell-derived neurons to direct cognitive function after transplantation to an existing neural network.
The study was published November 7 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
"We showed for the first time that embryonic stem cells that we've programmed to become neurons can integrate into existing brain circuits and fire patterns of electrical activity that are critical for consciousness and neural network activity," said Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study. Lipton is director of Sanford-Burnham's Del E. Webb Neuroscience, Aging, and Stem Cell Research Center and a clinical neurologist.
The trick turned out to be light. Lipton and his team -- including Juan Piña-Crespo, Ph.D., D.V.M., Maria Talantova, M.D., Ph.D., and other colleagues at Sanford-Burnham and Stanford University -- transplanted human stem cell-derived neurons into a rodent hippocampus, the brain's information-processing center. Then they specifically activated the transplanted neurons with optogenetic stimulation, a relatively new technique that combines light and genetics to precisely control cellular behavior in living tissues or animals.
To determine if the newly transplanted, light-stimulated human neurons were actually working, Lipton and his team measured high-frequency oscillations in existing neurons at a distance from the transplanted ones. They found that the transplanted neurons triggered the existing neurons to fire high-frequency oscillations. Faster neuronal oscillations are usually better -- they're associated with enhanced performance in sensory-motor and cognitive tasks.
To sum it up, the transplanted human neurons not only conducted electrical impulses, they also roused neighboring neuronal networks into firing -- at roughly the same rate they would in a normal, functioning hippocampus.
The therapeutic outlook for this technology looks promising. "Based on these results, we might be able to restore brain activity -- and thus restore motor and cognitive function -- by transplanting easily manipulated neuronal cells derived from embryonic stem cells," Lipton said.
|Blind patient reads words stimulated directly onto the retina|
Blind patient reads words stimulated directly onto the retina:
For the very first time researchers have streamed braille patterns directly into a blind patient's retina, allowing him to read four-letter words accurately and quickly with an ocular neuroprosthetic device. The device, the Argus II, has been implanted in over 50 patients, many of who can now see color, movement and objects. It uses a small camera mounted on a pair of glasses, a portable processor to translate the signal from the camera into electrical stimulation, and a microchip with electrodes implanted directly on the retina. The study was authored by researchers at Second Sight, the company who developed the device, and has been published in Frontiers in Neuroprosthetics on the 22nd of November.
"In this clinical test with a single blind patient, we bypassed the camera that is the usual input for the implant and directly stimulated the retina. Instead of feeling the braille on the tips of his fingers, the patient could see the patterns we projected and then read individual letters in less than a second with up to 89% accuracy," explains researcher Thomas Lauritzen, lead author of the paper.
Similar in concept to successful cochlear implants, the visual implant uses a grid of 60 electrodes -- attached to the retina -- to stimulate patterns directly onto the nerve cells. For this study, the researchers at Second Sight used a computer to stimulate six of these points on the grid to project the braille letters. A series of tests were conducted with single letters as well as words ranging in length from two letters up to four. The patient was shown each letter for half a second and had up to 80% accuracy for short words.
"There was no input except the electrode stimulation and the patient recognized the braille letters easily. This proves that the patient has good spatial resolution because he could easily distinguish between signals on different, individual electrodes." says Lauritzen.
According to Silvestro Micera at EPFL's Center for Neuroprosthetics and scientific reviewer for the article, "this study is a proof of concept that points to the importance of clinical experiments involving new neuroprosthetic devices to improve the technology and innovate adaptable solutions."
Primarily for sufferers of the genetic disease Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), the implant Argus II has been shown to restore limited reading capability of large conventional letters and short words when used with the camera. While reading should improve with future iterations of the Argus II, the current study shows how the Argus II could be adapted to provide an alternative and potentially faster method of text reading with the addition of letter recognition software. This ability to perform image processing in software prior to sending the signal to the implant is a unique advantage of Argus II.
|New Evidence On Dinosaurs' Role in Evolution of Bird Flight|
New Evidence On Dinosaurs' Role in Evolution of Bird Flight:
A new study looking at the structure of feathers in bird-like dinosaurs has shed light on one of nature's most remarkable inventions -- how flight might have evolved.
Academics at the Universities of Bristol, Yale and Calgary have shown that prehistoric birds had a much more primitive version of the wings we see today, with rigid layers of feathers acting as simple airfoils for gliding.
Close examination of the earliest theropod dinosaurs suggests that feathers were initially developed for insulation, arranged in multiple layers to preserve heat, before their shape evolved for display and camouflage.
As evolution changed the configuration of the feathers, their important role in the aerodynamics and mechanics of flight became more apparent. Natural selection over millions of years ultimately modified dinosaurs' forelimbs into highly-efficient, feathered wings that could rapidly change its span, shape and area -- a key innovation that allowed dinosaurs to rule the skies.
This basic wing configuration has remained more or less the same for the past 130 million years, with bird wings having a layer of long, asymmetrical flight feathers with short covert feathers on top. They are able to separate and rotate these flight feathers to gain height, change direction and even hover.
This formation allows birds to move in such a way as to produce both lift and thrust simultaneously -- a capability that man, with the help of technology, is still trying to successfully imitate.
The research, published November 21 in Current Biology, looked at the dinosaur Anchiornis huxleyi and the Jurassic bird Archaeopteryx lithographica. The latter is 155 million years old and widely considered to be the earliest known bird, presenting a combination of dinosaur and bird characteristics.
Their wings differed from modern day birds in being composed of multiple layers of long feathers, appearing to represent early experiments in the evolution of the wing. Although individual feathers were relatively weak due to slender feather shafts, the layering of these wing feathers is likely to have produced a strong airfoil.
The inability to separate feathers suggests that taking off and flying at low speeds may have been limited, meaning that wings were primarily used in high-speed gliding or flapping flight.
Dr Jakob Vinther, from the University of Bristol's Schools of Biological and Earth Sciences, said: "We are starting to get an intricate picture of how feathers and birds evolved from within the dinosaurs. We now seem to see that feathers evolved initially for insulation. Later in evolution, more complex vaned or pinnate feathers evolved for display.
"These display feathers turned out to be excellent membranes that could have been utilised for aerial locomotion, which only very late in bird evolution became what we consider flapping flight. This new research is shedding light not just on how birds came to fly, but more specifically on how feathers came to be the way they are today -- one of the most amazing and highly specialised structures in nature."
Dr Nicholas Longrich of Yale University added: "By studying fossils carefully, we are now able to start piecing together how the wing evolved. Before, it seemed that we had more or less modern wings from the Jurassic onwards. Now it's clear that early birds were more primitive and represented transitional forms linking birds to dinosaurs. We can see the wing slowly becoming more advanced as we move from Anchiornis, to Archaeopteryx, to later birds."
|New Crab Species Discovered Off the Coast of Belize|
New Crab Species Discovered Off the Coast of Belize:
Areopaguristes tudgei. That's the name of a new species of hermit crab recently discovered on the barrier reef off the coast of Belize by Christopher Tudge, a biology professor at American University in Washington, D.C.
Tudge has been interested in biology his whole life, from boyhood trips to the beach collecting crustaceans in his native Australia, to his undergraduate and PhD work in zoology and biology at the University of Queensland. He has collected specimens all over the world, from Australia to Europe to North and South America.
Until now, he has never had a species named after him. He only found out about his namesake after reading an article about it in the journal Zootaxa. Apparently, finding out after-the-fact is standard practice in the highly formalized ritual of naming a new species.
The two crustacean taxonomists and authors of the paper who named the new crab after Tudge, Rafael Lemaitre of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History and Darryl L. Felder of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette's Department of Biology Laboratory for Crustacean Research, have known Tudge since he first came to Washington in 1995 as a postdoc research fellow at the Smithsonian.
|Major breakthrough in deciphering bread wheat's genetic code|
Major breakthrough in deciphering bread wheat's genetic code:
Scientists, including Professor Keith Edwards and Dr Gary Barker from the University of Bristol, have unlocked key components of the genetic code of one of the world's most important crops. The first analysis of the complex and exceptionally large bread wheat genome, published today in Nature, is a major breakthrough in breeding wheat varieties that are more productive and better able to cope with disease, drought and other stresses that cause crop losses.
The identification of around 96,000 wheat genes, and insights into the links between them, lays strong foundations for accelerating wheat improvement through advanced molecular breeding and genetic engineering. The research contributes to directly improving food security by facilitating new approaches to wheat crop improvement that will accelerate the production of new wheat varieties and stimulate new research. The analysis comes just two years after UK researchers finished generating the sequence.
The project was led by Neil Hall, Mike Bevan, Keith Edwards, Klaus Mayer, from the University of Liverpool, the John Innes Centre, the University of Bristol, and the Institute of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology, Helmholtz-Zentrum, Munich, respectively, and Anthony Hall at the University of Liverpool. W. Richard McCombie at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Jan Dvorak at the Univerisity of California, Davis, led the US contribution to the project.
The team sifted through vast amounts of DNA sequence data, effectively translating the sequence into something that scientists and plant breeders can use effectively. All of their data and analyses were freely available to users world-wide.
Professor Keith Edwards said: "Since 1980, the rate of increase in wheat yields has declined. Analysis of the wheat genome sequence data provides a new and very powerful foundation for breeding future generations of wheat more quickly and more precisely, to help address this problem."
The analysis is already being used in research funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to introduce a wider range of genetic variation into commercial cultivars and make use of wild wheat's untapped genetic reservoirs that could help improve tolerance to diseases and the effects of climate change. The wheat breeding community and seed suppliers have welcomed the research.
Ancient Microbes Found Living Beneath the Icy Surface of Antarctic Lake
Ancient Microbes Found Living Beneath the Icy Surface of Antarctic Lake:
This week a pioneering study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and co-authored by Dr. Alison Murray and Dr. Christian Fritsen of Nevada's Desert Research Institute (DRI) reveals, for the first time, a viable community of bacteria that survives and ekes out a living in a dark, salty and subfreezing environment beneath nearly 20 meters of ice in one of Antarctica's most isolated lakes.
Lake Vida, the largest of several unique lakes found in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, contains no oxygen, is mostly frozen and possesses the highest nitrous oxide levels of any natural water body on Earth. A briny liquid that is approximately six times saltier than seawater percolates throughout the icy environment that has an average temperature of minus 13.5 degrees centigrade (or 8 degrees Fahrenheit).
"This study provides a window into one of the most unique ecosystems on Earth," said Murray, the report's lead author, and molecular microbial ecologist and polar researcher for the past 17 years, who has participated in 14 expeditions to the Southern Ocean and Antarctic continent. "Our knowledge of geochemical and microbial processes in lightless icy environments, especially at subzero temperatures, has been mostly unknown up until now. This work expands our understanding of the types of life that can survive in these isolated, cryoecosystems and how different strategies may be used to exist in such challenging environments."
|3 new species of venomous primate identified by MU researcher|
3 new species of venomous primate identified by MU researcher:
A venomous primate with two tongues would seem safe from the pet trade, but the big-eyed, teddy-bear face of the slow loris (Nycticebus sp.) has made them a target for illegal pet poachers throughout the animal's range in southeastern Asia and nearby islands. A University of Missouri doctoral student and her colleagues recently identified three new species of slow loris. The primates had originally been grouped with another species. Dividing the species into four distinct classes means the risk of extinction is greater than previously believed for the animals but could help efforts to protect the unusual primate. "Four separate species are harder to protect than one, since each species needs to maintain its population numbers and have sufficient forest habitat," said lead author Rachel Munds, MU doctoral student in anthropology in the College of Arts and Science. "Unfortunately, in addition to habitat loss to deforestation, there is a booming black market demand for the animals. They are sold as pets, used as props for tourist photos or dismembered for use in traditional Asian medicines."
According to Munds, slow lorises are not domesticated and are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. She contends that keeping the animals as pets is cruel and that domesticating them is not feasible.
"Even zoos have difficulty meeting their nutritional needs for certain insects, tree gums and nectars," said Munds. "Zoos rarely succeed in breeding them. Nearly all the primates in the pet trade are taken from the wild, breaking the bonds of the lorises' complex and poorly understood social structures. The teeth they use for their venomous bite are then torn out. Many of them die in the squalid conditions of pet markets. Once in the home, pet keepers don't provide the primates with the social, nutritional and habitat requirements they need to live comfortably. Pet keepers also want to play with the nocturnal animals during the day, disrupting their sleep patterns."
The newly identified species hail from the Indonesian island of Borneo. Munds and her colleagues observed that the original single species contained animals with significantly different body sizes, fur thickness, habitats and facial markings. Museum specimens, photographs and live animals helped primatologists parse out four species from the original one. Now instead of one animal listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, there may be four endangered or threatened species. This potential change in conservation status may serve to draw attention the plight of the primates and increase legal protections.
"YouTube videos of lorises being tickled, holding umbrellas or eating with forks have become wildly popular," said Anna Nekaris, study co-author, primatology professor at Oxford Brookes University and MU graduate. "CNN recently promoted loris videos as 'feel good' entertainment. In truth, the lorises gripping forks or umbrellas were simply desperate to hold something. The arboreal animals are adapted to spending their lives in trees constantly clutching branches. Pet keepers rarely provide enough climbing structures for them."
The pet trade isn't the only threat to loris survival. The animals also are used in Asian traditional medicines. The methods used to extract the medicines can be exceedingly violent, according to Nekaris, who also is director of the slow loris advocacy organization, Little Fireface Project. For example, in order to obtain tears of the big-eyed lorises, skewers are inserted into the animals' anuses and run through their bodies until they exit the mouth. The still-living animals are then roasted over a smoky fire and the tears that stream from their eyes are collected and used to supposedly treat eye diseases in humans. "Taxonomy of the Bornean Slow Loris, with New Species Nycticebus Kayan," was published in the American Journal of Primatology. The paper described the physiological and habitat differences that justified dividing the three new species of slow loris (N. bancanus, N. borneanus and N. kayan) from the original species of slow loris N. menagensis.Susan Ford of Southern Illinois University also was co-author.
|Black Piranha, Megapiranha Have Most Powerful Bites of Fish Living or Extinct, Researcher Finds|
Black Piranha, Megapiranha Have Most Powerful Bites of Fish Living or Extinct, Researcher Finds:
The black piranha and the extinct giant piranha, or megapiranha, have the most powerful bites of carnivorous fishes, living or extinct, once body size is taken into account, find researchers in a paper recently published in Scientific Reports. The research paper, "Mega-Bites: Extreme jaw forces of living and extinct piranhas," highlights the piranhas' specialized jaw morphology, which allows them to attack and bite chunks out of much larger prey.
Guillermo Ortí, the George Washington University Louis Weintraub Professor of Biology in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, is one of the authors of the paper. His research focuses on the evolution of fishes in general, but specializes on Amazonian fishes, to unravel evolutionary relationships based on DNA sequence data. In 2010, Dr. Orti along with other researchers participated in an expedition to the Xingu and Iriri rivers in Amazonia to collect the data on the fish.
Piranhas' aggressive nature, relatively small size and accessible populations make them a suitable group of predatory vertebrates in which to study the evolution of extreme biting capabilities. Even at their small body sizes, diet studies indicate that piranhas will attack and bite chunks of bony fins and flesh from prey many times larger than themselves.In spite of their reputation, no quantitative data or empirical estimates regarding the piranhas biting abilities were available.The paper reports the first bite-force measurements taken from wild specimens of the largest species of carnivorous piranha in the Amazon, the black piranha, and describes the underlying functional morphology of the jaws that allows this creature to bite with a force more than 30 times greater than its weight. The powerful bite is achieved primarily due to the large muscle mass of the black piranha's jaw and the efficient transmission of its large contractile forces through a highly modified jaw-closing lever.
The expedition was organized and filmed by National Geographic. A subsequent program called Megapiranha aired on the National Geographic Channel featured the expedition and focused on the creature that existed millions of years ago.
"It was very exciting to participate in this project, travel one more time to the Amazon to be able to directly measure bite forces in the wild," said Dr. Orti. "I learned a lot of biomechanics from my colleagues while collecting valuable specimens for my own research."The authors also reconstructed the bite force of the megapiranha, showing that for its relatively diminutive body size, the bite of this fossil piranha dwarfed that of other extinct mega-predators, including the whale-eating shark and the Devonian placoderm. Research at the Ortí lab at GW continues to focus on reconstructing the genealogical tree of fishes including piranhas based on genomic data.Scientific Reports is a primary research publication from the publishers of Nature, covering all areas of the natural sciences.
|Extinct Marsupial Lion Tops African Lion In Fight To Death|
Extinct Marsupial Lion Tops African Lion In Fight To Death:
Pound for pound, Australia's extinct marsupial lion (Thylacoleo carnifex) would have made mince meat of today's African lion (Panthera leo) had the two big hyper-carnivores ever squared off in a fight to the death, according to an Australian scientist. New research published in the Journal of Zoology suggests that Thylacoleo killed prey rapidly, using its "bolt-cutter" type teeth to scissor through hide and flesh to produce major trauma and blood loss.
By contrast, African lions and similar big cats of today use their bite force to suffocate prey, using a "clamp and hold" technique that can take up to 15 minutes with large prey such as Cape buffalo."My results suggest that the marsupial lion employed a unique killing technique," says research author Stephen Wroe. "It used its massive carnassial cheekteeth to effect major trauma and a rapid kill. Unlike any living mammalian carnivores, the marsupial's carnassials were not only butchery tools but also active components in the killing process."
Using a sophisticated computer modelling method [finite element (FE) analysis], that renders dynamic 3D models based on CT scans of the marsupial's cranial mechanics and musculoskeletal architecture, Wroe has revealed that the creature's skull, jaw, and head and neck muscles were well adapted to using the unique technique for killing large prey, but not for delivering the prolonged suffocating bite of living big cats.
"The marsupial lion also had an extremely efficient bite," Wroe says. "In addition to very powerful jaw muscles for its size, its muscle and skull architecture were arranged in such a way as to take greater advantage of leverage than in living cats."
Wroe, who has published findings about bite force in other hypercarnivores, such as great white sharks and sabre tooth tigers, believes there is now no doubt that Australia's marsupial lion was a fearsome predator that punched well above its weight.
"Certainly, T carnifex was seriously over-engineered for dispatching small prey. These new findings support the conclusion that the creature regularly preyed on relatively large species and was able to effect quick kills and withstand large forces generated by large struggling prey.
"Hypothetically, had a large marsupial lion ever come face to face with an African lion of similar size, it could have use its deadly cheek teeth and incredibly powerful arms to inflict mortal wounds on the mammal," Wroe says. "Had it not become extinct, it might now hold top spot over toady's 'king of the jungle.'"
|The first goat genome sets a good example for facilitating de novo assembly of large genomes|
The first goat genome sets a good example for facilitating de novo assembly of large genomes:
n a collaborative study published online today in Nature Biotechnology, researchers from Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, BGI, and other institutes, have completed the first genome sequence of domestic goat by a robust approach integrated with next-generation sequencing (NGS) and whole-genome mapping (WGM) technologies. The goat genome is the first reference genome for small ruminant animals and may help to advance the understanding of distinct ruminants' genomic features from non-ruminant species. This work also yields a valuable experience for facilitating the de novo assemblies of large, complex genomes in the future. Goats are recognized as an important member of the world livestock industry, and with many unique biological features. They are an important economic resource in many developing countries around the world, especially in China and India. However, despite their agricultural and biological importance, breeding and genetic studies of goats have been hampered by the lack of a high quality reference genome sequence. The goat genome sequence will be useful for facilitating the identification of SNP markers for marker-assisted breeding, and improving the utility of the goat as a biomedical model and bioreactor.
With the availability of next-generation sequencing (NGS), draft assemblies are easy to generate nowadays. However, to finish a sequence to the chromosome level remains a hard nut to crack. In this study, the results show that a single NGS platform, when combined with whole-genome mapping technology, could produce a finished assembly much faster and with high quality than other currently available mapping strategies such as BACs or FISH. Through this integrated approach, researchers obtained the ~2.66 Gb goat reference genome from a female Yunnan black goat.
Transposable elements (TEs) are major components of mammalian genomes and contribute to gene and/or genome evolution. The TEs in goat genome are similar to those of cattle, and contain large numbers of ruminant-specific repeats, such as SINE-tRNA and SINE-BovA. It is reported that SINE-BovA repeat expanded primarily in the cattle genome. However, in this study, researchers found the SINE-tRNA repeat expanded specifically in the goat genome.
Through constructing a phylogenetic tree among goats, cattle, horses, dogs, opossums and humans, researchers found the goat shared a common ancestor with cattle about 23 million years ago. Further comparison analysis revealed 44 rapidly evolving genes under positive selection, seven of which are immune-related genes and three are pituitary hormone or related genes. The immune-related genes identified also exist in cattle. The findings suggest that the rapid evolution of pituitary hormones may be related to the different features between goat and cattle in milk production, development rates of the fetus and/or hair variation.
The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) plays an important role in the immune system. In this study, the goat MHC was found to be located on chromosome 23 and contains two regions with length of 2.25 Mb and 360 kb, respectively. With the high quality genome assembly, further understanding of the goat MHC will be useful for immunological studies and vaccine development.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of mammals is the protective growth known as hair. It is produced by hair follicles within the skin, which could provide either protection (guard hairs) or insulation (underfur). The two major hair follicles include the primary hair follicle that produces only coat hair in all mammals, and the secondary hair follicle that can produce the cashmere or "fine hair" in certain mammals, including goats and antelopes. Despite a 2,500-year history and the extent of raw cashmere production, people are lack of understanding of the molecular mechanisms of cashmere formation and development.
Researchers conducted transcriptomic analysis on the primary and secondary follicles of a cashmere goat, revealing 51 genes that are differentially expressed between the two types of hair follicles. Keratin and keratin-associated proteins are the main structural proteins of hair fibers, determining the quality of fiber together. In the study, 29 keratin genes and 30 keratin-associated protein genes were detected in both types of follicles. Interestingly, they found two keratin genes and ten keratin-associated protein genes were consistently differentially expressed between primary and secondary hair follicles, suggesting that the keratin-associated protein genes may be more important in determining the structure of cashmere fibers. In addition to the keratin genes and keratin-associated protein genes, researchers also found several enzymes of amino acid biosynthesis, with implications in regulating primary hair growth and hair cycle.
Xun Xu, Deputy Director of BGI, said, "The goat reference genome is an important stepping stone in the molecular breeding of cashmere goats, and will help to advance the comparative studies on ruminants. The transcriptomic analysis on the primary and secondary follicles will open a new way for better improving the quality cashmere wool."