Certain songbirds can contract their vocal muscles 100 times faster than humans can blink an eye – placing the birds with a handful of animals that have evolved superfast muscles, University of Utah researchers found.
"We discovered that the European starling (found throughout Eurasia and North-America) and the zebrafinch (found in Australia and Indonesia) control their songs with the fastest-contracting muscle type yet described," says Coen Elemans, who conducted the study as a postdoctoral researcher in biology at the University of Utah.
"Superfast muscles were previously known only from the sound-producing organs of rattlesnakes, several fish and the ringdove," Elemans says. "We now have shown that songbirds also evolved this extreme performance muscle type, suggesting these muscles – once thought extraordinary – are more common than previously believed."
Millions of years of evolution have maximized the efficiency of how sea creatures move through water while humans have been trying to perfect streamlined designs for barely a century - but we're catching up.
Biologists and engineers from across the U.S. have been studying the flippers, fins and tails of whales and dolphins and discovered some features of their structure that contradict long-held engineering theories.
Dr. Frank Fish of West Chester University will talk about the impact these discoveries may have on traditional industrial designs on Tuesday 8th July at the Society for Experimental Biology's Annual Meeting in Marseille [Session A2].
A genome sequence is a long sequence written in a four letter code—3 billion letters in the case of a human genome. How genomic code is deciphered is traditionally left to professional annotators who use information from a number of sources (for instance, knowledge about similar genes in other organisms) to work out where a gene starts, stops and what it does. Even the "gold standard" of professional annotation is an exceptionally slow process.
However, new crowdsourcing technology hopes to provide a faster solution. Don't cringe, scientists, but it's Wikipedia.
Andrew Su, John Huss III and colleagues have established a 'Gene Wiki', an online repository of information on human genes, within Wikipedia. They envision a network of articles, created by a computer program and enhanced by user comments, which will describe the relationship and functions of all human genes.
A new study challenges the long-held belief that diversity of marine species has been increasing continuously since the origin of animals.
An international team carried out this decade-long study and concludes that most of the diversification occurred early on – relatively speaking.
"The general understanding for many decades has been that since the rise of the modern major groups of animals about 545 million years ago (i.e., since the beginning of the Phanerozoic Era), the diversity of animal life in the seas has undergone a roughly four-fold exponential increase," says Dr. Thomas D. Olszewski, a geology and geophysics professor at Texas A&M University. A steep increase in the diversity was believed to have occurred only between 145 million and 60 million years ago.
Researchers here now have a picture of a key molecule that lets microbes produce carbon dioxide and methane, the two greenhouse gases associated with global warming. The findings relate to organisms called methanogens and cap a 12-year effort into how industrial processes might be improved, explained Michael Chan, professor of biochemistry, and Joseph Krzycki, professor of microbiology, both of Ohio State University.
Methanogenesis is the process by which the gas methane is made, and it takes place everywhere across the globe, from swamps to landfills, releasing the gas that ultimately seeps into the atmosphere.
"This enzyme is the key to the whole process of methanogenesis from acetic acid," Krzycki said. "Without it, this form of methanogenesis wouldn't happen. Since it is so environmentally important worldwide, the impact of understanding this would be enormous."
Paying rural landowners in Oregon's Willamette Basin to protect at-risk animals won't necessarily mean that their newly conserved trees and plants will absorb more carbon from the atmosphere and vice versa, a new study has found.
The study, to be published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analyzed hypothetical payments that were given to landowners to voluntarily take their acreage out of production for conservation. Scenarios conserving different types of land were also developed.