Thursday, April 09, 2020

science news 9.4.2020

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.


New fossil from Brazil hints at the origins of the mysterious tanystropheid reptiles

Life restoration of Elessaurus gondwanoccidens, from the Sanga do Cabral Formation (Lower Triassic), Brazil
Credit: Márcio L. Castro


Hidden army: How starfish could build up numbers to attack coral reefs

How does habitat fragmentation affect Amazonian birds?
The Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP), located near Manaus, Brazil, began in 1979 and is the world's longest-running experimental study of tropical forest fragments. A new paper in The Condor: Ornithological Applications summarizes four decades of data from the project about how Amazonian bird communities respond to habitat fragmentation, a question as relevant today as ever in light of the recent increase in deforestation in the Amazon.
See also my 2017 feature about forest fragmentation, also covering the work of this project.


House cleaning on the nanoscale

Harnessing the power of electricity-producing bacteria for programmable 'biohybrids'


Coronavirus pandemic in Germany: Measures relevant to health

Loss of smell in patient with COVID-19

Potential harms of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin for treating COVID-19


Vexing Nemo: Motorboat noise makes clownfish stressed and aggressive

Babies in popular low-riding pushchairs are exposed to alarming levels of toxic air pollutants
Quite shocking that we don't appear to know where all those pollutants come from. In the entire press release I couldn't find a single mention of a possible source. The pollutants are just there in the street, must be a natural thing ...


Revolutionary new method for dating pottery sheds new light on prehistoric past
Not about dating sheds, sadly. I would suggest to the PR team to re-read the headline after writing. Maybe a day after writing it.

Earliest humans in the Amazon created thousands of 'forest islands' as they tamed wild plants

Bristol leads archaeologists on 5,000-year-old egg hunt
An international team of specialists, led by the University of Bristol, is closer to cracking a 5,000-year-old mystery surrounding the ancient trade and production of decorated ostrich eggs. Long before Fabergé, ornate ostrich eggs were highly prized by the elites of Mediterranean civilizations during the Bronze and Iron Ages, but to date little has been known about the complex supply chain behind these luxury goods.

Promising advance in depression research
Despite their effectiveness, only 40% of patients respond to the first antidepressant they try. A recent paper in Nature Communication strongly suggests that a particular protein, GPR56, is involved in the biology of depression and the effect of antidepressants. The McGill led research team believe that this protein could offer a novel target for new antidepressant drugs.


From the news media:

Is this the moment we give up flying?
asks Nicole Badstuber in the Guardian. (I basically gave up in 2010.)

Lancet editor Richard Horton on how the UK govt got the response so catastrophically wrong. He's always worth reading. (My somewhat shorter interpretation is "criminal carelessness".)

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