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Mapping mosquito data to track spread of disease
July 7, 2015 09:01 AM - Tania Rabesandratana, SciDevNet

Mosquitoes that carry the dengue and chikungunya viruses are more widespread than ever, believe scientists mapping the global spread of the insects. There are no treatments or vaccines for these diseases, so knowing where the mosquitoes that transmit them occur and thrive can help focus research and public health resources, the scientists say.

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Are kangaroos left-handed?
July 6, 2015 12:11 PM - Judy Molland, Care2

President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates are all lefties, and now they have unusual colleagues: kangaroos. According to a new study, some wild kangaroos tend to favor their left hands during common tasks like grooming and feeding. Yegor Malashichev, a Russian zoologist from Saint Petersburg State University and a co-author of the study, traveled to Australia to do the fieldwork. Along with his colleagues, he spent long hours observing seven species of marsupials living in the wild. Those species included red-necked wallabies, Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo, the eastern grey kangaroo, and the red kangaroo. The team watched as the animals groomed themselves, grabbed food with their paws, and leaned on their forearms while eating grass. Two species of kangaroo and one wallaby all showed the left-handed trend; some other marsupials, which walk on all fours, did not show the same bias. This new knowledge might seem pretty interesting in itself, but more importantly, the study, published in the journal Current Biology, could give scientists a better understanding of the evolution of mammals. 

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SPOTLIGHT

Study: Temperature influences bird diversity loss in Mexico

The University of Kansas

A wide-ranging study of gains and losses of populations of bird species across Mexico in the 20th century shows shifts in temperature due to global climate change are the primary environmental influence on the distributions of bird species. “Of all drivers examined … only temperature change had significant impacts on avifaunal turnover; neither precipitation change nor human impacts on landscapes had significant effects,” wrote the authors of the study, which appeared recently in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances. Using analytical techniques from the field of biodiversity informatics, researchers compared current distributions with distributions in the middle 20th century for 115 bird species that are found only in Mexico. They then compared those bird community changes to patterns of change in climate and land use.

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