Enn Original News

Blue Whales and Man Made Noise
March 2, 2012 03:30 PM - Editor, ENN

Blue whale vocal behavior is affected by man-made noise, even when that noise does not overlap the frequencies the whales use for communication, according to new research published Feb. 29 in the open access journal PLoS ONE. The whales were less likely to emit calls when mid-frequency sonar from ships was present, but were more likely to do so when ship sounds were nearby, the researchers report. The data show an acoustical response from blue whales to MFA sonar and ship noise. In particular, there is a disruption of the D call production of these animals with MFA sonar. The implications of such a response are unknown to date, but owing to the low received level, a single source of MFA sonar may be capable of affecting the animals' vocal behavior over a substantial area. Additionally, nearby ships elicit more intense D calling by blue whales.

How Spiders Stick or Not Stick to their Web
March 2, 2012 03:04 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Spiders use their sticky webs to catch their food. So why do they not stick? Researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and University of Costa Rica studying why spiders do not stick to their own sticky webs have discovered that a spider’s legs are protected by a covering of branching hairs and by a non-stick chemical coating. Their results are published online in the journal, Naturwissenschaften. They also observed that spiders carefully move their legs in ways that minimize adhesive forces as they push against their sticky silk lines hundreds to thousands of times during the construction of each orb.

Study: Older People Sleep Better
March 2, 2012 08:53 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

A new study from the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania has found that aging is not a factor in poor sleep. The study surveyed more than 150,000 Americans about the quality of their sleep and found that the quality actually improves over time. The fewest complaints of poor sleep came from people in their 80's. It was a popular belief that older adults wake up more frequently in the night than young adults. This old notion has now been turned on its head.

T Rex Big Bite
March 1, 2012 04:04 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Tyrannosaurus was a bipedal carnivore with a massive skull balanced by a long, heavy tail. Relative to the large and powerful hindlimbs, Tyrannosaurus forelimbs were small, though unusually powerful for their size, and bore two clawed digits. Although other theropods rivaled or exceeded Tyrannosaurus rex in size, it was the largest known tyrannosaurid and one of the largest known land predators, measuring up to 42 feet in length, up to 13 feet tall at the hips, and up to 7.5 short tons) in weight. By far the largest carnivore in its environment, Tyrannosaurus rex may have been an apex predator, preying upon hadrosaurs and ceratopsians, although some experts have suggested it was primarily a scavenger. Research at the University of Liverpool, using computer models to reconstruct the jaw muscle of Tyrannosaurus rex, has suggested that the dinosaur had the most powerful bite of any living or extinct terrestrial animal. The team artificially scaled up the skulls of a human, alligator, a juvenile T. rex, and Allosaurus to the size of an adult T. rex. In each case the bite forces increased as expected, but they did not increase to the level of the adult T. rex, suggesting that it had the most powerful bite of any terrestrial animal.

Shrinking Coyotes
February 29, 2012 10:47 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Many animals used to be a lot bigger. When the last ice age ended more than 10,000 years ago, many large species of mammals went extinct and others underwent changes in appearance. What caused these evolutionary changes? A study by Julie Meachen of the National Science Foundation (NSF) National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and Josh Samuels of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument reveals that gray wolves and coyotes, once more similar in size, took the extinction in different strides. The coyotes shrunk while the wolves did not.

American Scientists Make Great Leap in Battery Technology
February 29, 2012 10:14 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

One of the primary concerns with owning an electric vehicle is cost of the battery, the range it offers, and the time it takes to recharge. Those concerns will be significantly lessoned with the development of a new lithium-ion battery. Designed by scientists at Envia Systems, a US-based company, the new battery has roughly twice the energy density of existing rechargeable batteries. Such an innovation could greatly increase the range of electric cars as well as cut the price of the battery packs in half.

Organic Aerosols
February 28, 2012 03:11 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

An aerosol is a colloid suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in a gas. Examples are clouds, and air pollution such as smog and smoke In a suburb of smoggy Los Angeles, University of California experts are providing a likely answer to a sticky scientific problem. A growing body of research has shown that computer models used by federal regulators for decades significantly underestimate the quantity of organic aerosols, a major component of dangerous smog and the largest unknown in climate-change calculations. Organic aerosols may act as a transport vehicle of organics and other water insoluble compounds into the atmosphere.

Macquarie Island Penguins Make an Inspiring Comeback
February 28, 2012 09:22 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

On the small Antarctic island of Macquarie, between New Zealand and Antarctica, there was once a population of roughly 3 million king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus). About one hundred years ago, this penguin colony, known as a rookery, was subject to a terrible slaughter at the hands of New Zealand blubber merchant, Joseph Hatch. He and his crew boiled the 3 million penguins to extract oil for lamps. Word got out of this mass killing, and an international campaign was established to protect what little penguins were left. Thanks to that campaign, the remaining rookery of merely 4,000 has blossomed to 500,000. Furthermore, genetic tests have found that the population’s genetic diversity has returned to pre-slaughter levels.

Bacteria Daggers
February 27, 2012 01:50 PM - Editor, ENN

There are many ways to kill. It is not just a human or an animal thing. Bacteria have evolved different systems for secreting proteins into the fluid around them or into other cells. Some, for example, have syringe-like exterior structures that can pierce other cells and inject proteins. Another system, called a type VI secretion system, is found in about a quarter of all bacteria with two membranes. Despite being common, researchers have not understood how it works. Now a team, co-led by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), has figured out the structure of the type VI secretion system apparatus and proposed how it might work—by shooting spring-loaded poison molecular daggers.

Universal Vaccine
February 27, 2012 01:14 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The influenza vaccine, also known as a flu shot, is an annual vaccine to protect against the highly variable influenza virus. An influenza epidemic emerges during flu season each winter. There are two flu seasons annually, corresponding to the occurrence of winter in opposite months in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Princeton University-based researchers have found that the universal vaccine could for the first time allow for the effective, wide-scale prevention of flu by limiting the influenza virus' ability to spread and mutate. Universal, or cross-protective, vaccines — so named for their effectiveness against several flu strains — are being developed in various labs worldwide and some are already in clinical trials.

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