Evolution from single-celled ancestors to multi-celled organisms, now with less drama

Evolution from single-celled ancestors to multi-celled organisms, now with less drama

The first animals evolved from their single-celled ancestors around 800 million years ago, but a new paper suggests that this leap was a lot less dramatic than scientists have assumed, because the single-celled ancestor of animals likely already had some of the mechanisms that animal cells use today to develop into different tissue types.

Plastic: There's value in marine waste

Plastic: There's value in marine waste

The Biomat research group of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) is using marine waste on the Basque coast (squid, fish and algae waste) to obtain new materials. This line of research is offering a fresh take on plastics aligned with the principles of the circular economy, which is based on preserving and improving natural capital by controlling finite stocks and balancing the flows of renewable resources.

How would you like a kitchen surface that cleans itself?

How would you like a kitchen surface that cleans itself?

Using experimental techniques, researchers have made the first ever direct observation of the elusive dewetting process, which takes place when a liquid film retracts to form a bead-shaped drop. The achievement could now spark a new line of research and lead to breakthroughs involving the use of liquids, such as better coatings and more effective self-cleaning surfaces.

Pop science: Stanford engineers stop soap bubbles from swirling

Pop science: Stanford engineers stop soap bubbles from swirling

The spinning rainbow surface of a soap bubble is more than mesmerizing - it's a lesson in fluid mechanics. Better understanding of these hypnotic flows could bring improvements in many areas, from longer lasting beer foam to life-saving lung treatments.

Single-celled fungi multiply, alien-like, by fusing cells in host

Microsporidia cause diarrhea, an illness called microsporidiosis and even death in immune-compromised individuals.

In spite of those widespread medical problems, scientists were uncertain about how these single-celled fungi reproduced in human or animal cells.

But in a study that employed transparent roundworms, biologists at the University of California San Diego succeeded in directly observing how these microorganisms replicate and spread. And what they saw surprised them.

Wetlands and agriculture, not fossil fuels, behind the global rise in methane

A new paper shows that recent rises in levels of methane in our atmosphere is being driven by biological sources, such as swamp gas, cow burps, or rice fields, rather than fossil fuel emissions.

Atmospheric methane is a major greenhouse gas that traps heat in our atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Its levels have been growing strongly since 2007, and in 2014 the growth rate of methane in the atmosphere was double that of previous years, largely driven by biological sources as opposed to fossil fuel emissions.

Conventional wisdom refuted

6 steps to extinction

Invasive plants are a problem around the world, but are they just a nuisance or are they killers? So far there are no documented cases of native plants becoming extinct purely because of an alien plant invasion. However, researchers Paul Downey and David Richardson argue in a paper published this month in AoB PLANTS, 'Alien plant invasions and native plant extinctions: a six-threshold framework', that traditional methods of modelling extinction do not work well for plants. Focusing purely on extinction can distract plant conservationists from growing problems.

Microbiome forecasting in the ocean

A new mathematical model developed at the University of British Columbia integrates environmental and molecular sequence information to better explain how microbial networks drive nutrient and energy cycling in marine ecosystems.

The work could dramatically improve researchers’ and policy makers’ ability to predict how the world’s marine microbial communities (microbiome) respond to climate change, and resulting impacts on fisheries, biodiversity, climate and more.

What's the best way to remove perfluoroalkyls that threaten the water supply?

Elevated levels of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in drinking water can persist in water supplies for long periods and present an important health risk for millions of Americans, from hormone suppression to potentially cancer. A comprehensive review of the latest research on innovative and cost-effective ways to remove or destroy PFAS from drinking water, groundwater, and wastewater is published in Environmental Engineering Science.

Predicting chemicals’ harmful effects without animal testing wins a prize

Humans are exposed to a large number of chemical substances on a daily basis. These substances come from e.g. foods, consumer products – including cosmetics – and impurities in pharmaceuticals. Regulation requires assessments of some of these substances to see whether they can cause harmful effects such as carcinogenic or endocrine disrupting effects or DNA damage. For other substances there are fewer requirements related to testing and as such knowledge is lacking regarding the substances’ potential harmful properties.

Computers instead of laboratory animals