Unmown Areas Benefit Nature, Humans
Creating unmown areas in an urban park can significantly increase flowers and pollinating insects while also leading to a greater enjoyment of the space by people, according to a Univ. of Sussex study.
Researchers at the university’s Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) monitored areas of one of Brighton & Hove City Council’s managed parks to see what would happen if the grass was left uncut for different periods of time.
They found that, during the course of one year, the blocks of unmown land at Saltdean Oval saw a three-fold increase in the density of flowers, while the numbers of flower-visiting insects such as bees, butterflies and moths was up to five times higher in the least-mown areas compared with the areas mown regularly as normal, every two weeks.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/unmown-areas-benefit-nature-humans
Europeans Descended from Three Groups
New studies of ancient DNA are shifting scientists’ ideas of how groups of people migrated across the globe and interacted with one another thousands of years ago. By comparing nine ancient genomes to those of modern humans, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scientists have shown that previously unrecognized groups contributed to the genetic mix now present in most modern-day Europeans.
“There are at least three major, highly differentiated populations that have contributed substantial amounts of ancestry to almost everybody that has European ancestry today,” says David Reich, an HHMI investigator at Harvard Medical School. Those include hunter-gatherers from Western Europe, the early farmers who brought agriculture to Europe from the Near East and a newly identified group of ancient north Eurasians who arrived in Europe sometime after the introduction of agriculture. That means there were major movements of people into Europe later than previously thought. The team, led by Reich and Johannes Krause at the Univ. of Tübingen in Germany, reported their findings in today’s issue of the journal Nature.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/europeans-descended-three-groups
We Evolved Unique Faces for a Purpose
The amazing variety of human faces – far greater than that of most other animals – is the result of evolutionary pressure to make each of us unique and easily recognizable, according to a new study by UC Berkeley scientists.
Our highly visual social interactions are almost certainly the driver of this evolutionary trend, said behavioral ecologist Michael Sheehan, a postdoctoral fellow in UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Many animals use smell or vocalization to identify individuals, making distinctive facial features unimportant, especially for animals that roam after dark, he said. But humans are different.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/we-evolved-unique-faces-purpose
Scientists Can Reset Human Stem Cells
Scientists have successfully reset human pluripotent stem cells to the earliest developmental state – equivalent to cells found in an embryo before it implants in the womb (seven to nine days old). These pristine stem cells may mark the true starting point for human development but have been impossible to replicate in the lab until now.
The discovery, published in Cell, will lead to a better understanding of human development and could in future allow the production of safe and more reproducible starting materials for a wide range of applications including cell therapies.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/scientists-can-reset-human-stem-cells
Non-dominant Hand Key to Evolution of Thumb
In the largest experiment ever undertaken into the manipulative pressures experienced by the hand during stone tool production, biological anthropologists at the Univ. of Kent analyzed the manipulative forces and frequency of use experienced by the thumb and fingers on the non-dominant hand during a series of stone tool production sequences that replicated early tool forms.
It is well known that one of the main distinctive features between humans and our closest evolutionary cousins, the great apes, is the morphology and manipulative capabilities of their hands. Key to this is the substantially larger, stronger and more robust thumb displayed by humans with such a thumb allowing humans to forcefully and yet dexterously manipulate objects within the hand, a trait first thought to have evolved alongside the earliest stone tool use between 2.6 – 1.4 million years ago.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/non-dominant-hand-key-evolution-thumb
Humans were Culturally Diverse Prior to Africa Exodus
Researchers have carried out the biggest ever comparative study of stone tools dating to between 130,000 and 75,000 years ago found in the region between sub-Saharan Africa and Eurasia. They have discovered there are marked differences in the way stone tools were made, reflecting a diversity of cultural traditions. The study has also identified at least four distinct populations, each relatively isolated from each other with their own different cultural characteristics.
The research paper also suggests that early populations took advantage of rivers and lakes that crisscrossed the Saharan desert. A climate model coupled with data about these ancient water courses was matched with the new findings on stone tools to reveal that populations connected by rivers had similarities in their cultures. This could be the earliest evidence of different populations “budding” across the Sahara, using the rivers to disperse and meet people from other populations, says the paper published in the journal, Quaternary Science Reviews.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/08/humans-were-culturally-diverse-prior-africa-exodus
Researchers ID ‘Switchboard’ Important in Attention, Sleep
Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center and elsewhere, using a mouse model, have recorded the activity of individual nerve cells in a small part of the brain that works as a “switchboard,” directing signals coming from the outside world or internal memories. Because human brain disorders such as schizophrenia, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder typically show disturbances in that switchboard, the investigators say the work suggests new strategies in understanding and treating them.
In a study published in the journal Cell, a team led by Michael Halassa, assistant professor of psychiatry, neuroscience and physiology, and a member of the NYU Neuroscience Institute, showed how neurons in the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) — the so-called switchboard — direct sensory signals such as vision from the outside world, and internal information such as memories, to their appropriate destinations.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/08/researchers-id-%E2%80%98switchboard%E2%80%99-important-attention-sleep
Humans, Monkeys of One Mind When It Comes to Changing It
Covert changes of mind can be discovered by tracking neural activity when subjects make decisions, researchers from New York Univ. and Stanford Univ. have found. Their results, which appear in the journal Current Biology, offer new insights into how we make decisions and point to innovative ways to study this process in the future.
“The methods used in this study allowed us to see the idiosyncratic nature of decision making that was inaccessible before,” explains Roozbeh Kiani, an assistant professor in NYU’s Center for Neural Science and the study’s lead author.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/06/humans-monkeys-one-mind-when-it-comes-changing-it
Faces May Have Evolved Specifically to Handle Punches
What contributed to the evolution of faces in the ape-like ancestors of humans? The prehistoric version of a bar fight — over women, resources and other slug-worthy disagreements, new research from the Univ. of Utah, published today in the journal Biological Reviews, suggests.
Univ. of Utah biologist David Carrier and Michael Morgan, a Univ. of Utah physician, contend that human faces — especially those of our australopith ancestors — evolved to minimize injury from punches to the face during fights between males.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/06/faces-may-have-evolved-specifically-handle-punches
Researchers Sequence DNA of First Near Eastern Farmers
The mitochondrial DNA of the first Near Eastern farmers has been sequenced for the first time. In the research, published in the journal PLOS Genetics, experts analyzed samples from three sites located in the birthplace of Neolithic agricultural practices: the Middle Euphrates basin and the oasis of Damascus, located in today’s Syria. The samples date from about 8,000 BC.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/06/researcher-sequence-dna-first-near-eastern-farmers
Mice Can Mimic Human Breast Cancer at Gene Level
Scientists have routinely used mice to replicate aspects of human breast cancer in an effort to find a cure to the most common type of cancer among women. But how effective are these preclinical models in actually mimicking the disease and giving scientists the ability to develop real comparisons?
Eran Andrechek, a physiology professor in the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State Univ., has discovered that many of the various models used in breast cancer research can replicate several characteristics of the human disease, especially at the gene level.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/06/mice-can-mimic-human-breast-cancer-gene-level
Climate Not Responsible for Large Mammal Extinction
Was it mankind or climate change that caused the extinction of a considerable number of large mammals about the time of the last Ice Age? Researchers at Aarhus Univ. have carried out the first global analysis of the extinction of the large animals, and the conclusion is clear – humans are to blame.
“Our results strongly underline the fact that human expansion throughout the world has meant an enormous loss of large animals,” says Postdoctoral Fellow Søren Faurby, Aarhus Univ.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/06/climate-not-responsible-large-mammal-extinction
Single-Letter Change in DNA Responsible for Blond Hair
A single-letter change in the genetic code is enough to generate blond hair in humans, in dramatic contrast to our dark-haired ancestors. A new analysis by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scientists has pinpointed that change, which is common in the genomes of Northern Europeans, and shown how it fine-tunes the regulation of an essential gene.
“This particular genetic variation in humans is associated with blond hair, but it isn’t associated with eye color or other pigmentation traits,” says David Kingsley, an HHMI investigator at Stanford Univ. who led the study. “The specificity of the switch shows exactly how independent color changes can be encoded to produce specific traits in humans.”
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/06/single-letter-change-dna-responsible-blond-hair