• Origins of Life

    The origin of life is a scientific problem which is not yet solved. There are plenty of ideas, but few established facts. It is generally agreed that all life today evolved by common descent from a single primitive life form. We do not know how this early form came about, but scientists think it was a natural process which took place perhaps 3.9 billion years ago. Researchers in the Evolutionary Bioinformatics Laboratory at the University of Illinois in collaboration with German scientists have been using bioinformatics techniques to probe the world of proteins for answers to questions about the origins of life. Proteins are formed from chains of amino acids and fold into three-dimensional structures that determine their function. According to crop sciences professor Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, very little is known about the evolutionary drivers for this folding. >> Read the Full Article
  • Honeybees Get the Caffeine Buzz

    Most of us rely on a cup of coffee to jump start our day. For us, that jolt of caffeine wards off drowsiness and restores alertness. Not only does caffeine help to wake us up, but it also can affect our memory. So how does caffeine affect other species in the animal kingdom? Does anything else share our addiction to morning caffeine? Well according to new research, it seems that honeybees also get their buzz from drinking caffeine-laced nectar. >> Read the Full Article
  • Meat DNA testing can help save species

    African governments need to boost local efforts to protect endangered species by supporting DNA testing, argues Linda Nordling. The horsemeat scandal that recently hit Europe has shown how DNA testing can improve food monitoring and safety. Most African countries are yet to adopt the technology despite its huge potential - both in ensuring that food is correctly labelled and in policing the illegal trade in animal products. >> Read the Full Article
  • Extreme Survival

    What is poison to one man is a rare delicacy for another. Living in acid or caustic, extreme heat, and toxins does not sound appealing. However, in hot springs in Yellowstone National Park, Galdieria uses energy from the sun to produce sugars through photosynthesis. In the darkness of old mine shafts in drainage as caustic as battery acid, it feeds on bacteria and survives high concentrations of arsenic and heavy metals. How has a one-celled alga acquired such flexibility and resilience? >> Read the Full Article
  • In the News: USA and Russia unite to protect the polar bear

    As the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties continues, the USA and Russia have come together in an attempt to ban export trade in polar bear products. In a bid to provide polar bears with the highest level of protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the American-Russian proposal calls for a ban on any international commercial trade of skin, fur, fangs and other products made from polar bears. >> Read the Full Article
  • Wooly Rhinos and World Temperatures

    The woolly rhinoceros is an extinct species of rhinoceros that was common throughout Europe and northern Asia during the Pleistocene epoch and survived the last glacial period. A study, led by Professor Danielle Schreve from Royal Holloway, looked at an exceptionally well preserved skeleton discovered in Staffordshire in 2002. The team also studied the other remains found with it – including a partial skull of another rhino, nicknamed Howard – to gather evidence on what the environment would have been like at the time. These woolly rhinoceros skeletons has enabled scientists to calculate the average temperature of Britain 42, 000 years ago. >> Read the Full Article
  • Warnings of global ecological tipping points may be overstated

    There's little evidence that the Earth is nearing a global ecological tipping point, according to a new Trends in Ecology and Evolution paper that is bound to be controversial. The authors argue that despite numerous warnings that the Earth is headed toward an ecological tipping point due to environmental stressors, such as habitat loss or climate change, it's unlikely this will occur anytime soon—at least not on land. The paper comes with a number of caveats, including that a global tipping point could occur in marine ecosystems due to ocean acidification from burning fossil fuels. In addition, regional tipping points, such as the Arctic ice melt or the Amazon rainforest drying out, are still of great concern. >> Read the Full Article
  • Hotter Temperatures Link Climate Change to Tree Mortality

    It is evident that drought can create massive problems for ecosystems, especially for trees and plants but no research has been done to determine which drought characteristics actually cause trees to die-off. It has been difficult for scientists to understand how seasonal differences, severity, and duration of droughts have affected tree mortality and even more difficult to predict how climate change can affect different ecosystems. >> Read the Full Article
  • Global Warming Will Open Arctic Shipping Routes

    Who said the effects of global warming are all negative? According to new research conducted by UCLA, melting sea ice during the late summer will make Arctic shipping channels much more accessible. The economy of the world depends on shipping as nearly all of a country’s imports and exports are transported across the global by these large ships. Canals like the Suez and Panama have helped reduce the length of certain shipping routes, but nothing has been done in the Arctic region because of the unreliable weather and treacherous ice. >> Read the Full Article
  • In the News: 100 million sharks killed each year by commercial fishing

    Ahead of the 16th meeting of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species that runs from the 3rd to the 15th of March this year, researchers are again warning that sharks are in need of better protection. A new report, published in the journal Marine Policy, estimates the annual number of sharks killed by commercial fishing to be around 100 million, although the actual number could be anywhere between 63 million and 273 million. >> Read the Full Article