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Seminars this week…

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Wednesday, December 7th

Biotechnology Program and CREATE-IGERT present: SPECIAL SEMINAR “Multivariate Data Analysis and Visualization Tools for Understanding Biological Data”, Dmitry Grapov, PhD Candidate, Agriculture & Environmental Chemistry, UC Davis: Wednesday, December 7, 2011, 11:00am,  1022 Life Sciences

Entomology Departmental Seminar ENT 297N- 12:10-1:00 pm, 122 Briggs-Ruth Hufbauer, associate professor, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, will speak on “The Roles of Demography and Genetics in the Founding of New Populations.” Host: Louie Yang, assistant professor of entomology.

MIC 291 Seminar Series 4:10-5:30 PM 1022 Life Sciences Building- Jonathan Bragg (Singer Lab) Exit Seminar

Thursday, December 8th

 

MCB Joint Seminar Series 4:10pm 1022 LSA (snacks)-Thomas Schwartz (MIT; Dan Starr)

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Out of the way Dolly, we’re bringing back Mr. Snuffleupagus!

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

From Discovery News by Jennifer Viegas:


My. Snuffleupagus, Sesame Street

Within five years, a woolly mammoth will likely be cloned, according to scientists who have just recovered well-preserved bone marrow in a mammoth thigh bone. Japan’s Kyodo News first reported the find. You can see photos of the thigh bone at this Kyodo page.

Russian scientist Semyon Grigoriev, acting director of the Sakha Republic’s mammoth museum, and colleagues are now analyzing the marrow, which they extracted from the mammoth’s femur, found in Siberian permafrost soil.

NEWS: All About the Ice Age

Grigoriev and his team, along with colleagues from Japan’s Kinki University, have announced that they will launch a joint research project next year aimed at re-creating the enormous mammal, which went extinct around 10,000 years ago.

Mammoths used to be a common sight on the landscape of North America and Eurasia. One of my favorite papers of recent months concerned the earliest-known depiction of an animal from the Americas. It was a mammoth engraved on a mammoth bone. Many of our distant ancestors probably had regular face-to-face encounters with the elephant-like giants.

The key to cloning the woolly mammoth is to replace the nuclei of egg cells from an elephant with those extracted from the mammoth’s bone marrow cells. Doing this, according to the researchers, can result in embryos with mammoth DNA. That’s actually been known for a while.

NEWS: Prehistoric Dog Found With Mammoth Bone in Mouth

What’s been missing is woolly mammoth nuclei with undamaged genes. Scientists have been on a Holy Grail-type search for such pristine nuclei since the late 1990s. Now it sounds like the missing genes may have been found.

In an odd twist, global warming may be responsible for the breakthrough.

Warmer temperatures tied to global warming have thawed ground in eastern Russia that is almost always permanently frozen. As a result, researchers have found a fair number of well-preserved frozen mammoths there, including the one that yielded the bone marrow.

Is it such a good idea, however, to clone animals that have long been extinct? For a while there’s been some discussion of a real-life Jurassic Park setup containing such animals. Introducing these beasts into existing ecosystems could be like bringing in a potentially invasive species that would try to fill some space presently held by other animal(s). Even if the cloned animals were contained in special parks, there could still be a risk of spreading.

Read the entire article here.

Okay, here’s a more realistic picture of a Wooly Mammoth:

Credit: WolfmanSF/Wikimedia Commons

Categories: Uncategorized

Found it! Rarest US Bumblebee found by UC Riverside entomologists

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

From the UC Riverside Newsroom by unknown author:


Credit: G. Ballmer | UC Riverside

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A team of scientists from the University of California, Riverside recently rediscovered the rarest species of bumblebee in the United States, last seen in 1956, living in the White Mountains of south-central New Mexico.

Known as “Cockerell’s Bumblebee,” the bee was originally described in 1913 from six specimens collected along the Rio Ruidoso, with another 16 specimens collected near the town of Cloudcroft, and one more from Ruidoso, the most recent being in 1956. No other specimens had been recorded until three more were collected on weeds along a highway north of Cloudcroft on Aug. 31, 2011.

“Most bumblebees in the U.S. are known from dozens to thousands of specimens, but not this species,” said Douglas Yanega, senior museum scientist at UC Riverside. “The area it occurs in is infrequently visited by entomologists, and the species has long been ignored because it was thought that it was not actually a genuine species, but only a regional color variant of another well-known species.”

Yanega pointed out that there are nearly 50 species of native U.S. bumblebees, including a few on the verge of extinction, such as the species known as “Franklin’s Bumblebee,” which has been seen only once since 2003. That species, as rare as it is, is known from a distribution covering some 13,000 square miles, whereas Cockerell’s Bumblebee is known from an area of less than 300 square miles, giving it the most limited range of any bumblebee species in the world.

“There is much concern lately about declines in our native bumblebee species, and as we now have tools at our disposal to assess their genetic makeup, these new specimens give fairly conclusive evidence that Cockerell’s Bumblebee is a genuine species,” he said. “With appropriate comparative research, we hope to be able to determine which other species is its closest living relative. Given that this bee occurs in an area that’s largely composed of National Forest and Apache tribal land, it’s unlikely to be under serious threat of habitat loss at the moment. Since its biology is completely unknown, however, it nevertheless may require some more formal assessment in the future.”

Yanega went on to point out that it is not especially surprising for an insect species to be rediscovered after decades, when people might otherwise imagine that it may have gone extinct.

“When an insect species is very rare, or highly localized, it can fairly easily escape detection for very long periods of time,” he said. “There are many precedents – some of them very recently in the news, in fact – of insects that have been unseen for anywhere from 70 to more than 100 years, suddenly turning up again when someone either got lucky enough, or persistent enough, to cross paths with them again. It is much harder to give conclusive evidence that an insect species has gone extinct than for something like a bird or mammal or plant.”

Read the complete article here.

Categories: Interesting link

Deforestation of Amazon Rainforest at all time low

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

From the Associated Press by Bradley Brooks:

SAO PAULO (AP) — Annual destruction of the Amazon rain forest fell to its lowest recorded level this year, Brazilian authorities said Monday, hailing an enforcement crackdown for the drop.

The destruction between August 2010 through July 2011 was about 2,410 square miles (6,240 square kilometers), according to the National Institute for Space Research.

That’s an area about the size of the U.S. state of Delaware.

The institute has tracked Amazon destruction since 1988 by analyzing satellite images. The destruction peaked in 1995, when 11,220 square miles (29,060 square kilometers) were destroyed.

Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said the government’s fast action to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions led to the drop.

“We’ll continue with determination to reduce the illegal deforestation in the Amazon,” she told a news conference in the capital of Brasilia.

Brazil’s government has stepped up enforcement of environmental laws in recent years, mostly by sending armed environmental agents into the jungle to carrying out large raids on deforestation hotspots.

The announcement of the drop comes as Brazil’s Senate prepares to vote this week on changes to the nation’s benchmark environmental laws that would loosen restrictions on how small farmers use their land in the Amazon.

Environmentalists fear the bill would bring increased deforestation and warn the current drop is likely due less to the government’s crackdown and more to the global economic downturn. They say that has reduced demand for products, such as soy, cattle raised in illegally cleared pastures, and timber, that lead to the destruction.

Read the entire article here.

Categories: Interesting link

NASA’s Kepler Telescope Confirms Earthlike Ocean Planet

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Here is the whole article as written by Seth Borenstein

The planet is smack in the middle of what astronomers call the Goldilocks zone, that hard to find place that’s not too hot, not too cold, where water, which is essential for life, doesn’t freeze or boil. And it has a shopping mall-like surface temperature of near 72 degrees, scientists say…

“This is a phenomenal discovery in the course of human history,” Geoff Marcy of University of California, Berkeley, one of the pioneers of planet-hunting outside our solar system, said in an email. “This discovery shows that we Homo sapiens are straining our reach into the universe to find planets that remind us of home. We are almost there.”

The new planet — named Kepler-22b — has key aspects it shares with Earth. It circles a star that could be the twin of our sun and at just about the same distance. The planet’s year of 290 days is even close to ours. It likely has water and rock.

The only trouble is the planet’s a bit big for life to exist on the surface. The planet is about 2.4 times the size of Earth. It could be more like the gas-and-liquid Neptune with only a rocky core and mostly ocean.

“It’s so exciting to imagine the possibilities,” said Natalie Batalha, the Kepler deputy science chief.

Floating on that “world completely covered in water” could be like being on an Earth ocean and “it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that life could exist in such an ocean,” Batalha said in a phone interview.

Here is an article from Yahoo by Mike Wall

Another article from Time by Nick Carbone

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