Friday, February 28, 2020

science news 28.2.2020

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.


Astronomy student discovers 17 new planets, including Earth-sized world


Early worm lost lower limbs for tube-dwelling lifestyle

Mystery has long surrounded the evolution of Facivermis, a worm-like creature that lived approximately 518 million years ago in the Cambrian period.
Credit: Franz Anthony

Rare lizard fossil preserved in amber

Anthropogenic seed dispersal: rethinking the origins of plant domestication
Over the past three millennia, selective breeding has dramatically widened the array of plant domestication traits. However, a close look at the archaeobotanical record illustrates a similar suite of linked traits emerging before humans began selectively breeding food crops. In the current study, Spengler summarizes all of these early evolutionary responses in plants, arguing that these shared traits evolved in response to human seed-dispersal services.
The authors conclude that there was "a mutualistic relationship in which plants recruited humans for seed dispersal" - as discussed in my 2013 feature on the evolution of agriculture.

Extinction resistance, not speciation, shaped ecologically diverse modern marine fauna
Ecologically diverse clades came to dominate the modern oceans because they were better buffered against the successive mass extinctions events which reshaped marine animals over evolutionary time -- not because of their higher rates of speciation, according to a new study.

light and life

Biofluorescence may be widespread among amphibians


The tentacle 'bot
Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Beihang University have developed an octopus-inspired soft robotic arm that can grip, move, and manipulate a wide range of objects. Its flexible, tapered design, complete with suction cups, gives the gripper a firm grasp on objects of all shapes, sizes and textures -- from eggs to iPhones to large exercise balls.


First-ever pathology of the early phase of lung infection with the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Study reveals how drug meant for Ebola may also work against coronaviruses

Study sheds light on how a drug being tested in COVID-19 patients works

food and drink

Extra virgin olive oil keeps healthy properties when used for cooking


Using a cappella to explain speech and music specialization

Socially assistive robot helps children with autism learn


From the news media:

The biggest bang ever in the Guardian.

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